Panoramic equipment - leveling base vs. panning clamp

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Arkanjel Imaging, Jul 21, 2011.

  1. Arkanjel Imaging
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    Arkanjel Imaging New Member

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    Im looking to add panoramic ability to my tripod setup (Gitzo Systematic GT3541LS / RRS BH-55 ballhead.) And Im wondering what would be the most practical way to go. I like a leveling base because its the more stable of the two options IMO. The only time I would need the leveling capability is when Im doing panos though. And I typically wouldnt want the extra height/weight. But removing it all the time would be, well, dumb. With a panning clamp I could just throw it on when I want to shoot a landscape and swap it right back out again. But given the choice I would rather use the panning base of my ballhead. Its much larger so adjustments would be much more precise. Its kind of a toss up for me right now. Prices are fairly close for either so that wouldnt be a deciding factor.

    I havent had experience with either so any input, for or against, would be greatly appreciated.
  2. tirediron
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    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member

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    I'm not sure why you need either; the BH55 has a panning base built into it, and if you're going to level anything, level the tripod using the legs.
  3. Robin Usagani
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    Robin Usagani Well-Known Member

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    Do it free style man. Shoot it with PORTRAIT orientation, snap, snap, snap......... snap. Stitch it on photoshop. Make sure you overlap between snap like 30%.
  4. Arkanjel Imaging
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    Arkanjel Imaging New Member

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    On uneven terrain it can be difficult to get the level close enough for large scale panos. I care about things like nodal points and parallax.

    See above. Thats great for a recreational shooter. But thats not going to give me results I can live with.
  5. Robin Usagani
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    Robin Usagani Well-Known Member

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    When you use this setup you are talking about, do you shoot it with vertical or horizontal orientation?
  6. tirediron
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    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member

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    You may care about nodal points, but unless you use a proper panorama mount your caring isn't going to have any effect. I've shot some fairly large panoramas from places like the lip of Diamond Head crater and never found that it takes more than a minute at most to get the tripod precisely level.
  7. Arkanjel Imaging
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    Arkanjel Imaging New Member

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    That comes across as really arrogant. My caring wont matter? I already have L brackets, a rail, etc. too dude. If I know about np's (and PARALLAX) one would assume I know how to correct for it. The only thing Im trying to solve is how Im going to do my panning. Lets save the other gear for another discussion.

    Edit: schwetty: will be shooting in both. I can get by with less images/overlapping/post work if I can be more precise in my captures.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2011
  8. molested_cow
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    molested_cow Well-Known Member

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    I've always done it without tripod and seldom have any real issue with the horizon. Even with tripod, it doesn't always work out to be the way I want it.

    I'd say do without tripod first and judge it for yourself.
  9. tirediron
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    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member

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    As does your inference that because you know the terms nodal point and parallax, you're somehow more knowledgable! ;)

    I suppose, one would, IF nodal points were something that you corrected for. In point of fact, there's only one nodal point, and it's not an error of any type, ergo, you don't actually correct for it. In practice, having experimented at length, I've found that even with fairly large panoramas (say 135 deg, using four rows of eight images) unless you are using a very long lens, the nodal point has virtually no perceivable impact on the final image.

    With the panning base that is already built into your ball-head. I'm genuinely puzzled as to why you are trying to decide between two pieces of equipment with very differnt functions, when you already have all of that built into your current gear. I've looked at different leveling heads and always found them to be finicky and annoying, in addition to adding height and weight to your tripod.
  10. Arkanjel Imaging
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    Arkanjel Imaging New Member

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    Ive done them with mediocre results with my previous setup and also without any support at all. But Im looking to improve upon the results those processes got me.
    Hardly. I was expressing my concerns. I didnt indicate that I knew anything more than anyone else. I said I care about them.
    Sigh... agian, parallax is being corrected, not the nodal point. Excuuuuuuuse me for not wording myself better. But thanks for pointing it out. Again,I find your tone condescending. Im glad youve done research and gotten results. But maybe Im looking for different or even (OMG!) better results? Maybe Ill be shooting them with a telephoto?

