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Old December 11th, 2007, 04:21 PM   #1
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Whats best, Leveling Base or bowl

I will be purchasing a new Tripod set up and would like to have your point of view regarding leveling issues.

What's the best set up, The leveling base set ups from Gitzo or Manfrotto that attach betreen Tripod and Head or the Half Bowl set up?
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Old December 11th, 2007, 05:24 PM   #2
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IMO the half bowl. I believe the leveling base is geared more towards still cameras and for that very reason can't take as much weight.

I use 2 tripods, 1 without a bowl (a bogen 3246) which works great but I prefer the 515 legs with the 75mm bowl. I can level the shot without playing games guessing how much to adjust a leg on the tripod plus I used lots of different camera on it from fairly light PD150/170 to fairly heavy DXC series and lots inbetween and the bowl worked just fine with all.
YMMV
Don
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Old December 11th, 2007, 05:43 PM   #3
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I have never used a leveling base, but from what I've read they are intended for fine adjustments (5.) I have a tripod with a 75mm bowl, and I love it. It is much quicker than having to adjust the legs independently.
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Old December 11th, 2007, 10:43 PM   #4
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Thanks for the input. The two leveling base plates mentioned can handle around 30lbs and tilt 10 degrees.
How much tilt can the Half Bowls handle?
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Old December 12th, 2007, 04:28 PM   #5
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it depends on the size of the bowl and a number of other factors. The biggest factor being how imbalanced the load is above it. If you have a super front heavy setup on a 50mm bowl, chances are the bowl will slip. But if your head has a sliding feature, and you take the time to level it when you build-out your camera, you should have no problems even with a tiny bowl system.

It's less important to look at the "capacity" of the bowl/base than it is to figure out your least common denominator. If your camera comes to 7lbs fully tricked out, then you won't need a 150mm bowl or mitchell plate, so don't even bother looking at capacities. Unless its made by fischer price, you'll probably be fine with ANY size bowl and any small head on a mini-DV/HDV style camera. Chances are tripod heads that carry the range of weight you're looking to hold will have appropriately sized bowls.

Don is absolutely right though - for convenience, get a bowl. You're not sacrificing any rigidity in the low weight ranges by going with a small bowl. It is MUCH faster than leveling each leg, or screwing levels in and out to make the head pan flat. Bowl levels are FAST, which is why 100% of news shooters use them - quik and rigid. Alternatively, if you already own a flat-base tripod head, and need a compact setup, bogen makes a great center column that has a built-in leveling bowl. This column fits in any of their legs of that style, and you can buy it packaged with some small, fairly decent legs (for the price).

Even with full-size cameras, you can find people using bowl levels, though the bowls themselves are far larger (150mm).
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Old December 12th, 2007, 04:59 PM   #6
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I believe the two (bowl, leveling base) are basically the same thing.

You need a leveling base if your head has a flat bottom and you want to put it on a tripod with a bowl.

If your head has a half ball, the head just fits into the bowl, so you don't need a leveling base to fit the bowl.

Or, you can use a flat bottom head on a flat top (without a bowl) tripod. This is the setup where you have to adjust the legs to get the thing level.

The third variation I've seen is the leveling tripod that is made by Gitzo. It has a center pole that has a leveling swivel built in. This is a different thing than either of the above.

Perhaps the best idea is to decide on your head and go from there. A lot of the good fluid heads have half bowls. A few have flat bottoms and need a leveling base. The large Gitzo fluid head has a half ball. To use it on one of thier tripods, you put in the adapter bowl. These same tripods can be used with a flat adapter plat that accepts a flat bottom head. But neither of these is the same as the special leveling tripod they make.
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Old December 15th, 2007, 07:27 PM   #7
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I have a "leveling base" that I use for still camera panorama shots with an indexing panorama head mounted to it. It has three separate leveling wheels and it is a rather picky little thing to adjust, but very precise when you finally get it done right. Makes the panoramas so much easier and cleaner to stitch together when you're all done shooting.

It is a completely different animal than my video leveling bowl setup. Much more precise, much slower to get level.
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Old December 16th, 2007, 03:23 AM   #8
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I believe you are referring to this type of leveling base?
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...ling_Base.html

This is as you describe, for setting up a still camera (even a quite large and heavy one) for taking panoramic pictures.

However, I don't think this is suitable for attaching a video fluid head. From the description on the B&H sight, the leveling base above is to work with a head that is specially designed for panoramic picture taking. I am not familiar with these or the other accessories shown with the leveling base.

The other type of leveling base that basically adds a half ball on the bottom of a flat bottom video fluid head is a different device.

However, the panoramic leveling base looks to be extremely helpful for still panoramas. But if this is the type of base the original poster was referring to, the answer to the original question is for video, not this but a half-ball and bowl.

Here is the leveling base I believe the original poster may have been referring to:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...ling_Base.html
Or this one:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...Half_Ball.html
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Old December 16th, 2007, 11:14 AM   #9
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Yes, they're totally different animals. I just think some people get confused because they're both referred to as leveling bases, but they're for completely different purposes

Modern stitching programs can make a reasonable panorama out of most any series of pictures, but best results are optained by getting a good set of images in the first place. The panorama heads for still cameras get quite sophisticated, and you can even get automatic setups that will step around and take a spherical panorama.

One of the keys to a really good panorama is getting the nodal point of the individual lens centered over the axis of rotation, and the two requirements (ie leveling and centering of the nodal point) makes these rigs quite complicated. I also use a package called DXO Optics which has correction modules for almost every lens and camera combination and will fix barrel distortion, and compensate for inherent light fall off at the corners of the lenses. Great package for the still photographer IMHO. So after we have a well shot set of photos and they've been processed through DXO, I hand them off to Stitcher and voila - a panorama. Render it as a Quicktime VR image and you can do the virtual tour thing and post it on the web and let the viewer pan around it with a mouse.

Somewhat of a digression, and not much to do with video other than the possibility of confusion over the function of the leveling base and which kind you need.

Although, there's nothing to stop you from attaching a regular still camera ball head to the 3/8-16 stud on top of the half ball leveling base and using your video legs with your still camera - works great, just a bit heavy.
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Old December 16th, 2007, 11:48 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jack Walker View Post
However, I don't think this is suitable for attaching a video fluid head. From the description on the B&H sight, the leveling base above is to work with a head that is specially designed for panoramic picture taking. I am not familiar with these or the other accessories shown with the leveling base.
Actually, you could use this with a flat base video head. The threaded stud is a standard 3/8-16 so it just screws on. The only drawbacks are the video head might cover up the bubble level (although the head tends to have its own bubble level) or the head might be too big, making adjustment of the three thumbscrews awkward. Some other leveling bases used for still photo just have a single knob to set level. Although, they're intended for still photo, I think these leveling bases make a good addition to a light video tripod setup with no half bowl like a Gitzo 2180 with CF legs. Leveling by the legs can be done but it's such a pain!
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Old December 16th, 2007, 07:49 PM   #11
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Yes, but the problem with putting a leveling base on the Gitzo 2180 (which I have) is that you start to defeat the purpose of having such a small head.
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Old December 16th, 2007, 08:04 PM   #12
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Yes, but then the only means to level the head is by the legs, which (to me) is awkward at best. I guess there's always a trade-off.
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