Of course it isn't a mass market product right now. Instead it was taken up by the more 'experimental' pano and robotics enthusiasts and they don't typically use 'run of the mill' cameras. So users have been 'hacking' the Gigapan Imager, for example to mount DSLRs, to adapt to an electronic shutter release system, and so on in an effort to oversome what they see as the limitations of the system.
That's fair enough but it isn't the type of use that the designers originally had in mind when considering a device suitable for a mass/consumer market.
The short product life cycle of consumer pocketable point-n-shoots makes it difficult to design in camera/brand specific control features - so their solution had to be rather generic - hence the mechancial shutter servo.
Yes the current Gigapan Imager has its limitations (the battery mounting/connecting seems to be a particularly horrid weak point) - and I'm sure I would find them very annoying too - but I feel that they put quite a lot of thought into making an integrated, complete and useable system - robotic head, stitching software and web hosting service for panos - for an unsophisticated mass market at an acceptable price.
The resulting panos may often be photographically and aesthetically uninspiring and lack image quality but that's not really the point - which I believe was more in the nature of an experiment in mass market participation in the creation, publishing and sharing of hi-res panos using low cost easy to use photographic equipment , or am I mistaken?
From that standpoint I think they can be considered to have had a very considerable success. I expect they have sold many more robotic pano heads, and enabled the creation, publishing and sharing of more hi-res panos, than all the other pano hardware and software makers put together.
But I still don't want one, at least not one of the current generation (Merlin+Papywizard+APP suits me fine). A Gigapan Imager V2 might be another matter.
To better understand the reasoning behind the development of the GigaPan, please go to: http://gigapan.org/about.php
Then click the link to the Global Connection Project. From many of the comments on this forum, I can't tell that anyone has actually visited the GigaPan web site, and read through it thoroughly, let alone having actually used one successfully (Andrew & Aeris, you're absolved here!). I realise, too, that most members of the APPro Forum reside in Europe, where import duties and shipping costs may make it more difficult to obtain a GigaPan, just as my living in Honolulu makes it more difficult for me to get a Merlin (shipping out to the middle of the Pacific Ocean is very expensive). Besides, I want a self contained unit.
I have been using the GigaPan since July 2007, first as an initial Beta tester, now as a Fine Outreach for Science (fofs) grant recipient, a program sponsored by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, and funded by the Fine Family Foundation of Pittsburgh. This program puts the GigaPan unit into the hands of scientists who use the robot in their field work. The first group of scientists to recieve the GigaPan include ecologists(primarily botanists-like me), anthropologists, archaeologists, and geologists. Our work, with the tag fofs, can be viewed on http://gigapan.org
The GigaPan unit certainly has its limitations. Movement in the subject plane can be very distracting, or it can be viewed as part of the process (I won't try to make a panorama of the sometimes 6+ meter winter waves at Waimea Bay or the Banzai Pipeline, though). There are still problems with alignment of sharp edges, flagpoles, etc. The shutter release arm can work better, but I've solved the problem of the arm slipping off of the shutter button by putting double sided tape on the camera shutter button (I have a GigaPan-dedicated Canon S5-IS). Speed is not that critical for the work that I do, so I don't worry much about it. I have, though, timed the unit at about 2.5 seconds between shots at its fastest.
The stitcher, with the ability to stitch 1500+ frames, has no pre-rendering tools. That's where APPro-Giga comes into play. Once APPro-Giga V2 is completed (with the ability to align frames like the GigaPan stitcher can, while including all of the marvelous prerendering tools it already has, plus the new tools under development) it will be a great addition to any panorama photographer's toolkit.
BTW, gigapan.org allows anyone to post to the site, as long as you get a site account, and the panorama is larger than .05 gigapixels. Many of the smaller panoramas (less than 0.1 gigapixels) shown on gigapan.org are NOT taken with the GigaPan unit, but primarily are hand held or tripod assisted shots taken by beginners, or others just wanting a quick documentation of where they have been. Participation by all of you who frequent this forum would certainly be most welcome by gigapan.org.
And yes, GigaPan Systems, the Portland, Oregon, USA, company licensed to produce the GigaPan unit, is developing a DSLR version. They have not yet set a release date.
Aloha for now,