Damaging the lens? Hardly. A small dot of white paint or some tape is very far from damaging the lens. Nick is not suggesting taking a file or drill to your lens. A simple mark of some sort will work.
A clear plastic window won't be useful besides extra work and costs in case we want to turn the lens to another set up to reach full coverage of the scene on R1/R10.
So the best and easiest way would be to take a tape or a white mark.
Nikon 10.5 ring mount:
Sigma 8mm ring mount:
A hand drill and a file would give you the same effect. Although not as clean as milling, it would work.
I had discussions with Nick way back when I did this mod. He helped me understand how cost prohibitive this would be to put into production.
More importantly, each window is customized to a particular lens. That will greatly increase the number of lens rings. Beside some people may want to use different roll angles, eg 30/60 deg to put the sensor diagonal vertical, or 90 deg to use the camera in portrait mode on NN Ult M1. All these means huge number of options to make and thus increase our cost greatly.
Considering the ease and effectiveness of markings/ labeling on lens, I don't think it is worthy to do so. We only use 1-2 focus distances. So 1+2 points will suffice.
You know what, expert/ professional photographers use lots of labeling on their equipments. Doing so will only raise your image as a professional pano-photographer.
Of course, in a group of pano-photographers using our lens rings, Dennis will just reveal his professionalism. True Pros always have some custom made equipments and trade secrets that the average do not have or know. :th_wink:
What would be your "best guess" be at a price to do this piece by piece? I know that there are set up costs and other considerations (do you want to dedicate a manual mill just for the purpose of cutting out windows?) associated with anything custom. Would people be willing to pay $250 or more for an extra non refundable service fee just for the window cut out? Look at the price 360 gets for their "one off" stuff.
If the item goes through resellers, I am sure it will cause them lots of mess as well. Direct shipping to customers will increase the shipping cost and delivery time.
The large number of complaints of the custom pano head manufacturer is not without reasons, apart from personal characters. It is simply too exhaustive to manage small custom orders, esp when the production workflow goes through many contractors. The whole process may take more than a month!
You know what, many firms are not willing to take my small orders even if I pay much more. It is simply too exhaustive for their managers.
I'd rather spend my limited time and resources on new product development. New product development is an investment that may bring lots of returns. Custom order is just a production and transaction, as you said "one off" stuff. It won't bring us much future returns.