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Old March 16th, 2011, 02:43 PM   #121
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Re: Steadicam Zephyr-upgrade changes

more Zephyr photos...
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Old March 16th, 2011, 03:19 PM   #122
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Re: Steadicam Zephyr-upgrade changes

yet more Zephyr pictures....
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Old March 16th, 2011, 03:20 PM   #123
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Re: Steadicam Zephyr-upgrade changes

Last batch of photos...
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Old March 16th, 2011, 04:10 PM   #124
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Re: Steadicam Zephyr-upgrade changes

Mark,

Great pictures! Thank you for sharing. I'm looking forward to hear how you experience the balancing of the rig.

Best,
-terje
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Old March 17th, 2011, 06:03 AM   #125
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Re: Steadicam Zephyr-upgrade changes

Before 4 days i participated in a bronze steadicam workshop and we worked with pilot, scout and zephyr models.
It was very easy to balance the Zephyr. It took about 3 minutes maximum for a newby like me. It was helpful the new "no tools" post and gimbal. It have an amazing vest. The SD monitor is a minus for the rig. Indoors is very good but outdoors is totaly useless. We try to put a Hoodman to monitor but it was helpless. They told us that monitor is the same with the SD for scout model. We also tried the HD monitor for zephyr and it was better but outdoors you must play with the setting close to limits to take frame. For me the zephyr is better than the other 2 models and i am trying to gather money to buy it but i also have in my mind to buy a marshall monitor if i want to work in outdoors conditions.
The scout was good but the vest is not so good like zephyr's. The pilot was very sencitive and harder to balance it than the Zephyr but it has better monitor than the SD monitor of Zephyr and scouts in outdoor conditions.
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Old March 20th, 2011, 11:14 PM   #126
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Re: Steadicam Zephyr-upgrade changes

Did some more measurements tonight, as well as putting a payload up on the sled and balancing on the stand. Unfortunately, my Sony QR plate was misbehaving, so I was unable to mount it up on the arm, for the sake of the safety of the gear. Borrowing another QR plate tomorrow.

Here's some observations:

1. A Panasonic HPX500 with Canon kit zoom, QR plate and dovetail and cables is 16lb 7oz. I set the gimbal slightly more than 1" below the topstage, and balanced with one Hytron 50 and A/B adapter plate (2lbs 6oz). Drop time 3 sec, post was extended to 22" (4 1/2 inches extension from the minimum of 17 1/2). Total weight of sled as configured: approx. 25lbs. Didn't use any Merlin weights and didn't fuss with dynamic balance, but it was fairly close. By the way, the first generation Flyer post is fixed at 17 1/2".

2. The overall outer dimensions of the arm are nearly identical to my first-generation Flyer arm, including the length and width of each of the bones. The only significant differences were A) the elbow is 1/2 inch wider (4" vs. 3 1/2") and the arm weighs a little more, due to the heavier springs, I suppose.

3. I only have my Flyer for a couple more days but I hope to be able to set up some objective tests to compare brightness and features with the new monitor. Hampered by lack of time. Tiffen has not yet provided any specs on the monitor. It does not appear to have image flip, but I can't be sure, due to a complete lack of documentation and no remote control.

Once I solve the problem of having a safe camera platform I will add weight until I reach the 24lb limit, and see what that does to post length, battery weight, ability to DB, and what the arm can lift. As I noted before, the math of 24lbs payload and 30lbs arm lift does not add up, since the sled is over 6lbs by itself, leaving no allowance for battery/counterweights.

More pictures of all this soon.
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Old March 24th, 2011, 10:17 PM   #127
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Re: Steadicam Zephyr-upgrade changes

Check out the other Zephyr thread for a shot of me operating from the back of a camera car. Canon 5D with weight plate and a/b battery on top, about 15lbs of payload. Arm is hardmounted to a bazooka via a "Garfield mount (vehicle mount).
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Old April 4th, 2011, 12:13 PM   #128
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Re: Steadicam Zephyr-SD monitor comparison

I’ve spent time with my new Zephyr monitor and run some tests and comparisons. Here are my results and conclusions. I shot some photos which I hope to upload after I resize and label them.

Summary:
The new Steadicam Zephyr is a big advance in many ways from the Flyer LE that it, along with the Scout, replaces. But the “new” SD monitor disappoints, even compared to the 5-year-old Flyer monitor it replaces. Brightness, resolution, and viewing angles all suffer compared to the old Flyer monitor, and there are no new features or other advances offered. A plethora of inexpensive LCD monitors from Lilliput and other OEM’s demonstrate that an improved monitor (higher resolution, improved brightness, underscan, etc.) need not be expensive, even though it may not have the features that are considered “must-have” on a big Steadicam rig. For some it’s a moot point, as any monitor that is a dedicated Steadicam offering by Transvideo, Marshall, TV Logic or Nebtek aren’t even worth considering. For others, particularly those for whom rigs like the Zephyr are targeted, some features can be sacrificed as long as brightness, viewing angles, and resolution meet a minimum threshold. The Flyer monitor was good enough to meet that threshold for many. The Zephyr monitor, not so much, in my opinion.