    Id like to hear what anyone else has to say in relation to the two pieces of gear listed. This has already gotten way ot.
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2011
  11. Garbz
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    Garbz New Member

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    Tell me again why you need to perfectly level tripod to take a panorama? This is something completely news to me. The only important requirement to making a panorama is rotating around the nodal point to avoid parallax (doesn't sound relevant here), and even then it's only a problem if there's a significant mix between foreground and background.

    It sounds very much like you need to look for a different software solution. Given I've come up with perfect panoramas shot hand held with moving subjects in them I don't quite understand why you need a level tripod... I even shot a panorama one afternoon pissed on the way home from the pub, there wasn't a level shot to be seen and all 30 pictures came together without a single stitch mark.
  12. Ped
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    Ped New Member

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    I have dabbled with a few 360° panoramas & I find that levelling is not generally a problem as in most cases it is simple to level during processing. Having the right gear helps too for consistent results i.e. a correctly set up pano head is perfect, but panos can be made handheld, though some practise would help there too. For all pano gear my first port of call would be Nodal Ninja, heads, levels, poles. Also; consider a stitching program, I find photoshop is a bit of let down. PTGui is good, as is Autopano I hear.

    Nodal NInja: Panoramic Tripod Heads, Photography Poles and Levelers for Professional & Amateur Photographers

    My Panos: http://panocorner.com
  13. Edsport
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    Edsport Active Member

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    Free style is the way i do it. I've took a few panos and no problems without a tripod.

    Not sure why you would do it in portait mode though. You can take photos vertically and diagonally to make a pano. They don't all have to be just diagonal...
  14. Robin Usagani
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    Robin Usagani Well-Known Member

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    Because portrait orientation will give you the most pixel vertically and give you more room for cropping it rectangular (room for error)?
  15. Arkanjel Imaging
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    Arkanjel Imaging New Member

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    Dot. And the more perfectly level I can make the setup the less pixels I will have to crop from the final image.

    One of my main concerns is being able to make my process repeatable. The more variables I can remove from the equation the more consistent my results will be.
  16. 480sparky
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    480sparky Chief Free Electron Relocator

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    99.99% of the panos I do are shot in portrait mode. I don't use any special pano head on my tripod, and have been able to shoot panos hand-held without much issue.
  17. jbushee
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    jbushee New Member

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    I have only limited experience, but at least for spherical panos, you want a level tripod.
    Being able to fix things in post is great, but a last choice IMHO. Why set yourself up for the extra work when it takes just a couple extra minutes of prep to avoid it?
  18. Arkanjel Imaging
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    Arkanjel Imaging New Member

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    Exactly. I dont have any plans on stitching gigapans shot handhled. And there is a big difference between results that are "good enough" and "stellar".

    But the more I think about it the more I lean more to the panning clamp. I didnt realize the PCL-1 was so robust. Its the same size as the panning base of the BH-55. It will be a lot easier to put a QR plate on the panning clamp than mess with removing the head.
  19. Ped
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    Ped New Member

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    Correcting levelling with 360° x 180° panos takes a second or two, even if you take the shots pefectly level, the stitching software might hit off slightly at first run. Levelling becomes more important with cylindrical panos as correcting would invariably involve cropping the image. Also, the point of least parallax (nodal point) only becomes important with scenes with near and far objects, like rooms etc. It is perfectly fine to take panos from a normal tripod or handheld of scenes where everything is far off like in a landscape scene. With closer objects in view, or doing the complete sphere, more work would be involved to hide the errors. Nodal Ninja do a good range of equipment for making panoramas. I have an old slightly war worn NN3 head that does me a treat.
  20. Arkanjel Imaging
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    Arkanjel Imaging New Member

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    I will also be focus stacking. So just about everything in frame will be in focus. Near and far.

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