DIY QTVR Panorama Head.

My panorama camera is a Canon EOS 400D with a Sigma 8mm F3.5 EX DG. It is a nice outfit, capable of creating good panoramas of up to 8200 x 4100 pixels. For web use, I normally make them 6000 x 3000.

The QTVR head is made from wood, with fixed distances to place the entrance pupil of the lens at a single position - the entrance pupil will not move regardless of how the camera is turned or tilted. A Manfrotto 3299 Quick Release Adapter with 3157N Plate (RC2 System) is used to attach the camera. Notice the extra piece of wood next to the adapter - it will prevent it from twisting.

The distance from the base of the camera to the center of the lens is 42.5 mm. The distance from the center of the mounting screw of the camera to the entrance pupil of the Sigma 8/3.5 at 30 off axis (6 images around for a complete panorama) is 90 mm.

The Manfrotto 300N panorama base is not essential, but is very nice to have. It has precise click stops, and eases the stitching of high quality panoramas.

Setting up the camera.

Leveling the tripod head is very important. If your head does not have bubble levels, use a loose one that can be placed in the camera's hot shoe, and just place it on top of the head before attaching the panorama rig (assuming, of course, that the rig will be level using this procedure).

Level the camera for the horizontal shots (4 or 6 with this camera/lens combination). Then take one zenith shot - if there are no details there, it is quicker and easier to clone in the zenith hole at the computer.

One much asked question is to be how to focus for optimal result. The standard answer seems to be to focus at the hyperfocal distance, to maximize the depth of field. After reading the article Focusing In The Digital Era, I have taped the focus ring on my Sigma at infinity, in order to make sure that misfocusing will not one of the mistakes I will make while I'm out shooting panoramas.

The nadir shot is best taken hand held, but if the exposure is too long, a tripod must be used also for this picture. To the rescue comes a Benro C-297 Flexpod. It can hold the camera at the correct height on a tilted center column. Unfortunately this is unstable - something (the camera bag) must be hung from the hook at the bottom of the center column.

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