Q) Why should I take a series of pictures and go to all the trouble of splicing them together in a computer to make a panorama, when all I have to do is take the photograph with a wide-angle lens and crop the top and bottom?
A) The problem with the wide-angle shot is the need to crop the single frame to achieve the panorama effect. This doesn’t produce a final product of acceptable quality or size. The amount of information and the ability to resolve fine detail in a single, cropped frame are comparatively small, and your printed image, with top and bottom removed, won’t tolerate enlargement.
The answer to these problems is to use a lens of longer focal length, or more near the perspective from which we see the image, and take a series of captures that add up to the same angle of view. When you put these together in a panorama, the normal visual perspective can be maintained. A pair of human eyes sees at approximately the focal length of 45mm. So a composite taken with a normal lens (50mm) will show the scene as an individual normally would see it. And your panorama will be of much, much greater quality than the single wide-angle shot. Taking a series of captures, each efficiently filling the frame, will give us many times the information and resolution that could be obtained from one small file or piece of film.
The composite panorama along the coast of central California near the town of Cayucos was captured with a 24-135mm lens (60mm) so that the perspective didn’t distort the foreground. The camera used was a Canon EOS-1Ds MKII.