Off the shelf
There is a number of commercial panoramic tripod heads on the market, at widely varying prices. Panorama heads are actually very different kinds of animals and each manufacturer seems to have a different understanding about which functionality has to be part of such a head. Some are made of plastic or even "aircraft" aluminum, you might also fall in love with a stylish wooden head. The price range varies from "a round of beers" to something close to a visit on ISS. Some of them are a joke, a lot of them work nicely, some are specialised on certain body/lens combos, a few have that very professional wow factor. Choose yourself, and if unsure, don't hesitate to ask the members of Panotools NG what fits your needs.
360Precision offer different panorama heads, all CNC machined but with that hand crafted touch. Very elegant products, and certainly more expensive than you might expect. but are very predictable panoramic heads. They are very sturdy and at the same time elegant.
The Absolute is a very plausible option for those that make panoramas frequently and with the same equipment each time. It is built to a specific body and specific lens combination, saving the photographer the need to find the entrance pupil for their lens and midpoint of the camera. Because of this, it is a very precise way to batch-create panoramas without needing to generate control points for each panorama. The sacrifice is that you lose the option of using a different combination of camera and lens with this head until you purchase an additional lens arm.
Although these limits may seem restrictive, the results are very, very predictable. One possible workflow includes calibrating a template in your software (hugin, PTGui, PTMac), and for every panorama afterward, apply the template and immediately skip to stitching. This saves you the time spent in generating and correcting control points in each panorama. For those that can save significant amounts of time and/or money by doing this, this head truly is a life saver. The generation of the template can be time consuming but may save you hours upon hours of post processing time compared to other solutions.
It is possible to upgrade the 360Precision in modular ways, for instance if you decide to use a different lens for your panoramas, you can order just the lens arm you need, or if you decide to use a different camera for panoramas, you can order just the different camera leg and use the same lens arm.
The Adjuste is nearly as strong as the Absolute but is easily adaptable for different camera / lens setups. The diameter of the rotating base is smaller which makes for a better (smaller) footprint if you shoot full spherical panoramas.
Agnos - Italian manufacturer of panoramic heads and accesories for panoramic photography. I bought an adapter for my fc-e9 fisheye adapter and it is very well built and of a good quality. They will also release (if they didn't yet) a new solution for creating a spherical pano out of 3 pics taken at 120 degrees each with a DSLR rotated at 45 degrees (!).
A more expensive option is the Bogen/Manfrotto 303SPH, a large, but well made head. It could double as a boat anchor! I (Rick) have the 303SPH and the Agnos mentioned below. Bogen has a site dedicated to their line of pano heads Manfrotto 303SPH Mini-Site. Some users complain that the head sags - I have not experienced this. This head can be used with virtually any lens / camera combination. I used to use it with the FC-E9 fisheye, but the head left too large of a footprint in the image. --Add360.com 03:21, 7 Nov 2005 (EST)
DOBAS-01 and DOBAS-02
see > QTVR HEADS
Nodal Ninja award winning pano heads are built by Fanotec. They satisfy price (from $179), quality, ease of use, and portability (less than 500 grams). Used by professionals and amateurs alike these are easy to use single row and full spherical panoramic tripod heads. With these pano heads you are able to produce any type of panorama, from single row 360 degree cylindrical panoramas to multirow 360x180 degree spherical panoramas, or mosaics. Rail stops allow you to mount your camera/lens in the exact same position giving repeatable results. This eliminates second guessing on where the no parallax point is on your lens. You can even mount your camera in Landscape mode. The NN3 MKII also uses an interchangeable detent ring system. Reversible detent rings offer click stops at varying degrees to include 15/18 15/0 (default), 18/20, 25.7/36, and 45/60 degrees. All this packs nicely into a well made hard shelled case which is foamed line with dual zippers.
NN3 MKII is "universal" fitting most point and shoot cameras, SLR's and DSLR's. For larger DSLR's like the D2X, or Canon Mark II's type cameras or DSLR's using battery grips Fanotec has developed the Nodal Ninja 5 (NN5). NN5 is a more professional grade head with greater precision and longer arms to accommodate these larger cameras and lenses. NN5 will also accommodate many medium to large format cameras supporting up to 10kgs (22lbs) of weight. Larger lenses like the longer Nikon 70-200mm F2.8 can also easily be accommodated.
Latest news: Fanotec now offers a new Nodal Ninja 180 single row pano head for larger fisheye lenses, advanced precision rotators, levelers and quick release clamps. Over 11 pano head configurations are available.
Distributor of -> Panamatic
For me, the Jasper Engineering head has been an excellent value. At about $200, it's strong enough for serious 35mm or comparable digital cameras, which can be used horizontally or (with the included adapter) vertically. Nodal Point correction is horizontal and covers a variety of focal lengths as long as (I'm guessing) 135mm or more. Like so many heads, a bubble level is included, but hard to read when the head is set up at eye level. The builder will add custom touches very reasonably, In my case I put a Wimberly/Arca quick realease plate on the base. The base is machined aluminum; they provided a peel and stick piece of rubber for the base (to keep the plate from slipping) for about ten bucks.
Pivoting parts on this unit are tightened with cap screws which have patent caps on them to give more leverage in tightening. I ended up prying these off and taking a t-handle allen wrench with me. I'm using a D-70 and a 17-35 usually; a smaller camera would be fine without that extra step.
Kaidan offers two tripod heads. The KiWi and QuickPan. The KiWi when equipped with Twin-Axis Bracket will work for smaller cameras equipped with fisheye lenses. This is a single-row solution. Kaidan's QuickPan Spherical will allow for multirow panoramas with either rectilinear or fisheye lenses. The aforementioned Twin-Axis Bracket will also work on the QuickPan for single-row fisheye panoramas.
