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How To Make A Homemade Panoramic Tripod Head

Updated on October 27, 2009

Ill be the first one to admit this - photography stuff is oftentimes expensive! About 2 years ago I started really getting into photography. The first thing I bought was my $400 camera. Next came the tripod. Well, next SHOULD have come the tripod and head, but I never bought one because they were so expensive. Some of the top name brands were more than my camera! That's like buying a $200 pair of shoes and $500 laces! Ridiculous. I'm always one that analyzes everything.

So I think the reason these Panoramic Tripod Heads were so expensive was simply because of the brand name ON them, not necessarily because of the way they functioned. I'm not frugal, but I also am careful with my money. So I started thinking, there SHOULD be a way I can make a homemade panoramic tripod head or a DIY homemade panoramic head myself. And lo and behold after taking a look on a few sites online I found specific directions on HOW to do something like this.

1- Find the rotation/pivot place. This is really a little vague, but there are Internet sites online that can show you with pictures exactly how to do this. You can then cut a section of wood for the base. Use a piece of very flat, thick (5/8" or so) oak plywood or a plank of hardwood. Make it about 5" by 4" (12 cm x 10 cm). I would certainly suggest you use hardwood rather than plywood because plywood is always going to be the weaker wood.

2- Cut the side. To make sure the camera has enough clearance when you swing it down, make the tripod a little over five inches tall. The breadth would be the same four inches as the base. Line up the two four inch edges so that the side is sitting on top of the base to form an "L". Drill holes up through the bottom of the base into the side and screw the two together. A little glue and maybe some bracing might help - the less flex the better.

3- Drill a hole near the median of the infrastructure. The precise length from the side is critical as it will need to run through the center of the lens. So place your camera on a table and evaluate the height from the table to the center of the lens. This is the distance the hole in the base needs to be from the side. If you're not using a swivel under the base, you will need a fairly extensive hole here, as you will need to set up a socket (or "insert nut") so the tripod can screw into the tripod head. The proportions of that socket will depend on your tripod - if you're planning to mount this to the screw that normally attaches to the camera, you want a "1/4-20" socket.

4- Make the hole in the side about 4 1/2 to 5 inches above the base - your camera will need room to swing downwards when you're shooting a photo of the sky. It also needs to be in the same plane as the hole in the base. In other words, if you're looking at it from the side, the side hole will appear directly above the base hole.

5- Cut the arm. To figure the length, start with that previously measured distance between the entrance pupil and the screw socket verified in step 1. Add between a half inch and an inch on either side. The width only needs to be a few inches.

6- Drill a hole at one end for the arm to attach to the side piece where it will swivel. Drill another hole 4 1/8 inches (or whatever your measurement is) down the arm towards it's other end. This last hole is where the camera attaches, so it needs to be 1/4" wide. Insert a 1/4-20 thumb screw through this hole (1/4-20 means 1/4" wide, with a thread pitch of 20, which is the most general pitch).

7- Attach the arm to the side by using a flat head machine screw. You may have to gouge out a bit of the hole in the arm so the full head can sink into the arm and not hit your lens. Push the screw through the arm, then through the side, then use a washer and a wing nut to fasten it.

8- Finally, put in a socket or insert nut for the base section. Place it as near as achievable to the median to maximize stability. To finish things up, you can seal, seal or paint, but don't get any of it on the rotating surfaces! Also, attaching a small level is highly recommended. In the end you have a beautifully stable piece of equipment that you built all on your own - and for cheap!

The best thing about this is that with all the supplies included, you might be looking at $20. Between the wood and the screw and the other additional items. In our house we always have extra types of wood and a variety of screws in our garage. So if this is something like what you have going on, it will end up costing you even less money! Another cool thing about this, is that this is going to move, swivel and act just as a regular store bought Panoramic Tripod Heads, but MUCH less money wise. This is something you can easily and quickly make in your own home or garage and it doesn't take very much time at all. I know because I made one myself!


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