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I've created panoramas before, but I don't have a tripod that will let me get the same perspective. What techniques can I use to minimize distortion? Any particular focal length lenses that are better for this than others?

If it makes a difference, I have a Lumix GX1 micro four-thirds camera.

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2 Answers 2

For reducing parallax, check out this helpful article. It has useful information on finding and using the no-parallax point on any lens, as do the links it includes at the bottom. Essentially, as you pan to create your panorama, you want the axis of rotation to fall right through the no-parallax point.

In terms of what angle lens to use, generally you'll want to use a wide-angle lens, but not so wide as to cause a high amount of distortion. Lenses obviously vary, but try to use as wide a lens as you can that doesn't create a lot of distortion (or if it does, correct it in post before stitching the images). Some people go so far as to recommend focal lengths of around 50mm. While personally I think that's taking it a bit too far, if you have the time to create a panorama with a fairly tight lens like that then you are unlikely to have any distortion problems.

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Is that 50mm in 35mm terms, or 50mm literally? –  Daenyth Mar 19 at 15:57
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It's usually meant in 35mm terms, but that's of little specific importance. The main point is that some people recommend using normal/telephoto focal lengths (either of which 50mm can be, depending on the sensor size), because while they require more time to shoot and process, they produce very little distortion compared to even well-made wide-angle lenses. It's up to you to decide if that trade-off is worth it or not. –  Tortilla Mar 19 at 16:01

If you're talking about minimizing parallax so that you get a clean stitch, there are a lot of tricks you can use like a hotshoe bubble level and a plumb line (aka Philopod) to make sure you rotate around the lens's no-parallax point that don't require a tripod and panohead.

However, distortion is another matter. Depending on how wide a field of view you're trying to cover with the panorama, distortion may be absolutely necessary in the finished pano, because a flat plane typically can't represent more than 180 degrees without some type of distortion. Which projection the panorama uses is probably going to have the largest effect on the final pano.

As for focal lengths, I shoot a Panasonic DMC-G3 and will shoot full spherical 360x180 equirectangular panos with a Samyang (Rokinon version) 7.5mm f/3.5 fisheye lens, so the distortion of the lens, to me, isn't really an issue, as both the member images and the final panorama are nearly distorted beyond recognition. But when put into a VR viewer, they'll look much more like rectilinear images.

As long as you have good stitching software that can handle lens distortion, and you're not shooting super-wide panos, it's typically not going to be an issue, as distortion can be corrected for. I use PTGui, but Hugin is a great open source alternative. Most people, however, would advocate using longer lenses to get higher-quality, lower-distortion, and high-resolution panos.

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