Fotomate - Pro panoramic images on the Cheap for beginners.
As one who teaches workshops on Panoramic photography, I am always looking for alternatives for people who can't afford a $350 Panoramic system like a Nodal Ninja. I have been looking at Nodal Rails by a couple of companies as alternatives to a complete system and have found two; however, both are still out of the affordable range. The Kirk is running at about $110 and the Acratect for $199. Then I came across a Macro rail for focusing in Macro Photography. And it hit me this was an inexpensive solution for Landscape Panoramic images. I knew it would be limited; although it would work for people beginning to explore Panoramic photography.
**If you are unfamiliar with no Parallax point or what many call the nodal point see the video below. The reason to set your camera up for this is to help the Panoramic software, stitch your images seamlessly. If you don't, often you can get errors, especially in large complex images. This setup will help in getting that seamless 360 degree (horizontal) image. For 360 degree (spherical type) Panoramic images you will need a system similar to a Nodal Ninja.
The Fotomate Macro Rail works well to adjust for your No Parallax point, also know by many as the Nodal point, though that terminology is being pushed away by Pros as they are not the same thing. By mounting your camera to the macro rail you can easily adjust for the No Parallax point with a turn of an adjustment screw. This $20 unit is actually easier to dial in than my Nodal Ninja system, which was about $350. Granted I have a great deal of flexibility with my more expensive system, however there are many times I shoot in landscape and can easily get away with the easier set up of the rail system. The video below shows how to set up the rail for the No parallax point. It should work fine with most wide angle to short telephoto lenses. I recommend shooting Panoramic images with either a ultra wide angle or preferred normal lens, like a 50mm on a full frame camera or about a 35mm on a cropped sensor. Above the rail is shown with my 10-22mm on a 40D. Works great with my 7D as well.
The Fotomate Macro Rail can be found on e-bay. I got my for under $20 with shipping included. This unit is really well made. All metal, with metal thumb screws. Solid and no plastic parts. The side facing away in the above shot has two thumb screws, one for adjusting, and another to lock the cameras position. The side of the rail shown above, has measured increments which you could use to easily reset you camera, the next time you are out shooting. Just make sure you find the No parallax point for each lens you use and if you use a different camera body check those too. Also always level you camera before shooting Panoramic images as you will end up cropping out a great deal if your camera shoots on a downward or upward angle.