1. How much do you shift? I'm using a Rodenstock 45mm with a P65. I shot at 10mm and 20mm shift. Looking at the files, I'm not impressed with the edges of the 10mm. I'm guessing about 8mm of shift is what I could use. Obviously this is lens dependent, but are many people getting 10mm plus of usuable shift?
That 45 is not the best lens for stitching and is the primary reason why you're seeing softness at 10mm.
Other lenses like the Schneider 60XL Super Digitar or Rodenstock 90HR-SW or the Schneider 120mm ASPH have MUCH more room to shift before you see dropoff in image quality.
You can see a tech camera lens visualizer
on our website which will give you a rough idea of image circle size and relative allowed movement. Bear in mind that the visualizer is based off the manufacturer spec so if possible work with a dealer that actually knows the characteristics of each lens (e.g. Schneiders in general fall off in sharpness before their stated image circle while Rodenstock's numbers are more conservative).
2. Does the camera have to be level? It's generally considered best to do so for rotational shifting as it means less image modification required. Most of the test panos I just shot were with the camera horizontal. Is this best practice for shift stitching or does it not matter because the lens is not moving? Or should I just keep it horizontal and use rise/fall instead of pointing my camera up and down?
If it's not level, and you want the final image to be level, then you'll have to crop; the further you stitch the more impact that crop will have. Note the 65+ has a virtual horizon, which can be very useful for getting to a quick level position.
3. LCC's. Not as scary as I thought. Used Capture One for the first time tonight after using a tech camera for the first time and...only took two minutes to work out how to do an LCC correction (so for anyone else out there who thinks it sounds difficult, no it's pretty easy once you've got the gear). My question is - is it fine to just shoot this at the same exposure as the actual shot? Or do you need to overexpose (as per M.R.'s article here on LuLa.) I ask because it sounds like an uncertain topic and I found that changing my exposure between shots wasn't great for speed of shooting and introduced the potential for errors when shooting panos.
Nah, not scary. Mildly annoying sometimes. But not difficult.
Ideally an LCC should be exposed around middle gray erring on the side of bright than dark and at no time clipping any highlight data.
With most lens/back/exposure combinations you can fall well short of this "ideal" exposure for the LCC and still get excellent results. When the results start to fall off the first thing to go is dust-removal, the second thing to go is color correction, the last thing to go is light falloff. When shooting stitch panos it's perfectly acceptable to shoot the LCCs as a group before or after the group of actual captures, especially if you're using a system like the Cambo tech cameras
which have detents every 5mm (allowing you to quickly/accurately return to the same position) or you're using the end-range of a cameras movement (e.g. on an Arca RM3Di
you are shifting 15mm to the right and 15mm to the left). You can also capture preset selections of movements and create a library. A lot of my tech camera work is done with a left/right stitch with the back in a vertical position with either 0, 5, or 10mm of rise. When I'm shooting that stitch-pattern I don't need to do fresh LCCs as I already have them in the library. If for some reason I wanted to do e.g. 7mm of rise (not 5 or 10mm and crop slightly) then I would need to shoot fresh LCCs as I do not have 7mm rise left-right stitch in my LCC library.
4. Overall, are shift panos of sufficiently better quality to justify using this method over rotaional panos? Looking at the blurry, smeared edges of my 10mm shift panorama I did wonder if I'd be better off just sticking to rotational panos arund the nodal point. Or what about combining a bit of rotation with a bit of shift?
Very different methods each with advantages and disadvantages.
Rotational allows you to use the center of the lens and allows any AOV (even 360 degrees if desired) given enough shots
Shift stitching allows you to see the final composition in-camera, feels (to me) more traditional/direct/tactile, and requires no deformation/stretching/pinching/geometric-remapping of the images to fit together.
Shift stitching requires LCCs
Rotational stitching (with a tech camera) only requires one LCC for a given lens/back/position combination.
Easiest answer is to do several scenes with both techniques and see what you like. Personally I love shift-stitching and find rotational-stitching to be annoying and a necessary evil. Bernard (on this forum) creates beautiful images with rotational-stitching only and seems to enjoy the process (in addition to his wonderful results). So there is no doubt it's down to personal preference.
5. Which program to stitch? I usually use PTGui but tried photomerge in CC tonight - unlike for rotational panos, it actually worked pretty well. Any advantage in using PtGui etc?
For shift stitch no need to be fancy. Drop the files into photomerge and push go.