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My 360 X180 VENTURE so far

Discussion in 'General Equipment Chat & Advice' started by Terrywoodenpic, Oct 27, 2019.

  1. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    My360 X180 VENTURE
    Or… The Trial Tribulations and Successes of my new venture into 360x180 on a budget.

    I have wanted to extend my ability in Panorama stitching for some time, However it can be a fairly costly exercise to set up from scratch.

    I had a few stipulations as to what I wanted to achieve and how to go about it.
    1. I wanted to do it in only Four shots around

    2. I wanted the simplest possible set up

    3. I wanted to shoot in the shortest possible time

    4. I wanted to be able stitch with exposure fusion

    5. I wanted the most cost effective high quality fisheye lens.

    6. I wanted the minimum but highly accurate hardware.

    7. I wanted to use my Fuji XE2 as the camera body.

    8. I would prefer to use a free stitching software if the limitations were not too restrictive.
    One way or another I have resolved most of these issues successfully.


    There are a number of expensive camera lens options, if you wish to use a full frame camera and lens to archive a four shot around 360 x180 but rather fewer with an APS sensor. That reduces to perhaps only one when you want a professional quality output. The chois come down the the Four Thirds Samyang 7.5mm fish eye. For many reasons this will not work, as is, on an APS camera. But it can be very easily modified to do so.

    Nodal Ninja sell a kit of parts and tools to do just that. This includes a new lens mount come lens ring and foot, and a new replacement lens hood. These are available for Sony, Canon M, and Fuji X cameras. Because of the dimensions of the cameras, the Sony and Canon cameras can be used with the Nodal Ninja R1 or R20 mounts with assorted bases. However the Fuji cameras can only be used with the NN R20 mount. (see photo.)

    These all allow a four shots around sequence using a suitable rotator ( photo shows a NN mini 2 Rotator)
    Of course if you do not mind a lot of fiddling about it is possible to use something like the NN 3 mk2 or 3.
    However for consistent results the fixed setup shown, is far easier to use, and is used by a large proportion of specialist VR photographers ( and also Google Photographers)

    As a point of interest, there is almost no advantage to use a full frame camera for this sort of work. This is mainly because the only way to view such images is electronically or online. And the sheer size of the files preclude using them at their maximum size. Even an Aps 16 megapixel sensor produces a stitched equirectangular image of over 9000 pixels on the long side. Which is itself an embarrassment of riches. And not something most viewers would want to download.

    I was fortunate to come across a mint R1 set up as in the photograph at a stupidly low price on Facebook. However suitable Samyang 7.5mm lenses are rarely available second hand at much below £150. Though I did find one that I purchased for £85. Tragically it was decenterd and was only sharp in the top 1/3 of the image, this was swiftly returned and a mint very sharp replacement found for £145.

    The Lens mount kit was purchased at full price from RedDoor, as they never come up for sale second hand. I fitted it to the lens, with great care, in less than 15 minutes.

    Set Up

    The final set up is shown in the second image.

    In use, the camera is set for manual exposure and white balance and is of course manual focus.
    I have set the shutter to electronic to eliminate all possibility of camera vibration, especially during Bracketed exposures for fusion. I use either an electric release or self timer when making the exposures.

    The Samyang along with other fisheye lenses, are notorious for having an inaccurate focus scale (even though the lenses are individually shimmed) so either ignore them, or make a new index mark. In reality you rarely need to refocus once set, the depth of field is so massive.

    Setting the lens attachment for the correct “nodal” point on a fisheye is usually problematic as such lenses have a variable no parallax point. However in this case Nodal Ninja have established the best point for us, and it is with this kit, set up 0.85 on the mount scale. (this is the same for the Canon M and Sony bodies as well, as it is a function of the lens.)


    There is really not much choice when it come to software.

