I'm trying to become proficient in doing panoramas because a forthcoming event in which I shall be participating will open many such opportunities. I got myself properly equipped for the capture part of it - including the camera plate/pan head from ReallyRightStuff for making sure the nodal point of the lens sits over the axis of rotation, etc, etc. The first one I attempted was a row of houses from the other side of our street (about 35 feet away, camera - Canon 1Ds - in portrait orientation). I figured it would be challenging to try a panorama with the subject matter relatively close-up, and having alot of vertical and horizontal lines that would mis-register VERY obviousyly if it were not done right. My levelling was just about correct. I took too many shots (14) for about a 150 degree field of view. I also left the camera on Auto Exposure intentionally to create some colour and luminosity mismatched sections for purposes of testing software. I brought the images into Photoshop with NO tinkering in Camera Raw, no post-processing in Photoshop - only resized and resampled to 360 PPI, each image about 5 inches wide, 7.5 high.
I only had Photomerge in Photoshop, but now I have something else as explained here. This is how I evaluated software, all with the same 14 images.
Step (1) Do it yourself manually. I created 14 layers, positioned them, warped them as needed, adjusted luminosity and some colour mismatches on a few. Result: not bad but not good enough. Too much work.
Step (2) Automatic panorama creation with PSCS2 Photomerge. Easy to do, but results not fully satisfactory: several areas of the merge were obviously merged and the color equalization left some to be desired.
Step (3) Download trial version of ArcSoft Panorama Maker 3. Very easy to use, excellent stitching, excellent colour equalization. Excellent rendition of original image sharpness and luminosity. User friendly trial arrangements. Full license 40 dollars.
Step (4) Download Real Viz Stitcher Express. Huge amount of set-up work. Very difficult interface (image floating back and forth in stitching window). Stitching OK, Color blending poor. Terrible interface for trial evaluation - can only see part of image at a time. Full license over 100 dollars. Program deleted.
Step (5) Panorama Factory 3.4. Easy to use. Excellent instructions. Good interface and stitching, but slow. Colour matching could have been better; poor luminosity rendition. Image sharpness not as well retained as in ArcSoft. Cost 60 dollars. Program deleted.
The winner: ArcSoft!
Comments on my procedures and evaluation most welcome. I need to learn more about this topic.