REVIEW: Bogen/Manfrotto 701RC2 with Panasonic DVC80 at DVinfo.net

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Old June 10th, 2005, 03:21 PM   #1
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REVIEW: Bogen/Manfrotto 701RC2 with Panasonic DVC80

The 701RC2 fluid head has received a lot of attention on this board in recent months. When I found myself in need of a better tripod for my Panasonic AG-DVC80 than the $80 Quantaray I'd used for over a year, I decided to check out this low-end fluid head at my local Bogen USA dealer -- largely because of positive reviews from fellow DVInfoNet members. After trying out the 701RC2 and 3021PRO kit at the store, I bought it and have used it to videotape two weddings with my DVC80. This review is based on those experiences, and is colored by the fact that most of my tripod experience has been with inexpensive, flimsy department store tripods. I hope that others in the situation I was in -- needing a solid, leightweight and flexible, yet low-priced tripod and head -- will find this review helpful when in the market for a tripod and head.

I could be wrong, but I think the 3021PRO is the 3221 Wilderness tripod minus the retractable spiked feet. (I shoot on concrete or wood surfaces 90 percent of the time, so I don't think spikes will benefit me. They're available separately, if the need arises.) The flip-open leg locks are about as sturdy as you'll find for something made of plastic. The anodized aluminum 3021PRO is rigid for a tripod weighing only 5.3 pounds. The legs fold out quickly and can be set at four different angles using a large button at the top of each leg. Simply hold that button down while pulling leg away from the center hub and release it at the desired angle to keep the leg from opening any wider. I use the first setting, utlizing the full height of the tripod (53 inches) so I never even have to mess with the angle settings. When I'm done shooting I just fold the legs inward and collapse by unlocking the two lever locks on each leg. The tripod has a day-glo spirit level at the top of the hub to help level your shooting base. Of course, the 701RC2 also has a leveling bubble that serves the same purpose.

The 701RC2 head's pan and tilt drag is fixed and continuous, so you cannot smoothly dial in resistance for those motions. Luckily, the DVC80 (whether fully loaded or just with a small battery and tape) can be panned nicely with uniform resistance. "Stiction" -- resistance to movment -- is minimal (even at full 10X zoom), and with a few minutes of practice to get a feel for the head, I was able to pull off jerkless stops and starts. In the field, I found the same to be true. It's a cheap head that requires a little finessing for completely smooth stops and starts, but the enhanced level of control is like night and day compared to my $80 "fluid-effect" tripod. Anyone looking for their first true fluid head will be pleased. You can lock down the pan with a knob on the left-hand side of the head's base plate.

As for tilting, it is silky smooth (with seemingly less drag than the tilt motion) when you use a consistent camera setup. This allows you to balance the camera on the head using the sliding balance plate. This plate shifts the camera's center of gravity forward or backward. This helps with subtle tilts upward or downward. With the tilt lock level compeltely open (zero resistance) and a balanced camera, you can let go of the pan bar and hold an upward or downward tilt of around 20-25 degrees; anymore than that, and the DVC80 will slowly "dive." You can add a bit of pseudo-drag to the tilt action by tightening the tilt lock lever a turn or two without completely locking the tilt motion. That's probably not a good idea, it you'll lose consistency of tilt motion.

Real-world performance was fine using the 1600 mAh battery and no light, because that's the camera configuration I used to position the balance plate. However, Once I switched to my 3000 mAh battery and/or attached a light, everything was out of whack. The whole rig needed to be be rebalanced slightly to the rear, as the weight of the Bescor VS-50 just barely shifted the camera's center of gravity forward. I suspect a larger head like the 501 or 503 (which can hold a few more pounds), isn't as sensitive to minor shifts like this -- probably in mere ounces -- and will remain better balanced. This is simply a case of getting what you pay for. Considering I paid only $90 for this head, I can live with spending an extra minute to rebalance the rig when I arrive at the reception venue and commit to using only one battery size for consistency.

