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Author Topic: Want to focus more on panoramics - what would you do?  (Read 7183 times)
KMerv
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« on: February 12, 2012, 11:30:35 AM »
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Hello everyone,


I've shot mostly landscapes since the 90's and I've had several years break from photography due to a demanding day job which killed all my creativity. Thankfully I've now started to find my spark again.

Long story short: I've always been a big fan of panoramics (single row mostly) and would like to focus more in them. I have now the following kit which is pretty nice in my opinion:

Nikon D7000
Sigma 12-24 HSM DG II
Nikkors: 35 mm f/1.4 G, 50 mm f/1.8 G, 80-200 f/2.8 D ED, 300 mm f/2.8 and a 2x teleconverter. Tripod with leveling base and ball head, but no pano head.

Lately I've also got interested in a full frame body thus I'm thinking about switching to Canon 5D mkII and TS-E lenses (and others of course).

So the question is: Would it make sense to switch to a 5D mkII and TS-E's or just update current kit with some good panorama head on the tripod?

Which setup would make stiching easier? The TS-E's give all kinds of extra control options and advantages, but I wonder if I'd really miss them with a nice pano head?

I'd be very grateful for any opinions or comments. Smiley
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bill t.
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« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2012, 03:31:19 PM »
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An alternative to a pano head is to rotate the ballhead so the camera is vertical.  If you watch the lens as it pans, you will notice that even though it follows an arc, the actual change in the frame-to-frame rotational center is not that big, and there is relatively little side to side parallax.  I have gotten some very low stitching errors working that way in cases where I didn't want to carry the full pano head.

I have a few TS lenses, and I have to say that in almost every case where I don't have to shoot fast I prefer using focus stacking with Helicon Focus.  TS lenses have problems when nearby objects are randomly distributed at different heights which may fall out of the best possible TS solution, but which in every case can be easily handled with Helicon.  Tree branches at the top of a scene with nearby objects on the ground come to mind.  Helicon presents slight difficulties where you can get a fuzzy halo when a very close object is superimposed over a very distant one, but there are various ways to fix that quite well.

Looking at your kit, I would add an 85mm prime.  I personally use 28, 35, 50, 55, 85, 105, 135 a lot, and a 200 maybe twice a year.  BTW, the old 55mm, f2.8 Micro Nikkors are quite possibly the sharpest and most immaculate lenses in the known Universe.  I've been using those (mostly) old Nikkors on the 5DII and the results are wonderful although I must say I have gotten really good at guessing exposure!  Yes I think you might gain something with the extra megapixels.  I routinely push the focus-stacked, single row 5DII images to 30" high with nose-on-the-canvas quality, which I wasn't quite getting with the older 12mp cameras.

PS, I also had my photographic career interfered with my a 25 year long day job.  Was glad to reclaim my true mantra, hope you are enjoying your return to the true fold.
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bill t.
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« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2012, 04:29:06 PM »
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To add to the previous, I read that as "D700" rather than "D7000."

Although I have both 5DII and D7000 cameras I usually prefer the 5DII for the much better noise performance, and somewhat better sharpness on the focus plane.  However...the D7000 is no slouch in any department and there are times when the effectively greater depth of field makes it the preferred pano camera.  In cases where the nearest object is say 10 or more feet away with a 35mm lens, I can just barely carry really good focus out to infinity with the D7000, whereas to do that with the same FOV on 5DII I might need 2 focus stacked images.  In that case the 5DII image would be visibly "better," but if I had been shooting a sunset pano I might have lost the shot.  The tradeoffs are complex.  But anyhoo, give the D7000 a chance before you go for the 5DII, because those 5DII's are just gonna be getting cheaper sooner than later.  And I suppose you know about the D800.

Also, in the unlikely event you haven't run into this already, most of those lenses are gonna start to disappoint in the sharpness department starting at smaller apertures than f8 for the medium focal lengths, and f5.6 for the wider focal lengths, and f11 for the longer lenses.  It's a new photo fact o' life that rode in with the digital revolution.  It's that darned diffraction thing, physically small aperture openings invite diffraction that for whatever reason seem to afflict digital sensors more than film.  There are a few slight exceptions...the 50mm Nikkors are best at f8 on down, but the 55 Micro is still excellent at f11, which is one reason I so love it so.  The 85mm f2 is still nice at f11, and the 135mm has an OK f16.  But the 28mm and the 35mm are dramatically better at f5.6 than f8, and in many cases you will get better results by shooting f5.6 and fixing depth of field shortcomings with Topaz Focus or such, versus shooting the original scene at f8 or f11 and suffering overall diffraction.  IMHO...but it also depends on what size of prints you plan to make.
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Tony Jay
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« Reply #3 on: February 13, 2012, 02:11:13 AM »
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Given some of the facts already communicated by you I would assume that you are a pretty sophicated and technically adept photographer.
With this in mind I would also assume that IQ is also very important to you.
Panoramic photography (using digital stitching) is a fascinating addition to the the arsenal of digital photography.
It is an area where I have a (growing) competance but still feel that there is much more to learn.

