Olympus E-M5 and Gigapan Epic 100

Started Jul 8, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Vasyl Tsvirkunov
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Olympus E-M5 and Gigapan Epic 100
Jul 8, 2013

I've been curious about Gigapan automatic panoramic heads for quite a while, decided to try one at last. According to Gigapan website OM-D is only compatible with Epic Pro. This if all fine except that the Pro version is huge and heavy, not to say twice as expensive as the next model. The midrange Epic 100 model looks more appropriate for the small camera. I could not find any concrete explanation why is it not compatible so I just got one and started investigation. Did not take long to confirm that the site is technically correct. Here's the list of the issues I've found:

1. OM-D lens center is surprisingly high, higher than some smaller Nikon DSLRs. Without any grip it is at the Epic 100 limit. I needed to accommodate RRS grip, no go.

2. Any kind of grip interferes with the button pusher assembly severely limiting the camera positioning.

3. The button pusher arm is too short. Together with the previous issue (and using RRS grip) that limited the camera mounting to pretty much a single point.

4. There is no Gigapan remote control cable available for Olympus.

5. The remote cable plug is on the left side, would barely fit between the camera and the Epic itself.

Bad enough, right? So, let's see if it is fixable. The first thing - the button pusher has to go. It may be a neat idea but there should be a better solution. Gigapan is selling Canon E3 remote cable and I happened to have E3 to Oly adapter. That actually did not work "as is." Two issues here: Olympus cameras require both focus and shutter to be shorted to activate, Canon is happy with just the shutter line shorted. The other issues is that Gigapan is sending about 5V over that wire, maybe not lethal but I don't want to take chances. Both issues can be easily solved with a rather simple adapter using male and female 2.5 mm stereo plugs with tip and middle shorted and connected directly between ends and the bases connected through a diode to stop the current. A simple experiment helped to determine the required orientation of the diode (cathode toward the base on the male adapter, otherwise the remote will not trigger at all) and a second test with multimeter told me the direction the small plug needs to be inserted into the Gigapan base (the plug is oddly not marked and can be inserted both ways). All that done, the three part cable worked perfectly.

The mechanical part became a slightly bigger project. It could be much simpler if I had access to a proper equipment and materials but without that I just went to the nearby Home Depot and both these two parts:

After measuring, cutting, drilling, swearing, grinding, and sanding they looked like this:

And the final bracket after painting and adding some cork surface to prevent slipping (the cork is not that good material for this purpose, I will likely replace it with some kind of rubber later):

Not perfect but quite acceptable for DIY project. Looks quite in place on Gigapan:

Unfortunately, the problem with the remote plug not quite fitting is still there:

I've never seen any low profile remote control connectors for Olympus but if I find one I will rebuild the cable with this problem solved. For now it will have to do. It does not prevent the mechanism from working but it can potentially push on the camera hard enough to move it. If anybody knows about any connectors that can be used here please let me know.

So with a little time investment and about $10 in materials the Epic 100 can be adapted for use with Olympus OM-D and likely with some other "incompatible" cameras.

Olympus E-3
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