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Motrr Galileo elevates your iPhone panorama photography

This is the JPEG file of a 360-degree panorama that was shot with the Motrr Galileo using the Sphere app. Scroll down to see it in "Sphere view."

Full 360-degree panoramas once involved big DSLRs, tripods with panorama heads and a lot of shooting and editing time. But today the processing power of smartphones means that much of this work can be done by a device you carry in your pocket.  

Google's Photosphere camera mode which was launched with Android 4.2 and the Nexus 4 smartphone allows you to capture a full 360-degree panorama that can then be browsed either on the device or in the Google Plus photo viewer. (It's also available on the new Nexus 5, which we just reviewed.) You can shoot handheld, with the app guiding the framing of the individual images and doing the final stitching fully automatically. Microsoft's equivalent is called Photosynth and can be installed as a so-called "lens," an add-on the camera app, on most Windows phones. The third-party app Sphere comes pre-installed on the Sony Xperia Z1 that we reviewed recently but is available free of charge in the app stores for both iPhone and Android devices.

These apps produce interesting results that allow for the presentation of a space in a three-dimensional manner and are fun to browse in a dedicated viewer, but at this point in their development they still come with a few weaknesses. The capturing of a sphere can be somewhat longwinded, with a lot of frames to shoot and align, and the final stitching is usually  far from perfect. 

With its rubberized surface material the Galileo feels solid. 
At the bottom you find the battery indicator and a standard tripod-mount. The battery is charged via a Micro-USB connection.

Enter the Motrr Galileo. The Galileo was born as a Kickstarter project and is a robotic platform that connects to your iPhone or iPod via the 32-pin connector of the older devices or bluetooth on the iPhone 5, 5s and 5c. In combination with the Sphere iOS app it lets you automate the panorama capturing process with much more precision than handheld shooting would allow. This speeds the entire process up considerably and should, at least in theory, lead to better image results. 

But that's not all the Galileo can do. Sphere is the most interesting app to use with the Galileo, but there are a bunch of other apps that support the device. (This page gives you an overview of all the apps that currently work with Galileo.) But let's have a closer look at the Galileo's performance as a 360-degree panorama capturing device.

Capturing a sphere

Capturing a 360-degree panorama with the Motrr Galileo and the Sphere app is pretty straightforward. For our test we used an iPhone 5 which connects to the Galileo via Bluetooth. For older iPhone models there is a different Galileo version that physically connects via the 32-pin connector.

Select the Galileo option on the Sphere menu ...
... and then twist the base of the device to connect to the phone via Bluetooth.

To get started you have to select the Galileo option in the Sphere app menu. When working with the Bluetooth version the interface then asks you to twist the base of the Galileo. This activates the Galileo's Bluetooth and a message pops up on the phone screen, asking you to confirm the connection.

Once iPhone and Galileo are paired via Bluetooth you can also connect them physically and stick the phone into the rubber holder in the Galileo's top plate. With our iPhone 5 there is a tiny bit of play, but overall the fit seems quite secure, certainly enough to keep the iPhone in its place while capturing a sphere.  

For use with the Sphere app the Galileo and iPhone have to be adjusted in landscape orientation ...
... but with other apps the combo works in portrait orientation as well.

At this point all you have to do is make sure the the Galileo is locked in landscape orientation and you can hit the start button on the screen. From there on the process is fully automatic, the Galileo pans and tilts the phone camera to capture all the frames required for the panorama. All you have to do is wait for the final result which on the iPhone 5 took approximately 30 seconds to compute.

Once the Galileo and phone are connected all you need to do is hit the start button in the Sphere app.
Processing takes a little while on the iPhone 5 but should be a little faster on the newest Apple smartphones.

Image results

Once processing is finished the panorama is ready to view in the Sphere app. You can opt to upload it to the Sphere website and share via social media or email. The output JPEG is also saved in the iPhone's camera roll but you have to view it in the Sphere app or website for the full spatial experience.

