Almost any type of computer is usable, as long as it is running some version of Windows, Mac OS, Mac OS X or Linux. We recommend you to use a reasonably fast computer, since re-warping images and blending them are quite CPU intensive. A slower computer just means a longer wait, though.
While a fast processor will speed up the creation of digital panoramas, memory seems to be the single most important hardware requirement. I've stitched 6 and 8 frame panorama's together with as little as 512MB when I had a 3MPix camera, but with my new 8MPix, I can't process more than 3 images with 512 MB. Jumping up to 1 GB of RAM let's me build and manipulate huge digital files. Remember, image manipulation software nearly always stores images in memory uncompressed, so my 3MPix images (2048 x 1536) take up 24MB of RAM. Jeff 21:33, 7 Dec 2004 (EST)
However, if you have a large enough hard disk 1 GB of RAM seems enough for all tasks. Both Photoshop and PTStitcher use the hard disk heavily. I managed to stitch a 30 layer 16 bit 4,000x50,000 pixel panorama on my 1GB Athlon 1400 machine. It took forever and a day not only to stitch but to load into Photoshop, too. Photoshop used 23 GB of scratch disk but work was suprisingly smooth. Erik Krause 05:51, 30 Apr 2005 (EDT)
One caveat - dual hard drives can markedly improve performance, at least in MS Windows machines. If the windows swap file is located on the same drive as the application scratch file, say photoshop, then Windows and Photoshop are battling over hard drive access. Locating your scratch disk on a different PHYSICAL hard drive helps considerably. If you have three drives, that's even better. One for Windows and software, one for your scratch disk (and more software, or storage) and a third for your working files. You can have a performance increase of 20% or more. --Add360.com 03:09, 7 Nov 2005 (EST)
An interesting alternative for cheap fisheye photography: Lomo Fisheye Camera: 35mm film camera with a 170° fisheye lens
Long gone are the days with the 1 meg memory card that came with my first digital camera. Heck, the 64 meg card that came with my last Nikon is now next to useless! I find myself with a collection of cards, from 512 meg up to 1 gig, and I'm looking at the 2 gig cards. With my Coolpix 8700 in Raw mode, the 1 gig card holds around 65 photos! So plan accordingly. You also need to consider memory card speed. A slow card can take several seconds to save a high quality image, compared to a higher speed card taking under a second. Just remember: faster card = higher cost. For situations where you can afford to wait while an image saves, save 25% and get a slower card. But if you need faster save times, you'll be happier with the faster speed cards. Also see Personal Storage Devices at the bottom of this page. --Add360.com 03:10, 7 Nov 2005 (EST)
Narrow angle lenses (field of view < 90 degrees) are often used to create high quality panoramas for print. Fisheye lenses are more often used to create comparatively lower quality panoramas for web display, etc., although with a typical digital SLR and the popular Nikkor 10.5mm or Sigma 8mm lens it is common to produce stitched images from 8,000 to 12,000 pixels wide
With wider angles of view fewer shots are needed to capture a complete scene. Fisheye lenses are typically used for creating immersive 'spherical' panoramas, whereas longer focal length lenses are more normally used to create cylindrical panoramas as it is much harder to assemble the large numbers of tiled shots these require to cover the zenith and nadir (top and bottom) of a complete spherical panorama image.
In order to assist with setting up your lens and camera there is a Entrance Pupil Database with relevant dimensions.
Popular narrow angle lenses
Any fixed focal length lens would be best for maximum quality. Most zoom lenses suffer from non-standard edge light fall-off (vignetting) and from heavy lens flare. Consumer zoom lenses often perform badly in terms of contrast, sharpness, maximum aperture and chromatic aberration.
