Creating a 360 panorama is different from shooting stills. Elements like exposure, motion and color must blend together in to one space. Precision and timing of each frame are essential in producing high-quality images.
Let me show what gears I used and workflow in creating this image.
Gears and Software Needed
Camera - Canon 70D
This is an APSC crop sensor we need to set the focal length to 10mm to get to the 16mm fullframe equivalent.
If you are using fullframe camera, set your focal length to 15mm
Fisheye Lens - Tokina 107 AT-X DX
This lens is available with Nikon mount as well.
Panoramic Head - Nodal Ninja 4 with RD6 rotator
This is a professional gear used on top of the tripod replacing the ballhead. It holds the camera and lens in portrait position and provides precise turning of the camera. Including capturing up shot (zenith) and down shot (nadir).
For starters, there are also DIY instructions available on the internet on how to make your own panoramic head. Just remember it needs to hold the camera still and stable.
A sturdy tripod like is critical. Your camera and panoramic head must be stable at all times. Slight shake will cause blurred images
Camera remote (phone app)
To prevent shake when pressing shutter button, it needs to be triggered remotely. If your camera does not support wifi, you can use a camera remote. Or set your shutter to 2-second delay.
Lightroom or any RAW editor like Adobe Camera RAW
Your images must be adjusted before stitching. Exposures and color temperature, including shadows and highlights must be even across all images.
We will use this to remove the tripod marks and some adjustment with stitching lines.
Imaging program we will use but other alternatives like PTGui and Hugin works well too.
Since Autopano does not have 360 viewer, we will use PTGui Viewer to check our final image.
This is how the gear looked like with panoramic head attached.
Tripod and Panoramic Head Setup
What differentiates 360 photography from other genre is the precision it needs to capture each frame.
Everything must align together from camera/lens, panoramic head and down to the tripod. This is often neglected, but proper levelling of your gear highly affects the success rate of your image stitching.
Tripod base must be leveled first. There are situations we need to shoot on an uneven ground but try your best to level it as center as possible.
Same as tripod, panoramic head must be leveled. The one I use has a bubble level besides the center knob.
After the steps above our next step is to find the no-parallax-point (NPP) of our camera and lens with the help of the panoramic head.
NPP is the entrance pupil of the lens and center of the scene it sees. If its not aligned properly it will create a parallax effect on each images we take as we rotate the camera. Resulting to stitching errors.
Finding the no-parallax-point requires the following steps.
Vertical axis alignment - point your lens downward and find the center point. Rotate at all sides and of if the lens is moving adjust it again until it stays. On my setup, center point is at 9.0 cm on lower horizontal rail.
View from all sides.
Complete setup with tripod. Note, if you are connecting the pano head on a ballhead, use a sturdy and heavy duty one to keep the alignment steady.
And use the leveler to fine-tune the level position. Ballhead or tripod legs adjustment works best as well.
Horizontal axis alignment - in order to find the center point first the upper horizontal rail must be on 0° pitch (position).
Finding the no-parallax-point (NPP) of the lens is a bit tricky. There are ways like finding a pole on a windows and placing a stick near your lens. Then adjusting the upper rail back and forth to make sure the pole and stick is perfectly aligned as you rotate left and right. Youtube has good amount of tutorials on how to do it this way.
But to save you some time, NPP on Tokina 107 AT-X DX/NH is simply the line below the focus ring.
So all we have to do is make a few adjustment to our horizontal rail to align our len's NPP and the vertical axis center point.
On the upper horizontal rail it shows 8.6 cm.
This is what NPP and axis will look like on different shooting angles will be doing on the next page.