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Author Topic: Newbie to MF: pros and cons of Tech Cams ?  (Read 6616 times)
gerald.d
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« Reply #20 on: March 13, 2013, 10:07:13 AM »
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I thought about this, and I cannot really say how my own view of Alpa as the company promoting "being best on precision" in an almost snobbish fashion has come into place. It has grown on me over time and possibly it comes more from users, dealers, articles/reviews read here on Lula and elsewhere than Alpa themselves. Maybe it's unfair.
Clearly people's perceptions of a company and its products can be gained from all sorts of different sources - as you quite rightly point out.

But I hardly think end-user's views of kit can be labeled as "marketing", so we can scratch that one off the list straight away.

Reviews here? As an owner of an FPS (and user of one several months preceding the official launch), and prior to that an HCam, frankly I found the comments made regarding the HCam in the review posted here of the FPS downright disgraceful, and was the first to raise an objection to them.

But again - that review, along with any others, are not marketing by Alpa.

Dealers? I rather think dealers of tech-cams other than Alpa are FAR more involved on both this forum and GetDPI. So it's kind of hard to see where that one's coming from.

Most importantly though, if you look at the Alpa website (and I spend far too much time than is healthy lusting over gear on there), I don't actually EVER recall reading anything where they claim that they are the only ones making precise tech-cams. I certainly don't ever recall seeing anything where they compare their own products with those of competitors either.

Do they talk about precision? Yup. But then, they sell precision equipment. It would be rather odd if they didn't highlight the fact, no?

So, to me at least, it is rather puzzling as to what the basis is for Doug's allegation that the marketing of Alpa includes claims of being "the only company with precision".
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Doug Peterson
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« Reply #21 on: March 13, 2013, 10:17:03 AM »
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Please re read my post. Nowhere did I say Alpa's marketing is the source of this myth. The myth is out there nevertheless, as demonstrated by the question of the OP.

Alpa makes precision gear.

So do Arca and Cambo.

For that matter so does Sinar, though distribution in the us is "strained" to say the least.

There are many reasons to pick one of these over another. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. I'm just saying I don't think manufacturing precision/tolerance is one of those reasons. They are all excellent in that regard.
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« Reply #22 on: March 13, 2013, 10:22:24 AM »
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I have put together a table with all three of the main brands of Tech Cameras in similar configurations to help people see how closely priced the systems are. For the bodies I choose ones that had similar amounts of movements. Please note that Cambo has the RS-12xx series which is priced less than the RS-5000, but is missing some movements, and features.

Each system has a different way of achieving certain functions like adding tilt or swing.

The Arca allows it on all lenses since the Tilt or Swing is achieved via its lens panel, the Cambo requires a special helical mount that allows both Tilt/Swing on certain lenses, and ALPA uses an adapter with specific lenses as well to achieve Tilt or Swing.




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torger
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« Reply #23 on: March 13, 2013, 10:26:20 AM »
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So, to me at least, it is rather puzzling as to what the basis is for Doug's allegation that the marketing of Alpa includes claims of being "the only company with precision".

I think that claim was originally coming from me actually, so it's more fair to blame me Smiley.
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Paul2660
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« Reply #24 on: March 13, 2013, 10:26:43 AM »
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Torger I agree on your method and will always try to lead with a nodal or near nodal pan.  However this requires that the camera be level (at least for me especially with wides)  thus being able to get a short pano with shifting to me a great benefit as I an now point the camera up or down.  Plus, I can add tilt to the equation and that adds even more DOF depending on my shot. 

I carry the nodal bar made by RRS in the field, it's pretty easy to find close to nodal with the Schneider 35 and 43, but the 28mm is not as easy.  It's also pretty worthless on horizontal shifts since you hit the out mark (placed in the lens by Rodenstock to my understanding) at 7mm which give you a hard vignette.  (It's do bad as the lens would easily make 10mm maybe even 12mm as I have shift it that far but the hard vignette pretty much ruins anything with sky). 

