Gigapan Epic Pro Video Review

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gigapan_title_image2The new Gigapan Epic Pro (the gigapan for your DSLR) is out! We hadn’t seen any reviews yet and we have gotten so many questions about it after twittering that we had the Gigapan Epic Pro that we have decide to post a “first look” for our friends.

Overall the device makes shooting gigapixel images very easy and the Gigapan seems very reliable, the motors sound really good and seem to be accurate (a good idea for someone to test for a future review).  We are a bit picky as we have been using motion control heads for many years and they have been 5 to 10 times the cost of this unit or required that we build the head ourselves (take a look at our Gallery for some of our finer work with these heads). Topping our list of requests for a product like the Gigapan Epic Pro would be more stability, and more robust parts using pro camera gear as a standard for build quality etc. I mention the vibration from the wind in the video, it was quite windy the day I went out to shoot. Despite the instability I pointed out the Gigapan actually performed fairly well. It seems that the Gigapan did not catch the wind too badly. I did restrict myself to a 1/250th of a second with a 300mm lens to prevent motion blur and you can inspect the result for yourself in the photosynth window below.
Update 3/31/10:
See video below for the parts that need to be tightened to get more stability.

I would prefer a device like this only to have captive parts, it would be a huge disappointment to travel half way around the world for a shot only to find you were missing a unique piece. I am sure this will happen to someone. The things that I really like about this unit is the simplicity of use and the speed at which you can compose and setup a shot. You can also calibrate the angle of view of a lens in the field in about 30 seconds. You do not have to worry about communication to a laptop, PDA or smart-phone. This reliability is fantastic but you sacrifice flexibility. It would also be nice if you could send it scripts from your computer as well making it more useful as a general tool that could be used for motion controlled time-lapse as well as gigapixel images.

Another interesting development of the last week is the new Photosynth support for gigapixel panoramas. Now we have spherical, perspective corrected, gigapixel support inside of Silverlight. It makes for an incredibly smooth viewer! Right now there is only support for exporting these images if they were stitched inside Microsoft ICE and you are unable to crop or use Photoshop to edit an image you stitch with it. I can only imagine it won’t be too long until these can be integrated into larger Photosynths and made from panoramas stitched and edited in other software. Microsoft ICE has very good support for “Structured Panoramas” so it can work very well with images taken with a panoramic motion control head like the Gigapan Epic Pro. You can see the result of the shoot from the video below.

If you know of any other reviews of the Gigapan Epic Pro, or Photosynth Gigapixel support please add them in the comments!



38 Comments

  1. Thanks, that was very helpful. Now I do have a question for you that I have email asked Gigapan’s customer service without reply … Can you remove the thumbscrews and remove the platform? I’m hoping that by doing so I’ll be able to pack the thing without needing a case by itself. If I did remove the platform I could put a DSLR body in the space that’s taken up by the rail and platform. It’s a way to fit more in a padded case, Pelican case mounted to a motorcycle. I don’t mind the extra bit of assembly required but space is at premium on really out of the way trips … Any thoughts are appreciated and again thanks for the review.

  2. Thans for the very informative review. Since you have experienced with a lot of motion control head, may I know what is the best one in terms of stability and usage?

  3. HSSwan, yes you can remove both the sled and the tilt platform, the tilt platform is mounted with thumbscrews.

  4. Hi Wayne, We have several Rodeons that we have been using for the last 4 years. The new VR Station looks pretty good but it runs 10 grand. Peace River Studios has had good heads as well, both are using the electro-magnetic breaks. There is a size vs stability issue w/ these though, so it kind of depends if you are planning on backpacking or drive-ups.

  5. [...] and was kind enough to share it with the CurrentPhotographer.com community. Be sure to check out Greg’s original post for more details about the EPIC Pro and to see the really cool panorama he created during the [...]

  6. I was thinking of buying this pano Head. But after looking at the video I can see their is alot of play in the rotation axes.

    Does the top rotating axes the same loose ?

    Do you think it is possible to make night panorama with this head ? Long exposure (10 to 30 seconds) without blurr ?

    Do you think it is possible for you to make a pano shot at night with long exposure to test the stability of this pano head ?

    I would really appreciated…

    Thanks

  7. Nice review Greg. I emailed Gigapan a while ago and they replied with sales broilerplate, not answering my specific questions. Maybe you can answer: Is it suitable for shooting spherical panoramas with a 5D/15mm fisheye? If so, can it be set to rotate around the lens’ nodal point? If it’s possible to use it this way, how quickly could it shoot a 6+1 panorama and how large would be nadir hole be?

  8. using the electro-magnetic breaks.

    Do you think it would be possible to add that the feature once I get hold of the gigapan?

  9. To those of you following comments. We updated with a video that shows the parts that need tightening to improve the stability.

