Hands on with a Gigapan EPIC 100

I recently had a chance to check out some really cool technology used to create enormous, zoomable panoramic images called a Gigapans. This is the same technology used to make that huge image of US President Obama’s inauguration that you may have seen. I’ve been using a Gigapan EPIC 100 courtesy of Active Computer Services.

So what is it? Basically, it’s a robotic motion control system for still cameras. You mount the Gigapan onto a tripod and then mount your camera on the Gigapan:

Gigapan Epic 100

There is a little actuator that will press the shutter button for almost any camera and there is an option to do a wired shutter release depending on the camera model.

Here it is on location with my Nikon D7000 & 70-300mm lens mounted:

Trying the Gigapan again from the Lonsdale Quay sign tower

Once all setup, you use the controls to create a panorama by moving the camera to the upper left position and then the lower right position. The unit then figures out how many shots it needs to take in order to blanket the entire field of view. In this case, it was 226 still photos (16.2 megapixels each) which ended up with a 2,227 megapixel final image (or 2.28 gigapixels). You can export the file to RAW or TIFF. This gigapan was a 6.2gb RAW file.

Stitching the Gigapan

It took around 20 minutes to take the photos on location, followed by about 20 minutes to 1/2 an hour to stitch the resulting image together on my laptop.

Once you start it going, the unit will move the camera to the first position, press the shutter button and then move to the next position. It will repeat this process until it completes all the shots necessary.

This is my first attempt at making one (after a few failed attempts) – make sure you click and scroll around the image…you can get in pretty close so see if you can find the crew working on the freighter:


(view it fullscreen for full effect)

Here is the Gigapan in action with my Nikon P6000 mounted:

I’m still exploring the options on the EPIC 100 which also has a 360 degree panoramic setting as well as the Gigastitch software that it comes with to piece these images together which is compatible with MAC and PC.

This technology is pretty damn cool and I can’t wait to try it out in more locations. I ended up buying the EPIC 100 for my own use. Stay tuned for more gigapixel images!

Update: Here’s my second Gigapan, shot at the PoCo Trail near the Pitt River (fullscreen):

Update: Here’s my third gigapan taken in West Vancouver of downtown Vancouver

6 Comments

  1. For ginormous photos and zooming you should take a look at Zoom.it as well. It’s smooth as silk and can be extremely powerful. Their API is dead easy to hook into:

    http://zoom.it/

  2. John says:

    That does look cool…I’ll have to see how to use it with the massive Gigapan output files which would have to be hosted somewhere else.

  3. Xber says:

    Hi, can you comment further on your D7000+70-300 setup. I have just got the EPIC100 and is thinking of also getting the D7000 setup just like yours. I am currently using GF2 with 45-200 lens… this lens creeps slight, bad!!

    Thanks

    • John says:

      What else would you like to know about the D7000/70-300mm? It’s the non-VR version. I was worried it would be too heavy but it appears to be fine. I want to try it with a teleconvertor as well.

  4. Xber says:

    Thanks John. I am concern about the size and weight. Front heavy is my concern also – need to counter balance it? How about adjusting the nodal point – seem that the range of adjustment is very limited. Does it vibrate? (yes i will be using it with the Sigma 70-300 APO – about the lightest in this range and with reasonable IQ.

    Reason i am a little concern it: i have the RRS pano package – full version – it is structurally much stronger but it has the tendency to vibrate…..

    • John says:

      The D7000 is probably the biggest cam you could safely put on the Epic 100…it just barely fits the shutter actuator at full extension…I’ve ordered the cables to remove that from the equation but it still requires a cable hack (cutting two cables to make one D7000/Epic 100 cable).

      I didn’t counter balance the 70-300mm…it’s a pretty light lens, even fully extended. But certainly, fully extended and the power off, it will dip on the front when the servos aren’t engaged.

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