Need a panorama rotator

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by david_r._edan, Apr 9, 2016.

  1. Hi. I'm trying to put together a new panorama rig/kit from scratch. I had everything figured out but then I hit a brick wall. I've come to realize that the tripod head which I had my heart set on does not have panning. Here it is:
    Sure, the clamp offers some nice rotation, however, this 'rotation' can be considered as 'panning' ONLY when it's level. Let me explain. There's a good reason why I called my panorama rig a 'kit'. I need it to be extremely versatile, letting me use only parts of it, depending on the task at hand. That is the reason I've singled out the p0 ballhead. It can function as an exceptional leveling base AND double as a full-fledged, heavy-duty tripod ballhead.
    There will be cases where I decide that instead of having to put the whole clumsy monstrosity together, I can get away with doing just a single-row panorama with a collared lens, such as the Nikkor 70-200/4 or the 300/4.
    I can mount a lens like that on the p0 ballhead directly and have the camera (D800) in the horizontal or vertical orientation. This setup would work in many cases, except that I can't use the rotation on the clamp for panning, unless the horizon happens to be in the middle of the composition.
    It is obvious that I need to add a rotator that goes between the tripod and the p0 ballhead.
    What I was able to find are these:
    It seems that what I'm looking for are the ones listed at the bottom. However, it appears that there isn't any way of locking the rotation and there are "stops" that I absolutely do not need. I couldn't find any demonstration of the product, so I had to ask here.
    I need something very simple, yet extremely tough. Something that I can trust to hold the p0 ballead, a full panorama rig and my Nikon D800+grip with the 70-200/4 lens. Obviously, it does not have to come from Nodal Ninja and I do need to be able to lock the rotation.
    *I'm not interesting in leveling bases, unless there's one that I can cannibalize and use only the part responsible for rotation.
  2. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Look for a Nikon AP 2 pan head or its predecessor, which had no model number. Each was calibrated for a range of focal lengths. If you like, I can send pictures.
  3. SCL


    Panning and doing precise panorama photography are clearly two different things; precise panoramic photography generally requires the rear nodal point of the lens to be centered over the point of rotation, a feature built into specially made panoramic rotators, but not panning heads. The one I've used for years is made by Jasper Engineering of Mtn View, CA, called the Pano-Head. It attaches directly to either a tripod or one's ball head, and has an attachment for use in the vertical as well as horizontal orientation, plus, of course other centering and reference features and indents for common angles of rotation for different formats; it will easily support heavy 120 format bodies and lenses. I think RSS also makes one which is pretty good. I hope this helps you.
  4. Really Right Stuff makes high quality pano heads based on Arca type quick release systems. These provide rigid, precise control, and can be disassembled easily for transport. I agree you don't need stops or even markings (other than for leveling) unless you are shooting for virtual reality effects. All you need is enough overlap for stitching, which you can estimate using the viewfinder and landmarks.
  5. Sandy:
    Yeah, in principal, this thing is what I'm looking for, though by design, that's not it.

    The top screw is a 1/4 and it's meant to be connected directly to the bottom of the camera. In my case, that tiny screw would have to accommodate a hefty tripod head (with a 3/8 hole) plus a whole bunch of other stuff that has to go on top. I don't think that the Nikon AP 2 would be up to the task. I need something similar but much sturdier. Obviously, the top screw has to be a 3/8".
    I'm open to suggestions of modifying a suitable leveling base, or any other gizmo, for that matter. I'm sure there's something. It goes without saying that the end product would have to be very sturdy and reliable.

    Thanks anyway.
  6. Stephen and Edward:

    I couldn't find anything suitable from RRS, or maybe I missed it.
    Anyway, there are many types of panoramas and even more ways of capturing them. I'm not new to it, by any means. I know the type of panos that I shoot, the equipment and techniques that I employ. So what I'm trying to achieve is assemble, piece by piece (from different manufacturers) a modular panorama kit that is tailored to my specific needs, while shaving down every ounce that I can. And by "modular" I mean that I want to have the option/freedom of leaving parts of the kit behind, instead of having to lug the whole cluster**** around, at all times.
    Luckily there's the Arca-Swiss standard and, consequently, a multitude of options. None of it should concern anyone except me as, again, the kit that I'm trying to assemble is being tailored to my specific requirements and personal preferences.

