Off the shelf
There are a number of panoramic tripod heads on the market, at widely varying prices.
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)
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.
The 360 Precision is a more expensive but very predictable panoramic head. At U.S. prices from $995-1095 for a single camera and lens setup, it is beyond the average user's price point. Its simple controls make it a very plausible option for those that make panoramas frequently and with the same equipment each time. The 360Precision heads are 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. Their suggested workflow is to calibrate a template in your software (hugin, PTGui, PTMac), and for every panorama afterward, apply the template and immediatly 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.
KingPano, Nodal Ninja, Panosaurus
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)
- web360.de (German)
- Bernhard Vogl
- Peter Nyfeler/Monopod
- Peter Nyfeler/Tripod