Each solution has it's place depending on location and setup.  I always try to lead with a nodal pan if condition allow it.

One other feature the Acra and Cambo Alpa all offer is the ability to take 9 images, Center top and bottom rows.  Here Cambo has an edge with it's 20mm of horizontal shift.  Arca has the edge on height and fall 30mm and 20mm.  With the 43mm and 60mm I will often take 9 if condition allow it.  Center, 15mm L 15mm R, Top 25mm Top 25mm with 15mm L Horizontal shift, Top 25mm with 15mm of R Horizontal shift.  Bottom 20mm Center, Bottom 20mm  with 15mm of L shift and Bottom 20mm with 15mm of R shift.  The only issue is doing this in order and remembering to take all the LCC's  Smiley  End result is an amazing image and a lot of work, but it stitches very easily since only the back was moved in the entire process.

Paul Caldwell
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gerald.d
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« Reply #25 on: March 13, 2013, 10:38:49 AM »
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Please re read my post. Nowhere did I say Alpa's marketing is the source of this myth. The myth is out there nevertheless, as demonstrated by the question of the OP.

Alpa makes precision gear.

So do Arca and Cambo.

For that matter so does Sinar, though distribution in the us is "strained" to say the least.

There are many reasons to pick one of these over another. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. I'm just saying I don't think manufacturing precision/tolerance is one of those reasons. They are all excellent in that regard.

No need to re-read it. Here it is again:

Quote
Just don't believe anyone who tells you Alpa is the only company with precision. That's a case purely of marketing and "if you say it often enough it must be true".

So who is doing the marketing then Doug?

You admit it's not Alpa themselves.

Around these parts, it's certainly not the dealers.

And you can't for one moment accuse owners of "marketing".

So who is it?

Who are these people who are claiming that "Alpa is the only company with precision."?

Where, and how often, is it being said - to such an extent that you felt it necessary to warn people not to believe those saying it?

Regarding the other point you made, it would still be interesting for you to share your thoughts as to what the benefits of in-house manufacturing and testing/calibration are. The matter seemed to be so important that you felt it necessary to emphasise it.

/edit
And "the myth is out there nevertheless, as demonstrated by the question of the OP"?

Really?

This is the only mention in the original post regarding Alpa:

Quote
Dan Lindberg swears by the Alpa (citing precision / tolerance, etc)

That's it? You're saying that statement demonstrates that there is a "myth" out there?
« Last Edit: March 13, 2013, 10:47:58 AM by gerald.d » Logged
torger
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« Reply #26 on: March 13, 2013, 10:57:55 AM »
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I have put together a table with all three of the main brands of Tech Cameras in similar configurations to help people see how closely priced the systems are.

Lenses like the 32 HR evens it out a bit, as it is a very expensive lens. If you few very expensive lenses the systems are brought closer together, if you need many inexpensive lenses they can be brought farther apart. At least if you include a view camera in the equation.

To my Techno I have a Schneider Apo-Digitar 35, 47, 72, 90, 120 and plan to get 150, 180 and 210 (maybe not all three, 180 to start with). All these lenses are relatively inexpensive, and lens mount is about $100 per lens and I have 10 degree tilt and swing for all those as it is builtin into the body. The Techno body with sliding back and the new bright ground glass is actually more expensive than an Arca-Swiss RM3Di, but when you add lenses to the equation it's different, as lens mount cost is about $1000 per lens - for the 180mm that requires a longer tube it is $1300, so with 6 lenses that would be $6-7K in lens mount cost instead of ~$800.
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torger
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« Reply #27 on: March 13, 2013, 11:12:53 AM »
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Hey Gerald, relax Smiley

