How I Built a Huge Gigapixel Panoramic Robot

Today I want to share how I created a few huge, Gigapixel photos, using a DIY panoramic head. Actually, it is not a panoramic head, because it not only goes right and left, but also up and down.

I?ve been a big fan of panoramic photography and of landscape in general for a long time. But four years ago I was climbing a mountain and the view from the top simply took my breath away. I felt an urgent need to share the image with people who don?t climb and therefore will never get access to such views.

Here is the thing though, standard photos do not have enough details. Our eyes have far more resolution that your standard digital camera, so a new project began: I wanted to build an awesome Gigapan Robot ? a custom, automated panoramic head for DSLRs.

I got inspired by some pro grade products, but could not find one that fit my two main needs: total control and A LOT of weight. The idea is to move a Nikon D90 (about 650 grams) body mounted with a Sigma 150?500mm lens (1.9 Kg) at small increments on two axis overlapping images in both the vertical and horizontal axis.

Incidentally, just a few days prior to climbing, my friends (Alex & Joan) gave a quick rundown on Arduino: a small micro controller with open source software and a lot of expansion options like control motors and sensors that interact with inputs and outputs just like a small PLC.

I?ve had some PLC experience so I was up for the task. Only two minor items remained: learn Arduino and build a robot.

My first step was to buy an Arduino UNO and a stepper motor. This stepper motor moves by small increments, around 200 steps for a complete turn. If I can control the movement of the motor, I can control the movement of the camera. Now I just needed the write the software.

It took me six months, but I eventually finished my robot ? it was time to test it out.

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About Chris Hills CPP, CRMP

An entrepreneur with experience starting companies in the IP security video market. Chris started D3data a megapixel security video management software company. Chris sold D3data to Motorola in 2005 and became CEO of Mosaic Global Solutions, a megapixel security camera company.