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I would like to buy a photography tripod with great stability and sturdiness to gain "perfect" precision as I will be using it to take panoramic pictures to do VR Tours.

I need one that reach 150cm (including central extension). Stability and sturdiness is a priority I think rather than compactness and versatility; but if all of that can be found in one I'll call myself lucky.

I've previously bought one that was compact and versatile but in order to reach the required 150cm I have to stretch the central extension to its limit. Looked sturdy enough and well built but when put to the test it failed. Pictures were taken on a carpeted joist subfloor which I think also affected the results. Pictures weren't blurred but the stitching was uneven or look crooked even when using a remote control and levelled appropriately. I can't find any other reason but the "cheap" tripod.

Conclusion; Would any of you recommend a "great" (£100-£250 budget) steady and sturdy tripod that would support a Canon 70D and a Sigma 8mm and the Tomshot 360 Panohead? One that wouldn't need to extend the central column to its limit to reach 150cm? Thank you very much for your answers.

I've returned the tripod in question and fortunately got my money back. I think a sturdy and steady tripod will be the option this time; as someone suggested to me the Manfrotto 190 range are a good option as they are light-weight hold up to 7kg. Somebody also suggested the EZ Leveler for easy leveling. Have any of you got experience in using any of these?

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The sturdiness and stability of a tripod has little to do with the "perfect precision" required to shoot 360x180 panos with no parallax error (i.e., causes breaks in seams in the stitch). In fact, the tripod itself has little to do with this. That's more up to the panorama head choice and calibration* you make to put on top of the tripod. Leveling also doesn't matter if you're shooting 360x180s since you've got full coverage and can readjust the horizon placement/tilt in post. If you got an S-horizon, you just need to adjust for roll. In the preview windows of either Hugin or PTGui, a horizontal drag will adjust for yaw, a vertical drag will adjust for pitch, and a right-drag will adjust for roll.

Basically, what you're looking for in a tripod are just the features everyone looks for in any tripod. The only thing that's specialized in your situation is that the Sigma 8mm circular fisheye lens is relatively short and with the 70D is a relatively light combination, so you might be able to use a lighter/less sturdy tripod, as long as you aren't shooting outdoors in high wind or making very long exposures. You may want to see this question: What should I pay attention to when selecting a tripod?.

I would also state that the basic tenet in purchasing a tripod is that you can have any two of the following three things: sturdiness, lightness, low cost. Given that you want something sturdy and low cost, you're probably looking at something heavy (aluminum) rather than light (carbon fiber). But in my experience shooting 360x180s with an XT, 50D and 5DMkII with the Sigma 8mm f/3.5, low-cost, light, and a bit tippy has actually served me relatively well, given that I'm typically using my setup indoors or outdoors in good light (i.e., slower than handholding shutter speeds are rare), and that I will do multiple setups in a single location, and need to cart everything around a lot.

See also: How are virtual tour photos taken?

*sidenote: the no-parallax point on the Sigma 8mm f/3.5 fisheye is not constant.

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If the pictures were not blurry, it's not the fault of the tripod that the stitching was uneven or looked crooked.

All that a tripod does is lock the camera and lens in a fixed position. It will not magically make your panoramas work.

Your conclusion that you need a new tripod is very likely wrong.

Your camera and lens together should be rotated around a certain point in order to allow images to be stitched. It is not where the tripod socket is on the bottom of your camera. (It's somewhere within your camera or lens) In order to rotate around that point, you need a nodal point adapter.

Depending on the lens used and the scenery photographed, you can get away with not rotating around that pivot point and still producing stitchable images. In your case, the lens has an extreme focal length with severe distortion that very likely throws the panorama stitching program off.

Please read this: http://web.archive.org/web/20060513074042/http://doug.kerr.home.att.net/pumpkin/Pivot_Point.pdf

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The tripod should be one that is rated to the weight of your camera, plus lens, plus head. It should also have the required height without the column extended, at least within a few inches as most heads are at least 4" (10cm) tall. The exact models to match this change regularly, so you will have to search the manufacturer's site. Manfrotto and Gitzo, both offer such tripods and search tools to find a matching one.

Most importantly, you need a panoramic head. There are flexible ones which you need to calibrate and there are fixed ones made for a specific camera and lens combination. The latter is much more precise as there is less room for error.

Here is one called the 360Precision Atome. You buy the model corresponding to the lens you have, including the Sigma 8mm you mentioned. The information and video on the page show how it works and the advantages of such design. If you expect to repeatedly do virtual tours with the same lens, look for something like that.

  • Thank you to everyone for your kind attention. Itai, I forgot to mention I'm using a Tomshot 360 Panohead which fit ok with my Canon mount Sigma 8mm. I do believe the problem resided in the unstability of the tripod which needed to be extended to the desired height. I bet that's the problem, which is even more evident when shooting in a highly unstable carpeted subfloor. But of course I still need to prove it. I've returned the tripod in question and fortunately got my money back. Then I'll be back to report of my experience and hopefully help others with similar questions. – Blinkite Feb 26 '15 at 16:39

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