Using a Panorama Head

One of the best ways to shoot panoramic images is with a panorama head. Novoflex makes a series of what they call panorama plates and the rest of us call panorama heads. At photokina the company added two new versions of these precision-machined products. Like all support-related products, the Novoflex Panorama=Q and the more expensive Panorama=Q Pro are media-passive, not digital specific, so you can use either one with a film camera or digital SLR.

The free rotating Panorama=Q has two 180 degree scales with 10 degree markings and an integrated spirit level to help maintain exact horizontal adjustment of the camera. A knob lets you accurately lock the camera into any desired position. The integrated quick release is part of Novoflex’s Q=Mount System and while it takes some getting used to but is surprisingly effective. The Panorama=Q PRO name reveals the professional orientation of this panorama plate and is the one I tested. A blue adjustment knob enables you to choose from eight different click stops and the numbers on the knob are the number of detents in a full circle. If you do not want any detents, turn the knob counter clockwise to 36 and use the smaller gray knob along with the 360-degree scale to lock down the camera and, in effect, turning the Pro unit into a larger version of the free rotating Panorama=Q. Otherwise you can choose between six click stops in 60° steps, eight stops in 45° steps, ten stops in 36° steps, 12 stops in 30° steps, 15 stops in 24° steps, 18 stops in 20° steps, 24 stops in 15° steps or 36 stops in 10° steps. Keep in mind that the number of steps is based on what it takes to produce a 360 degree series, not just the 3-5 shots that most panorama photographer want, but it’s there if you need it.

The Panorama=Q PRO also uses Novoflex’s Q=Mount System. Loosen the knob opposite the blue “panorama” knob and slide off the camera attachment. Next, you’ll need a screwdriver to attach the Q=mount to the base of your camera, but my Swiss Army Knife worked perfectly for the job. Slide the mounted camera back on, tighten the blue knob and it’s secure. It lacks an arrow showing which way the lens should face as in Manfrotto’s QR system. Make sure you can read the Novoflex name on the mounting from camera position, you’ll be OK. If it covers the levels; turn the camera 180 degrees.

Tip: Make sure the Panorama=Q PRO is tightly mounted on your tripod head. If it is not, the plate can shift when you move it from one click stop to another ruining the sequence and causing you to start over. Initially the plate was stiff when moving from detent to detent but as I used it seemed to warm up from being inside a cold car trunk and the motion between indents became silky smooth.

This is a five-shot panorama made with the EOS 5D in Fluorescent mode that produced clean color in a mostly fluorescent environment. Exposure was 1/8 sec at f/9.0 at ISO 6540. Lens was Canon’s EF 22-55mm f/4-5.6 zoom at 29mm. © 2011 Joe Farace All Rights Reserved

Author: Joe Farace

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