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Old April 23rd, 2004, 06:29 PM   #1
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Sign Video zoom-commander

Does anyone have any experience with the Sign Video zoom controller ?
It is a very resonalby priced item and I was wondering if anyone had first hand experience with it.
Thank you
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Old May 11th, 2004, 04:16 PM   #2
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Dennis,

Did you ever purchase one of these controllers? I have been looking at the II or the Pro and plan on buying one in the next week or so. I just noticed your post and the lack of responses. I guess no news could be good news.

Bret Corbin
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Old May 11th, 2004, 04:27 PM   #3
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No I have never used one of these products before. I think they could be useful, but I wanted to see if anyone had any first hand experience.
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Old May 11th, 2004, 06:24 PM   #4
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I have a commander II.
It's not the most ergonomic controller I've seen but, for that ultra slow zoom, it works great.
Unfortunately, with my sony vx2000, the auto focus on/off doesn't work.
The focus operation is good but slow.
It works fine for my purposes but, if you need to have constant variable zoom speed and a faster focus, I'd spend the extra cash on a ZOE or Varizoom.
Just my 2 cents.
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Old May 12th, 2004, 07:49 AM   #5
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I had a Commander II and used it for one shoot. I didn't like the feel of the push buttons, and the detachable LANC cable made a loose connection at the controller end. Because the focus button is positioned beneath the zoom buttons, I kept bumping the focus while trying to slow zoom. I returned the Commander II and the people at Sign Video were very cordial and prompt to refund. I bought the Studio One controller and use it for nearly early tripod mounted shoot.

Joseph
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Old May 12th, 2004, 09:01 AM   #6
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Douglas,

Have you ever tried using your II to command your camera in the VTR mode?

I don't understand the details of the LANC Protocol and noticed that the II and Pro have all the same features minus the ability to control the VTR functions in the II. There doesn't appear to be a switch on the commander to tell the commander that it is controlling a VTR and not a camera. So unless the LANC Protocol includes communications back and forth between the commander and the camera, your II may also control VTR functions.

If you haven't tried this, give it a try and let me know.

Just curious.

Bret Corbin
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Old May 12th, 2004, 10:10 AM   #7
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No, I've never had a reason to try the VTR mode control.
I really only needed something to give a constant, slow, zoom.
I had hoped that it would be able to momentarily bump from manual focus to auto focus like the switch on the camera does but, no go.
I still haven't used it on a production, only tests at home.
My first feature shoot begins June 11th.
I'll know alot more after that.
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Old May 14th, 2004, 09:57 PM   #8
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I had one and sold it, bought a varizoom stealth, I like it much better. It's higher quality and I don't like the push buttons.
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Old May 15th, 2004, 03:54 PM   #9
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Thanks for the great feedback fellows. In the March 2004 issue fo DV magazine, Bruce Johnson comments on zoom controllers. He says that " all these controllers are dandy, but none have yet cracked the big complain about consumer and prosumer cameras, servo-controlled focus. That focus ring on your Sony VX2000 is not connected to the lens elements at all, it simply sends a signal to the electronics, more this way, more that way. Pro cameras never, ever have auto-focus." I have to agree with Bruce, my Nikon SLR lenses have auto focus, but when I switch to manual, the focus is connected to the lense elements mechanically. I can get the the precise focus I am looking for. On my Sony camcorder when I switch to manual, there is little precise control, it is vague and slow, and I use manual setting as little as possible. It is becoming apparent that the main benefit of these controllers is to control the zoom and for me that means to start from a crawl and smoothly ramp up to a faster speed. I think the focus control is of little or no use on any of the camcorders that we mainly talk about on these post, including those costing $4000 and more.
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Old May 16th, 2004, 08:24 PM   #10
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"It is becoming apparent that the main benefit of these controllers is to control the zoom..."

Well, yeah. That's why they are called "zoom controllers." The focus control, such as it is, is not what is moving these items off the shelves. And besides, the LANC will not allow you two commands at the same time, so you cannot zoom and change focus with the controller. One or the other. Also, the controller can only change the focus at a pre-set speed (at present). And that speed is pretty slow.

I am a professional shooter, Dennis, and I am amazed at how good the auto focus is on my PD150. Would I like it to have a true manual focus? Sure, but I accept its limitations, and enjoy it for what it can do, rather than dwell on its perceived shortcomings. (I am unhappy with the little "hiccup" in the zoom function when you try to do a very slow zoom. So I try to avoid them.)

It's simply a matter of, you get what you pay for. You want manual focus? Pony up the big bucks, and buy a camera with a separate lens(es).

BTW, Dennis, you won't zoom "from a crawl and smoothly ramp up to a faster speed," with a fifty dollar controller. And, as was mentioned earlier, no controllers with "buttons" to zoom in and out, please.

Wayne Orr, SOC
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Old June 21st, 2004, 11:00 PM   #11
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Just a comment about manual focus. I just ran into a situation where i needed to manually focus, because I rely on auto focus for everything, I was caught unprepared. I was filming a black person giving a speech at a podium and the camera kept focusing on the lighter background. So my point is there are situations where you don't want auto focus.
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