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Gigapixel Stitched Images and Panoramas with the Really Right Stuff PG-02 on the Really Right Stuff TFC-24L Tripod

I’m looking for the best panorama stitching software; Photoshop is choking on a gigapixel image. Auto Align Layers is single threaded (uses a single CPU) and churns interminably. It's not a memory issue as Photoshop uses less than half of the 90GB I’ve allotted it). It seems to have trouble with multi-row stitching, e.g., 7 across X 3 high. It does OK with single-row panos.

I use the 2019 iMac 5K (this particular model, with 128GB OWC memory)—its 8 CPU cores and faster clock speed and 12GB has been a huge improvement for all my work.

CLICK TO VIEW: 2019 iMac 5K Memory solves speed issues for big jobs

Best stitching software?

Previously, some readers have recommended other pano/stitching software such as from Gigapan, but what is the best software currently? Contact me.

My guess is that PTGui Pro is the best choice for the job, and I’ve contacted those folks about it. Update: PTGui looks to be 100 to 200 times faster, and to use at most 25% of the memory. I have not yet evaluated stitched quality.

Update, October 2019: I’ve figured out how to get highly satisfactory results in good time with Photoshop.

Shooting panoramas and stitched images in the field

I shot a number of panoramas on my recent trip and also some multi-row stitches between 500MP and a gigapixel. But it’s just too slow to attempt them in Photoshop, so I’ve deferred showing them.

Shown below is the Really Right Stuff PG-02 FULL SIZE PANO-GIMBAL HEAD setup I use, along with the MPR CL-II LONG NODAL SLIDE WITH INTEGRAL CLAMP (mine is an older model). This larger rig is needed for the Fujifilm GFX100. Even so the camera is so large that the bubble level gets covered when the camera is centered about the axis of rotation—I’m discussing that with Really Right Stuff—it’s an issue because to level the tripod I need that bubble level visible, and I forgot to move the arm back to re-center the camera for shooting a number of times, which degrades the panoramas from parallax.

The lever release clamp is not my preferred one for this usage; I would like to switch to the B2-Pro-II 60mm Screw-Knob clamp—easier to move the slider with it because the tightness can be controlled more easily plus it is bulletproof and even more solid—a decade of use on my regular head proves that. Plus, stowing in my daypack any sharp end such as on the lever release gradually degrades the fabric of the pack. Actually, I wonder if the B2-FAB 38MM SCREW-KNOB CLAMP might save me some weight and work as well.

The pano gimbal head (PG-02) by Really Right Stuff is the culmination of countless research, testing, and input from professional photographers. The PG-02 gimbal tripod head allows users to pivot independently on both the vertical and horizontal axes. It's great for handling large lenses and allows the shooter to follow a subject smoothly by providing solid lens support. The PG-02 is the exemplar for shooting panoramas. The independently pivoting axes ensure that each frame of the panorama will be perfectly level and aligned. The PG-02 head is available with a variety of quick-release clamps.

As to the tripod, it is my much-loved about $1000 Really Right Stuff TFC-24L, an update to the Really Right Stuff TVC-24L which I used for nearly a decade—best tripod ever. The TFC-24L is even better for me because its top plate is smaller and this makes it much easier to stow in my pack when I need my hands when climbing or for longer slogs when I won’t be shooting (I normally carry the tripod in one hand). I would prefer to shoot panos with the TVC-34L or even the ultra-robust TVC-44L, but they exceed my comfort level for carrying in the field—my arm starts to hurt.

Lloyd at 12500 on the Dana Plateau, view towards Mono Lake
(Really Right Stuff PG-02 on the Really Right Stuff TFC-24L Tripod)
f1.8 @ 1/3500 sec, ISO 20; 2019-08-21 18:33:28
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus 4.0 mm f/1.8 @ 28mm equiv (4mm)
ENV: Dana Plateau, altitude 12500 ft / 3810 m, 55°F / 12°C

[low-res image for bot]

Below, to see the full 826 megapixel pano, see:
Fujifilm GF 110mm f/2 Examples: Panoramas in the Eastern Sierra (GFX100)

f5.6 @ 1/8 sec electronic shutter panorama 9 frames, ISO 100; 2019-08-06 19:56:42
Fujifilm GFX100 + Fujifilm GF 110mm f/2 R LM WR @ 90.5mm equiv (110mm) + polarizer Zeiss
ENV: Ridge above Tuolumne Meadows, altitude 9000 ft / 2743 m, 60°F / 15°C
RAW: Enhance Details, LACA corrected, distortion corrected, vignetting corrected, USM {8,50,0}, diffraction mitigating sharpening

[low-res image for bot]

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