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Thread started 19 Aug 2005 (Friday) 13:55
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Nodal Ninja Panoramic Head Review

 
Scottes
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Aug 19, 2005 13:55 |  #1

Well after 3 weeks of pretty steady shooting panos with the Nodal Ninja I have some comments. In short, it's not strong/tall/long enough for the 20D with moderate (75mm - 100mm) telephoto lenses. It is very good with shorter lighter lenses though. Though I haven't tried it, I'm sure it's excellent with a fixed-lens point & shoot camera.

The Nodal Ninja has an upper weight limit of 3 pounds. Come to find out, this is not enough for the gear that I own and wish to use.

20D + battery - 27 oz
17-40 - 18 oz
Tamron 28-75 - 24 oz
Canon 50mm 1.8 - 5 oz
Sigma 105mm Macro - 16 oz

So the 20D with the Tamron is over weight, the 17-40 and 105mm are close. The Tamron and Sigma are long, however, which means the tilt-arm is stressed more. The 17-40 *barely* makes it, in my opinion, and the Tamron and Sigma are too heavy and the tilt-arm sags. The sag of the upright with the Tamron was very noticeable. I didn't happen to notice when I tried the Sigma. The tilt-arm slipped a lot with the Tamron, and again I didn't notice with the Sigma. With the 17-40 any sag or slippage of either arm was manageable. Though Nick states 3 pounds for a limit I'd suggest no more than 2-1/2.

I did use it for a bit with the 50mm lens, which is light and small. The NN performed flawlessly, and this combo is probably my best choice. But 50mm is too short for what I want to do.

With the short upright of the older NN model I have you simply can't tilt up enough with the 20D. The newer model is supposed fix this.

The tilt arm, even with the extender piece, is not long enough for either the Sigma or the Tamron at 75mm. At these lengths parallax is not so apparent so this isn't much of an issue as long as I plan for this.

Because of the size and weight of my equipment I wish the base were larger, much larger.

I did not find the angle degree marks to be accurate enough. The "notch" on the bases allows for some slop, I think, since it is kinda wide and slopes near the edge of the base. I would definitely prefer a thin white line right to the edge of the base.

Since the base is rather small the angle degree marks are close together. Larger diameter bases would allow more room for the angle marks, and thus it would be more accurate. I think it would also make the upper arms more stable, since these would lean less with a large base.

I find that I *really* wish it had detents. I doubt that I would choose another pano head without them.

Now that I'm done "trashing" the Nodal Ninja I want to clarify and add some things. For one, several of the things I mention are nitpicks and minor. Others would actually detract from the Nodal Ninja - for instance a larger base would make it heavier, more expensive, and less portable. Other things are mentioned because I'm an obsessive accuracy nut who goes beyond what's necessary.

Nick clearly states that the NN has a weight limit of 3 pounds. The gear that I have and wish to use is close to or more than 3 pounds. My fault and my problem, not the Nodal Ninja's. To be very clear, the Nodal Ninja is simply not for me. Otherwise I find it to be an excellent piece of equipment at an excellent price, and can highly recommend it for a camera that is lighter than mine.


I really want to do multi-row panos with my Canon 70-200 L, and there's no way the Nodal Ninja will handle that. I'll have to use my 3-way head, and I'll need to make/get some type of extension bar to move the lens back enough to get the nodal point above the center of the tripod. My 3-way head's up/down tilt point is about 1" off center, so this will introduce some parallax errors but hopefully it won't be too noticeable at the longer lengths. Would this inch make a difference at 200mm? If I'm careful? [Answer from a couple gurus: No, it won't make a difference if I'm careful not to include anything too close, and that's unlikely because of the short DoF at longer lens lengths.]

Otherwise, for the wide-angle (and short telephoto) lenses, I'm thinking that the Kaidan QuickPan Spherical would be my choice, but it's about $400. That's a lot. There's always the possibility that I could build one out of wood and/or aluminum, but there are a few design issues - particularly with detents - that will be a problem.


Anyway, if you're using light equipment, I can strongly recommend the Nodal Ninja.

Also, if you do panos, I strongly recommend PTAssembler, Enblend, and Autostitch. PTGUI and Smartblend that are choices for PTA and Enblend respectively.


You can take my 100-400 L away when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.
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nodalninja
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Oct 31, 2005 13:43 |  #2

Hi Scottes,
This is my first post so hear goes.
I recently sold my Nikon equipment, well OK I'm keeping the CP8800 but the D70 and D2X is history. I'm now moving into the world of Canon so was just looking for a good Canon support group while pursuing VR Photography both professionally and as a hobby. As my user name may imply I'm not here to plug the Nodal Ninja pano head but will offer advice and supportive comments when appropriate.

