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EPIC Pro Additional Instructions and New Features

EPIC Pro Additional Instructions and New Features

To shoot a panorama with the EPIC Pro, you can select ‘New Panorama’, ‘360 panorama’ or select ‘Previous’ under ‘Panorama Memory’ if you have saved a previous set-up. Remember that you will need to repeat the camera set-up instructions in Chapter 2.7 if you change lenses or focal lengths.

4.1 Exposure Bracketing to Capture HDR images

Expic Pro Exposure Bracketing for HDR

When your panorama has areas with significantly different amounts of light, such as shadows, neutral colored rock, and blue skies, a single exposure will not yield all of the detail that you can see with your own eyes. This is especially true for panoramas that cover a large field of view. You can improve the overall exposure by capturing multiple photographs with different exposures for each position. You do this by using the EPIC Pro ‘Brackets’ setting and the ‘EV Step Size’ setting. The panorama shown above is a good example because it has a very large horizontal field of view with areas that have shadows.

Basic Exposure Bracketing Settings

Epic Pro Basic Exposure Bracketing Settings

  1. Select the ‘Brackets’ setting in the EPIC Pro ‘Options’ submenu and press OK.
  2. Use the down arrow to select three exposure brackets and press the OK button.
  3. Now that ‘Brackets’ is set to a number greater than one, the ‘EV Step Size’ menu item will appear below the ‘Brackets’ menu item. Select ‘EV Step Size’ and press OK. Now select the 1.7 EV separation setting and press OK.
  4. Choose whether you are going to use the camera AEB (automatic exposure bracketing ) or the BULB mode where the EPIC Pro controls how long the shutter is asserted. In order to use the BULB mode, all of the shutter speeds need to be slower than about 1/10 of a second. If you are photographing during the day and want to use the BULB mode, then you will need to use a good quality neutral density filter.


Frequently Asked Questions

1. What changes exposure and why should I only vary the shutter speed?

When you capture multiple exposure brackets for each position for the purpose of capturing HDR images, you vary the exposure by varying the shutter speed and keeping the ISO, and aperture constant. Do not vary the aperture because it will change the depth of field.

2. What does EV (exposure value) mean?

An increase of one full exposure value means that you double the amount of light. You can do this by doubling the shutter speed from one second to two seconds. A decrease of one full exposure value means that you decrease the amount of light by one half. One full exposure value less than one second is one half second.

Exposure Value

-2

-1

0

+1

+2

Shutter speed

1/4 s

1/2 s

1 s

2 s

4 s

Canon

4

0”5

1”

2”

4”

Nikon

4

2

1”

2”

4”

(*see note below regarding quotations)

3. What is a simple method of determining the center exposure, number of brackets, and the exposure value separation?

Use an evaluative metering mode to determine the center ‘Time/Exposure’ setting and then simply choose three brackets with a larger EV separation such as 1.7 EV or 2.0 EV.

4. What is an accurate method of determining the number of brackets and the exposure value separation?

Determine the exposure for the brightest, average, and darkest areas that you would like to be able to see details. Use the following steps:

  • Change the metering mode to spot mode, if your camera has that capability.
  • Point the camera lens to each area and depress the shutter button half way to determine the shutter speed that will center the reflective meter marker to zero. Take note of the shutter speeds as you do this.
  • Determine the distance from the average exposure which you use to set ‘Time/Exposure’. Do this by counting how many shutter speeds settings your darkest and brightest shutter speeds are away from your ‘Time/Exposure’ setting.
  • The default setting for shutter speeds in DSLR cameras is 1/3 stop. When you change the shutter speed three times you have changed the exposure by one exposure value or one EV.

Set the metering mode on your camera to spot meter

Please refer to your camera’s user manual for specific information. See table below for instructions on setting the metering mode for each of the following cameras.

Canon 5D Mark II

Canon Rebel T1i

Nikon D700

Nikon D90

Small WB button on the top right hand side of the camera. Use the small dial on top of the camera to select spot meter.

Press the set button in the middle of the directional buttons on the back right hand side of the camera. Use the buttons that surround to navigate to the icon that is on the right hand side and the third row up. Press the set button again. Use the left and right buttons to select spot metering.

There is a dial that is to the right of the eye piece. Rotate the dial counter clockwise until it points at the single dot. This sets the metering type to a spot meter.

Use the Center-Weighted Area metering mode. The default circle is 8mm. You can change this to 6mm for a smaller spot.

This is changed in Custom settings B menu underneath b3 center weighted area. There are other metering settings that can affect metering.

*The cameras use the quotation mark similar to the way the North American decimal point is used. In Europe, the comma is used to denote the decimal point. DSLR viewfinders will display only the denominator if the shutter speed is a fraction while the LCD will display the entire fraction.

Two methods are shown below. The first method simply requires you to count the number of shutter values required to travel between each extreme to the average exposure. The second method requires you to divide by two or multiply by two until you reach the other meter reading. Let’s use an example where you meter 1 second in the shadows, 1/4 second average exposure, and 1/160 of a second in bright areas where you want to be able resolve details.

