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RSS Rotator or Advanced Rotator RD16-II... or?

PostPosted: Thu Sep 27, 2012 9:05 pm
by Twilight

Very glad to be shooting stitched panoramas after a twelve year hiatus.


I shoot to print.
I typically stick to three formats: 1:2, 2.40, and 3:1. All shot in portrait orientation.
I am currently shooting single row panoramas. That may change in the future.

Gear I use:

Canon 5D MKII
Canon 24mm II, 45mm, 90mm Tilt Shift lenses. (50mm/1.2, 85mm/1.2 also, don't use 'em for panos) Thinking of adding a 135mm/f2 or a 200mm/f2 to the kit.
Really Right Stuff Pano Elements Package, BH-40 Ballhead.

I very much like RRS gear. I've had their L-Plates and Clamps on every camera I've owned.

Here is the problem: while the PCL-1 Panning Clamp has very fine degree scale (2.5° increments), is incredibly smooth and solid as a rock, my aging eyes are having a tougher time reading the degree markings on the base, especially if the light is low, or changing rapidly. So... I'm thinking of going back to an indexing head, such as this one:

I don't want to, but I think it might make my shooting process more reliable. And, I'm taking a four month photography trip to SE Asia, where I plan to do a lot of pano shooting. On the one hand, I'm guessing that the RD16 is a bit heavier, which is a downside. On the other hand, the RD16 has much finer degree gradations than other index rotators. I really do not want any mistakes when there won't be a chance to return to some of the places I'll be visiting.

Any suggestions? Does anyone on the board used or own the RD16? If so, can you tell me about the quality? Anyone else run into a similar problem and solve it a different way? Reading glasses and headlamp? :rolleyes:



PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2012 1:04 am
by Destiny
Hi Jon..

After owning a RD16 for a couple of years, I can tell you that you will not be disappointed with the RD16; the incumbents are precise and very easy to read even in bad light. The increments are not painted on as such, they are etched in.. The rotation is smooth and clicks into its position very well at all locations so the whole thing rotates very smoothly.. The taught is just right too for my Nodal Ninja 4... Also, remember if you do get issues, you can count on Bill Bailey's Word-Class support. He will never allow you to own a lemon.. ;)


PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2012 2:20 am
by Twilight
Hi Destiny!

Thank you for the information... that's what I needed to know.


PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2012 8:55 am
by tived

I use RRS as well, and had their gear for the past 10 years+ showing my age. I had the same issue initially, but added the Manfrotto 300N and since also added NN RD-16 but are great, but the 300N has a panning plate on top which sometimes is handy so you can line up your pano. Now i have also added the ultimate leveling base :-) the Arca Swiss Cube :-)

works a treat


PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2012 10:57 am
by a a gruntpuddock
I had the same problem as well as legs which would not support me long enough to shoot a large pano.

I built a LEGO-based rotator to do all the work for me -

If you only shoot single row panos, you cam mechanise the most basic model using just the LEGO controllerand one motor -

PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2012 11:23 am
by Destiny
Cool... :D

I might do a project with my students since we have Lego at our school... ;)

Those images reminds me of my first pano head with a small pice of wood fitting to the top and screwed into my G3. its a kind of Surveyors pano head. I still have it all.... and the leveller with a lazer light too... I used PFactory to stitch it together and wondered why is went crazy, realising that I need to capture the images in a clockwise direction or it would be insideout. :lol: Then I bought my NN3 with RD-16. The rotor was really great. You do not need to see the increments once you set it since it fits into place very precisely and you can feel it click in..

I have moved on a bit since those days.. My first pano was a dogs dinner :D


PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2012 12:33 pm
by a a gruntpuddock
I looked at rotators but realised that most of them had a very limited number of detents, which meant that you had no real control over the overlaps.

I made up some stiff carboard protractors to fit under a standard tripod head then realised that I already had a protractor built into a laser level which I had bought then just shoved into a cupboard.

Made up a very simple head with a bit of wood and a metal T-piece from a hardware store and the 'Woody' series was born.

Initially used to establish the no-parallax points for my S9500 at different focal lengths before I realised that I could actually shoot multo-row panos with it by just clampimg the wood at an angle.

Problem was that it was so boring that my mind started thinking about improvements whist shooting and I would lose the place!

Also, I still had to stand there all the time, not adviseable when you have unreliable knees.

Looked at lots of microprocessors, stepping motors, etc but had no idea how to fit them all together or do the programming.

Then I saw a few LEGO pano heads on the Web (Google Lego Pano) and tried that but could not make one rigid enough for the S9500 at full zoom.

Then I had the idea of combining the two approaches so built a wooden prototype to check out dimensions etc prior to getting the bits cast in aluminium.

To my astonishment, it actually worked as it was!

PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2012 3:03 pm
by a a gruntpuddock
For the sceptics, here are some links to LEGO pano heads.

Remember that LEGO is DESIGNED to come apart easily though!

Can't find the link now but have seen a site where the prototypes failed under the strain, letting a dslr fall about 5' to the ground.

Not being a devout LEGOer, I had no qualms about using 4mm bolts or threaded rod to hold critical bits together instead of relying on the plastic pins.

With no previous experience using LEGO, I personally could not get a sufficiently rigid base for a dslr using LEGO alone - hence the use of wood or mdf for main structural parts. Others seem to have managed it though.

PostPosted: Tue Dec 25, 2012 11:32 am
by Twilight
Hi everyone,

Thanks again for everyone that posted helpful info. I bought the RD16 and it is a nice piece of kit. If you are interested, I wrote up a blog post about how I incorporated it with my Really Right Stuff gear: