February 08, 2007

GigaPans & big zooms

A couple of interesting optical bits of note:

  • Roland Piquepaille talks about a new device called GigaPan, a $200 automated device which promises to facilitate the creation of very large panoramas. More info is here. [Via]
  • David Pogue waxes rhapsodic about the hard-to-find Nikon 18-200mm stabilized lens. Newly minted Flash PM (formerly long-time Flash evangelist) Richard Galvan has been shooting up a storm with what I believe is this same lens & loves it. He took some beautiful sunrise shots of Barcelona today, to which I’ll link as soon as he posts ’em.
  • New Canon developments are rumored, including the possibility of some new “long glass.” I’ve been wondering when we might see a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens featuring the new image stabilization technology. Having just shelled out for a house, however, my enthusiasm for a purchase like that has appropriately waned… [Via Keith Cooper]
Posted by John Nack at 4:21 PM on February 08, 2007


  • Klaus Nordby — 6:49 PM on February 08, 2007

    I have owned the Nikon 18-200mm stabilized lens for a few months and am using it with my Nikon D200. Yes, this lens i’s an amazing engineering feat! And yes, it’s semi-impossible to buy it anywhere, as the recent explosion of fairly inexpensive dSLRs in the marketplace has messed royally with the demand for some Nikon lenses — which Nikon just cannot manufacture enough of by far. Nikon’s MSR price is, I think, $790 — but I had to pay $930. It seems that Canon owners have a much easier time getting Canon lenses for “normal” prices. But Canon has, at present, no lens even remotely resembling the Nikon 18-200mm — and this lens might even be a very good argument for first-time dSLR buyers to choose Nikon over Canon. That is, IF they can manage to buy the lens anywhere! (It’s the guy at http://www.kenrockwell.com who’s promoted this lens as “life-changing.”)

  • Jaddie Dodd — 7:42 PM on February 08, 2007

    I have the current 70-200 2.8 IS. I wish I hadn’t bought the IS version. Turning on IS always results in images that aren’t as sharp as having the feature disabled. I’m sure handholders love IS, but I just hate soft images. (“Soft” means not tack-sharp when viewed as actual pixels in Photoshop, a fairly rigorous standard.) The 70-200 is the lens I use most with my 20D, and I shoot mostly portraits. When we go on vacation, I use the 17-40 4.0 most of the time.
    You’re gallivanting around Europe with David Pogue? Wow! That dude is the best technical writer I’ve ever read.
    [Actually I’m gallivanting with Richard, whereas David is (or was) in the Bahamas, I think. Hard to go wrong either way. ;-) –J.]
    I love your blog. You’re sharp and creative.
    [Thanks! –J.]

  • DaveP — 6:33 AM on February 09, 2007

    I own the 18-200 VR (Nikon calls it Vibration Reduction, not Image Stabilization). It’s really a great lens.
    If you’re in Minneapolis and want one, West Photo has had them in stock through all the shortages and doesn’t have them significantly marked up (they’ve probably made up the difference in other things I’ve bought there because they do a good job). I love those guys!
    They also had spare D-200 batteries in stock, which was another hard-to-find-item when I got mine just before Christmas.

  • BWJones — 12:03 PM on February 09, 2007

    Oh man…. now you’ve gone and done it by making me think about new Canon lenses. I’ve had my eye on a 70-200 IS USM for a little while now. It’s a great lens and I am so close to dropping the cash on it, but what I’d really like is an upgrade to the 5d with a little weather sealing to make it more competitive with the Nikon d200 which is a mighty appealing camera. The only thing the d200 is missing is a full frame sensor.
    [There’s lots of debate here about the real value of a full-frame sensor. I really want the best possible dynamic range with the lowest possible noise, regardless of how that’s achieved. –J.]

  • Rich MacDonald — 5:36 PM on February 09, 2007

    There are some pretty decent spherical tripod heads out there around $100; I’ve been pleased with the Nodal Ninja for my Nikon D70s.
    It looks like the GigaPan also allows for precise rotation around the cameras nodal point. It is interesting that the robotic part allows for complete description of the cameras rotation.
    But with Image-align and precise rotation, I wonder how necessary this really is? I guess if you’re photography moving objects, it might play a more important role. But for static scenes SIFT seems to be doing pretty well.
    Have to say though, we’re still working with single-viewpoint imagery. There’s so much that can be done once one begins to move the camera position through the space (i.e. Photographic Surveying). Unfortunately there isn’t much software tailored to helping seam such images together. Photoshop does have all the necessary elements, but you do have to know what you’re doing….

  • Scott Howard — 3:52 AM on February 10, 2007

    Although a robot may make it easier, you don’t really need anything more than a tripod to create a gigapano.
    What you do need is a good zoom lens, which it doesn’t look like this robot would handle very well. Without a good zoom getting a reasonable field of view _and_ a high pixel count just isn’t going to happen.
    For some examples of gigapano’s done with a standard (manual!) tripod, but with a nice Canon 100-400L lens have a look at these :
    Sydney By Night – 740 Megapixels
    Mega Machu Picchu – 1500 Megapixels
    Chicago By Night – 1000 Megapixels

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