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Nodal Ninja 5 with R-D12

Announced on April 2010, the Nodal Ninja 5 series is discontinued.


Nodal Ninja 5 w/ R-D12

VR Head Type:

Multi-Row Spherical Panoramic Tripod Mount


995 g  (2 lbs 3oz)


(HxWxD)213mm x 199mm x 190mm

Load Capacity:

Approximately 22 lbs


Non-reflective black


Anodized aluminum and steel for rotators, cast aluminum painted black for arms

Large Bodied DSLRs / Medium Format Compatibility:



Bubble level

Numerical Demarcations:

On lower & upper rails. (metric), upper rotator

Bottom Thread Attachment

3/8 (with supplied 3/8 to 1/4 thread screw adapter)

Rotator head adjustments:


Vertical Arm Rotation:


Panoramic Rotation:


Camera Quick Release:

No (optional)

Upper arm detent stop:

Yes - 15

Landscape Mode:


Tools Required For Assembly:

No.  (Unless changing integrated components)


2 years warranty

Tools Supplied:


Spare Parts Supplied:


Case Supplied:


Accessories Available:




Customer Support:





(CAD) $519.95

Web site:






Having owned and used previous NN3s and NN5/Ls the addition of the new rotators to the Nodal Ninja family is a treat.


The added height or the rotator is minimal to the setup and when it's packed away.


This NN5 combo comes with the new R-D12 rotator.


R-D12 Specs :

Diameter: 62mm

Height: 49mm


The R-D12 have selectable click-stops that ranges from:

 3 (120), 4 (90),6 (60),8 (45),10 (36), 12 (30), 15 (24) ,

18 (20), 24 (15), 30 (12), 36 (10) and 48 (7.5).


NOTE:  Manual rotation can also be accomplished by not utilizing the detent plunger.

R-D12 comes with a standard 3/8 tripod thread.


Rotation on the R-D12 can be locked.

Detent plunger knob is safely attached to the locking screw to prevent losing it.


Bottom of lower rail has anti-twist pins.

Bubble level on lower rail. 


My "little trick".  Rail stops has become standard on all NN panoramic heads.


Bottom of vertical rail now has "cork".  This prevents scratching up the surface of the lower rail. 


Vertical rail knob easy to grip for easy tightening.


Large upper knob for easy tightening.


New upper arm with positive click stops and built in locking lever.  The stops is every 15 throughout the full range of rotation.


New camera plate is now standard.


Demarcations on lower / upper rotator and lower / upper rail.





Hard shell case.


Spare parts.


Rail stops.  This has become standard in all NN panoramic heads.





One word...  "Precise."


Many have asked me why I measure these markings when the panohead is not a tool for measuring.  True but the demarcations are used for reference to maintain consistency.  It's simply to test whether or not a manufacturer has cut corners.  I wouldn't want to purchase a product with "make believe" measurements.


The following techniques used to measure precision are simple using ordinary measuring tools.  Meant for the non-engineer types like myself to perform.


How accurate are the markings on the new NN5?. 


60 markings from the rotator's ring were transferred to a sheet of paper.

Lines were then drawn from each mark and extended to the opposite mark.


Used a protractor to test - Perfect.

Other half - Perfect.

Upper rotator ring demarcations

- same procedure.

First half - Perfect.

Second half - Perfect.

Lower rail demarcations

- Perfect.

Upper rail demarcations

- Perfect.

Vertical arm 90 alignment - Perfect.


(Yellow tape was used for visibility.)


Upper rail level test - Perfect.



Lower rail level and Rotation level test - Perfect.


The rotation level test is probably what many photographers look for.  Although not necessary with today's software it's still good to have.





To level the NN5 / R-D12 I used the EZ-Leveler from Nodal Ninja as well.


This animation shows this panohead can handle large bodied DSLRs.


Landscape mode.  This is a nice feature to have that some panoramic heads cannot convert to.




Size comparison between R-D12 and Manfrotto's 300N.


A feature that is overlooked.  A "keyhole" that prevents the knobs on both upper and lower rail from falling out.




Accommodates various sizes of lenses.


Shown in order: 10.5mm Fisheye, 12-24mm, 17-55mm and 70-200mm.





My long exposure nadir technique is possible with the NN5. 


This is always one of the key features I look for in a pan head.  It's also why I do not use a quick release plate.  You need the ability to slide the camera a bit further up the rail.




This is the nadir from a 1273x1273 cubic image.  (4000x2000 equirectangular) .





Size comparison with other pan heads.


