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 Post subject: The AllView controller
PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2012 3:32 pm 
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Location: Corfu, Greece
I've started this thread as a placeholder for discussion questions, hints and tips about the operation of the AllView controller.

First Impressions

In my opinion, it is a very capable controller for panoramic photography and for video photography, and if you get a telescope with a camera mount, it has all that stuff in there. It allows you to take long exposure celestial shots while the software locks the focus in position by steering the telescope and/or camera to compensate for the Earth's rotation. Just for fun I set it up with my camera last night, a 400 mm lens focused on the Milky way. Having calibrated the mount based on two of the brightest stars (their positions were pre-programmed in the controller), it was amazing to see the controller adjust the position just one step at a time, so slow you could barely see the mount moving. But sure enough the latitude displayed on the screen of the controller was changing - 1/60 of a degree at a time (incrementing one second of angle about every half second of time).

I also set the mount up to take my first pano using "Easy Pano" mode. Actually it was just a test run with no real shots taken. I set the Horizontal and Vertical field of view angles up to exactly 90 degrees, which corresponds approximately to a 10mm fisheye lens on my camera, and I asked the mount to take a 360 degree by 180 degree set of images. There were 16 shots in total. It took a zenith shot at (0,+90) then seven shots starting at (330,+30) and progressing -50 degrees azimuth angle at a time down to (30,+30), then it rotated the altitude mount and took the shot at the same azimuth angle again at (30,-30) and then another seven shots progressing +50 degrees at a time until (330,-30) and finally it took a nadir shot at (0,-90). The complete sequence took less than two minutes though I confess I didn't have a stopwatch on at the time. I had the shutter release time set to only 0.5 seconds and the mount stabilization time to just 1 second. So out of the approx. 2 minutes, 32 seconds were spent taking the pictures and 130 seconds were spent rotating the azimuth position through 720 degrees (2 x 360). So I make its rotational speed about 6 degrees per second.

As quick as Jack Robinson

While the controller operates, it displays the current azimuth and altitude angles on the LCD screen. However the screen is replaced by a countdown timer view for the two "stabilisation time" periods. This was very annoying. I badly wanted to read the exact angular positions from the display, and I would have been quite happy to increase the mount stabilization time in order to get a good set of angular readings. But just at the time I wanted to note the angles, the firmware replaced this essential information with the stupid countdown time data which I could do without. My view is that the firmware should be modified to remove the countdown time data which is absolutely useless information, to allow the angles to be read out and noted by the photographer. If the controller kept a "position log" of each shot in an Easy Pano sequence, so that the angles could be recalled later, that would be absolutely brilliant, but it doesn't do that either.

Positioning Errors

In "astronomy" mode, the controller moves very rapidly to the approximate position of a star, and then goes into "slow step" mode to pinpoint the exact position. However in panoramic photo mode, this "slow step" feature for accurate final position seems to be omitted. The consequence is that sometimes the exact angular position when pictures are taken seems to be two or three degrees in error. It may be that there is no inaccuracy, but because the display was being "blanked" with this countdown timer "feature" just when I wanted to make a note of the angles, the final "exact positions" that I noted above were never in fact readable. However my fear is that there may actually be positioning errors of up to three degrees occurring, and if this is confirmed to be the case, it is a serious problem.

Updating the Firmware

The firmware I was using was ver.03.09.07, which was the version shipped to me from the USA vendor. There is a later version available for download, but until I can get a USB to serial interface adapter, I have no way to connect to my computer ... since computing devices nowadays have USB ports and no serial ports. Maybe the designers of AllView did not realize this when they designed a serial interface as the mechanism for updating the controller firmware? It would have been much more logical and probably cheaper in the electronic design to provide users with a USB connection instead. Anyway, I'm now off to Corfu town center to buy the necessary USB to serial adapater, then will do the same tests again with the latest firmware.

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Rob Sherratt, British ex-pat living in Corfu, Greece
Professional Engineer; Amateur Musician, Photographer and Motorcyclist; Novice Moderator for this part of Kolor Forum!
"If all life's a stage, how come I can't remember my lines?"


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2012 6:54 pm 
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Location: Paradise, California
Below is a link to a panorama I took last week with the Allview mount, a Canon 60D, Canon EF 100-400 L IS lens set to 400mm, and PapyWizard 2.1.18-1 running on a Windows XP Pro laptop. I was extremely happy with the way the AllView mount performed when PapyWizard was used to control it. It was quite accurate.

http://www.gigapan.com/gigapans/117187

There are some obvious problems in the sky which I have yet to figure out. It's not vignetting and the exposure and white balance were set to manual. I have since discovered that the 60D has two other automatic settings which were both enabled - "Auto Lighting Optimizer" and "Peripheral Illumination Correction". One or both of these were probably the cause. I need to do some further testing when the sky clears up here.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2012 8:16 pm 
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Phill - the problem is the "Auto Lighting Optimiser" setting. I think there is an Auto-ISO setting as well that needs to be disabled. Also the pano's need to be shot in Manual exposure mode, with the aperture as small as possible while maintaining shutter speed no less than 1/100. Also the focus should be set to manual, and leave the focus setting at or near infinity for landscapes. You don't want the camera focusing in on something like a tree or bush in the foreground.

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Rob Sherratt, British ex-pat living in Corfu, Greece
Professional Engineer; Amateur Musician, Photographer and Motorcyclist; Novice Moderator for this part of Kolor Forum!
"If all life's a stage, how come I can't remember my lines?"


