Contents of guide to panoramic photography
General information about panoramic photography Stitching a panorama Create a virtual tour Tests matériels et logiciels Links, books, DVD, VOD

shim
5/14
Shim
Updated on December 21, 2017

My 2017 buying guide: the best panoramic heads

To help you choose between all the types of panoramic heads (cylindric, spherical or motorized), I created several case studies. Each time, I give you advice to make choosing easier... These different cases are:


1 - Stitch a one-range panorama with light equipment suivre

2 - Stitch a multi-range panorama with a heavy bodysuivre

3 - Stitch a multi-range panorama with light equipment suivre

4 - Stitch a multi-range panorama with heavy equipment suivre

5 - Stitch a gigapixel panorama suivre

6 - Create a virtual tour suivre

7 - Create a panorama or virtual tour using a pole suivre



All types of panoramic heads


About my commitment...

I give advice about equipment I'm familiar with, that I've used myself or during training courses.
In no way am I trying to please anyone or to choose the best price.
I'd certainly want to guide you during the next forty years and this is my commitment...!

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Very important preliminary information!

Two technical points matter to make the right choice (besides value for money, which I can't influence):

Stability if you make panoramas or virtual tours even when it's dark or windy;

The length of the plates to place your camera and lens at the entrance pupil (Nodal point). The lighter heads often have very short plates only suitable for rather light cameras, without grip and fixed focal lenses. Zoom lenses are seldom compatible with such compact heads!
Example: A 24-70mm F2,8 Canon zoom lens can't be placed on the entrance pupil, even on a Nodal Ninja 4 at 24 mm.


1 - Stitch a one-range panorama with light equipment

TÍte panoramique Nodal NinjaIf your camera/lens is not too heavy, the only problem is choosing: almost all panoramic heads on the market are spherical now and of good value for money, so you can even do multi-range panoramas.

Among all spherical models on the market, I have my favorites listed below but really, almost all heads can work in this case.

 


Several pieces of advice about cameras...

  • For all point-and-shoot cameras, bridge cameras, etc.
  • For light bodies as Canon 760D, Nikon D5300, Sony a6300, Pentax K-3 II without grip, etc...
  • Provided that the lens isn't too heavy or bulky like wide-angle 24-70mm F2,8 zoom lenses, the entrance pupil is close to the front lens and the camera must be placed as back as possible. This creates a noticeable back overhang, prejudicial to the overall stability when the stage is long enough, which never happens with the two more compact heads listed below.
  • Of course, wind is annoying but think about intermediate exposure times like the vicious 1/15 sec.
  • Prefer fixed focals, more compact and often even better at the edges of the picture.

 

My purchasing advice

For light equipment, without bulky 24-70 mm F2,8 zoom lens, I recommend three spherical panoramic heads with which you can do about whatever you want, without technical limitations:

Bushman Panoramic Gobi - the more compact and the lighter!
New Nodal Ninja 3 Mark III - A very good compromise between weight and stability
Nodal ninja 6 - Bulkier but very stable.

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2 - Stitch a one-range panorama with heavy equipment

TÍte panoramique Manfrotto 303If your camera is heavy and bulky, I mean even a Canon 5D Mark III but with a 24-70mm F2,8 zoom lens or its equivalent by Nikon and you only want to shoot one range at a time, you're left with very less choice. In order to avoir extensive overhangs, prejudicial to the overall stability, you'll avoid almost all spherical heads with a few rare exceptions listed below.
It's one thing to fit your equipment on your head at home, but it's a different thing to use it in the field when it's windy or with long exposure times for instance!


A few pieces of advice about cameras...

  • Heavy means to me: Canon 1DX..., Nikon D5, Pentax 645Z...
  • Come what may, avoid wide-angle F2,8 zoom lenses on spherical heads because you then have to set the camera as back as possible and thus have a strong back overhang except, of course, on the excellent Nodal Ninja Ultimate M1 or M2.

 

My purchasing advice

I recommend three panoramic heads. A cylindric one which earned its spurs and two very well manufactured spherical ones:

Manfrotto 303 or 303PLUS (cylindric),
Nodal Ninja Ultimate M1/M2 (spherical) which will handle effortlessly your heavy equipment and will allow you to shoot even multi-range,
and the excellent Cambo CLH 500 (spherical) that I just tested, more limited but excellent...

