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Author Topic: panorama photography questions/problems (gear and software) ACCURATE LEVELING?!  (Read 3078 times)
simonstucki
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« on: November 08, 2012, 04:28:48 PM »
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Hi

a few weeks ago I asked about a ballhead for panoramic imaging here on this very fine forum. I ended up buying a arca swiss p0 head (and not the acra tec gp-s, the reason was the different design of the "plate" that sits on the tripod (in upside down mode for the gp-s it is "starshaped") between the two heads and the size) for my rrs24L tripod, fits the tripod perfectly. Thanks for the interesting discussion and your help.

now I do have a few questions. I quite like the head and I think it is hard to beat at the price and size and weight (and ok for my mft gear). But it isn't perfect, when either the pan or the ball is loose there is some slackness and even if the ball and the pan aren't locked down quite hard, there seems to be sometimes some slackness (very little and only if you apply quite a lot of force (I guess with a large tele and an slr I would be quite worried)).
so this isn't that bad and I don't worry about it that much, I wonder though if the slackness in the unlocked pan is the same with a d4 or a cube...

the other thing that is a bit more annoying is the leveling. even though the p0 has a rather small ball it isn't that hard to get to the point where I think it should be level. I can make fine adjustments quite easily but when I rotate the camera on the panning base then the bubble sometimes moves and says it is no longer leveled (the tripod was standing on solid ground, no grass or rug or something like that). for panos this isn't a problem I think, the stitching software seems to deal with that quite nicely (on the other hand I had a stitching error in an image and I really can't explain that error since it is on the roof of a building that was quite far away from the pov and I also used a nodal rail, so maybe that badly leveled camera was the cause?) but for single images it often is quite noticeable that the camera wasn't leveled.

now I wonder: has anyone some of the same problems and do you know where the problem is. is it the leveling that can't be that precise with the small spirit levels or is the quick release clamp not parallel to the panning base? or is it something different entirely. and of course it would be very interesting what one can do to improve the leveling.


I also have a question about PTGui, I recently purchased the software (not the PRO, but will upgrade soon) and I upgraded to the latest version. I have a quad core i7 thinkpad with 8gb ram and x64 win7. The problem I have is that during the creation of the panorama (the last step) the computer crashes horribly and I have to turn it of, I can't even open the task manager. I think the last time something similar happend sometimes was with windows ME! It happens when I try to do something else during the panorama creation. A few other programs were open at the time (browser, Lightroom) and the last time it happened was when I tried to display the desktop, so I didn't really do much but that apparently was enough. Anyone had similar problems?

ok that's it for now Smiley looking forward to your comments.
simon
« Last Edit: November 12, 2012, 05:17:40 PM by simonstucki » Logged
kencameron
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« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2012, 04:42:23 PM »
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I also have a question about PTGui, I recently purchased the software (not the PRO, but will upgrade soon) and I upgraded to the latest version. I have a quad core i7 thinkpad with 8gb ram and x64 win7. The problem I have is that during the creation of the panorama (the last step) the computer crashes horribly and I have to turn it of, I can't even open the task manager. I think the last time something similar happend sometimes was with windows ME! It happens when I try to do something else during the panorama creation. A few other programs were open at the time (browser, Lightroom) and the last time it happened was when I tried to display the desktop, so I didn't really do much but that apparently was enough. Anyone had similar problems?

I guess it is no help at all saying that one hasn't had a problem with particular software. In fact it can be quite annoying - but here goes anyway Grin.  I have used PTGui for a few years. It can take a while to render multiple panel high resolution panos, but nothing you wouldn't expect given the size of the files and it has never crashed my machine, which is only somewhat more powerful than yours, although I do have 32gb of memory. It could be that your files are very large indeed.  I have found it helps to not render at the highest resolution unless absolutely necessary and to close other programs and other open projects on PTGui.
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JeffKohn
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« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2012, 06:01:19 PM »
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A bit of "slop" is just something you've got to live with using ballheads, they all have it to certain degree. If it bothers you, switching to a geared head will solve the problem and also give you more precise adjustments.

