PanoMoments are completely hardware agnostic. You can theoretically capture them with just about any camera. Below is a brief list of the various items you'll need. Make sure to read the following sections for more details on compatible robotic panorama heads, cameras, and lenses.
The most important piece of gear is something called a robotic panorama head. These devices allow you to automatically rotate your camera while capturing frames. See below for a list of compatible robotic panorama heads.
|Name||Price||Fastest Rotation||Still Burst Control||Video Control||Confirmed Compatibility||PanoMoments Workflow Rating|
|Alpine Labs Radian||$||60 Seconds||No||No||Yes||Decent|
|Seitz Roundshot VR Drive||$$$||-||No||No||-||-|
|Syrp Genie / Mini||$$ / $||-||No||No||Yes||Decent|
One of the biggest benefits of PanoMoments is their ability to utilize high quality still photos captured using larger sensor format cameras (Full Frame, M43, APS-C, etc.) compared to dedicated 360 cameras which are often lower quality. Depending on the type of motion you’d like to capture (stop motion vs. smooth motion) you will need to use either the “Shoot, move, shoot” or “Continuous capture” mode of your rotating panorama head. The former will allow you to capture stop motion timelapses across longer rotations (ie. greater than 180 seconds). The latter will allow for the capture smoother motion using shorter rotations (ie. less than 60 seconds) that feel more natural / real time. The type of motion captured is mainly a creative decision, however, your camera choice will impose limitations to the frame rate you can capture with: the higher the capture frame rate the smoother the motion in the scene will be. And the higher the capture rate, the faster you can rotate your camera. Your goal is to get around 300 frames in 360 degrees, so this could be 5fps across a 60 second rotation, 60fps across a 5 second rotation, or something wild like 1 frame per day across 300 days. Remember that when shooting in video you'll likely end up with lower quality footage due to additional compression and alsa a smaller field of view given the narrower 16x9 crop.
There are many compatible cameras out there, and there is no right choice. It depends on your budget and the type of motion you're looking to capture (smooth motion requires high frame rate capture - either in still burst or video). If you're looking to shoot longer rotations (>180 seconds) pretty much any camera will work as you won't be running into buffer/memory speed limitations of the camera. For shorter rotation captures (<180 seconds), most cameras will be limited by their buffer memory which means you’ll need to test your camera’s capabilities before going out for a shoot. High speed and long duration burst capture is relatively uncommon amongst still cameras. We recommend mirrorless cameras that offer fully silent electronic shutters and compatibility with the new UHS-II memory card standard. Check out the growing list of recommended compatible cameras but note that it is not at all representative of the entire spectrum of compatible cameras; it's just the one we've been able to test.
|Rank||Camera Model||Silent E-Shutter||UHS-II Support||Recommended Lens||Notes|
|1||Panasonic GH5||Yes||Yes||Meike 6.5mm f/2.0||Shoots 6k 30p and 4k 60p in addition to still bursts|
|2||Fuji X-T2||Yes||Yes||Meike 6.5mm f/2.0|
|3||Fuji X-Pro2||Yes||Yes (slot 1)||Meike 6.5mm f/2.0|
|4||Panasonic GH4||Yes||No||Meike 6.5mm f/2.0||Large buffer makes up for lack of UHS-II support|
|5||Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II||Yes||Yes||Meike 6.5mm f/2.0||Burst shooting reliable only at ISO <= 1600|
|6||Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark II||Yes||Yes||Meike 6.5mm f/2.0||Burst shooting reliable only at ISO <= 1600|
|7||Sony A6500||Yes||No||Meike 6.5mm f/2.0||Large buffer makes up for lack of UHS-II support|
When looking for a suitable fisheye lens, find one that captures at least 180 degrees on the long edge of your camera’s sensor. This can be determined by finding a sample photo of that particular lens/camera combination or testing out the lens in person. If you see a circular image with black regions surrounding, then it means the fisheye is capturing at least 180 degrees in that direction. It’s okay if the short edge of the sensor crops the circle a little, but if it’s heavily cropped (likely on video cameras or still cameras in video mode) you may not have enough horizontal FOV to create a PanoMoment with a natural viewing angle (see Virtual Reality support below).