Introduction:

Late last year, the first production Zephyrs started coming off the factory line, with an “all-new” monitor (the prototype that Tiffen had been showing around had a Flyer monitor). LCD monitor technology has advanced dramatically in five years, with inexpensive higher-resolution panels, advancements in firmware, etc. The market is rich with choices in LCD monitors with price/performance ratios far exceeding those of just a few years ago. It would be natural to assume that Tiffen would tap into these new possibilities. Although I didn’t expect a monitor with big-rig performance and features, I was curious and hopeful that five years would have brought at least a few improvements to the SD monitor, or perhaps even a lower-cost HD monitor option. No such luck.

I had a brief time with an SD Zephyr rig at the Eastern Classic Workshop in December but no time to evaluate the monitor. I began asking for monitor specs in December. Continued in January, February. Was told “still no specs available.” Ordered my own SD Zephyr rig and received it in early March. When it arrived, there was no monitor documentation of any kind. With access to a Zephyr monitor, my old Flyer monitor, and a Lilliput 668GL-70NP/H/Y monitor (an inexpensive, 450nit LCD with a high-resolution screen), I noticed right away that the Zephyr monitor didn't seem as bright. I decided to try to quantify the differences between them.

Resolution and scaling:

Flyer screen is listed at 640x234 and shows the sub-SD look you would expect. No specs published for the Zephyr monitor, but it appears to be the same resolution. Even so, the Flyer monitor seems to have more “real” resolution, perhaps due to a better scaler. On the Flyer monitor, viewfinder readouts from the camera were crisper with less anti-aliasing “blurring”. Lilliput is an 800x480 screen. Composite input is not the sharpest that this monitor can deliver, but exceeds either the Zephyr or Flyer monitor. As expected, a 720P component signal fed to the Lilliput is sharper still, owing to what looks like a good scaler, and the fact that it’s component. Lilliput could not sync up a 480i component signal.

Crop:

Both the Zephyr and Flyer monitors overscan. However, the Zephyr monitor is cropped more severely at the top, cropping the time code readout and basically obscuring the 95% TV safe on top. It is not a bezel issue, as flipping the image puts the same behavior on the bottom of the screen.

Brightness

I don’t have the tools to measure the brightness of each monitor in nits, so I used the tools that I have to compare and rank the three monitors. I measured with a Sekonic L-398 meter with lumidisc. Measured in a dark room, 2” from screen surface, directly above the center of a screen displaying SMPTE color bars.

Based on my tests, the Flyer and Lilliput monitors perform consistent with their claimed brightness relative to each other (500nits for the Flyer, 450nits for the Lilliput.) Relatively speaking, I would expect the Zephyr monitor to have a brightness of only 250 to 300 nits, as it significantly lagged behind the other two monitors.

Because each monitor responds differently to the combination of contrast and brightness controls, I chose three subjective levels to test at.

"Default" is the setting out of the box for brightness and contrast. All three monitors displayed reasonable contrast and brightness on color bars.

"Max practical" is a setting I subjectively chose for each monitor to represent the combination of brightness and contrast settings for each monitor that was as bright as possible without seeingserious degradation of contrast, in other words, the picture was not washed out or lacking in detail, but still looked pretty “normal”.

"Max": Both contrast and brightness settings to their maximum settings, regardless of how much the picture was degraded. The Lilliput in particular was very washed out at that setting, which probably explains how it surpassed the Flyer at least “by the numbers”.

Zephyr Flyer Lilliput
Default 11 21 16
Max practical 16 27 24
Max 24 27 48

Default: Zephyr monitor B=50 C=50. Flyer B=0 C=0. Lilliput B=50 C=73
Max Practical: Zephyr B=50 C=90. Flyer B=0 C=+7 Lilliput B=60 C=73
Max:(all three monitors at maximum brightness and contrast settings).

Results, Default:

Brightest was the Flyer monitor, which showed 21FC. Lilliput measured 16FC and Zephyr came in at 11FC. The Flyer was about a full stop brighter than the Zephyr, and the Lilliput only 1/3 stop under the Flyer.

Results, Max Practical:

Brightest was the Flyer at 27FC. Then Lilliput at 24FC and Zephyr at 16FC. The Flyer was 2/3 stop brighter than the Zephyr and less than 1/3 of a stop brighter than the Lilliput.