As you can see in the sphere below the Galileo does a very good job in aligning the frames which results in noticeably better stitching than what we've seen from handheld panorama spheres. However, the results are not perfect and you'll still find a few stitching errors in most spheres. Other image quality characteristics such as noise, sharpness, white balance or exposure are of course determined by the camera of the phone you are using.  

Like virtually all panorama apps that we have tried Sphere is struggling with moving objects in the capture area. If you take a Sphere in a busy place you will almost certainly end up with a few ghosting artifacts, people with disappearing body parts or vehicles that appear to be entering a parallel dimension.

In this respect the Motrr Galileo does not improve your results over handheld shooting. In the sphere below a person got close to the device during capture which lead to the ghosting and tonal differences at the center of the image.

The next panorama was captured indoors on a desk tripod. Again, there are few stitching errors, as usual they are worse on objects closer to the lens. The "blurry disc" at the bottom of the sphere, the area below the camera which is not covered by the lens, also appears more intrusive in enclosed spaces. However, although it is not perfect, this result is significantly better than what you could get when shooting handheld in a room. 

The verdict

The Motrr Galileo is well-made, portable and, in combination with the Sphere iOS app, very easy to use. The panorama results are not perfect but visibly better than what you get when shooting handheld. Frequent panorama shooters will also appreciate the speed of the system. With the Galileo aligning your framing for you, the automated process is considerably quicker than the manual one.

For users who only occasionally shoot panoramas the price point of $149 might be a little steep, so you probably want  to check if you can make use of any of the other available Motrr apps before you hit the buy button. But for iPhone users who shoot 360-degree images on a regular basis the Motrr Galileo is an easy sell. Android users will have to wait until 2014 for a compatible version and we're looking forward to testing the concept with the best of 2014's Android smartphones.


Total comments: 42

I have tried Google Photo Sphere and Microsoft Photosynth. Both are good. Just Google Camera crashes a lot on my Nexus when shooting Photo Sphere.

Recently a Silicon Valley startup Hyvaview released its "Hyvaview Camera" App. It turns out the best in this category. For pros, it offers the highest resolution, up to 50M pix, plus the best focus. For selfies, it lets you take "selfie sphere". Think it's the best, though only Android version is available now,


i use 'microsofts free photosynth app, best pano app ever used

2024x1024 though :)

Lars Rehm

Having used quite a few of the current pano apps I cannot quite agree with you on Photosynth being the best. More importantly though, it does not work with the Motrr :)

1 upvote

"Having used quite a few of the current pano apps I cannot quite agree with you on Photosynth being the best."

Agreed. I've very carefully tested the available iOS / WP / Android pano apps and found the following: while Photosynth has pretty good stitching (for a non-sweep stitcher) and has significantly better exposure compensation / leveling than, say, the otehrwise excellent DMD Panorama or Cycloramic, it's REALLY let down by its REALLY bad output resolution.

For example, my Photosynth test shot at has the resolution of 4096 x 753 only, while, according to my tests, the top two apps, DMD and AutoStitch Panorama produce much higher-res (and more detailed) results. For example, the latter is 10544 x 1706. (Link to a pano showing the same subject as Photosynth above: )

1 upvote

BTW, this is a problem with Photosynth on all supported mobile platforms; that is, on Windows Phone 8 too. There, it produces equally low-resolution output.

All in all, I wouldn't myself use Photosynth for anything that requires high(er) resolution. There are much better choices: DMD, Autostitch and, of course, the sweep pano mode of the iPhones. (The usual warnings apply to all non-5s iPhones, though, because of the locked exposure.)

1 upvote

My biggest issue with the phone panos, as well as in-camera panos, is their limited resolution, what are they up to now, 25mpxl? These are great for showing the photographed scene and putting it into context, and obviously you need small resolution for posting/sharing, but what if you want higher resolution? Then you must use a camera plus standalone software.

