Here is a fact: results will be better if you use a tripod. However, if you don’t have one or if an opportunity that does not allow you to set it up presets itself, you can still make a very decent panorama by following a few simple tips.
If you have a tripod:
Set up your tripod so that your camera is perfectly horizontal. You can do this by hand, or use a spirit level if you have one. Top geek stuff: you can buy a mini spirit level that will adapt to the external flash slot (hot shoe) of your camera if it has one.
It is quite important that your camera is horizontal. If it is not you will get some unrecoverable distortions on the horizon line (if shooting outside), and you will loose some height on the final picture.
If you want to fine tune the setup, you can take an extra step to make sure your camera will rotate along the nodal point of this lens, or at least around the symmetry axis of the lens.
What is the nodal point of a lens you say? Its the point, on the symmetry axis of the lens, that all the incoming light rays cross being sent to the focal plane. Rotating around this point will give you zero distortion. Rotating around a different point will create distortion – due to the parallax phenomenon.
If the tripod mount crew on the camera is not even aligned with the lens axis youll need to buy a specialized tripod extension that will allow you to slide the camera horizontally so that the rotating axis of the tripod is in line with the nodal point.
Such devices are often called Panoramic Tripod Heads.
The nodal point of your lens change when you zoom in and out. Finding it is a matter of trials and adjustments: try to locate two vertical objects, such as poles or light posts, one being close from the camera and the other being far away from it. Take two different shots by rotating the camera and compare the position of each object relative to the other. If the objects have moved away or toward each other from one shot to the other, you are not yet rotating around the nodal point.
Finding the precise nodal point even with most regular lenses is often a matter of millimeter, but with a few tries you should get close enough.
Note that this step is optional. You will get perfectly decent results even if you skip it and rotate around a different point, especially if you are shooting outdoor landscape panorama. More distortion will show if you are shooting indoors, where the perspective lines may appear quite different from one shot to the other.
If you don’t have a tripod:
Hold the camera at the eye level and tuck your elbows close to your body to avoid moving the camera too much when you rotate. Try to keep the camera at the same level when rotating (the horizon line is a good marquee when you shoot outside). Rotate using your shoulders and waist, and try to rotate around the camera rather than rotating the camera itself. Youll be closer from the nodal point this way.
Continue reading part III
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