I recently checked out a GigaPan Epic Pro from LensRentals.com and tested it out by creating some high resolution panaromas of popular Front Range rock climbing destinations.
Setting up the GigaPan Epic Pro on Mount Lady Washington to create a panorama of The Diamond (East Face) of Longs Peak. (Photo: Brad Taylor)
The GigaPan Epic Pro is basically a robotic tripod head that automates the creation of massive panoramas from several to literally thousands of photos. By inputting the upper left and lower right limits of the scene, the GigaPan calculates the number of rows and columns of photos necessary and goes to work shooting, reseting, shooting and reseting.
Some first impressions:
The device is remarkably simple to set up. It really only takes a few minutes with the quick start guide to get going, although it does have many settings for specialized situations. I didn’t really dig into these much. It did everything I needed right out of the box.
Once the photos have been captured, the special GigaStich software does a great job of stitching and is also very simple to use. You do need to specify the number of rows in the panorama, which isn’t too difficult to figure out if you can’t remember, but it would be nice if the GigaPan could log this as metadata at capture.
In a couple of my panoramas I wound up with my rows and columns being just a little bit off due to an extra photo at the beginning, end, or maybe somewhere in the middle. Again, I think the GigaPan logging each photo’s position in metadata might solve this minor issue.
The GigaPan is bulky and with all of those little moters, a bit delicate. I hiked 25-30 miles with it in my pack during the week I had it and the best solution I found was to store it in a rectangular plastic tub with generous bubble wrap and foam padding. This just barely squeezed into my 60L pack. Add a camera, long lens, and a heavy tripod and the whole rig was probably around 40lbs. Yikes. I also had some issues with it turning on inside my pack while hiking and draining the battery. It would be best to pull the battery while in transit.
I shot most of my panoramas using a 1.7 teleconverter on a 70-200 zoom. I think a 300 f/4 would work as well or better, but I don’t think the GigaPan Epic Pro is going to be very stable shooting with any heavier lenses, although it is rated to be good to 10lbs. With my setup even a slight breeze produced noticable vibration and in the 20-30mph gusts common in Rocky Mountain National Park the vibration reduction on my 70-200 was the only way I got a usable photo.
Overall, I think the GigaPan Epic Pro is a success and I’m certainly going to be using it again. I will post a link to the panoramas I created (including Longs Peak, Hallett Peak, Eldorado Canyon, and the Flatirons) in the near future.