Not sure I understand the second part of your question. If the head was truly level, rotating the top part shouldn't affect it. It may be the built-in bubble level is just too small to be really accurate. If so using a hotshoe bubble level may help.

I think with the default settings PTGui will pretty much consume all RAM and cores, such that system can become extremely unresponsive during rendering of large panos. But if you go into the settings you can limit the number of cores and how much memory it will use. Probably a good idea if you want to multi-task during pano rendering.
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simonstucki
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« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2012, 06:30:54 PM »
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thanks for your response yes I have to ad it happens with large files 20 images 16 bit tiff full 16mp resolution but also with a little smaller files also 16bit but only 3000px on the long edge. with the full resolution image it takes quite some time when it works (maybe 10min or 5 or 15 I didn't measure the time) and with the smaller images it is quite quick maybe 1 min. so I'm quite happy when it works (ok maybe when I want to do a really big multi row pano then it might be a problem). I think I'll upgrade to 16gb ram (I almost forgot that I wanted to do that since a long time anyway since it is so cheap) and then see what happens. and for future stitching with large files I'll simply close all other programs for those few minutes.
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simonstucki
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« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2012, 06:34:33 PM »
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Not sure I understand the second part of your question. If the head was truly level, rotating the top part shouldn't affect it. It may be the built-in bubble level is just too small to be really accurate. If so using a hotshoe bubble level may help.
well that's what thought too and in theory that certainly is correct unfortunately not in reality.

I think with the default settings PTGui will pretty much consume all RAM and cores, such that system can become extremely unresponsive during rendering of large panos. But if you go into the settings you can limit the number of cores and how much memory it will use. Probably a good idea if you want to multi-task during pano rendering.

ah thanks very interesting I'll look into that. thank you very much.
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bjanes
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« Reply #5 on: November 09, 2012, 06:23:43 AM »
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now I do have a few questions. I quite like the head and I think it is hard to beat at the price and size and weight (and ok for my mft gear). But it isn't perfect, when either the pan or the ball is loose there is some slackness and even if the ball and the pan aren't locked down quite hard, there seems to be sometimes some slackness (very little and only if you apply quite a lot of force (I guess with a large tele and an slr I would be quite worried)).
so this isn't that bad and I don't worry about it that much, I wonder though if the slackness in the unlocked pan is the same with a d4 or a cube...

the other thing that is a bit more annoying is the leveling. even though the p0 has a rather small ball it isn't that hard to get to the point where I think it should be level. I can make fine adjustments quite easily but when I rotate the camera on the panning base then the bubble sometimes moves and says it is no longer leveled (the tripod was standing on solid ground, no grass or rug or something like that). for panos this isn't a problem I think, the stitching software seems to deal with that quite nicely (on the other hand I had a stitching error in an image and I really can't explain that error since it is on the roof of a building that was quite far away from the pov and I also used a nodal rail, so maybe that badly leveled camera was the cause?) but for single images it often is quite noticeable that the camera wasn't leveled.

If you read the user reviews for this head on the B&H photo site, you will see that the imprecision that you have noted is commonly commented on, but in a brief perusual of the reviews I see no mention of the leveling problem you cite. I don't know how you attach your camera to the head, but one option is the RSS (Really Right Stuff) lever clamp which has a built in leveling bubble. The image was taken from one of the reviews.

I do have the RSS clamp and find it very well made and useful, but it is rather expensive. An attractive feature of the Arca head is that it is not necessary to level the legs of the tripod. Currently, I am using a RSS pano setup, which is much more bulky and expensive than your device. If I were starting over, I would give the Arca head careful consideration. The RSS web site has a useful overview of panoramas which you might find useful even though you don't use their equipment.

Regards,

Bill
« Last Edit: November 09, 2012, 06:35:44 AM by bjanes » Logged
Ellis Vener
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« Reply #6 on: November 09, 2012, 12:16:42 PM »
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But it isn't perfect, when either the pan or the ball is loose there is some slackness and even if the ball and the pan aren't locked down quite hard, there seems to be sometimes some slackness (very little and only if you apply quite a lot of force (I guess with a large tele and an slr I would be quite worried)).
so this isn't that bad and I don't worry about it that much, I wonder though if the slackness in the unlocked pan is the same with a d4 or a cube...


