I have been on the road the last three weeks shooting an assignment, and had a chance to use a new tripod head. If you like to shoot panoramic images, then you should take a look at the Really Right Stuff BH55 PCL head. This tripod head has a fluid rotating head on top of the standard tripod platform. There is a bubble level on top. To use the head, simply level the tripod head using the bubble, then loosen the rotating head controlled by a small screw. Then shoot your images giving about 30 percent overlap in each shot. Remember to keep things consistent with each image; no polarizers, adjusting exposure, changing apertures…you need consistent shots to merge in Photoshop. Using the head this way does not compensate for the nodal point, but RRS has a bracket for this as well.
Creating your panos in the computer couldn’t be easier. Just put your images in a folder, and then select this folder in CS5 using the File-Automate-Photomerge feature. I use the ‘auto’ setting and get great results. No third party software needed.
An added bonus using this head is panning with video. The rotating fluid top is very smooth, and gives you an option to pan with subjects using video or even shooting stills. The only trick is they have to be moving level and in a straight line relative to the tripod or they will go out of the frame.