VR playback will be limited to PanoMoments with a minimum of 115 degrees horizontal x 150 degrees vertical captured to ensure compatibility with head tilting. This means that circular fisheye lenses (with black areas fully surrounding the image) are the best choice as they capture 180+ degrees in both horizontal and vertical directions. It is possible to maintain VR support with a partial circular fisheye lenses (cropped edges of the circle) but this will depend on the amount of the crop. Fisheye lenses are heavily compressed towards the edges so even a tiny crop can result in a large loss of usable FOV. If you don’t care about VR support, you can capture with a full-frame / diagonal fisheye (ie. no black areas) or an ultra-wide rectilinear lens. The resulting viewable horizontal and vertical field of view will be limited depending on the captured FOV and number of photos. If you choose to capture with an ultra-wide rectilinear lens, we recommend a maximum of 14mm (in 35mm equivalent) to provide enough field of view to produce an engaging PanoMoment.
Lenses that are electronically coupled to the camera can actually cause a slight flicker between subsequent shots due to the aperture blades not closing exactly the same way for each shot. Thus, we recommend shooting with fully manual lenses, or lenses adapted from one system to another. Note that this is not an issue if you're shooting video as the iris maintains a constant aperture throughout the shot.
|Mount||Recommended Lens||FOV||Video Mode Compatible|
|Micro 4/3||Meike 6.5mm f/2.0||190 x 125 degrees||Depends on sensor crop (usable on GH4/GH5 in 4:3 or 1:1 crop, not usable in 16:9)|
|Fuji X||Meike 6.5mm f/2.0||190 x 190 degrees||Yes|
|Fuji GFX||Rokinon/Samyan 8mm f/3.5 HD + 35mm Adapter||180 x 180 degrees||Yes|
|Sony E||Meike 6.5mm f/2.0||190 x 190 degrees||Yes|
|Sony FE||Rokinon/Samyang 7.5mm f/3.5 + Nodal Ninja Conversion||180 x 180 degrees||Yes|
|Sony Alpha||Rokinon/Samyan 8mm f/3.5 HD||180 x Unknown degrees||No|
|Pentax K||Rokinon/Samyan 8mm f/3.5 HD||180 x Unknown degrees||No|
|Canon EF-S||Lensbaby 5.8mm f/3.5||180 x 180 degrees||Yes|
|Canon EF||Rokinon/Samyan 8mm f/3.5 HD||180 x Unknown degrees||No|
|Canon EF-M||Meike 6.5mm f/2.0||190 x 190 degrees||Yes|
|Nikon FX||Rokinon/Samyan 8mm f/3.5 HD||180 x Unknown degrees||No|
|Nikon DX||Lensbaby 5.8mm f/3.5||180 x 180 degrees||Yes|
|Lens||Image Circle||M43||APS-C||Full Frame||Electronically Coupled|
|Rokinon/Samyang 8mm||~33mm||-||-||Cropped Circular||No|
|Nikon 10.5mm||28.4mm||-||Diagonal||Cropped Circular||Yes|
|Canon 8-15mm||Min ~24mm||-||Diagonal||Circular -> Diagonal||Yes|
|Rokinon/Samyang 7.5mm||~23mm||Diagonal||Cropped Circular - E-mount only with adapter||Cropped Circular - FE-mount only with adapter||No|
|Sigma 8mm||22mm||-||Cropped Circular||Circular||Yes|
|Meike 6.5mm f/2.0||~16mm||Cropped Circular||Circular||Circular (FE-mount only)||No|
|Yasuhara Madoka 7.3mm||15.1mm||Cropped Circular||Circular (E-mount only)||Circular (FE-mount only)||No|
|Lensbaby 5.8mm||14.6mm||Cropped Circular||Circular||Circular||No|
|Sunex 5.6mm||14.5mm||Cropped Circular||Circular||Circular||No|
|Entaniya 2.3mm MFT Fisheye||-||Circular||Circular||Circular (FE-mount only)||No|
|Entaniya 3.0mm MFT Fisheye||-||Circular||Circular||Circular (FE-mount only)||No|
|Entaniya 3.6mm MFT Fisheye||-||Cropped Circular||Circular||Circular (FE-mount only)||No|
|Fujinon 1" C Mount 2.7mm||8.6mm||Circular||Circular||-||No|
For each camera/lens combination you will be using to capture PanoMoments, you’ll need to create a calibration template file that contains the necessary information to convert from Fisheye projection to Equirectangular projection. This file includes the following information:
Once you have created this template file, it’s only a few quick easy clicks to batch convert a set of images. There’s really only one adjustment you may need to make every time you convert a set of images. Small knocks/bumps and focus changes can move the image circle on the sensor by a few pixels, and this can be enough to throw off the cropping (this also does technically change other image parameters slightly but you'll never notice it). But that’s it, once you have the template file built, it’s very easy to convert from Fisheye to Equirectangular.
