Exploring Panoramic Photography

How many times do you see people with modern day compact digital cameras spinning around in an attempt to capture a panoramic image. In many cases the results can be fairly good, however on closer inspection it becomes obvious that the generated image wasn’t rotated around the Nodal Point of the camera. To achieve any reasonably good/accurate panoramic image without any issues of parallax then one needs a good level tripod and panoramic head. If you are creating a panorama just by hand-holding a camera and stitching it together yourself then you may find the Content-Aware Fill feature in Photoshop to be a useful tool to fill in any blank areas created by the stitching process.

The video below gives a good idea of how to setup an panoramic head to ensure one can remove any parallax problems.

The Manfrotto 303 QTVR Panoramic Head Kit is one option available that has been around for several years now and has been superseded by the “plus” edition.

The Manfrotto 300N (3414) Panoramic Head allows up to ten different angles of rotation ranging from 5, 10, 15, 20, 24, 30,36, 45, 60 to 90 degrees. This equates to the creation of a panorama ranging from 72 shots right down to just 4. To generate any reasonable panorama one need an overlap of at least 25% from one image to the next. Also to get a greater vertical spread mounting the camera in portrait mode is best, so you could expect to take a dozen shots or so depending on the focal length on the lens used.

The Manfrotto 338 QTVR Leveling Base is also a useful item allowing for fine adjustment (plus/minus 5 degrees) of the levels via three grub screws.

Many photographers use tripods that have 1/4 inch heads, hence a 1/4 to 3/8 adapter is a very useful item to have in your bag allowing secure connection to be established between the tripod head the leveling base unit (also available from amazon).

The user manual for the 303 and 303Plus is a hive of information giving a good overview on how to get setup using the panoramic head. To get up and running one really just needs to just look through three pages of instructions within the user manual. This version of the manual is 20 pages in length and written in a few languages. The following guide provides a good overview of getting setup with the 303plus QTVR pano head.

The 303SPH is capable of taking both multirow and spherical panoramas in contrast to the cylindrical panoramas that may be created using the 303 panoramic head. One may find it interesting to look through the user manual.

The following video gives an overview on how to create panoramas in Photoshop using the photo-merge option.

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