Setting up the GigaPan EPIC
Carefully follow the steps below to capture the highest quality panoramas.
2.1 Get your equipment ready
To start shooting panoramas with your GigaPan, you will need:
- A tripod, fitted with a standard 1/4-20 tripod screw
- 6 AA NIMH or Lithium batteries (Be prepared with a spare set of batteries, especially if using alkaline.)
- Digital Camera (see the Camera Compatibility List)
- Camera battery and/or charger
- A memory card (at least 4 GB) Make sure you have enough memory on your memory card to take the number of pictures the panorama requires.
A memory card reader, or your camera's USB cable
2.2 Install Batteries
- Open the battery chamber on the side of the EPIC by squeezing the two battery holder clips together and pulling the holder away from the unit.
- Remove the battery holder.
- Install six AA batteries into the battery holder. Double check to ensure there are no gaps between the batteries.
Carefully re-insert the battery holder, ensuring that both clips snap securely in place.
A few battery tips:
- Rechargable batteries can drain even when not in use, so be sure batteries you charged a week or so ago are still charged before you begin shooting.
- It's a good idea to unplug the batteries in the GigaPan when transporting the unit to ensure the batteries don't drain if the OK button is accidently bumped.
Always keep a spare set of batteries availale when shooting with your GigaPan EPIC.
2.3 Mount the GigaPan EPIC on a Tripod
To ensure a steady series of images, use the EPIC with a sturdy tripod fitted with a standard 1/4-20 tripod screw.
Set up the tripod. Make sure that the legs have a solid footing on the ground and the tripod's adjustment screws are not loose.
- If your tripod has a quick-release plate, attach it to the EPIC's tripod mount at the bottom.
- Gently tighten the screw till the quick-release plate is firmly attached to the GigaPan.
- Clip the plate back onto the tripod.
Center the bubble level on the unit using the tripod legs and head adjustments.
2.4 Mount your camera
- Loosely attach the camera to the EPIC using the camera mounting screw in the long slot in the bottom of the camera mounting plate.
- Align the center of the lens with the diamond-shaped hole on the camera mounting plate by sliding the camera from side to side.
- Make sure the camera is parallel with the camera mounting plate and tighten the camera mounting screw.
- Using the thumbscrew on the side of the button pusher, adjust the height so that the button pusher arm is approximately level with the shutter button.
Using the thumbscrew on top of the button pusher arm, place the black rubber nub in the center of the shutter button.
2.5 Adjust mounting tray/operating arm
Step 1. Measure the height to the center of your camera lens from the camera mounting tray as shown, then find the closest height value in the table below and determine the corresponding black number.
Step 2. Find this black number on the black number plate, loosen the thumbscrew, and rotate the mounting tray such that the black alignment line of the correct black number lines up with the diamond cutout on the arm. The camera shown here has a lens height of 1.125"; this height is closest to 1.14", corresponding to black number -4.
Step 3. Tighten the platform thumbscrew keeping the correct black number aligned and the thumbscrew centered in the slot. This setting ensures the EPIC pitches about the optical center of the camera. Note: The slot in the arm allows for parallax error correction. See Chapter 2.8 for more information on reducing parallax error. This is not necessary for panoramas taken at a reasonable distance (50 feet or greater).
2.6 Align your camera to the GigaPan EPIC
If this is your first time using the GigaPan EPIC, if you are using a new camera, or if you change your camera's zoom level, you will need to align your camera with the GigaPan EPIC. This is also called Setting the Field of View.
- Turn on your camera and set it to full optical zoom. This ensures your panoramas will have the maximum resolution possible. Note: There are some scenarios in which you don't want your camera to be set at full zoom, please see section 7.2 for more information.
- Turn on the EPIC by holding down the OK button. The first time you use the GigaPan it will prompt you to set Field Of view immediately. After that it can be found under GigaPan Set-up in the menu.
- The EPIC will now prompt you to find an object in the picture you can distinguish and using the down button on the GigaPan move it to the top of the screen.
- When this is done, press the OK button. Now, taking that same object and using the up button move it to the bottom of the screen.
When this is done press the OK button. The GigaPan will now give you a reading of the Field Of View in degrees.
2.7 Set-up your camera
Follow the steps below to optimize your digital camera settings for panorama taking. In general you want to "lock" features (exposure, white balance, ISO) that will adjust your image settings from shot-to-shot in the panorama.
- Switch the camera to 'Manual Mode'.
- Turn OFF the 'Flash'.
- Turn OFF 'Digital Zoom'.
- Turn OFF the 'Automatic Power Down' or 'eSleep' function. Otherwise, your camera will go to sleep after 1-3 minutes, and you will need to reset some of the camera's settings. If you cannot disable the sleep mode, set it to sleep after the longest time possible and keep the camera awake by pushing the shutter half-way down every 1-2 minutes.
- Set the resolution to its maximum size.
- Turn off 'Image Stabilization' (IS).
- Set the 'White Balance' (Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten or Fluorescent) based lighting conditions. Do not leave in the Auto (AWB) setting.
- Aim your camera at the most important part of your scene, or find an average exposure.
Depending on your camera's abilities, either a) lock or b) set your camera's focus and exposure. (For circumstances when you may not want to lock/set the focus, please see Chapter 7.2)
- a) Some cameras have a limited manual mode that allows you to turn on Auto Exposure Lock (AEL) and Auto Focus Lock (AFL). Please see your camera's manual for these instructions.
b) A camera with full manual mode allows you to manually adjust and set your focus and exposure. Consult your camera manual for further information about the features mentioned above.
2.8 Test your set-up
You get the best panoramas when two consecutive pictures overlap by about a third. The best way to test whether your setup is all right is to take a 2x2 panorama. Use the previous instructions to take this panorama, and preview them in your camera.
If you don't see a good overlap despite following the instructions, go back and adjust your EPIC set-up.
2.9 Finding your camera's nodal point
What is the nodal point?
The nodal point of your camera is the point about which you must rotate your camera for perfect panoramas.
Why does it matter?
When you rotate a camera about its nodal point, you eliminate an effect called parallax, which causes objects to appear to have shifted when viewed from different lines of sight. To see this in action, close your left eye and hold your right thumb up close to your right eye. Hold your left thumb up at arm's length, such that it gets blocked by your right thumb. Now close your right eye, and open your left. You'll notice that while you could only see your right thumb with your right eye, you can see both thumbs with your left. This is because you're now viewing your thumbs from a different line of sight.
Using this concept, you can eliminate parallax from your camera.
- Mount your camera on the GigaPan EPIC.
- Select a scene that is similar to the above thumb experiment - one object in the foreground, and another in the distant background, being obscured by the foreground object. (A row of pillars or street lights is ideal). Note: Ideally, the foreground object should be at least 10 feet away from your camera.
- Set your camera to its full zoom level.
- Position your camera so that the foreground object is at the left edge of your screen, and the background object is obscured behind it.
- Rotate the EPIC so that the foreground object is now at the right edge of the screen. You'll probably see part of the background object appear behind the foreground object. If you're looking at a row of pillars, the last pillar in the row might move significantly.
- Loosen the platform screw and move the platform forward or backward till you can't see the background object any more. Note: Remember to keep the platform aligned with the black number on the arm gauge.
- Rotate the GigaPan EPIC again.
- If you can see the background object, adjust the platform's position again.
- Repeat this a few times, till the background object is always hidden, no matter what direction your camera is facing.
You've now found your camera's nodal point.