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I recently bought a Nikon D5200 and I was wondering how to shoot in panorama mode. I seem to find every other mode but panorama. Do I just need to pan the camera and take multiple pictures and stitch them together later? Or does the camera have a panorama mode built in?

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The D5200 does not have a panorama mode built in. You will need to take multiple shots and stitch them in software like Photoshop or Hugin.

When you take your shots, do not simply stand still and twist at the waist. This will result in distorted panoramas. Instead, you need to imagine that the end of the lens is attached to a pole in the ground, and pivot around that. Here, have a diagram:

Panorama diagram

You can get special tripod heads that set the camera back so that the pivot point sits correctly at the front of the lens. Or you can do it more approximately by hand, using your tripod as a guide and keeping the lens over its central point.

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    Ah... I know some people who might object and suggest to rotate around the optical center and not the front lens (somewhere in between front lens and sensor plane :-). Anyway this is true if you have a short distance foreground or with a wide angle lens - which is not recommended for good stitching. Otherwise the impact will be minimized : I did "quick and dirty" panos that turned out good. – FredP Oct 7 '14 at 15:09
  • Where is the diagram from? – mattdm Jan 14 '17 at 13:31
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Because the D5200 has an optical viewfinder, they haven't thought to build in a way to overlap images. P&S cameras typically use an LCD with liveview, so it's easier to implement a way to give a panorama-assist mode. There is, of course, nothing stopping camera manufacturers from adding this to the SLR liveview modes, or creating a dot-matrix LCD overlay in the viewfinder to do this, but it could be cost-prohibitive, or they simply believe nobody needs the feature.

It is entirely possible to shoot a panorama without it. As long as you do not have any nearby subjects, parallax is not critical, and you can rotate the camera by hand, and just visualize 1/3 to 1/2 of the frame overlapping (side to side for rows; top to bottom for columns) so you'll have enough matching detail to create a successful stitch.

Other basic panorama technique to keep in mind:

  • Manual exposure mode can keep the exposure of the member images from shifting as the lighting conditions shift with the view.

  • A manual (non-Auto) white balance mode can keep the color temperature of the member images from shifting as the lighting shifts with the view.

  • Manual focus can keep your DoF from moving between member images.

  • Shoot more coverage than you think you need--both for scene cropping and for horizon correction.

  • Consider shooting more coverage through time as well as space, if there are moving subjects going through the scene--you may need a "clean background plate" to erase ghosts or clones created by the stitching.

  • If you are using a wide-angle lens, also consider correcting in post for vignetting before you stitch, to avoid dark borders from showing up in the panorama.

Rotating the lens around its no-parallax point really only becomes an issue when you're shooting a panorama in small spaces (typically indoors), or you have subjects very close to the camera. The farther away the scene is you want to shoot, the less chance parallax will prevent a clean stitch. For most landscape panoramas, you do not need a special panohead.

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As you have already been advised, you can shoot multiple overlapping photos and then use software light Photoshop / Lightroom / AutoStitch / Hugin to stitch them in a single panorama.

In order to get a perfect panorama, though, you need to rotate the camera around its so-called "nodal point" - when rotating around it you virtually shoot all photos from the same position (the center of a virtual sphere you are trying to "wallpaper"); as opposed to shooting by rotating around yourself, or even rotating the camera on a standard tripod - in the first case the center of rotation is yourself, and in the second - the camera sensor. In both latter cases you get photos from slightly differing viewpoints (slightly offset spheres).

This might not have much, if any, impact if you are shooting distant objects only - the parallax effect might not be visible at all. But if you have an object (rock, tree, house) that is close to the shooting point, the object will have a visible offset (against the distant background) between the different photos, and might not stitch properly, if at all, in Photoshop.

There is gear (special panoramic heads for tripods) that can make it easier for you to rotate around the nodal point once you have found it for the particular lenses you are using (note that each lens has a different nodal point). But you still need to find it experimentally. Here is a video and an article that can help you with that:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpFzBq0g7pY

http://www.johnhpanos.com/epcalib.htm

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From http://www.ifotosoft.com/resource/make-panoramic-photography.html:

Whatever your project, here are some guides and tips on how to take advantage of the panorama stitching software with your camcorder. And then you can blend the photos together in the best status as a panorama. Just learn the best method to stitch photos to panoramic photography.

  1. Use consistent settings Change “White Balance” to a manual mode or at lest change from “auto-white balancing” to another settings. In the way you can create panorama files evenly.

  2. Choose a center point Find the feature or area that looks good in the center and take steady aim, and then shoot the rest in the same zoom level. It’ll help you align photos later in good status.

  3. Shoot overlapping shots in ordered rows It is the last and the most important requirement. With 20-30 percent of the overlapping the last one in a steady row, it can help you keep the shots organized. enter image description here

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