How to build a panoramic tripod head for $10

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  • Panoramic Head Recommendations

    i am want to shoot panoramic landscapes and am looking for a pano head to rotate around the nodal point of my lens. Is there one that you guys could recommend?
    Right now I am shooting with a 4×5 camera but might upgrade to 8×10.
    Is there anything available?
    I tried to search in this forum but did not get any results.

    Re: Panoramic Head Recommendations

    The only panorama head I’ve ever known to rotate on lens axis is the old version of the Rollei TLR panorama head. But I never did much research in that area.

    I used a later version Rollei head with “LF”. Cambo 4×5 with 90mm lens and 6X6 roll film back. Not LF, just a ridiculously big MF camera. It actually worked.

    One of my tripod head has degree marking. that actually might be just as easy, especially since it will allow for different FOVs than inherent in the Rollei accessory.

    Re: Panoramic Head Recommendations

    You can use any head to do this. You need to find the nodal point of the lens (it’s not always in the center of the barrel). Then you need to get that point over the center of the rotation point. A slider plate can be used (with counter weights in the front). You could rig something up with wood if you wanted. I’ve made plates out of aluminum that didn’t look like much, but work really well.

    Large Format B&W
    Cinematography Mentor at the American Film Institute
    Past President of the Pasadena Society of Artists
    Director of Photography
    Pasadena, CA
    www.markwoods.com

    Re: Panoramic Head Recommendations

    I have one from Manfrotto. It uses sliding bits to center the nodal point, then has detents to set up precision rotation amount for different focal length lenses. It’s designed for smaller cameras but can easily take a 4×5 field camera. I wouldn’t try an 8×10 on it.

    How to build a panoramic tripod head for $10I do some real estate photography that requires indoor panoramas. Those are kinda hard to take because the small space and proximity of objects really makes any parallax errors show significant distortion on the final picture.

    First I bought the Panosaurus (which was HUGE and a bit cumbersome as it support any camera) but it does work. This got me thinking: do I really need a panoramic head that can support any camera at all, or do I just need to support my Lumix GH1 and 9-18mm lens.

    After making a few brackets, I decided that this one is going to be focused on ease of manufacturing.

    Tools &Supplies

    • Drill & Drill bits
    • hack saw, screw driver, 1/4-20″ tap
    • 90 degree aluminum square
    • Countersink drill bit
    • A piece of 3/4″ pine board.
    • A piece of 1/4″ plywood

    Step 1- Establish The Nodal Point For Your Camera/Lens Combo

    The nodal point is the axis that if you rotate the camera around it you will get no parallax error. There are some great resources for finding your nodal point, the guide on John H Panos is one of the best there is.

    Adjust the diagram below (click on it for a PDF) so it will fit the distance between tripod mount and nodal point right for your camera (it marked by the red lines).

    How to build a panoramic tripod head for $10

    Step 2 – Preparing The Base

    After figuring out the center focal point to establish the distance from the camera mount to the tripod mount, transfer drawing onto a the 3/4″ pine board and cut accordingly.

    Next cut the aluminum bar according to the template. If you don’t really know how to cut aluminum, go to your local shop, those things can be nasty.

    Then use a piece of 1/4″ plywood to keep the camera from rotating.

    Both the aluminum bar and the pine wood should now be fitted with
    threads for a tripod plate: The pine is fitted with a 1/4-20 TEE nut and the aluminum should be tapped.

    How to build a panoramic tripod head for $10

    The next step is to add the 1/4″ aluminum piece on the side so that you can rotate the camera to take vertical panoramas. Vertical panoramas are the for for tight spaces.

    The rest of the DIY pano is pretty much held together with a few wood screws.

    The camera mounts with a 1/4-20 handle screw.

    Samples

    Here is how the head looks like when mounted horizontally and vertically on a tripod

    Is there any cheap alternative to the expensive manfrotto panoramic tripod head to take good panoramics?

