No Parallax Panoramic Tripod Head
Although I have 24mm and 45mm tilt and shift lenses I've been looking for a No Parallax Panoramic head for some time (these heads are also known as Pupil Entry Point Panoramic or Nodal Point Panoramic heads). The reason I've been looking for one is that I want to be able to take wider panoramic shots than merely shifting a lens will permit. There are also times when I want to be able to use a focal length that is longer than the maximum shift lens focal length of 90mm. I found a couple of downsides in my search for a suitable tripod head. They either seemed too expensive, up to £600, or were rather flimsy resulting in too much flexing resulting in inaccuracy. Yesd, I know that you can use various pieces of software to join images that have some parallax mismatches, but I wanted a method that did not have to resort to distorting the images in order to get the edges to match. After a lot of online research I decided to make my own tripod head by using a couple of macro focus rails and a studio light right angle bracket that I already had, coupled with a fluid panoramic head. I've described and illustrated the head I made below.
The geared head is not essential as you can fit the panoramic head to any other head, or even directly to the tripod. The reason I've included it here is because I use a geared head when taking landscape shots and I wanted to be able to attached or remove the panoramic head without have to remove my geared head.
Geared Head Level
You must firstly make sure that you base is level, so here I am demonstrating that the geared head is giving a level base to build on.
Geared and Panoramic Heads
The fluid panoramic head is then attached to the geared head (or directly to the tripod or any other head you have attached to your tripod).
Panoramic Head Level
You should now check that the panoramic head is level, as in this image.
Setup Ready for Camera
The macro focus rails are attached to the right angle bracket and the complete unit is then attached to the panoramic head. I leave my focus rails permanently attached to the right angle bracket, unless I want to use them as macro focus rails of course.
Centre of Rotation
The lower focus rail is then adjusted until the centre of the lens is over the centre of the panoramic head i.e. it's over the centre of rotation.
Ready for Calibration
The top focus rail is then turned 90° so that the lens is pointing fowards. This top focus rail is then adjusted until you find the no parallax point. I'm not going to describe how to find the no parallax point here as there are many descriptions and videos demonstrating this already on the internet. Just search with the keywords 'no parallax point' and this will return several suitable links.
This may seem like a lot of effort to go to for something you can already achieve with software. However, as I said above I don't want the software to have to distort the images to get them to align correctly. I want to get the maximum quality of final image that I can achieve. I only have to fit the panoramic head to the geared head and the top unit to the panoramic head, so there is little effort in constructing everything in the field. Also, if you maintain a table of parallax points for various focal lengths for each lens you will use, there will be little effort needed to set the no parallax point. Only you will know if you think it's worth the effort for your own images.