added 12 October 2004
The Zoe DVL Remote Lens Controller
a review by Ken Tanaka
distributed by 16x9 Inc., retail price: $360; street price: $300
Note: This article covers the newer 2004 model
of the Zoe DV LANC controller.
Bebob Broadcast, a German broadcast technology company, has established a solid presence in the remote controller market with their Zoe-branded controllers. Bebob’s earlier models of the Zoe DVL LANC controller were premium-priced but solidly-built good performers (see my review of the 2003 model Zoe DV LANC controller here). The latest version of the DVL represents a modest incremental refinement of the controller’s design.
Like its predecessors the Fall, 2004 Zoe DVL model has a solid, well-built feel. It’s designed to clamp to a tripod’s pan handle with a grooved vice bar anchored between two threaded rods. The bar is slotted at one end to enable it to swing loose for easy mounting and dismounting.
At first glance this new Zoe DVL looks similar to the earlier model. It shares the slightly plump, rounder polycarbonate casing design with other recent Zoe models. The thumb rocker is in the same position and has the firm feeling of other Zoes. The three buttons across the unit’s top, labeled "On/Off," "Record" and "Focus" are in the same locations as earlier models, too. The blue brand label is also the same.
The most significant design change from previous models is the replacement of the membrane bubble buttons with silent rubber buttons. This change was a direct and rapid response to owners who complained that the previous membrane buttons were difficult to operate and featured too loud of a “click” report. The new buttons are far easier to blindly locate with the thumb and are far more predictably responsive than the old membrane buttons of earlier models.
Then, of course, there’s that wheel on the side which Bebob calls "Maximum Speed Reduction." This wheel, introduced with the previous DVL model, enables you to establish the maximum speed at which the zoom will move in response to pressing the Zoe’s rocker. Note that this wheel does not establish a fixed rate of motion for the zoom. Rather it simply limits its maximum rate. Bebob has also introduced this feature to their DVX controller. It’s very nice to have.
I was able to test the Zoe DVL controller with a Canon XL1S with the standard 16x IS II Auto lens and with a GL2. As with all other LANC controllers I’ve tested the Zoe’s functionality fared better on the GL2 than on the XL1S.
Record: Of course this function worked flawlessly with both cameras.
Zoom: No problems here. The Zoe was able to faithfully replicate the XL1S’ 16x Auto lens’ minimum and maximum zoom travel times of approximately 2 seconds to 1 minute, respectively. The Zoe rocker also operated the lens’ zoom in as smooth a manner as the camera rocker. It also faithfully reproduced the GL2 lens’ minimum and maximum travel times of approximately 4 seconds and 30 seconds, respectively. The Zoe’s speed reduction wheel seemed able to control both cameras’ lens’ maximum speed very nicely. It would be nice if there was a way to mark a wheel setting for later recreation of a particular speed.
On/Off: As with previous Zoes, and every other LANC controller I’ve used, the Zoe DVL was unable to put the XL1S to sleep. Pressing this button does turn the camera off but only briefly. Like a fussy child at bedtime the XL1S just wakes right back up. Based on past correspondence with controller manufacturers, I’ve learned that this is due to Canon’s particular LANC implementation on the XL1 and XL1S. The Zoe cannot be faulted for this issue.
The Zoe was able to control the GL2’s power-up and standby status flawlessly.
Focus: According to Bebob the Zoe’s Focus button is designed to produce several effects. When pressed once it’s supposed to activate a camera’s manual focus mode. Pressed twice it switches the camera to auto-focus mode. Pressed and held it’s supposed to activate the "Push Auto" function while the camera is in manual focus mode.
This is probably how the button operates on Sony cameras (Sony being the originator and owner of the LANC protocol) but it is not exactly how it operates on Canon cameras.
Focus Control with Canon XL1S
Since the XL1S’ 16x Auto lens’ focus mode is set by a mechanical switch no remote controller can control this function. The 16x lens must be set to manual focus mode for the Zoe’s focus button to have any affect on it at all.
Single press: Puts the lens into manual focus mode, enabling the Zoe’s rocker to control focus. (Note that unlike the rocker’s variable speed zoom function, the rocker’s focus control is a constant rate irrespective of the wheel’s setting or the pressure on the rocker.) The lamp over the focus button flashes while the rocker is controlling focus. Pressing the button again restores the rocker to zoom control.
Double press: This has no effect on the XL1S.
Press & hold: This has no effect on the XL1S.
Focus Control with Canon GL2
The GL2 was much more obedient than the XL1S to the Zoe’s focus button’s design.
Single press: When the GL2 is in manual focus mode this enables the rocker to operate focus rather than zoom.
Double press: This switches the camera between manual and auto focus modes.
Press & hold: In manual focus mode this operates the “Push Auto” function to temporarily activate auto focus mode (since the GL2 has no “Push Auto” function this is the equivalent of cycling from manual to auto focus and back to manual again).
No-Tape / Recording Indicator
The red lamp above the Record button is designed to indicate recording status (on/off) and to blink when there is no tape loaded in the camera. Again, this
indicator operates a bit differently on Canon cameras.
No tape loaded: The indicator remains solidly lit.
Tape loaded, camera not recording: The indicator is dark.
Recording in progress: The indicator remains solidly lit.
As I noted at the beginning of this article the Fall, 2004 model of the Zoe DVL controller represents an incremental design change, not a redesign. This new model retains the functional characteristics and solid feel of its immediate predecessor while implementing a button redesign that will likely be a welcome change to most users.
If I were asked to make picayune suggestions for future models I would offer the following points:
One. I would like to see a slimmer profile on future Zoe controllers. They’ve become a bit chunky during the past two models, with a thickness of 1-1/8." Folks with small to medium-sized hands may find a Zoe a bit uncomfortable to use for long periods of time. The thumb’s reach to operate the top buttons is just a tiny bit far. Ideally Bebob might find a way to shave the design to within 1" thickness.
Two. Bebob should consider orienting the DVL’s zoom speed control wheel horizontally toward the upper right corner of the unit, rather than vertically in its center. This would enable easier operation with the right index finger and would orient the wheel more consistently with the index finger’s actual range of motion. It would also help facilitate a thickness reduction. Still, the Zoe DVL is a good value and should certainly be considered if you are in the market for a good remote controller. Look for this model to appear in retail channels during the Fall of 2004 at a suggested retail price of $299.
Manufacturer: Bebob (Munich, Germany)
U.S. Distributor: 16x9, Inc. (Los Angeles)
Written by Ken Tanaka.
Thrown together by Chris Hurd.