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Thread: Nodal Ninja 3 has arrived

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Tom Brown

Posts: 22
Location: Regina, SK, Canada, Canada
Registered: 25 Feb 2007
New user impressions
Posted: 29 Apr 2007 at 0:03 GMT
I recently purchased a Nodal Ninja 3 and would like to share my experience with other less experienced pano shooters, like myself. While we don't post much, I know there are other newbies who read this site to great benefit and enjoyment. Perhaps someone will find this to be of benefit. This post will be of little interest to most of you.



Do I need a pano head?

With the price of pano heads, I never thought I'd buy one. Until a few months ago, all of my panos were shot hand held. I picked up a Manfrotto 390RC2 to sit atop of my Manfrotto 222RC tripod head. This equipment was a revelation. Levelling with the 222RC is a dream and the 390RC2 allowed me to set the desired pitch and then rotate through the scene. In fact, I've shot tons of landscape panos with this equipment and enjoyed it very much.



The more I shoot panos, the more I love it. I rarely shoot single frame images anymore.

More and more, I find myself wanting to add closer objects to my landscape panos. If I'm shooting from the bank of a lake, I'll try to include an overhanging tree to add some perspective and visual interest. This works OK with the simple rotating tripod head if the background of the branches is a cloudless sky. If there are clouds or other objects that reveal parallax issues, the pano won't stitch properly. I needed a pano head.



One more thing.

The horizontal orientation of the 390RC2 head is fine. That head will allow the camera to be positioned vertically, although it's a little awkward and the camera does a weird orbital pivot in this configuration. I had been shooting panos with my camera oriented horizontally and it was fine, until I wanted to print something.

A common pano size seems to be 11.75” x 36”. Shooting a 180* pano horizontally without a pano head using a 6mp camera, I'm lucky to get about 1200 pixels vertically, sometimes less. I can easily get 15000+ horizontally.

The problem is, even with the tripod setup I was using, by the time I cropped the image to be perfectly square, a significant portion of the image was lost. To make matters worse, shooting horizontally with a 40mm lens you can't go very far into the sky because it's really hard to stitch together sky shots without something on the ground to base the stitch geometry on. The best you can do is catch a sliver of the horizon in the bottom of the frame and get all you can; then, catch a sliver of the sky in the top of the next row of frames to get the landscape or object desired.

Vertical orientation and a pano head is the obvious solution to all of this. Now that I have the NN3, I could never go back. It's just so obvious in how it works and so effortless to create beautiful results.



Which pano head?

cost needs to be at least somewhat reasonable
can fit into a back pack and be as light as reasonably possible
works with my K100D and DA 40L
quick to set up

I've followed every head manufacturer link on the Panoguide pages and read everything I can. I think the NN3 is the only pano head that really meets my objectives. It could be that I've missed something.

Reading this site, I had some concerns about the stability of the NN3. Those concerns turned out to be completely irrelevant for the way I shoot panos. The NN3 does a perfect job documenting landscapes and architecture, is extremely portable, has a great price and great community support.

If you have a heavy camera and wanted to shoot long exposures at long focal lengths on windy days, the NN3 might not be the best choice. From what I can tell, to get that kind of stability, you will end up with something built with a completely different design philosophy, it will be much heavier, and it certainly won't break down to a nice backpack friendly size.

My favorite panos come from hiking trips where I scaled a hill or walked into the bush packing a MiniTrekker with a Manfrotto 190CL tripod strapped on the back. Perhaps it's because of the memories these panos trigger. I certainly enjoy seeing things you can't see without putting some effort into it and I probably enjoy the lifestyle of taking these pictures more than the pictures themselves. To this end, the NN3 is absolutely perfect.

From what I can tell, the only other reasonable alternative to the NN3, for my needs, would have involved building something. This doesn't look particularly difficult and it's certainly a cheap way to go but I didn't need another project right now. I'd rather be shooting panos.

Here's a homemade bracket that might work well and not be too much work.

www.tawbaware.com/maxlyons/panhead_d60.htm



The purchase.



