TL;DR: 360Precision is awesome!
Back in time, 11 or 12 years ago, I came across Paul Debevec's research work and got really impressed by some gems like Fiat Lux. I started shooting a few HDRI probes to apply that knowledge on my own work but the only gear I had at that time was a Nikon Coolpix 4500 and a gigantic garden gazing orb ball.
Now today HDRI is mainstream, popular thanks to website and books like the one from my friend Christian Bloch at HDRLabs or photographers like Bob Groothuis and Thomas Suurland. It's also the main data component of Image Based Lighting technique we use everyday in Computer Graphics.
I have used Bob's Dutch Skies quite extensively in pretty much all my recent projects and will continue to do so but in some instances I also want to have control over the precise location and most importantly the various plates I will use for integration later in my work and more.
I started to search around to establish a list of the gear I would need, visiting various forums, reading reviews, comparing the prices of various vendors like Amazon, B&H, Calumet, etc... After a few days I reduced the number of candidates items and finalised the list although I had some options for the tripod. I knew my panoramic head would be a 360Precision Absolute MK2 which are probably some of the best ( If not the best ) panoramic heads money can buy.
I contacted 360Precision because I wanted to know what was the head availability. I sent a mail a Saturday afternoon without expecting a reply before the next Monday but actually received one the same evening from Matthew Rogers ( The neat guy behind 360Precision ). We continued the discussion on the Live Chat on their website which is great because you really have the feeling somebody is actually taking care of your case. I wanted to know if the levelling base I had chosen would work with his head, it was the case and Matthew suggested to source it for me.
That's where the real magic began: We continued to discuss and instead of myself buying the gear left and right from various vendors with expensive delivery costs and various delays I bought everything directly from Matthew who has a big network of suppliers with low prices. It was win / win for both of us, it helped him running his business and the costs were a lot lower for me than if I had to source everything myself, less stuff to track, less stress, simply brilliant.
Since I wanted to have the gear for holidays, I contacted him back to know how things were, telling him I would be keen on getting the gear before being off. Instead of sending the gear and as he was coming to London, he proposed to bring it directly!
How many vendors do you know are willing to do that? It for sure was the first time for me :)
We met in a coffee in Soho, next to my work place and talked a bit around a cappuccino about our jobs, his business and the state of our respective industries. At some point I had to go back to my pixel bending duties, and I did so with a big box filled with all my new stuff :)
Only missing item was the panoramic head, but Matthew had a remaining trick: He sent me the next day his own personal Adjuste MK2 that I can keep until my Absolute is built!
The quality is phenomenal, engineered to last, not surprising it's covered with lifetime warranty, it likely will be the same when the kids of my kids decide to play with it in a retro souvenir of what we call modern photography :)
This has definitely been the most successful buying experience I have ever had and I just cannot stop praising Matthew and 360Precision professionalism.
That's all folks!