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Setting up the Gigapan Epic Pro

Setting up the Gigapan EPIC Pro

Carefully follow the steps below to capture the highest quality panoramas.

2.1 Get your equipment ready

To start shooting panoramas with the EPIC Pro, you will need:

  • EPIC Pro battery and power cord (included with the unit)
  • A tripod, fitted with a standard 1/4-20 tripod screw
  • Digital camera and lens (Digital Camera (see the Camera Compatibility List)
  • Electronic trigger cable (included with the unit)
  • 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 Charge and Install Batteries

Your EPIC Pro will arrive with its battery ready to be charged. There are two ways to charge the battery – you can charge the battery while it is in the EPIC Pro or remove the battery to charge it on its own.

To charge the battery inside the EPIC Pro:

  1. You can charge the battery in the EPIC Pro while it is powered on or off. You can also operate the unit while the battery is charging, if there is a sufficient level of charge on the battery.
  2. Insert the battery into the EPIC Pro battery compartment until the end of the battery is flush with the opening. When the battery is inserted, flip the latch clockwise to lock the battery into place.
  3. Plug the power cord into the EPIC Pro battery port under the right side of the LCD display.
  4. Plug the power cord into an AC wall socket. A plug icon will appear in the lower right corner of the LCD display When the EPIC Pro is powered off, the plug icon will not appear while the battery is charging.
  5. Place the EPIC Pro level in a space that has ample ventilation.
  6. A light on the power cord will blink red and green two times when connected to the AC source. After connecting to the battery pack, a red light will show the battery back is charging. A green light signals that the battery is now charged and ready to use.


To charge the battery on its own:

  1. To remove the battery from the EPIC Pro , open the battery compartment by flipping the latch counter-clockwise.
  2. Plug the connector end of the power cord into the battery and then plug the power cord into an AC wall socket.
  3. Place the battery level in a space that has ample ventilation.
  4. A light on the power cord will blink red and green two times when connected to the AC source. After connecting to the battery pack, a red light will show the battery back is charging. A green light signals that the battery is now charged and ready to use.


To check the EPIC Pro battery status:

When the battery is low, a low battery icon will flash in the lower right corner of the EPIC Pro LCD display. When the battery is so low that proper functionality is no longer possible, a “Please recharge the battery” message will appear.

To check the battery status, press the directional keys until you reach the ‘Options’ menu item and press OK. Select the ‘Battery Status’ menu item and press OK. If the battery has just been charged, the battery status should read at least 7.4 volts. If the battery is below 7.0 volts, it needs to be charged.

2.3 Mount the EPIC Pro on a tripod

To ensure a steady series of images, use the EPIC Pro with a sturdy tripod fitted with a standard 1/4-20 tripod screw.

  1. Set up the tripod. Ensure that the legs have a solid footing on the ground and that the tripod is relatively level. If the tripod has a bubble level use it to help level the tripod. Tighten the adjustment screws on the tripod
  2. Remove the tripod quick release plate and attach it to the EPIC Pro’s tripod mount at the bottom.



  3. Gently tighten the screw until the quick release plate is firmly attached to the EPIC Pro.
  4. Clip the plate back onto the tripod.
  5. Use the bubble level to center and level the EPIC Pro. Adjust the tripod legs and mount as necessary.

2.4 Mount your camera and lens

Use these steps below to mount your camera and lens on the EPIC Pro. Refer to the EPIC Pro diagram and part names in Chapter 1.2 as you follow these steps.

  1. Turn the EPIC Pro on by pressing and holding the OK button for one to two seconds
  2. Level the camera rail by pressing the down button until the ‘Move Camera’ menu item is selected. Press OK.
  3. Use the up and down arrows to move the camera rail to a level position, approximately even and parallel to the base of the EPIC Pro.
  4. To remove the camera mounting plate from the camera rail, find the small silver pin at the front of the camera mounting plate. Turn the small silver pin clockwise and then rotate the camera mounting plate lever clockwise. Then remove the camera mounting plate.
  5. Mount either the camera body or the lens mount to the camera mounting plate. Larger lenses have a mount because a camera body is not able to support the mass and size of the lens.
  6. Re-attach the camera mounting plate to the camera rail with the lens and camera attached. Ensure that it is securely fastened.
  7. Loosen the camera rail by turning the camera rail adjustment knob underneath the 7. rail clockwise.
  8. Slide the camera rail so that the mass of the camera and lens is centered over the axis of rotation so that the EPIC Pro can easily move the lens and is less susceptible to external forces such as wind or vibration from vehicles. If you are photographing subjects that are closer with a medium to small mass lens you may opt to adjust the lens so that the optical center is centered at the axii of rotation. This choice affects the adjustment of the rail forward or backward. It does not effect the height adjustment, which will be adjusted to the center of the lens or as close as possible.
  9. Adjust the rail forward to center the mass over the axis of rotation unless you are very close to your subject. If you are close to your subject you will need to use a lens that allows you to position the camera rail so that the lens is approximately at the optical center which minimizes parallax error. This position will be close to the region of the lens between the front glass element and the focus ring in most cases.
  10. Adjust the height of the camera rail and the camera mounting plate so that the center of the lens is at the level of the platform thumbscrews attached to the EPIC Pro arms. Loosen the platform thumbscrews to allow for adjustment of the camera mounting plate and lens height. A few larger cameras, such as the Nikon D3X, will not allow you to perfectly center the height of the lens to the midpoint. For the majority of usage, this should not be an issue.

