Mixing Nodal Ninja and Really Right Stuff Gear for Shooting 360 Panoramas

legos

I’ve used a variety of Nodal Ninja and RRS pano equipment over the last 6 years. I started with a Nodal Ninja 3 for shooting 360s, and also acquired a used RRS PCL-1 rotator and nodal slide for shooting single-row landscape panoramas. My 360 pano gear has evolved into 2 main setups:

  1. Really Right Stuff PG-02 Omni-Pivot head with 192 FAS nodal slide – for use on a tripod
  2. Nodal Ninja R1 ring mount panohead - for use with a Nodal Ninja carbon fiber pano pole

Panning Clamp, Ballhead Rotator, or Click-Stop Rotator

My main tripod is a Gitzo 3-series with a Markins ballhead — I’ve replaced the top clamp with the RRS PCL-1 panning clamp. I can quickly level the axis of rotation with the ballhead, and then rotate the PCL-1 for shooting panos. This setup is very strong and smooth, but is missing click-stops for high volume 360 work.

My secondary/travel tripod is a Gitzo 1-series with an Arca Swiss p0 ballhead. This setup offers the same flexibility as my main tripod, but without the handy laser etched degree indicators of the PCL-1. This works OK for the occasional 4-around pano, but isn’t ideal.

For high volume pano shooting, a click-stop rotator is a must. Shooting is much faster, and the precise positioning is great for using a stitching template in PTGui Pro. If I’m going to shoot a lot of panos, I’ll remove the ballhead and mount a Nodal Ninja EZ Leveller II with a RD4 rotator on top (the RD4 has been replaced by the RD5). I used a M6 male to 3/8″ male adapter to install an  Arca Swiss style clamp on top of the rotator.

Mixing Nodal Ninja and RRS Pano Gear: Setup 1

Sometimes I won’t know if I want to shoot panos until I get to a location. Swapping out heads with my current setup can be a pain, so I was looking for more flexibility. I found a great article by Jon Witsell on using Nodal Ninja and RRS equipment together, and started digging around in my parts bin.

Arca Swiss clamp, Nodal Ninja RD4 rotator, RRS TH-DVTL-55 plate

Arca Swiss clamp, Nodal Ninja RD4 rotator, RRS TH-DVTL-55 plate

I added a RRS TH-DVTL-55 plate to the bottom of my Nodal Ninja rotator. The 3/8″-16 screw that came with the RRS dovetail plate was slightly too long. I sawed off one thread, added some Loctite 242, and secured the plate.

The RRS TH-DVTL-55 plate makes a Nodal Ninja rotator Arca Swiss compatible

The RRS TH-DVTL-55 plate makes a Nodal Ninja rotator Arca Swiss compatible

Now I can quickly switch to a click-stop rotator for shooting panos. The TH-DVTL-55 plate is a perfect fit for the PCL-1 panning clamp, which makes centering a breeze. The PCL-1 panning clamp can be also used to adjust the starting position of the pano. The knob on the PCL-1 can be aligned with one of the tripod legs, which is one less obstruction when stitching the nadir shot.

Nodal Ninja click-stop rotator on arca swiss clamp

Nodal Ninja click-stop rotator on arca swiss clamp

Mixing Nodal Ninja and RRS Pano Gear: Setup 2

The RRS pano head is smooth and sturdy, but also a bit heavy. Sometimes I want to use my Nodal Ninja R1 for packing light. I normally use the R1 on a pole with the Quick Mount Mini adapter. I had a RRS MPR-73 rail lying around, and bought an extra Quick Mount plate. The R1 head can be mounted directly to the MPR-73, and the screws sit inside the rail as an anti-twist mechanism. There is a very slight amount of play, but I had a better idea.

Anti-twist screws from Nodal Ninja R1 head mounted directly on a RRS MPR-73 rail

Anti-twist screws from Nodal Ninja R1 head mounted directly on a RRS MPR-73 rail

I also had a Nodal Ninja R1/R10 nadir adapter lying around. Using two 3/8″-16 to 1/4″-20 reducer bushings, I mounted the MPR-73 on the nadir adapter, and the quick mount plate on top. You can also get the MPR-73 rail with a 3/8″ screw.

RRS MPR-73 rail on Nodal Ninja R1/R10 nadir adapter

RRS MPR-73 rail on Nodal Ninja R1/R10 nadir adapter

Everything was installed with Loctite 242, and fit perfectly. The whole thing weighs 1 pound and barely takes up any room in my bag.

Nodal Ninja R1/R10 nadir adapter, RRS MPR-73 plate, Quick Mount Mini, and R1 head

Nodal Ninja R1/R10 nadir adapter, RRS MPR-73 plate, Quick Mount Mini, and R1 head

Installation note: While you can mount the quick mount plate on a 3/8″ stud (that would go in the empty hole on the nadir adapter above), it’s better to mount the plate as shown above. That way the anti-twist screws can be used to keep everything in alignment. The anti-twist screws also work when I swap the R1 over to my carbon pano pole.

Nodal Ninja R1 head on nadir adapter with RRS MPR-73 rail

Nodal Ninja R1 head on nadir adapter with RRS MPR-73 rail

Here’s the Arca Swiss compatible R1 mounted on a ballhead. Just level the head, and use the PCL-1 to rotate. I usually shoot 4-shots around with the R1, so not having click-stops isn’t too annoying.

I hope these ideas come in handy for those of you who are trying to mix Nodal Ninja and Really Right Stuff gear.