Locked is not and unlocked is unlocked, no matter what head you are using.

the other thing that is a bit more annoying is the leveling. even though the p0 has a rather small ball it isn't that hard to get to the point where I think it should be level. I can make fine adjustments quite easily but when I rotate the camera on the panning base then the bubble sometimes moves and says it is no longer leveled (the tripod was standing on solid ground, no grass or rug or something like that)





 I have four heads that I will do panoramic work with: the pO, a B1 with a Really Right Stuff PCL-1 panning clamp; a D4M, and a Foba ASMIA. Of all four I like the ASMIA best but it quite heavy and large and I can't always travel with it and the aluminum Gitzo 410C it is attached to. next is the D4M, then the p0 and then the B1. The B1 is last only because size - not as big as the ASMIA (few heads are) and the p0 is easier to travel with. Notice that neither of the double tilt heads (ASMIA and D4M) have geared tilts. I have other heads as well including a gear driven Majestic, Acra-Tech, & a Gitzo Rationale No. 3

Here's my thoughts on leveling  for panoramic shots: Level the camera pointing at either the the center of your composition or with the camera pointing at the main subject.  You do not say what camera you are working with but it it is fairly recent it should have an artificial horizon built in.  ideally this feature should have pitch (fore/aft) and roll ( left/right) indicators. and if you really are concerned use a level held up to the glass of the LCD on the back on the camera. It also helps to keep your hands off your camera while leveling it and shooting.  If possible adjust the camera's attitude by grasping the thing the camera or rail is attached to, not by using the camera body as a lever. There will always be a little flex when you have multiple pieces interconnecting ( camera, quick release plate (if your use one); where the camera or QR plate/bracket connects to the "nodal rail"; where the nodal rail connects to the clamp or head, where the the camera platform connects to the tilt mechanisms, where the head connects to the tripod; and possibly where the center column connects to the crown of the tripod.

(on the other hand I had a stitching error in an image and I really can't explain that error since it is on the roof of a building that was quite far away from the pov and I also used a nodal rail, so maybe that badly leveled camera was the cause?)

Doubtful.

If there are not other faults elsewhere in the photo, more than likely you need more control points there. You might even try restitching justto see if the program's algorithms do a better job the second time around. I've had this happen and not just with PTGui.  I export the pan as a blended + layers PSD or PSB format document and in Photoshop CS6 edit the individual layers using the layer masks to resolve stitching errors like this.

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Ellis Vener
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AlexanderB
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« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2012, 01:20:49 PM »
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If you are on Mac you can try PanoEdit. It has projection editor that allows fixing leveling after stitching.
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NancyP
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« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2012, 11:38:43 AM »
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If everything above the QR clamp is trued to the clamp, you can use a giant bubble mounted on an ArcaSwiss -compatible piece of metal to help you adjust the ball head. Acratech makes this, see:
http://acratech.net/product.php?productid=15 
I haven't used it, the idea makes sense.

Anyone here use the Benro panning clamps, a knockoff of the RRS panning clamp PCL1?
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Ellis Vener
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« Reply #9 on: November 12, 2012, 01:38:21 PM »
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Quote


Anyone here use the Benro panning clamps, a knockoff of the RRS panning clamp PCL1?

I  have used an early version of the Sunway Foto panning clamp.  Based on their current listing - http://www.sunwayfoto.com/html/products/201209/364.html it looks like there have been some changes however.  While they have changed the cosmetics  and the knobs of the DDH-03 I would also hope they took my advice and enlarged the size of the "key slots" inon the bottom side of the head to actually fit Arca-Swiss and Really Right Stuff heads. Before these slots were ever so slightly too small. The action on it was/ is fine but not superior to the RRS PCL-1 and the diameter of the mechanism was smallerthan the PCL-1.

