Alternative to the Gigapan Epic?

Over the last weeks I have played around with a different robotic camera head. The reason is the ongoing issue with the Gigapan Epic to hold heavier cameras. I really want to be able to use the Canon 500D with a heavy lens to take gigapixel panoramas, and my combination clearly reaches the limit of what is possible with the Gigapan Epic. Hopefully the new SLR version of the Gigapan will solve this issue. Anyway, in the meantime I was reading a lot about alternative systems. One of them is based on the Merlin mount, which is not really designed to be used for this purpose, but it is designed to hold and motorize astronomic telescopes. The interesting feature is that it can hold up to 4kg and is actually rather cheap. (I paid £159 for the Merlin including tripod).
There is a very active group of users and developers on the AutoPano forums. The outcome is a fantastic software called PapyWizard which allows you to control the Merlin mount and use it for gigapixel panoramas. The only additional missing part is a Serial to bluetooth adapter to allow wireless communication between the software and the mount. The software is available for the Nokia Tablet series (N770, N800, N810) but also for Linux, MacOSX and Windows. I am using a Nokia N810, which I bought very cheap on Ebay.

Below is a picture of my current setup, showing the Merlin including the Canon 500D with a Zoom lens.

Merlin astronomic mount

Merlin astronomic mount

I am still sorting out some of the issues with this setup. I do miss some features of the Gigapan, but since the Papywizard is actively being developed, more features are being added on a regular basis. Overall it is an interesting alternative. But since it isn’t an all/in/one solution, I wouldn’t really recommend it to newcomers at this point in time.

Anyway, below is one of the first test panoramas I took using the Merlin. There are a number of issues in the picture, but overall it isn’t that bad.

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3 Responses to Alternative to the Gigapan Epic?

  1. John Nichols says:

    Hello Mike, Very interesting mount for your larger camera. I want one for my Canon 5D and lens. Maybe it should be called a “Bigapan”. Search Santa Paula on the Gigapan site to see some of my regular Gigapans done with the Canon G9.

  2. mike says:

    Hi John,
    This setup will handle cameras (incl. Lens) up to 4kg/8.8lbs in total (according to the specs of the mount) so even a 5D MkII should work fine on this setup. I will try to borrow one in the coming weeks and give it a try.

  3. mark bassett says:

    Hello. I don’t know if you will respond because this is al older post, but I find this merlin fascinating. The gigapan pro is almost $900 usd. I don’t know if it is really worth the cost. I have done many panoramas by hand without an L bracket no less, quite a few handheld, but I’ve always been looking for a way to automate them. I’ve thought about open sourcing a hardware design, because really all you need is a simple microcontroller and a mount with some gears and motors. Its not the most complicated idea. That’s why I don’t get the price of the gigapan. You can get astronomical mounts, that to me, seem more complicated because they do tracking and can dial in precise locations, for less money.

    Did you keep the merlin? Did they get the software down? I’m just looking for something that goes between two opposite corners and moves in fixed steps. I’ve thought about taking an astronomical mount and adapting it with software. This seems like someone has actually done that. I would love to hear your thoughts on this setup.

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