Method One

EV distance from brightest area to average exposure using 1/3 EV shutter settings

1/160

1/125

1/100

1/80

1/60

1/50

1/40

1/30

0

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

0 EV

1/3

2/3

+1 EV

4/3

5/3

+2 EV

7/3

 

1/25

1/20

1/15

1/13

1/10

1/8

1/4

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

8/3

+3 EV

10/3

11/3

+4 EV

13/3

14/3

 

EV Distance from shadows to average exposure using 1/3 EV shutter settings

1”s

0”8

0”6

0”5

0”4

0”3

1/4

0 setting

1

2

3

4

5

6

0 EV

1/3

2/3

-1 EV

4/3

5/3

-2 EV

Set your camera shutter speed to the brightest 1/160 second meter reading and then change the shutter speed and count how many settings it takes to reach the average 1/4 second meter reading. With default camera settings you will count fourteen shutter dial changes in order to reach 1/4 second. Divide 14 by 3 and you get 4 EV with 2/3 EV remaining. The distance from the shadow meter reading is smaller at six shutter speed setting changes on the dial which equals -2 EV. So the distance is 4 and 2/3 EV plus 2 EV for a total of 6 2/3 EV distance to cover the entire range.

If you are using a Nikon (D200, D300, D300S, D700S, D3, D3s, D3x) with a nine EV span or a Canon (1D Mark III, 1D Mark IV, 1Ds Mark III) with a span of seven EV you are able to capture these exposures using the cameras AEB function.

You can move the center exposure which is what you set the ‘Time/Exposure’ setting to and lose 2/3 stops of desired dynamic range. Another option is to use a good neutral density filter to shift all of the exposures to shutter speeds that are slower than about 1/10 of a second and use the BULB setting on the camera and the imager. If you use the bulb setting on the camera and the imager then the imager opens and closes the shutter instead of the camera’s AEB function. Change the imager to BULB mode by changing the ‘Options’->’Expert Options’->’Shutter Length’ to ‘Exposure’ (bulb).

Method Two

EV distance from brightest area to average exposure by multiplying exposure by two

1/160 s

1/80

1/40

1/20

1/10

1/5

0 EV

+1 EV

+2 EV

+3 EV

+4 EV

+5 EV

EV distance from shadows to average exposure by dividing exposure by two

1”

1/2

1/4

0 EV

-1 EV

-2 EV

5. How do I fuse, or tone map the exposure brackets before stitching with the Gigapan Stitch software?

When using Gigapan Stitch to align and render your panorama along with exposure bracketing, you will need to use a fuser or tone mapper with batch capability to consistently apply the same settings to each set of exposure brackets. The resulting fused or tone mapped images are then stitched by Gigapan Stitch. Some of your fusion or tone mapping options are:

Preview your exposure brackets with a file browser or Adobe Bridge, adjusted so that an entire exposure bracket sequence is displayed on each row. Review the rows checking to see that features match and that you did not miss any exposure brackets. If you are fusing the exposure brackets with Enfuse and the Enfuse GUI wrapper you should convert the files to 16 bit TIFF format before fusing them. Photomatix and HDR Expose can process camera RAW and other formats.

When using the fusion or tone mapping software it is often necessary to adjust several parameters to achieve realistic looking results. Fusion will yield realistic results with less intervention. Common parameters that you might need to change are strength, color saturation, exposure bias, and the black level.

Once you have processed your exposure brackets and produced fused or tone mapped files, you are ready to stitch your panorama using the Gigapan Stitch software. See Chapter 4 for more information about Gigapan Stitch software.

4.2 Mirror Lock-up

The ‘Mirror Lock-up’ function is used to flip the mirror up and wait a programmable delay that is independent of the ‘Time/Exposure’ delay before actuating the shutter. ‘Mirror Lock-up’ is especially important for longer focal length lenses that are larger and heavier. The longer focal length indirectly means that the magnification is greater and that any lens movement is magnified more, and more likely to cause blurry photographs.

Epic Pro Mirror Lock-up Settings

  1. Select the ‘Options‘ submenu from the EPIC Pro ‘Main Menu’.
  2. Select the ‘Mirror Lock-up’ menu item and press OK.
  3. Select the value ‘ON’ and press OK.
  4. The menu item ‘Lock-up Time’ will appear once you have enabled ‘Mirror Lock-up’. Select ‘Lock-up Time’ and press OK.
  5. Choose a value that is appropriate for the stability of your lens size and mass, and press OK. A larger and heavier lens will require more time to settle. Choosing too long of a lock-up time will increase your capture time.


4.3 Shutter Teach

The ‘Shutter Teach’ function is an alternative method of setting the timing for exposure bracketing or multiple pictures. The EPIC Pro enters a teaching mode where you press the left directional button at each point in time you want the it to take a photograph.