Caution! the Manfrotto 303 PLUS has a huge drawback: it can't be disassembled!

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3 - Stitch a multi-range panorama with rather light equipment

TÍte panoramique Nodal Ninja 4If your camera/lens isn't too heavy, you only have to make your choice: almost all panoramic heads on the market are spherical now and sometimes of good value for money.

Among all spherical models on the market, I have my favorites listed below but really, almost all heads are suitable in this case.

 


A few pieces of advice about cameras...

  • For all point-and-shoot cameras, bridge cameras, etc.
  • For light bodies as the Canon 760D, Nikon D7200 or D610, Pentax K1, etc...
  • Provided that the lens isn't too heavy or bulky like wide-angle 24-70mm F2,8 zoom lenses, the entrance pupil is close to the front lens and the camera must be set as back as possible. It creates a noticeable back overhang, prejudicial to the overall stability.
  • Of course, wind is annoying but think about intermediate exposure times like the vicious 1/15 sec.
  • Prefer fixed focals, more compact and often even better at the edges of the picture.
  • Why not a motorized head? Except for gigapixel projects, they're not that handy...

 

My purchasing advice

I recommend three spherical panoramic heads with which you can do about whatever you want:

Bushman Panoramic Kalahari V2 - the more compact and the lighter!
Nodal Ninja 6, still light enough and above all very stable.

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4 - Stitch a multi-range panorama with heavy equipment

TÍte panoramique Nodal Ninja Ultimate M1 If your camera/lens is heavy and bulky and you want to shoot multi-range panoramas, you're only left with three options according to me. You need a really robust spherical head, as well as long enough stages to place the entrance pupil of your lenses and above all bright zoom lenses above the axis of rotation.
It's one thing to fit your equipment on your head at home, but it's a different thing to use it in the field when it's a little windy!

 

 

A few pieces of advice about cameras...

  • Heavy means to me: Canon 1DX, Nikon D5, Pentax 645Z...
  • Come what may, avoid wide-angle F2,8 zoom lenses on spherical heads because you then have to set the camera as back as possible which creates a strong back overhang. If it's windy or you're shooting with intermediate exposure times (around 1/15 sec.), risks are high, even with the mirror raised, to get camera shakes. Unless you turn to the Ultimate M2-L version, even more robust and thought for gigapixel shots.

 

My purchasing advice

You have the choice between three spherical panoramic heads:

Cambo CLH 500, a little limited but excellent and
Nodal Ninja Ultimate M1 and Ultimate M2. I just tried are roughly or noticeably more stable, with longer stages and above all much better manufactured than Manfrotto... My favorite!

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5 - Stitch a gigapixel panorama

TÍte panoramique motorisée Gigapan Epic ProTo shoot a gigapixel panorama, it is of course possible to take hundreds of pictures manually with a spherical head - I did in the past on 1148 photos! But it's so much more convenient with a motorized head when the number of photos is really high!
When I achieved the old record Paris26gigapixels in 2010, I only had at my disposal one motorized head, a Klaus head. Since then the situation has changed, since numerous models are now available.


A few pieces of advice about cameras...

  • If you wish to realize a gigapixel with a medium format or with a heavy camera/telephoto lens combination, choose heads with two arms. It will be a lot more stable. Among manual heads, you should also give a serious thought to the incredible Ultimate M2...
  • Gigapan in particular makes three models of heads for all sizes of cameras, from the light point-and-shoot to the heavier medium format.

 

My purchasing advice

I recommend two motorized panoramic heads very well thought and a manual head:

Gigapan Epic Pro robust, with long battery life, accurate, and of excellent value for money. One of my favorites!
Then I recommend the wonderful Roundshot VR Drive: manufacturing quality, accuracy, speed... The price is really worth the quality of the product.
The manual head Nodal Ninja Ultimate M2 is also an excellent option for those who, like me, like to take in hand the panorama when the number of pictures is not too high, especially to look over it regularly...

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6 - Create a virtual tour

TÍte panoramique motorisée Gigapan Epic ProA whole tutorial is dedicated to the creation of virtual tours in this The guide to panoramic photography: create a virtual tour suivre

However, any photo can be turned into an interactive tour, even if it's been shot in a mono-range mode. Of course, virtual tours involve most of the time a complete sphere hence a spherical panoramic head.


