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Old August 22nd, 2008, 08:05 PM   #1
Major Player
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Tampa, FL
Posts: 210
Fluid Head- My 2 cents

I just went thru the transition from a consumer grade tripod I cobbled together to what I would consider a serious amatrur set of legs. Thought you might find this interesting.

My camcorder is a Sony HVR-A1u. I tend to use the Sony 2x doubler and have had a number of shots ruined by wind vibration. Stability was the biggest gain I wanted. The ability to fold up small and be relatively lightweight were other priorities. It needs to be quick/convenient or it ends up in the back of the truck. Finally, I needed to be able to use a quick release, so I could quickly move the camera between a Steadicam JR and the tripod.
I decided on the following:
GT3541LS-Legs. Shortest, sturdiest and very light carbon fiber.
GS5121LVL-Goes with the legs. Quick Leveller is essential for video IMO.
G2285M/14B-Spare QR plate
G2285MB-Steadicam QR mount

I looked at the Vinten and other higher end units, as I used them commercially and respect them. However, I was not able to find a quick release for the Steadicam JR to my satisfaction. This is also true of the BM 501/503 heads. I wanted an engagement where the QR plate would land very close to where it should in the Steadicam mount, as rebalancing is time consuming. I didn't want to be looking for alignment marks in the dark.

Next I looked a the low end Bogen/Manfrotto. Bought the 701RC2 and 701HDV heads. I have an existing QR plate. It was the cheapest way to upgrade. They both failed my pan test.

In fading hopes of keeping it light - I next tried the Gitzo G2180. It too failed the pan test. I'll note the superior build quality of Gitzo over the BM equipment is very apparent. However, in functionality, the above devices were pretty much equal. Frankly I felt the two BM's and G2180 were worse than my current Manfrotto 3130 in panning.

In the quest for a smooth pan I then ordered the Gitzo:
I liked both just fine, and retained the 2380, due to less size & weight. The 1380 certainly had a superior action to it but really tipped the scales. I really wanted to keep both. Both passed my pan test fine.

While larger/heavier than I would wish for, I really liked the 2380's ability to lock the tilt or pan (independently) and how positive the drag and locking dials are. You know it's right even in the dark. Despite not really being fluid head, the 2380 also has a great FH feel to it. The whole thing came in just under 8lb, including Zoe Bebob, handle and a carry strap.

Conclusion: I got two of three: size 29" folded, with head and stability. I was tryingto not go past 6 lbs, but ended up just tipping 8 lbs. However, I feel I took a tremendous step up from my old legs. It's not even in the same solar system.

Other notes:
I came very close to buying the GT2540LLVL legs. Somewhat smaller diameter at the girdle (where legs fasten to body) and just a little longer. But I recalled how ticked off I was from wind and wanted stability overall. Seemed I would be no further ahead if I spend that much money on legs only to have them shake in the wind (albeit less so) like my old pair. The Systmatic seemed to be more solid, though perhaps overkill for such a small camcorder. I suspect this set will prove to be a set of legs I can mount just about anything on and never need another set, so I am glad I made this choice. Gitzo's seem to also retain value. The anti-leg rotation feature is wonderful, too. Setup is quicker and far more positive than the old Gitzos.

Surprise: G2285M/14B-Spare QR plate - this does not fit in the beveled grooves of the 2380 fluid head! Sits on top, thumb screw only thing holding it securely. The significance is the longer sliding plate has the grooves of the bevel and the "stop" to prevent the camera from falling off the tripod should the screw not be proiperly secured. Despite the book indicating this is compatible, it would seem one would have to take care to tighten the screw carefully or your camcorder may take a tumble. An amazingly bad oversight in an otherwise well thought out fluid head.

Pan test: The pan test: zoom in to 8x on a basket of fruit from about 10 ft away. A plastic apple and pear will fill the finder. At high zoom, pan across the friut basket and see how smooth. The zoom magnifies inconsistencies and really gives you a feel for quality
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