Pancake Rocks Punakaiki, New Zealand (South Island) Paparoa National Park
Fuji S3 Pro 2x2 (cropped)
I've always like the look of square images, but hated losing resolution on a crop. I would have like to go larger on this image, but there were too many moving elements w/ the grasses, so I figured I would just try to capture a more intimate scene. I'll post a big landscape later.
I've got a panosaurus. It does the job so far as rotating about the nodal point is concerned, but it is not a super-accurate degree-by-degree device. Feels pretty flimsy when you first get it but I've had mine a year and its taken more than its fair share of hard knocks in that time without incident.
Overall I'm very happy with it though... especially considering the price.
I use a panosaurus when I'm serious. It is a bit clunky and not very portable but as Jeefus says it does the job. Another I've seen on the web in this price bracket is the NodalNinja (from HK). Do a Google or try http://www.nodalninja.com/ A review of both these and King Pano is here http://www.tawbaware.com/ just scroll down to Equipment Tests.
I am using the NodalNinja, but I don't really thing that any of the ~$100 ones is going to be all that different. It is not the sturdiest thing in the world, but it is light and easy to hike and/or travel with.
What I do for long exposures is set the self-timer for about 5 seconds so after I press the shutter button it has a few seconds to completely stabilize. The only problem I have had with it is when it is really windy.
In regards to the panosaurus I'm not too overly concerned about the degree markings or lack of detents. I err on the side of too much overlap anyway - it's not like I'm doing metered fisheye panos. The thing I notice is the camera really is held up tall and since my 5D is quite heavy you really need to crank down on the bolts to get it to stay. Also MLU is of paramount importance, shame it's buried in the custom function menu.
I looked at the nodalninja but it seemed less appropriate for an SLR (obviously I'm wrong as it obvioulsy works with the Fuji S3)
Has anyone marked the nodal point on the lens barrel itself possibly with a dab of nail polish and attempted to just handhold the camera and make a best effort to rotate properly - seems with a little practice and possibly avoiding foreground objects it would be possible?
If you are handholding you will never get right on the nodal point - dab of nailvarnish or otherwise - but one technique I've occasionally used to get pretty close (within a couple of milimetres) is to hang a plumbline round the lens near the nodal point on a little noose and line the plumb-bob up with some fixed point on the ground. That way you know that the camera is rotating very near the nodal point in the horizontal plane at least. Vertical is another matter. Provided you don't have acres of foreground this works quite well.
Although that said see my handheld of the Monastry of Grand Chartreuse on this page:
as stiched with the Autopano Pro demo. A really nasty handheld where I was miles off the nodal point and included acres of foreground but Autopano has sorted it out very well indeed.
One futher point - the panosaurus claims it will hold up to 3 pounds of camera and lens steady. I think that in real life you could get away with 4 or 5 pounds on a still day. I've used it with my aging Canon 300D with a variety of lenses and its been pretty solid with all of them. You might have a problem in strong wind, but it will probably be your tripod that flexes before the panosaurus does.