November 26, 2010

Create a Multi Row Panorama Head

Multi-Row Panorama head overview
In my quest for a Multi row Panorama (or Panoramic) Head, I came across many solutions but either I had to pay a small fortune for a rigid and vibration free construction or risk a lot of work on a cheep copy ending up with blurred images.

After testing some solutions and studying their behaviour under load, I came up with some

Required attributes:
Arca-Swiss® compatible rails with double dovetail and scales.
At least 20cm (8") long rails that would accommodate a Gripped DSLR (without having to remove the Grip in order to fit on the Panorama Head).
Sturdy construction and rigid bonding between parts in order to avoid any torsion under load or any resonance derived from vibration.

And last but not least keep the volume and weigh low for ease of transport.

I had already picked the Benro Panorama Clamps for the control of the vertical and horizontal motion, had also created a convenient Nodal Rail, and after a nice cooperation with Chris Hejnar of  Hejnar Photo we came up with the proper rails and connector, that were rigid enough for the purpose.

Following is a step by step presentation of the assembly and realization of my idea:

The Hejnar Rails

Hejnar Photo rails set & tools
Hejnar Photo G010-80 8", 1/2" thick rails with a front 1/4" tapped hole and decimal scales, Five 1/4"-20 hex socket captive screws, one G103 modified 90 degree block, an Index bar with soft tipped screws and the appropriate Allen hex keys for the 1/4"-20 screws and the soft tip screws.
Hejnar Photo G010-80 top view
Hejnar Photo G010-80 Rail top view
Hejnar Photo G010-80 bottom view
Hejnar Photo G010-80 Rail bottom view
Hejnar Photo G010-80 screws for G103 block
Two 1/4" captive screws are needed for the attachment of the modified 90 degree block. Also shown here is the M3 stop screw.
Hejnar Photo G103 90 degree block
The Hejnar Photo G103 modified 90 degree block
Hejnar Photo G103 90 degree block closeup
The difference in this block from other Hejnar photo 90 degree blocks, is that it has 2 x 1/4" tapped holes on the vertical side thus taller and 1 x 1/4" tapped hole on the horizontal plain accompanied by an anti twist island.
Fitting Hejnar Photo G103 block on G010-80 rail
Fitting of the 90 degree block on the vertical Rail first.
Orientation of Hejnar Photo G103 block on G010-80 rail
Choosing the side of the Rail with the front 1/4" tapped hole, so it will be fixed with 2 x 1/4" captive screws on each side.
Hejnar Photo G103 block screwed on G010-80 rail detail
Screws fitted but not fully tightened yet.
Hejnar Photo G103 block screwed on G010-80 rail full view

Fitting horizontal Hejnar Photo G010-80 rail on vertical G010-80 + G103 combo
Then the horizontal (or bottom) screws are fitted one on the Block and one on the Rail.
L Bracket screw tightening sequence
The best sequence for tightening the captive screws is:
a. First the one fitted on the 90 degree Block
b. Next the 2 on the vertical side and
c. Finally the one fitted to the Rails "front" hole.
Panorama rails set assembled
Panorama Rails ready.
Detail of 90 degree block holding the rails

The Index Bars

Hejnar Photo Arca compatible Index Bars
Time for the Index bar(s)
Fitting Hejnar Photo Index Bar on horizontal rail
One necessary Index Bar is on the horizontal Rail to mark the lens center to match the head pivoting point.
Hejnar Photo Index Bar positioning detail

The Benro Panorama Clamps
After the assembly of the Panorama Rails, is time to prepare the Benro PC-0 Panorama Clamp for attachment to the vertical rail:

