Bogen vs. Varizoom Lanc? at DVinfo.net

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Old January 23rd, 2005, 09:35 AM   #1
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Bogen vs. Varizoom Lanc?

I'm about to buy a lanc zoom controller for my Sony PD170, and have read many threads in this forum with useful info. Most of the discussion seems to focus on the relative merits of VZ as opposed to Zoe, with little discussion of the Bogen 523. Can anyone comment on the pros/cons of the Bogen 523 vs. the Varizoom Pro-L or VZ Rock? Thanks for all the help!
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Old January 23rd, 2005, 09:46 AM   #2
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I have the pro-L and have been happy with it. I chose this model since it has a dial where you can preset the desired zoom speed. Then when you press the rocker switch it will hold that speed. My goal was to get the slowest and most consistent zooms possible, and it does that very well.

It is very big and heavy though, and can throw your camera off balance on the tripod if you can't compensate enough with a sliding plate. The big handle is not removable, and the clamp is designed for a rather thick pan handle. This works fine on my Bogen 501 head because the pan handle actually comes apart in the middle and it's large in diameter. But I use a Miller DS-5 now which has a thinner handle with a non-removable grip. My solution was to pull the pan handle off the tripod when using the Pro-L and replace it with a shorter piece of aluminum tubing. I flipped the clamp plate on the Pro-L (with the grooved side facing outwards) to make it bite down tight on the tubing.

When I got the Pro-L a couple years ago it was the only one I could find that had a dial for presetting a constant zoom speed. Since then Zoe has come out with a new model that also features this. It looks very nice, although I think it's rather expensive.
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Old January 23rd, 2005, 10:05 AM   #3
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Thanks Boyd. The Bogen 523 specs state that it has 3 presets for speed control, rather than a dial. That would be fine for me. I'm wondering if anyone has had the opportunity to compare the Bogen 523 to the VZ models.
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Old January 23rd, 2005, 09:32 PM   #4
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I have tested all the models you are looking at, Len, and the Varizoom isn't even in the running, IMHO. The real contest is between the Bogen and Zoe. The Varizoom Rock is an absolute rip-off of the Zoe without the same attention to detail. Also note that in the fine print Varizoom warns that using their controller in damp weather conditions may void the warranty and could damage your camera. The Zoe makes a point that they are weather proof. Also, the Zoe comes with a two year warranty and I believe the Varizoom products are only one year. But the Zoe (and possibly the Bogen) will cost more money, partly due to the sinking dollar. Be sure to read Ken Tenaka's review of the Zoe on this forum.

Wayne Orr, SOC
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Old January 23rd, 2005, 11:03 PM   #5
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Thanks Wayne. Since you feel that the "real contest is between the Bogen and the Zoe" and you have tested both, can you comment as to the differences/pros and cons between the two? Thanks for any input, I have to decide soon.
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Old January 23rd, 2005, 11:06 PM   #6
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hi guys

canon zr1000 has been the best I have used. different zoom speeds and osd control

175.99 at B&H
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Old January 24th, 2005, 12:43 AM   #7
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Len, I don't want to sound like a shill for Zoe, so I am going to leave it up to you. I don't think you will be disappointed with either unit, so, maybe go with the best price you can get. I have a special place in my heart for the Zoe, because they were the first company to really come out with a "pro-feel" (my comment) in a dv camera controller. But I have nothing bad to say about the Bogen/Manfrotto. BTW, I am referring to the small unit, not the one that attaches to the butt of a panhandle. More versatility with the small unit.

Harish. I used to own the Canon ZR1000, and I think it is a fine controller for the money, but it simply is not in the class with the more expensive Zoe and Bogen/Manfrotto controllers.

Wayne Orr, SOC
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Old January 24th, 2005, 02:03 AM   #8
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Len,
Although I sometimes think I've tested and/or owned just about every worthwhile LANC controller on the planet the Bogen is one that I've never used. Sorry I can't help you on that model.

I can really only offer you three points that may be of value to you in your decision process.

First, realize that the functionality of all LANC controllers are governed by the LANC communications protocol. LANC is actually a language whose command stream could be printed with the appropriate equipment. The best controllers feature controls and firmware that implement the broadest and finest features that LANC offers. The cheaper controllers more greatly restrict LANC's potential. For example, a controller that implements only three fixed speeds of zoom control is quite restrictive, as LANC offers commands that would allow a fairly fine gradient of speeds (depending on the capabilities of the lens' zoom servo motor).