A few pieces of advice about cameras...

  • I really don't recommend using a heavy and bulky camera to make a virtual tour.
  • Prefer Fisheye lenses, lighter, easier to carry and above all enabling to shoot a complete sphere with few pictures.

 

My purchasing advice

I suggest you read my pages dedicated to spherical panoramic heads in this tutorial Create a virtual tour suivre but I'll start giving you advice right away:

Bushman Panoramic Gobi - the more compact and the lighter!
Nodal Ninja 3 and 6 if your equipment is not too heavy;
Nodal Ninja Ultimate M2 if you want to treat yourself to the best spherical head.

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7 - Create a panorama or a virtual tour using a pole

Mâts télescopiques Nodal Ninja p1+P2A whole tutorial is dedicated to the creation of virtual tours in this The guide to panoramic photography: Create a virtual tour suivre

It's not unusual anymore to see virtual tours or panoramas taken from very original points of view, meaning from a height. When I'm talking about height, I'm talking really high! If you think about balloons or drones, I suggest you also consider another option a lot cheaper and less binding: a telescopic pole. For less than $700, you can buy a giant monopod, in carbon, very convenient to use and that can reach 6 meters high!


A few pieces of advice about cameras...

  • Any kind of camera can be considered, to the Canon 1 DS Mark III or Nikon D4.
  • However, prefer lenses that are not too bulky.
  • This solution can only work with short exposure times, unfortunately...

 

My purchasing advice

I suggest you read my pages dedicated to spherical panoramic heads in my tutorial Create a virtual tour suivre but I recommend right away the Nodal Ninja telescopic poles, for which a review is now available on this site. Anyway, we don't have much choice!


Pointilles

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Read my tutorials and buy panoramic heads from this site...


Pointilles


Bushman Panoramic GOBI

Bushman Panoramic Gobi

285,05 € *



My opinion on Bushman Panoramic Gobi

This new Gobi panoramic head, by Bushman Panoramic possesses at once three obvious assets: it's very well manufactured - materials and finishing -, it's very light since it only weighs 320 grs and it's super compact since it fits in your hand! It won't take a lot of space in your photobag or even in your pocket. It's not the more stable on the market but it's not necessarily a drawback for everyone...

Warning ! The length of the plates - 8.5 cm at the top and bottom - will not allow you to place all your lenses and especially your zooms at the entrance pupil. With fisheye this will be perfect.



Technical specifications

  Manufacturer Nb of notches 360°x180 Weight
in Kg
Price
Gobi
Adaptable *
YES
0.320
€285

Quick Click optional base: 90 °, 60 °, 45 °, 36 °, 30°.


Buy the BP Gobi + Yetti head from...

Bushman Panoramic Gobi
Price with VAT Retailer
  Bushman panoramic
€285.00 *
  * 5% discount with your coupon code: AF2017


Pointilles


Bushman Panoramic KALAHARI V2

Bushman Panoramic
Kalahari V2

477,95 € *



My opinion on Bushman Panoramic Kalahari V2 (Automne 2016)

The Kalahari V2 is the largest panoramic head of the Bushman Panoramic Society. This revision V2 - now tested - is to buy eyes closed as improvements and optimizations are numerous. A new reference head for boxes not too heavy. Attention zooms 24-70 mm f2,8 can not be positioned at the nodal point because the plates are a bit too short.



Technical specifications of Kalahari V2 Bushman Panoramic

Length Plates: 11 cm each
Numbers of notches: Yetti = 5 crans,
Weight: 580 grs,

Kalahari V2
Prix TTC Boutique
477,95 € *
    * 5% discount with your coupon code: AF2017

Pointilles


Nodal Ninja 3 MKIII

Nodal Ninja 3 et 6

from 223.26 € *



My opinion on New Nodal Ninja 3 Mark III and Nodal Ninja 6

Fairly light, the New Nodal Ninja 3 Mark III and Nodal Ninja 6 are spherical panoramic heads. The question of stability when placing the camera cantilever therefore arises. The New Nodal Ninja 3 Mark III (December 2017) is especially for compact cameras or light-weight models such as Canon Eos 760D, 70D or Nikon D7200 or D500. The model Nodal Ninja 6 is preferred if you with a Canon 5D Mark IV or Nikon D850. They are also particularly compact and well designed. So they really take up very little space in a camera bag. There are several rotators: Rotator Mini V2, RD-10 or RD-16.