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 2:46 am 
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Yep, did all that. The sky cleared today so I was able to do some more tests on the "Auto Lighting Optimizer" and "Peripheral Illumination Correction". The "Auto Lighting Optimizer" was definitely making the problem worse (along with saving in JPEG instead of RAW) but the real problem was a variation in sensitivity of the camera sensor of about 5% starting at the upper left corner and going to the bottom middle. There was also about a dozen or so spots about 20 pixels in diameter with a 4-5% variation. This would never be a problem in any photograph unless it was an almost uniform color/luminance and you tried to join multiple pictures edge to edge. So, after a bunch of trial and error I was able to make a layer mask in Photoshop that corrects all of the sensor imperfections in my specific camera and adjusts each pixel to the same relative sensitivity. I'll apply the layer mask to all the images before stitching them next time.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 11:15 am 
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Phill, I congratulate you on owning and using such a fantastic camera and lens !! Your GigaPixel panoramas will be amazing. I'd love to see a picture of your camera and lens fitted to the AllView ... do you have another camera with which you can take a couple of pictures?

Image

My camera is the EOS 500D / Rebel T1i normally used with the EF-S 17-55 mm f/2.8 IS USM lens for landscapes. It's quite heavy, there is no lens tripod mount, and I'm having problems attaching it securely to the AllView mount because it rotates downwards under its own weight. I may make a replacement mounting bracket with an adjustable camera clamp of some kind. Meanwhile I've reluctantly reverted to using the smaller and lighter 18-55 mm kit lens.

phill.butte wrote:
...the real problem was a variation in sensitivity of the camera sensor of about 5% starting at the upper left corner and going to the bottom middle. There was also about a dozen or so spots about 20 pixels in diameter with a 4-5% variation.

Are you sure the problem is the CCD or is it the lens? I noticed the same problem last year on my Rebel T1i. Using Canon DPP software I was able to download lens correction data for the EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM to my camera, and the camera now applies the image corrections automatically and there is a great improvement. Depending on the focal length and aperture settings on your Canon lens, the aberrations will vary ... and it will be a pain to keep making different masks in Photoshop. I only used DPP to download the lens data to my Camera, but I think there is a post-processing capability for .raw images in the software itself, so you may be able to try it with .raw images you've shot already. The first link is to a nice tutorial video.

http://cpn.canon-europe.com/content/education/masterclass/peripheral_illumination_correction.do
http://cpn.canon-europe.com/content/product/canon_software/using_the_new_DPP.do
http://cpn.canon-europe.com/content/education/infobank/digital_camera_features/in_camera_lens_correction.do

Canon wrote:
Lens correction
The most interesting addition to the latest version of DPP is the lens aberration correction function. Although all Canon lenses are designed and manufactured to produce the highest quality images, constrains of technology, manufacturing and cost mean that some minimal aberrations still exist in the lenses. This new addition to DPP aims to correct these minor aberrations and so produce even higher quality images. The adjustments available correct four factors in the images:


Peripheral illumination
Otherwise known as corner-shading or vignetting. Digital cameras are very susceptible to light not striking the sensor at the correct angle, and with some lenses it is possible to see a slight fall-off in the corners of the image where it looks darker than the rest of the frame. This adjustment aims to even out the lighting across the frame.


Distortion
With wide-angle lenses, it is possible to see distortion around the edge of the lens – straight lines become curved, and subjects at the edge of the frame are distorted. This adjustment ensures straight lines are straight.


Chromatic aberration
Around the edges of an image it is occasionally possible to see colour fringing, especially at high contrast edges such as branches of a tree against the sky. This adjustment will effectively remove the chromatic aberration.


Colour blur
At the edge of very bright areas, it is occasionally possible to see red or blue colour blurring. This adjustment will remove the colour blurring. To make these adjustments, the software has to re-process the image. When doing this, it makes use of information that is stored with the image when you capture a RAW file with an EOS camera as well as a database of information included with DPP. It makes use of four pieces of information:


1. Lens optical data – This is included with DPP and is like a fingerprint for each lens showing the optical characteristics of that lens.
2. Lens ID – Lens information for the lens used. This is stored automatically by the camera.
3. Lens focal length – The exact focal length that was used to capture the image. This is stored automatically by the camera.
4. Distance information – The focal distance used when the shot was captured. This is stored automatically by the camera.

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Rob Sherratt, British ex-pat living in Corfu, Greece
Professional Engineer; Amateur Musician, Photographer and Motorcyclist; Novice Moderator for this part of Kolor Forum!
"If all life's a stage, how come I can't remember my lines?"


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Oct 27, 2012 12:00 am 
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Location: Paradise, California
Here's a photo of the setup.

I've opted to stick with the Windows 7 laptop with a usb/serial adapter and a 20ft serial extension cord I made up. I replaced the hard drive in the laptop with an SSD so I get well over 2 hours of usage before I need to plug it back into the inverter in the car for a recharge. The AllView battery is a left over 3.3 Amp/Hour lead acid battery from a UPS that failed.

I haven't worried about positioning the lens at the correct nodal point, I set it up so it's balanced. With it set a 400mm anything close enough to show a problem with paralax is going to be wildly out of focus.

The Canon 60D does have the capability to do in-camera lens adjustments but I have now turned it off. I can get the same thing and more in Adobe Camera Raw and have more control over it. It's not a lens issue though. The 100-400 L series lens has almost no vignetting with a full frame sensor at 400mm and f16, and the 60D is an APS-C sized sensor. I did find a "Camera Calibration" adjustment in Adobe Raw that reduces the problem to about a 2% difference if I pick "Camera Standard" as the profile. I also ran the camera through the manual sensor cleaning and used a Rocket Air Blaster for a couple minutes on it. Most of the spots dissapeared but htere are still some left. I've ordered some Eclipse cleaning fluid and some sensor swabs to finish the job. I may now be able to avoid doing a layer mask on each image, we'll see.




Last edited by phill.butte on Sat Oct 27, 2012 12:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

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