  10. Thank you for the video preview! There aren’t any details on the Gigapan site about how the Multiple Trigger option works on this unit. Does it actually change the shutter speed of the camera for each shot? Does it let you specify a top/bottom shutter speed and EV steps?

  11. “HSSwan, yes you can remove both the sled and the tilt platform, the tilt platform is mounted with thumbscrews.”

    Thank you. With that known I ordered one for myself … Gigapan owes you.

  12. +1 for the Dave question!

  13. Makael, not the gigapan is not connected to the camera so it does not change the exposure, you will have to do this w/ your camera’s bracketing feature or a device like the Promote.

  14. Dave and Nelson, I will have to give it a try, if you mount the camera on the sled backwards you can probably get that to work. I am not sure if the vertical arms will be in view or not. The Nadir hole is huge, 65 degrees. Not really a great device for spheres. Additionally I think it would be far easier to do this w/ a manual head unless you are trying to do something automated like timelapse. I find manual heads faster and easier for any sphere up to a 35mm.

  15. Thanks Greg…I agree that it isn’t the best solution for run-of-the-mill sphericals – a manual head is best for that. I was thinking of using it as a device for remote shooting – say up on a telescopic pole. In these situations exact nodal point alignment isn’t usually necessary as the camera isn’t close enough to anything to cause parallax errors. Not worrying about the nodal point would enable you to eliminate the huge nadir hole by sliding your camera forward. But I’m still curious as to how quickly it could shoot 6+1 (in daylight with fast shutter speeds), and if you can save the spherical mode in the unit’s memory so you can quickly call it up when needed.

  16. Thanks for the review–you cover the basics well in a few minutes.

    My unit didn’t have the stability problem, but it did have another quality control issue–the bubble level isn’t accurate. Not a huge problem for me because I use an Acratech leveling base, and can use the level on it, but it would be hard to get level otherwise.

  17. Thanks for the info. I thnk I’ll be sticking with my Manfrotto head, it’s much easier and quicker to use.

  18. Dan, We had a problem w/ our bubble level not being placed accurately as well. We will work around this by using a level on the camera’s hotshoe.

  19. Sandeep, I don’t think electromagnetic breaks would be something that will be easy to add after-market. It would take quite a bit of hacking.

  20. Hi,

    I’m interested in this head for time-lapse/motion control more than for panoramas. Is the motor precise enough? I’ve seen time-lapse done on the gigapanner blog/site and it the footage was jerky.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBindyJwUqA&feature=player_embedded

    Maybe you’ll have a second to review this and you’ll see what I mean. This could be an awesome tool, and I was wondering if the video stepped possibly because of the software used to create the video. Or was it the wind? Or the motor…?

    Any feedback and opinions would be very much appreciated – thanks in advance!

    Jesse

  21. Hi Jesse, Good idea, it would probably be partially dependent on how wide of a lens you used. A more telephoto lens would reveal more bumps and would require more precision and smaller steps. I will run a test next time I come across a good time lapse subject.

  22. HI all, I have received my “Pro” unit and am very disappointed with its build quality.
    The “Sled” and camera mounting system is already falling apart.
    I emailed Gigapan Systems, on 16th April, with my concerns but have as yet only received an automated case number.
    Since then I have encountered several other build quality issues which are causing me to have second thoughts on the “Pro ?” head.
    I will keep trying to contact them to resolve my issues, but it may be a long hard road.

    Has anybody had any success in contacting Gigapan Systems support?

    If you are thinking a buying one of these I would advise waiting a while in the “hope” that they manage to improve the overall build quality.

    Jeff

  23. Hi Jeff, Yes I have had a few people email me that they have been replacing the heads when they have encountered problems. Six days for a response sounds like long wait, I would try to contact them again if I were you.

    I know they have a line of back-orders due to the demand (we are still waiting on a replacement for our head as well). When I have spoken w/ their customer relations people they have been very understanding and helpful. Good luck!

  24. Hi Greg, you said you have “Spoken” to them, I cannot find any phone number for them.
    I am in the UK and had to wait over a week (Easter holidays here) for it to be cleared by our customs before it was passed onto our postal service. After the anticipation and waiting time its arrival should have produced some euphoria, but no luck there.
    I have tried contacting support again (yesterday), and am now waiting for someone to reply.

    It may be a good idea for buyers to list (all) the faults they are finding so that others can be aware of them.
    I don’t know if you would like to make this blog open to this idea, it could turn into a real headache for you.

    Jeff

  25. Yes I spoke with them in person at http://tucson2010.com/sessions/ I am not sure if they have a direct line for support.

    People are welcome to talk about what they would like changed on the next rev here so long as the discourse remains civil. Also if others are doing reviews of the product I will link to them from here.

  26. Jeff, check your email response from them, you should have a link to update the status of the problem. I clicked and reminded them of my problem and they responded quickly. I think they’re a bit overwhelmed with questions. Mine is on the way back with a probable circuit board problem.

