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Tech

Useless GPS information

We found it out the hard way but hell.

Who was the stupid asshole idiot who thought that having the same GPS information on all the images captured on the Insta360 One R as the first image was a good idea?

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360 Pano Day Hi-Res iDevices Low-Res Outdoors Tech

Automated Panorama snaps with a Gimbal

The DJI range of gimbals like the Ronin, Ronin SC RS2 etc comes with the panorama function. Is it worth it with traditional pano head makers like the nodal ninja (NN) making the mecha to “automate” the taking of panorama on their existing NN range of pano heads?

I see very few videos on creating a full 360 panorama with a DJI Ronin gimbal as maybe… Panorama creation is one of the specialisation of photography with some specialised tools and software and entry price in this form of photography is somewhat high.

Nodal Point

There isn’t a proper way without a lot of rigging and modification and maybe some metal fabrication to get the camera with lens to the nodal point on the gimbal. I gave up trying and just to see how, out of the box, without spending on cages like those from Smallrig.

Camera used, Sony A7R3 with the Madoka 180 lens.

Balancing it on the gimbal is easy. Check Youtube for DJI official tutorials.

After balancing the camera and lens, you can see how offset it it from all the center points and far off it is from the usual nodal point of the lens. I tried it with a regular setup of the Canon EF 8-15mm, MC11 converter on a Sony camera as well on a SC hoping the SC can fit as this is much more affordable and light…it will not work.

Operation

Start the Ronin app > Create > Panorama, set full frame and 8mm in our case.

As you can see below, it’s weird how DJI chose to rotate the Ronin S this way. With the 8mm, it takes 5 zenith shots. Yes, it’s stupid. Then about 20 degrees upwards, 5 shots and lastly, 45 degrees downward, 5 shots. It does not know what is a nadir shot.

Set camera

  • USB Connection – PC Remote
  • PC Remote Settings > to save image to PC and Camera. Our first few panorama was not saved to SD card.

NADIR

I moved the Ronin on a tripod manually, point it down 45 degree and took one shot for the nadir. The point where the 2 lines meet was where the tripod was when taking the panorama.

Output

Bad…this is bad. It wont be usable for commercially. See all the red dots where I spotted errors.

https://vt.itcow.com/fullscreens/2021/Ronin/

Price

Turning your NN into a automated 360 panorama taking rig required different parts for different model. For the NN3, you will need 2 x C1-E1 and control unit. For the R1, you simply need 1 x mecha2 and control unit. For new purchase, the ull set of the NN3 with 2 x C1-E1 and control unit is USD $599.00 before shipping. The R1 bundle is USD $350.00 as of writing.

The Ronin SC will most probably cost less than your camera body. The Ronin S is about $780.00 as of writing.

Worth it?

No. Without the possibility of getting the nodal point AND balance the Ronin properly, there is no hope for this setup. You can however, risk it. If you have nothing close to you and need to shoot a panorama, this setup will be of no problem.

What can be done?

For this to work…

  • Out of the box provide counterweights. Yes, there is some now commercially from DJI or other manufacturers
  • A more common plate or converter that can be used to mount an existing panorama head. One can hope.
  • Nodal Ninja/ Fanotec would be easier to get the above done. They are more nimble in coming out with products but may hurt their mecha series.
  • The gimbal may have to grow in size. I hope to have the Ronin SC being modified to keep the price low for using this setup for a high pole panorama shoot without the use of a drone. Some shots are just too low for a drone but too high for a tripod.
  • Top image need not be 5 images. It makes no sense. Ronin App on phone need a “fisheye” function perhaps. and will simply take 1 image for zenith. Then at 90 degree, 3 images or 4 at most then an option to pause while we move the Ronin away for a nadir shot.
5 x zenith image don’t make sense.
  • The motors on the Ronin S can easily handle the weight, I’ve seen people mounting crazy cameras on the Ronin S on youtube. The base plate need to be made longer at the back for camera to be shifted back so as fisheye lens can be met at nodal point like the following badly photoshopped examples. Then some form of counterweight on the front.

Or, in the future, the API would finally be opened up for the Osmo Pocket (1 and 2) series for someone to come up with an app for 360 shooting like Litchi. Who has an app for the good old Osmo back in the day.

Others

Firmware updated was a pain in the ass. DJI need to up their shit. It shows “Refresh” and not “Update”. I wondered how to update for so long till I clicked “Refresh”. This is like back in the old DJI Naza days where documentation was bad and drivers require a Degree in IT to figure out how to install. The Ronin isn’t a new product, this is not acceptable.