Kaidan is also due to release their QuickPan Professional tripod head in the early part of 2006.
see -> Bogen
MK PanoMachine / MK PanoHead
MK Panorama Systeme, Germany, the new MK PanoMachine version 3.1 is an automatic rotating VR head designed to move your camera from one shot to the next - the camera is released exactly in the right position. Version 3.1 has a new time-lapse mode as well as an integrated power management.
MK Panorama Systeme, Germany launched with the new MK PanoHead a fine mechanical precision and high-quality 360° panoramic tripod head on the world market.
• Panoramic tripod head for the stitching of digital panoramas
• Suited to create cylindrical, spherical and cubic panoramas as well as Multi-Row
• 360° panoramic plate with pre adjustable scale and integrated circular bubble
• Mount the MK PanoHead bracket alternatively on the Manfrotto MA 300 N or a 360° plate of your choice
• Motorize the MK PanoHead bracket with the MK PanoMachine or ROUNDSHOT VR Drive (with adapter)
• tilt up and down + / - 90° exactly in the nodal point (click-stops each 15°)
• The MK PanoHead allows the use of heavy digital SLR cameras and medium format cameras
• High-quality materials, fine mechanical work - Made in Germany
The company also provides a rental service.
Novoflex is a German company with a good reputation in building high-precision photographic accessories. The company offers now three different sets of already pre-assembled products as well as four different rotators.
All parts are built modular to be combine- and interchangeable with other parts from Novoflex. E.g. you can use a standard angle bracket or focusing rack as a part of your panohead setup. This makes it easy to create a custom panorama head that fits your specific needs. Also, it gives you the option to upgrade your setup - or easily re-order a broken part.
Works great with heavy gear.
A more than affordable solution. Judging from information available at their web site this "head" is not only extremely inexpensive but also mostly useless. No way to mount a camera in a way so that the lens turns around it's NPP, and no click stops. The pan head of a standard tripod isn't worse but maybe more stable. Also marketed as Hama Panorama Kit. Better try handheld shots...
Priced towards the upper end of the middle ($399) is the Pinnacle VR Universal Pano Head that will work with any camera where the tripod hole is in the center of the lens axis. Using pin registration, it can accomodate cameras with or without battery grips attached and supports a wide range of lenses from fisheye to 135mm (on a full frame sensor, 80mm on an APS sized sensor). Details and sample sets of images with PTGui templates can be found at Pinnacle VR
DOBAS-01 and DOBAS-02 made by QTVR HEADS POLAND is high quality, reliable and easy in use panorama head in excellent . It is made of anodized aluminium and stainless steel - the highest quality materials with LIFETIME WARRANTY !!
With DOBAS-01 panorama head you will be able to do single row 360 degree cylindrical panoramas as well as multirow 360x180 degree spherical panoramas, or mosaics. DOBAS-01 is "universal" fitting most point and shoot cameras, SLR's and DSLR's. It fits many medium to large format camera like BRONICA ETRSi. I used that pano head with heavy cameras like OLYMPUS E-1 + ZUIKO DIGITAL 8 or OLYMPUS E-3 + ZD8 Bubble level helps to keep whole system horizontally. Camera is mounted to the panorama head with standard 1/4 screw. Wieght less 400 grams. Price (about 100$ or 80 EUR)
DOBAS-02 panorama head is ultralight pano head for cylindrical panoramas. Wieght less 200 grams. Price (about 55$ or 45 EUR)
Really Right Stuff
RRS panorama equipment is nicely machined, modular gear.
The Rodeon VR Head is a programmable pano head. Tilt and Rotation are motorised, all steps can be controlled using a Bluetooth device (Notebook or PDA).
Various unbiased reviews are floating about on many of these panorama tripod heads:
KingPano: Max Lyons / Tawbaware |
MK PanoMachine / MK PanoHead: l Rosauro Ona |
Rosauro Ona |
Josh Korwin |
Eric Rougier |
Pixelmania (dutch) | 360 Rage | Thierry Rebours (french) | Cameraportal (dutch) |
Canon Digital Photography | John Houghton Panoguide | Max Lyons/Tawbaware (NN5) | Digital Magasinet (Dannish) |
Digital Photography Magazine May 07 | VR Mag | IT Enquirer (NN5) | Customer Testimonials |
Novoflex: 360 Rage |
Pinnacle VR: Sacha Griffin |
Another way to keep the lens/camera fixed to the no-parallax point are lens brackets that directly mounted onto the lens itself. The advantages are less vibrations but the drawback is that you need one bracket for each lens. They are a special type of a nodal point adapter.
- Agnos Lens ring
- Laser cut wooden brackets from Pano Bracket from bophoto
- Self made bracket from Willy Kaemena
L-brackets, rails, quick release plates
A compatibility table lists different brands of Arca Swiss style plates (and their counterparts). This could help to combine already bought equipment with parts of a different manufacturer, e.g. an old Manfrotto rotator with an additional quick release plate could be connected with a Novoflex L-bracket...
If you want to build our own pan/tilt head you might get some ideas from those shown below.
- Helmut Dersch
- Erik Krause
- Mike Runge (German)
- Robert Breuer (German)
- Bernhard Vogl
- Peter Nyfeler/Monopod
- Peter Nyfeler/Tripod
- Sean Parkin (English)
- Pete Loud's Nodal Samurai
- Scott Hendershot
- Tom Sherry
- Jim Watters
- Bernd Dohrmann
- low cost wooden head by arodrix
Since you often can't get the popular aluminium profiles in your local do-it-yourself store here some possible suppliers:
- Item International http://www.item-international.com - Internationally active
- CAP http://www.aluprofil.com - situated in Austria
- MayTec http://www.maytec.org - situated in Germany
A web search for "aluprofil" or "aluminium profile" might reveal other suppliers.