On that note....
Thanks for the in-depth review of the Nodal Ninja (NN).
I see you posted this 19th of August and you mentioned you had the NN for 3 weeks which would put your purchase around the end of July meaning you have the early model SPH-1.
We've grown.
We now have the SPH-1i (improved). As the SPH-1 was originally designed for smaller prosumer cameras the SPH-1i tackles some of the earlier challenges users of DSLR's were encountering. The biggest improvement is the upper vertical arm is much more stable due to a differently designed tightening knob. Other improvements include a higher quality bubble level and better finish.
The SPH-1i will work fine with the Canon 20D. The only limitation you may encounter, as you pointed out, would be if doing multirow panos. You can get about a 40-60 degree tilt up so if doing a zenith shot, and depending on the AOV of the lens, this may need to be done manually. I don't find it a big deal as I shoot my nadir by hand anyway (to avoid tripod footprint) so flipping the camera up and shooting the zenith is just as quick and easy.
Here’s a recent 74 shot 360x180 degree spherical pano I did using the Nodal Ninja and a Canon EOS 5D w/17-40mm.
http://circularworlds.​com/chimney_beach.html (external link)
It's far from pro level as I'm still climbing the learning curve. The only problem I had was leveling the tripod in the sand - one leg sunk a bit causing the horizon to tilt during rotation - grrrr. It shows the Nodal Ninja will work fine however under similar circumstances. For those needing the full tilt up and detents stay tuned - we have a new model due out very soon. We will be offering a VERY generous upgrade discount to all current users of Nodal Ninja.

On the other issues you mentioned the NN should work fine with your 17-40, Tamron 28-75, and the Canon 50mm. It will not work (placed on its side in portrait mode) with lenses reaching 70mm+.
HOWEVER you can shoot single row panos using lenses up to 300mm by simply rearranging the bracket rail. The vertical rail can actually be attached to the lower horizontal arm giving a full 9 inches (210mm) of adjustment. So you could slap that Sigma 105mm on there as well.

On the issue of detents (click stops), personally I don't like them. The clearly marked demarcations allow accurate and planned movement both on the vertical and horizontal axis. Click stops, for me, sometimes get in the way as you are committed to those set points. Swapping lenses, changing the focal length of a zoom, or using a long lens can be a draw back if you want or need to shoot between click stops. But for those using the same lens all the time in the same scenario like Real Estate VR tours click stops can be advantageous.

With the amount of sag you are encountering (doesn't sound right even with the SPH-1) I would be happy to swap you for the SPH-1i at no cost. Just contact me for the arrangements. We want you to be satisfied with our product - if you feel the Nodal Ninja is not working for you I would be more than happy to issue you a FULL refund even though it's past the 30 days. I hope you will select the free trade up so we not only keep you as a satisfied customer but so we can add your detents later down the line as well ;-)a

Thanks
Bill


Gallery: http://circularworlds.​com/gallery.html (external link)

  
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Scottes
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Oct 31, 2005 14:43 |  #3

Bill, thanks very much for the offer for the trade-up. I definitely do have the early SPH-1 - I think I was a pretty early adopter of the Nodal Ninja.

I haven't used the NN in some time - I've been doing a lot of long-range panos in the 200mm range so I've been using a gear head with little concern for parallax issues. However, if you've used the NN with a 5D and 17-40 then this makes me think I've been doing something wrong. I'll have to take another look at things and make a serious attempt to get it right. And I'll do it home, rather than make a hurried attempt in the field.

I'll give it a shot when I get a chance, and if I find that you're right I'll post a correction about user error. If I still find problems with these lenses then I'll take you up on the trade-in.

I have to repeat that the Nodal Ninja "is not enough for the gear that I own and wish to use." I put this down to my expectations being too much, not a fault of the NN. What I *really* want is a multi-row pano head that can handle my 100-400 L. :-) Oh, and I want it for less than $200. :-) :-)

Really, I consider the Nodal Ninja an excellent piece of equipment and a true bargain, and I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with 2.5lb of equipment or less. Beyond that, well, all I can say is that it may not work so well.


You can take my 100-400 L away when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.
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Bruce ­ Watson
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Nov 01, 2005 16:34 as a reply to  @ Scottes's post |  #4

Scottes,

I recently bought a used Jasper Pano head (from a fellow POTN'er) and think that may be the solution you need for larger lenses/body combinations and weight.

My interest in pano photography started with the Panosauras but it has similar limitations with a DSLR and anything larger than short focal length lenses.

The Jasper, along with PTassembler and the helper programs AutoPano and Enblend will fulfill my needs for the immediate future.


Cheers,
Bruce Watson
My Camera Bag Overfloweth...........​....

  
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Scottes
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Nov 01, 2005 17:48 |  #5

Bruce,

I've looked at and like the Jasper very much. However, it seems like it does single-row panos only. I am very much into multi-row panos, so the Jasper doesn't fit me. Or am I wrong?


