Price: £245 (ex VAT)
Contact: 360Precision 01869 34 7272 + www.360precision.com
Needs: Needs Digital SLR with Nikkor 10.5mm; or Sigma 10mm, 8mm or 4.5mm lens + Monopod or tripod
Pros: Light, compact and precise panoramic tripod head + Works with many different camera and lenses
Precise equipment is needed to take photographic panoramas, and 360Precision is well known in the industry for creating a number of excellent high-end panorama heads.
The price of these can be a bit of a sticking point though, which is one reason why the 360Precision Atome, the new baby of the range, is such a hit. Another reason is because it is incredibly fast to use.
It comes in two parts: a ring that mounts securely onto your lens, and the base which grips the ring and rotates precisely. The ring is designed to stay on your lens, and indeed it hasn't left ours since we started using it. If you need another reason, take a look at the size; this is the first professional panorama head that can be slipped into your pocket. Finally, putting it together for a panorama shot only takes a couple of seconds, and locks onto the camera and lens securely. Mount it on a tripod or monopod and you're ready for precise shooting - without a large and traditional panorama head.
The only downside to the Atome is the limited number of lenses that it supports. There is a short list of five: the Nikkor 10.5mm full-frame fisheye; or the Sigma 10mm, 8mm (Sigma f3.5 model) or new 4.5mm circular fisheye. Pick yours and you'll get an Atome, with the correct size lens ring and the right rotation click-stops already set up. The reason only extreme wide-angle and fisheye lenses are supported is because this device doesn't tilt up or down. These lenses capture at least most of the vertical view even on crop-sensor DSLRs, so they're perfect with this kind of ultra-compact panorama head.
This isn't just for creating immersive virtual reality panorama photos, although it excels at that. The Atome can also be used to create 'partial' panoramas for high-resolution print, capturing precisely positioned images that can be stitched together perfectly in Photoshop or the more specialist PTGui, Autopano Pro and others.
It still may not seem cheap, but this is a specialist market. It costs less than most alternatives, it's well-made, and makes candid or guerilla panoramas practical.