Error updating and I can’t be bothered. See this thread…from 2019 https://forum.dji.com/thread-183794-1-1.html, if you like to waste time, my post in that thread is here.

Bracketing Panorama

It was not possible with the Ronin. The last 3 images (downward 45 degree) is ALWAYS missed. The Ronin just refuse to trigger the Sony for the last 3 shots. With single shot, it is always fine. When it comes to bracketing, it is always missed, no matter if it was set to +3 EV, 5 images or 9 images. The last 3 images are always not triggerred. Thus the above, when I tried to update the firmware but gave up.

Weight

This was one of the many important factors. If the ease of use is much much better, the weight could be tolerated I guess but ideally it should at least weigh within 20-30% range. The Ronin S on it’s own is about 1.8kg, add the camera and lens….the Nodal Ninja 3 is 600+ grams.

The Ronin, Ronin S, Ronin SC2 are available for rental at Camera Rental Centre.

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News Tech

Fujifilm GFX Panoramas

They are monstrous! They are fun! They are heavy!

Adding GFX to our arsenal of panorama has been unique. It truly offers megapixels you will not thought possible just a few years ago at the price of other medium formats. This is not a review of the GFX 100, and only concentrate on the 360 panoarama of the setup. This will also not be touching on in dept on the built in panoarama function of the camera(s).

Is doing ZZZ x ZZZ pixel worth it? Does more megapixels make the virtual tour more “immersive”?

The details of these panoramas are out of this world.

First, the setup:

  • Fujifilm GFX100, 50R and 50S, all shot with AE Bracketing, jpg+raw
    – Canon EF 8-15mm
    – Techart EF to GFX adaptor
    – Nodal Ninja R1 and RD10
    – Shots are taken 60 degrees around 6 images + 1 x nadir image totaling 7 images for a full 360 x 360 panorama.

50R

Click image to launch 50R panorama

PTGui Optimum size = 9466 x 4733 / 44.8 Megapixels

50S

With the raw files/ .RAF files, PTgui 12.7 (July 2021) was not able to detect that they are in HDR and do not stack them together. Using the same files that are in jpg format worked.

Click image to launch 50S panorama

PTGui Optimum size = 9646 x 4823 / 46.5 Megapixels

GFX 100

PTGui Optimum size = 13348 x 6674/ 89.1 Megapixels

PTGui

All panoramas are shot at 8mm, 4 images around + 1 nadir image. All stitched in PTGui and output with Pano2VR.

PTGui detected the GFX50R with no problem and applied the crop factor of 0.8x results in error when stitching at times. Using the normal 8mm with Full Frame setting resolved it. During most times, it worked flawlessly.

Alternatively, we tested out the GFX 50S and the 50R. This is the first google search result on the difference if you need it.

Why is there not a crazy high megapixel panorama?

After doing a few tests, it has got to be the fact that the 8-15mm with the EF to GFX adaptor simply do not cover the whole 100 or 50 megapixel sensors. When using a native GF lens, this will surely work.

Look at those sensors compared to the (left) Sony A7R4. (top right) GFX 100. (bottom) GFX50S

Comparison, this is the A7R4, Canon 5DSR (50mp)

Above virtual tour shot with A7R4
Canon 5DSR

We’ve seen listing the file size of the GFX 100/ 50S/ 50R as a con when websites do their review. Come on guys! It’s like listing the top speed of the sports car you bought as a con. True* high megapixels will always result in high file size! So more immersive? Maybe for some but if you require more details, this is definitely the way to go for properties that hope to keep a virtual tour as part of it’s archive or historical records like a building that will be torn down, a museum…

Clients who wishes to have the most megapixels possible, this is now a reality. Contact us [email protected]

*true megapizels do not mean those garbage 1000 megapixels that some phone companies are trying to do with their marketing.

The GFX 100, GFX 50R and GFX 50S along with some pretty sweet lenses are available for rental at Camera Rental Centre.

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Tech

The rise of Pano 4.0

Panoramas, Virtual Tour, Gigapixels and all related field of photography has been around for the last 10-15 years.

1.0

In the beginning, photographers were putting together metal rails to make their own panorama heads trying to get their nodal point corrected and camera mounted correctly and hopefully securely.

