What's wrong with this cheap-o zoom controller? at DVinfo.net

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Old June 4th, 2005, 05:40 PM   #1
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What's wrong with this cheap-o zoom controller?

Surfing around the B&H website looking for zoom controllers, I happened upon this one:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...=318615&is=REG

I can't seem to scare up a review or any more information about the "Giottos RC-2020 LANC controller" ...

For thirty bucks, can anyone tell me what I'd be giving up vs. the more expensive models other than snob appeal and questionable ergonomics?
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Old June 4th, 2005, 06:43 PM   #2
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Wow! It would be worth it if the push a/f button worked on the Canon xl series!!!
The form factor looks cool ... the proof is in the variable speed access of the rocker. If you can confirm this for your cam, then it's a cheap experiment.
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Old June 4th, 2005, 06:47 PM   #3
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The photo button... the bain of video cameras! I hate those things, and this one is right there where you can hit it on accident.
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Old June 4th, 2005, 11:37 PM   #4
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This is the first I've seen of this model...and I thought I'd seen (and tested) most. For $30 give it a go if you're up for adventure. But Giottos is not a company known for making video camera accessories...they're basically a 2nd tier still photo accessory marketer.

As someone who has used many such controllers, however, I can say that this unit does not appear to be well-designed. If you're new to video cameras and have never used remote controllers you may not think that ergonomics are important. But you'd be dead wrong; subtleties of design are everything. Millimeters of button placement, tactile feedback, range of motion, et.al. make profound differences. At base level really good controllers are designed to be intuitively operable completely blindly with only a thumb or, in some cases, a thumb and an index finger. Beyond ergonomics the question of the extent and quality of LANC commands the controller can send to the camera becomes important. The cheapest models can send only a tiny subset of commands.

A day or two of hard use will provide you with abundant insight into this controller. It may well be all you need for occasional usage.
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Old June 5th, 2005, 12:27 AM   #5
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Actually the Giottos RC-2020 has been discussed here before. The name stuck in my head, so I remembered that we had a previous thread about this over in our XL2 forum -- I suppose I should move it over here where it belongs.

Read a user's comments located here:

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=44045
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Old June 5th, 2005, 06:06 AM   #6
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Thanks, guys!

First of all, sorry if I posted this on the wrong thread: I was hoping there might be another GL-2 user out there who'd tried the Giottos controller with their camera.

I read the other thread, but I'm not convinced "doesn't work at all" counts as an accurate review -- Ken, you wouldn't be planning to add a review of the Giottos to your phenomenally-helpful survey of zoom controllers, would you?

I think anyone who's been playing with digital video for awhile would probably agree, often the price of a given accessory has more to do with the manufacturer's logo silk-screened on the case than the quality of the item itself. For example, a Lectrosonics radio mic costs ten times what a comparable Samson product does, but I doubt anyone would argue it has ten times the audio fidelity or ten times the range -- once you're beyond the realm of cheap toys intended for occasional home use, your choice is more likely to be a function of your budget, and, properly used, either will yield good results. In my world, a hundred and fifty bucks saved on a zoom controller means that much more I can spend on, say, lighting equipment, which is going to have a bigger impact on my end product.

While Ken's point about ergonomics is well-taken (I have yet to find a remote control for a consumer electronics device which groups functions logically or demonstrates any knowledge of the anatomy of the human hand), I'm willing to make a few compromises if it means saving some dough. I can see how a poorly-placed "photo" button could be a bad thing on a zoom controller, but my impulse would be to "retro-modify" the Giottos by ripping out the offending button and gaff-taping over the hole. My point is, it's difficult for me to see what would constitute "ten times more zoom controller" to justify ten times more cost. I want a zoom controller to give me more creative freedom in placing my camera, not to impress other videographers (I'll slap a Sennheiser foam windscreen on my cheap-o boom mic for that!). ;)

SO, my ranting about the price of our toys aside, I guess my original question remains: has anybody used this little Giottos with their Canon LAN-C camcorder, which functions work, and how well?
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Old June 5th, 2005, 08:45 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Erik Bien
I think anyone who's been playing with digital video for awhile would probably agree, often the price of a given accessory has more to do with the manufacturer's logo silk-screened on the case than the quality of the item itself.
I can't really agree with that, especially when comparing a $30 product to a $300 product. I bought a $30 wide angle adaptor lens once. The result was $30 wasted. Do you really think that Zoe and Varizoom products sell for hundreds of dollars more because of their logos?...

