12.5m telescopic mast  

Everything you need to motorize your head
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krtekcz2000
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12.5m telescopic mast

by krtekcz2000 » Wed Oct 06, 2010 10:12 pm

I have been quiet for last couple months , but that doesn't mean that I was not working on my secret (till today) project.

Two days ago, I have finally finished first tests with a new toy: 12.5m long telescopic mast.

Folded mast is about 2.5m high (camera is on top):
Image

and fully extended is 12.5m high (camera is not on top, I needed it to take this photo):
Image

The mast is pretty heavy (about 30kg) + the tripod is about 15kg. The good point is that it can fit in my car (Honda Civic) + I can still fit on the drivers seat + even 1 passenger can still fit on the back seat. I even managed to get the mast to my flat without any help.
I have ordered the mast from a company called Total Mast Solutions http://www.elevatedphotos.com. I hope that you understand that it was pretty expensive (I am a little bit crazy), but so far I can say that it was worth it.

The mast is quite stable. I prefer to use the guide ropes, but just for safety reasons, I guess that in small wind they are not needed.

I have tested 15mm Fisheye (6 shots in about 1 minute) and also 50mm (80 shots in about 12 minutes).

The following link is from a cricket ground next to my flat (warning large file):
http://www.martin.kulhavy.info/foto/01-01-07-01-i-50-adj-small.jpg

This is a full resolution crop from the final image:
http://www.martin.kulhavy.info/foto/04-10-crop.jpg

Important message for UK based readers:
If you know about any interesting places (events, ...), please let me know. I am happy to drive there and take some photos. This is just my hobby so it is free service. It would be nice to have permission, I don't want to explain to the police, why I am taking photos from 12 meters. I live in Birmingham, so please take in account the driving distance.

Comments and questions welcomed.

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mediavets
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by mediavets » Wed Oct 06, 2010 11:24 pm

Wow!

Now that's a really serious 'toy'.

How long does it take to setup and raise the mast ready to shoot?

Did you find it easy to get appropriate insurance?

What platform do you use to host Papywizard to control the Merlin mount on the mast?

What camera are you using on the mast?

Do you have any other control over the camera when the mast is raised?

Do you have a custom preset for shooting a 360x180 with your 50mm on a fullframe sensor?

If so would you be willing to share it so I could try it with my 35m on a 1.5x cropped sensor?

............

You have some very fine panos on your web site going back a few years.

What sort of setup did you use to shoot those? And what stitcher did you use back then?
Andrew Stephens
Many different Nodal Ninja and Agnos pano heads. Merlin/Panogear mount with Papywizard on Nokia Internet tablets.
Nikon D5100 and D40, Sigma 8mm f3.5 FE, Nikon 10.5mm FE, 35mm, 50mm, 18-55mm, 70-210mm. Promote control.

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by krtekcz2000 » Wed Oct 06, 2010 11:42 pm

How long does it take to setup and raise the mast ready to shoot?

It is not point and shoot. I would say about 40 minutes. Most of the time is needed for carrying all equipment to the place.

Did you find it easy to get appropriate insurance?

Good question. I have no insurance (yet). I took photos from safe places so far, so it shouldn't cause any damage.

What platform do you use to host Papywizard to control the Merlin mount on the mast?

I have a laptop. I use it to control the head. I also run DSLR Remote PRO to get pictures via USB cable.

What camera are you using on the mast?

Canon 5D Mark II with either 15mm fisheye or 50mm lenses. The total weight of the head, camera and the lens is about 4kg. The mast can carry up to 8kg (I didn't test that)

Do you have any other control over the camera when the mast is raised?

Yes, via USB cable - DSLR Remote Pro. I cannot zoom or focus, but I can change exposures. I can also see "preview" on the laptop screen and I can download full res photos immediatelly.

Do you have a custom preset for shooting a 360x180 with your 50mm on a fullframe sensor?
If so would you be willing to share it so I could try it with my 35m on a 1.5x cropped sensor?

I have the preset saved on my laptop (currently working from desktop), I will send it to you later today or tomorrow.

You have some very fine panos on your web site going back a few years.
What sort of setup did you use to shoot those? And what stitcher did you use back then?

These photos are from the unrobotised era. I used Manfrotto 303SPH head + Canon 20D (Canon 5D Mark II later) + 70-200 f/2.8 IS (@135mm on 20D or @200mm on 5DII). I usually used PTAssember + Smartblend + Photoshop for stitiching (but I guess that any pro soft - Autopano, Ptgui, Hugin would do the same work).
Last edited by krtekcz2000 on Thu Oct 07, 2010 12:17 am, edited 1 time in total.

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by krtekcz2000 » Thu Oct 07, 2010 1:07 am


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mediavets
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by mediavets » Thu Oct 07, 2010 9:50 am

So your USB cabling from your laptop to the camera comprises three USB active extenders - is that correct?

How do you ensure that these cables do not become disconnected from each other nor from the camera - becauyse I imagine that this 15M cable is quite heavy and the USB connector on most cameras is rather small and makes a rather insecure connection?

