Microsoft Image Composite Editor is one of the best and easiest to use free panoramic photo stitchers. In a number of tests made by panoramic photography community, Microsoft ICE is 4-6 times faster that panoramic photo market leaders such as Hugin and Autopano Giga without compromise in quality. Microsoft ICE takes a set of overlapping photographs of a scene shot from a single camera location and creates a high-resolution panorama that seamlessly combines the original images.
Microsoft ICE supports a wide variety of formats including HD View, DeepZoom as well as JPEG and TIFF. ICE has native 64 bit support, 8 and 16 bits input images and supports accelerated stitching on multiple CPU cores. It has no image size limitation allowing you to create gigapixel panoramas.
ICE has just a few manual settings: you have a choice of planar, cylindrical, or spherical projection as well as orientation tool for adjusting panorama rotation. Since ICE is positioned for use by non experts, this should be considered as advantage. ICE uses state-of-the-art stitching engine which automatically place source images and determine panorama type and automatic exposure blending using Microsoft Research fast Poisson algorithm. It also supports different types of camera motion and automatic cropping to maximum image area.
Panoramic source images
To stitch a set of images in ICE (download sample panoramic image set), open them in the application through Open or Drag and Drop. You can open RAW files from your camera if the related RAW codec is installed (Open-All files) Microsoft Image Composite Editor automatically composites the panoramic image and enters Crop mode. You can Crop image either automatically or manually. Using Stitch tab you can change Camera motion. Then you have options to Export your panoramic photo to local disc or send it to Photosynth. You can also save Microsoft ICE project file for the further tweaks.
Panoramic photo created with Microsoft ICE
Verdict: Microsoft ICE is a robust application to create panoramic photos. It beats competitors in speed, ease of use and even in quality. It doesn’t give you a lot of settings to tweak but for most users that should be considered an advantage. Microsoft ICE works great even with complicated input results such as images made without tripod or with camera motion during shooting a set of images.