Review: Vinten Vision blue5 Video Support System

Featuring the CBTechniques CB100 Counter Balance Correction System

Another NAB, another Vinten review! Yes, it’s that time again: tinker and test, tweak and note, dust off the keyboard and set about disseminating the information. This is something of a “two for one” deal. This was necessitated by the fact that Peter Harman at Vinten kindly sent me the Vision blue5 for the review, and very nice it is too. However, it’s COG/ Mass graph quickly demonstrated that all of my Video cameras, even piled/ bolted one on top of the other, weren’t going to get the Counter Balance system to play ball in a fit.

Cue: a mad scrabble to prise one of the very first prototypes of the new CB100 (more of that anon) out of my business / design partner / machine and powder coat shops in Texas. As I write this (eight days before copy deadline) it’s currently shown as “somewhere between Chicago (?) and New Zealand,” just what I really didn’t need.

In a slight change to the format, as the Vb5 shares exactly the same tripod (3819–3), spreader (V4032–0001 Mid or 3363–3 Floor), and case (3358–3) as the original VB, I’m going to play lazy and let you check out those details in my original Vision Blue review (here).

As I can detect absolutely no changes to the tripod, spreader or case between the original set and the new set, everything good, bad or indifferent I had said about all three back then still holds.

One thing that is different this time however, much to my astonishment, was that having removed the system from its very sturdy and undamaged box, removed the outer bubble wrap sleeve from the case, removed the bubble wrapped head and sticks from said case, removed bubble wrap sleeve from the head and sticks and spread the legs for my first look and… one of the spreader arms was broken!

Luckily I had the identical spreader from the Vb set, so no crisis, but I can imagine the sense of utter despair a new owner would feel in the same situation. However, having fired an email directly to Peter (which is exactly what any Vinten owner should do in a similar situation) he has the necessary parts winging in my direction as I type, so I should be able to affect a repair in pretty short order, and if I didn’t live practically next door to Antarctica, it would be even shorter.

How did it get broken? Absolutely no idea. No damage to box, case, bubble sleeves, or tripod. One of life’s little mysteries.

One other difference between this review and the original is that the Vb head used for the original review was a pre–production unit with zero livery nor ID plate. The Vision blue5 head I have this time is a production unit with a serial number (V4105–00100) and livery, so, the real deal. As such I’m much better placed to comment on head facilities or lack thereof.

So, let’s get started.

Vinten Vision blue5 Pan/ Tilt Head (V4105 – 0001)

The new Vision blue5 replaces both the current Pro–10 and Vision 5AS models, as of NAB, 2012. The Pro–10 has a capacity of 10kg / 22lbs, with a fixed counterbalance spring rated at 7.5kg/ 16.5lbs. The 5AS payload range is from 3.8kg / 8.4lbs to 8.3kg / 18.3lbs.

The new tweaks to the CB system on the blue5 give it a payload range of 5.5kg / 12.1lbs to 12kg / 26.5lbs at 100mm center of gravity (COG), which is a lot of camera rig. The original blue’s range is 2.1kg / 4.6lbs to 5.0kg/ 11lbs @ 55mm COG.

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In use, the head has exactly the same handling characteristics as the original blue, perfect counterbalance knob, infinite pan & tilt drag settings, LF drag system, blue illuminated levelling bubble and 75mm ball base.

So far, so good.

The down side of this “two peas in a pod” is that it shares the same head plate and slide / Quick Release(QR) plate arrangement as the original blue, and more importantly, the same bleak black flat landscape of same when seen from, well, anywhere really.

I had been hoping that the original was simply missing something “up top” due to being pre-production, but no, the real deal is the same.

A few things could do with some attention here, as follows.

First, the slot load channel on the head plate has such a miniscule chamfer on it, you really do need to be a good shot to get the slide plate loaded, first time, every time, especially when so much of it is obscured by the camera body. A much more accepting QR plate landing zone would be greatly appreciated.

A related issue, still not addressed, is not only the positioning of the slide / QR plate lock knob down behind the right hand side pan bar rosette, but the fact that there is still not a bias spring on that lever to prevent it spinning into the locked position during transport. If anything, the blue5 is even worse than the original blue in this regard, with no slide / QR plated loaded (which would be the case during transport), a mere nudge is enough to lock it.

The third item is a bit of a disappointment. There is still no elegant way to indicate the camera rig load point on the head plate. Apart from a small indent in the centre of each long side of the slide / QR plate (black, of course) there’s nothing on the head plate to give any indication of where the correct load point is for the camera. No ruler, no numbers, nothing.