    Depends a lot on what camera you are using

    The Nodal Nimja isnt bad but it is not the right product if you shoot a pro body such as a canon 1 series

    the cheapest I have found (and used) is the Panosaurus
    http://gregwired.com/pano/Pano.htm

    I now use the Nodal Ninja 3 and I am very happy with it. It is small when packed down, solidly build and has adjustable click stops.
    http://www.nodalninja.com

    The London, Yorkshire Dales and most of the Lake District pictures on britain360.co.uk were taken with the nodal ninja and most of the Oxford and Stratford pictures where done with the Panosaurus.

    Can I ask what camera you are using the Nodal Ninja with please? I’m looking at panoramic heads to use up mountains with my Oly E1 and so want something light but robust and that will work reliably with a relatively heavy camera. Also do you have any experience using quick release plates on it?

    Thanks for your advice

    Nick Mason

    ‘The challenge to the photographer is to command the medium, to use whatever current equipment and technology furthers his creative objectives, without sacrificing the ability to make his own decisions.’
    Ansel Adams

    From the summary data on this site, the Canon 5D body is heavier than the Olympus E-1 body by quite a bit.

    As I mentioned on the other thread, I had no problems with “normal” lenses on the Canon 5D and Nodal Ninja v3. The Oly E-1 calls its mirror-lockup facility the “Anti Shock” with a variable delay. Use that when using any panoramic head to damp out the ringing vibrations.

    the first model. w 5D and up to 200mm 2.8. this would be the very most weight it can manage with careful use. A unanticipated problem that I discovered was with my tripod ball head. Understand that the pressure exerted on the ball head is far greater than the total weight of the cam/lens/ninja because of the cantilevered way that the Ninja holds the camera and lens. I needed to upgrade my ball head to one that is rated to support 3X the weight to avoid slippage. You can not use a ball head…tho will need to level the Ninja by adjusting the tripod legs. Good Luck

    Check this one out.

    http://www.judyarndt.ca/pan5700/pan5700.htm
    They come even cheaper than this, if I can find link.

    we use a combination of the very excellent Nodal Ninja and the 303sph.

    The Nodal Ninja is used for mainly fisheye work on the 5d, and has proven itself time after time. Its light and extremely well constructed.

    303, while expensive, is worth having, The Nodal Ninga is as accurate but the 303 will support a 1Ds with a 70-200 attached. Normally it is used with a 17-40mm lens and primarlly for landscapes.

    How to build a panoramic tripod head for $10I do some real estate photography that requires indoor panoramas. Those are kinda hard to take because the small space and proximity of objects really makes any parallax errors show significant distortion on the final picture.

    First I bought the Panosaurus (which was HUGE and a bit cumbersome as it support any camera) but it does work. This got me thinking: do I really need a panoramic head that can support any camera at all, or do I just need to support my Lumix GH1 and 9-18mm lens.

    After making a few brackets, I decided that this one is going to be focused on ease of manufacturing.

    Tools &Supplies

    • Drill & Drill bits
    • hack saw, screw driver, 1/4-20″ tap
    • 90 degree aluminum square
    • Countersink drill bit
    • A piece of 3/4″ pine board.
    • A piece of 1/4″ plywood

    Step 1- Establish The Nodal Point For Your Camera/Lens Combo

    The nodal point is the axis that if you rotate the camera around it you will get no parallax error. There are some great resources for finding your nodal point, the guide on John H Panos is one of the best there is.

    Adjust the diagram below (click on it for a PDF) so it will fit the distance between tripod mount and nodal point right for your camera (it marked by the red lines).

    How to build a panoramic tripod head for $10

    Step 2 – Preparing The Base

    After figuring out the center focal point to establish the distance from the camera mount to the tripod mount, transfer drawing onto a the 3/4″ pine board and cut accordingly.

    Next cut the aluminum bar according to the template. If you don’t really know how to cut aluminum, go to your local shop, those things can be nasty.

    Then use a piece of 1/4″ plywood to keep the camera from rotating.

    Both the aluminum bar and the pine wood should now be fitted with
    threads for a tripod plate: The pine is fitted with a 1/4-20 TEE nut and the aluminum should be tapped.