I  still await  an improved PCL clamp (PCL-2?) from RRS or an improved and stronger clamp from one of RRS's competitors.
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Ellis Vener
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kencameron
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« Reply #10 on: November 12, 2012, 02:03:29 PM »
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If you are on Mac you can try PanoEdit. It has projection editor that allows fixing leveling after stitching.
PtGui also does this and there are tutorials on how to do it.
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simonstucki
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« Reply #11 on: November 12, 2012, 05:16:41 PM »
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But it isn't perfect, when either the pan or the ball is loose there is some slackness and even if the ball and the pan aren't locked down quite hard, there seems to be sometimes some slackness (very little and only if you apply quite a lot of force (I guess with a large tele and an slr I would be quite worried)).
so this isn't that bad and I don't worry about it that much, I wonder though if the slackness in the unlocked pan is the same with a d4 or a cube...


Locked is not and unlocked is unlocked, no matter what head you are using.

the other thing that is a bit more annoying is the leveling. even though the p0 has a rather small ball it isn't that hard to get to the point where I think it should be level. I can make fine adjustments quite easily but when I rotate the camera on the panning base then the bubble sometimes moves and says it is no longer leveled (the tripod was standing on solid ground, no grass or rug or something like that)





 I have four heads that I will do panoramic work with: the pO, a B1 with a Really Right Stuff PCL-1 panning clamp; a D4M, and a Foba ASMIA. Of all four I like the ASMIA best but it quite heavy and large and I can't always travel with it and the aluminum Gitzo 410C it is attached to. next is the D4M, then the p0 and then the B1. The B1 is last only because size - not as big as the ASMIA (few heads are) and the p0 is easier to travel with. Notice that neither of the double tilt heads (ASMIA and D4M) have geared tilts. I have other heads as well including a gear driven Majestic, Acra-Tech, & a Gitzo Rationale No. 3

Here's my thoughts on leveling  for panoramic shots: Level the camera pointing at either the the center of your composition or with the camera pointing at the main subject.  You do not say what camera you are working with but it it is fairly recent it should have an artificial horizon built in.  ideally this feature should have pitch (fore/aft) and roll ( left/right) indicators. and if you really are concerned use a level held up to the glass of the LCD on the back on the camera. It also helps to keep your hands off your camera while leveling it and shooting.  If possible adjust the camera's attitude by grasping the thing the camera or rail is attached to, not by using the camera body as a lever. There will always be a little flex when you have multiple pieces interconnecting ( camera, quick release plate (if your use one); where the camera or QR plate/bracket connects to the "nodal rail"; where the nodal rail connects to the clamp or head, where the the camera platform connects to the tilt mechanisms, where the head connects to the tripod; and possibly where the center column connects to the crown of the tripod.

(on the other hand I had a stitching error in an image and I really can't explain that error since it is on the roof of a building that was quite far away from the pov and I also used a nodal rail, so maybe that badly leveled camera was the cause?)

Doubtful.

If there are not other faults elsewhere in the photo, more than likely you need more control points there. You might even try restitching justto see if the program's algorithms do a better job the second time around. I've had this happen and not just with PTGui.  I export the pan as a blended + layers PSD or PSB format document and in Photoshop CS6 edit the individual layers using the layer masks to resolve stitching errors like this.




thanks for the answers, I use an om-d E-M5 it has those electronic levels but they are not at all accurate. anyway the problem is not to get the camera (or pano base) level, the problem is if I level the pano base and then rotate the pano base, it often (sometimes it is better I have no idea why) doesn't stay perfectly leveled. It doesn't matter if I use the spirit level of the arca swiss clamp on top of the p0 or the (bigger) spirit level in my rrs MPR-CL II. I really don't know what the problem is, it doesn't make sense except if the precision of the head is bad. so I wonder if anyone else has experienced the same thing.