We would need to make a poll among lots of photographers about perception of the Alpa brand to truly find out. I still believe in such a poll we would find that many think that Alpa stands for precision more than others, and that Alpa users and/or Alpa company considers their products to be a little bit better quality than others, and that some may find that position to be a bit snobbish. I'm quite sure I've seen the marketing slogan "It's simple at the top" coming directly from Alpa, but I don't remember and cannot give references to all the small bits and pieces that have contributed to my perception of the brand over time.
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kdphotography
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« Reply #28 on: March 13, 2013, 11:32:49 AM »
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Gerald, I think much of the marketing or precision-speak comes from owners themselves.  And that's not a bad thing.  Who better to talk about your products than actual users?  And c'mon---you can't look anybody straight in the face and deny the emotional (albeit subjective) appeal of an Alpa.  Hell, I shoot with a Cambo and I still feel drawn to the Alpa.  It's just that pretty.  At breakfast following CI in Carmel, Graham Welland brought along his Alpa TC with a 23HR which he let me hold.  He very astutely seated himself at the table, best positioned to block any potential quick exit that I could possibly make out the door...   Grin

ken
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gerald.d
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« Reply #29 on: March 13, 2013, 11:37:50 AM »
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Hey Gerald, relax Smiley

We would need to make a poll among lots of photographers about perception of the Alpa brand to truly find out. I still believe in such a poll we would find that many think that Alpa stands for precision more than others, and that Alpa users and/or Alpa company considers their products to be a little bit better quality than others, and that some may find that position to be a bit snobbish. I'm quite sure I've seen the marketing slogan "It's simple at the top" coming directly from Alpa, but I don't remember and cannot give references to all the small bits and pieces that have contributed to my perception of the brand over time.

I'm totally chilled, no worries there Smiley

Yes - their old slogan was indeed "it's simple at the top". Didn't really fit well once the FPS was introduced though, so they've changed it.

Do they believe they produce the best cameras? Yes - I think it's fair to say they believe that. Do they set out to achieve the highest possible precision they can? Absolutely - regardless of the fact that it's actually Seitz that make the stuff (like that has ANY relevance whatsoever).

But the accusation being made was that it was marketing that was responsible for a perception that they were the only company with precision, and that it's somehow being repeated so often that people should be wary of it.

In the sales game, that's commonly known as "FUD".

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gerald.d
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« Reply #30 on: March 13, 2013, 11:45:31 AM »
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Gerald, I think much of the marketing or precision-speak comes from owners themselves.  And that's not a bad thing.  Who better to talk about your products than actual users?  And c'mon---you can't look anybody straight in the face and deny the emotional (albeit subjective) appeal of an Alpa.  Hell, I shoot with a Cambo and I still feel drawn to the Alpa.  It's just that pretty.  At breakfast following CI in Carmel, Graham Welland brought along his Alpa TC with a 23HR which he let me hold.  He very astutely seated himself at the table, best positioned to block any potential quick exit that I could possibly make out the door...   Grin

ken
Indeed, but again - users talking about their own kit is NOT the same as deliberate marketing by the brand or dealers themselves. But - and this is the bigger but - even granting that, where is the evidence for those users claiming that Alpa is the ONLY manufacturer with precision equipment? I simply have not witnessed that being said over and over again in around 18 months of trawling both this forum and GetDPI.

The one thing about Alpa that you can say, is that they - and it would appear, their dealers - seem to be pretty relaxed to just sit back and let the kit sell itself off the back of what customers say/feel about it.

Which I think speaks volumes.
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Don Libby
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« Reply #31 on: March 13, 2013, 12:15:11 PM »
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Asking which technical camera is better is much like asking which is better, Ford or Dodge.  While they both will get you there, in the end it's what best suites your specific desires and how it fits in your hands.  Doesn't matter whether it's an Alpa, Arca, Cambo, Linhof or any of the others as it only matters what best works for you.