I purchased the NN3 from Rosauro Photography. I live in Canada. Factoring in all costs, Rosauro is cheaper than ordering from the US. With shipping, it ran about $290. Not bad.

I ordered the unit early Tuesday morning and received it Wednesday afternoon. Unbelievable. He shipped it Express Post and must have had it at the post office within a couple of hours of receiving the order. Rosauro contacted me a couple of times regarding a purchase detail. His email responses were pretty much instantaneous. After the sale, I posted a question in this thread and he responded by email within a few minutes.

If new parts or other products are made available, I will try to purchase them through Rosauro Photography. It's a treat to deal with someone so professional and responsive. Thank you, Rosauro.

www.rosaurophotography.com/html/order.html



First impressions.

The head does not really come set up. Certainly, you have to adjust it to position the camera for no parallax but the rotator base also needs to be set up. I found this odd, initially, but it makes sense since a new user will probably want to select a detent plate anyway.

The only document that came in my package is a sheet with a series of pictures basically showing how the components go together. Before looking online for instructions or asking for help, I tried tightening the base by adding another washer at the top. This worked OK for making the assembly nice and stable but I could no longer feel the detents.

Once Mauro provided the link to the documents, it was no big deal. Adjusting the rotator base and detent spring took about five minutes. Alan keys and a bunch of spare parts are included. Fantastic.

The rotator base works very well, when it's adjusted properly.

www.nodalninja.com/nodal_ninja_user_manual.html



After using it for a few days.

I love the detents. My sunset panos are much smoother now. When you're shooting a fleeting sunset, every few seconds counts. With the NN3 I can just shoot, turn till it clicks, shoot, turn till it clicks, and so on. I don't bother with the viewfinder anymore. I'd say it's roughly halved the time I was taking to shoot a pano with the 390RC2 heard. In fact, I dare say I can shoot noticeably more panos in an evening because of it.

I need a detent plate with more detents. I like to shoot detail panos at 50+mm. The finest detent plate is 15* which is a little course when shooting 50mm. 15* is just right for shooting 35 or 40mm which will still provide pretty good detail. I submitted a request on the NN web site. I'm hoping a plate with closer detents is available or will be made available in the future.

A Pentax k100d with 18-55mm kit lens set to 35mm just barely clears the top nut of the rotator with about 2mm clearance when shooting directly up. Since it's a little bigger, I suspect the 16-45 won't quite fit but I won't know until my copy returns from service. I don't shoot 360* panos anyway so I'm not too concerned. Certainly, there is tons of adjustment for any prime in my bag. With a DA 40L, the massive clearance when shooting directly up comical.

I shoot a lot at dusk and at night. Despite being smaller, I find the white spirit level in the NN3 far easier to see than the yellow bubble in the Manfrotto 222RC head. Strangely, the NN3 level and ManfrottoRC level don't agree on the same level point. Testing with a hot shoe mounted level shows the NN3 level to be correct. Others have mentioned the Manfrotto 222RC level is not accurate. It's close. Anyway, if you use the Manfrotto 222RC head you might want to check it.



One last comment.

Adjusting the upright position on the horizontal arm right down to the pixel level as per the Panoguide head setup instructions is not that hard to do but it does take some fussing and some time. What's more, it's not practical if you intend to break the NN3 down for packing. It needs to be done each time the upright is attached to the horizontal arm as you can't reattach it perfectly judging by the index markings alone. I can only get it about 15~20 pixels from being centered.

If both pixel level calibration and the ability to break the NN3 down are desired, I suggest a user installable stop block that can be installed on the horizontal arm once it is calibrated perfectly. With a stop block, the upright can simply be butted against the block and attached. As I envision it, the block will consist of a block, a washer, and a screw.

I haven't found a need for this level of calibration accuracy but I suggest it as a possibility because this site recommends centering the camera down to the pixel level.

All in all, I am extremely pleased with the NN3. I think it is the most appropriate tool for my needs and it does everthing I require of it. If I were to require another pano head, I would certainly get another NN3 and I would certainly get it from Rosauro.