    And I spent a few days exploring the options and learning how to use the final two candidates. ( however I am extremely familiar with using stitching software so most was only an extension of what I already knew)

    PTGui is phenomonal and I found the trial version easy to use, exceeding quick and produced highly accurate stitches with ease. Though like all VR software it is stitching onto a sphere and has no concept of Up or Down so it is usually beneficial to enter vertical control points on each image as early as possible. If you do not you can get some weird and wonderful combinations.

    The one and only down side of PTGui is that it has doubled in price over the past few years and the Pro version is now around £250.00

    Fortunately there is a Free Stitching version Hugin. It is much more complex and difficult to use, very much slower (x10) and can produce some very strange results till you get the hang of it.

    Partly this is down to lens parameters.
    I have found that if I replace the same lens parameters as established in PTGui into Hugin
    I get a first time stitch with few if any errors. Though I have found Azimuth problems with some images which require extra control points added to that region to correct.


    The Kit choice works exceedingly well. And is probaly as good as it comes in terms of practicality and quality at a reasonable price.

    The choice of software comes down to convenience accuracy and capability at high cost, against. A much tougher and slower life, but at no financial cost.

    Attached Files:

  2. GeoffR

    GeoffR Well-Known Member

    Sorry to say that it has taken me three readings of your post to get an understanding of what you are talking about. I tried shooting panoramas and using software to stitch them together but varying exposures and the problem of carrying a large tripod with an appropriate head, plus levelling them up, meant it wasn't terribly successful. I was trying to do this in California which, obviously, didn't help as I couldn't get my big Benbo tripod into my luggage and that was the only tripod I had at the time. I still like the idea of panoramas but I don't want to be lugging a tripod around so that is the limiting factor. I hope you will be able to post some images though.
  3. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    I am not talking about simple flat Panoramas, which I mostly shoot hand held.

    I am talking about spherical virtual reality pans. If you want to see the sort I mean have a look here... https://quebecpanorama.com/en/ They use the same kit that I do.

    On sites like that one, they are hosted along with the necessary viewer.
    To see mine in VR, (un- hosted) _TXE5387 Panorama Ball web web.jpg you would need to download a free stand alone viewer such as the FSPViewer For windows machines, or the equivalent Apple one.
    The stitching process produces a rather strange looking Equitangular projection that needs to be interpreted by a viewer.
    I attach a very low resolution(788KB) version of the first test shot, that I processed in PTGui pro. I added the mirror ball Nadir, over the tripod, with an action in Photoshop. The full size version is 398MB but very acceptable viewing versions can be 7.75MB But still too large for this site.
    I hope that explains things for you.

    Viewer available here...http://www.fsoft.it/FSPViewer/
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2019
  4. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    While this is probably all to much trouble for many Amateur photographers. It is something that professionals are often asked to do.
    and while specialist Panographers are quite happy to take standard shots along with their VR work, Far fewer professionals have the expertise to take such VR pans alongside their day to day work.
    I would suggest that this imbalance inevitably looses them work to those that can do both. Which for a very low outlay and a reasonable learning curve is a solid investment
    I have often though that there are a vast number of people, who spend many thousands doing over their houses, gardens, kitchens and bathrooms, who would love to have VR shots of before and after.... Why not take advantage... The is not just the province of Estate Agents, who hate to even pay the going rate.
    Partnering with builders who specialise in this work is just one way to market the service.
  5. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    Wouldn't most of those people just use their mobile phone to get a 360 pano though? I admire your tenacity, but it's pretty trivial to use a mobile phone or action camera to get a 'good enough' 360 shot.

  6. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    There is really no comparison between a phone pan and a stitched 360 x180.
    I would not suggest that a professional starts offering phone pans, or sweep pans of any kind.

    Even the Ricoh theta Z1 at £850, or more, does not produce comparable results. And is not even acceptable to Google who's standards are not that high.