    How to build a panoramic tripod head for $10

    The next step is to add the 1/4″ aluminum piece on the side so that you can rotate the camera to take vertical panoramas. Vertical panoramas are the for for tight spaces.

    The rest of the DIY pano is pretty much held together with a few wood screws.

    The camera mounts with a 1/4-20 handle screw.

    Samples

    Here is how the head looks like when mounted horizontally and vertically on a tripod

    By jstriegel

    jstriegel

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    In response to my previous post on creating panoramic photos in Linux, reader Tim pointed us to this DIY camera mount tutorial.

    When you rotate the camera to take different frames of the panoramic shot, it’s likely that the images of nearby objects will experience a perceptible parallax effect, which can cause problems during the stitching process. What this mount does is shift the rotation point of the camera to coincide with the “entrance pupil” of the lens, eliminating the perceived parallax effect.

    How To Make A 360° Panorama – Tutorial Contents

    If you come from Part 2 of this tutorial, you have learnt about the parallax issues and you have seen panoramas made of a ton of images. We all start this way, but if you want to take your panorama shooting to the next (more enjoyable) level, you might end up investing in a tripod and a wide lens.

    Personally, I now own a Canon 550D with a Samyang 8 mm fisheye lens, and a Canon 6D with a Samyang 14 mm wide angle lens. Depending on the situations I can use one camera or the other. For example, the 6D behaves better in low light or at night. But most of the time it is fine to use either one.

    Using a Tripod and Panorama Head

    What’s the benefit of using a tripod? Well, just like for normal photography, the tripod offers a steady base for your camera and it is often compulsory in low light or at night.

    For shooting panoramas, a tripod alone is not very helpful, it should have a panorama head mounted on it. A panoramic head is designed to keep your camera in vertical position in order to shoot portrait images. More importantly, with a tripod and a pano head, you are assured to keep a precise no-parallax point to shoot all your pictures. That’s a game changer.

    My panorama head is from Nodal Ninja – they are the leaders. You can check their website to see all the models they have. They offer quite fancy stuffs but in my opinion, any basic panorama head is fine, what matters is eliminating the parallax errors. Some people have even built their own pano head!

    When you mount your panoramic head on your tripod, you need to adapt it to the camera and lens you are using. It is a simple procedure that explained very well on the Nodal Ninja website – You can click here to see it.

    A last word about tripods – Try to choose one that is heavy and sturdy enough to stay in place no matter what. Remember, you are shooting a panorama and all the pictures need to be shot from a specific precise point. If your tripod is too light and moves slightly between pictures, it’s almost as good as using no tripod at all!

    Fisheye and Wide Angle Lenses

    Now that you have your tripod and panoramic head ready, it’s time to choose a great lens for your camera. You can either choose a fisheye lens or a normal wide angle lense. Fisheye lenses, at 8-10 mm, are the widest, which means fewer pictures to cover the whole sphere of the panorama. Fisheye lenses produce specifically distorted images, but you should not worry about it because the panorama software perfectly know how to handle this.

    “Normal” wide angle lenses are also good, and maybe even better if you consider the fact that you can use them in a whole range of situations outside of panoramas.

    Autofocus fisheye and wide angle lenses are very expensive. If you can afford them, that’s awesome! If you can’t, all is not lost. You can go for manual focus lenses, like I did. I am a big fan of the Samyang lenses and I own two. They are of a very good quality and are very affordable compared to autofocus lenses from the “big brands”.

    Shooting With A Fisheye / Wide Angle Lens

    With a fisheye lens, you don’t need to use any “column technique” like the one I was mentioning in Part 2. The lens is wide enough to shoot a single row of images all around you, plus one for the zenith (the sky) and one for the nadir (the ground). It’s a little like shooting a cylindrical panorama and just adding zenith and nadir. Of course, you will adapt this according to how wide your lens is.

    Here is an example of what it would be like:

    How to build a panoramic tripod head for $10

    Do I Always Need To Carry Around My Heavy Tripod To Shoot Panos?

    I understand it can be annoying to carry around big and heavy equipment when you just want to enjoy the place and shoot a few panos.