Benro PC-0 Panorama clamp bottom view w/ conversion bushing
An 1/4"-20 to 3/8"-16 converter is needed in order to use the 1/4"-20 captive screw on the rail.
Benro PC-0 Panorama clamp bottom view w/ conversion bushing half screwed
With the base dovetail plate removed the converter is screwed...
Benro PC-0 Panorama clamp bottom view w/ conversion bushing tightened
... and tightened with a big flat screw driver.
Positioning Benro PC-0 Panorama clamp on vertical rail
The position on the vertical rail has to be chosen according to the camera and lens combination to be used.
For better response to vibration the lower the better, keeping in mind to leave ample room for the nodal rail + clamp screw knob when it will turn vertical in order to shoot a zenith point.
Benro PC-0 Panorama clamp fixed on vertical rail
Vertical Panorama clamp fixed in place.
Alignment detail of Benro PC-0 Panorama clamp on vertical rail
Closer view showing the alignment of the Benro PC-0 Panorama clamp. Care should be taken so the zero (0) mark is placed at a 90 degree angle to the vertical rail before tightening the 1/4"-20 captive screw from behind.
Mounting the Panorama head on Benro PC-1 Panorama clamp
Then is time for the horizontal Panorama Clamp.
Benro PC-1 Panorama clamp detail
Benro PC-1 was chosen for the base since it can hold more weigh and of the bubble level being visible when the Rail is clamped.
Panorama head structure w/ panorama clamps overview
Panorama head base w/ horizontal panorama clamp detail
Almost ready...

Adding the Nodal Rail

A nodal rail like the one I had described earlier in Create an Economy Nodal Rail has to be attached also on the vertical Panorama clamp.

Panorama head structure w/ panorama clamps & nodal rail overview

Nodal rail mounting and positioning detail
Positioned and locked to the predetermined Nodal point by the index bar.

Finished Multi-Row Panorama head overview (large)
Finally the finished whole structure.
Total weigh just 1,134 kg (or 2.5 lbs) !

In following posts I will make a full presentation of Using a Multi Row Panorama Head,
as well as Using a Panorama Head as a Gimbal.
You may find some panorama samples under the Panorama-Photos label.

Note: The Nodal Rail pictured in this post was originally prepared for my Single Row Panorama Head. I need to say that Hejnar photo has available Nodal Rails with clamp at a very competitive cost which I trust would be of equal or better quality.

Update July 2011: Hejnar Photo E032 Nodal/Macro Rail Review

Update August 2011: Hejnar Photo E031 Nodal/Macro Rail Review

Update November 2011:
Create a Multi Row Panorama Head Ver. II

Update April 2012:
As of April 2012 the Hejnar PHOTO G010-80 rail has a minor but very useful update. It has decimal scales engraved on both sides, on top, at full length.

Updated Hejnar Photo panorama rail set
In the photo on the right G010-80 8" rail is depicted stand alone and with the also updated G103 90° block attached.

I hope you found this idea useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos: © 2010 S.C.Vlachos

Price & Availability:
The latest versions of all Hejnar rails and components as well as the The S.C.V. Panorama Package with 6" nodal slide  or an S.C.V. Panorama Package with 8" nodal slide are available at the Hejnar PHOTO Store also containing the latest version of all the products.

If you are interested in the product, do check the Recommended Sellers page for a valid Hejnar Photo discount coupon before ordering.

While the estimated cost of both the Benro PC-0 and PC-1 Panorama clamps is US $ 200.00-230.00 shipping included from eBay and around EU 250.00 from local European Markets.

Referenced Articles:

Hejnar Photo G103 -90 degree- Block Update

Hejnar Photo Index Bars

Benro PC-0 and PC-1 Panorama (Panoramic) Clamps

Kiwi Fotos LP-169 Lens Plate

Fotopro QAL-500 5cm Quick Release Clamp

Create an Economy Nodal/Macro Rail

Relevant Articles:

Create a Mini Multi-Row Panorama Head for Mirrorless Cameras

S.C.V. Heavy Duty Multi Row Panorama Head


  1. Thanks for the info! I have purchase rails from Hejnar Photo off of ebay and they do a great job. Love their stuff and hope to buy the rest of the pano rails soon.

  2. My only comment is,that you will need a very short rail with a fisheye lens or else it is always in the photo. But it does work pretty well thanks so much for publishing this

    1. Thanks for commenting. Indeed a very short rail is imperative for fisheye lenses. This was the first attempt back in 2010. More options were discussed with the updated versions since then. Check the "Relevant Articles" above for more info.