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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.