My smaller panos are around 37mpxl and the larger ones are up to 4x that size. They take anywhere from 10 seconds for smaller 360s, up to a minute for hi-res 130mpxl 360s, to post-process the individual photos on a fast PC and stitch them together with MS ICE, so not a large penalty in time.

Phone panos - great for showing interesting panos on the go.
Camera/SAS panos - great for showing interesting panos and providing lots of information within the scene, not so great for posting/sharing.

Edited 1 minute after posting

Hmmm . . I use a Samsung Galaxy S4 - iFonez do absolutely NOTHING for me, nor does Anything Apple/Frapple makes.

1 upvote

Well, actually, it anything newer iPhone models are exceptionally good at, is their built-in sweep panorama mode, particularly that of the 5s. It's probably only the Note 3 and the GS4 that they can't beat. They're, however, significantly better than most other phones in this regard.


... and we iPhone owners yawn at Samsuck. So :P

1 upvote

Isnt it important to have the lens inline with the axis of rotation??? Or does that not matter to hipsters?


I do see quite a lot of stitching and blending errors. Nevertheless a great innovation!


Much-much fewer than with handheld shooting - see my flickr links below. I've made tons of spheres on iOS devices for my iPhone photography articles - it's simply not possible to make anything remotely comparable one if you shoot handheld.

1 upvote

I was thinking about a similar gimbal system when the Sony QX100 was announced. A 1 inch sensor system of this nature would be a good fit; better if remote zoom was enabled. I would hope that Sony improves the QX's and Motrr creates a gimbal for them down the road.


So what is the effective resolution of the resulting image, and is there/will there be a way to view this on a PC? Is there a standard format which this conforms to.

I ask because I'm often in archtectural structures where having a view like this would be a great memory tool to go along with the dozens/hundreds of detailed photos I take. But looking at the webpage and samples, it seems like it's little more than a low resolution gimmick.

Lars Rehm

well, you are viewing it on a PC when are reading this article on a PC. That's what it looks like. As far as I am aware there is no viewing application for PC but you upload the files to the sphere website and then view them online, plus you can share and embed them in a variety of ways. That's independent from using the Motrr by the way, most 360 degree panorama apps for smartphones work this way.


The homepage of Motrr lists DMD Panorama as a third-party app. The non-sphere HD mode (must be purchased via IAP) is comparatively high-resolution. For example, the shot I've published at has the resolution of 8841 x 1300 px. It's still lower than the 10800 x 2200...2400 of the iPhone 5/5s/5c's stock Camera's pano mode (let alone that of the GS4/Note 3) but is significantnly better than most other iOS pano apps - and, for that matter, that of the stock Android camera app or that of the LG G2.

Currently, the app only lists the old 30-pin version as compatible; that is, it's only compatible with pre-2012 iDevices (iPhone 3gs/4/4s, iPod touch 4g), not with the 5+ ones. Dunno if it's just a mistake and it already supports the BT one too.

If DMD Panorama will indeed support it in its HD mode, then, I'd say it'll have acceptable resolution. Again, not as high as that of Samsung's phones.

Edited 20 seconds after posting

Lars: I'm mostly concerned about viewability of the file in 3-5 years when the company is abandoned, and having a local program which can view the image.

Menn: Thanks for the info and link.

Lars Rehm

Panoramas taken with the Sphere app also work on Google Plus. Again, not a local app but very likely to still be around in 3 when we will all live in the cloud anyway...


For work stuff, I try and think linger term. I've only run my own shop for 10.5 years, but I have records back to day 1, and all but the first year is digitized. We went all-digital about 5 years ago, and started digitizing the back catalog 2 years ago. Getting everything into a format which has longevity is important - usually either PDF, JPG, or TXT. It's hard to stop and print some stuff (techincal analysis tools) when the answer is already done, but all it takes is letting one software license lapse and the original data is gone.

Not that it's too surprising - it's not as if there's a huge userbase for spherical panaoramas.

