In 2007 the company where I worked was a sponsor of the International VR Photography Association (IVRPA) conference and I got to attend some of the seminars. This event led to an interest in creating 360×180 interactive panoramas, and I purchased the necessary equipment including a Nodal Ninja tripod head, a Canon 15mm fisheye lens, and a copy of PTMac for stitching. Long story short — I got frustrated with the learning curve and hours spent post-processing, and gave up.
Four years later and the software has come a long way. I purchased a copy of PTGui and re-stitched the panorama from the engine room of the S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien. Big thanks to Telstar Logistics for providing access to this amazing location. My shooting technique was not precise at the time, and I remember having a lot of trouble stitching the images. This time around PTGui perfectly stitched everything together in no time. The resulting panorama was then brought into Pano2VR where I covered the tripod and created an optimized output file.
In less than a few hours after I installed PTGui and Pano2VR on my computer, I’m already getting excellent pano stitching and pretty nice output results. Of course there’s a lot more fancy finishing options I could pursue, but I’m pretty happy so far. The learning curve isn’t as steep anymore.
In addition to re-processing some old panos, I’m going to make some new ones. Four years ago I was shooting with a Canon 5D and the 15mm fisheye. This required 6 shots around, 1 up (zenith), and 2 down (nadir). The final file was about 11,000×5,500 pixels. This time around I’m able to make the same size output file with a lot less work on both the shooting and post-processing side. I’m using a Canon 5D Mark II with a Nodal Ninja R1 pano head which is small, lightweight, and really easy to setup. Instead of a 15mm fisheye I’m using a new version of the Tokina 10-17mm fisheye. While this lens is advertised for APS (1.6x) sensor cameras, for the last few years panorama photographers have been sawing off the lens hood to use this lens on full frame cameras.
The good news is that the Tokina now comes in a “no hood” version in both Canon and Nikon mounts. The Tokina gives you more pixels than the Sigma 8mm fisheye. On the Canon 5D Mark II you can shoot a full 360×180 pano in four shots. No zenith shot to worry about, and just patch or cover the tripod (or shoot a 5th image for the nadir if you prefer). At 10mm you can do 3 shots, but you don’t have as much resolution. If you want more resolution you can do 6 shots around at 15mm tilted slightly downwards plus a zenith shot. If you have a backup camera with a smaller sensor, then set the Tokina at 10mm and do 6 around.
I’m going to experiment with this setup works for night photography during the next full moon. I was also impressed by Wim Kornneef’s technique of shooting 360 panoramas from a high camera position using a pole.