Even with the widest lens, there are times when you simply can't squeeze everything into the shot and, even if you could, you'd end up with acres of unwanted sky and foreground.

This is where image-stitching software comes in handy but, unlike the wallet-friendly RealViz Stitcher Express of a few years ago, which used to sell for about £30, Autodesk Stitcher Unlimited 2009 is a revamped, fully pro version that costs well over ten times the price.

Panoramic perfection

As you'd expect for this sort of money, the feature list is a panorama specialist's dream. Adding to an already impressive toolkit, the new version includes enhanced automatic alignment and colour-correction tools, plus support for HDR images.

In our tests, fully automatic stitching worked with uncanny accuracy and consistency. As well as generating seamless accuracy and exposure equalisation across successive shots, there's a good collection of tools for professional games developers and multimedia content providers.

These include the creation of full cylindrical, cubic and spherical image-wrapping for QuickTime VR environments, complete with hotspot placement for intuitive navigation.

Harnessing the GPU

Along with its redesigned and reasonably intuitive five-step worklow process, the new edition of Stitcher Unlimited 2009 is quicker all round.

This is thanks in no small part to its ability to harness the processing power of the computer's graphics card, along with the main processor itself, in a similar way to Photoshop CS4, accelerating the generation of live previews as well as the rendering of the final image.