In its most general sense, a panorama is any wide view of a physical space. It has also come to refer to a wide-angle representation of such a view ¡ª whether in painting, drawing, photography, film/video, or a three-dimensional model. Further, the motion-picture term, pan or panning, is derived from "panorama".
Panoramic photography is a format of photography that aims to create images with exceptionally wide fields of view, but has also come to refer to any photograph that is cropped to a relatively wide aspect ratio . While there is no formal definition for the point at which "wide-angle" leaves off and "panoramic" begins, truly panoramic image are thought to capture a field of view comparable to, or greater than, that of the human eye - about 160¡ã by 75¡ã - and should do so while maintaining detail across the entire picture. The resulting images are panoramic, in that they offer an unobstructed or complete view of an area - often, but not necessarily, taking the form of a wide strip. A panoramic photograph is really defined by whether the image gives the viewer the appearance of a "panorama," regardless of any arbitrary technical definition.
Panoramic photography soon came to displace painting as the most common method for creating wide views. Not long after the introduction of the Daguerreotype in 1839, photographers began assembling multiple images of a view into a single wide image. In the late 19th century, panoramic cameras using curved film holders employed clockwork drives to scan a line image in an arc to create an image over almost 180 degrees. Digital photography of the late twentieth century greatly simplified this assembly process, which is now known as image stitching. Such stitched images may even be fashioned into crude virtual reality movies, using one of many technologies such as Apple Computer's QuickTime VR or Java. A rotating line camera such as the Panoscan allows the capture of very high resolution panoramic images and eliminates the need for image stitching.