    However it is perhaps what you need to shoot social media party shots.
  7. EightBitTony

    EightBitTony Well-Known Member

    The key part of my post was 'good enough'. 30 seconds to stand in the middle of your house, and spin a circle with your phone, vs. paying a professional to come and do it. I can't imagine it's a very big market, even if the people in it will pay through the nose. Anyway, as I said, interesting project!
  8. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    If you have just spent £30.000 to £40,000 on a new Kitchen or Kitchen Diner what is an extra £100 or so for a couple of professional pans as part of the deal, in association with the Fitter/Designer.

    My Daughter has recently had every room in the house remodeled, except her bedroom which is the next on the list, this includes the garden and sun room. I hate to think what a total refit like that could have cost. Even the hot water is circulated like a hotel so it is instantly hot at any tap.
    However the house over the road, make hers look like a gypsy caravan. People that spend real money on their houses, are not about to put up with a few twirled pans on a smartphone, even if they thought they could.

    Some people get professionals to do everything.
  9. SqueamishOssifrage

    SqueamishOssifrage Well-Known Member

    I have just one word to say. Thud!

    (Some folks will know what I am talking about.)

    By the way, I use Microsoft ICE for my panoramas, which is free from MS Research, and I have yet to bog it down - 24mPix x 8 x 3 so far. It will not, however, handle a fish-eye lens. It must be rectilinear. You can also restore a natural perspective, if you so wish.
  10. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    There are many bits of software that can stitch photographs, some better than others.
    However it is well known that making VR 360x180 images is not appreciated by a majority of traditional photographers.
    A majority of those that do make them, do not come from a photographic background. It has become a Speciality in its own right. And is now very heavily linked to the web and VR tours. Some in full 3d and some specialising in VR taken mounted on drones.

    I did not expect this forum to be any different.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2019
  11. Chester AP

    Chester AP Well-Known Member

    I am curious: once you have created the perfect '360x180' Panorama image, what will you do with it?
    This must be a relevant question, considering the amount of effort and time spent on it.
  12. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    Much the same as I do with all my photographs taken in my dotage. And it ranges from, file them, to give them away, put them online, or print them. Before I retired most were commissioned so not my problem.
    With VR images the print option is not available.

    The present project is purely for my own interest in learning new techniques. But I will probably offer some relevant images to our church, and others to my daughter, and the local museum. All for free.

    The learning curve that I am working through, is to enable me to take and process such perfect images very quickly indeed. I think that I have pretty much cracked the problems with Hugin software. I now use the basic lens profile data derived from PTGui as a template in Hugin. This gives me first time stitches, pretty much automatically. I then cover the nadir (tripod) with a mirror ball, created with an action in Photoshop. The entire process can be completed in a few minutes.

    I will now work on replacing the use of a mirror ball to cover the Nadir, by taking a hand held nadir shot of underneath the tripod with another camera, probably my X30. As the software should cope with stitching in a rectilinear image taken at a different focal length... That is the theory anyway.... The blending process should take care of any tonal and colour differences.
  13. SqueamishOssifrage

    SqueamishOssifrage Well-Known Member

    My reference to 'Thud' was relating to a large battlescape in the Terry Pratchett book of that name. People searched high and low for the piece of countryside where the battle took place, but no plain and mountain range matched the background of the painting. Finally our hero realizes that it was a 360° panorama laid out flat. This gave me the idea to write a piece of software that enabled the viewer to turn around inside the panorama.

    It was fairly straightforward, as long as after the first 360° had been merged a few of the first frames were added on to the end. Then a start and end column of pixels were selected such that the detail matched - which it would, courtesy of ICE and the duplicated frames. The software then made the assumption that the viewing window was 10% wider on each end, and when that limit was reached it started adding pixel columns from the start line.

    Clearly it was not possible to do the 180° bit, as then the view would be upside down, but the viewer could still zoom in on detail, giving the appearance of walking towards that point. True VR is far harder, as it requires seamlessly segueing between different environments, and is extraordinarily difficult from photographs, but my last US employer was a world leader in doing it from digital architectural plans, after an interior designer had strutted his stuff. The compute power required was awesome!
  14. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    It is indeed awesome what people can now do, but I fear it will never be easy.

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