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The BIG Panoramic Photography Potential of CAPSULE PRO

The BIG Panoramic Photography Potential of CAPSULE PRO

The following article is not just a quick review, because in the past six months, in addition to detailed testing, I also had the opportunity to discover all the panoramic photography potential of the CAPSULE PRO with individual developments.

 

Since I have been engaged in panoramic photography, I have been interested in automated panoramic heads. I have looked at almost every product available on the market, and the idea of a unique design also crossed my mind. I had several motorized panoramic heads, but there was always too much compromise. I've been looking for a lightweight, modular, and easy-to-use product ever since.

This is why I paid attention to motorized time-lapse rotators, which can easily be used to build an automated panoramic head. At the end of 2022, I bought a Capsule360 to test my vision with a traditional panoramic head. After that, I contacted MIOPS that I would like to write a more serious article about the new Capsule Pro in terms of panoramic photography. The company supported my idea and sent me two new Capsule Pro and a MIOPS L-bracket Pro in early 2023.

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MIOPS CAPSULEPRO

Versatile pan and tilt head for time-lapse, multi row panorama, 360 product photography and videography.

$459.00

Basically, an automated panoramic head requires only two motorized rotators (Pan & Tilt) and an L-bracket. However, since the main profile of these products is more time-lapse and other video content, their panoramic head accessory is difficult to meet the expectations of a professional panoramic photographer.

In the picture above you can see three different types of MIOPS L-bracket, their shortcomings are as follows:

  • stability and accuracy (bent thin, unbraced L-shaped plates bend from the weight of the photographic equipment, resonate when moving and taking pictures)
  • their customization is limited, so they cannot be calibrated for every camera+lens set
  • full 180° vertical rotation is not possible with larger camera and lens combinations.
  • the landscape orientation of the camera position is necessary in many cases, but it increases the length of the power arms on the L-bracket and thus also the load on the motors. This is one of the reasons why portrait orientation is more common during panoramic photography.

    Regardless of all this, MIOPS L-bracket Pro works great for time-lapse shots and videos, as well as for shooting simple panoramas. A lightweight accessory with good mounting and fastening mechanics for two-axis movement.

    In my opinion, when it comes to panoramic photography, there is much greater potential in Capsule Pro. This, however, requires a more well-thought-out L-bracket, which is structurally closer to the design of traditional panoramic heads.

    Since there are quite a few simple and modular L-plates on the Internet that I also have, I started building from them in the first place. The image below shows the very first version.



    Although it worked quite well, I was not entirely satisfied with it. I started studying the MIOPS L-bracket Pro, because placing the Tilt motor on the other side was a really good idea:


    I wanted to transfer this solution into my version of L-bracket, but this required more serious planning and manufacturing. Finally, the following custom-made parts were added to my improved panoramic head:

    In this case, the Tilt arm is just a simple macro rail, which has also got some modifications. Of course, there are other panoramic heads that contain such macro rails, but in this case I only chose them because of their simplicity and thinness.

    After the production of special accessories, let's see what components my panoramic head for Capsule Pro consists of. Of course this is only one concept among many, and it’s also just a quick presentation. Within this line, it is possible to design a completely new product or to expand the function of an already existing product with only a few additional components.

    Since the rotating part taken from the MIOPS L-bracket has been placed on top of the vertical Arca Swiss Plate, the Tilt Capsule Pro is a little higher than necessary. This is of course useful in many cases, but it would still be better to create a shorter or adjustable version.

    Let's see how the panoramic head looks with some photographic equipment. The picture below shows a combination of a Nikon D5100 type DSLR camera body and a Nikkor AF 85mm f1.8D lens.

    This version supports portrait-oriented camera mounting in this form, but a landscape-oriented MIOPS component can also be easily connected to this design.

    This type of panoramic head construction has the following advantages:

    • The head can be adjusted in the direction of both axes, so the nodal point can be calibrated for many more camera+lens combinations within certain limits.
    • Stability and accuracy
    • The possibility of making a full spherical panorama
    • It can be disassembled quickly and easily, so it takes up less space for storage and transport.
    • In portrait position, the camera puts less strain on the Tilt motor, leaving more power for movement.

      Now let's see the practical examples, because in the last six months I managed to test the panoramic skills of the Capsule Pro in really special locations.

      1.) Main Hall of the Town Hall - Győr (Hungary)

      Depending on the conditions and the amount of images, a panorama can even be taken with some manual panoramic head. However, if the camera is located at a height that is difficult to reach, the use of an automated head is already indispensable. When creating high-resolution, so-called gigapixel panoramas, especially in the case of interior spaces, it is necessary to position the camera vertically in the center of the space too. Without that, it’s almost impossible to adjust the focus in all directions properly.