    That was the big picture. The small picture is that right now I'm looking for a way of giving the Arca Swiss p0 ballhead the ability of rotating along the X axis, independently of the ballhead's tilt angle.
    I am not interested in any 'premade' "pano heads" from RRS or any other make.
  7. Found it:

    Almost everything about this rotator is right. What I don't like is the fact that apart from the 3/8 screw there are no additional points to secure my tripod head to the base. Plus the surface that would be in contact with the base of the tripod does not appear to offer much friction, which doesn't help... Oh well.. That's what Blue Loctite is for.
  8. Leveling bases don't rotate, they level the part which rotates. They replace the column in a tripod or fit between the column and the head.
    With a leveling base, you can use the pan function of head itself. You can then tilt the camera up or down to place the horizon where you want it. With the axis of rotation vertical, the horizon stays level as you pan. Tilting the head creates vertical convergence in the results, which can be adjusted in most panorama stitching programs (e.g., PTGui).
    I find a leveling base more useful than a panning attachment which mounts between the camera and head. A leveling head is also essential for video, which often requires panning in real time. I have both, but often the upper panning attachment is used to orient the head for a camera (sideways) or a telephoto with a foot (fore-aft). Tight interiors (e.g. an airplane cockpit or small room) require the camera to be level, with an extension to locate the front node of the lens exactly on axis. I use a long (6") Arca plate with a clamp at one end for this purpose. It's easily removed and flat, which makes it easy to carry.
    I would think a "pro" ball head would have a panning base built in. If not, it's not the right head for you.
  9. Edward:
    For what it's worth, the Arca-Swiss p0 is a "pro" ballhead even though there is no rotation at the base. What's right for me may not be right for you. Arguing something like that would be pointless.
    At first I did get an impression that leveling bases, in general, offered rotation too but now I see that this one is simply an exception:

    Doesn't matter. I've found what I was looking for.
  10. You came here for help and advice from others who have a lot more experience shooting stitched panoramas. There are other "pro" ball heads in the same price range which have a panning base, including the Arca Z1 and RRS BH-40. The advantage of an inverted ball is ... what? If you already purchased the head in the link, okay. If not, take a second look.
    You're welcome.
  11. Even though you say you have found what you want I am going to suggest something else: A Really Right Stuff PG-02
    HB as head along with an FAS clamp. The PG-02 HB incorporates a heavy weight rotator and "nodal bar". This perfect
    for single row panoramas and also for most macro work.

    I have been shooting panoramas both on fim and digitally for 22-years for stock, as well as industrial, architectural, and
    advertising clients so I have a collected a lot of other gear for shooting stitched panoramas, mostly RRS gear - 4 panning
    clamps - one for each of the standard tripod heads I use regularly: Arca-Swiss p0, Arca-Swiss B1 Monoball, Foba
    ASMIA, and a Benro video head; a RRS PG-02 VA; various nodal slides and longer camera bars; and a couple of
    leveling bases as well. And of course L-plates for my cameras. Mostly these days for panoramic work I use the PG-02
    HB with a Manfrotto three-point leveling base as the foundation and build from there as needed.

    I only started using the PG-02 HB recently but I like it for these reasons:

    - It is heavy enough for the heaviest and largest camera and lens combinations (up to a 200-400 f/4L on a Canon 5DS).

    - There is no play between the rotator and the nodal slide.

    - The knob for the locking mechanism is on the end of the arm.

    - The precision and ease to read all of the angle marks.

    - The simplicity of transportation, set up and operation.
  12. My panoramic set up for a recent advertising job
  13. Thank you for your input, Ellis, but like I said before, my requirements are unique to my situation. I do realize the advantages of a rig based on the RRS PG-02, however, there is no place for something like that in my current setup. And money has nothing to do with it.

    And, Edward, I've stated that my system has to be 'modular'. There's not much point but I'll share this one with you. After all, this is a forum.
    One of the requirements is that my panorama kit has to have the ability of stripping down to just a (fully-functional) tripod head. The AS P1 is not much more than a fancy leveling base because it cannot be tilted 90 degrees to the side, as opposed to the P0. I'm doing away completely with an L-bracket, so I would need that kind of tilting ability for shooting regular verticals (not panoramas).
    The upside-down design of the p0 ballhead is the right-side-up, the way I see it, the way all ballheads should be made. Unfortunately, in reality 99% of ballheads are 'too exposed'. They act as dust traps. In my case, the 'dust' would be mostly sand as I'll be working prominently in various kinds of sandy environments. Think places like Saudi Arabia... Yeah... So, imagine what kind of havoc sand would wreak on a Teflon-coated surface. I figured I'd be much better off with something like the p0. Plus it seems to be a sterling ballhead in every other respect.
    I'll have to add a little mod to it (the rotator) and also get to enjoy it as a panoramic head, a function it was not designed to perform, at least not in the way I need it to.
    Thanks to all for the advice.
  14. The p0 is a terrific head. I had one, with the slideflix clamp, sold it, missed it and bougth a new one this time without an
    integrated clamp. The clamp I use with it is an RRS PCL-1. Yes I have stacked a rotating panoramic clamp on top of the
    p0 internal rotator. The reasn I did that is the one failing of the p0 is the lack of pan angle indicators on the p0.

