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Author Topic: Panofix Panorama Mount?  (Read 7863 times)

gadget

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Panofix Panorama Mount?
« on: October 20, 2010, 09:53:06 pm »

Hi Folks,

I'm looking into doing some Quicktime VRs for the first time. I came across this tripod head for shooting panoramas and it's price is attractive, but I'm wondering about the quality and functionality. If you have used one can you provide some feedback please? Is it something to skip over and simply go for the expensive ones?


Thanks for the help!
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elf

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Re: Panofix Panorama Mount?
« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2010, 10:05:29 pm »

If you're only shooting one row panoramas, it will probably work fine. 
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gadget

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Re: Panofix Panorama Mount?
« Reply #2 on: October 20, 2010, 10:27:45 pm »

If you're only shooting one row panoramas, it will probably work fine. 

Hmm, good point. I was thinking of renting a Canon 15mm fisheye lens for a test. Not having done this before, I don't know if it'll be necessary to shoot more than one row ... I think not, from what I've read.

For those with experience here, do you recommend using a non-fisheye lens and shooting multiple rows?

Thanks
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Bart_van_der_Wolf

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Re: Panofix Panorama Mount?
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2010, 05:51:47 am »

For those with experience here, do you recommend using a non-fisheye lens and shooting multiple rows?

Depends on the end use of the final image. Using longer focal lengths will allow higher resolution images, but will also require postprocessing of more image tiles. Depending on the focal length one may still be able to get away with a single row + a zenith and a nadir image for full 360x180 degree coverage (with simple or uniform zenith/nadir structures one can also simulate them in postprocessing, or e.g. replace the nadir by a logo).

Cheers,
Bart
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gadget

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Re: Panofix Panorama Mount?
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2010, 10:21:26 am »

Thanks again elf and Bart,

Thinking more about the Panofix tripod mount ... to make two rows of images, is it simply a matter of tilting the camera/mount up and down, and moving the camera left or right incrementally? It seems like the simple Panofix mount would be capable of this - the tilting can be done with the ball mount or other tripod head that the Panofix is mounted on. (Apologies, this may all be too abstract if you haven't used/seen the Panofix head. I've attached an image, I think.  :))
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Bart_van_der_Wolf

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Re: Panofix Panorama Mount?
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2010, 10:35:05 am »

Thanks again elf and Bart,

Thinking more about the Panofix tripod mount ... to make two rows of images, is it simply a matter of tilting the camera/mount up and down, and moving the camera left or right incrementally? It seems like the simple Panofix mount would be capable of this - the tilting can be done with the ball mount or other tripod head that the Panofix is mounted on. (Apologies, this may all be too abstract if you haven't used/seen the Panofix head. I've attached an image, I think.  :))

The device seems less suited for 360x180 degree photos because it seems hard to avoid getting parts of the mechanism in the image itself, especially with a fisheye (even a 24x36mm full frame one, 15mm or so focal length). Also note that their website doesn't show examples with a 180 degree vertical coverage.

Cheers,
Bart
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OldRoy

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Re: Panofix Panorama Mount?
« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2010, 07:48:05 am »

What appears to be lacking (the amateurish product information page is not a big help) is an integral rotator for the yaw adjustment. Which means you'd have to line up the markings on your regular (ball?) head or add something from another manufacturer. No idea what the lens retaining strap is for; the lens mount seems to keep my lenses attached on its own. Completely pointless, I'd say.

Personally I'd go for something like a base model Nodal Ninja. I'm still using an early model NN3 for VRs with either a D200 or D700. They are a bit too heavy but it just about works. We're not talking here about multi-row panos using large heavy lenses, however I have done them experimentally using a 14-24 2.8 - which is barely feasible on this rig.

If you're primarily going to do VR panos they will end up displaying on a web browser. Most of the real estate applications require small .swf files, typically <2Mb, so preparing huge files is a waste of time - IMHO. There are obviously exceptions to this, but they aren't a common requirement. Most people doing VR panos use fisheye lenses in the 10-16mm range, depending on whether you're using a crop or full size sensor.

Most people on crop sensors are using the 10.5 full frame Nikon or 8mm Sigma circular lenses. I've tried using the 10.5 with the mini lens hood shaved off as a circular fisheye on the D700 but I'm not convinced there's any real advantage over shooting with the D200 (IQ issues aside). I have a Russian Zenitar 15mm lens too which works reasonably on the D700 @ F8 (which is about what's needed for VR panos in constrained interiors) however it's very susceptible to flare.

On the number of shots issue, assuming a 10.5 mm lens on DX or 15/16mm on FX you'll need to shoot six shots round @ 60 degree yaw intervals plus one zenith shot (up) @ +90 deg tilt. This can be circumvented by shooting the equatorial set at a slight +ve tilt, but why bother? It just compounds the nadir shot problem. For nadirs, using a pano head like a Nodal Ninja (or one of several equivalents) which has a small footprint, requires 2 shots @-90 deg (down) each at 180 deg of yaw separation. Alpha channel masking of the head component in these shots, when the set is stitched, will leave a small central hole which you can fill using a variety of techniques including the "mirror ball" effect or corporate logos etc.

For a properly patched nadir hole you'll need to use the "viewpoint correction method" ( offsetting the tripod and shooting at about -60 deg toward the place where the tripod formerly sat) or a hand held shot (not recommended) or one of a variety of odd methods derived by various VR pano gurus. But this is a refinement. So, HDR exposure bracketing aside, at these focal lengths we're talking about a maximum number of shots @ 10, or 9 if the nadir patch is omitted. This could be further reduced to 4-round (yaw), possibly tilted up, to eliminate the zenith, with two nadir shots and a bodged hole. Which would amount to a total of six shots. Given that it doesn't take long, once set up, to shoot either six or ten shots, the savings in shooting time are insignificant. The increased load is in the pp - particularly if you're shooting raw and HDR.