      Technical details of photography:

      • Camera: Nikon D5100 (16MP) - Sensor: Crop

      • Lens: Nikon AF-S 35mm f/1.8G - Focal Length: 35

      • Camera orientation (Layout): Portrait

      • Camera height: 4m

      • Aperture: f16

      • Shutter Speed (0EV): 1/2s

      • ISO: 250

      • Exposure bracketing: 0EV, -2.0EV, +2.0EV (for HDR)

      • Total photo: 399

      • Total shooting directions: 133

      • 19 column and 7 row - Overlap: 30%

      • Total shooting time: about 30min

      • Panorama size: 48.000 x 24.000 pixel (full 360° x 180° spherical type)

      The MIOPS Capsule Pro starts the horizontal rotation between two positions with a slight acceleration and ends with the same amount of deceleration. This is extremely useful in order to minimize the vibrations caused by the movement of the panoramic head, as this way the images will be sharp even with slower shutter speeds.

      With the Capsule Pro, it’s possible to use Exposure bracketing to create HDR panoramas. The desired bracketing values and the continuous shooting mode must be set on the camera. In the MIOPS application, you only need to make sure that the exposure time is set to a value that covers the duration of recording the entire bracketing series.

      Click on the picture to view the end result
      Click on the picture to view the end result

      2.) Library of ELTE - Budapest (Hungary)

      The size of gigapixel panoramas can be increased by the resolution of the cameras and the focal length of the lens. Of course, the combination of sensor size and crop factor can also influence how many images can be taken with the same lens to create a complete spherical panorama. With a bigger camera sensor, we can save time due to fewer photos, but in this case we either increase the focal length of the lens or the resolution of the camera to compensate for the lack of a crop factor.

      In the huge interior of ELTE's (Eötvös Loránd University) library, the angle of view of the 50mm prime lens worked perfectly. With a higher resolution full-frame camera, fewer images could have been used to create an even higher resolution panorama.

      Technical details of photography:

      • Camera: Nikon D5100 (16MP) - Sensor: Crop

      • Lens: Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G - Focal Length: 50

      • Camera orientation (Layout): Portrait

      • Camera height: 6m

      • Aperture: f16

      • Shutter Speed (0EV): 1/2s

      • ISO: 400

      • Exposure bracketing: 0EV, -2.0EV, +2.0EV (for HDR)

      • Total photo: 840

      • Total shooting directions: 280

      • 28 column and 10 row - Overlap: 30%

      • Total shooting time: about 45min

      • Panorama size: 70.000 x 35.000 pixel (full 360° x 180° spherical)

      One Capsule Pro weighs 458g, while in my case the entire panoramic structure including the two rotators was 1700g. With these values, the automated panoramic head of MIOPS is considered a rather lightweight device, as it can be loaded with a camera system of up to 2000g when weighted to the center. These parameters allow precise panoramic photography at heights of up to 10 meters when using a sufficiently stable high tripod.

      Click on the picture to view the end result
      Click on the picture to view the end result

      3.) Hungarian Parliament at night - Budapest

      There are times when we don't need to capture the full 360-degree panoramic coverage. In case a larger building is the subject of the selected panorama, it’s worth taking photos from a distance to minimize distortion due to the angle of view of the matched panorama.

      Camera position and panoramic angle of view

      In this case, in the panorama menu of the MIOPS application, the area to be recorded must be narrowed down by setting the starting (A) and ending (B) points. If we only use one Capsule Pro, we only have the option of horizontal movement, but with two rotators we can already calibrate for two-axis shooting.

      Technical details of photography:

      • Camera: Nikon D5100 (16MP) - Sensor: Crop

      • Lens: Nikon AF 85mm f/1.8D - Focal Length: 85

      • Camera orientation (Layout): Portrait

      • Aperture: f11

      • Shutter Speed: 3s

      • ISO: 100

      • Total shooting directions: 20

      • 10 column and 2 row - Overlap: 30%

      • Total shooting time: about 3min

      • Panorama size: 27.243 x 15.325 pixel

      4.) Pappas Auto Showroom - Budapest (Hungary)

      For virtual tours, it is usually not necessary to create gigapixel spherical panoramas consisting of many photos. Moreover, the most common and fastest method does not even require a two-axis panoramic head, since a 360-degree photo can be combined from up to four images with a circular fisheye lens. With so few images, it may seem almost unnecessary to automate the process of panoramic photography.
       

      However, accuracy and speed are always very important factors. The Showroom of Pappas Auto contained a lot of reflective surfaces, so before each exposure the photographer had to hide and then return to the camera again due to the manual rotation of the panoramic head. The single Capsule Pro used during the photography made the job very easy, and the bracketing image sequences were completed perfectly.

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