Which lens?

Which lens for taking panoramas? That is often a question I’m asked. Here, I’ll try to share what you actually need from lenses perspective.

Start Simple

Your default lens. For Canon systems, it is often the 18-55mm that is often bundled with your shiny new DSLR. It’s a good lens to start photography in general and of course to start taking panoramas. I’ve tried taking at 18mm (Sigma 18-200) and it sure works.

So why fisheyes? Wide Angles? Ultra wide angles?

1. To save time on both taking the 360 panos and post processing.

With lesser image to take, you’ll save time. Then feeding these images into stitching applications like PTGui and later Pano2VR will save a lot of processing time. For example, I have been using my Canon 40D with a EF-S 10-22mm. I take 25 images for a full pano. If it’s in HDR, I’ll take 75 photos. Feeding these images into PTGui alone will take time, let alone generating the control points, doing HDR Fusion, setting perfecting the pano in Panorama Editor then exporting../ but I get good quality panos.

Now, I have been using the Nikon P5100 with a FC-E8. All I need is 4 images. HDR? There’s auto bracketing in the P5100, 15 images. Minus the time needed to process bracketed images in Photomatix rather than PTGui, it only takes 3-4 minutes to generate a 360 equirectangular image compared to 75 HDR images from the 40D’s around an hour.

…and yes, I am looking around for a new setup for the DSLR.

2. Capturing some really unique panos (eg concert where thousands of people are moving around)

Panographers who wishes to freeze everything needs to take as little shots as possible and some really beautiful panos can be done with such little shots.

How wide is wide?

Just how wide is wide? First you have to understand that there’s “cropping” in DSLR and depending on model to model, brand to brand, the crop size is different. Below is a very good comparison (for a Canon 40D).

Above Copyright Julie K. Used with Permission.

Above description:

Sigma 4.5mm circular fisheye
Sigma 8mm circular fisheye
Sigma 10mm fisheye
Canon 15mm fisheye

1.3x – Canon 1D/1D MkIIN
1.5x – Nikon D40/D50/D70/D70s/D80/D200/D2XD2Hs Minolta 7D/Fuji S3 Pro Pentax *istDS/K100D/K110D/K10D
1.6x – Canon EOS 300D/400D/20D/30D
2.0x – Olympus E-400/E-500/E-300/E-1

The 15mm fisheye on a 5D does give a wider picture. I tried it during 2007 Christmas here. The sensor on the 5D is spectacular, I can see difference in the final panos using the exact same steps and workflows.

Full Circular

There’s a lot of fascination and maybe a few raised eyebrows when it comes to full circular images like the one above but they are perfect for 360 panos. It’s also great for aerial panos too which I have dabbled in…well sort of. It proves a lot can be done with full circular images.

So just how many images you need?

It’s not meant to be followed religiously but, as a guide:

10mm – 12 x images around at +45 degrees, 12 x images around at -30 degrees + 1 x nadir images = total 25 images.

8mm – 6 images around, 1 x zenith and 1 x nadir = total 8 images

4.5mm – 3 images around + 1 x nadir = 4 images.

For others who must make do with circular images, the Sigma 4.5mm I posted about here has got to be the best option money can buy. It works on cropped sensors.

So, create a style of your own, know what kind of panoramas you want to shoot and choose the best option for you that will balance weight, ease of use, post production and budget. Don’t forget to have fun!

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