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Old May 31, 2012, 9:25 PM   #1
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Default Tripod head for panoramas

My Sony A580 has the cool feature that will auto stitch photos into panorama photos. This is a new camera to me and I've been playing around with this feature. You can get some neat pix free handed, but I think it would work far more consistently with the right tripod head.

My simple Slik tripod has a ball head with one tightening device for horizontal and vertical adjustments. Are there heads with separate locks for vertical and horizontal adjustments?
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Old Jun 1, 2012, 5:43 AM   #2
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Does your head pan, and does your tripod have a bubble level? If yes, get a level for your flash shoe (available from eBay). First level your tripod, then level your camera with the flash shoe level. This will provide for level panning - shoot and pan. I shoot manual exposure (I don't have a Sony with pano feature) and stitch the shots together. I use Photoshop Elements to crop and process the stitched photo. This works for me although I have stitched up to 12 shots hand held.
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Old Jun 1, 2012, 8:31 AM   #3
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Hi, yes there are heads called pan-tilt that have individual controls for all 3 directions like this manfrotto 804rc2

However ballheads work mostly fine for panoramas, if levelled as mentioned.

To avoid parallax error between shots the use of a pano-head or pano adapter is needed. These are not inexpensive though.
http://www.panoguide.com/howto/panoramas/panohead.jsp
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Last edited by PeterP; Jun 1, 2012 at 8:38 AM.
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Old Jun 7, 2012, 2:28 PM   #4
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Peter brought up the point I was going to make - my ball head (with separate panning control knob) is fine for many pano shots but I can't adjust the axis to correct parallax errors (the rotation isn't the correct axis). It's great for the odd panorama I do, but for those who really do these a lot would want something more.
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Old Jun 24, 2012, 10:52 PM   #5
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For panoramas using just a ball head - there is a pretty simple approach to this. The problem is that most ball heads are not designed to support it.

It comes down to two items:
  • The ability to pan level
  • For perfection - the elimination of parallax, you need a nodal rail so that the camera sits back from the rotational point and the lens main element is over the center of the ball head. Panoramas are just fine being taken on just a ball head - unless there is something in the foreground and then that will throw the stitching off.
The secret to panning level is to have the "turn table" above the ball head and NOT in the base of the ball head. If the turn table is in the base, then the tripod needs to be setup level so that you can pan level. The ball head is then of no real use. If the tripod is just off level, then the base of the ball head will not pan level, and the camera on the top of the ball head will track in something like an upside down U - from side to side.


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Old Jun 25, 2012, 9:02 AM   #6
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Yes, any ballhead can be used for simple panoramas, to make it easier if you don't want to spend a few seconds to level your tripod just add a panning clamp to it
RRS panning clamp

The rotating around the lenses no-parallax-point makes it much easier to assemble to final image.
The no-parallax-point must be located for each lens or lens f/l if it is a zoom and camera combination it is not exactly at the front element.
Use of term nodal is not quite right though many do use the term nodal point to describe the no-parallax-point

But use whatever you have, just about any tripod and head if it can be levelled and rotated will allow you to make some nice long skinny images !

One other point, for panoramas it is best to use the camera in vertical (portrait) position. That makes your long skinny image a bit taller
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Old Sep 20, 2012, 2:38 PM   #7
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I just ordered this one, from B&H a few days ago. It has a separate pan lock, and man is this thing smooth like silk. I've always wanted an Arca Swiss mount, but most at twice this price have kept me from it until now. The QR plate also has some adjustment, making it easy to get cameras with an offset tripod mount, centered with the head.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...Series_II.html
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Old Sep 20, 2012, 11:08 PM   #8
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I did this one just playing around, with the head mentioned above. Didn't even try to level anything, stitched in Elements 9. Some distortion but that is to be expected in these close quarters, with 3 shots covering better than 180 deg.

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Old Sep 21, 2012, 4:00 PM   #9
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G'day Outhouse

You are asking for info on ball heads for your tripod
I use the mob below for lots of stuff > maybe one of their items will be of interest
http://www.dinodirect.com/se-tripod%...rency-AUD.html

As to panos > yes the in-camera pano stitching features are getting better & better, and I have seen some quite spunky ones recently coming from other Sony cameras

As to using PSElements for panos, in my experience from v5 to v10, I would still not regard PSE as a suitable bit of software for panos ... it will combine images sure, but it also fails on too many occasions

Regards, Phil
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Old Sep 22, 2012, 2:31 AM   #10
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Default pano head

I agree that a true pano head would be preferable, but have done unplanned panos handheld with decent sucess (or luck). Just got back from a trip to San Francico, Monterey, and Big Sur. These wre shot hand held. First is Golden Gate, second is Bixby Bridge in Big Sur.
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