As a landscape photographer I'm somewhat experienced in using a tech cam for landscape and specifically panoramas.   I decided to switch to a tech camera specifically for the ability to perform fast, flat panoramas which give me much more file information that what I was getting previously.  I bought my first and only tech camera in the fall of 2008 and still use today.  I've upgraded the handles and just recently bought a new lens after using the ones I've had for almost 5-years.  While I've managed to hold on to my body and lenses I have upgraded my digital back several times going from a P45+ to a P65+ and currently an IQ160.  Long term I see me still having the tech camera several years down the road with maybe a lens change along the way as well as another digital back upgrade. 

If you've noticed anything about photographers it's the fact we don't normally keep hold of equipment for very long.  The next "new shiny" thing comes along and we jump ship to get it.  Keeping a camera body for close to 5-years is much like looking at it in dog years (5 human years equals about 33 years).  Bottom line if if it didn't work for me it would have been left behind long ago.

While I use a tech camera for close to 95% of my landscape work I also use other cameras to fit the situation.  I thought at first I'd be able to "get-by" using it 100% and shortly after I got it I sold all my Mamiya/Phase 645 lenses and body.  I kept that up for close to 18 months before adding a Leica M9 which I kept for close to 18-months before selling that and adding a Phase DF and a couple lenses to augment the tech camera.  Others camera systems come and go however I've held fast to my tech camera the entire time.

These's plenty of good information and great suggestions here for you; all based on personal experience either using the actual system or in selling them.

So in the end which tech camera have I held on to for so long?  I did my research in 2008 and at that time the Cambo system looked to be the best suited for me.  Cambo had just recently introduced the new WRS which is smaller and (slightly) lighter-weight than their WDS.  The WRS was also designed for the digital shooter in mind whereas the WDS can use either film or digital.  The movements (vertical and horizontal) are located on the rear of the body which makes it much easier when you're perched on the edge of several hundred feet cliff and you really don't want to walk in front of the body to make a movement change. 

Most of the camera manufactures now have added movements to their lens (tilt/shift).  Some offers the ability on their body for all lenses while Cambo offers it specific to the lens itself (you can also retrofit an older lens). 

Focusing on any tech camera can be a real PIA and I believe each manufacture offers at least one solution which they say is better than all the rest (again that Ford vs. Dodge thing).  In the end I feel it's up to the end user to see for themselves what makes sense and works best.

Their was a car commercial a couple years ago where the spokeswoman asks "when you turn your car on does it return the favor".  I've always like that question and can still today answer yes for my WRS.

Using a tech camera can be slow tedious work.  Like Doug said, "...it's a highly tactile, very direct, very traditional style of shooting."  I've found the slow, direct way of using my tech camera has resulted in better landscape images.  It makes you think.  You not only need to think of what it is you're attempting to capture but how.  A tech camera is totally manual, manual focus, manual f/stop, manual shutter.

Still speaking about focusing - Cambo has revised their groundglass/loupe system from the piece of crap (my terms only) to a system that makes my WRS as close to a manual, medium format digital mirror less system as possible.   

Again, you ask the question and you'll receive a hundred different answers.  It's hard to do however you might need to travel a little in order to save yourself grief and money in the end.  Look for dealers that offer tech cameras.  If possible attend a workshop where tech cameras will be used and if possible attend a PODAS.

Sorry for the long winded response. Best of luck

Don
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« Reply #32 on: March 13, 2013, 03:43:49 PM »
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Hi,

I'm not the right man to discuss shift-panos vs. rotational panos, as I have only done rotational ones.

I would put it this way:

1) Shift panos depend very much on the lens. It's just to merge 2-3 shifted mages. With a perfect lens it would be easy, with a real world lens it may be more problematic.

2) Rotational panos are very flexible and the programs are very good. Rotational panos use only a part of the image. Extreme wide angles may be problematic. Fisheye lenses may be useful.

Best regards
Erik

Eric, I'm with you on the maths of micron-peeping.
in this regard then, what would you recommend for panos ? cylindrical projection or fixed base- shift panos ? is the IQ better on using click stop pano heads as opposed to stitching within the image circle ?


