Low cost motorised pano head for compacts and DSLRs- Merlin/Papywizard  

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mediavets
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Low cost motorised pano head for compacts and DSLRs- Merlin/Papywizard

by mediavets » Thu Nov 06, 2008 1:16 pm

After over 12 months of development work - led principally by Frédéric Mantegazza (aka fma38) and supported by Kolor - the project to adapt the Merlin/Orion motorised telescope mount for use as two-axis motorised pano head has reached a point where a fully working system can be easily assembled by anyone moderately handy with a soldering iron (or who 'knows a man who can').

I am by far from being an electronics 'whizz' but I have just completed the assembly of a working system and it works VERY well IMO.

I think it now deserves rather more 'publicity'.

There is a lot of information about this project on the forum but it is mostly in the French part of the forum so I thought it was worth summarising the 'state of the art' here on this side of the 'language barrier' for those whose French is as lamentably poor as mine.
......................

I know some people have made custom motorised pano heads from scratch, others are considering making their own controllers for the Merlin/Orion motorised astro telescope mount for use as a pano photography head, but is it worth it doing it all yourself?

The Merlin/Orion two-axis motorised mount for astro telescopes, including a tripod and hand controller, costs GBP 149. With simple and inexpensive modifications it can now be used as a motorised pano head controlled by the free Papywizard software.

The Papywizard software running on a Nokia Internet Tablet will give you a 'ready made' wireless handheld pocketable controller. The Nokia 770 Tablet which runs the Maemo OS (a version of Linux) sports a bright, 4-inch 800x480 touchscreen colour display, has built-in WiFi and Bluetooth, and can be picked up secondhand on eBay relatively cheaply, typically for GBP 50-70. I doubt anyone could make something at home to match it at this price.

Then you need an RS232-TTL adapter and RS232-Bluetooth adapter which make up the interface which attaches to the hand controller connector on the Merlin head.

The lowest cost and easiest way to make this is to use the Tronisoft 4201 RS232-TTL module and the Tronisoft BTLink RS232-Bluetooth adapter.

All you need is the Tronisoft 4201 RS232-TTL module - solder 4-5 connections to add two resistors, one link and a 4-conductor RJ11 cable and you're done. The Tronisoft RS232-TTL adapter takes its power from the 8xAA batteries that power the Merlin head, by way of the RJ11 cable used to connect it to the Merlin head. Add an RS232-Bluetooth adapter that can be powered on pin-9 - such as the Tronisoft BTLink. And away you go. Together this lot will cost about GBP 40.

No modification of the internal electronics, or external connectors, of the Merlin/Orion head are required. The RS232-TTL adapter simply plugs in where the standard hand controller would plug in.

The Merlin head has a connector to which can be attached a shutter release cable/device which is automatically triggered as appropriate by the Paywizard software. Direct cable connection or IR shutter release triggers can be used. The Merlin head is supplied with a shutter release cable for low end (Rebel series) Canon DSLRs. I am using a gentled-JUMP IR shutter trigger with this standard cable with my Nikon D40. That setup will work with many other cameras.

A software - rather than firmware - based controller offers many advantages. It is much easier to update and add features. The Papywizard software is written in Python, is available as source code, and runs on many platforms - Linux/PC, Windows, Nokia Internet Tablets (770, N800 and N810), and could run on Apple Mac though no-one has tried it yet, offers many alternative setups. The software is free.

The next version of the Autopano Pro panorama stitching software, due in December 2008, will have built-in support for the Gigapan Imager and Merlin/Paywizard robt heads. The still more advanced Autopano Giga will also support the RodeonVR and Pixorb robot heads.

This support will assist in the placement of images that lack matching features - clear sky shots for example - that typically currently makes stitching giga pixel panoramic images quite difficult.

The standard dovetail mount on the Merlin/Orion makes it difficult/impossible to set the camera/lens at a correct NPP in many instances - although it is fine for my Nikon D40. But it is possible to replace the dovetail mount/crown, to facilitate the correct placement of NPP, quite easily. Drawings are available for a replacement crown which could be made by most machine shops.

If you are using the system for gigapixel imaging of distant scenes with nothing within say 100m of the camera then correct NPP doesn't matter anyway.

Merlin/Orion motorised head:
http://www.opticalvision.co.uk/binocula … and_tripod
http://www.pulsar-optical.co.uk/prod/merlin/starter-scope/refractor/merlindeluxe.html
https://www.skiesunlimited.net/index.php?ProductID=4118

Nokia Internet Tablets - 700, N800, N810:
http://europe.nokia.com/A4145104
http://europe.nokia.com/link?cid=PLAIN_TEXT_508837
http://europe.nokia.com/link?cid=PLAIN_TEXT_508842

Papywizard software:
http://trac.gbiloba.org/papywizard/wiki/

Tronisoft 4201 RS232-TLL module:
http://www.tronisoft.com/4201.php

Tronisoft BTLink RS232-Bluetooth adapter:
http://www.tronisoft.com/2749.php

gentled-JUMP IR shutter release device:
http://www.gentles.ltd.uk/gentled/options.htm
.............
If you wish to download (and stitch) a simple image set - 4 rows of 5 images - shot with Merlin/Papywizard then check out this post:

http://www.autopano.net/forum/p32821-today-09-26-59#p32821
Last edited by mediavets on Mon Nov 17, 2008 11:50 am, edited 1 time in total.
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 fma38 » Fri Nov 07, 2008 10:42 am

Thanks, Andrew. This is really usefull informations.

