Panosauras 2.0 Panoramic Head
and PTGui Software
Part #1- Setup of the Panosauras 2.0 Panoramic Head
I saw some images in Photoshop User Magazine that I wanted to try to replicate. They were 360 panoramas. I own Photoshop CS6 and have made both handheld and tripod mounted panoramas, which processed quite well in Photoshop. However, I was interested in creating larger HDR panoramas and read that you needed a panoramic head so that the camera and lens could rotate around the camera’s nodal point. I was not sure how much I would be using this technique and so researched the web for the best, inexpensive panoramic head. To that end, my research led me to the Panosauras 2.0 for $100.00. I knew that I would be sacrificing some performance for that price. But the next pano heads that my research uncovered were the Nodal Ninja 4 for $395 and the Really Right Stuff Pano head for $895.00. So for $100.00 the Panosauras gave me a good entry point.
The Panosauras 2.0 Panoramic Head arrived in a timely manner. My first impression was that the Panosauras was well designed and well made for the price range. In fact, if you look at the website that sells the Panosauras- http://www.gregwired.com- you will see many variations of the pano head, suggesting that Greg is always rethinking and redesigning the Panosauras. In fact, when you start to assemble the Panosauras 2.0, go to the support page on the website and make sure you follow the instructions for your version of the pano head. When the design changes, the parts also change, which can be confusing if you are looking at the wrong instruction sheet.
I have a Nikon D700 camera and a Nikon D7000 camera. It became immediately clear when I started the setup process that the Panosauras 2.0 was not robust enough to handle the Nikon D700. The upper horizontal arm could not support the weight of the camera with lens. It kept sagging off of the “0” true horizontal indicator number. With the Nikon D700, I tried a 16-35mm lens and a 24-70mm lens. With these camera-lens combinations, the camera was pushed to the far end of the horizontal bar and left no room for calibration. This was a huge disappointment to me as the Nikon D700, a full frame camera, is my primary camera. I, however, still was not committed to spending the extra money it would require to upgrade the pano head. After all, I was not sure how much use it would actually get.
With that in mind, I went ahead and set up and calibrated my Nikon D7000 with the 18-200mm lens. The Panosauras could handle the weight of this camera with no problem. The “0” true horizontal indicator stayed locked in tight. So far, I have calibrated the lens for 18mm and 24mm and will calibrate it for 200mm, which needs to be done outside, once the weather warms up (It is winter here in northern Vermont). It takes some time to get the calibration just right. Some of this is because of the design for attaching the camera to the camera mounting block, which attaches to the horizontal arm. There is too much play when you loosen the camera mounting block screws which enables you to move the camera forward or back on the horizontal arm, which is how you calibrate the lens. If Greg ever reads this blog, I wish he would think of redesigning this part of his system with some kind of micro threading screw such as is found in macro focusing rails. It would be worth the extra cost in design upgrade. As it is, when you loosen the mounting block screws, the camera sags away from the horizontal arm, making it impossible to keep looking through the viewfinder while you fine-tune the adjustment. While looking through the viewfinder with the mounting screws loosened, I found that if I tried to move the camera with my free hand the rotator assembly would shift as well. Once again, some kind of micro threading redesign would solve both of these problem as well. So as it was, I would hold the a camera tight to the plate and make small adjustments. Once I got the calibration close, I ended up putting a pencil mark on the horizontal arm as a reference point for fine tuning the calibration. Once calibrated for my two settings, I used a metallic marker to mark the locations. I also noted all reading on a note card that I can keep in my camera bag and made another copy for my Ipod and Ipad.
So summarizing my initial impressions for the Panosauras 2.0, I would say that for the money much thought has gone, and continues to go, into the design. For $100 it is well made. But for $100 dollars you sacrifice the quality of the camera that this pano head can support and some ease of calibrating. Also, if I want to use this pano head for HDR panoramas then I am limited by the number of frames that my D7000 can shoot, which is a bracket of 3 exposures.
In conclusion, if you want a professional pano head, then you will need to spend some serious money. If you want to shoot multi-layered panoramas only occasionally, this head may work for you, with the above listed provisos.
In the next posts, I will write about how well the Panosauras 2.0 performs in the field and the how well the Ptgui panoramic software performs.