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Nodal ninja


Large pano head

This simple pano bracket is assembled from inexpensive camera accessories. Apart from the German-made FLM levelling base (at the bottom of this picture) and the bubble level, all the other components are made-in-China items bought off eBay!

This rig supports for a full-frame dSLR, and provides a modest range of XY adjustment to suit different lenses and bodies.  However, there is no provision for zenith and nadir shots.  With this setup I have produced seamless 360 degree panos with 140-degree vertical field of view (sample below) as well as QTVR movies.

Note: Technical concepts, shooting techniques and software processing for panoramic photography are not covered in this paper.  Please go to the links in the left sidebar for more info.

This 360x140 degree pano was made from 6 shots, with a Nikon D800 + 16mm fisheye, mounted and aligned on this rig, and processed with HuginThe original image is 43 megapixels and shows exquisite detail with seamless stitching and no artifacts.  More pano examples.

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The building blocks for this rig......

1.   The ‘Fotomate’ macro sliding rail provides front-to-back adjustment of the camera & lens, to line up the nodal point (no-parallax point) with the axis of rotation.

2.   Large L-bracket holds the camera in vertical orientation. It is actually stronger than it looks here!  This item is a "no-brand" accessory found on eBay. The bubble level does not come with it.

3.   PU70 ‘Arca-Swiss’ style QR plate couples with the rotating head. Its 70mm length provides adequate range of adjustment to align the lens axis over the pivot.

4.   Benro PC-0  panoramic head, for 360 rotation of course!

5.   FLM LB60 levelling base provides +/- 15 degrees of tilt. You can also use any decent-sized ball head.

Step-by-step a few small refinements





18mm diameter bubble level is mounted onto L-bracket.

(This is more precise than the one on the FLM 60.)





Three holes (with M3 thread) are drilled into the vertical arm of L-bracket.




( Optional ) 

A plastic 'fence' is mounted. This supports the camera vertically and is custom fit for my Nikon D800.



The L-bracket is attached to the sliding rail. You can of course use the standard 1/4" tripod screw, with freedom to secure it anywhere along the rail. However, I have used two fixed screws, which also prevents any rotation of the bracket.





PU70 coupling plate is secured to the base plate of the sliding rail. I've also added a 2nd screw here to prevent any rotation between the plates.

The two axes of adjustment.....

This should provide sufficient range of movement for you to align the nodal point for most wide angle or fisheye lenses, but maybe not for the big zooms. The lateral adjustment is also not enough for large dSLRs like the Nikon D4 or Canon 1D.

Two setups are illustrated below, for the 16mm fisheye and a 14mm rectilinear lens..... 






Bottom of the Nikon D800 is braced against the plastic fence, preventing the camera from tilting downwards, especially with heavy lenses.

This is customized for the D800 (doesn't even go with D700), and should be omitted if you need to point the camera upwards or downwards.

For a lightweight pano kit here's what I use....

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