2.5 Set up your camera

Follow the steps below to optimize your digital camera settings for panorama taking.

  1. Turn on your camera and select the ‘Manual mode’.
  2. Adjust the focus and exposure. (ISO, aperture value, shutter speed )
  3. Set your camera’s ‘White Balance’ (Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten or Fluorescent) based on the lighting conditions. You may use a device such as an expodisc, color card, or grey card to get better white balance.
  4. Connect the electronic trigger cable to the trigger cable port, which is located to the left of the LCD display. Connect the cable to the camera.
  5. Set the EPIC Pro ‘Time per Pic’ in the ‘Options’ submenu to ensure enough time for the camera to be ready to capture another photograph. You need to account for the shutter speed and enought time to write the image to flash memory. It is important to allow sufficient ‘Time per Pic’ to avoid missing photos.


2.6 Setting Functions on EPIC Pro

Every time that you change lenses, camera bodies, or zoom focal length, you must perform the ‘Camera setup’ function in order to give the EPIC Pro the angle of view for your lens and camera combination. You must also perform the ‘Camera Setup’ function, if it is the first time you are using the EPIC Pro or you have performed the ‘Factory Reset’ function.

Field of View

  1. From the ‘Main Menu’, select ‘Camera Setup’ and press OK .
  2. The first time you select ‘Camera Setup’ you will be asked if you want to set up the field of view. Set your field of view and press OK. (After setting up the field of view the first time, the current field of view will be displayed in step 2 as it is shown in the diagram above as step 7. )
  3. If you have not disabled the ‘Checklist’ function under ‘Options’->’Expert Options’-> ’Checklist’ by setting it to OFF, you will be prompted to set the camera’s zoom. Press OK after this prompt.
  4. Now the EPIC Pro will prompt you to align a unique point with the top of the camera viewfinder or the top of the LCD screen. Ensure you choose a feature that you can easily identify and use the directional keys to move the camera so that this unique point is at the top, middle of the lens. Press OK.
  5. The EPIC Pro will momentarily display “Reference set!”
  6. Now the EPIC Pro will prompt you to move the camera using the up and down keys.
  7. Adjust the position of the lens so that the unique point that you chose in step 4 is located at the bottom of the lens. Press OK.
  8. The EPIC Pro will momentarily display “Field of view set!”


Additional information

Verify the field of view at any time by selecting the ‘Camera Setup’ function. If you wish to preserve the current angle of view, press the X button. If you wish to change the angle of view, press the OK button and follow the directions above in Chapter 2.6.

2.7 Set manual focus or autofocus

Focus is very important when capturing panoramas with the EPIC Pro. By paying close attention to the focus both before and during shooting, you can create panoramas wih ulta high resolition and incredible clarity in their detail. By not paying close attention to focus, the amount of time and effort spent capturing a large 1000 photograph panorama may not generate as good of results as the same panorama using a shorter focal length and 400 photographs.

Manual Focus
Consistent Focus
The use of manual focus to capture a panorama reduces the risk of missing photos, inconsistent focus, or complete lack of focus. When you choose to use manual focus, you are assured that the focus will remain consistent over all areas of the panorama. You will also not need to be so concerned about missing an image in a large panorama. Consult a depth of field table to become familiar with the distances which will have an acceptable sharpness.

Maximize Depth of Field
Depth of field is a function of:

  1. Aperture - diameter of diaphragm opening. Decreasing the diameter will increase the DOF. Increasing the aperture value too much, such as f/22 versus f/8 through f/16 will result in diminishing returns in sharpness due to diffraction losses.
  2. Focal length - distance from image sensor plane to principle point. Decreasing the focal length will increase the DOF.
  3. Distance to subject - increasing the distance to the closest point that needs to be acceptably sharp increases the DOF.
  4. Size of image sensor ( full frame, partial frame, point and shoot ) A smaller size sensor will increase the DOF.
  5. Circle of confusion - diameter of circle considered to be one point. This is not a camera setting, but a definition of what is considered to be sharp. You need to pay attention to this value so that you do not misinterpret the depth of field. When the circle of confusion diameter is increased ( what is considered to be one point ) the standard for what is is considered to be acceptably sharp decreases.

