Shooting Panoramas with the Sony RX100 VII

The Sony RX100 VII has a panorama mode. Here's a rundown of what it does and how it works.

Like many compact cameras these days, the Sony RX100 VII has a panorama mode. Here’s a rundown of what it does and how it works.

You can, of course, shoot for panoramas in any camera by shooting a sequence of still images and stitching them together in panorama stitching software. But newer digital cameras, with their advanced chips built right into the camera body, offer some impressive processing power. And one of the many ways that can be put to use is to process panoramas right in the camera.

The benefit of that is convenience: you end up with a stitched panorama moments after shooting it. The downsides are that you have less control and lower resolution.

Something worth noting is that the panoramas are compiled in the camera with software. Because of that, they only output as JPG files–you can’t output a stitched panorama as a RAW (.arw) file.

So here’s a quick rundown of the RX100 VII’s panorama features.

Quick How-To

The Panorama mode is one of the shooting modes you can select from the top dial (ie. the same place you can switch between aperture priority or manual). The panorama option is the squished rectangle icon between SCN and HFR.

When you press the shutter, it will then shoot a quick series of photos. While it’s shooting, sweep the camera smoothly from one side to the other (or vertically, for that matter).

An arrow on the screen will show you which way to move the camera. You can change the direction it goes by using the back dial or in the settings.

Sony RX100 VII Panoramas: Dimensions and Aspect Ratio

There are two options for setting the aspect ratio: Standard and Wide. The aspect ratio and dimensions vary depending on whether you have the camera sweeping while held vertically or horizontally.

The resolution isn’t particularly high—not really high enough for a large panorama print to hang on the wall–but it is more than enough for sharing online such as taking advantage of Instagram’s panorama feature.

If you hold the camera vertically (and have the sweep direction set to that), the Standard mode produces panoramas that measure 3872 x 2160 pixels. If you have the camera held vertically, the panorama comes out at 8192 x 1856 pixels. Here’s an example with the camera held vertically:

Standard

The wide mode is, well, wider. In the Wide mode while holding the camera vertically, the resulting panoramas measure 5536 x 2160 pixels. If you have the camera sweeping while held in a normal horizontal grip, the resulting images are 12416 x 1856 pixels. Here’s an example with the camera held vertically:

Wide

Controlling the Exposure of the Panorama

In nearly all cases, panoramas work best with consistent exposure between shots. You generally want every shot in the sequence to be taken with the same settings. That reduces the risk of ugly edges between frames.

You don’t have a lot of control over the exposure–the camera makes the decisions about shutter speed and aperture–but you do have one important trick up your sleeve.

Naturally, because the scene exceeds the view of a single frame, the normal exposure calculations don’t really apply. You might have a dark section one one end of the panorama and a bright section at the other.

By default, the exposure is calculated on the first frame. But you can override that by pointing the camera elsewhere in the scene, half-pressing the shutter to lock the exposure, and then repositioning back to the beginning area.

Here are a couple of practical examples.

In this first one, I locked the exposure in the shadows of the trees at far right. As you can see, it meant that the rest of the scene was very overexposed.

In this second one, I locked the exposure midway in the scene but pointing up slightly towards the bright sky.

Another way to fine-tune the exposure, of course, is to touch the back screen at a point in the scene. That will give you even more fine-grained control.

Things Worth Knowing

  • The panorama mode saves as a JPG only, not RAW.
  • You can only access the panorama settings in the menu system by switching the top dial to the panorama shooting mode. In any other mode they’re grayed out.
  • You don’t have much control over the exposure, but you can choose which part of the scene is used to calculate the automatic exposure.
  • It’s not suitable for situations where each shot requires a slower shutter. Because of the way it shoots in rapid succession while the camera is moving, the shutter speed is forced to 1/500 second. So for low-light panoramas you’ll likely get much better results from the old-school manual approach of shooting each image separately and stitching them together later.

Where to Find Them

You can find them at B&H Photo as just the camera or bundled with a memory card and other accessories.

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