Anyone using leveling heads instead of ball heads?

Q&A about the latest versions
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cblane
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Mon Jul 30, 2012 7:30 am

Currently, I'm using a ball head and a 3-thumbscrew type leveler to support my 360 head. I would like to keep one of my tripods and heads dedicated to 360s only and I'm thinking that I don't really find the need to adjust the base of my pano head more than 5-10 degrees. I was wondering if anyone here has tried pairing up a ball-type leveler with a 10-15 degree range ( such as Novoflex Magic Leveler or Sunwayfoto tripod leveling base or similar) with a 3 thumbscrew leveler for fine-tuning after adding load.
Carel
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Thu Aug 02, 2012 6:32 am

I used a ballhead for a while, but leveling is really not necessary anymore when stitching with PTgui. So now I roughly level the camera with the tripod legs. One thing less to carry :)
DennisS
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Mon Aug 06, 2012 4:12 pm

I do not have any leveling device. I have my pano head mounted directly to the tripod. With the model Manfrotto tripod I use, it is so very easy to adjust the tripod legs. With modern stitching software, you do not need to be perfectly level. I get my rig close and level in the stitching software. Less items to carry or mess with.
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360Texas
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Mon Aug 06, 2012 8:30 pm

I use a manfrotto 488RC2 ballhead for gross adjusting the level. Then I use a small Nodal Ninja wheeled level for fine tuning the final level at click stop 1 only.
This two element leveling helps reduce or even eliminate the need for post processing Ptgui leveling.

We try to take the imaging correctly the first time while still at the site.
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keith@fachwen.org
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Tue Aug 28, 2012 7:36 pm

I've always used a Gitzo levelling tripod, works really well, pano head sits directly on the tripod. http://www.gitzo.co.uk/ser2-6x-leveling-3s-g-lock Seem to be quite expensive these days!
Tong
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Tue Aug 28, 2012 8:08 pm

manfrotto 190xprob tripod with level and small level on camera hot shooes, just in case ;-)

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also panohead have level on it :D
smooth
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Wed Aug 29, 2012 4:45 am

You should only reply on the upper most bubble level (which will be on the panohead 99% of the time). You need only to level 100% for position 1. So long as you return to perfect level after shooting rotational shots you have it level enough. Hot shoe levels are next to useless on cameras as rarely would you be shooting at 0°. If you are using a circular fisheye you would be shooting + something degrees and if using a full frame fisheye you will be shooting - something degrees.

Examples: Sigma 8mm (Circular) shot at +5°. Nikkor 10.5mm (Full frame) shoot at -10° for your rotational shots.

You can use a purpose leveling head like the Nodal Ninja Leveler II or the Manfrotto equivalent. Nothing wrong with a ball head either. Some people simply reply on tripod legs to find level.
Your only concern should be what the head leaves in your nadir "footprint" and does this impact on your workflow? If not, use whatever method works for you.

Remember you can and should do your scene leveling with your software. Both PTGui and Autopano Pro/Giga support this feature.

Regards, Smooth 8)
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cblane
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Thu Aug 30, 2012 1:29 pm

Somehow this got off topic. I'm already using a ball head for coarse leveling then the NodalNinja leveler. I have found that I rarely need to adjust more than 5-10 degrees more than what the 3-screw leveler can do by itself. I'm thinking that a leveling head (kind of like a large diameter half-ball head) might be a little steadier and more compact. I suppose my real question is has anyone here tried theseklind of ballheads and did they work well?
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smooth
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Thu Aug 30, 2012 1:38 pm

Before I would waste money on that Novoflex I would buy a self leveling centre column for your tripod. They cater for about the same limited degrees.

Regards, Smooth 8)
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cblane
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Fri Aug 31, 2012 5:04 am

Aren't center columns brand specific? Seems like that could get expensive real quickly. I was hoping to find options to work with one my current tripods at under $200, if possible. The Sunway photo lever I mentioned in my first post, for example, is around $150.
smooth
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Fri Aug 31, 2012 10:31 am

Yes, self leveling centre columns are going to be brand specific.
Lets assume you went Manfrotto 190XPROB Tripod the 556B Self leveling Centre Column is around $150 the same as the Novoflex Magic or Sunway Foto.
Other brands offer similar combinations.

Anyway, as stated by multiple posters, you simply don't need any leveler if you are using PTGui or Autopano Pro/Giga. Leveling is pretty much just a waste of time in the field. Rough enough is good enough!
Fix it all in post production.

Regard, Smooth 8)
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cblane
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Mon Sep 03, 2012 8:10 am

A few years back I found that starting with a really good initial level saved me a lot of pain in getting a good level in post processing. It does seem like stitching software has improved a lot in this area so that may not be as important now. I should probably just run a few tests with the level slightly off to convince myself and move on. I think you (Smooth) make a good point that getting it good enough to minimize footprint issues is a good way to look at it.

By the way Smooth, I've always liked your "OmniPix" name. It aptly describes what the photos we take really are. Whenever I say "I take 360 spherical panoramas" to a stranger, I always get a blank or confused look back and have to explain that it's a picture taken in all directions. :)
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jobes
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Wed Sep 05, 2012 9:31 am

When I started shooting (back with Realviz Stitcher in the mid 90s) I used a ball head, but benefitted from a levelling head when I upgrading my kit at work. Can't remember if it was a Kaidan or Manfrotto one: it was big and heavy and had a large nadir footprint (but we were using it on a 360° Precision Adjuste, which also has a massive footprint). The levelling head was very useful for fine adjustments.

However we made the leap to PTGui and I soon came to see the benefit from using V (vertical) control points. Add a set to each of the non-zenith & nadir shots, which only takes a few seconds, and the panorama is straight. Very quick, and very reliable.

Now I use just my ballhead, or mount one of my pano heads direct to the centre column of the tripod. So like many other posters I'd suggest that, in most instances, you don't need to make sure the camera is super-level. Unless you're shooting in a scene with few or no vertical references in shot, in which case I'll also refer more to the spirit level on my pano head to ensure I'm shooting as level as possible.
smooth
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Wed Sep 05, 2012 10:11 am

cblane wrote:By the way Smooth, I've always liked your "OmniPix" name. It aptly describes what the photos we take really are. Whenever I say "I take 360 spherical panoramas" to a stranger, I always get a blank or confused look back and have to explain that it's a picture taken in all directions. :)
Thank you, it was a well considered name. I still get blank look though I'm afraid. Still, it provokes more interest then my Smooth360 alternative.

Regards, Smooth 8)
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