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Take your virtual tour 360 photos to the next level: Everything you want to know about NODAL NINJA (plus: 10% discount code)

Nodal Ninja discount code
Nodal Ninja discount code

How would you like to shoot a 85-megapixel HDR 360 photo in less than one minute?  In this post, I’ll discuss how Nodal Ninja panoramic heads will enable you to do that.  I’ll also discuss the differences between the panoramic heads that they offer, and finally, how you can get a 10% discount, only until around July 26, 2018.

What is Nodal Ninja and why do so many 360 shooters recommend it?

Nodal Ninja is a brand of panoramic photography equipment.  They’re well known not only because they’ve been around since 2004, but because their products work reliably.  That’s why Nodal Ninja has been trusted by professionals and Fortune 100 companies.

When I first started shooting 360 panoramas, I tried to save money by buying a cheap panoramic head.  It did work, but there were a few stitching errors.  I didn’t mind, to be honest, because I was just excited at the thought of getting such a detailed 360 photo. 🙂  But I got curious about why people kept recommending Nodal Ninja, so I decided to try it out myself.

I noticed that it had several features that made shooting a panorama much easier, quicker and more repeatable, with fewer stitching errors.  For example, with the low-cost panohead, the camera attachment plate simply attached to the camera’s tripod hole.  With the Nodal Ninja, the camera attachment plate had flanges to prevent the camera from twisting:

Or how about the fact that the NN logo on the lower rotator made it easier to find the center of the camera?  There are many other little touches that add up to make the Nodal Ninja more repeatable.  Even though the Nodal Ninja cost around $100 more than the cheap panohead that I got, there was no question that it was a keeper.  Since then, I’ve tried other products that they have and they have all worked very well.

Nodal Ninja camera plate with flanges (red arrows)
Nodal Ninja camera plate with flanges (red arrows)

What is a panoramic head?

A panoramic head lets you take a 360 photo without stitching errors.  If you use a normal tripod head, and you try to take a 360 photo, you’ll notice that there will be many stitching errors.  It’s because of parallax.  This means that if you rotate a camera on a tripod, it will change its perspective.

Parallax stitching error. When the camera is aimed to the right, the power pole is to the right of the light stand (top photo). But if the camera is aimed at the left, the power pole is to the right of the light stand (bottom photo)
Parallax stitching error. When the camera is aimed to the right, the power pole is to the right of the light stand (top photo). But if the camera is aimed at the left, the power pole is to the right of the light stand (bottom photo)

Let’s say you take a photo of your friend with a mountain behind him.  From one angle, the mountain peak would be on his left.  From another angle, the mountain peak would be on his right.  This makes it hard to stitch the photo into a panorama.  Either there will be two mountain peaks, one on each side of your friend, or software can converge  the mountain peaks, but your friend would be cut in half and squashed together.  This is called parallax stitching error.

A panoramic head avoids parallax stitching error by enabling you to position the camera to shoot from the no parallax point (aka nodal point).  If you shoot from the no parallax point, the point of view will be the same no matter which direction the camera is aiming.  Because the photos you take will be from a consistent point of view, then they can be easily stitched without parallax stitching errors.

Shooting from the no parallax point (aka nodal point). The power pole appears directly behind the light stand regardless of where the camera is pointed.
Shooting from the no parallax point (aka nodal point). The power pole appears directly behind the light stand regardless of where the camera is pointed.

Here is a tutorial for finding the nodal point:

What are the differences between the Nodal Ninja panoramic heads?

One thing that I think Nodal Ninja could do to improve is to explain their products better.  They have a dozens and dozens of parts, and to a beginner, it’s not immediately apparent which products you need, or what the differences are between similar-looking products.  So here is an introduction to the most basic Nodal Ninja panoramic heads:

– Nodal Ninja 3
– Nodal Ninja 6
– Nodal Ninja R series
– Nodal Ninja RS series

Let’s discuss these types of panoheads.

Nodal Ninja 3 vs. Nodal Ninja 6:

 

Nodal Ninja 3 mk III
Nodal Ninja 3 mk III

Nodal Ninja 3 and 6 are both multi-row panoramic heads.  That means that you can use them to take a panorama with the camera pointed in any direction.  This enables you to use them for a wide variety of cameras and lenses.  The difference between Nodal Ninja 3 and 6 is the size.  NN6 is longer, which means you can use it with longer lenses and/or larger camera bodies.

