80 gigapixel London panorama

Jeffrey from 360Cities sez, "I spent 3 days shooting, and 6 weeks stitching and editing this 80 gigapixel, fully spherical panoramic photo. Now it's up. Ok, another big boring photo? NO. This one is cool, provocative, and fun. We've prepared the main page in 12 languages (4 today, 8 more to come) You can open the map and click to go to different landmarks. You can click 'take a tour' and sit back to watch yourself fly over the roofs to various random unknown places in the city.

Most exciting of all, we're having 3 competitions - no lotteries or sweepstakes, but feats of skill and cunning! The first two are treasure hunts - find the clues, and be the first to send in the answers. The third competition is something new - I don't think anyone has done this before and I'm really excited about it: it's a storytelling competition. Using this image itself as the canvas, you'll be able to make a kind of panning, zooming cinematic tour of the city, with your own words overlaid on the image. We have holiday prizes (room nights and tours in various awesome places in the world) for the best stories."

London World Record Panoramic Photo: See Big Ben, London Eye, Tower Bridge, and more than you can imagine. (Thanks, Jeffrey!)


  1. It’s hilarious. There’s a bunch of them on most of the streets. It’s like a strange mix of Where’s Waldo and Spot the Difference game. Maybe it should be called “Glitch in the Matrix” game.
    If I start to see several Mr. Smiths I’m going to freak out.

    1. No, no. It’s the start of a new Cyriak Harris animation! He’s just populating the “canvas” at the moment.

  2. I am presuming that this gives a pretty fair representation of what current spy satellite capabilities are.

  3. Hi Dan Mac,

    I’m Jeffrey, the photographer of this image. Ok, maybe you’re half-joking about the spy satellites, but I can explain a bit.

    If you look near the horizon, and zoom all the way in, you’ll see that many lines that should be straight, are quite wavy. this is called diffraction, which means different temperatures in the air are bending the light (think of the “mirage” effect on hot roads).

    The fact that this diffraction is so apparent in this image, at least with distant objects, means that we are approaching the maximum possible resolution that can be made – not because of the camera sensor, or the lens, but because of the air itself. If I used a longer lens and pointed it to something distant, it would just show wavier lines…

    If you remember the Gigapxl project from some years ago (www.gigapxl.org) Graham Flint revealed that he only shot his images right after a rainstorm – because only at that time, the surfaces have cooled, so the air temperature isn’t so variable, and thus the image is much sharper. I didn’t have that luxury, I don’t live in London, so I had 3 days to shoot. I was lucky that the air was as clear as it was, actually!

    Anyway, spy satellites have to see through much more air than I did when I was shooting this. Spy satellites might possibly have some adaptive optics, which (as far as I can tell) is the only way to really overcome this problem (and that’s how our huge telescopes take such sharp images through the atmosphere)

    A more pressing concern, I would say, is not spy satellites, or works of art such as this, but the thousands of CCTV cameras that are pointing all over the city…

    Jeffrey Martin
    360 Cities

      1. Yes, the “live” part is also an issue of course. This photo was not taken yesterday by any means.

        IF you don’t want to stitch the images together seamlessly, as here, then images can be transmitted and right away. Still we’re a looooong way from having “google earth live” I guess ;-)


    1. Very impressive work! The photography and post-processing work is fantastic, and congratulations on the creative games on top of that.

      I just started dabbling in this kind of photography, and I was all proud of my 100-megapixel panoramics, but then I see this 80-GIGApixel image and it reminds me that I still have a long way to go. But to be honest, I don’t know if I have the patience to shoot so many pictures and spend so much time stitching them. If the whole thing looks really good printed 8 feet wide on the wall of my living room, that’s enough detail for me!

      As someone who spends a lot of time (and money) into aviation photography (that’s what got me into photography in the first place), I will agree that there is definitely a point where air waviness (and not your equipment) restricts resolution. I have gone as long as 730mm, and when shooting jets that are flying over (or flying behind the air that is over) a hot runway, you can’t even read the tail numbers, the air is so wavy. When it’s colder, things are sharper but still somewhat wavy when I zoom in enough. It’s good to know that in the setting where I do most of my photography, I would gain no extra detail from a sharper lens or a higher-resolution camera.

      Regarding spy satellites: You said “If you look near the horizon…”: That’s tens of miles away, through the densest air in the atmosphere. But the atmosphere is only tens of miles thick, and most of it is a LOT less dense than low-altitude air. (Go up 20 miles and you’re down to 1.4% of surface air density). So, as far as I can tell, spy satellites aren’t really looking through more air than we are when we zoom our long lenses towards the horizon. That’s interesting to think about.

  4. Am I the only person who thinks the panning goes in the wrong direction? Every other mapping site lets you drag the content relative to the viewport, but this one makes you drag the viewport relative to the map.

    1. It’s a tricky issue, but generally when the model is “pull the map towards you”, you are grabbing a specific part of the map and keeping it under your mouse. This works well for a mapping system, but doesn’t work well for long pans because you keep having to drag, let go, move the mouse back, drag again, and so on. The pull your map towards you model doesn’t work so well if you want to be able to keep pulling continuously in the same direction.

      When you’re moving the viewport, the view port never actually “catches up” with the mouse, and so you pull in one direction and you can keep pulling all around 360 degrees. It’s more like a throttle than pulling a paper map.

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