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Use The Right Panorama Camera Equipment



Panorama Hardware comes down to a few key pieces. Some are NOT required, but if you want to take the perfect landscape shot or you want to do so more easily without fiddling around as much, some of these pieces can help tremendously. Some of the pieces will help to reduce the Parallax error.


Tripod


A Tripod is pretty much required for any decent panorama shot. Yes, you can take a panorama without one, but the quality won't be very good. So, consider a tripod a must. You can use any tripod, just as long as you use a tripod.


L-Plate


This is not necessary to take panoramas, but it can make taking pictures (including panoramas) MUCH easier. This is basically a L shaped plate that is screwed directly onto your DSLR. It allows you to rotate your camera in either vertical and landscape mode without changing the composition of your image.


If you have a camera attached directly to a ballhead, what happens when you move the camera from landscape to portrait composition? You've got to physically recompose everything because you have to move the tripod and camera to a different angle. The L-Plate helps you avoid that by simply repositioning the camera itself (rather than the tripod ballhead + camera) to landscape or portraite mode in a couple seconds.


Nodal Slider


Simply put, this L-shaped plate is fitted to the camera so that the tripod QR plate is positioned at the end of the camera as opposed to beneath. With this fitted, the camera's NPP remains, more or less, centered effectively; i.e., directly above the tripod. This will eliminate parallax errors.


Spirit Level / Tripod Level


To make certain that the tripod and camera are completely level try to use use a spirit level. This will help you to attain straight horizons and so reduce the amount of cropping required later. The type that fits into the hot-shoe of the camera such as the Adorama Double Bubble Level or more inexpensive Hama versions are good and, in the case of Hama, relatively cheap (under £10) This will make a huge difference and give you improved stitching quality, helping to prevent the image from appearing wavy or bent out of shape.


If you don't have a special tripod head like the PCL1, then you need this to help level the camera. You will also need to level the tripod legs too, if you want a completely level picture. Personally, I just use a Panning Tripod Head to avoid having to fuss around with leveling both the legs and tripod plate.


Panning Tripod Head


If absolute precision is required then slightly more complex and expensive panoramic tripod heads are available such as the Nodal Ninja or Manfrotto 3025 panoramic attachment, or the Really Right Stuff PCL1. These heads provide 360 degree vertical and horizontal arc around the NPP and can step up in 3.75 degree increments, which takes the guesswork out of whether or not you have left sufficient overlap for post-production.


A very time-saving piece of equipment to have if you want to take panoramas on the fly. It's basically a panning-base with a built in spirit level. You can install it as the actual clamp or you can use a dovetail attachment so you can add the panning tripod head to the ballhead quick realease clamp and remove it too.


DSLR


While we are assuming you own a DSLR for the purpose of this panorama photography tutorial, it's imporant to note that DSLR's give you the most flexibility for panoramas because you can adjust a host of settings and you have the ability to choose the right lens. DSLR's also can utilize specialized panorama equipment (i.e. tripod stuff which attaches to DSLR bodies).


That's not to say you can't use a point and shoot to take a panorama -- you can -- but, it's just much easier to use a DSLR and you are likely to get a better picture, especially since you can utilize a tripod and all the panorama equipment that fits onto the tripod.

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