For 360 shooters who are taking photos for virtual tours, NN3 is usually enough.  You only need NN6 if you want extra high resolution (by shooting with a lens with longer focal length).

NN3 and NN6 can work with almost any camera as long as they fit, so they are more versatile than the R series or RS series.  For NN3, the maximum length of the lens plus camera is up to around 12 inches.  For NN6, the limit is 15 inches.

Here is a tutorial for multi-row panoheads, including Nodal Ninja 3, 4, 5, and 6.

Nodal Ninja R series (R1 and R20):

Nodal Ninja R Series single-row panoramic head
Nodal Ninja R Series single-row panoramic head

Nodal Ninja R1 and R20 are single-row panoramic heads, designed for faster shooting with a fisheye lens.  You’ll be able to take a 360 photo in as little as 3 or 4 shots, in just one row.

R1 and R20 are ring-mount panoramic heads, which means they have a lens ring that clamps onto your lens, so your camera is actually suspended.

The difference between R1 and R20 is that R1 can be tilted in many angles, while R20 has only two tilting angles.  The fact that the R1 can be tilted down is useful for taking nadir shots.  The nadir shot won’t be from the nodal point, but because the floor is a flat surface, it can be skewed to change its perspective to make it appear as if it was shot from directly overhead.

For the clever readers, you may be wondering, can’t you use the Nodal Ninja 3 or 6 for a single-row panorama as well?  And the answer is, “Absolutely!”  Compared to using a Nodal Ninja 3, the R series is smaller and easier to bring.  And for more advanced panorama shooters, you can use the R series to shoot photos diagonally.  The advantage of doing that is to be able to capture single-row panoramas using a full frame / diagonal fisheye lens.

Nodal Ninja R series nadir when used with full frame fisheye
Nodal Ninja R series can shoot a single row with a full frame fisheye

In summary, the R1 and R20 are faster to use, but are less versatile because they’re only for fisheye lenses, and you usually have to buy a lens ring for each lens (although some lenses use the same size lens ring).  Here is a tutorial for using the R series.

Note that you will need both the R1 or R20 and the lens ring for your fisheye lens.  This item includes both the panohead and lens ring.

Nodal Ninja RS series (RS-1 and RS-2)

Nodal Ninja RS-1 ring-mount multi-row panoramic head
Nodal Ninja RS-1 ring-mount multi-row panoramic head

The RS series is a ring-mount multi-row panoramic head.  It’s like a hybrid between the NN3 and the R series.  It is a multi-row panohead, just like the NN3, but instead of attaching to your camera, it uses a lens ring, just like the R series.

The RS series therefore lets you shoot with a lens diagonally, just like the R series.  At the same time, because it is multi-row, you can shoot the zenith or nadir more cleanly if you have to, e.g. to take a photo of an elaborate chandelier or carpet.  Notably, the RS series works with the Nadir Adapter for Nodal Ninja 3 mk II, which lets you take a clean nadir shot from the same height as the nodal point.

There are two RS panoheads: RS-1 and RS-2.  RS-1 is for smaller cameras, while RS-2 is for larger cameras.

The RS series is actually an endangered species because it is based on the previous version of the Nodal Ninja 3, the mark II.  Since the mk II is being replaced with the mk III, the RS series is going to be discontinued.   The good news is that if you like the RS Series, they are on clearance and you can get them at a very good price.   And if you already have a Nodal Ninja 3 mk II, you can simply get an upper rotator and clamp to use the Nodal Ninja 3 as an Rs-1.

Which lens should I get?

With a multi-row panohead, you can use almost any lens that is shorter than your panoramic head, but most 360 panoramic shooters use fisheyes because they can capture 360 photos without needing too many shots.

The best fisheye depends on how many shots you plan to take, and whether you plan to take them in a single row or in multiple rows.  Check out this post, which has a list of fisheye lenses, and how many shots are required.

The next step!

Now that you understand Nodal Ninja, I’ve got more good news:

FYI they do have a 30 day return period, and their store is based in Arizona, so you can try it out for yourself to see if it’s really better than the panoramic head that you have (or if you want to try shooting a 360 panorama for the first time).