2.0

The emergence of proper hardware appears. Nodal Ninja, 360 Precision, Bushman Panoramic (etc etc) and software moved hand in hand with Hugin, PTGui, Pano2VR, KRpano, Flashicator, PangeaVR all came into the scene. It was exciting times.

3.0

The invention of many one shot solution, Ricoh Theta, Insta360 and even GoPro came into the game. They provided their own proprietary software. Some even (or exclusively) allow editing on your phone.

4.0

Many “Cloud” based application asking for monthly fees to house your panorama. Professional ones like Matterport burst into the industry capturoing a lot of users especially popular among real estate folks. There’s also Cloudpano, Metareal, Kuula, Cupix and many many more.

We hate monthly fees.

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Tech

Nodal Ninja MK3 vs the OG Nodal Ninja

10 years.

It has been over 10 years since the Nodal Ninja (NN) 3 came into the scene and it has been as long since we upgraded. These things are built like tanks and do not need replacement easily. Over the years we have added a RD6 (v1) and replaced only one of the rails from storing it badly during a trip and it got bended.

We’ve been using it for 6 months now and it’s a good time to put down what we like and don’t.

Since then, Nodal Ninja has ceased USA operation and everything is ran from Hong Kong by Nick himself. He has been helpful in getting our MK3 in during these crazy times.

Physical Changes

Weight

It is slightly heavier but with the weight savings from moving away from the Canon 5D systems, it’s generally still much weight saved.

Camera Plate

We like this new feature that sped up setting the camera up on the upper rails. Simply align the camera to the plate’s 2 vertical mini stand off and you know your camera is perfectly perpendicular.

 

Bigger Knobs

Bigger in this case, is better. Better grips.

Allen Key

This is on the NN3MK3 all the time allowing for adjustment in the field when needed.

Stoppers

New stoppers design that’s more permanent.

NN3 v1

NN3 MK3

Small Touches

Logos and names…A little too much to our liking. A plain full black will be great…

…or a simple N logo like it was on the RD6.

Overall, we have been very happy with the Nodal Ninja. It has been proven and we are very sure this will last the next 10 years or more. There has been a big surge of cheaply made ones from China and it has really flooded the market with really badly designed ones. No click stops, not even markings of the distances on the rails made with cheap metals.

April 2020.

 

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News Tech

The Insta360 One R compared

We took the Insta360 One R out for a spin. Comparing it with the Insta 360 ONE and the usual setup we use for panoramas, the A7R III and Madoka 180 lens.

Insta360 Studio 2020

It’s a wierd process of exporting the equirectangular image as the default is 6080 x 3040 but it allows you to key in anything you want but there do not seem to be any difference? The file size do increase from the default 8.43Mb to exporting 10,000 x 5000 pixel at 18.05Mb

The images quality do not seem to be any different.

Insta360 ONE

Insta360 ONE R (Standard)

Insta 360 ONE R (HDR)

Sony A7R3

One shot solutions has come a long way and we believe they excel in mostly videos. Insta360’s direction is pegged a lot on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. The editing is supposed and encouraged to be done on the phone and you can share it immediately to your preferred social media platform from there once completed. However, should any of these go away, they could be in serious trouble. In the near future, i guess they are just fine and fun little cameras to have.

There are some absolutely great engineering inside the Insta360 ONE R cameras. Strangeparts has done a tear done recently you can watch it below.

Still image quality improvement has come leaps and bounds since the early single shot solution. Since the Ricoh Theta, this really is a big big improvement. Being able to export the image out into your preferred virtual tour application is a big plus but viewing the final product, the quality is overall lacking. A DSLR or even a small micro 4/3 camera can do better.

The Insta360 One R was provided by Camera Rental Centre. Check them out for renting this great and fun little camera.

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News Tech

Is a Picasa alternative that hard?

Yeah, that Picasa from Google that organise your photos on your computer. Offline, the way you like it was no longer available back in March till May of 2016. It is still a tool we use without having to worry about rebuilding or scan or backup the catalog like Lightroom.

Every few months, it seems like there is another search for another alternative where you find tons of sites trying to game Google’s algo in search results on providing shitty alternatives to Picasa. “The Ultimate Picasa Alternative Guide 2020” or Picasa Alternatives you must try kind of bullshit articles. We’ve tried most of the suggested, from Lightroom CC to Classic, ACDsee, Faststone, Zoner. Every single one of them is not Picasa in case you are wondering. They operate differently, trying too hard to do the simplest of things or try to integrate their products into what seemed like a straight forward task. Meta data, plotting it on a map, import into Category, sub category, face recognition. It just stopped our search and trying after a while.

