Rectilinear Panorama Pro 1.2.1

Reviewed by: Mario Georgiou, March 2006
Published by: Altostorm Software
Requires: Microsoft Windows NT/2000/XP/2003 or later, 700 MHz Pentium III/1GHz or faster, 512MB RAM, 10MB available hard disk space
MSRP: US$179.95 (Pro version)

One of the biggest issues you may run into when shooting architecture or urban environments is that fact your lenses will most likely distort the subject matter. The distortion is inevitable if you use wide angle lenses. As a professional you may be able to correct during shooting by using a Tilt & Shift lens, but that sort of lens is strictly in the domain of the professional photographer and unless you are specializing in architecture there is no real reason for you to own one.

Like me, you most likely use an array of wide angle and zoom lenses for general everyday use. You also might get frustrated from time to time with the inadequacies of imaging software when it comes to simply and effectively correcting things like barrel distortion, pin cushioning and other optical problems caused by a combination of optics and your shooting perspective. There are tools out there which can be used for doing some of this correction. Photoshop CS2 itself has some very good controls for some of these problems, but none of these have the simplicity and power built into Rectilinear Panorama Pro from Altostorm.

The process of correcting your images in Rectilinear Panorama Pro is an easy one. It's a Photoshop plug-in which means you have to load your image into a compatible editor and activate the Rectilinear plug-in. The correction process involves 4 basic steps.

The first step is the Distortions Definitions dialog which allows you to outline curves, and Guideline which describe the nature of the distortions in your image. One set of guidelines outlines the horizontal distortions and the other set outlines vertical distortions.

Once you've outlined the main distortions in your image you then proceed to the second step in which you determine the photo's final geometry. There are two types for both vertical and horizontal lines. The options include definitions for straight/parallel lines or angled/converging lines. The choices make it easy to determine the way the corrections should be handled.

The next step defines the parameters that control the recovery of object sizes and to restore the dimensional ratios of elements in your image, after the adjustments have been completed.

The fourth step in Rectilinear determines how the result will be cropped and then saved. The resulting destination option allows you to determine whether the image will be saved to a file or to the images source window. Because saving to a source window can create problems in your workflow and revision tracking, in most cases I highly recommend saving to a file.

Working with Rectilinear over the course of several weeks, I was able to process dozens of photos with the plug-in. It proved very easy to learn and use and I thoroughly enjoy the consistent results I've been able to achieve. The help files and the tutorials are very helpful and informative although there are areas where the language needs a bit of clarification—nothing that a couple of sessions with a consultants and an editor wouldn't solve.

All in all Rectilinear does its job very well but there are still a few ways in which it can be improved. For example, it would be great to be able to pull shooting and lens metadata from RAM and other image files to automatically correct for some distortions based upon lens profiles.

Cons: Price. Help manual needs clarification on some points.

Pros: Easy to use. Fast, powerful and the results are excellent. The results Rectilinear achieves are spectacular. Altostorm have done an excellent job with this tool, which I recommend for any photographer who specializes in landscapes and architecture of all kinds. It is an excellent tool for anyone who uses lenses which introduce any distortion into images. Highly recommended.

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