You can take my 100-400 L away when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.
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Bruce ­ Watson
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Nov 01, 2005 19:07 as a reply to  @ Scottes's post |  #6

There is a tilt function so the camera can be angled up or down for multiple rows.


Cheers,
Bruce Watson
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jpcmra
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Feb 18, 2006 15:25 as a reply to  @ Bruce Watson's post |  #7

Hi Scottes.
I Have just bought the Nodal Ninja and I do not know exactly how it works. I have one Canon 20D and an lens 17-40. My question is how many cm it is necessary to put in the vertical axis and in the horizontal axis?.
Thanks.




  
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Scottes
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Feb 18, 2006 15:49 |  #8

Sorry, I really have no idea any more, since I stopped using the NN some time ago. I do believe that the NN manual had a section on finding the nodal point, though.


You can take my 100-400 L away when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.
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Terrywoodenpic
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Feb 23, 2006 10:00 as a reply to  @ jpcmra's post |  #9

jpcmra wrote:
Hi Scottes.
I Have just bought the Nodal Ninja and I do not know exactly how it works. I have one Canon 20D and an lens 17-40. My question is how many cm it is necessary to put in the vertical axis and in the horizontal axis?.
Thanks.

See instruction manual here http://www.fanotec.com​/downloads.htm (external link)
How to establish nodal point here http://www.edb.utexas.​edu/teachnet/QTVR/Noda​lPoint.htm (external link)

That should get you going

Terry


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wasted money cameras never on film.

  
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wcwoolf
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Apr 10, 2006 20:47 |  #10

I have an idea to enhance the supportability of heavier longer lens. A simple "L" bracket slotted for adjustment and placed on the upper horizontal rail with base support for the longer lens should help. Especially if you loosen the upper adjustment to make sure just behind the nodal point the lens is resting on the "L" bracket before tightening the upper rotator. This will rebalance the center weight more and reduce the moment arm. Here is a picture I have to illustrate what I'm talking about. Also, you could then make the upper horizontal rail longer with this added support.

Bill


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SgWRX
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Apr 14, 2006 23:13 as a reply to  @ wcwoolf's post |  #11

well, i just ordered a nodal ninja. they have a version which i think is different from the one in this thread. the sph-2L and sph-2s. the L stands for "long" and s for "short".

reading through the FAQ's i found this:

Q. How much does it sag with a heavy camera/lens combo?
A. No sag assuming you tighten the knobs appropriately and don’t put sand bags on the camera. Looks like the NN can handle up to a little more than 6 lbs.

there are some picutres of sample setups and one was a 5d with a 17-40 L. i'm hoping to see how well this unit will do wtih a 10d and 17-40 L.

i'll post a follow up when i get it - should be 1-2 weeks (the est. arrival of the next batch is the 17th of april).




  
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SgWRX
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Apr 23, 2006 22:48 as a reply to  @ SgWRX's post |  #12

i've had a chance to play around with it this weekend. i haven't taken any multi-row panos. i REALLY like this thing. the newer version is said to support up to 6.5lbs according to their website. i've used it with a 10D, 322RC2 grip-head and stable tripod. it seems easy enough to use and it's really interesting to see the image shift as you pan back and fourth if the alignment is off. it's very solid and accepts tightening very well. you can crank it down and nothing will drift. i used mirror-lock and timer shooting mode and it seems to settle down quite nicely after hitting the shutter release. i'd like to get a remote trigger though. i don't have any complaints about the image quality - though i've shot in JPG and yeah, JPG sucks after having shot raw for so long now. i used it in a park with winds calm to 5 mph and it still seemed stable enough. the lenses i've tried were 17-40mm L and 50mm f/1.4. things stitch together very well in photomerge or PTGUI (trial version). without it, photomerge failed miserably at some of the attempts i've made.

i wish two things: first that the upper horizontal rail for adjusted forward/backward were 3.5cm longer. then i wouldn't have to use the off-center adaptor to extend the fore/aft adjustment for the 17-40mm L. second, i wish the markings on the bottom rail were on the side of the rail instead of on the top-side (looking down) and that the vertical attachment had a centering mark to line up with the marks on the side.

i need to do some more tweaking and fine tuning with finding the nodal points of the two lenses and in the future i hope to get an 85mm f/1.8. but even my first few attempts have been pretty close... within a few pixels.

to me, this was a GREAT buy. the only thing is i'd watch whether or not the unit can handle longer lenses. with the 17-40mm L i still have about 1 to 2 cm to move back. i'm not sure how the size or nodal point of a 35 L, 16-35 L, 24 L or 85 L lenes compare. but i know it works for the 17-40.




  
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Nodal Ninja Panoramic Head Review
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