How are you powering the Merlin mount - internal NiMH AA batteries, or with the T&C/Kolor LiIon batteries conversion kt, or via an external power source?

If you need to get physical access to the camera once the mast is erecetde how long does it take to get teh mast/camera down - say if it was suddenly to rain?

How much scope is there to adjust the tripod? For example could you setup the mast on a sloping site?

What modifications did you make to the dovetail clamp and rail to enable you to set your Canon 5DMkII at the NPP?
Andrew Stephens
Many different Nodal Ninja and Agnos pano heads. Merlin/Panogear mount with Papywizard on Nokia Internet tablets.
Nikon D5100 and D40, Sigma 8mm f3.5 FE, Nikon 10.5mm FE, 35mm, 50mm, 18-55mm, 70-210mm. Promote control.

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UK Pano
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by UK Pano » Thu Oct 07, 2010 10:20 am

Ahh this reminds me of the days when I ran my own mast photography business a few years ago and also bought my mast from Elevated Photo's as they were known then. Public Liability Insurance is a MUST if you are looking to undertake any kind of commissions. I used to use a Canon G9 using their white labelled copy of DSLR remote as it gave great photo's and was totally controllable from the cable connected laptop. Good luck with your ventures as it was very, very tough to run as a business but PM me if you wanted any further info.
Canon 400D / Canon 24-105mm L / Sigma 8mm f3.5 FE / Sigma 10-20mm / Sigma 70-300mm / NN3 & R1 / PS CS2 / LR3 / Enfuse

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by mediavets » Thu Oct 07, 2010 5:12 pm


Thank you Martin.

It works very well with my 35mm lens on a Nikon DX 1.5x crop body and the Papywizard Import wizard/filter worked well on APG 2.5 beta 1 for this image set too.

The exposure was 'off' and colour correction didn't.




Andrew Stephens
Many different Nodal Ninja and Agnos pano heads. Merlin/Panogear mount with Papywizard on Nokia Internet tablets.
Nikon D5100 and D40, Sigma 8mm f3.5 FE, Nikon 10.5mm FE, 35mm, 50mm, 18-55mm, 70-210mm. Promote control.

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by klausesser » Thu Oct 07, 2010 5:53 pm

WOW! Great device i mean! Better use it outside the city do you? :cool:

best, Klaus
Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance. Coco Chanel

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krtekcz2000
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by krtekcz2000 » Thu Oct 07, 2010 8:53 pm

So your USB cabling from your laptop to the camera comprises three USB active extenders - is that correct?
How do you ensure that these cables do not become disconnected from each other nor from the camera - because I imagine that this 15M cable is quite heavy and the USB connector on most cameras is rather small and makes a rather insecure connection?

Yes, I use 2x 5m USB active extenders + 1 normal USB extender. I bought the extenders on eBay.
There is a knot on the USB cables:
Image
and sticky tape at for the mini-USB at the camera.

How are you powering the Merlin mount - internal NiMH AA batteries, or with the T&C/Kolor LiIon batteries conversion kt, or via an external power source?

I use Li-ion battery: http://www.deben.com/lithium-ion/12v-8ah-lithium-ion-battery-pack-with-fuel-gauge.html. The battery is on the ground attached to the head by a cable.

If you need to get physical access to the camera once the mast is erecetde how long does it take to get teh mast/camera down - say if it was suddenly to rain?

This is pretty fast, less than 5 minutes. You can tighten each segment by a screw. If you don't do that, it will be even faster.

How much scope is there to adjust the tripod? For example could you setup the mast on a sloping site?

The leg on the tripod are about 50cm long (you can see then on the first photo) and the tripod leg is about 120cm long. I prefer to keep the centre of the tripod on the ground, which means that 2 of the legs are on flat surface, the third leg can be in a hole.

What modifications did you make to the dovetail clamp and rail to enable you to set your Canon 5DMkII at the NPP?

It was quite simple. I ordered the crown from http://www.teleskop-austria.at/prod.php?lng=de&tid=8#foto-mottri-nn and the Manfrotto 357 rail fitted perfectly on it. (http://www.manfrotto.com/product/0/357/_/Rapid_Connect_Adapter_With_Sliding_Mounting_Plate_357Pl). Maybe the nodal point is about 2mm out from the vertical axis, but I tested that quite well and there is no paralax error visible on the neighbour images. BTW the average error for the Gigapixel pano above was about 0.8 pixel.

Maybe it sounds crazy, but I don't plan any commercial activities. Panoramic photography is just my hobby. I will take the mast definitelly next spring to the Czech Republic (where my parents live) and take some panoramas of the castles.

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by bradtem » Sun Oct 10, 2010 9:09 am

So what does the puppy cost? They don't seem to say on their web site.

I have thought of this from time to time. The main issue is that so few of the great shooting spots are that close to where you park your car, and hauling the merlin is enough work, let alone the mast system. I've imagined you might get away with a cheaper mast that swayed a lot if you could either guy it or have some sort of accelerometers that told the camera when it was either stable or at the top of its sway (with fast exposure) and fired the shot exactly then.

