Part Two: The “Perfect Balance” System.
A bit of a misnomer as it’s really a “perfect counterbalance” system, but let’s not quibble.
Before launching into this, a slight recap on the original V3 might be in order. The V3 uses a changeable spring system, with, from memory, six or seven different rated springs. On the up side, this allowed the head to counterbalance camera systems from small through to fairly substantial. The downside, as there was no control to vary the amount of pressure each spring provided, was that each spring only performed its “perfect counterbalance” function for a small band of weights/ C.O.G. arrangements (C.O.G. = Center Of Gravity).
In practice this meant that of two cameras with identical weights but different C.O.G.s, one would work with perfect counterbalance, the other would either be too heavy or too light and require holding against either the spring or gravity using shed loads of tilt drag, or even tilt lock. Not a perfect situation.
In theory, my Canon XH A1 in basic configuration should have worked with a #2 spring. In practice, the C.O.G. of the A1 was so low; the #2 was way too strong. I could only get the #2 to function perfectly by adding well over a pound or half a kilo with add-ons; wireless mic receiver, big shotgun etc. Luckily for me, I run this configuration all the time.
The Vision 3 AS has an internal, fixed, non-user changeable spring. The operation of the “perfect balance” control applies more and more pressure to this spring to change the counterbalance setting. The control wheel is very easy to use, though in order to keep the amount of finger pressure low, it has meant the wheel has a staggering 20-plus turns from bottom to top of range.
The blurb says the “perfect balance” range runs from 4.4 lbs (2 kilos) to 11.0 lbs (5.0 kilos), but read that small print, as the Devil is in the detail That’s at 5 inches (125 mm) C.O.G.!
Stripped to its shorts, my Canon XH A1 weighs in at about 5 lbs 10 ounces (2.575 kilos), but has an extraordinarily low C.O.G. At the heads minimum counterbalance setting, the V3 AS had the Canon bouncing back to horizontal like Skippy the Kangaroo. Hang on, I thought, I’ve seen this before, so promptly put back on all those extras I usually have bolted to my A1, taking it’s total weight up to 7 pounds odd (3.225 kilos). Hey presto – perfect counterbalance. So, the V 3 AS minimum setting is equivalent to the V3’s #2 spring.
There was a momentary thought that here the V3 had something the AS doesn’t, but further consideration dismissed this as, at best, a mixed blessing. With the V3 you could try going down to a #1 spring, or even, with something like a dinky cam, no spring at all, but there would still be no control over the actual counterbalance available, so what you gain on the roundabout, you lose on the swings.
With the V3 AS, you’re stuck. If your camera weight / C.O.G. doesn’t come up to snuff, you’ve no choice but to add weights high up on the camera to get it there.
Short of Vinten bringing out a Vision 1/2 AS, users of lighter or lower C.O.G. cameras like mine and other HDV and AVCHD format camcorders are out of luck with the V 3 AS, unless, like me, you can get a lot more weight on, although that has its own perils. If I unbolt any of my “bolt-ons” (which I do occasionally) I’m going to be playing “hang on” with the pan bar in no uncertain fashion. That’s no fun and defeats the purpose of having such a fine head.
Hopefully this is something Vinten will give some serious consideration to. Failing the appearance of a V 1/2 AS, I can’t see an alternative to Vinten compiling a fairly comprehensive list of semi–pro cameras that WON’T work with the V 3 AS.
On a positive note, if I have to take my A1 up to seven pounds to get the counterbalance to kick in at minimum, a bit of quick math would appear to indicate that it will still be hanging in there if I pimp it up to something like 13 ½ pounds, which is one heck of a lot of pimping, and still have perfect counterbalance.
Can I tell you how the “perfect balance” system actually handles? Nope. Without tying a house brick to the top of my A1 (not something I’d do, even in the interest of science) I can’t get the system off minimum. I’m sure it works brilliantly. I just can’t test it.