Second, since you are using a Sony camera you will not have to be concerned about controller functionality (something that can concern Canon owners). Sony -owns- the LANC protocol and its cameras generally obey LANC command streams with the utmost fidelity possible.

Third, and perhaps most important, the best controller for you might very well be the one that feels best to your hand. I know that we often cite this with respect to camera selection. But it's even truer with respect to controllers. Remember, you will rarely actually see the thing while you're using it. You'll be operating it blindly with one hand. I can tell you that one of the most functionally rich controllers I've used never felt natural to my hand. I could just not get used to it and often misfired functions while fumbling with its controls. The best controllers feature thoughtful ergonomic designs that become intuitive and comfortable to use after a short initiation period. Keep this in mind as you look at the designs of the models you're considering.

Have fun with your search!
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Old January 24th, 2005, 06:52 AM   #9
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Thanks Ken, that's good advice (as usual for your posts). I will likely go for the Bogen since I was able to try it in the store, and it felt very comfortable to my hand. Thanks again to everyone who replied, I appreciate the willingness to share info and help out.
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Old January 25th, 2005, 09:32 PM   #10
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Bogen has recently released a PRO version of its two Sony LANC controllers. If you have a Sony PD170 I would suggest you get one of those rather than the previous models. The new one supports the PD170s push auto function meaning you can have the camera in manual focus mode, and by pushing the push auto button on the LANC it will momentarily auto focus then return to manual focus (just like pressing the same named button on the PD170). The button replaces the Display button of the non-Pro Bogan controllers. Currently many dealers do not know about the new models, and they are not listed on the Bogen WEB site yet. You can call Bogen and tech support has information. The B&H WEB site does have picture of the new controllers.

I tried the Canon LANC controller and returned it. It seemed to me that it did not implement the slowest speeds of the LANC protocol. The LANC protocol has 8 speeds, and the Canon seems to support only 5 speeds.

-Tony
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Old January 26th, 2005, 12:26 AM   #11
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Thanks, Tony, I will look into that. What do you feel is the biggest advantage of the "push auto" feature. I'm not sure what situations would call for it.
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Old January 26th, 2005, 12:34 AM   #12
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I had ordered the 523Pro, listed on B&H website for $329.95, but I see no reference to the feature you mention. Is that the model you are referring to?
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Old January 26th, 2005, 12:38 AM   #13
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"Push Auto" (focus) is a very handy facility, indeed. It enables you to maintain manual focus mode (thus preventing the lens from being fooled into shifting focus), while still taking periodic advantage of the camera's auto-focus facility. By occasionally pressing the Push Auto button you can subtly have the camera readjust its focus as your main subject's position changes.

Very handy function to have on a camera (not all do) and to have as an extended function on a controller connected to a camera with the function.
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Old January 26th, 2005, 12:44 AM   #14
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FYI, the Zoe-DVL also supports the "push-auto" function.
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Old January 26th, 2005, 01:58 AM   #15
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I have the Bogen 523PRO on order (it is the larger handle version). The clamp on 521PRO also supports the push auto. Wayne will correct me if I'm wrong, before Bogen released these models in January 2005 the Zoe was the only LANC controller that supported push auto. However, I believe this functionality is on a button that does another function as well, so to get the push auto feature you have to hold the button for a second or so. I felt that having a dedicated button as on the Bogens is preferable, I also thought I would like the design of the handle 523 better even if it is less flexible (can't attach to alternative places).

The Bogen numbering is rather confusing. The description of the original 521 and 523 start by saying they are Pro controllers. So some online sites list the old 521/523 as 521/523PRO even though they are not the new real PRO models:-(

I looked on the B&H web site last week and they were listing both the PRO and the non-PRO 523. They only appear to have the PRO version listed now so maybe they sold the older model out. I would still give them a call to double check but I the $329 price was for the PRO model.

B&H is still listing both versions of the 521 and if you click on the "enlarge image" for them you can see that the focus in/out of the 521 have been replaced by the push auto and (I think) display functions. The 523 has more buttons so the 523PRO still has focus in/out in the same place as before, and gives up the display (which I think toggles the display data on the external video output signal) function in the (I think) top right for the push auto function. The B&H photo is not large enough to see and Bogen does not have the info on their site yet.

-Tony
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