I would like to add something important: this is a free, open-source project, and not a commercial project. So do not expect something running out-of-the-box, without bug, and so.

This is especially true for Papywizard: I develop it on my free time, because it is fun. I don't make support for professional usage. This does not mean that it can't be used by pro photographers, but be aware that things can go wrong while shooting, and neither my responsability, nor Kolor one, can be engaged is such case.

On the other hand, I will do my best to help users, and try to implement all needed features, as long as they are compatible with the way I want to develop the soft ;)
Frédéric

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by Gordon » Fri Nov 07, 2008 7:08 pm

Congratulations to all of you, who have obviously put a lot of time and effort into this project, I for one am looking forward to making my own head in the very near future. It looks relatively uncomplicated from my end ;) with my limited skills hopefully. Thank you also for the clear guidance and links BRAVO

Gordon
2000th Member :D

GigaPixel Experimenter
Gigapan Beta Unit, Canon Powershot S5IS, Canon 350D, Nikon D40, Manfrotto Tripod, BT-Serial + Papywizard on Nokia 770, Fully-Operational Merlin the Wizard Unit!!!

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mediavets
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by mediavets » Sun Nov 09, 2008 1:38 pm

Gordon wrote:Congratulations to all of you, who have obviously put a lot of time and effort into this project, I for one am looking forward to making my own head in the very near future. It looks relatively uncomplicated from my end ;) with my limited skills hopefully. Thank you also for the clear guidance and links BRAVO

Gordon

It's easy really.

If you have any problems/questions just ask.

Pulsar Optical have a good deal on the Merlin head right now - £149.99, including the tripod and a novel A frame table top stand, including UK delivery:
http://www.pulsar-optical.co.uk/prod/merlin/starter-scope/refractor/merlindeluxe.html
Last edited by mediavets on Sun Nov 09, 2008 1:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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 mediavets » Tue Nov 11, 2008 2:07 pm

The Merlin/Orion head has a socket for connecting a shutter release cable - it is supplied with a cable with 2.5mm stereo jack plugs on each end which will work 'out-of-the-box' with the low end range of Canon DSLRs - the 300D, 350D, 400D and 450D, aka the digital Rebel range in the USA.

You can modify this cable to work with cameras requiring a different connector at the camera end. The easiest and cheapest way to do this is to but an appropriate cheap remote control (from eBay) and cannibalise the cable to assemble a 'hybrid' cable using part of the standard cable, so that you have the camera specific connector on one end and the 2.5mm stereo jack plug at the other to connect to the camera socket on the Merlin head.

There are some posts here about how to do that for the Canon XXD series of DSLRs:
http://www.autopano.net/forum/p32348-yesterday-18-13-01#p32348

What if you would like to use Merlin/Papywizard but your camera does not have a socket for a wired remote control....how can Merlin/Papywizard automatically trigger the shutter while shooting a panorama?

If like my Nikon D40 (also the case with the D40X, D50 and D60) your camera does not have a socket for a wired remote but does support an IR remote then you may be able to use the gentled-JUMP IR shutter trigger device:
http://www.gentles.ltd.uk/gentled/options.htm#IRjump

The gentled-JUMP has the advantage of having its own battery to provide power and it works just fine with my D40 using the standard camera cable supplied with the Merlin/Orion head - a 'plug-n-play' solution - see photo below.

The gentled-JUMP should work with any camera that will work with one of the following IR remotes:
Image

If you are more adept at DIY than I am you should also be able to configure the gentled-SHUTTER IR cable - but you will have to provide power to it (perhaps from the Tronisoft 4201?) and add a suitable 2.5mm jack connector to connect it to the head:
http://www.gentles.ltd.uk/gentled/options.htm#IRshutter

The gentled-SHUTTER should work with any camera that will work with one of the following IR remotes:
Image

If you camera does not support either a wired or IR remote then you can still use the Merlin/Papywizard motorised pano head system but you will have to press the shutter button yourself. Papywizard can be configured for manual shooting - when it will stop at each position and wait until the user chooses to resume.


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 mediavets » Wed Nov 19, 2008 1:01 pm

Don't miss this very detailed and fully illustrated blog written by Beezed from New Zealand that covers some of his experiences in creating a working Merlin/Orion + Paywizard robotic pano head:
http://www.brewzone.com/2008/11/diy-pano-head
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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