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Steve Hendrix
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« Reply #33 on: March 13, 2013, 08:24:29 PM »
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Indeed, but again - users talking about their own kit is NOT the same as deliberate marketing by the brand or dealers themselves. But - and this is the bigger but - even granting that, where is the evidence for those users claiming that Alpa is the ONLY manufacturer with precision equipment? I simply have not witnessed that being said over and over again in around 18 months of trawling both this forum and GetDPI.

The one thing about Alpa that you can say, is that they - and it would appear, their dealers - seem to be pretty relaxed to just sit back and let the kit sell itself off the back of what customers say/feel about it.

Which I think speaks volumes.



I think the reputation Alpa has attained as the king of precision is due to their products and their emphasis in their marketing.

http://www.alpa.ch/en/home.html

The seed is planted, the product feels precise, it performs precisely, users will believe it is precise. Precision is referred to more in reference to Alpa because if you look at the competition, they barely mention precision at all (and in one case don't even have a website, so no opportunity to mention it). Alpa has excellent marketing that is more sophisticated than their competition.

Having handled Alpa cameras and sold many, many Cambo and Arca systems, my opinion is that these products are all at a similar level when it comes to "precision".

I also firmly believe that 3 separate users, each with a Cambo, Alpa, and Arca Swiss product can obtain nearly identical results. However, the path toward getting there is different with each one, and that makes up the essence of the critical factors that buyers base their decision on. As a result, forget the marketing, you need to handle the products, or minimally speak with someone (hopefully more than 1 someone) who is intimately familiar with all 3 (or 4 if you consider Sinar) and holds as little bias as possible.

By the way, I should state that Capture Integration is now a Sinar dealer for the USA. We sell their view camera systems, including their eShutters with iPhone control, their single and multi-shot capable digital backs, and their technical cameras, the Sinar Artec and Sinar Lantec.


Steve Hendrix
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sgilbert
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« Reply #34 on: March 13, 2013, 09:56:41 PM »
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It feels precise, it performs precisely, ...  Doesn't that mean it is precise?

I usually avoid these kind of discussions, but I'm starting to feel defensive.  People who sell Arca and Cambo products are in my view a little too often talking about ALPA.  I'd suggest that someone interested in buying one of these cameras look at all of them.  Obviously someone who sells one or another will "talk up" his offerings.  Unfortunately (or maybe not) the only people speaking up for ALPA are their users.  Take that for what it's worth.
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theguywitha645d
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« Reply #35 on: March 13, 2013, 10:01:44 PM »
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The con of tech cameras is the threads about them can get quite long.

The pros are the movements and optics.

The other cons are the workflow is slower, lens cast is a larger problem, but solvable.

Having used a large number of camera types, it really comes down to whether you enjoy it. Rent one and try. At the start, the model is not going to be that important as the process is going to be fairly consistent.

As far as this precision thing among brands, it is completely irrelevant. All these cameras are going to get great results. Personally, the Apla marketing is a turn off as they are talking advantage of their customer's fears. Tech cameras are not difficult to manufacture.
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« Reply #36 on: March 13, 2013, 10:27:21 PM »
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2) Rotational panos are very flexible and the programs are very good. Rotational panos use only a part of the image. Extreme wide angles may be problematic. Fisheye lenses may be useful.

Extreme wide is not a problem with rotational panos. Recent pano software like PTGui offer the possibility to control the lateral compression factor of flat projections which in fact makes it possible to go wider than with a single lens while keeping natural looking images.

The example below is about 100 megapixels, it was shot handheld with a 85mm f1.4 lens on a D800 and is made up of 6 vertical frames. The pano work tool less than 1 minute with PTgui.



The next example is make up of 2 columns of 5 frames, also shot handheld. Autopano pro didn't require any manual intervention to straighten the pano and get the verticals right. Again, less than 30 sec manual operation here. This one must correspond to a 22-24mm wide single frame shot.