Standard 360 cameras capture in all directions at once, whereas PanoMoments only allow you to see ~120 horizontal degrees at a given instant. This fundamental difference allows you to more easily direct both the subjects and the viewer’s attention. With the exception of the extreme edges of the frame, everything captured by the camera during its rotation will be seen by the viewer as they pan around. One of your goals as a photographer should be to make sure there are interesting elements throughout the 360 degrees rotation, whether that’s movement, interesting visual details, etc.
You can capture a PanoMoment in as few as 36 shots with a full circular fisheye lens, but if you really want the PanoMoment to feel engaging and smooth (if you're capturing with parallax - see below), you’ll likely want to capture many more frames. Note that the exact number doesn’t matter; it could be 127, 363, or 4101 frames (though the uploader is limited to 540 frames for now). We typically like to shoot between around 300 frames.
Your camera’s capture frame rate directly controls the type of motion you can capture - either smooth or stop motion. Even though most modern still cameras advertise high burst rates (ie. 10-15fps), they typically are only capable of recording 1-3fps in long (over 60 seconds) periods. Make sure to test your camera’s capabilities and to use the fastest compatible memory card to maximize your capture rate. Even with a modest capture rate of 2fps you’ll be able to capture interesting stop motion PanoMoments in a 60-180 second rotation. Note that pretty much any camera is capable of capturing long timelapse PanoMoments (> 3 minute rotations) since the effective capture rate is extremely low. Take a look through the Required Gear section for a growing list of camera models and their capabilities.
If you’d like your PanoMoment to have smoother movement (ie. people moving or water flowing) then you’ll need to use a video camera recording at least 30fps. This likely means you’ll need to capture in a compressed format like .MP4 or .MOV which will result in a lower quality capture compared to a still camera capturing in RAW or high quality JPEG. Also remember that when shooting in video modes you’ll likely have a narrower vertical field of view (16:9 vs. 3:2 or 4:3) compounded by a larger crop factor (some cameras sample from the entire sensor in video mode, and some crop from the middle) - so you might need to use a difference fisheye lens with a smaller image circle when shooting in video mode on a still camera.
Typically when you shoot panoramic photos you want to position your camera on the ‘No Parallax Point’ (NPP). This allows the camera to be rotated about its optical center and results in seamless stitching. However, this isn’t how your eyes see things when you rotate your head. While it does allow you to pan around a panoramic photo, it ends up feeling very static as you don’t get to “see around” objects as you pan your view. Since PanoMoments don’t rely on standard photographic stitching, you are free to position your camera away from the NPP (80mm in front of NPP is about ideal). This allows you to capture realistic motion parallax in the horizontal direction and feels much more natural during panning.
If you choose to shoot with horizontal parallax you’ll need to capture more frames to create smooth transitions, even for entirely still scenes with no movement. This is due to the nature of parallax where objects at various depths in your scene will move at different speeds relative to each other. If you have too few frames you’ll see visual parallax “pop/jump” when you pan. If you are capturing with parallax, we recommend a minimum of 180 frames.
If you’d like to shoot without horizontal parallax, you’re free to lower the frames to around 36, but you may still want to capture many more if there is motion in the scene.
There is no right answer for calculating the time period for a rotation. It’s mainly a creative choice, but light conditions and camera capabilities do play a role. If you’re shooting outside on a bright sunny day and have a camera capable of high frame rate capture (> 30fps), you can complete a continuous shooting rotation in a little as 10 seconds (any shorter and you may have issues with rolling shutter), but you should also experiment with slower captures (60-180 seconds) or even crazy long multi hour/day captures. The key point to remember is that the capture time influences the speed of motion on playback. Ie. Capturing a rotation in 120 seconds and rotating the full 360 degrees on viewing in 12 seconds would result in 10x realtime playback speed, ie. fast forward. It is important to note that if there is no motion in the scene, the time speed up/down effect will not be discernible.