Lars Rehm

well, you'll always have the jpeg, you just need a viewer, and I am sure there'll be solutions for a long time to come...I need to do some research, there has to be some app that can be installed locally.


My complaints with this gadget are as follows:

- what about making a Universal Bluetooth version? I have several phones (incl. both iOS and Android ones) and it's highly possible I'll switch to Android because of Apple's lack of innovation. However, TODAY, I'd like to shoot with my 5/5s.

- what about making a cradle capable of housing iPhones in their case? I've got my iPhone 5 in the OtterBox Defender case and the 5s in the OtterBox Commuter and wouldn't want to take the phones away from their cases.

Lars Rehm

they are planning to launch an Android version next year and that HAS to be more versatile given the variation in Android hardware. There is not really reason why it should not as well work with the iPhone. But we'll have to see.


Thanks. I'll wait, then. I'd prefer a universally usable gadget - not one with only compatible with some iPhone and iPod touch models, and not even when in a case.


The reason that iOS generally is the first in these accessories is that there are 100's of millions of devices that are physically compatible; less risk for the developer, though even Motrr was caught off guard by the release of the Lightning interface.

Adding compatibility for specific protective cases is less risky once the accessory is successful in the market.

I don't understand your "lack of innovation" statement; perhaps your idea of innovation and Apple's diverged somewhere along the way. I'm an engineer and I certainly see Apple innovating.

Seems like you are really speaking of lack of "choice"; Apple isn't keen on niche products, e.g. Nokia 1025, and builds high volumes of well balanced premium smartphones.


"I don't understand your "lack of innovation" statement; perhaps your idea of innovation and Apple's diverged somewhere along the way. I'm an engineer and I certainly see Apple innovating. "

Yes, surely they're bumping the specs and also introducing some great features (for example, the fingerprint) now and then. It's just that competing operating systems have a lot more kick-ass features. Just some of these proved and highly useful features:

- Qi charging,
- true slow-mo videos (not the standard-definition, 640*360 120p joke the 5s has - the Samsung Note 3 and the LG G2 both have true 1920*1080 60p and the Sammy has true 1280*720 120p)
- 4K video recording (as in the Samsung Note 3),
- stereo audio recording (also in videos),
- wider-angle lens (particularly in video),
- Xenon flash,
- OIS,
- memory card slot,
- full, standardized Bluetooth support incl. OBEX file transfer,
- windowed OS on iPads (as on everything with a pen on Samsungs),

(cont'd below)


(cont'd from above)

- truly stereo speakers on iPads,
- f.lux (possible even on non-rooted Android devices)
- decent, high-quality HDMI output via SlimPort (not the Lightning lagging and lower-quality joke),
- Wacom support etc.

These are painfully missing from current iDevices (and iOS7), while they're all implemented by Android / WP devices. (Not all of them in a single device, of course. For example, the cheap Nexus 7 2013 "only" has Qi, truly stereo speakers, full Bluetooth support, f.lux-alikes, USB OTG and decent, high-quality HDMI output via SlimPort of the list. Still, it'd be GREAT to have any / all of them the at least 80% more expensive iPads / iPad Mini Retinas.)


Check out this video ( and then go back and tell me which one of iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is the joke when it comes to 1280x720 120 fps. It seems you are misinformed.


You see innovation as a plethora of features and i/o spread across many, many different devices. I see you as much more fascinated with the activity you have with your smartphone than the average. Good for you.

I stated Apple sold hundreds of millions of well balanced smartphones. This is a conscious decision to impart stability into the iPhone market; hence why the latest iOS has 74% uptake, and these devices such as the Motrr Galileo are available to iPhone first.

I have to laugh at your Lightning comment; seems the USB group is coming out with yet another interface spec to compete with Lightning's ease of insertion design. Might arrive in 2016. By then, there will probably be another half a billion iOS devices using Lightning on the market.

Enjoy your activities.