About the author

Mic Ty

10 Comments

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  • Hello Mic,

    I want to buy a Nodal Ninja 6 to use with my Canon 6D and my 17-40mm, but this would give me a 18 images workflow, but I could deal with it. However I was thinking about buying a fisheye lens and there is two main options for me Rokinon 8mm and Rokinon 12mm (ideal for fullframe cameras).

    The thing is: the 8mm is around 180 USD and the 12mm is around 380 USD (200 USD difference? That’s a lot for me). With the 12mm I would have more resolution because I wouldn’t have a circular image with have those black corners? What’s the main difference in resolution and workflow between this two?

    Thanks in advance.

    ps: I’m sorry for this long text, but I would like you to understand my point.

  • Hi Mic how to deal with the aka nodal point on the indoor small spaces? (hotel rooms, hallways, supermarket hallways) etc ?

    Any advice for a cheap panohead + fish-eye lessens for an Alphna 6000 ? ( know you have Apha)

    Wand to get something cheap to do a Proof of concept and test it first, instead of paying a lot and saying later meh.. this is not something for me…

    • Hey Eduardo, I am not Mic however I think I may be able to help you. (Correct Mic if I am wrong)

      If your nodal point is set correct you would have no problem with small places, I haven’t try 360 with DSLR or Mirrorless, but I have been researching about 360 photo with DSLR A LOT in the past months.

      Talking about cheap panoheads I’ve been hunting a lot for a good and cheap option. You have a small mirrorless camera what is good to find a cheap panohead. I came across SunWayFoto and they have the sunwayfoto cr-3015 that people on internet claim to be very sturdy.

      But I bought the “Puluz 720” from AliExpress (as I live in Brasil, this option was the most affordable one). Ty Hurd a good guy that helped me a lot with it in a facebook group, that I think you should be in it.

      Lens… Samyang/Rokinon 8mm, they are very good and cheap! I owned one years ago.

  • Hey Mic,

    I’m planning to shoot 360 with my Nikon D850 and a fish eye lens. Will the NN 3 be enough or should I go for the NN6? Also, what would be a good (future proof) fish eye lens to buy without burning too much cash.

  • If I have a Sony A7Rii and a Sony 6300 can I use the Samyang SY75MFT-B 7.5mm f/3.5 Lens for Micro Four Thirds with either of these cameras? What adapter might a I need. I plan to use this setup with the Nodeal Ninja 3 or 6. Do I need the Nadir Adapter?

    • Hi Tim. For the Sony a6300, you can use the Samyang 7.5mm. For the A7Rii, you can use the Samyang 7.5mm but you would be underutilizing the sensor. A better lens in your case would be Samyang 8mm. On the a6300, that lens can do a 360 in 8 shots, and the a7Rii can use the same lens to get 360 in 4 shots. NN3 would be sufficient for both cameras with that lens, or you can use a Nodal Ninja R1 ring mount pano head: http://360rumors.com/2018/06/nodal-ninja-r-series-tutorial.html . If you use the R1, then you would roll the camera around 30 degrees when using the a6300 and take 8 shots. On the a7Rii, you would just take 4 shots. You’d use the same ring adapter since you’re using the same lens.
      Nadir adapter is a tool to make it easier to get shots of the nadir. it’s not the only way to shoot the nadir though.
      Pls join facebook.com/groups/virtualtournetwork
      Best regards,
      Mic

      • Thanks for replying so quickly and informatively! I am taking this route after deciding to return my InstaPro360. Although it is convenient, it is too unreliable and finicky for taking out on a job. Also the definition for still images is nothing like what can be achieved with my Sonys. Just one more quesition though…for uploading to Street View, do either of these cameras record the GPS automatically? Yes, I join your FB group 🙂

        • NP Tim. Neither of them will record the GPS. pls see my Google Trusted Photographer youtube video for a tutorial on how to add location data for street view.

          • Hi:
            Just realized I need to ask additional questions about this…what do you mean by the “ring adapter” ? Is this just for the ninja r? I have the Ninja 3, so I don’ think i need it. Also In checking around I have the Sony Fisheye Converter SEL0575EC. How does this compare to the Samyang 8mm?