Happy Nodal Ninja 3 user,

Tom Brown
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Tom Brown

Posts: 22
Location: Regina, SK, Canada, Canada
Registered: 25 Feb 2007
Re: New user impressions
Posted: 29 Apr 2007 at 1:59 GMT
PS -

I know I need to get PTblender working. You can see where the frames are stitched in the pano I posted.

Please don't fault the Nodal Ninja for this issue. The actual stitch worked brilliantly with wonderful alignment.

The problem is trying to compile the latest tools for AMD64. I will update the corrected image when I get it sorted out. Most panos I shoot don't display this issue, even without PTblender. It only seems to be an issue when the light conditions are changing quickly between exposures.
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Bill Bailey
[NodalNinja]

Posts: 615
Location: Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Registered: 27 Jan 2005
Re: New user impressions
Posted: 29 Apr 2007 at 20:56 GMT

Tom Brown said:

I recently purchased a Nodal Ninja 3 and would like to share my experience with other less
experienced pano shooters, like myself. While we don't post much, I know there are other newbies who read this
site to great benefit and enjoyment. Perhaps someone will find this to be of benefit. This post will be of
little interest to most of you.

It's always great to hear feedback from users of Nodal Ninja, it helps others that may be considering a purchase
of a pano head the pros of cons of our products.

Tom Brown said:

I ordered the unit early Tuesday morning and received it Wednesday afternoon.
Unbelievable. He shipped it Express Post and must have had it at the post office within a couple of hours of receiving the order.
Rosauro contacted me a couple of
times regarding a purchase detail. His email responses were pretty much instantaneous. After the sale, I posted
a question in this thread and he responded by email within a few minutes. If new parts or other products are
made available, I will try to purchase them through Rosauro Photography. It's a treat to deal with someone
so professional and responsive. Thank you, Rosauro.


Our resellers are committed to maintaining the strong level of customer support Nodal Ninja is known for. YES
many thanks to Rosauro and our other resellers for the valued assistance they provide. We encourage our
customers to direct concerns or questions they may have directly to their reseller for fast prompt attention.
This also helps each reseller to better track and log customer inquires.

Tom Brown said:

First impressions. The head does not really come set up.

NN3 is actually pre-assembled. You need to attach the upper assembly to lower assembly. Once you learn the
settings of your camera and lens and which detent plate will work best for your needs setup in the field takes
less than one minute.

Tom Brown said:

The only document that came in my package is a sheet with a series of pictures basically
showing how the components go together.

We owe thanks to Rosauro for that smile this is a quick
reference guide done up with images (pictorial). Detailed instructions can be found in 9 different languages online
at nodalninja.com/nodal_ninja_user_manual.html.

Tom Brown said:

I tried tightening the base by adding another washer at the top. This worked OK for making the
assembly nice and stable but I could no longer feel the detents.


This doesn't sound right, you shouldn't need another washer. Please touch bases with Rosauro on this for a fix.

Tom Brown said:

I need a detent plate with more detents

Many folks do need smaller click stop increments. NN3 ships with the smallest detent click stop ring we
currently offer - 15 degrees. This allows for 24 shots around to do a full 360 cylindrical pano. I believe this
best suits up to about a 40mm focal length. Folks using longer focal lengths should opt for the 72/0 ring which
on the one side as zero clicks. In this way you can simply reference the demarcations on the lower rotator
which are marked in 5 degree increments.

Tom Brown said:

I suggest a user installable stop block that can be installed on the horizontal arm once it is
calibrated perfectly. With a stop block, the upright can simply be butted against the block and attached. As I
envision it, the block will consist of a block, a washer, and a screw.

Nick (manufacturer and inventor) is currently working on this now. Not yet sure when the extras will be available
but once they are we will post them on our website.

Tom Brown said:

All in all, I am extremely pleased with the NN3… If I were to require another pano head, I would
certainly get another NN3 and I would certainly get it from Rosauro. Happy Nodal Ninja 3 user, Tom Brown

Thank YOU Tom for taking the time to share your thoughts on NN3 and also in sharing your buying experience
with Rosauro - our reseller in Canada. laugh
Cheers
Bill
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