Hans, Heinz, Vincèn,
thank you for your kind help! Sorry that I did not reply ASAP, I have late shift this week and did not manage to try all your tips. I am looking forward to this weekend to have some time for that though. :)
Btw.: Sorry that I got confused about Hans & Heinz - I don not know how this happened to me.
At the moment it looks like I have to to swallow the bitter pill (in German "bite the sour apple") and spend some money on PTgui Pro.
PTgui assembles all of my image sets perfectly or nearly perfectly without any manual action and perfectly with some manual editing of CPs. If Autopano Pro requires me to do a huge amount of manual optimization, then I would rather spend the 150 EUR on PTgui Pro.
I am also really disappointed that Kolor did not respond to my thread in their forum at all. Over a week has passed now. I even send them a mail and asked if this was a limitation of Autopnao regarding the use of ultra wide angle lenses. But no reaction.
Thank you all, I can not tell how lucky I feel getting all this help here! Even if it drives me in the direction I did not want to (buy PTgui).
"Can you explain why this is causing problems? I understand that it is not real relevant image data and that (see your next tip) I could make my life easier leaving the rotator out of the images. But I thought that the PTgui mask feature would let me mark this part as non-relevant when adding a nadir image? I will be using the Nodal Ninja Nadir-Adapter - at least I hope that it will work with my tripod with center column ... ."
Well you have 8 images which you need to ad mask on. Just a tripod leg included in the image may destroy your nadir stitch. The stitcher does not know that it is not an important element. Of course it can be done with copy/paste now using the new mask function and it can probably also be included in a template. Does not work always yet though.
That will also exclude the rotator from being a target for auto-controlpoints which corrupts the stitching completely like it did in your example. But why include it when it does not have any function.
The nadir takes just 30 sec to take (also with long exposure bracketing ) by using the leaning tripod method which many of us uses.
And you do not need to change anything on your panohead, just tilt down slightly.
I had the same frustration with autopano like you concerning CP and the amount of work to get the pano right.
One thing I'd like to tell you about PTGui. HDR is a part of the program, which I personally only use for exposure fusion, with very confident results for me. I do not use the true HDR stitching, because I do not like the results. I look to this point of the program for not being so perfect. But actually this is not the biggest goal of PTGui. So if you like to do full HDRI, you better use a different program for this part of the work, Photomatix Pro for example or , cause you use windows, the new program of http://www.oloneo.com . Either you use these programs in the beginning, and place your HDRI pics in PTGUI, or you use PTGUI exposure fusion and place the different blended panos to photomatix. May be you try both workflows and then you decide what you like better.
But anyway, keep your autopano version to be able to upgrade later if you need this software for things you might do in the future, gigapixel..
Concerning the Zenith shot: in difficult situations, totally blue sky, very little or no connection to the rest of your pics, it helps to take two zenith shots for example at +60°pitch( depending of FOV of your lens} 180° visa versa, to get connection to the horizon by catching corners of houses, lamps posts etc.
I just want to give a short update on my progress, as I promissed to give feedback on the tips I received.
In the meantime I bought a copy of PTgui Pro and experimented a bit with the shooting technique suggested by Hans.
The 8 pictures at -30° + 8 pictures at +30° + 1 zenith + 2 nadir (180°) works pretty good. Thank you very much Hans!
I will have to practice takings panoramas with my gear now and eventually continue to fine tune the NPP. But for now I am really glad to have found a solution (PTgui with your tips).
The only downside sofar is that the performance of Autopano on my computer is way better than the one of PTgui (probably due to GPU processing). I also have the impression that PTgui is causing a lot of paging due to excessive use of memory. I will probably need to get more RAM (I currently only have 4GB).
Thank you all for your very kind help! I hope to give something back in the future!
You say the performance is better with Autopano. Usually it is the opposite. PTGui is at least double as fast (at least on Mac) however you may need to adjust your settings.
What is your computer especially how many cores do you have. There is cvurrently a problem using the auto settings for this.
In preferences (I believe it is called settings on windows) look at the advanced area. If you have a large number of cores you have them all set in Number of simultaneous threads to use.
Change the autosettings to just 2 if it says 4 or more. This may cut stitching time to half on Intel i7 processor computers which have 8 threads set as default.
If you have a 32bit computer Ptgui can only use 2 GB ram.- Your autosetting is then set to arround 50%