But is this contoller "good enough"? I don't think you're going to get an answer to that unless you buy it for yourself. After you check it out please follow up here with your impressions.
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Old June 5th, 2005, 01:42 PM   #8
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Erik,
Your suggestion of excess profit margins in some controller brands has some merit. But the designer-logo premium is actually contrary to facts. Controllers with the most obscure, boutique brands often carry prices far above those from larger, more broadly marketed brands.

Nevertheless, higher prices of these units generally really do reflect better designs, better engineering, better reliability, and greater longevity.

Boyd hit the bulls-eye with his remark that you will ultimately be the only valid judge of "good enough". We look forward to your review of the Giottos.
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Old June 5th, 2005, 01:58 PM   #9
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Erik, if you look for a thread here called "zoom controller ratings" or something like that, you'll see I've listed this controller but in all honesty I doubt we'll ever review it. The reason why I probably won't bother with an official review is because it's priced out of the class of most zoom controllers that we talk about around here. So instead I'll leave it to someone (like you maybe) to post their own review of it if they're inclined to write one. At $30 it's pretty much a give-away item, practically free, so there's nothing to lose by buying one.
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Old June 5th, 2005, 02:13 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Hurd
At $30 it's pretty much a give-away item, practically free, so there's nothing to lose by buying one.
True, and that was the logic I used to buy the $30 wide angle lens from the sale bin at Best Buy. I took it home, screwed it on my camera, had a look, unscrewed it, and tossed it in the trash can. At that point all the other things I could have spent $30 on started racing through my mind... ;-)
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Old June 5th, 2005, 08:06 PM   #11
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Sony makes a similar controller that's around thirty-five dollars, called the Sony RM-VD1. What you get is a two speed zoom control. Not the sort of control you would want to do any serious zoom moves. Imagine a car that had only two speeds: twenty miles per hour or forty. Step on the accelerator and you are instantly going twenty mph. No feather touch. Pow. Press it harder and you jump to forty mph. That's what you are looking at with these low priced units. They were really designed to change focal lengths on a zoom lens, without finesse.

There is definitely a certain amount of "snob appeal" with some camera accessories, but when you get into electronic controls and such, there is also a good deal of "you get what you pay for." Also, in regards to zoom controllers, a lot of people will quite understandably be impressed with some low-priced devices, because they have never used a control before, and any controller seems pretty teriffic. But if they later have the opportunity to try one of the more sophisticated (and more expensive) units, they begin to understand that it's more than just "snob appeal."

OTOH, I am a new fan of the decidedly low tech SpiderBrace, which is a shoulder brace that costs only $59.95. No moving parts, and no electronics.

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Old June 8th, 2005, 12:32 AM   #12
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Update

Not being the sort inclined to spend even a measly thirty bucks on a potential throw-away item, I've summarized the discussion here and pointed out the cryptic lack of information on their website to the B&H staff by e-mail. I suggested that someone there do a little experimenting to see exactly which functions of the Giottos might work with which camcorders, and offered to post their findings here (still no reply).

And, while I have less than no interest in turning this into a flame war between the "haves" and the "wish-we-haves," I respectfully disagree with Ken's logic that "the designer-logo premium is actually contrary to facts. Controllers with the most obscure, boutique brands often carry prices far above those from larger, more broadly marketed brands."

True, but that's the case with ALL consumer goods, as far as I can tell. Rolex: boutique brand. Casio: mass-market brand. Mercedes-Benz: boutique brand. Chevy: mass-market brand. Et cetera. Just because you have to be "in the club" to know that a Sachtler is a premium head or a Lectrosonics is a top-of-the-line radio mic doesn't really alter the basic premise.