Results, Max:

Lilliput at 48FC. Flyer at 27FC and Zephyr at 24FC. The Lilliput surpassed the others at full brightness/contrast but it should be emphasized that the picture was so washed out as to be unuseable. The Flyer was second, and was much more viewable (less washed out). It also was no brighter than it was on the “max practical” setting. The Zephyr monitor was just a little under the Flyer, but was also quite washed-out.

Viewing angle:

The Zephyr lagged behind both the Lilliput and Flyer monitors for off-axis brightness, especially in the vertical axis. At least the Zephyr LCD panel is oriented so that the picture stays bright when viewed from below the monitor (when looking “up” at it, such as when the arm is boomed up and tilted down). The Lilliput panel holds viewability when viewed from above and sacrifices viewability from below, which could be a problem. Subjectively, the Zephyr monitor seems to lack compared to the Flyer in side-to-side viewing angles, but I did not spend a lot of time with that.

Conclusion

Zephyr monitor is a very low-end LCD monitor that does not match, much less exceed, the Flyer monitor in any important way. It is dimmer by roughly an f-stop compared to the Flyer, a real step backward. It is a missed opportunity by Tiffen for improvement, but more importantly, in my opinion it falls below a minimum threshold for brightness, crop and off-axis viewability. It will disappoint those who rely on the seemingly inaccurate information on Tiffen’s website, which lists the Zephyr monitor at 500 nits. It is surprisingly under-spec’d for a rig as innovative and well-engineered as the Zephyr. As I’ve said elsewhere, it is unworthy of an otherwise excellent rig. Will it work okay if you don’t expect too much? Sure. Should you shell out an additional $3500 for the HD option? With no features or specs announced, that’s a lot of money without knowing what you are getting. If you’re in the market for a Zephyr, probably better to buy the SD version and budget for an upgraded monitor after the new 3rd party offerings are unveiled at NAB.
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Old April 5th, 2011, 08:19 PM   #129
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Re: Steadicam Zephyr-upgrade changes

Thanks for this review Mark.

I think it's important to note as well that the Liliput monitor you are comparing these to can be had for *less than $200*. I'm not sure what the flyer or zephyr monitor sell for stand alone, but it is certainly a multiple of that. I shot with the Liliput out in the rain for 8 hours, with no protection, and it was fine - no issues with water intrusion, even though it was soaked, and it's continued to work flawlessly (and in multiple more shoots in the rain) since. It doesn't have accurate color reproduction, and as you noted, when pumped up, looks washed out. But it also runs on a $20 12 volt battery that for me, lasts more than 6 hours of continuous operation (I've actually never had it run out before I was done for the day, so I don't know how long it would go).

Anyway, if willing to overlook some things, there's a new dawn for low end LCD monitors.
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Old April 5th, 2011, 09:12 PM   #130
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Re: Steadicam Zephyr-upgrade changes

Another thing to note about the Lilliputs are that I believe that the 17v or so that is delivered from the d-tap of a fully-charged 14.4V battery may possibly fry the Lilliput. I don't think its power input is very robust about overvoltages. A 12V nominal battery mounted to the monitor is probably the best way to go.
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Old April 6th, 2011, 02:51 PM   #131
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Re: Steadicam Zephyr-upgrade changes

I've been using the Lilliput 669HB almost a year now with d-tap outputs from both IDX V-lock and Swit batteries for sony ex1 camera (also a 14.4V battery). It's not fryed (yet).
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Old April 7th, 2011, 03:42 PM   #132
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Re: Steadicam Zephyr-upgrade changes

I have the model 668. Called Lilliput USA yesterday and was told that the max recommended voltage is 15V. That makes fully-charged 14.4 bricks too "hot". YMMV...
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Old April 8th, 2011, 11:40 PM   #133
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Zephyr monitor pics

Comparative pics between Zephyr, Flyer, and Lilliput monitors
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Steadicam Zephyr-upgrade changes-img_1666.jpg   Steadicam Zephyr-upgrade changes-img_1670.jpg  

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Old April 9th, 2011, 12:49 AM   #134
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Re: Steadicam Zephyr-upgrade changes

Mark:

Those are cool but can you do a version of same test in daylight? Many people will take this as gospel that the Lilliput is the best choice but there may be different results outside.

Ideally you would have multiple conditions: ambient/overcast, sun hitting face of screen, sun reflected in center of screen (this shows the type of AR coating and how effective it is).
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Old April 9th, 2011, 11:51 AM   #135
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Re: Steadicam Zephyr-upgrade changes

I can fairly easily do tests with Zephyr vs. Lilliput. I have visitation rights with my old Flyer but not ready access. The Lilliput looks nearly as bright as the Flyer monitor indoors, as the 450nit vs. 500nit specs would suggest.

Your point is well-taken about the coating in outdoor conditions.
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