Zoom Controller ratings at DVinfo.net

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Old May 27th, 2005, 02:26 PM   #1
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Zoom Controller ratings

New Zoom Control ratings? Has anyone done a new zoom control real usage reviews lately? I'm probably going to have to get one since God didn't bless me with three hands, one of which 4 foot long and able to curl around my tripod to the zoom on my GL2.

I was looking at the Bogen for both price and usabilty. Most likely, I would use this in a lecture type setting and especially weddings.

Just looking for usage opinions.

Thanks for your graciousness in advance.


Sincerely,

Steven Davis
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Old May 27th, 2005, 04:12 PM   #2
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I could probably organize such a comparison here at DV Info Net. There are a wide variety of controllers out there these days, but your top three zoom controller makers are Bogen, VariZoom and Zoe.
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Old May 27th, 2005, 05:33 PM   #3
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Hey Chris, I would be interested in a review on zoom controllers too. I haven't found a good comparison article anywhere.
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Old May 29th, 2005, 06:42 AM   #4
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FYI, it is difficult for me to access Ken Tanaka's most recent review of the ZOE DVL. It isn't listed in the Articles page but he does link to it in a posting.

In the category of trying to facilitate the proposed comparison, I offer the following list of features that I consider when I evaluate a controller ( I assume they all have a Record button!):

Actuator mechanism type (rocker, stick, ...)
Actuator throw distance
Standby button (w/comments on compatibility)
Wakeup button (w/comments on compatibility)
Number of LANC speeds implemented in controller
Ramp to speed vs jump
Adjustable max speed settings (custom, fixed number,...)
Speed Control Location (forefinger, thumb, ...)
Progressive speed
Fixed speeds
Auto Focus on/off
Push to Focus
Switch actuator to control focus vs Focus buttons
Frame Forward/Backward
Grooved mounting mechanism (1-side, 2-sided, or not grooved at all)
Mount screw length and usability (The ZR-1000 being a great example of AWFUL)
Quick Release
Coiled cord (with length)
Replacable cord
Button type (Membrane, rubber)
Case Material (plastic, ABS, aluminum, ...)
Panasonic DVX/DVC support
Pan Bar diameter range supported or bar diameter for those with bar
Physical Dimensions & Weight
Links to DVInfo reviews and Manufacturer Websites
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Old May 29th, 2005, 03:24 PM   #5
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Ernest, that's a heck of a list -- fairly comprehensive! We could certainly use that as a basis for a comparison article. Although I think we might have to break it up into several parts, because controllers for Panasonic camcorders tend to be incompatible with Sony / Canon and vice versa (with only one exception that I have found so far; more about that in a moment.

We could organize it like this perhaps:

Part One -- LANC Controllers for Sony / Canon DV and HDV camcorders; this would cover the full Sony DV and HDV line as every Sony camcorder has a LANC jack, plus the Canon XL2 and GL2.

Part Two -- Panasonic Controllers for AG-DVX100A, DVC60, DVC30 etc.

Part Three -- Zoom Controllers for professional Canon and Fujinon broadcast video lenses using a standard 8-pin connector, for all 2/3" and 1/2" video lenses (plus the rejeuvenated breed of 1/3" Fuji lenses for the JVC GY-HD100).

Part Four -- Focus Controllers for same as above.

LANC Controllers to be covered in Parts One and Two: Unless there are any strong objections, I would like to limit this to cover only those controllers specifically made to clamp on to tripod pan handles (or made to replace tripod pan handles entirely). There are a number of simple controllers made specifically for sky-diving applications and things of that sort which are little more than a cable and a switch. I think we should limit our coverage to those controllers that are clearly intended to cover the majority of shooting applications; that is, the "clamp-able" controllers). I also think we should bypass the "do it yourself" kits and build-your-own projects, because the person who will build their own is not going to benefit from a comparison of existing models. Finally there are or at least were a couple of Sony consumer video tripods that had controllers built into their handles (the VCT870RM and VCT-D580RM) which may not be available anymore and required some engineering (hacking off the pan handle and adapting it to your own tripod head), and I'm not so sure that these are worthy of inclusion.

So here's a short list of the existing models I could readily think of for such a comparison:

LANC Controllers for Sony / Canon DV and HDV Camcorders:
---------------------------------------------------------

Bogen / Manfrotto -- 521, 521Pro, 523Pro

VariZoom -- StealthZoom, StealthLXZoom, VZ-Rock, VZ-RockLE, VZ-Pro-L, VZ-PG-L

16:9 Inc. / Bebob -- Zoe DVL

Canon -- ZR-1000

Libec -- ZC-3DV (switchable LANC and Panasonic)

Sony -- RMVD1

Giotto's Industrial -- RC2010, RC2020, RC2030

DVControl -- RM-S, RM-Bare, RM-Bare Pro

Studio 1 -- ProZoom 1, ProZoom 2, ProZoom LCD

Sign Video -- Zoom Commander, Zoom Commander II, Zoom Commander Pro

(what other controller models am I missing here?)

Panasonic Controllers for AG-DVX100A, DVC60, DVC30 etc.:
---------------------------------------------------------

Bogen / Manfrotto -- 521P, 522P

VariZoom -- StealthDVX, RockDVX

16:9 Inc. / Bebob -- Zoe DVX-PZB

Libec -- ZC-3DV (switchable LANC and Panasonic)

Studio 1 -- ProZoom DVX

Sign Video -- Zoom Commander DVX

(what other controller models am I missing here?)

