When in Las Vegas I had the opportunity to meet with Bill King, the inventor of the KingPano panoramic head. Over a coffee we talked about the development of the head, where he is going with it from here, and my experience and observations while using it. I have used it world-wide for a couple of years shooting over 3,000 panoramas, and found it a light weight, sturdy and inexpensive alternative to other professional panoramic heads available.
Recent reviews put the KingPano as a suitable alternative to the Manfrotto MN303SPH panoramic head, and I agree. For a start it is much cheaper, much lighter and comes with little compromise compared to the Manfrotto system.
Developed over several years, the KingPano and has gone through more than 40 designs. The current version is made of durable Acrylic, with a stop-click base. I have previously reviewed the Panosaurus, and much prefer the KingPano to it. The feel is more solid, it is lighter weight and has a click stop base, which the Panosaurus does not. Similarly, the vertical arm of the KingPano feels more solid than that of the Panosaurus when attached to the base.
The KingPano also comes with a leveling device attached (unlike many rivals). This is a three-ring device, which I am not particularly fond and find fiddly to use. I also found that this was not the most solid system, and at points there was too much flex. Instead, I prefer to use a ball and socket system, such as the Manfrotto 438, which allows you to lock the camera in place with one switch (although this does add to the weight). Bill was kind enough to make me a head without his leveling system, and this has worked a dream.
One of the drawbacks of the current KingPano is that the camera mount has to be unscrewed from the horizontal arm of the tripod each time it is used. This can be a real pain, especially if you are taking a number of images from different locations, but need to set down between shots for transport. In the end I adapted my mounting arm from the Panosaurus and used that.
The other drawback was that the set-up is shorter than the Panosaurus, so could not be set up accurately for the use of zoom lenses. Both systems have problems shooting the vertical zenith shot of spherical panoramas as the attaching screw for the camera can protrude (the Panosaurus has the option of using a recessed screw, but again this leads to a time consuming, more fiddly, set down after each shot).
Bill listened eagerly to my observations, and has big plans for the future. He is setting up a workshop which will make future models in metal, will have a quick release for the camera and overcome the zenith shot issues. He is also considering changing the leveling system and extending the length of the arms. Considering himself a perfectionist, I look forward to having a go with the next model. By then I expect it will rapidly become the panorama head of choice for many.