What type of computer is usable
Almost any, 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 rewarping 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 512MB. Jumping up to 1GB 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 stich 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 23GB 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.
An interesting alternative for cheap fisheye photography: Lomo Fisheye Camera: 35mm film camera with a 170� fisheye lens
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 lower quality panoramas for web display, etc.
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 8mm/f4||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 one advantage: Height. 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.
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.
Currently content still on Flashes page
Click to see an alphabetical list of panorama related hardware manufacturers.