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Old August 5th, 2003, 10:24 PM   #1
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Tripod advice for a confused newbie

OK I'm a hobbyist and newbie using a VX2000 and an old Radio Shack tripod that I bought 8 years ago when I got my first VHSc camcorder. I was considering upgrading my tripod and have checked out a lot of threads. I was looking at an entry level Bogen (501 vs 503) and was pretty surprised at the price tag, considering my first tripod was something like $30.

Clearly my tripod sucks at any sort of complex panning, but with a gentle touch I can get a decent lateral pan. I kind of got scared reading some of the threads about people not entirely happy with these 300-500 dollar tripods and them not panning as smooth as they would like. I definitely don't want to dish out that kind of money for a minor improvement. I want to be wowed!

I assume the dissatisfied people are professionals with a far higher standard than my own and hopefully I would be amazed with the difference with a new tripod.

Any advice?
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Old August 6th, 2003, 12:06 AM   #2
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Hi,

I'm a novice with a VX-2000. I had
been using the cheapie tripod that came with my original camcorder. After trying
out the Bogen 501 head with some Manfrotto legs in the camera store, I thought it would get me silky smooth
pans. I had fantasized that fliud heads would have some sort of hydaulic feel, but that's not the case with the lower end heads. Perhaps someone that has used the higher end fuild heads can comments.I stacked a couple of ten pound bags of FF steel shot on the tripod and
around the legs of the cheapie tripod for stability. Obviously, 20 lbs is not s portable solution. I'll still use my
cheapie tripod for more portable applications.

Here are my pros & cons for a better tripod:

Pros
1) heavier tripod is more immune to
tipping over & disturbances
2) 501 head yields pretty smooth pans (horizontal)
3) stays put when leveled
4) doesn't need steel shot for stability
(I have tired athletes moving in the camera vicinity, so it's a worry that the
tripod will tip)

Cons
----------
1) heavier tripod is less portable, both
between and during shoots
2) 501 head yields pretty smooth pans (horizontal) but somewhat jerky tilts (vertical)
3) leveling is more of a chore
4) you can't pick up a heavy tripod and follow a moving subject
5) quick release with 501 isn't particularly quick. My cheapie tripod releases faster. You can even manage a quick release during taping without severe disruptance. No way with the 501 because you have to slide it.
6) $$
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Old August 6th, 2003, 12:31 AM   #3
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Dan, there's always some pro's and con's with tripods and heads. I can suggest a couple of good ones for the VX2000-size cam, but it's going to cost. I have a good tripod/head, but the clips bite my fingers, and leveling is a bit_h. The cost for my tripod/head was roughly $360 US + 14.5% taxes. Nevertheless, I've learned to set up faster, but it's still too slow. And the clips still bite my fingers. :(
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Old August 6th, 2003, 12:41 AM   #4
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Dan,
We have a tremendous number of threads and posts concerning tripods in this section of the forum. I'd suggest devoting an evening to browsing back through some of these threads. There's a wealth of experiences and opinions in them thar hills.

The Bogen 501 and 503 heads are very popular low-to-midrange choices for lightweight prosumer cameras. I hate to say this, and certainly do not mean any arrogance, but that's representative of the best a $500 budget will afford for that camera weight.

The next step up would be the Millers, Sachtlers and Vintens which will run you into the $900-$1600 range. These heads are well-engineered with adjustable counterbalance mechanisms. Yes, there's a difference in their performance as compared to the $500 category.

In the end you'll probably have to decide on a practical budget for your needs and interests and just take your best swing.
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Old August 7th, 2003, 05:27 PM   #5
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Thanks everyone, I checked out a lot of old threads and will get either the libec m20 or Bogen 501. Although there are mixed comments about both of these I just can't justify spending $1000 on a tripod right now. The little cheapo one I have is actually very sturdy and light. I just want to be able to pan smoother.
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Old August 7th, 2003, 06:25 PM   #6
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I was a bit too harsh on the Bogen 501. It does pan well. It just doesn't tilt (vertical movement) very well. My first tripod was an $80 cheapie, but I wasn't totally wowed by the Bogen 501 + Manfrotto 3046 legs. There is clearly a major difference in stability and smoothness, but for *some reason*, my panning doesn't look like the work I see in movies.
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Old August 7th, 2003, 07:24 PM   #7
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Re: "...my panning doesn't look like the work I see in movies."

Keep in mind that film cameras are heavy...darn heavy. Your video camera doesn't even weigh as much as the lenses on some of these cameras. So physics definitely can come into play. It's easier to start slow and ramp down to a stop with heavy cameras.

Also, be sure you turn your camera's image stabilizer OFF while it's mounted on a tripod. This can account for some jerky-looking pans.

One last note. Keep in mind not to over-use camera motion. It can be pretty sickening for viewers.
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Old August 7th, 2003, 07:49 PM   #8
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Geesh, its pretty embarassing that I never thought about it but that makes perfect sense to turn off the image stabilizer while on a tripod. Thanks for that tip Ken. I'm new at this but learning bit by bit.
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Old August 7th, 2003, 08:19 PM   #9
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Actually, turning off image stabilization while on a tripod didn't make that much sense to me, but I'll go on the advice of others that claim it improves their video. Electronic image stabilization is
one thing. Optical stabilization is another. I would guess that OIS would smooth out pans and tilts, especially the jerks on the tilt of my Bogen 501 head. Why does an optical stabilizer, one that works only on the lens and doesn't provide feedback to the camera to process the image, add shakiness when used on a tripod but reduce shakiness when used without one?
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Old August 13th, 2003, 09:46 PM   #10
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Well I got the Bogen/Manfrotto 501 head and the 3051 sticks. The head seems a little tight to me though, even with everything loosened as much as possible. For example when I was following the directions to balance the camera on the head there was clearly no way my VX2000 was going to make the head tilt down by its weight. In fact if I tilt up the pressure I need to apply feels like (but doesn't) its going to lift the tripod leg up, and its a pretty heavy tripod. I'll play with it more tomorrow, but was wondering if this is normal. I can't see how it would be, but then again I am new at this. Does it just take time to work it in? Any ideas?
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Old August 13th, 2003, 11:22 PM   #11
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I've purchased 2 Libec20 tripods. To hold the camera, they are OK, to move the camera, they are not good enough for a VX2000 class of camera. If you loosen the pan lock, the head teter-totters and the tilt mechanism has to be locked too tightly or the camera goes over on its face (lens). Oh, and the sticks wind up if you try to pan with any degree of friction in the lock to smooth the operation.

I bought an old Miller head for $150 that is very smooth in tilt and pan with a PD150 sized camera. Very smooth.

I had another Miller head rebuilt (owned by the local community college). Looks the same as mine. Cost $300 for a total rebuild by Miller. Works better than mine now.

One of these on a decent set of sticks would be killer. Unfortunately, I have mine on a very slow and heavy Bogen.

I think that a new Miller or its equivlent will be the next great improvement to my kit and shooting.
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