Question about Pentax Optio S4i Digital Camera

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Problem taking panoramas with Pentax S4i

I need some good suggestions for this. This past weekend I hiked to the top a mountain overlooking Squam lake in New Hampshire and decided to try the panorama mode on my Pentax S4i. For those of you not familiar with that feature, the camera locks the focus, white balance, and exposure on the first shot. It then shows a portion of the previous shot on the LCD monitor to help you line up the next shot. Therein, lies the problem. The Sun was quite bright and, even using my hand for shade, I could not see the LCD monitor. I took 4 shots guessing at what I was seeing on the monitor and have been able to stitch 3 of them together, but not well. Adding the 4th shot just doesn't work. It's too far off. I had the camera slightly tilted without realizing it. Has anyone tried to use the S4i for panos in bright sunlight? If so, how did you do it? I could have done better with a tripod, but who wants to lug a tripod up a mountain? I'd like to do it handheld which would work if I could see the monitor. Any suggestions? Sticking a hood over the monitor won't work for 2 reasons. First, I have glasses with transition lenses which get quite dark in the Sun adding to the problem and, second, I carry the camera on my belt in a case sold by Pentax which just fits. It's sort of like the Altoid tin, but is leather and fits the S4i better. By the way, there is no way to crank up the brightness of the S4i LCD monitor. I'm tempted to write to Pentax to ask them how they expect anyone to use the panorama mode of that camera for landscapes.

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Anonymous

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If one of your edges is soft I would return the camera for service. You got one of the bad ones. Pentax has had quality control problems with the entire S series. You get softness in the corners and a little vignetting at wide angle, but you shouldn’t have edge softness. I’m guessing you must wear eyeglasses. Otherwise the viewfinder is great for shooting panos. It is very easy to look at the right edge to see where it is and then put the left edge on the same spot for the next shot. I find it much easier to keep the tilt right. The lite version of Pixaround is free and a lot of fun. You can make .exe files to send people or open on your computer. Use a lower resolution because it is limited to 600 X 800 – which makes a beautiful 360. Take some 360s in your front yard. Take some of friend’s houses and send them the file. It would have been great from the spot where you took your pano. After a few dozen 360s you will be able to align them almost perfectly. http://web.singnet.com.sg/pixaround/ You often have to change the .exe extension to e-mail the file because some e-mails don’t accept execute files. You can just include in the text of the message instructions for changing the file extension back to .exe. Except for Pixaround I shoot most panos like you did with the camera held vertically.

Posted on Sep 08, 2005

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The S4i can have a problem at full wide angle. Either the left or right side can be blurry. I found that out the first time I tried the pano mode. The solution is to zoom in a little and just take an extra picture of the scene. You'll have to experiment with just how much zoom is needed. One thing is for sure, the stitching software can't do it's job if the edge is blurry or out of focus.

Posted on Sep 08, 2005

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Anonymous

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Forget the LCD. The optical viewfinder shows only 72-77% of the actual picture. Just align the edges of the viewfinder and you will have plenty of overlap for stitching. I find it much easier to get accurate panorama shots with the optical finder anyway. You can lock the angle and just rotate your shoulders – much easier than holding the camera in front of you. Are you sure the S4i locks the exposure in panorama mode? My S4 doesn’t, which is one of my beefs with the camera.

Posted on Sep 08, 2005

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