  My first piece of advice is not to necessarily change cameras (especially manufacturers). Exhaust your options first and learn as much as possible
about the craft of this kind of photography first.
  I have to admit that I do not have any experience with Nikon kit (since I use Canon kit) but apart from the advice to preferentially use prime lenses I will not comment more on lenses apart from to say that Nikon do market TSE lenses should you require them.
  I would invest in a panoramic head (the fact that you own a levelling head is an excellent start) since that gives you the best possible start to successfully stitch a panorama. Obviously some work needs to be done to accurately determine the nodal point for one's lenses.
  Helicon focus is an excellent companion to landscape photography and also panoramic work that can give your images as much depth of field as required. Helicon Remote will allow one to exactly take multiple shots at different points of focus to achieve the depth of field required. Helicon Remote also allows one to do HDR as well combined with the expanded depth of field if desired. There is a learning curve associated with Helicon focus though.
  Tilt-shift lenses are useful but as already noted do have their limitations as does Helicon Focus.

My $0.02 worth

Regards
Tony Jay
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k bennett
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« Reply #4 on: February 13, 2012, 06:15:40 AM »
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You'll want the panoramic clamp and a nodal slide no matter which camera you choose. Having the pano clamp at the top of your ball head allows you to quickly level the head/clamp assembly, while the nodal slide will allow more precision overcoming parallax error.

You might consider purchasing those two items and working with them before switching camera systems.
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KMerv
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« Reply #5 on: February 13, 2012, 07:52:48 AM »
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Thank you a lot for you answers everyone!

The Helicon Focus was a completely new thing to me so thanks also for bringing it to my attention. Definitely worth a look.

In my own mind I came up with these pro's for the TS-E's and 5D2:

- Perspective control for making trees, buildings etc straight. Does this work if I rotate the camera for panoramics or will a building be ok in one shot and not ok in the next with ie. 30 % overlap? Perspective can be corrected in PS at least somewhat, but I'd prefer to do this with the lens.

- DoF control, can be handled with Helicon I assume.

- Small panoramics with just shifting the lens and not rotating it. I really like the aspect ratio this gives, too.

- Excellent sharpness at least based on Photozone tests.

- Nikon PC-E's are pretty much non-existent here in Finland.

- 5D mkII might give more pleasant image quality for landscapes than my D7000. I really like the Nikon, but the images are lacking "something" with landscapes no matter how I process the raw's. I can't really describe what it is, though... Could well be an user error!

And yes IQ is important for me. A couple of interior design firms use my work in their projects. I don't sell much, but eventually my gear pays for itself.

I wonder if I'm totally wrong with my thinking?
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Ellis Vener
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« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2012, 09:50:52 AM »
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Kmerv,

My advice is to wait a month or two until the D800 is being broadly field tested by lots of early adopters and then make a decision about camera bodies.

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Ellis Vener
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #7 on: February 13, 2012, 11:26:12 AM »
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Hi,

In my view a panorama head makes a lot of sense. Makes life easier. Regarding nodal slide, I don't know. I have one but never used it, but sometimes I wish I did. On the other hand, I would not shoot panoramas without an L-plate.

I would recommend that you get a decent stitching program. I use Autopano pro. Sometime I'm using "Merge to Panorama in Photoshop" from Lightroom, because it's convenient but Autopano gives better results.

I would keep low on investment. Rotational panoramas are not very demanding on equipment. I would learn the technique first and possible complement my equipment later. Ultrawides don't stitch really well, by the way.

Best regards
Erik

Kmerv,

My advice is to wait a month or two until the D800 is being broadly field tested by lots of early adopters and then make a decision about camera bodies.


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bill t.
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« Reply #8 on: February 13, 2012, 01:46:26 PM »
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If you're disappointed in the D7000 image quality, may I suggest using my favorite Photoshop filter, which is to repeatedly show up at a location at sunset until the light is right!  Sunrise works too, for those who can get up in the dark, argh.

Alternatively, you might want to experiment with the subtle use of HDR with +-1 stop bracket sets.  That can add a lot of richness to a landscape on days with otherwise ho-hum light and without too much wind.  Forget HDR stuff in CS5, because they forgot to include the "Subtle" button in the dialog box.  Oloneo, Photomatix, SNS-HDR are my personal photo-realistic favorites in roughly that order.

