Technical Notes

Here are a few notes about equipment and techniques that people have been curious about.

The camera

As of 2008, we are the proud owners of a Canon Powershot S5IS camera. It is an 8 megapixel, 12x zoom model and has higher "film speeds" as well as other nice features.

We still use our more compact Canon Powershot A80 digital camera. It is a 4 megapixel model which is already out of date. The new model is the A95, which is 5 megapixels. It runs on AA batteries (we got rechargeable NiMH ones that have very good life) and saves images to Compact Flash cards.


The Ireland trip was the first time we really did panoramic pictures, and they are some of our favorites, because you really get a sense of what it's like to be there. We wish we had taken a few more.

The camera has a "stitch-assist" mode, which leaves a piece of the last images onscreen so you can overlap it with the next shot. It also came with software that takes the images and almost-automatically turns them into a panoramic. More recently, we learned about Autostitch, which is completely automatic in its assembling of the images. Very cool.

It is vital that the camera angle not change from shot to shot, or you get some really weird warping, or at least big, blurry seams. So, whenever possible, they should be taken using a tripod.

Since our tripod lacks a panning head, the technique is to set it up aimed at the last shot that will be taken, then turn the camera (unscrewing it from its mount slightly) toward the first shot to take. That ensures that there is enough panning range to take all the shots, and that they will line up well.

Shooting indoors

We achieved some very natural-looking pictures indoors by using long exposures instead of flash. Setting the camera up on a tripod and using the timer-delay, we would then hold very still for a half second or so (it's not difficult) and get a nice, clear picture without looking flash-blasted. Some other shots were of building interiors, and there were people who motion-blurred, but since they weren't the main subject, the motion didn't detract.

With the new camera, it is possible to take decent pictures in the theater. The ISO 800 "film" speed works well, although the images are noisy. (I find 1600 to be objectionably noisy to the point of being nearly unusable at full size.) There is a program called Noiseware (one version of it is free) that does a good job of removing the noise and leaving most of the detail looking nice. Beauty and the Beast pictures were treated this way. My Fair Lady pictures were taken at ISO 1600, which is how we know it's too noisy to recommend.

Other equipment

We purchased a set of lens attachments for the A80 to extend the zoom and focal ranges. The set includes a macro lens, a telephoto lens, and a wide angle lens. Such sets are easy to find on eBay.

The S5IS doesn't need its range extended, but we did buy the adapter tube to keep the zoom lens protected, and to hold any filters or close-up lens we might want to use.

Another very cool accessory is the Apacer Disc Steno CP200. Its main function is to read the compact flash card and write the data to a CD-R without any computer being involved. On a long trip (like Ireland), you write the files to disk and free up your cards for more pictures. The unit also functions as a card reader, DVD-ROM drive and DVD player, and it can be hooked up to a TV to browse the JPEGs on a card.