Spherical Photography 360 And Virtual Tour Service
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples
  • Spherical photography examples

Panoramic heads

The spherical panoramic head (VR head) is installed on the stand and allows camera to be installed the way, when its rotation is executed around the nodal point of the lens. That draws the parallax effect to minimum, which makes the process of stitching the panorama together more complicated because of the adjacent frames mismatch (parallax is especially evident when shooting the subjects with objects on the forefront).

The «usual» ball-and-socket or 3D heads for the spherical panorama shooting are not suitable. With some success one can shoot the cylindrical panoramas and sometimes even the single-row spheres, but the parallax will be evident, especially if the camera will be installed in portrait orientation.

 

Position of the nodal point relative to the rotational centre of the photo camera:

 

Панорамная головка Nodal point Панорамная головка Nodal point Панорамная головка
  Camera on the panoramic head – the nodal point is in the rotational centre   Camera on the ball-and-socket head – the nodal point is «wiggle-waggling»  

 

There are 2 main types of panoramic heads:

 

Single-row head is used for the single-row panorama shooting. Such head makes it possible to make the rotation only around one axis – the vertical one. The single-row panoramic heads can be of different construction types. One type allows installing the camera only in the landscape orientation, the 2nd one – only in the portrait orientation and the other ones are suitable for all of the abovementioned positions. Some cameras are lens-attached to the heads. Such heads are called the “rotators”, often have no options of set-up and are produced mainly for the usage with the circular Fisheye lenses. Using the single-row head one can film both cylindrical and spherical 3D panoramas, but the latter ones only with the circular FishEye lens type.

*There are ways to regulate the camera tilt (Nodal Ninja Ultimate)

 

Multi-row head (spherical, VR head). This head ensures the 360° rotation around the camera’s vertical and horizontal angles. It is used for the multi-row panoramas, including the 360 spherical ones.

Single-row panoramic head Панорамная головка Multi-row panoramic head
Single-row panoramic head   Multi-row panoramic head

 

The panoramic head selection on the market is quite big. The majority of manufacturers produce several types of panoramic heads at the same time for the different kinds of tasks and of different price categories – the budget ones and the professional ones.

 

I know the following panoramic head manufacturers:

 

360precision Novoflex VR System pano-MAXX
AGNO’S Mrotator NP Orbita Panosaurus
Sfera Nodal Ninja Really Right Stuff
KingPANO 3Sixty Roundshot VR Head
Manfrotto Pinnacle VR Sunwayfoto

 

When choosing the panoramic head I’d recommend to pay attention to its compatibility with your camera (alongside with the other criteria of selection). Not all of the panoramic heads can be used with the big professional cameras or with the cameras with the battery grips. When using the camera with the big Fisheye converter there can be the limited tilt down on some panoramic heads.
I will describe some of the most interesting in my opinion panoramic heads in detail:

360 Precision Absolute

 

360 Precision Absolute panoramic headThe panoramic heads 360 Precision Absolute are selected for the concrete camera-lens connection. This can be considered both as their advantage (the set-up of the head is not required at all) and their disadvantage (if you’d change the camera or lens, you’ll have to make the head update as well, which means to spend the additional ~200$). 360 Precision Absolute is compatible with the big DSLR cameras and even with some of the medium format cameras. The disadvantages – high price, large base diameter, weight and size.

 

Base diameter : 110 mm
Weight : 2-2.5 kg
Price* : 875-995 $

To find out more about the 360 Precision Absolute panoramic head you can visit the manufacturer’s website.

 

360 Precision Adjuste

 

360 Precision Adjuste panoramic headThe spherical head 360 precision Adjuste is the all-purpose one, it can be used with any camera. It has the click stops both at the horizontal and vertical rotators (on the vertical one – with the lock).  The advantages – quality, accuracy of adjustment, social ease. The disadvantages – high price.

 

Base diameter : 73 mm
Weight : 1.1 kg
Price* : 995 $

To find out more about the 360 Precision Adjuste panoramic head you can visit the manufacturer’s website.

 

Agno’s MrotatorUT

 

MrotatorUT panoramic headMrotatorUT panoramic head is made for the use with compact cameras and light DSLR cameras. It allows the camera to be installed both in the portrain and the landscape orientation. There are several variants of that head, which are differentiated by the presence and the level of rotators. Except for MrotatorUT, the Agno’s company has a huge selection of the other panoramic heads. From the simple heads for the cylindrical panoramas to the One-shot heads for the shooting with 3 cameras at the same time (MrotatorR). (MrotatorR).

 

Base diameter : 60 mm
Weight : 0.98 kg
Price* : 150-390 $

To find out more about the MrotatorUT panoramic head you can visit the manufacturer’s website.

