Friday, June 16, 2006

Part 2 - Panorsaurus Head Review

The Panosaurus, designed and manufactured by Greg Rubottom, is a light weight self-assembly system and detailed instructions. It can be used to take both cylindrical and spherical panoramic images. It is made of light weight materials (aluminium upright arm and PVC for the other parts), and therefore is unsuitable for cameras over 1.5kg in weight. Both Red Door and Tawbaware have written reviews on the product. It is a fully adjustable system, very flexible and light. That said we have found the following limitations with the system. On the whole though, for the money the Panosaurus is a light weight, durable, flexible and relatively cheap system for taking spherical panoramic images. It is well worth considering as a possible system, but be aware of some of the limitations.

Looseable Leveling Indicator
The Panosaurus does have it’s own level monitoring system. This is a spirit level held by a magnet to the centre of the base arm. Obviously, this is removable, and the user must take care not to loose it. In our hands, the magnet quickly came detached from the level bubble as the two components are simply glued together. It would be better if this could be permanently fixed to the unit somehow. Most people will use an additional leveling unit on their tripod to make life easier, and often these will have their own spirit level in them.

Tripod Attachment Issues
The Panosaurus screws directly onto the tripod head. If you are wanting to detach the system quickly then you will need to combine it with another system that allows for rapid detachment from the tripod. For our uses this was essential, as we were quickly moving form one location to another, often shooting over 20 locations a day. With the Manfrotto system this is taken care of by their own quick release mechanisms and attachments. However, most of the Manfrotto gear has 3/8” threads.

The Panosauraus only has a ¼” thread hole in the base for attaching to a tripod. If you want to attach to a 3/8” bolt then you will need another adaptor. It would be better if the system came with a 3/8” thread and contained an small screw-in adaptor that could convert this to a ¼” thread if needed. That way it would be able to fit all accessories and tripods without having to purchase other equipment. We needed to attach this to the Manfrotto 438 ball leveling system, and therefore had to buy an additional thread converter.

Click Stop versus Full Adjustable Head Rotation
The Panosaurus has not ‘click-stop’ as you move the head round. If you want to use a click-stop system then you will need to add it on. Again you may need a thread adapter to do this. We know the number of shots needed for our use, that this would always be consistent and wanted something that would always align in the same manner. The click stop method of taking panoramic shots also helps in low light conditions, or where the camera has had to be raised above head-height when it would not be possible to see the markings on the base plate easily.

Horizontal Arm Indicator
The vertical arm has a groove in the top to help align the horizontal arm to the required angle. It would be an improvement if this indicator groove progressed down the vertical arm a short way, and was painted white.

In the next post we will show how we combined the Panosaurus with some Manfrotto components to suit our needs of a light weight spherical imaging system that could quikly be packed away.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Panosauraus Panoramic Head Review #1

Manfrotto Panoramic Head

Manfrotto 303 panoramic head
Up till now, most of the images on Panoramic Earth had been taken using a Manfrotto (MN) 303 panoramic head system. The MN303 can only be used for cylindrical panoramic images, but not those that can pan up and down – spherical panoramic images. The MN system has proved very reliable in every situation we have found ourselves – and this includes from snow-covered mountain tops to volcanoes and caves. It is made of metal throughout, thus is very durable, and can hold quite heavy equipment. The release system to mount it onto the tripod is all a quick release locking system allowing it to be packed away rapidly, knowing that it can be re-assembled just as fast in exactly the same nodal point configuration next time round. The price you pay for this is weight. When considering to upgrade for spherical images this became, as well as the cost, a major consideration. For the work done in cities and on rugged terrain saving weight makes for happier backs.

With this in mind we looked at a number of other options. including the Panosaurus, which is promoted as a low weight, low cost option - an ‘Affordable Fully Spherical Panoramic Head’ and available in the UK through Red Door VR Ltd.. We have now used this system to shoot over 300 panoramic images in both city and outdoor situations.

In the next couple of posts we will look at various aspects of our experience in using the Panosaurus panoramic head, snags encountered and observations made.

New Panoramas on Panoramic Earth