Epic Pro Shutter Teach Settings

Basic Settings

  1. First, configure your camera with the bracketing or multiple exposure mode you wish for your panorama.
  2. Next, select the ‘Options’ submenu from the EPIC Pro ‘Main Menu’ and press OK.
  3. Scroll to the ‘Shutter Teach’ menu item and press OK.
  4. Select ‘ON’ and press OK. You will now enter “shutter teach mode”.
  5. The display will ask you to use the left arrow button to tell the EPIC Pro when to trigger the shutter.
  6. Press the OK button when you are ready to begin teaching the EPIC Pro when to trigger. Press the left arrow button as if you are pressing the camera’s shutter button. The EPIC Pro will mimic your actions and actuate the shutter on the camera.
  7. When you have pressed the left arrow button for the last picture to be taken, you need to tell the EPIC Pro how long to wait before it moves to the next position in the panorama. You do this by pressing OK after the last left arrow button press.
  8. Now the EPIC Pro has been taught how many times and when to trigger the shutter. The display now has a small “T” for teach mode at the upper right hand corner of the LCD display.
  9. You can now start a new panorama from the ‘Main Menu’ and the EPIC Pro will use the shutter information you just taught it.


4.4 Timelapse/Series

You can use the ‘Timelapse/Series’ function to take a series of panoramas over a period of time. You can use either the external trigger and a remote, or a timer to tell the EPIC Pro when to start each successive panorama.

Epic Pro Timelapse/Series Settings

Basic Settings

  1. Select the ‘Options’ submenu from the EPIC Pro ‘Main Menu’.
  2. Select the ‘Timelapse/Series’ menu item.
  3. Select either ‘Timer’ or ‘Ext trigger’ and press OK.
  4. If you chose ‘Timer’ then you will need to set the amount of time that elapses between the start of each panorama. Use the left and right buttons to switch between day, hour, minutes, and seconds. Use the up and down buttons to change the actual value that is highlighted by two upward arrows. Press OK when you have set the desired amount of time.
  5. If you chose ‘Ext trigger’ then you will need a remote shutter device with a Canon E3 mini plug style connector. It can be wired or wireless. Connect it to the remote trigger port on the EPIC Pro.
  6. Now return to the ‘Main Menu’ by pressing the X button. Select ‘New Panorama’ from the main menu.
  7. After setting up the ‘New Panorama’ the EPIC Pro will capture the panorama and either wait for the timer or a button press from the remote shutter that is connected to the remote trigger port.
  8. When you want to exit the repeated capture of panoramas, press the X button to quit.

 

Additional information

Some things to consider before starting a time lapse series:

  • If you are mounting the EPIC Pro on a structure or a pole, is it secure? Will it present a danger to any people in the area if it falls? Safety first.
  • How are you going to power the EPIC Pro and the camera body?
  • How are you going to store all of the images?
  • Is the equipment protected from weather such as rain?


4.5 Save/Load Config

There are three configuration memories A, B, and C that you can use to save settings. The configurations may allow you to save a significant amount of time switching between lenses or cameras.

Saving or Loading a configuration

  1. From the EPIC Pro ‘Main Menu’, select the ‘Options’ sub menu and press OK.
  2. Select the ‘Save/Load Config’ menu item and press OK.
  3. Select one of the configuration memory locations A, B, or C and press OK.


4.6 Last Pic Hold

When the ‘Last Pic Hold’ function is set to ‘ON’, the EPIC Pro will keep the half button press signal asserted so that the camera is ready for the next panorama. This is very useful for time lapse panoramas.

  1. From the EPIC Pro ‘Main Menu’ select the ‘Options’ submenu and press OK.
  2. From the ‘Options’ sub menu select the ‘Expert Options’ submenu and press OK.
  3. Select the ‘Last Pic Hold’ menu item and press OK.
  4. Select the ‘ON’ and press OK.


4.7 Shutter Feedback

The ‘Shutter Feedback’ function tells the EPIC Pro whether the shutter was triggered by using the strobe signal from the PC connector or hotshoe. When ‘Shutter Feedback’ is set to ‘ON’ and a cable is connected along with a shutter speed that is less than 1/250s the camera will attempt to take a photograph the number of times set in the ‘Shutter Retries’ function.

  1. From the EPIC Pro ‘Main Menu’, select the ‘Options’ sub menu and press OK.
  2. From the ‘Options’ submenu select the ‘Expert Options’ sub menu and press OK.
  3. Select the ‘Shutter Feedback’ menu item and press OK.
  4. Select the ‘ON’ setting and press OK.
  5. The ‘Shutter Retries’ menu item will now appear in the menu since ‘Shutter Feedback’ is set to ‘ON’. Select the ‘Shutter Retries’ menu item and press OK.
  6. Select the number of times that you want the EPIC Pro to retry triggering the shutter and press OK.
  7. Connect the optional user supplied cables PC end to the camera body’s PC connector. Connect the mini plug end of the cable to the remote trigger port of the EPIC Pro. The remote trigger port is located underneath the right hand side of the EPIC Pro LCD panel. Note, that you can buy a hotshoe adapter if your camera does not have a PC port.

NOTE: The ‘Shutter Feedback’ function is good at detecting when the shutter has not been actuated, but it may not detect a successful shutter trigger after a failure. So once you see that a shutter failure has occurred, watch the retries by the EPIC Pro.