Left to right:  Kaidan's QuickPan Pro, Manfrotto's 303SPH, MK's Panohead and Nodal Ninja's NN5 w/ R-D12.


These pano heads can be used with the lens/camera combination shown previously. 





Every part can be replaced for maintenance if necessary.






Waited a long time for this but the best just got better.  The new NN5 combined with the new R-D12 rotator is one tough act to follow.  Nick Fan, the inventor of the Nodal Ninja products, has been quite busy in the last little while.  Many new products have been developed to meet the increasing demand of panographers. 


Along with the R-D12, various rotators have also been developed such as the R-D8, R-D3L, R-D4 and a new NN3 MKII rotators to upgrade older NN3s. 


An NN5 with R-D8 combination is also available.  Same as the R-D12 except it has eight detent selections. (4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20)


This is one manufacturer that cares about their customers.





The new NN5 with R-D12  rotator is simply awesome.  It's engineering at its finest.  Seeing is believing.  The images above cannot lie.   Mr. Fan has worked hard to improve the tolerance and quality on the new rotators and panoheads.


Previous experience with the NN5 already proved the panohead is great to work with.  It's solid construction with a professional feel and look makes this panohead blend with the rest of your professional gear.  The new NN5 can solidly support up to 22lbs of camera and lens combination making this panohead an easy choice for professionals. 


When folded the NN5 is compact making this panohead a favorite amongst hikers and travelers.  The hard shelled case easily packs into your luggage or backpack. 


First thing I had to test out is the new R-D12 rotator.  As mentioned in previous reviews I believe the rotator makes half of the panohead.  A panohead with a sub-standard rotator just won't cut it in today's high standard for panoramic photography. 


I compared it to the Manfrotto 300N.  The click stops on the R-D12 is much more solid and defined compared to the 300N.  The 300N can easily over-shoot a stop and have to spin back and forth to make sure the detent is seated.  The R-D12 just stops cold for every click.  No time wasted.


The R-D12's selection of detent stops make changing shooting requirements a breeze.  You can switch from a full spherical panorama with a fisheye lens and easily change to a high resolution panorama with a zoom lens by simply moving the detent plunger into the detent stop required.


Another key and new feature I like about the NN5 is the upper arm's positive lock stop, every 15, with a built in locking lever.  I use to manually look through the viewfinder, when tilting the head down, to achieve the optimal nadir coverage.  Now even in dimly lit locations no more guessing.  Just lift the arm and lock and you can be sure you've minimized the nadir hole.


There are various subtle upgrades to the NN5 such as the cork bottom of the vertical rail.  This avoids scratching the surface of the lower rail. 


Improved washers have also been implemented.  Metal and heavier plastic.  Previous washers on older NNs would wear out in time.  Again this is a manufacturer's attention to improving their products. 


The camera plate replaced the previous "rubber" plate.  The problem with the rubber plate was the hole would wear out and the rubber plate would fall off.


Last but not least, my favourite test, my long exposure nadir technique.  As proven on the NN3 and early NN5/Ls it's my key test.  If I couldn't shoot long exposure nadirs then I would have probably failed this panohead from the very start.





The only issue I have with the NN5 is the camera plate.  It takes a bit of time to set up.  During set up the panohead is first leveled by the leveler on the tripod.  Then the upper arm is leveled 90 from the vertical arm.  When mounting the camera a hot shoe bubble is used to make sure the camera is squared with the upper arm.  When installing the camera plate, and if the camera plate is not squared with the camera, then you would have to remove, adjust, re-tighten and test again.  Of course this only happens on initial setup and is not a big deal. 


There are plans to replace the current plate with a quick release system.  I will update this review when it does materialized.


Overall there is no other "cons" that I have. 




Overall Conclusion


I gave the NN5 panohead a score of 10 out of 10. 


From a price point, to build quality, overall company and customer care, they can't be denied of this mark.  Knowing you have a manufacturer that is willing to listen to suggestions and feedbacks and actually implement the suggestion is very comforting to know.


Nodal Ninja continues to improved their product line.  From the first NNs and now NN5.  Nick Fan hasn't stopped pursuing excellence. 


Bill Bailey, the director of global sales and marketing for Nodal Ninja, has built up a reputation for their customer service; going above and beyond what most people will expect from a manufacturer.  From their online-forum, participating in various panoramic forums, answering questions in a timely manner, online FAQs, camera settings, online-tutorials, etc.;  the list goes on and on.    Simply makes learning panoramas a pleasure.




Highly Recommended




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