You say you can't autofocus. I haven't experimented, but might you find a way to do this if you change the camera's autofocus mode to AF on different buttons? Or what if you have it AF on standard half-press, does shooting via USB avoid the AF? If so you could AF with a shutter cable, and shoot with USB.

There are devices sold for some zoom lenses to put external knobs on them which you could hook to a fairly standard RC servo. They are used by video shooters and have a ring that clamps onto the zoom, which then has a gear connection to an external knob so you can zoom more smoothly.

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by krtekcz2000 » Tue Oct 12, 2010 5:36 pm

Well, I have paid £1900 for the mast. You are right, it is "a little bit uncomfortable" to carry. I was thinking about some trolley.

Re autofocus. What I meant is that I cannot focus manually. DSLR Remote Pro can autofocus. For my work it actually doesn't matter since I use higher aperture numbers and all is in focus. I still cannot zoom, but again for panoramas fixed focal length is better.

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by bri999 » Mon Oct 18, 2010 12:02 am

The mast looks very similar to the Clarks masts, Ive just got a 15m one delivered and did a test elevation on the vehicle !
Image

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by bradtem » Wed Oct 27, 2010 7:01 pm

What I am wondering, though I have not tried, is whether you can "manually autofocus" which is to say put the camera in a mode where you can trigger an autofocus event over the USB or with a half-press, and then switch so that shooting (with or without a half press) does not trigger a re-autofocus.

When I shoot panos, I have a Custom mode on my Canon which makes the AE button do autofocus and stops the half-shutter from doing it. In normal shooting I put AF on the half-shutter.

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by mulispictus » Wed Nov 03, 2010 8:16 pm

Hi Martin,

you have really nice "toy", indeed :-) I am looking forward to see new panoramas you will make with it.

I have also fall in love with shooting from above, having smaller tripod/mast? from Manfrotto, which extends around 7 meters.

BTW, the HD view you use looks great too, pity that it only works on Windows. I like that it is color managed and quite snappy.

Cheers

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by 120to120 » Thu Nov 04, 2010 8:07 pm

hi krtekcz2000,
please send me photos of the mast head inlusive camera per PM, maybe i can help
regards 120to120
(*Merlin/Orion_BT - teleskop-austria.*); FTDI USB-TTL cable; Macbook (Intel) OS X10.5.6 / ext. Bluetooth Dongle_VIVANCO_B1002270209 / PW 2.1.20; Go-To / TA *Nokia N810 / PW 2.1.20 * Sony F717 / Sony R1 ; JJC SR-828; 15m Mast;

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by krtekcz2000 » Sat Nov 06, 2010 11:38 am

Here is the detail of the head:
Image

And here is one image from last weekend in the Lake District:
Image

Full resolution version (in HDView) is on my website http://www.martin.kulhavy.info (-> landscapes and then click on the preview).

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by krtekcz2000 » Sat Jun 11, 2011 8:40 am

It is about a month since I returned from holiday where I tested the telescopic mast. I posted some photos on my website: http://www.martin.kulhavy.info/mast.htm or the Photosynth page: http://photosynth.net/userprofilepage.aspx?user=Martin_Kulhavy

Here is experience I got from the testing:

1) Check that the USB cable attached to the head (so it cannot fall) and the camera is long enough for all positions of the camera. I left the cable too short for the zenith and I broke the USB port in the camera. The replacement of the camera main board cost me about £300. Lesson learnt.
and now some good news.
2) It is quite stable. With guide ropes is the average error about 1.5 pixel (and maximum at about 3 pixels) on the 50mm = 80 shot panorama.
3) I used the drive-on bracket for shots on hard surface. It is easy to use.
4) For public places I usually contacted the local police department to let them now in advance. There were no problems with it after a promise that I can share the final panorama. This probably cannot be applied everywhere.
5) The mast is quite heavy, but I have a trolley now, which I can disassemble so it can fit in the car.

The plan is to get the mast again to UK (with the trolley) and take more panoramas, so stay tuned.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me.

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by mediavets » Sat Jun 11, 2011 12:57 pm

krtekcz2000 wrote:3) I used the drive-on bracket for shots on hard surface. It is easy to use........

If you have any questions, feel free to ask me.

What is 'the drive-on bracket'?
Andrew Stephens
Many different Nodal Ninja and Agnos pano heads. Merlin/Panogear mount with Papywizard on Nokia Internet tablets.
Nikon D5100 and D40, Sigma 8mm f3.5 FE, Nikon 10.5mm FE, 35mm, 50mm, 18-55mm, 70-210mm. Promote control.

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by krtekcz2000 » Sat Jun 11, 2011 1:20 pm

drive-on system is a metal bracket, you can drive on it with your car and then the mast is fixed in the position. The nice thing is that you can level the vertical part of the system in 2 directions so even when the surface is not level the mast is in vertical position.
Image


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