DoubleTake: best panorama stitch tool for Mac OS X

Last night I was up too late for my own good, drawn into some strange corners of the Internet over on the Mac section of Danny Choo's site, and found a link to DoubleTake, a Mac OS X application for stiching together panoramas. I decided not to try it out, but did add it to my del.icio.us links for later. My description was a bit strange ("$12; there are no free stitch apps that I can find; I'm having a hard time finding *good* ones, never mind free ones"), and hinted at my frustration with other tools like the open source, highly complex/somewhat slow Hugin and Canon's crappy still-looks-like-OS-9 Photostich.

I was very surprised to get up this morning and get an email from Henrik Dalgaard, creator of DoubleTake and other apps at Echo One. He is obviously tracking del.icio.us linkage, and wanted to know more:

Thank you for the delicious comment. It is ambigous though. Do you
have any feedback I could use to make DoubleTake better?
I am aiming to make it simple to get quality results with DoubleTake,
and let Stitcher and Hugin take care of the more professional needs.

I felt a bit silly, since I hadn't even tried the software yet, and also amazed at how well Henrik is tracking feedback. Well, I got home today, tried it out, and here's my review (in fancy dancy hReview format, thanks to hReview creator, inspired by D'Arcy Norman).

0.2

Best panorama stitch tool for Mac OS X

Nov 14, 2005 by Boris Mann product DoubleTake

★★★★★

The joy of DoubleTake begins with the download and unpacking of the disk image for the beta release of version 2 (available at the bottom of this page at Echo One). The original 1.6 version as well as the beta version are bundled together, along with sample images and a link to the online one page manual. Surprisingly, the one page manual is not only good, but pretty much unnecessary -- I used DoubleTake just fine without it, although I did learn that you can rotate and/or otherwise adjust the original photos in iPhoto, and DoubleTake will notice and update them.

Once you've installed and launched DoubleTake, you'll notice immediately that the UI is very Mac-like -- it looks like a native application, right down to the transparent grey floating windows: one for Geometry (rotating, etc.) and one for Adjustments (basic brightness, etc.). Operation is drag-and-drop -- take one or multiple images from anywhere, including directly from iPhoto, and drop them in the new window. DoubleTake will roughly arrange them, and leave the fine tuning up to you.

And the fine-tuning is darn easy: you can pretty much eyeball the alignment of features and it sort of snaps into place, immediately showing you what the finished picture is going to look like. While dragging, the dragged image goes translucent, making it easy to overlay on top of the next one. As you can see in the second screenshot, DoubleTake overlays a watermark when not registered. I don't remember what application I was testing, but it did grayscale or sepia output when not registered. Since colour blends/seams are an important part of panoramas, I much prefer the watermark method.

Once you're happy with what you see, all you have to do is save. The preview onscreen nicely matches the final product, with minimal delay in stitching. You can save in DoubleTake format to keep your arrangement for later tweaking, or output to JPEG, PDF, or PNG. On save there is a short "rendering" phase, which takes a few seconds on my Powermac G5 to output a 5000x1400 pixel panorama. Here's a sample panorama of Nymph Falls, or check the DoubleTake tag in my Flickr account for all images:

All in all, a well deserved 5 out of 5. And of course, I liked it so much I bought it -- $12US for easy panorama stitching is definitely worth the money, and hints of Automator support and other tidbits show a real awareness of native Mac goodies that should definitely be supported. 

Note: a lot of people still seem to be on the lookout for other tools. Leave a comment if you have recommendations to favourite apps. In particular, I have heard good things about AutoPano as a professional tool, which is based on the AutoStitch codebase / algorithms. It is cross platform and runs on Windows / Linux / Mac.