Unless an owner wants to go the “Heath Robinson” route and stick a strip of masking tape on the head and paint the QR plate indent white, then mark the load point on the tape in pencil (or some similar home remedy) you have to go through the entire load, balance, re–balance routine every time you load the camera.

With the exception of those few niggles, all’s well. The system shares exactly the same ergonomics as its baby brother, and in use handles identically, with the proviso that any camera rig that will work with it is HEAVY!

CB100 Counterbalance Correction System

The CB100 Counterbalance Correction System prototype from CB Techniques arrived three days before the copy deadline for this review, which elicited one very big sigh of relief from me, as without it I had absolutely no way to put the system through it’s paces with a real payload on board.

Now, before I carry on, an admission of disclosure. CB Techniques and the CB100 have emerged after many months of collaboration between Richard Davidson in Texas, USA, and myself here in New Zealand.

The mission was to design a system that was almost infinitely configurable, to allow the use of light cameras on professional video pan / tilt heads with too strong counterbalance systems. As camera size, COG and weight continue to decrease, this problem is spreading, inexorably, as new camera systems get introduced that are simply too light for the professional supports currently in use, or even available at all.

The CB100 is based on simple physics (even though there was nothing “simple” about it’s design) in that if the camera is too light for the head, you either add weight / mass OR increase the centre of gravity, or some mixture of both. The CB100 allows that, in spades.

As this review is all about the Vision blue5, I’ll refrain from going into any great detail about the various configurations I used to get my Canon XH A1 to work with the Vb5, but work it most definitely did. I’ve included a number of photos, which are pretty well self-explanatory, of the CB100 in “grossed out” mode. I think it unlikely many people would use such a configuration in anger, but then again, who knows?

Conclusions

The Vision blue5 is a solid, reliable workhorse of a system, no bells, no whistles, no “go faster stripes,” at yet another astonishingly low price point for features like Perfect Balance and the infinitely variable LF drag system.

A fully configured system: Tripod, head, spreader, boots and case for that price is yet another indication of Vintens exceedingly aggressive pricing. That this has been achieved by reincarnating the old Vision 6 head for the third time has carried forward a couple of things that are really starting to show it’s age, and lost that magic side / drop load of the 5 AS. As with the original Vision blue, to get to that price point, something had to give, and that was it.

It’s one heck of a lot of camera support for the money and a mere drop in the bucket when compared to the price of the cameras it’s designed for, like the JVC GY–HM710, 750 & 790; Sony HVR–S270 & Panasonic HPX–370.

Like it’s baby brother, I expect it will sell faster than they can make them.

Pricing:

  • Head only (V4105 – 0001), UK: 1,065 pounds / US: $2025
  • Full System, Floor VB5 – AP2F, UK: 1,925 pounds / US: $2850
  • Full System, Mid VB5 – AP2M, UK: 1,925 pounds / US: $2850

Acknowledgements

Once again, Peter Harman at Vinten, for the review system. Chris Hurd and the team at DV Info Net, for getting this on line. Richard Davidson, for saving my bacon by getting me the CB100 on time.

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About The Author

Chris Soucy

Born in London, Ontario, Canada but transplanted to Tasmania, Australia at a tender age, where I spent most of my formative years. Decamped at 19 to “see the world,” and proceeded to hitch hike from Madras (India) to London (UK). Somehow surviving (despite many “life enriching experiences”), I spent most of the 70’s and 80’s in the UK computer industry, using my spare time to polish up my still photography skills. Quit the rat race for the first time in 1990 and spent 18 months travelling through China, Pakistan and India hauling round a monstrous bag of camera gear, somehow ending up back in Australia more or less by accident. Realized I’d taken a wrong turn 5 years later and headed back to Blighty for another decade. Finally fled the “big smoke” and headed to NZ with my Kiwi partner. Got into video with an XL1s but always knew HD would be the way to go, trading up to a Canon XH A1 (and a Nikon D80) December ’06. Have been throwing shed-loads of money at it ever since. Still coming to terms with this whole “moving image” thing. Despite my constant declarations of retirement, my shooting time is continually intruded upon by that 4 letter w**k word. A confessed perfectionist, I built a conservatory onto our London home with a micrometer being the main measuring instrument (true!). Despite my long computer association, have done more different jobs than I’ve had hot dinners, none of them as much fun as playing with cameras.

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