We just need a plain and simple Picasa alternative. So, we stuck to….Picasa. Version 3.8 with non of the face recognition bullshit.

An alternative will have to be:

  • Fast loading
  • A simple search
  • Stable (yeah, just when we thought this is a given, it is not. Lightroom catalog was splitted apart trying to make it load quicker and not have to load more than 50,000 images into a catalog. Still it stumbles)
  • Sort images the way we last set it before closing
  • Just freaking add new images to the top of the page as you find them
  • Do not require us to re-orgnised from decades of images that are already in the NAS/ SAN/ USB drives whatever.

Wish List:

  • Plotting all images with GPS data on a map
  • Face recognition
  • Data privacy
  • Fairly priced – anything below USD$100 is a good start

There seemed to be little to no money on photo organisers any more discouraging developers to move away from doing another organiser application. Picasa was popular due to it’s simplicity, at least at the beginning and nothing out there today is replicating it’s function, speed and simplicity.

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News Tech

Regenerating 13 years of panoramas

It’s been a wonderful! Looking back at my earliest panoramas from 2006/2007 and regenerating them taught me a few things.

Evergreen

New technologies do not seem to last in the pano world. There was the Flashificator, Quicktime, Deval VR and Flash panos. We all know what happen. Security problems and all that, they were killed off. Getting users to simply download a plugin is a hassle now. Viewers want something that just-works. No plugins to download and install. Works on their phone, android, iPhones, tablets. It is important to use consortium supported technologies like HTML5 which is backed by the world’s biggest tech companies. Then again, who would have thought Flash will ever come to an end…

Data longevity

Data is more important than ever. I now rely heavily on FreeNAS to store all my stuffs after a good 5 years with Drobo. After moving to FreeNAS, I know what I have been missing out. Speed and running VMs off it. You can always output to the current technology if you have the raw images. Places don’t last at times. We missed out on the Tang Dynasty panoramas. The place is no longer around and has been tore down while some images are corrupted and can no longer be stitched.

Software

Programs that are used to create these panos are generally still around, PTGui, Pano2VR are 2 that are still frequently updated. That being said, we kept images that seemed corrupted. Maybe, just maybe, one day, technology will finally catch up and simple images repair will be simple with no nonsense on websites after websites that claim to be able to repair JPG, RAW that never work.

Time to take a break after updating the panoramas over a whole month.

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News Tech

Death of QTVR and DevalVR

Plugins were the back bone of the Internet 10 maybe 20 years ago. Browsers display only the most basic of things. Javascript, HTML and images. That was it. If you need to view anything fancy, videos embedded on webpages, Java, Flash and even flash games or in our case, panoramas, you simply had to download a plugin.

Then the ease of displaying of embedded videos, youtube gone mainstream, Flash problems and there were many many problems with Flash. HTML5 did come and eased a lot of the hassle…

Much of the panoramas output in 2007 to 2010 here were in Qucktime VR or Deval VR. These 2 technologies have since been dead. QTVR since version 7, anything after that do not support VR. The exported .mov file still works for all panoramas but not many people to no one actually, will bother download a separate plugin, install it to view anything on the web now. Clients and the general public expect things to just work when loaded without separate software.

Below is one of the QTVR output we have of Tang Dynasty taken back in 2007. The place in Taman Jurong, Singapore, has since closed down.

HTML5 is as of now, 2020. The best option on mobile, iphone, ipads, tablets, android, PC, Mac, Windows, you name it. it just works. With a big consortium backed by the biggest names there is Apple, Google, Mozilla, and Microsoft), the Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group. Hope this last another decade before something new comes along. We chose not to be re-output anything that is before 2010 and left them as if, in QTVR and DevalVR format on this website. It is sad to see many sites have chose to simply closed down over the many years doing panoramas and new sites do not seem to be springing up fast enough. For now, we continue doing what we love doing and see how technologies continue to evolve doing virtual tours and panoramas.

Stay safe, stay healthy.

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News Tech

Deval Plugin

Just in case, if you are viewing DevalVR version of certain panos, you should be viewing them in full screens now in a small window right in the middle of your browser. If you are viewing them in a window, you do not have the plugin. Visit this direct link to have DevalVR installed.