Panorama's... any need to buy special pano equipment?

Started Apr 22, 2007 | Discussions
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Jack Frazier Senior Member • Posts: 1,801
Panorama's... any need to buy special pano equipment?

I would like to start doing panorama's but have a couple questions:

1. Any need to purchase special pano heads?

2. What lenses work best? 12-24 17-55?
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jack
pbase & dpreview supporter
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 Jack Frazier's gear list:Jack Frazier's gear list
Nikon D300 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G ED-IF Nikon AF-Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8D ED +1 more
Pradipta Dutta
Pradipta Dutta Veteran Member • Posts: 9,781
Special equipment gives an advantage but is not necessary

Jack Frazier wrote:

I would like to start doing panorama's but have a couple questions:

1. Any need to purchase special pano heads?

2. What lenses work best? 12-24 17-55?

Special equipment gives you an advantage but is not necessary. Just take a look at the panorama shots posted by RFC from time to time. Most of his images are shot hand held and they are just gorgeous.

Regarding best lenses to use, wider lenses are usually difficult to shot panoramas as they incorporate too much of perspective distortion. I personally find about 45mm to 50mm (on 1.5x cropped sensor) to be pretty good to panoramas.

Here are couple of samples with each images shot at 45mm -

And find the perspective distortion on this shot that was stitched together from 3 shots, each shot at 20mm -

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Speed is significant and interesting but accuracy is downright fascinating
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 Pradipta Dutta's gear list:Pradipta Dutta's gear list
Nikon D2X Nikon D3 Nikon D800 Nikon D3200 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF +5 more
munchmeister
munchmeister Senior Member • Posts: 1,008
Re: Special equipment gives an advantage but is not necessary

Many panoramic shooters use the panning heads, some of which allow multiple rows (mosaics) and which usually allow your camera to be in vertical/ portrait mode so you get more top to bottom in the photo. I use a Nodal Ninja, http://www.nodalninja.com , and an 18-70mm. The pano heads also correct for parallax problems ("nodal point", "entry pupil") which means fewer "stitching" errors. I also use PTAssembler, which is more complicated to use than Photoshop but gives great results. I'm just getting rolling with this panoramic stuff so don't have much to offer in the way of examples. So, check out some really good stuff by Max Lyons, writer of the PTAssembler software. You'll soon see why one would go to the time and expense for dedicated pano equipment.... amazing, hi-res images. Be sure to check out his Bryce Point in Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah shot:

Final image dimensions: 40,784 x 26,800 pixels
Number of pixels in final image: 1,093,011,200 (1.09 gigapixel)
Final image file size: 2,068,654,055 bytes
Number of source images: 196

http://www.tawbaware.com/maxlyons/gigapixel.htm

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D Bohn Regular Member • Posts: 122
Re: Special equipment gives an advantage but is not necessary

Funny seeing this now. I saw Max's forum page 3-4 yrs ago and bought my first pano head. (Yes they REALLY do help) They were all the rage back then. I'd like to see a comeback using the newer 10-12 MP cameras.

WineO Veteran Member • Posts: 4,320
Re: Panorama's... any need to buy special pano equipment?

I find that a pano head is a distinct advantage but there is a bit of a learning curve to using one. It is not a neccesity but makes stiching easier and the software can use more of each frame.

The best value for money source of a Pano Head is from Jasper Engineering. Here is the URL:
http://www.stereoscopy.com/jasper/panorama.html

As far as lenses go I think the 17 to 35 mm Nikon 2.8 is ideal at the upper 2/3 of the range - I also use my 50mm 1.8 sometimes.

Martin Koistinen Contributing Member • Posts: 691
It depends... (examples & photo of gear included)

I've created scores of panos over the years. Some were a couple of shots across, some were full 360° (Cylindrical) around, some were 360° x 180° (Spherical). I've created these with good results with lenses from 20mm on "full frame" and up and 12mm (18mm equiv) and up on APS-C and also circular fisheye.

The rule of thumb (for me) is, the fewer the shots, the lesser the need for special gear. For example, if you can shoot circular fisheye with 180° coverage in each shot, you can easily get away with no special gear, not even a tripod and still get excellent results if you know what you're doing. In the end, you'll only need to stitch together about 5 images and there is significant overlap in each, so your stitcher can put it together and there are only a couple seems to fix later in Photoshop. I did these with a Nikon CoolPix 5000 with circular fisheye. The final quality was "ok" even if the stitching was perfect due to the very low pixel count. In this case I was covered 360°x180° with less than 25 MPs.

Here's an example taken during the 50th Jubilee Parade in Windsor, my home town at the time. A few moments later in this shot, the queen herself strolled by. The blur at the bottom is me - the human tripod :

On the other side of it, you can shoot a scene with multiple rows and multiple columns. I shot a 360°x180° of a city skyline using my Kiwi+ Spherical head from Kaidan. It can turn out amazing but it was a lot of work when you have 5 rows each of 12 photos around = 60 images shot @ 34mm on a 2.1 MP camera. I would never even attempt this without the above-mentioned head. These results were very nice with a theoretical max MP of something less than 120MPs, although, I've only rendered it to 4000x2000=8MPs.