 

Kingpano

 

kingpano panoramic headThe acrylic panoramic head KingPANO is attractive because of its not high price, small dimensions and low weight. It has its own mechanism for the level adjustment. The rotation device is equipped with the 48 click stops (in increments of 7.5°). The disadvantage of the  KingPANO panoramic head is the low bearing capacity – up to 1.5 kg.

 

Base diameter : 48 mm
Weight : 0.68 kg
Price* : 149 $

To find out more about the Kingpano panoramic head you can visit the manufacturer’s website.

 

Manfrotto 303SPH

 

Manfrotto 303SPHManfrotto 303SPH is, most likely, the most well-known spherical panoramic head. It was introduced to the market a long time ago, and, unlike the other panoramic heads, it can be bought in the different retail photo shops. Manfrotto 303SPH is compatible with all the DSLR cameras. It has 3 guidelines, the vertical guideline can be easily folded by 90°, this way the head occupies the smaller amount of space during the transportation. Tha main disadvantage of the Manfrotto 303SPH panoramic head is its large dimensions and weight. Besides, under the weight of heavy cameras the horizontal guideline can bend, which can result in the nodal point move.

 

Base diameter : 64 mm
Weight : 2.43 kg
Price* : ~650 $

To find out more about the Manfrotto 303SPH panoramic head you can visit the manufacturer’s website.

 

Nodal Ninja 3MKII

 

Nodal Ninja 3MKII panoramic headThe upgraded version of the popular spherical head Nodal Ninja 3. Just as its predecessor, Nodal Ninja 3MKII is made from the aluminium alloy. The user can on his or her own configure the required amount of the pan illusion by the simple lock ring change. The advantages of the NN3MKII are not the high price, dimensions and weight – this is the lightest spherical head on the market. Besides the not big rotator diameter of Nodal Ninja 3MKII - only 5cm – appreciably eases the nadir retouching, which counts as the advantage when shooting the spherical panoramas.

 

Base diameter : 50 mm
Weight : 0.475 kg
Price* : от 200 $

To find out more about the Nodal Ninja 3MKII panoramic head you can visit the manufacturer’s website.

 

Nodal Ninja 5

 

Nodal Ninja 5Unlike Nodal Ninja 3MKII, on the panoramic head Nodal Ninja 5 can be installed both the dimensional cameras (Canon Eos1, Nikon D3, etc.) and the cameras with the battery holder. Nodal Ninja 5 can hold up to 10 kg of weight (NN3 – up to 1.8 kg).

UPD: Nodal Ninja 5 series pano head have been discontinued


Base diameter : 59 mm
Weight : 0.868 kg
Price* : от 330 $ (NN5 Lite)

To find out more about the Nodal Ninja 5 panoramic head you can visit the manufacturer’s website.

 

Novoflex VR System 6/8

 

Novoflex VR System 6/8The VR System 6/8 panoramic head can be used with all the DSLR cameras. It has 2 rotators – for the horizontal and vertical rotation. Both rotators are equipped with the click stops in increments of 45° and 60°, and, if necessary, one can switch to the «non-step» mode. Except for the VR System 6/8, the Novoflex company produces one more spherical head VR System PRO II which is more expensive – VR System PRO II.

 

Base diameter : 60 mm
Weight : 1.23 kg
Price* : 820 $

To find out more about the Novoflex VR System 6/8 panoramic head you can visit the manufacturer’s website.

 

Panosaurus

 

Panosaurus panoramic headThe main (and, as I’m inclined to think, the only) advantage of this head is its affordability – it is the cheapest one from our list. The spherical panoramic head Panosaurus is made from polyvinyl chloride. It has the rotator without click stops, the pan illusion force can be controlled. The max possible weight the head can handle is only 1.4 kg. One can’t install such cameras, as  Canon Eos1, Nikon D3 and the others on Panosaurus panoramic head.

 

Base diameter : 76 mm
Weight : 0.9 kg
Price* : 86 $

To find out more about the Panosaurus panoramic head you can visit the manufacturer’s website.

 

***The prices are according to the manufacturers, excluding the shipping costs, taxes and fees as of 30.11.2009. The dealers’ prices may vary. ** 

 The self-made panoramic heads

Самодельная панорамная головкаTo photographers, who want to shoot the spherical 360 panoramas, but for some reason can’t buy or don’t want to buy the “commercial” panoramic head I can give a piece of advice to make the self-made panoramic head. The good results can be achieved even when using the self-made panoramic head (if it’s well-constructed). By the way, the self-made panoramic heads are used even by the professional panorama creators. One can find many guides of how to create a self-made panoramic head on the Internet, here’re some of them:

 
http://www.chem.uky.edu/xray/people/Parkin/panohead/panohead.html
http://www.tawbaware.com/maxlyons/panhead_d60.htm
http://michel.thoby.free.fr/MonsterGarage/MG_panohead.html

 

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