Depending on light conditions, you’ll be able to shoot in two primary rotation modes using your automatic panorama rotating head: SMS (shoot, move, shoot) and Continuous (capture while rotating). The former is useful for shooting in lower light conditions where motion blur due to camera rotation is a concern, and the latter is useful for when you want a faster rotation and you have enough light to shoot at a high enough shutter speed to freeze any blurring effect of the camera rotation.
Tip - When shooting with artificial lighting (in particular indoors), you'll most likely need to shoot with a shutter speed <= 1/100th second to eliminate any lighting flicker. This means that you won't be able to do rotations faster than around 30 seconds (see the Min Shutter Speed equation in the section below).
Also important to consider is that when shooting in burst or video mode, you don't want to be recording when the rotator is on its acceleration/deceleration phases. To compensate for this, you should rotate a little bit more than 360 degrees (380 - 400 degrees is good) and then trim the excess frames from the beginning/end of the photo set.
While light conditions are likely different at various points around the 360 degree rotation, you most likely don’t want to shoot in any automatic exposure mode (P, A, S, or Auto) as the light levels will jump too abruptly (in ⅓ or ½ exposure stops) as you pan around the PanoMoment. We recommend shooting in full manual exposure and white balance modes. That way you don’t have any exposure jumps as you pan, and if you find that you must adjust light levels, you can do it in post processing with much more granularity than ⅓ or ½ exposure stops.
Regardless of shooting in SMS (shoot, move, shoot) or Continuous capture modes, you’ll need to pay special attention to your shutter speeds. Sometimes you may want blurring of moving subjects in your scene, but you likely don’t want the still environment to be blurred. For continuous rotations, a good rule of thumb is to keep the
Min Shutter Speed = 100 * Capture RPM Ie. if you're rotating at 2 RPM (30 second rotation) you should shoot at 1/200th second shutter or faster.
If you're shooting in SMS we recommend shooting in your camera’s RAW capture mode. This provides the highest possible quality and much more freedom in post processing compared to JPEG. Burst mode still capture most likely will require you to shoot in JPEG as RAW files take up more more buffer memory per shot. If you’re shooting with a video camera you most likely won’t have a RAW option (except in high end cinema or machine vision cameras) so you’ll want to choose whatever the highest quality/resolution setting your video camera provides.
Depending on your camera/rotator setup and capture mode (SMS vs. Continuous) you may end up using your camera’s built-in intervalometer, video capture mode, continuous burst mode, or the rotator’s trigger to start the capturing process. Set up your rig at home and test out a slow rotation with your rotator’s SMS mode, then take it outdoors in bright sunlight to try a continuous capture. The most important detail of the capture is ensuring that each frame is at an equal angular distance (ie. for 360 frames each frame should be at 1 degree increments). If there is large deviation between frames then you will notice alignment errors (ie. judder / jumping) when viewing the PanoMoment.
If you're capturing in a continuous rotation in burst/video mode, you will likely end up with more than 360 degrees worth of photos. Before converting and uploading, you need to ensure that the photo set contains the exact amount of photos to cover a 360 degree circle. Assuming you have a precise rotator, you should be able to just pick the First Frame index that is after the acceleration phase, and then just count to find the last frame. Ie. If you're capturing at 6 FPS with 1 RPM rotation across 400 degrees, and you determine that a safe First Frame is the 10th photo due to acceleration, you can calculate the
End Frame = (First Frame + (FPS * 60 / RPM) - 1) In this example that would be 369.
Make any edits you'd like in your favorite photo editor (Lightroom, Aperture, etc.)
After your capture is complete, you'll need to batch convert the entire photo set into Equirectangular projection (and optionally correct any lens distortion). You're welcome to use any traditional stitching programs such as PTGui, Hugin, or Autopano, but remember you won't be using the actual stitching functions of these programs. You're simply changing the projection to Equirectangular and setting the output FOV to correspond to the maximum of the horizontal and vertical FOV captured. See the lens calibration section for a walkthrough of creating a project/lens template so that the process can become an easy 3 click workflow.