    One asset of having a panning hub at the camera platform is when you have head tilted over for and you have leveled the
    roll (left/right) angle you can use the panning hub to independently set the pitch (fore/aft) angle. But I see your desire
    then be able to pan the head as well to fine tune how you frame the composition.
  15. Get whatever ball head meets your requirements. Assuming you have Arca Swiss or equivalent mounts on your gear, buy a Nodal Ninja M2
    If doing multi row panos go with the whole kit. If doing single row, keep your L bracket and your camera / collared lens will mount directly to the clamp on top of the RD8II rotator. Level the rotator off using your ballhead and the level bubble on the clamp. So; clamp on ballhead attaches to plate on bottom of rotator. Clamp on top of rotator can either be used to clamp entire M2 or just your camera and lens. Very simple.
    Most people who shoot panoramas, myself included, have missed shots, ruining panoramas. They usually are not the shots of the back yard; they are shots from halfway around the world that come with very expensive plane tickets! The process of shooting panoramas has a number of steps, a checklist to complete a successful panorama. Stops on rotators are invaluable and greatly lessen the chance that after successfully going through your checklist you inadvertently shoot yourself in the foot. I have a RD16II rotator which can be locked, but that defeats the purpose of having a rotator with stops. The stops are quite positive. It also means that once you are set up and have determined the right exposure for your whole scene, just shoot and rotate; no need to look through the viewfinder. On longer lenses it can mean a long time looking through the viewfinder.
    RRS makes beautiful stuff, but their refusal to adapt a rotator with stops has always baffled me. NN has been at the front of the pack in developing panorama gear. I highly recommend their gear.
  16. I forgot one step for single rows with enough foreground to introduce parallax problems. You can use the upper rail from the M2 to mount on the clamp atop the rotator to get a correct nodal point. That is the beauty of the M2 system based on Arca Swiss clamps ( and admittedly very similar to RRS systems! )
  17. Tim: That's what I meant by 'modular', that I wouldn't need to assemble (or even carry with me) the whole contraption, if I wanted to do just a quick single-row pano. The custom kit that I had in mind is very similar to the M2. The option of using just the nodal slide (for single-row) is one of the requirements. I wouldn't need the rotator though. I always advance the rotation manually, looking through the viewfinder. The frame overlap often gets very uneven throughout my panoramas on purpose. I do strictly manual stitching and I need to have a decent amount of solid features in each frame that I'll be able to use as control points. Often there happens to be nothing but the sky, sea or distant and featureless mountain ridges. So I may decide to 'cut' that segment differently. Or for example, if there's a moving object, such as a ship at sea, I may decide to give a couple of frames much more overlap than normal, to include that moving object in its entirety in one of the frames, as opposed to cutting it in half. That is why I wouldn't use a fancy rotator, even if I was given one for free. I'm perfectly fine with the rotator that comes with the p0 ballhead. Though I will buy the version of the ballhead that comes w/o the clamp and get a different one.
  18. The advantage of an inverted ball is ... what?​
    Is that you don't need a leveling base for easy landscape format panoramas. The Arca-Swiss P1 (and P0) are "pro" heads with a price to prove it.
  19. Do you use PTGUI? For your moving object situation you can output to layered .psd files and mask in Photoshop to do what you are describing. In your moving ship at sea scenario you could shoot a few extra frames when the ship is in frame to give yourself choices. With featureless blue sky, if you use a rotator and create a panorama at a particular focal length you can then save that project as a template to apply to any new file with the same parameters. This will preposition your images, making stitching much easier and stitching that featureless blue sky. I would think this would be advantageous. There may be a craft and lots of extra time to manually stitch but if I may ask, what are the advantages? I have done hundreds of panos with PTGui, everything from 360 sphericals to multi row shot at 180 mm to single row shot at 200mm, encountering all of the situations you describe, but after initially stitching manually realized PTGui could do a better job more easily. In circumstances that it has a difficult time I can manually add control points. I'm just curious why you would want to spend time stitching manually!
    I am also curious about uneven overlap; lenses don't always have even image quality across the whole frame. Do you run into problems blending?

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