Popular wide angle lenses
|Sigma 12-24mm f4.5-5.6||Super wide-angle zoom lens with a 84-122 degree field of view on film SLR cameras|
|Nikkor 12-24mm f/4 DX||Super wide-angle zoom lens with a 61-99 degree field of view for Nikon mount DSLR cameras|
Popular fisheye lenses
|Peleng 8mm/f3.5||fisheye lens covering a 180 degrees field of view|
|Sigma 4.5mm/f2.8||The first 180 deg. Circular Fisheye Lens exclusively for use with APS-C size digital SLR cameras.|
|Sigma 8mm/f3.5||fisheye lens covering a 180 degrees field of view|
|Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8 DX||full frame fisheye (180 degrees diagnonally) for Nikon mount DSLR cameras|
|Zenitar 16mm f/2.8||full frame fisheye (180 degrees diagnonally for 35mm film or full frame sensor) for various SLR and DSLR cameras (manual operation)|
Fisheye conversion lenses
|Raynox DCR-CF185PRO||180 degrees field of view with a standard lens at 35mm|
|Nikon FC-E9||~185-190 degrees field of view with a standard lens at 35mm (this is not only for Nikon, I used this with my Canon PS A75.. you need a 52mm >> 46mm adapter ring.. with that it works great with Canon or whatever you want) An adapter ring is required for ALL Nikon cameras, and can make the setup rather large (almost a foot long!)|
|Nikon FC-E8||~180 degrees field of view with a standard lens at 35mm. adapter ring required|
There are also many small and cheap semi fisheye conversion lenses available from Raynox if you have a small digital camera and quality is not the most important issue:
|Raynox video camera index||Look for the 0.3x versions|
Tripods / Monopods
My current favorite tripod for shooting panoramas is the manfrotto 755b.
The tripod is extremely strong, tall, and incorporates a ball head that can be used to quickly level a head - though this does require somewhat of a 'knack' to get the hang of.
Essentially, for just over $200 you can get a really large, strong tripod, with levelling feature. Only downside for me is the weight, but I cannot justify spending 3x the price to get a carbon fibre version!
Monopods have a couple of advantages. One advantage: Height - many have several sections. They are most popular with one-shot lens users. You can extend the monopod fully, set the self timer on the camera, and position the camera 10' off the ground (held at arms length above your head.) Takes practice, but it works. You'll want to invest in a monopod level. These attach to the monopod leg, kind of like the level used on 4x4' when you build a deck. Another advantage is portability, plus some monopods serve double duty as trekking poles. They are difficult to use for multiple shots, as one can wobble the monopod left, right, back, and forth between shots. It's just like mounting your camera on top of a giant joy-stick! --Add360.com 03:14, 7 Nov 2005 (EST)
When combining multiple images, it is critical that each image be captured from the same point of view. This optical center of the lens is commonly called the nodal point, although it is more correctly referred to as the entrance pupil. The nodal point is located inside the lens; in the wide angle lenses used for panoramic imaging, the entrance pupil tends to be near the front of the lens.
A standard tripod mount rotates the camera around the mounting screw in the camera; the simplest nodal point adapter simply shifts the camera back to move the lens's nodal point over the axis of rotation. More complicated brackets allow the camera to rotate vertically around the nodal point around the nodal point as well as horizontally.
With lenses that produce a large image circle, it is possible to capture a number of DSLR frames for stitching into a large panorama. Typical lenses that can be used for this purpose come from Medium Format, and Large Format (4x5) camera systems. A stitching adapter is typically used on a Large Format camera to provide precise XY positioning of the DSLR camera, so that all the image tiles are taken in the plane of focus.
In this type of system, since the capture device (DSLR Camera) is moved, but the lens is not; there is no requirement for determining the lens nodal point. However the panorama must be stitched as an orthographic projection.
Have a look at iSiteMedia's Pano flash - made from an old studio flash and an opal garden light.
Portable Storage Devices
These come in several varieties, a broad price range, and with varying options. Kind of like purchasing a VW Beetle vs a Porsche - either can get you from point A to point B. Basically all models perform the same function: automatically move images from your memory card to the storage device. Just stick in the card and like a digital vacuum, it sucks the images from the card to the device. That is the BASIC function. The type of cards it reads, hard drive space, battery life, simple LCD display vs full color display - the features go on and on. You can preview images on some models, display them on TV via built-in jacks, watch movies, play music. It all depends on your budget! Google "Portable Storage Device" or search on Amazon or eBay. You'll get an idea what's available. Not to long ago there were only a couple of models available. Now you can find dozens! Bottom line: If you take a lot of photos, you'll eventually need one of these! --Add360.com 03:11, 7 Nov 2005 (EST)
NOTE that by now (Dec 2008) the cost of flash memory cards has dropped so much that these portable storage devices are now a rather expensive solution in comparison to buying a few more memory cards. This plus their need for battery power (which can be problematic if you're not near power sources) means that they are no longer the wishlist item they used to be.
Click to see an alphabetical list of panorama related hardware manufacturers.