Plan your Panorama
If you have time to plan the capture of a panorama, the measuring tool on Google Earth allows you to measure the potential distances involved. Google Earth also has a tool for visualizing the lighting conditions with respect to the time of day and the date.

Auto Focus
There are situations when auto focus is a better choice, than manual focus for increasing the sharpness of a panorama. One example is a crowd of people or a building that are at an angle and span a large distance. You will not be able to increase the depth of field to cover the entire distance, especially if you are using a longer focal length. You can use autofocus to shift the center of focus closer or farther for each position in the panorama if you have a suitable situation for autofocus. There are advantages and difficulties with each method depending upon the particular situation. The ‘Shutter length’ setting in the ‘Expert options’ and using a faster lens with a minimum aperture value such as f/2.8 versus f/5.6 are two ways to make autofocus work better. Another important hardware consideration is the autofocus system of the particular camera body that you are using.

Potential subject problems
Multiple objects at different distances - may need to reduce focus points used or temporarily switch to manual focus for that region of the panorama. Areas devoid of discernable features - need to use manual focus for entire or part of panorama. There needs to be discernable features where the camera body focus points are located.

Moving objects - May need to repeat particular photograph or pause panorama Enough light - May need to use better equipment such as a faster lens such as f/2.8 versus f5.6. May need to use manual focus

Important auto focus camera settings include:

  1. A faster lens with a lower minimum aperture value such as f2.8 versus f5.6. The aperture value is inversely proportional to the diaphragm diameter. A wider opening allows more light to hit the autofocus sensor.
  2. A focus policy where a photograph is taken only if good focus is achieved versus a release policy where the photograph will be taken regardless of whether good focus has been achieved. Increase the ‘Shutter Length’ setting to increase the amount of time that the focus signal is asserted.
  3. The auto focus mode such as single servo, continuous servo, or mixed.
  4. The focus points that are selected.

With Canon DSLR cameras the auto focus mode is tied to the release or focus policy.

Nikon cameras have a default release priority or focus priority which may be changed using the camera menu system.

You can use a combination of auto focus and manual focus in difficult lighting situations, such as blue sky, smooth water, or bright lights.

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 instructions in Chapter 3 to take a panorama, and preview the images in your camera. If you don’t see a good overlap despite following the instructions, go back and adjust your EPIC Pro set-up.

Good Overlap Insufficient Overlap

 

2.9 Minimize paralax error

Use the following tips to eliminate an effect called parallax, which causes objects to appear to have shifted when viewed from different lines of sight.

Note: If the subject of your panorama is far away, you will want to adjust the position of the camera rail forwards or backwards to balance the camera and lens instead of following these tips to minimize parallax error (See Chapter 2.4 for information about balancing the mass of your camera and lens). At further distances, it is more important that your camera and lens be stable for minimizing parallax error.

Adjust the lens position If you are capturing a panorama where the subjects include objects that are close to the lens along with objects that are farther away, you may be able to increase the image quality by adjusting the lens so that the front entry pupil of the lens is centered over the axii of rotation.

Approximate adjustments for minimizing parallax error '

Note: The approximate adjustments described above are sufficient for most instances. However, sometimes it may be necessary to make the following fine adjustments and work the extra time and effort.

  1. Adjust the height of the camera by loosening the two platform thumbscrews on the EPIC Pro arms. Move the camera mounting platform up or down until the midpoint of the camera lens is located at the same height as the thumbscrew and the axis of rotation for pitch ( up and down ).
  2. Adjust the camera rail by loosening camera rail adjustment knob. Slide the rail forwards or backwards until the entry pupil of the lens is at the same position as the middle of the arm where the platform thumbscrews on the EPIC Pro arms are located. The entry pupil is now aproximately aligned with the axis of rotation for yaw ( left to right ).


Fine adjustments to the camera mounting platform for minimizing parallax error

  1. Find two objects in your scene that are adjacent to each other and at different distances, such as two trees at different distances or a window frame and a door. You will use these two objects to accurately repeat images at two angles with the camera rail adjusted at different points.
  2. Place two additional objects that will help you consistently position the EPIC Pro at different angles. You might use two chairs and use the back of a chair just visible at the left side of the viewfinder to repeat two angles.
  3. Loosen the knob underneath the camera rail and move the rail so that the estimated location of the lens entry pupil is located at the midpoint of the EPIC Pro arms, which is the yaw axis.
  4. Determine the position of the camera rail using the millimeter markings on the rail.
  5. Measure the distance between the two objects at the two angles for different positions of the camera rail.
  6. When you find the position of the rail where the distance between the two objects changes the least number of pixels at the two different angles, you have minimized the parallax error for the yaw axis (left to right)