Panorama Head Design Update

(2008) There is a newer version. Click here to view.

Building on the Universal Panohead design I had previously constructed this latest design is more compact and operates much more smoothly. My panorama head is continuously evolving as I use it and find ways in which it needs to improve.

If you have arrived at this page without seeing my previous attempts you may want to visit those pages to get a better understanding of what I have been building.

Increasing Resolution
Thoughts on a digital workflow
Original Panohead Design
Building a Universal Panorama Head

FIgure 1 below shows my third generation design. In general I have been quite pleased with it's operation. I made it much smaller and lighter than the previous generation without sacrificing rigidity. It's weakest component was the vertical pivoting joint. Actually the joint is quite strong and smooth but lacks a solid method to lock it's rotation. The clamp knob simply applies pressure to the head of the shoulder bolt internally. This works but is not terribly effective. A little extra weight on the camera will cause it to slip rotation. This is not ideal when you are trying to make camera adjustments without altering orientation.

Figure 1: Panorama Head Design 3

What's right with the design

Solid Base Assembly -Internally it uses one ball bearing and a needle/thrust bearing. Rotation is silky smooth and It has virtually zero play.

Positive Rotational Lock - The locking mechanism is a nylon screw that presses against the column internally. Simple but effective.


The base is made from Corian. Four disks were needed to build the body and the outer shell. Each disk was cut from a piece of 1/2 inch thick material.

Cutting the corian disks

The first step was to produce a jig that would hold the corian for cutting and give me perfect alignment for gluing the pieces together later. Holes were drilled in the corian 2 inches apart and the material placed on the alignment pins on the jig and secured. The mill then cut the circular disks for gluing together.


Gluing the corian disks and re-machining

The disks are aligned using 1/4 inch drill rod as guides and then glued together with cyanoacrylate adhesive. Once the disks cure the unit is mounted back on the mill to machine out a pocket for the body to fit into.


Fabricating the tripod mount

Two more disks were cut but before gluing them together the tripod mount is fabricated. A 5/8 hold is drilled and tapped and a piece of threaded rod is glued in. The threaded rod is then drilled and tapped for a 1/4-20 tripod mount.


Base body with needle bearing and underside of shell

The disks are glued together and then machined into the body. The body is tiered to allow a thrust bearing to sit on top and drilled for the shoulder bolt. The shell has been pocketed out and then fits on top of the body. A ball bearing sits in the top of the shell and a shoulder bolt fits through and is secured to the body.


Completed Base


Redesign of the vertical pivot joint

I decided to try a different approach to the vertical joint. To make it possible to lock the rotation more securely I decided to try an internal clutch. I also reversed the camera support arm. The arm is now fixed to the spindle and the camera quick mount slides inside the track and is fixed in place with two set screws.


Redesigned Panohead


The new joint design is composed of a spindle that rotates around a shoulder bolt. Internally there is a clamp or clutch that is tightened on the spindle body to lock it in place. The screw for tightening the clutch is held in place in a guard or housing that is mounted to the vertical arm.

Pivot Joint Design


Rear View
Rear View



Exploded View
Exploded View




The clutch has a threaded insert to make it stronger and allow it to be tightened with more pressure. The spacer is also used for more strength and to reduce wear on the somewhat soft Corian. The spindle was constructed from two disks glued together and then machined. I did make a small mistake cutting the recess for the ball bearing which can be seen in the picture above. It was a small mistake and didn't affect the performance so I opted to leave it alone, at least for building this prototype.


Rear View

Here you can see how the clutch fits inside the guard and wraps around the spindle. The fit is extremely close. The spindle body is 30 mm in diameter and the inside of the clutch was also cut to 30 mm. Because the shoulder bolt is precision ground and the bearings are so precise there is no binding in the assembly.


Assembled Joint


Rear View

There are still some things left to be done. I need to put a better finish on the corian and add the rotational and linear scales. But those things are really cosmetic and it is completely usable at this point. So now I will give this new prototype some use and see if it needs more improvements. If you have comments or suggestions please feel free to drop me a note.

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Last updated - June 10, 2008