Microsoft’s New Camera App For Windows 8.1 Lets You Take Photo Sphere-Like Panoramas

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With its Windows 8.1 Preview, Microsoft today also launched a new version of its camera app. For the most part, the app hasn’t really changed all that much, but Microsoft has added a cool (though derivative) new feature to the app: panoramas. Given the company’s history with these apps, starting with PhotoSynth many years ago, this doesn’t really come as a surprise, though it is surprising that Microsoft would first launch this feature on Windows 8.1 and not on Windows Phone.

The way the app works is pretty straightforward (Microsoft provided me with a Surface Pro tablet to test Windows 8.1 Preview) and feels similar to PhotoSynth  on the iPhone. You simply hit the new panorama button in the camera app and start rotating. The app automatically recognizes when it’s time to take a new photo (the viewfinder gives you some subtle clues, too). Just keep moving and the panorama is automatically filled.

As Microsoft’s Windows User Experience lead Jensen Harris noted in a press briefing earlier this week, the idea here was to make “the best panorama feature on the market.” In my tests, it did indeed work very well, and while it’s not all that novel a feature, it’s a nice addition to the standard Windows 8 camera app.

The only issue is that it saves files in what looks to be its own proprietary .pano format, which I haven’t been able to open on a non-Windows 8.1 Preview machine yet.