"Locked is not and unlocked is unlocked, no matter what head you are using."
I don't understand what you mean. of course you can pan the camera when the pano base isn't locked, but there is some slackness around the axis of the pan and I was wondering if that is the same with e d4 oder d4m or cube (the pano base looks exactly the same at least in the case of the d4).
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Ellis Vener
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« Reply #12 on: November 14, 2012, 08:33:28 AM »
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 This won't work for the p0 because it is small (strong but small) but your original question and the subsequent back and forth got me to consider another alternative for my heaviest duty panoramic set up. I  have been experimenting with using a Manfrotto 338 leveling base but instead of putting it underthe head I am using it between the head and the panning clamp. I still set the level with the camera centered in  the rotation arc and so  far it seems to work perfectly. 
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Ellis Vener
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #13 on: November 14, 2012, 10:16:44 AM »
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I  have been experimenting with using a Manfrotto 338 leveling base but instead of putting it underthe head I am using it between the head and the panning clamp. I still set the level with the camera centered in  the rotation arc and so  far it seems to work perfectly. 

Hi Ellis,

That should just work fine, it's basically what I do as well. In fact, I often use a panning clamp (or an indexing rotator+clamp) on my leveling base (an EZ-Leveler II, same function as the Manfrotto 338) which is directly mounted to the tripod base, no head. This works fine for when the amount of pitch can be limited to +/- 7 degrees, and it lowers the center of gravity by skipping a head. All yaw rotations are in the same plane, even if I choose that to be not level, thus allowing virtually cropless cylindrical stitches.

Cheers,
Bart
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tektrader
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« Reply #14 on: November 14, 2012, 03:09:27 PM »
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Anyone here use the Benro panning clamps, a knockoff of the RRS panning clamp PCL1?

Yes I do, The Benro is a lovely pce of equipment. I use the L bracket and both the x and y axis swivels. Its wonderful. Hard to beleive the Arca could be any better built.

I level with a hot shoe bubble level fitted to the D800's hot shoe as I find the bubbles on the benro's are hard to see when all the equipment is loaded on top.

Is the PTgui available in a 64 bit version? That could be why yours is crashing. I have had terrible trouble with 32 bit versions of software causing windows 7 64bit to crash.
« Last Edit: November 14, 2012, 03:13:32 PM by tektrader » Logged
inglis
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« Reply #15 on: November 14, 2012, 03:43:55 PM »
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The Sunwayfoto Indexing Rotator DDP-64M with its 10 detent interval options also looks pretty good for spacing pano shots. Has anyone used it?
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Glenn NK
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« Reply #16 on: November 14, 2012, 04:20:01 PM »
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Being trained as a Civil Engineer in the late fifties/early sixties we all took fairly extensive instrument training.

When setting up a transit or an engineers level, there are two leveling devices:  a bulls eye bubble, and the one/s that are used to precisely level the instrument.  If the instrument isn't very level, the readings will be useless (with a level instrument, the vertical axis is vertical - when the instrument is turned around it is still shooting level - or close enough for the purpose).

The bulls eye bubble is only a good first approximation to getting the instrument level - in other words a quick and approximate setup to save time with the main bubble/s.

Any surveyor/engineer worth his salt would never rely on the bulls eye bubble - keep in mind we are talking about instruments that run into the thousands of dollars/pounds/euros, and the bulls eye level will be of good quality.  On a (much cheaper) ball head, the bulls eye bubble simply cannot be relied upon to level the camera accurately and the errors will be noticeable.

C'est la vie.

Glenn
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« Reply #17 on: November 14, 2012, 04:21:43 PM »
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Is the PTgui available in a 64 bit version?
Yes.
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NancyP
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« Reply #18 on: November 14, 2012, 06:17:04 PM »
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In other words, use the bull's eye bubble level to get you within range, and then use a 2-axis or 3-axis bubble level set to fine tune?
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #19 on: November 14, 2012, 07:11:13 PM »
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In other words, use the bull's eye bubble level to get you within range, and then use a 2-axis or 3-axis bubble level set to fine tune?

Hi Nancy,

If you want to approach perfection in leveling, yes. In panoramic stitching practice it only means that your software will produce a result that requires less cropping of a corner at the top and bottom of the image. It should not affect the stitching process at all, because it should be able to stitch whatever is thrown at it (assuming the use of a correct no-parallax-point, and enough stationary image detail to determine enough accurate/usable control points).

Cheers,
Bart
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