I personnally do not see any value of sliding panos compared to cylindrical. The theoretical concern about lowering of pixel quality as a result of interpolations is an order of magnitude less than the negative impact of lenses imperfections in the corners.

I find the operation of cylindrical pano heads to be also faster and it does not limit you to the image circle of a lens.

You should obviously ignore the fact that I use a DSLR to capture these images, the same applies to compact tech cameras, although it may be less easy to use them handheld.

Cheers,
Bernard
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A few images online here!
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« Reply #37 on: March 13, 2013, 10:48:01 PM »
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It feels precise, it performs precisely, ...  Doesn't that mean it is precise?

I usually avoid these kind of discussions, but I'm starting to feel defensive.  People who sell Arca and Cambo products are in my view a little too often talking about ALPA.  I'd suggest that someone interested in buying one of these cameras look at all of them.  Obviously someone who sells one or another will "talk up" his offerings.  Unfortunately (or maybe not) the only people speaking up for ALPA are their users.  Take that for what it's worth.

I'm sorry if by saying the product performs precisely, that one would take that to mean it is not precise.

The only "people" on this forum I'm aware of who are active that sell Arca and Cambo are Doug and myself. I won't speak for Doug, but this is the first mention I've made of Alpa on this thread, and I can't recall really saying much about Alpa at any time in the past.

I thought my statement was complimentary of Alpa's marketing and "talked up" (in your words) the ability of all three products rather equally. If my statement was taken in some other way, then perhaps you are indeed becoming defensive, though I don't see how it was the result of any effort on my part.

Good gosh, now I'm defensive!  Cheesy


Steve Hendrix
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« Reply #38 on: March 13, 2013, 11:27:12 PM »
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Hi,

When shooting panos with a 12-24 zoom at 12 mm I noticed that Autopano Pro missed obvious control points. In ultra wide images corner points are stretched out and that distortion made Autopano Pro missed obvious control points and used dubious ones instead (like moving clouds). Other than that I agree with Bernard.

Best regards
Erik


Extreme wide is not a problem with rotational panos.
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gerald.d
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« Reply #39 on: March 14, 2013, 12:01:13 AM »
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I think the reputation Alpa has attained as the king of precision is due to their products and their emphasis in their marketing.

http://www.alpa.ch/en/home.html

The seed is planted, the product feels precise, it performs precisely, users will believe it is precise. Precision is referred to more in reference to Alpa because if you look at the competition, they barely mention precision at all (and in one case don't even have a website, so no opportunity to mention it). Alpa has excellent marketing that is more sophisticated than their competition.

Having handled Alpa cameras and sold many, many Cambo and Arca systems, my opinion is that these products are all at a similar level when it comes to "precision".

I also firmly believe that 3 separate users, each with a Cambo, Alpa, and Arca Swiss product can obtain nearly identical results. However, the path toward getting there is different with each one, and that makes up the essence of the critical factors that buyers base their decision on. As a result, forget the marketing, you need to handle the products, or minimally speak with someone (hopefully more than 1 someone) who is intimately familiar with all 3 (or 4 if you consider Sinar) and holds as little bias as possible.

By the way, I should state that Capture Integration is now a Sinar dealer for the USA. We sell their view camera systems, including their eShutters with iPhone control, their single and multi-shot capable digital backs, and their technical cameras, the Sinar Artec and Sinar Lantec.


Steve Hendrix
Capture Integration

Steve -

Spot on.

Just one observation that I would make about any perceived or actual level of precision with Alpa kit -

They've just recently made available the Hasselblad V mount adapter for the FPS. If you want to use a V mount lens with the FPS, there are 5 separate objects between the lens and the back.

The only thing that can be used to adjust flange distance is the shimming of the back adapter.

Now, I can't comment on the performance of this set-up, but I can only imagine they're fairly confident regarding the precision with which those 5 objects have been manufactured, and the way they integrate.

Regards,


Gerald.
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