I use PTGuiPro but many also swear by Autopano Pro ("Pro"... groan.) Assuming a correct setup for the entrance pupil (aka no-parallax point) and a little practice, the stitcher makes short work of the job on a fast PC with plenty of ram. The time consuming stuff is the raw conversion, alpha channel masking etc. Of course if you've got the work you can batch process all this stuff - but if you've got the work you'll buy an accurate pano head that enables you to do reproduce-able template stitching too.

Anyway that's the short form derived from my own experience - I've done a couple of hundred VR HDR panos in all kinds of human-free environments. Populated environments is another subject.

Roy
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Alan Smallbone

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Re: Panofix Panorama Mount?
« Reply #7 on: October 29, 2010, 04:57:42 pm »

I really like the Really Right Stuff setup for panos, very flexible configuration and more stable than the Nodal Ninja. Also the RRS will easily adapt for a battery grip and if you use Arca style plates like I do, then it is a lot easier to use the RRS equipment. It does cost more, but I think it is worth it.

I also use Ptgui Pro, wonderful program been usin it for years.

Alan
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Alan Smallbone
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Hening Bettermann

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Re: Panofix Panorama Mount?
« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2010, 10:22:41 pm »

The low weight (110 grams!) would appeal to me, but...

- the lens axis would need to be over the new center of rotation. This would require the distance of the camera from the camera mounting base (with red screw) to be adjustable. The device as pictured does not seem to offer such adjustment.

This would be even more exaggerated should you want to mount the camera in horizontal orientation (using an L-bracket) - an option that is obviously not considered, since  it would require to mount the camera upside down, which would place all the controls down under. To avoid this, the length adjustment should be placed on the LEFT side (in shooting direction) of the new center of rotation.

Also, a mm scale for the length adjustment would make it easier to adapt to different lenses.

So this thing needs a little fixing before I buy it.

panoman

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Re: Panofix Panorama Mount?
« Reply #9 on: November 30, 2010, 09:14:06 pm »

I have been using the PanoFix for over a year and it makes no pretense of doing everything that some of the bigger, heavier, and more expensive units do. What it does do is take 120 -180 degree panos that require no special editing to stitch them together. I have communicated with one gentileman who owns several "traditional" pano heads and claims that they are "just gatering dust" because the PanoFix is so much easier to use and carry. PanoFix offers a 30 day money back guaranty if don't like it for any reason.
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panoman

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Re: Panofix Panorama Mount?
« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2010, 02:53:48 pm »

You said "This would require the distance of the camera from the camera mounting base (with red screw) to be adjustable. The device as pictured does not seem to offer such adjustment."

This is totaly false: the camera mounting plate (attached by the red knob) is adjustable over a 4 inch range in relation to the tripod mounting plate. Once adjusted to fit your lens the two plates are clamped with the two black round knob screws and need not be adjusted again, unless you change lenses.

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Hening Bettermann

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Re: Panofix Panorama Mount?
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2010, 05:23:07 pm »

Hi!

>the camera mounting plate (attached by the red knob) is adjustable over a 4 inch range in relation to the tripod mounting plate.

Yes. But that is the distance of the camera to the new rotation center, the lenght adjustment. What I wrote was "the distance of the camera from the camera mounting base (with red screw)". This would be an adjustment in the direction of the red arrow (hopefully more straight), to keep the lens axis (blue), in this same direction, in the same distance from the camera mounting plate as the longitudinal axis through the new rotation center (also blue). In other words, in the direction of the red arrow, the 2 blue lines must have the same distance from the camera mounting plate. Without this adjustment, the lens axis may be displaced like one of the yellow lines.

Good light all the way 'round! - Hening.

The attachment of the .jpeg does not seem to work, I'll try with words.

Referring to the picture, the adjustment I lack is one that would bring the  camera as a whole closer to or further away from the camera mounting plate, in the direction from bottom to top of the camera. Otherwise, the lens axis may not go through the new rotation center (the tripod mount).

panoman

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Re: Panofix Panorama Mount?
« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2010, 06:04:38 pm »

Sorry, I miss understood your comment. 90% of the problems in the world are the result of communication. I'll try not exacerbate the problem.

Cameras distance from the base to the center of the lens varies by a little over 1/4 inch from model to model. The first version of the PanoFix came in two sizes so that the maximum error would be less than an 1/8 of an inch. Field test confirmed that small error didn't affect stitching in normal use. The second version (current model) split the difference and can have an maximum error of 3/16 “on a Nikon D300. This is the worst case, and again field test confirm acceptable results for normal use. The third generation design which should be out in March will have removable spacers between the two plates, and will allow perfect alignment on all cameras that do not have vertical battery grips.

My father used to say that "good enough, is never good enough." He was wrong about a lot of things.
Theoretically we would like every product to be perfect, as long as we don't have to pay for it, carry the extra weight, deal with all of the adjustments, etc. etc. The PanoFix is good enough for 98% of SLR cameras shooting in 98% of situations, but it was never intended for gigapixel special effects. What it was designed for was real estate interiors, which is one of the most difficult environments, due to the changing light levels, abundance of straight lines, and near objects. It does that job better than any of the traditional pano heads. Try mounting one of them on a monopod.
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