OK, and now to post my famous "dirt cheap pano head" picture.  Total cost...almost nothing.  Total time to build...less than 1/2 day.  Vibration damping characteristics and wind resistance...way above average!  I'm still using it, three camera bodies down the road from the D2X.  Note the clever little incrementing bands that can be nudged up around the tripod rotation point, those are nice to have in certain circumstances although just eyeballing the overlap through the viewfinder works pretty good too.  Of course the Gitzo G1270 head has a lot to do with this design, many others will work.  The existing Gitzo adjustments give me a very wide range of rotational point adjustment.  Just a thought.  Don't bother with paint, and use the nicely milled Oak from Lowes or Home Depot.  The burn marks are optional.

But IMHO, the bottom line is that in the Internet literature the need for absolute rotational accuracy tends to be rather overstated relative to what's really required for a decent stitch.  OK, if you're shooting interiors with a 10mm lens, maybe you need pretty good rotational accuracy.  Outside with anything wider, just do it with what you got and worry not.
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k bennett
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« Reply #9 on: February 13, 2012, 03:06:38 PM »
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Love the homemade pano rig. Absolutely love it. I would try that before dropping $800 on the RRS solution.

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Ellis Vener
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« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2012, 08:54:59 PM »
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+1 Bill on that rig and on your pano work in general.

If you haven't been to Bill's website you should pay it a visit.
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Ellis Vener
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Schewe
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« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2012, 11:15:20 PM »
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Which setup would make stiching easier?

Easier or better? There's a big difference...

I started getting into panos when I went to Antarctica with lenses that were too long. I found lots of shots that were too tight so I started doing 2, 3 or 4 shot hand held panos. Surprising how well Photoshop CS3 and CS4 could do stitching even with hand held.

The first trick I would suggest, is try to shoot as loose as possible (so you can recrop after the fact) and shoot the camera vertical. When shooting vertical, you gain more height and encounter less optical distortion. Also use Photomerge in Cylindrical not Auto!

Anything you can do to "help" the stitching is useful...but I often stitch with a RRS ball head set as vertical as I can eyeball, then let the pan adjustment take care of the numbers. I usually try to overlap 30-50% to make the stitch easier.

You can see some of my panos at SW Selects. The first page are tripod mounted but not nodal point head stitches with Photoshop CS4/CS5.

Heck, the Bryce Point shot (#4) was done from 3 separate tripod positions cause the "tourists" kept getting into the way. No way the nodal point came into play there...#1 was a 7 shot pano shot with a P-65+ back on a tripod, in a hurry (cause the light was changing so quick).
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Justan
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« Reply #12 on: February 14, 2012, 09:06:36 AM »
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A couple of items that youíll wrestle with sooner or later are:

Lock the cameraís white balance to whatever is appropriate for the shoot. When the WB is set to auto, cameras will often subtly change the WB as the ambient light changes. This is especially prevalent during sunrise/sunset shots but even a change of clouds will have an impact. The end result of not locking the white balance will produce frames that are somewhere between troublesome to deal with and not worth the effort.

Learn the maximum aperture a given lens can use and not have a vignetting problem. Again, this is the kind of thing one would probably not notice when shooting single frames but can be problematic when doing digital stitching. This occurs more with wide angle lenses but does happen to degrees with any lens. This issue can be corrected but itís time consuming to get it right. With zoom lenses the max aperture that wont produce a vignette will vary with the focal length.
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KMerv
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« Reply #13 on: February 14, 2012, 12:32:19 PM »
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I thank you all again for the advise. I also wish that we could concentrate on the gear rather than my skills. I don't want to sound rude or anything, but I'm not exactly a beginner even though I choose to post on the beginners sub-forum. I simply didn't want to clutter the other areas with this rather simple issue. Thanks.  Grin
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #14 on: February 14, 2012, 01:20:15 PM »
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Hi!

Here is a small write up on panoramas: http://echophoto.dnsalias.net/ekr/index.php/photoarticles/panorama-and-stitching

Here is another one: http://echophoto.dnsalias.net/ekr/index.php/photoarticles/21-panoramas-quick-a-dirty

And here is my first pano: http://echophoto.dnsalias.net/ekr/multimedia/TPOI_Godafoss_720p.mov

Best regards
Erik


Hello everyone,


I've shot mostly landscapes since the 90's and I've had several years break from photography due to a demanding day job which killed all my creativity. Thankfully I've now started to find my spark again.

Long story short: I've always been a big fan of panoramics (single row mostly) and would like to focus more in them. I have now the following kit which is pretty nice in my opinion:

Nikon D7000
Sigma 12-24 HSM DG II
Nikkors: 35 mm f/1.4 G, 50 mm f/1.8 G, 80-200 f/2.8 D ED, 300 mm f/2.8 and a 2x teleconverter. Tripod with leveling base and ball head, but no pano head.

Lately I've also got interested in a full frame body thus I'm thinking about switching to Canon 5D mkII and TS-E lenses (and others of course).