Technical specifications of Nodal Ninja 3 et 6

Length Plates: 10 ou 20 cm / 4 & 8 inches each
Detente intervals: according to rotator,
Weight : 500 et 920 grs,

Nodal Ninja 3 III - New
Price with VAT Boutique
223.26 € *
Nodal Ninja 6    
384.60 € *

 

Pointilles


Nodal Ninja Ultimate M1-L

Nodal Ninja Ultimate M1-L

640.99 € *



My opinion on Nodal Ninja Ultimate M1-L

These Nodal Ninja Ultimate panoramic heads are competing heads Manfrotto 303 SPH and Cambo CLH-500. I think they are spherical panoramic heads for heavy material references. Universal, very stable and very well manufactured and designed. Really very few defects or disadvantages.



Technical specifications of Nodal Ninja Ultimate M1-L

Length Plates: 20 cm chacune
Numbers of notches: according to rotator,
Weight : 1,650 grs,

Nodal Ninja M1-L
Price with VAT Retailer
640.99 € *

Pointilles


Gigapan Epic Pro

Gigapan Epic Pro V

$850.00



My opinion on Gigapan Epic Pro motorized head

Gigapan motorized heads are among the best value for money on the market. They're quite easy to use, very pleasant and above all very powerful. Remarkable tools. The Epic Pro model comes with two vertical arms for more stability. To set up directly on a robust tripod. As for now, their main limit is the absence of radio or bluetooth remote control. But I notice that the firmware is regularly updated and available in different languages.



Technical specifications

  Manufacturer Nb of notches 360°x180 Weight
in Kg
Price
Epic
tailor-made
NO
1.400
$450
Epic 100
tailor-made
NO
1.600
$575
 
Epic Pro
tailor-made
NO
3.600
$1,000

Buy it from...

Gigapan Epic Pro V
Price in € Retailer
 
$995.95

Pointilles


Nodal Ninja R20

Nodal Ninja Ultimate R20

309.70 € *



My opinion on Nodal Ninja R20 Google GTP V2

The Google Street program or the telescopic poles need a very compact panoramic head. The R20 Nodal Ninja model has been designed for this. You buy at the same time as the lens ring that matches your fisheye lens and you get a very compact system.

Warning ! When buying a Nodal Ninja R20 panoramic head, be sure to choose the lens ring that matches your fisheye lens. There are lens ring for many fisheye lenses Canon, Nikkor or Sigma - Liste sur le site panosociety.com



Technical specifications of Nodal Ninja R20

Length Plates: 2 cm
Numbers of notches: according to rotator,
Weight : 400 grs,

Nodal Ninja R20
Price with VAT Boutique
309.70 € *

Pointilles


VR Drive II Roundshot

VR Drive II Roundshot

2,944.00 €



My opinion on VR Drive II Roundshot

The VR Drive II motorized head from Roundshot, is built on a Novoflex basis, that's just showing how irreprochable the quality is. One of the best motorized heads on the market, which is also the more expensive!

  • Motorized double-axis;
  • Very powerful engines;
  • Very quick shooting mode;
  • Full touch sensitive command module!
  • Almost "infinite" possibilities... Video modes, HDR, Time-lapse, etc.



Technical specifications of VR Drive II

Length Plates: 10 cm
Numbers of notches: infinite !
Weight : 2,700 grs,

VR DRIVE II
Price with VAT Boutique
Roundshot store €2,944.00

Pointilles


In the next page, we'll calculate the number of photos we need to shoot to realize our panorama - How many pictures ?


Next page 11/14 : how many pictures ? suivre


pointilles





     
 

On panosociety.com
from this site !

5% discount

 

Buy on panosociety.com with 5% discount

   
 

On bushmanpano.com
from this site !

5% discount

 

5% discount on bushmanpanoramic.com from this site with your coupon code: AF2017

Buy on bushman-panoramic.com with 5% discount

   

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