There is that one Libec model, the ZC-3DV controller, which is really interesting because it contains dual circuitry. You can use it on Panasonic camcorders and then flick a switch to use it on LANC-equipped camcorders. Pretty cool! And the only one of its kind that I'm aware of. Might need a special review all its own.

Feedback, please!
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Old May 30th, 2005, 01:50 AM   #6
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Chris, that sounds like you've thought this out well.
I definatly think your proposal sounds good :-)

..oh, be sure to include coments on the wire (like length, flexibilty, where it connects to the controller...) ..ok, i'm thinking Steadicam compatibilty here.. supprize supprize ;-)


- Mikko.
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Old June 10th, 2005, 08:05 AM   #7
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I agree

I will be purchasing a controller for my GL2 next month. I definately want a rocker control, I think, sometimes I am more thumbs than fingers. I also want the ability to be able to roll the controller around the handle to have the flexibility of controller placement. So I hope the review can be done prior to next month, if not any opinions are certainly welcome.


Steven

Anyone, feel free to drop our channel on MIRC
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Old June 10th, 2005, 11:40 AM   #8
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Frotti 521Pro . .. PUSH Focus!

Canon XM2 here . . ..

I got the Canon Z-1000 - great!

Just got another for my DV-RigPro .. this is the Manfrotto 521 PRO . .this has PUSH focus too, totally brilliant!

Happy camper here! - Grazie
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Old June 10th, 2005, 12:46 PM   #9
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Typical non-technical support from Canon, It's just funny

Well, in my quest for zoom controller, I emailed Canon the following question;

"What zoom controllers has Canon tested successfully with the
Canon GL2?"

Notice how I phrased the question, I wanted bench tests to know if there was any difference between them working with my GL2

There response is below.

"Dear Mr. Davis,

Thank you for your inquiry. We value you as a Canon customer and
appreciate the opportunity to assist you.

The ZR-1000 Zoom Remote Controller is compatible with the GL2.

This accessory can be purchased online at the Canon Accessory Annex
found at: http://www.canoncompanystore.com/epages/annex.storefront"

I felt like emailing back and saying, I didn't ask what was compatible, I asked what has been tested. Geez, you'd think they would get that.

I just figured I'd report this to those who I know will apreciate it.


Steven Davis
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Old June 21st, 2005, 08:15 AM   #10
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I guess one of my biggest decisions is to go for a rocker or not.... That's a big question.
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Old June 21st, 2005, 08:27 AM   #11
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Hi Steven,

Quote:
"What zoom controllers has Canon tested successfully with the
Canon GL2?"
Sorry but you're putting the cart before the horse there. It's not up to the camera manufacturers to test the various zoom controllers. They have nothing to do with various third-party accessory makers (especially when they make their own controller, as Canon does). Instead, it's up to the zoom controller folks to insure that their products are compatible with a particular camcorder. So what you should be doing instead is asking the various controller people if their products are compatible with the Canon GL2, because it's up to them to test their controllers (successfully or not) with any given camcorder model.
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Old June 21st, 2005, 08:45 AM   #12
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True, I sit corrected.
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Old June 21st, 2005, 05:48 PM   #13
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Chris,

I think that the Sony VCT870RM and VCTD580RM tripod/controllers you mentioned should be included. They are still available at B&H for $122 and $54 respectively.

We could think of them as limited function controllers that have a unique feature: an attached consumer grade tripod (with a surprisingly smooth pan and tilt head). The VCT870RM's variable zoom control is about as good as my $380 Bogen's (with the latter in full range variable mode) when used with my GL2.

They (especially the larger VCT870RM) will be a very viable choice for some people who broke their piggy bank to buy their camcorder.
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Old June 22nd, 2005, 06:03 PM   #14
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Fred, may I respectfully disagree with your assessment of the VCT870RM? I bought one of these early on when I purchased my PD150, for exactly the reason you mentioned: to save money. Bad decision. I later moved up to the Canon ZR1000, which I found to be better as a zoom controller, but still not satisfactory. (It has a very pronounced hiccup when you attempt to start a slow zoom in the manual mode) It wasn't until I stepped up to the Zoe that I felt I was getting at least close to the controllers I was used to in my professional work.

However, I held on to the VCT870RM, for unexplained reasons, and guess what? I just packed it in with my lighting gear (in a hard golf case) as a weight saving measure to shoot an interview in Florida. I knew I wouldn't be doing any "hot" camera moves with it, and it performed reasonably well.

But I must say I am stunned that you compare it favorably to your Bogen controller. I would rate the Bogen up there with the Zoe, but a long way off from the Sony.

And finally, that hokey zoom slider works backwards for me: you push in to zoom out, and pull back to zoom in. Ugh.

Not looking to start anything, just want to give another opinion.

Wayne Orr, SOC
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Old June 23rd, 2005, 01:05 AM   #15
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Hi Wayne,

Thanks for being so considerate, but I take no offense at being disagreed with. Your comments help me to see that I may have overstated my case, or at least not stated it clearly.

I didn't mean that the Sony was any match for the Bogen overall, just the zoom function. And this is because the limitation on zoom control of the GL2 lie mainly in its limited (six, I believe) zoom speeds, not in the controller.

Although I have the Bogen controller and a two-ton professional tripod, I, like you, still just grab the Sony when I want to travel light and think I can get away with it.
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