I too have been disappointed by cheap gear (though I actually managed to use my lowbrow WA adapter for some great night shots zipping through the streets of Chiang Mai in the back of a tuk-tuk before tossing it: you don't notice the vignetting with the dark sky, and the death-defying driving pretty well masks the soft focus!), but I've been pleasantly surprised from time to time as well. So I'm a little surprised that others here have been so dismissive, especially without having actually eyeballed the item in question, much less put it through its paces!

Chris, I hope that the logic of declining to include such an item in an otherwise comprehensive and authoritative survey of similar products because "it's priced out of the class of most zoom controllers that we talk about around here" doesn't extend to to all DVinfo.net reviews: I think it would be unfortunate if, say, a comparison of shoulder-mounts for mini-DV cams overlooked the Spiderbrace because "if it's $100 cheaper than the leading brand, a priori it can't be any good." (BTW Wayne: I ordered one for myself today -- so if it doesn't instantly turn me into James Wong Howe, I blame *YOU*!) ;)

I would think that with the business this site drives to B&H, they'd be inclined to give someone at DVinfo.net a free Giottos in exchange for a review, but it seems pretty clear nobody is willing to lower themselves to ask, and I think that's a shame. YES, I could buy one, and plug it into my GL-2, and post my findings. But that's going to be a lot less help to a lot fewer people than a side-by-side comparison with other models in conjunction with a broad range of cameras.

There, I'm sure I've alienated enough folks for ONE night ... :P
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Old June 8th, 2005, 01:19 AM   #13
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Erik,
Respectful disagreement and debate is the meat of DV Info. So I don't think you've "alienated" anyone by your remarks, certainly not me.

I am not completely confident that I've accurately decoded the thesis of your lengthy remarks so please excuse me if I've misread. But, at core, you're suggesting that this controller should not be excluded from review simply on the basis of its price.

I think that you might have misinterpreted Chris' remarks. I'm certain that he would accept a well-prepared review on just about any video-related product at any price point. (He did, in fact, offer and open invitation for a review of this controller.) We've traditionally leaned toward reviewing higher-end products mainly because this is the segment in which informed decisions are most important. While we know that $30 is a significant expense for some people it's doubtful that it will be a bank-breaker considering that most people will be plugging it into cameras that cost $1,500 and up.

Evaluation products are generally offered only by manufacturers, not retailers. Again, such products tend to be at the higher side of the price/sophistication range. Giottos is a relatively young Chinese-domiciled company. Their target market is that of the amateur still photographer. It's highly unlikely they would offer an eval on a $30 non-strategic product such as this controller.

So I invite you to prepare such a review if you decide to try the product. You may find it perfectly adequate for your needs.
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Old June 8th, 2005, 01:45 PM   #14
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Eric wrote: "BTW Wayne: I ordered one for myself today -- so if it doesn't instantly turn me into James Wong Howe, I blame *YOU*!"

Wow. Howe. Would you settle for Ed Wood?

BTW, when you get your SpiderBrace, try one of my favorite operating positions, which is to tuck the shoulder portion of the brace into your armpit, and lock it into position by squeezing your arm to the side of your torso. Great way for tall galoots like myself to get a more eye-level pov of their vertically challenged subjects.

Be sure to read the enclosed instructions for some excellent operating tips.

I think you will agree the SpiderBrace delivers excellent "Bang for the buck."

Wayne Orr, SOC
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Old June 8th, 2005, 10:59 PM   #15
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All I can say Erik is that if it's not worth your time and effort to buy this controller and write it up for us, then it's not worth mine either. Wayne Orr has led by example by submitting his own review of the SpiderBrace. That's the sort of community participation we're looking for around here. If you do decide to get one, I hope you'll share your experiences with it for the benefit of your fellow members. My own plate is pretty full as it is. Anyone can contribute their findings to DV Info Net and that's always highly appreciated by everyone.
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