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How do I optimise image quality with my iSTAR unit?

With iSTAR being designed for fast, automatic capture, the product is easily usable by beginners and advanced photographers alike.  Below are some general tips on how best to maximise the quality of your images, these will allow you to achieve optimal output in the majority of scenarios:

HDR

For the vast majority of scenes, HDR: On is appropriate, and will result in the best overall output.  A user would only really need to use HDR: Pro in scenes where there are extremely light and extremely dark areas present - imaging for example the entrance to a dark cave but within an otherwise clear, sunny day, or a dark interior room but with bright sunlight shining in the window.  In scenes where HDR: Pro is not required, using this can in fact detract from overall image quality, so best practice is to use only the mode that is needed.

Exposure

iSTAR is equipped with exposure presets for indoor and outdoor environments - when using these, the device analyses the scene at hand and selects what it sees as an appropriate shutter speed.  Again, we suggest using the Indoor/Outdoor presets in the majority of scenarios, iSTAR is very good at analysing a scene and selecting an appropriate shutter speed.

In scenes where fluorescent lighting is present, iSTAR often captures the "flicker" of the lights, which shows as a degree of light and dark "banding", there are also presets to counter fluorescent lighting in either the US or EU, note that selecting either of these will result in the ISO option becoming locked, iSTAR will select the appropriate value.

Advanced users may wish to take more control by using Manual exposure, where they may select a specific shutter speed.

ISO

As a general rule, stick to ISO 100 in outdoor and/or brightly lit conditions, and ISO 400 when capturing indoor environments.  The only exception to this may be in low-light conditions where raising the exposure time is not appropriate, and a user may wish to use a higher ISO to counter the lack of natural light.  Note however that the higher the ISO selected, the more digital noise that will appear in your images.

Clearance

Due to an effect known as "Parallax", it's actually impossible to 100% perfectly stitch a panoramic image that was captured with a multi-lens device such as iSTAR.  It is however usually possible to minimise this by allowing at least 1 meter of clearance around the device while capturing, objects within this range can and likely will cause noticeable stitching issues.

Note that in this context, things like patterned flooring, paving stones, low ceilings would be considered as "objects within proximity", as they still have to be stitched together - to optimise image quality, it is best to avoid such elements wherever possible.

Additional Useful Tips

  • Direct sunlight: This is one scenario that is particularly challenging for iSTAR to capture.  In such a case, try using the "Indoors>Normal" preset, it generally results in a better overall output in these conditions.
  • Use the preview: One potential workflow is to capture an initial image using an appropriate exposure preset, to preview that image on the device and check the shutter speed that iSTAR selected, and if desired to then select a manual exposure time one stop up or down and re-capture.
  • Maintain your device: Best practice is to periodically clean the unit's lenses, this type of lens can be particularly prone to picking up dust and debris.  We would also recommend that the device's compass and tilt sensor be re-calibrated every month or so, or if the device has been transported long distances (by aeroplane for example).
  • Get in touch: If you are following all of the above advice and still feel that the quality of image captured with your device is not meeting your expectations, please raise a support ticket and we'll be happy to advise.  Note that to comment on image quality, we will require example data to review,  ideally two full folders of data captured with your unit which you can share with us via a service such as Dropbox or Google Drive - if required, we're happy to set up a shared folder which you can upload your data to, just ask!

Have a tip of your own in addition to these?  Comment below and share the knowledge!

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