How to Build a DIY Vertorama and Panorama Head
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A panorama adapter (also called panorama head) is a device that you screw on top of your tripod and that allows you to rotate your camera/lens combination around the nodal point (also called the no-parallax point) of that combination. The nodal point is the point that avoids parallax errors when you rotate the camera around it. This means that the overlap of the different sections of your Vertorama/Panorama will perfectly match. The nodal point is different for each camera/lens/focal length combination. Therefore, you need an adapter that lets you adjust the camera mounting.
Off-the-shelf panorama adapters are usually bulky, heavy and expensive since they are made for supporting many camera/lens combinations and any conceivable shooting situation. But that is not necessary in many cases.
This DIY panorama adapter is optimized for single-row Vertorama/Panorama shoots and represents the ideal compromise between flexibility, weight, cost and stability. Below, you see the complete adapter and a list of the individual parts with detailed explanations.
Let us run quickly through the parts that this simple adapter is composed of:
The Feisol CB-30 ball head that came with my Feisol CT-3441 tripod is the basis. The groove on the side allows you to put it into vertical orientation. Using this very ball head and/or tripod is not required. Just make sure the ball head you use can be put into a vertical position and offers enough stability to hold the adapter plus the camera. This should be possible with most models.The tripod with the ball head costs about ~€400 (~$570).
The quick release plate of the Feisol tripod goes onto the ball head, and we are going to attach the panorama plate on top of it. With this plate (which comes with the ball head), you can quickly and easily unmount the panorama adapter from the ball head and mount only the camera since the L-bracket (see below) that is attached to the camera also fits into the ball head clamp. Very flexible!
The Novoflex panorama plate enables us to smoothly rotate the camera around a well-defined point (the nodal point). The screw on the right lets you fix the position, and a scale in degrees around the plate helps you in rotating the camera for equal amounts between shots. There is a marker on the rotating part (blue rim) that makes it easy to rotate for a predefined angle. The panorama plate costs about $180.
The Kirk Long Rail Plate enables you to adjust the camera such that it rotates around the nodal point of the lens for avoiding parallax errors in the stitching process (see below for details). The camera is attached to the clamp on the lower left while the longitudinal adjustment is made by sliding the rail back and forth in the clamp on the upper right which is screwed to the panorama plate. The long rail and the additional quick release clamp (long rail comes with only one clamp) costs ~$125.
The Kirk L-bracket is firmly screwed onto your camera and combines two quick release plates (a horizontal and a vertical one) that let you quickly change the camera orientation. Using this L-bracket, you can attach the camera to the long rail in both orientations within seconds. It is very compact, and since you can slide it left and right in the clamp on the long rail, you can adjust the camera’s lateral position such that the center axis of the lens is exactly on the center axis of the long rail.The L-bracket costs ~$130.
A spirit level that can be attached to the hot shoe of your DSLR helps you in leveling your camera. This devices costs about ~€8 (~$11).
The Fully Assembled and Set-Up Adapter
The figure below shows what the adapter looks like after you assembled it, mounted it to the tripod, and attached the camera to it.
The overall cost of this adapter (not including the tripod and ball head) is about ~€340 (~$480). This is not really cheap, but it is comparably cheap for a panorama adapter. Moreover, this adapter is as small as it can possible be. This is important for two reasons: 1. you do not have to carry bulky stuff with you and 2. it translates into stability and thus into image quality. With a weight of 580 gr, it is one of the lightest.
However, please note that this is a single-row adapter. This means that you can only rotate in one direction. With other adapters that you can buy, you can rotate around two axis and thus take multiple rows of images which enables you to create complete spherical panoramas (360° x 180°). But for taking a nice Vertorama of a church, this adapter is sufficient.