  27. Greg,

    Thanks very much for your reply to my time-lapse post! In fact I am planning to use mostly wide lenses for my time-lapse sequences of architecture here in New York City. I have ordered a Pro anyway, despite Jeff Starley’s – and your, experience with the issues of looseness… The possibilities are just too enticing and exciting!!

    Thank you for allowing us the space to have a forum about the Gigapan. I have been viewing the http://www.gigapanner.com site, (where I saw the time-lapse video I posted about previously), however I can’t find a way to sign up for the forum, and there don’t seem to be any new posts.

    I’ll definitely let you know what my experiences are once I receive the unit – backordered until May 14, the estimated shipping date!

    I do have one question about panorama’s. How is the stitching software able to reproduce such amazing resolution?? Are people using 100-300mm telescopic/zoom lenses? Is this the concept, to zoom fully in and set a wide area to capture?

    Regards, Jesse

  28. I just heard from Gigapan that they are expanding their warranty from 3 months to one year, this includes the folks who already bought one.

  29. Hi. Which tripod are you using for the Epic Pro? I guess that it is a manfrotto tripod but which model is it? Thanks from germany!Sebastian

  30. We use Gitzo 1228 Levelers, simple to level for panos..

  31. Greg,

    Thanks for the videos, and comments about the Epic Pro.. I have been shooting for ever.. :) and currently am shooting with a Nikon D3.. I am contemplating the epic.. but I am curious after having it for a few months.. how do you still rate it?
    I know there were some concerns with the backlash initially.. I probably will use my d3 and either my 200-400 lens or my 600 lens.. Do you see a problem for the epic with such a large and heavy setup? I also use really right stuff on my gitzos, and camera gear.. You mentioned you may adapt the epic to a arca style mount… Did you get that done? I would really like to not stack, and have my RRS mount directly to the epic..

    I haven’t seen an epic in person, so I might have been able to answer some of those questions if I had.. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.

    Thanks..
    John

  32. Hi John,

    The extreme backlash problem is now resolved. After the initial video we tightened a bolt to get less backlash, although this fixed the backlash problem it caused a problem w/ the internal mechanics and eventually chewed up the plastic gear inside the device. We just got a bad unit and Gigapan replaced it, new unit has performed well. I think the 600mm lens might be questionable on the Gigapan, should have no problem w/ your zoom though. I would contact Gigapan about an Arca swiss style plate.

  33. G’day Greg

    The video was very interesting. I for one found it very informative. Coupled with the additional input of other viewers comments and your subsequent replies, they have enabled me to seriously consider purchasing the GigaPan Epic Pro. I will be watching this space with great interest for additional information and feedback.

    Best Regards
    Al Stumpers

  34. @Dave

    Does the top rotating axes the same loose ?
    Do you think it is possible to make night panorama with this head ? Long exposure (10 to 30 seconds) without blurr ?
    Do you think it is possible for you to make a pano shot at night with long exposure to test the stability of this pano head ?

    I just used mine for the first time today.

    1) The motor rotating around the horizontal axis (altitude) is much more secure that the vertical axis motor (azimuthal)
    2) Doubt it would work at night. There is far too much play in the unit. I’m disappointed for how sloppy it is at this price point.
    3) No need to do a night-time test. It’s clearly not up to the job.

    I’m returning my unit. Will consider a replacement if they can convince me it’s not a design problem but I will also check other products out there.

    Tom

  35. Bonjour,
    lorsque je fais des photos avec l’Epic Pro et mon boitier Canon EOS 5 D MARK II le déclenchement des photos se fait correctement mais je n’ai aucune mise au point par l’autofocus.
    Est-ce normal quelque soit le boitier?
    Cela pose un problème lorsque je fais un panorama avec des premiers plans plus au moins éloignés.
    Merci à l’avance pour votre aide.

  36. Hello, when I make photos with Epic Pro and my case Standard(Cannon) EOS 5 D MARK II the release of photos is correctly made but I have no development(clarification) by the autofocus.
    Is it normal about is the case?
    It raises a problem when I make a panorama with foregrounds more at least taken away.
    Thanks to the advance for your help(assistant)

  37. Generally panoramas are shot with a fixed manual focus. Autofocus can cause lots of problems when stitching. If you are having problems w/ depth of field you can use a smaller aperture (larger number) or you can focus stack which makes the whole process a bit more complicated.

  38. Mine arrived today. The clamp/camera mount was so badly made it fell apart in the box. Crappiest construction quality I have ever seen. One hole was drilled crooked – it was oval, not round. The screw holding in the lever was too short. The hole in the lever where the screw attaches was stripped. It looks like they drilled the hole, painted it, then tapped the PAINT. The metal had no threads. The screw slides in and out with zero friction. What a POS. Lousy build quality, no QC. Returning it – and they better not even think of sticking me with shipping.