Personally I've avoided any automation because a lot of alignment errors from subject movement caused by wind or rain can be avoided by simply pausing until conditions improve. This is hard to do with an automated setup.
Any mismatch that is still present has to be dealt with by retouching, which I usually only take to the point of things being inconspicuous at a normal or slightly close viewing distance. If loupe inspection accuracy was needed, then obviously the shoot must happen on the stillest day and be confined to relatively static subject matter, and probably many more hours of retouching may still have to be performed. Done well, however there is no reason that the image shouldn't bear up to the closest scrutiny. It is still the only practical way that such huge, undistorted angles of view can be covered at such high resolutions using readily available digital equipment.
I'm not sure just how important the requirement of "close inspection" is in illustrative photography, either, for that matter. Most people will not approach a wall-hanging with a 10x loupe to determine whether is is "good" or not any more than they would so examine a blade of grass in a real life landscape they are looking at.
Of course there is also the argument as to there even being an actual need for such images at all. It may or may not turn out to be the biggest waste of time for a photographer to get involved with, an answer that I am starting to believe might just be correct.
I never intended to convey an impression that doing these panos is simple or easy. They are bloody difficult, take heaps of time, require specialized and usually expensive equipment and can be prone to outright failure by something as simple as the camera vibrating in one or more frames.
In these billion-images-a-day times, it seems to me more and more that the professional side of photography is being increasingly defined by the sheer complexity and difficulty of the work involved in getting the photograph - i.e. that which the iPhone brigade simply cannot do. Multi-row, focus-stacked panorama photography perhaps meets that definition, until bloody Apple comes up with an iStackedPanoPhone, of course.
Edited by Fred Nirque, 11 July 2012 - 06:51 .