    I don’t always take my tripod and panorama head with me and still shoot panoramas most of the time. There is a simple rule to follow, to know if it’s better to use the tripod and panorama head, or if you can just take handheld photos.

    Generally, just remember that long distances are more forgiving than close up objects. What do I mean? If you are for example in the middle of a vast landscape or with objects located reasonably far from you, you can shoot a good panorama without a panoramic head. The objects are far enough for the software to stitch them properly even if they are not exactly aligned in the first place. Of course, still try your best to respect the no-parallax point at all times!

    Where I would be more wary is when objects are located very close to you. It can be ok if it’s something simple without much details like a plain wall, but if it’s delicate things like railings or a fence, it will be a nightmare to stitch them without a pano head. Many times, you wont even be able to get any acceptable result and will have to give up your panorama.

    To illustrate this point, take a look at the picture below.

    How to build a panoramic tripod head for $10

    This is a spherical panorama shot over the jungle of Borneo. Here you can notice how the far objects (the jungle) are perfectly joined together, but the railings all around very close to me, are completely messed up. If this was shot with a tripod and a pano head, both the forest and the railings would have been perfectly aligned.

    Now that we have seen all the ways to take photos for a panorama, it’s time to stitch them! Click on the link below to continue.

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  • Re: 14×17 build, with filmholders and tripod

    Congratulations, there is way more than labour time there. with this stunning realization, you not only show refined skills in 3D CAD, but also you know how to work with noble materials, and you also give a lesson on style. Functional, very, very practical, but beautiful, beautiful and beautiful.

    I feel you are proud of this baby !”

    Re: 14×17 build, with filmholders and tripod

    Congratulations, there is way more than labour time there. with this stunning realization, you not only show refined skills in 3D CAD, but also you know how to work with noble materials, and you also give a lesson on style. Functional, very, very practical, but beautiful, beautiful and beautiful.

    I feel you are proud of this baby !”

    Ha! Thank you. Very kind of you.

    Noble . I like that .

    Re: 14×17 build, with filmholders and tripod

    Just about the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. Congrats!

    Re: 14×17 build, with filmholders and tripod

    Re: 14×17 build, with filmholders and tripod

    Ok here is the stupid question of the day..

    These new router cutters that work in these amazing ways, would it not be a piece of cake for one of you technical geeks be able to make
    custom made Washers at any size requested..

    Bobby needs a 30 x 40 vertical washer.

    Re: 14×17 build, with filmholders and tripod

    Ok here is the stupid question of the day..

    These new router cutters that work in these amazing ways, would it not be a piece of cake for one of you technical geeks be able to make
    custom made Washers at any size requested..

    Bobby needs a 30 x 40 vertical washer.

    Kienzle in Germany make a 5 slot one – about 4K-5K EUR depending on spec however.

    Been contemplating one, but am of same thoughts regarding whether it can be done cheaper.

    Re: 14×17 build, with filmholders and tripod

    Wonderful, just wonderful! I can’t wait to see the first image.

    Re: 14×17 build, with filmholders and tripod

    Kienzle in Germany make a 5 slot one – about 4K-5K EUR depending on spec however.

    Been contemplating one, but am of same thoughts regarding whether it can be done cheaper.

    I think any plastic company have the abilitys, plastic welding is something I am not familiar with but I have gone as far as sourcing out the plexi.
    I would use the same plexi GREY OPAQUE as I use for my big trays, and router out the end and bottom plates, I have not figured out how to bring water
    into the system and out. It would have to be a floor standing model on wheels or base and one would need a floor drain.. I think 6 1 inch slots would allow enough space to
    wash a days murals . I was thinking with the proper routering and welding under 2 K Canadian which these days could be around 50cents on the dollar.

    4 or 5K Euro is too much and it would have to cook me dinners at the end of the day or mix me a good cocktail before I would pay that much.