So the question is: Would it make sense to switch to a 5D mkII and TS-E's or just update current kit with some good panorama head on the tripod?

Which setup would make stiching easier? The TS-E's give all kinds of extra control options and advantages, but I wonder if I'd really miss them with a nice pano head?

I'd be very grateful for any opinions or comments. Smiley
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Schewe
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« Reply #15 on: February 14, 2012, 02:20:49 PM »
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...I also wish that we could concentrate on the gear rather than my skills. I don't want to sound rude or anything, but I'm not exactly a beginner even though I choose to post on the beginners sub-forum.

Well, once you post a question, you can't control the answers...and if you DID have more experience doing panos, I think you would understand it's really NOT about the gear and more about the techniques and the software.
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Justan
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« Reply #16 on: February 14, 2012, 03:21:39 PM »
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^That covers it.

There are really only a few details that are very useful for panos. These include a stable tripod with a bubble level, a pano head (sometimes), and stitching software. Also included is a computer with a fast drive i/o subsystem and probably 2 largish monitors. I prefer server platforms because they are designed for high performance i/o, they can accommodate a lot of RAM memory, and drive storage. The first time you work with a file thatís a GB or >, youíll see the utility of really good drive performance.

If you donít plan to do multiple row panos or donít include subjects inside of infinity (making parallax distortion an issue), you probably wonít need a pano head or focus stacking software.

There are only a few good well developed pano stitching applications out there. Try them and see which you like. In time if you continue to produce panos youíll probably try a few different stitchers as they all have good/bad points.

The practical approach is to make some panos and let your results steer you towards equipment that is suitable for the particulars of your goals.
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bill t.
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« Reply #17 on: February 14, 2012, 03:43:52 PM »
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And don't forget lots of RAM!  Those panos are ravenous memory hogs, especially when you've got a few layers piled up.  8gb minimum, 24gb not overkill.

Photoshop can slow to a crawl if you invoke third party plug-ins when your memory is close to being maxed out.  Nice to have one of those little CPU/Memory Usage gadgets on the screen somewhere.   On my old 8gb machine when I saw I was getting up to around 80% memory usage, and I was thinking of using something like Topaz InFocus, I knew from glacial experience that I was well advised to save the file, reboot PS, reload the file, and then run Topaz with clean memory buffers.  PC's and Macs, neither are immune from this.

Nothing is quite so apoplexy-inducing as working on a 5gb image when the computer is trying to use disk space in lieu of core memory.  Slide rules would be faster in most cases, maybe even a good abacus.
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KMerv
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« Reply #18 on: February 14, 2012, 11:49:16 PM »
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Well, once you post a question, you can't control the answers...and if you DID have more experience doing panos, I think you would understand it's really NOT about the gear and more about the techniques and the software.

I know I can't control them and this is why I asked to concentrate on my question rather than something else.

Also I don't mind getting advice for things, but in this case I really do have some basics covered. I've been shooting pano's in one form or another since I switched to digital with Canon 10D when it first came out. Never used any specialized equipment for it though thus I wanted to know where to look if I wanted to start using them.

Do you understand that even though photography in general is mostly about something else than gear, but still people should be allowed to discuss about gear if they wish to do so? Even in this topic some have managed to discuss about what I asked and some have not. You are part of the latter group thus your contribution is not really that helpful.

« Last Edit: February 14, 2012, 11:51:15 PM by KMerv » Logged
BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #19 on: February 15, 2012, 04:04:22 AM »
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Also I don't mind getting advice for things, but in this case I really do have some basics covered. I've been shooting pano's in one form or another since I switched to digital with Canon 10D when it first came out. Never used any specialized equipment for it though thus I wanted to know where to look if I wanted to start using them.

Hi,

It just depends on what subjects you shoot and how large the output needs to be.

When a single row is adequate for your needs, and there is some close-up foreground detail or there are occlusions, then you only need a fixture for the Yaw (vertical) rotation axis to run through the no-parallax-point (NPP). All that's required is a bar that can be slid fore or aft to achieve that alignment between entrance pupil of the lens, and the axis of rotation. Such a setup is flexible in that it can be used with many different lenses and even cameras, and it can be expanded for multi-row stitching should the need arise.

A typical setup would look like this. Specific components may need to be replaced for specific conditions (e.g. extremely short or long focal lengths, or smaller/larger camera). A specific camera (L-)plate is also required. This set can be mounted directly on the tripod (3/8th inch screw), or for added flexibility on top of a ballhead as a clamp replacement.

For a very robust expansion to multi-row shooting, one could use this in addition to the above mentioned components. There are lighter weight components available at a slightly reduced cost, but the principle remains the same.

The RRS stuff mentioned above is not the cheapest solution, but it's part of a very well thought out modular system that can be expanded for all sorts of uses.

Cheers,
Bart
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