Here's the NYC skyline taken exactly 2 weeks after 9/11:

The white bar at the bottom is the title of the photo and copyright info. It looks funny because it is meant to be viewed as a Quicktime VR Cubic (or other). In which case, when you look down, you see a white circle with the title and copyright.

Here's something more recent. I shot this approx. 1 year ago using my Spherical head and a Nikon D200 and 12-24mm f/4.

This was a nearly a perfect stitch, the best ever for me. There was only one place that needed any PS work to fix and, fortunately for me, it was directly beneath the camera -- an area that need PS work anyway to remove the tripod legs. Of course, I also did some adjustments in contrast, sharpness, etc in the final image, but the stitch was perfect save that one spot. This was 3 rows of 12 images around = 36 images for a theoretical max pixel count of

My Kiwi+ Spherical Head has remained perfectly functional for me for about 7 years now and due to its design has "fit" all my cameras over that time. I was a bit worried that a D200 + 12-24mm lens would be too heavy for it, but not at all - works like a champ.

Mind you, I've also got one of the old ones from them. Back then, they were cheaper and made more sturdy! Here's a photo with my D200 attached:

I've drawn in lines indicated the degrees of freedom on this head.

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-- Martin

'Every portrait painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself.'

  • From 'The picture of Dorian Gray' by Oscar Wilde

eric burrows Senior Member • Posts: 1,501
Re: Panorama's... any need to buy special pano equipment?

I use a levelling base under my ball head to make sure that the axis of rotation is vertical and level my camera with a dual axis bubble level in the hot shoe. Probably not as good as a dedicated pan head but I don't do enough to justify any more expense and this rig definitely gives better results than my hand held pans.
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eric burrows

Jack Frazier OP Senior Member • Posts: 1,801
Just as luck would have it...

RRS is out of their panning head.

I will just try and stitch a few together without using one.

Thanks to all for your help

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jack
pbase & dpreview supporter
For my latest pics, click the link below
http://www.pbase.com/jackfrazier

'You never get a second chance to make a first impression'

 Jack Frazier's gear list:Jack Frazier's gear list
Nikon D300 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8G ED-IF Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 12-24mm f/4G ED-IF Nikon AF-Nikkor 80-200mm f/2.8D ED +1 more
Ed Ingold Contributing Member • Posts: 770
Re: Panorama's... any need to buy special pano equipment?

You do not need a special pano head. With the correct software, it is sufficient to overlap images by 25% to get a good blend. I use gridlines in my viewfinder.

You do need to accurately level the head, so that the axis of rotation is vertical. I use a Bogen ball leveler between the head and column, or a Gitzo G-1321 leveling head, depending on which tripod. You also need a nodal slide so that the axis of rotation intersects the front node of the lens, to eliminate parallax. Finally, you need to level the camera with the horizon.

With the proper software, such as Panorama Factory, PTGUI and (now) Photoshop CS3, you can stitch images without the ridiculous arches and loops of some examples. You have a choice of several projections, the most common being Cylindrical, which preserves proportions but curves lines, and Rectilinear, which preserves straight lines but distorts proportions.

 Ed Ingold's gear list:Ed Ingold's gear list
Sony FE 90mm F2.8 macro Zeiss Batis 85mm F1.8
Steve Bingham
Steve Bingham Forum Pro • Posts: 24,538
Ed pretty much said it all.

Using the grid lines in the viewfinder really makes it easy to HAND HOLD panorama shots. Just remember where your edges and horizon are. A 3-4 shot one dimensional pano is pretty easy. I have Nodal Ninja but rarely use it because PS CS3 and PTGui do such a fantastic job. On the other hand, shooting a 2x3, 3x4, or multiple rows benefits greatly from specialized equipment - such as the Nodal Ninja. This DOES require a leveled tripod or variation.
--
Steve Bingham
http://www.dustylens.com
http://www.ghost-town-photography.com

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Ed Ingold Contributing Member • Posts: 770
Re: Panorama's... any need to buy special pano equipment?

Here is a recent example of a panorama stitched from 4 D2x images using Panorama Factory. This is a cylindrical projection, which causes straight lines to curve backwards from the center. This is not obvious in this example, owing to the geometry of the road. Improper conversion to cylindrical projection would cause humps and arches to appear.

http://www.pbase.com/ed_ingold/image/77558970

 Ed Ingold's gear list:Ed Ingold's gear list
Sony FE 90mm F2.8 macro Zeiss Batis 85mm F1.8
brooksdebter Contributing Member • Posts: 724
Re: Panorama's... any need to buy special pano equipment?

I would suggest a tripod. I don't use a pano head. CS3 does an excellent job of stitching. Here is an example of 10 images stitched with no further correction in photoshop. 2 rows of 5 (the original wa 2 rows of 10 but I blew the sky so badly I cropped it out) Taken with D2H. Merced river in Yosemite.
http://flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=394637866&context=photostream&size=l
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Jerry

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