Here is an example of my first pano shot i tried stitching with photomerge in CS
Budapest - Central Market Hall
I pivoted my camera against one of the metal railings in the market to have stability
Photomerge is really useful. Do allow like 20% overlap. i overlapped the central walkway where there are alot of ppl walking ard so that Photomerge has the option of using another photo border to stitch so i do not get problems with ppl *cut* into halves by stitching process
Try not to get too many moving things involved in stitching ( else u need to remove those *halflings* I got some problem with moving clouds when i make a huge panoramas as well
ive done pics without tripods before (not leaning against anything), the shots come out with some bright some dark (worse than yours cos i accidentally used a), but i did the stiching in panorama factory and it turned out great.
could be the barrel distortion or sth (the tree is correct, but not the pavement and sky)
also, u shld shoot in vertical, so that the image is nicer, and try not to zoom all the way out (just did a pano at 75mm with 20+ shots)
sometimes, the tripod may not be great either - unless u have an l-bracket right in the middle of the tripod the image will be 'distorted'
there is a trial version from their website: www.panoramafactory.com but you could purchase the full version for just around S$100
the main diffs are that the trial only lasts for a month, and you will have a stamp at the middle of your pic saying "Please purchase software at www.panoramafactory.com"
its standard size, so its not obvious gigantic panoramas, and u can remove it with photoshop too
so for just a few panos its not a bad idea, then u can buy it after that;p