    Re: 14×17 build, with filmholders and tripod

    I think any plastic company have the abilitys, plastic welding is something I am not familiar with but I have gone as far as sourcing out the plexi.
    I would use the same plexi GREY OPAQUE as I use for my big trays, and router out the end and bottom plates, I have not figured out how to bring water
    into the system and out. It would have to be a floor standing model on wheels or base and one would need a floor drain.. I think 6 1 inch slots would allow enough space to
    wash a days murals . I was thinking with the proper routering and welding under 2 K Canadian which these days could be around 50cents on the dollar.

    4 or 5K Euro is too much and it would have to cook me dinners at the end of the day or mix me a good cocktail before I would pay that much.

    From what I’ve seen of it, it’s much the same as a giant version of the Nova style of washer – water in at bottom, removable dividers textured on one side, the waste water waterfalls over an internal septum at the top to the drain tube.

    There are a lot of panning heads out there, ranging from cheap and light all the way to uber-expensive and heavy duty. None did a decent job with a D800 mounted with a Nikon 400mm f2.8 beast. This is the story about a building a dedicated motorized Pan-Tilt-Head, used for automated panoramic shooting, if you’re not sure what those are check out our world biggest Where is Waldo project.

    How to build a panoramic tripod head for $10

    It clean up time and we need to tidy up the studio. While going over our countless shelves, I found this piece. It is the home built panoramic head we used for our “Where is Waldo” project last year. Before I started to taking this amazing thing apart, I took some pictures and then I thought: this might be quite interesting for some people. Probably not a step-by-step instruction for a 1:1 copy, but there are some parts that will probably help you with your own projects.

    We couldn’t find a panoramic head which meet our requirements:

    • usable for about 6 kg of weight (D800 + 400mm f2.8)
    • repeating accuracy Used parts:

    • custom made steel bottom
    • 2 axial bearings
    • aluminum profiles (30x30mm) in 100mm, 200mm, 300mm and 500mm length
    • 2 steel axis (tilt)
    • bearings from roller skater (tilt)
    • 2 custom aluminum parts for the bearings
    • 2 toothed belts (300-3M-10) with toothed pulleys (3M-10)
    • 2 NanoTec steppers 110 Ncm, 0.9°
    • 2 stepper-controller from a CNC milling machine
    • Arduino Uno
    • Sparkfun Joystick Shield (DEV-09760)

    If you want to have some closer look, you can use the Google Sketchup viewer. Be warned, the 3D file is quite messy, I never thought about publishing it: Sketch up diagram, and the Arduino code.

    With software like PTgui and Adobe’s built in CS6 photomerge stitching of almost any sequence of semi-overlapping photos into a panorama is a no brainer. That goes for hand held, and definitely for tripods. (And even for the iPhone 4S panorama feature)

    How to build a panoramic tripod head for $10

    But if you want a precise panorama, a “regular” tripod and head combo is not enough. If you want to get your panorama pieces perfect for stitching you have to rotate not around the camera base, but around the camera’s entrance pupil. This is where a dedicated pano-head comes into play.

    A panoramic head has calibration options so the camera rotates around the entrance pupil which depends both on lens and camera. There are dedicated pano-heads out there like the excellent panosaurus, Nodal Ninja and 360 Precision, there are some super cool DIY options out there ranging from easy through medium to complex.

    5teve over at photography-on-the.net was inspired by Dr. Sean Parkin’s design and built quite an impressive DIY pano-head. Aside from being a kickass pano-head, one of the nice things about it is that it uses no “heavy” tooling and can probably be built at your garage even if you don’t have a lathe or a CNC machine at your disposal.

    As far as featured go, this head is just packed. It “clicks” every 30 degrees of the rotator head, allowing for a repeatable panorama; It allows for careful calibration of the entrance pupil; And it can be used as a gimbal head in a pinch.

    Between those two articles there is all the data you need to make one of those babies, including the plans, parts, tooling process and the final assembly. As well as a bit of info about anodizing at home, bearings and springs.

    Here are some exploded 3D views of the head

    How to build a panoramic tripod head for $10

    How to build a panoramic tripod head for $10

    How to build a panoramic tripod head for $10

    And here are the resulting 360×180 panoramas

    How to build a panoramic tripod head for $10

    How to build a panoramic tripod head for $10

    And finally here are some pictures taken during the tooling process.