Edited 46 seconds after posting

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 = Samsung Note 3

Edited 2 times; latest 3 minutes since posting

"Check out this video ( and then go back and tell me which one of iPhone 5S and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is the joke when it comes to 1280x720 120 fps. It seems you are misinformed."

OK, you were indeed right - it's the 1080p60 mode of the Note3 that is excellent, not the 720p120 one.

Nevertheless, this doesn't make the iPhone 5s record true HD in 720p120 mode - the sensor output it records is half of the output file resolution, that is, 640*360.

1 upvote

"I have to laugh at your Lightning comment; seems the USB group is coming out with yet another interface spec to compete with Lightning's ease of insertion design. Might arrive in 2016. By then, there will probably be another half a billion iOS devices using Lightning on the market."

I've explicitly spoken of HDMI / VGA output, not the ease of insertion. Of course I know the latter is far superior with Lightning - this is why I don't use microUSB on my Nexus7.2013 for recharging but my Qi charger. Too bad Lightning doesn't excel at HDMI / VGA output - on the contrary.
This is what makes the the Lightning connector inferior to SlimPort WRT video output: lag (around 80ms) and 900p true resolution. Some articles explaining this: (see the ISO12233 framegrabs)



"Nevertheless, this doesn't make the iPhone 5s record true HD in 720p120 mode - the sensor output it records is half of the output file resolution, that is, 640*360."
Can you point me to a source that supports your claim?


Indeed MUCH better than existing sphere apps for iOS when operated handheld.

Some examples I've made for my iOS Panorama Bible on my iPhone 5, back this July, in and in front of the main church of Tampere, Finland; all handheld, of course.

360 Panorama:



AutoStitch Panorama (using max quality):

AutoStitch Panorama (using default settings):

As you can see, all these shots are marred by stitching and other artifacts. Certainly much worse than those of this gadget.

1 upvote

I find it a bit ridiculous all those adapters and gimmicks sold to enhance the iphone or androïd phones. At the end much more cumbersome and costly then any good compact cams - and still you get low quality highly modified pictures out of a micro sensor!


Show me a pocket cam with pretty much flawless non-sphere in-camera sweep pano, let alone true 360-degree spheres.

Lars Rehm

well, if want to use a camera you can use a tripod with panorama head. These devices make use of the processing power and bluetooth connection of the smartphones to automize the entire process. That's simply not possible with any camera.


The Casio Tryx does a mighty fine job, if only by having also a lovely 21mm (equivalent) lens.
Only thing missing is the combination of in-camera panorama *and* HDR(-art!), but that is more the current limitation of both sensor speed and processor speed, since no camera on the market offers this today....


Pretty slick-- but does the camera lens rotate upon its nodal center? It doesn't seem so, hence the stitching errors. Maybe an adapter to move the iPhone lens over the center?

Lars Rehm

it pretty much does, maybe not 100% precise but certainly much better than you could ever do handheld

1 upvote

I have to agree. It seems the device would be much more useful if it had a range of adapters available for the different phone models, to precisely position the no parallax point of the lens correctly. The panoramas would also need to be stitched based on a template, rather than feature matching between overlapping images.

Then you could get almost perfect panoramas (well the bottom would still look bad and movement issues wouldn't disappear). Whereas at the moment it just gives you 'better' panoramas than handheld.


Created a little impromptu video when I got to see one of these in action 2 weeks ago:


Autostich on the iPhone is my favourite stitching app on the device. Great for multi-row panoramas and reasonable quality too.

For single row where I just want a little wider shot I find the sweep pano function built into the phone very convenient. As it's a sweep there is no stitching involved.

Both these are just for casual panos when out and about. Main advantage is the finished pano can be uploaded somewhere pretty instantly.

As always, for real, full spherical 360 work you can't beat the tripod, pano head and fisheye lens on a DSLR - accurate stitching when back at the computer and HDR can be dome too.

Edited 51 seconds after posting
Total comments: 42
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