The only serious drawback is that the pan bar's location on the right-hand side of the head makes a remote camera controller a necessity when shooting subjects that aren't stationary. I had a problem with this during both wedding ceremonies when shooting above people's heads. With my right hand on the pan bar (to follow and frame the action), I had to zoom manually using my left hand on the zoom ring. This situation resulted in a few not-so-smooth crawling zooms, as in the past I was able to pan and tilt with my left hand and control the servo zoom with my right hand on the top of the camera. I failed to anticipate zooming when I first auditioned the head. Had I considered this limiation, I may have opted for the 501 head. On the other hand, videographers using the 501 also use remote zoom controllers, so maybe in the end I'm still saving a few dollars with the 701RC2.

T.J.
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Old June 10th, 2005, 10:14 PM   #2
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Thorough review there Tim. I have the same head and am very pleased with it.

"Anyone looking for their first true fluid head will be pleased."

Just a minor point....the 701rc2 is not a true fluid head, nor is the 501. They both use silicon grease as the "fluid".
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Old June 10th, 2005, 10:22 PM   #3
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I wonder how it would compare to the 501? I see B&H sells it for $99, which is at least $50 less than I paid for the 501 I'm less than impressed with.
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Old June 13th, 2005, 10:35 AM   #4
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701RC2 vs. 501

Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith Forman
I wonder how it would compare to the 501? I see B&H sells it for $99, which is at least $50 less than I paid for the 501 I'm less than impressed with.
As was discussed before in a different thread, the model 501 head holds more weight, gives you the option of putting the pan bar on the left-hand side, and offers variable drag (resistance) for the pan and tilt action. The 501 uses a Teflon plate to create friction drag. If you need more weight capacity and more control, get the 501. For lighter cameras and basic moves, the 701RC2 is all you need. For example, I can't imagine doing good whip-pans with the 701RC2 due to its fixed drag. It performs slow and steady moves best.
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Old June 13th, 2005, 12:52 PM   #5
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A quick workaround to the issue of the pan bar beeing on the right hand side...

If i am stuck with a head with the pan bar only on one side (like mine in fact) I just flip the whole thign around!

Most Manfrotto camera plates can be attached to either the camera or the head backwards. And most pan bars can be botated 180' from the "back" to the "front" of the tripod.
By flipping both you end up with the head on backwards.. which can be a little disorienting at first.. but it works great in most situations.

- This also applies if you are limited by the tilt range of the head (for example a head that can tilt -90* to +60* can be flipped ot shoot +90* to -60*

- Mikko
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Old June 14th, 2005, 04:36 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis Wood
Just a minor point....the 701rc2 is not a true fluid head, nor is the 501. They both use silicon grease as the "fluid".
Hi Dennis, Marc Schotland has stated the following:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Schotland
Both the 701RC2 and the 503 are true fluid heads.

Marc Schotland
Manfrotto
The quote above is from the following message thread: http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...&highlight=701

So, I am a bit confused. Is this difference one of semantics, or...?

Allen
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Old June 14th, 2005, 09:23 AM   #7
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I may try this. Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikko Wilson
If i am stuck with a head with the pan bar only on one side (like mine in fact) I just flip the whole thign around!
I appreciate the workaround and will give it a try. I hadn't thought of that.

I don't have the tripod with me right now, but I'm almost certain that the quick release plate fits the head in only one direction because of forged grooves and notches in the plate itself. It's not symmetrical, nor will the registration pin work with the camera on backwards; what I'll end up with (with the pan bar flipped around) is the pan bar on the left but I'll be staring into the lens instead of viewfinder/LCD. Because I'm right handed, I prefer the pan bar on the right for more precise control. That also leaves my left hand free to work the pan and tilt locks during critical moments of shooting. Having said that, I'll still probably invest in a remote zoom controller soon to keep from touching/bumping the camera.
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Old June 14th, 2005, 02:11 PM   #8
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Tim, a true fluid head uses actual fluid (oil). The 701 and 501 both use silicon grease similar to the stuff used in binoculars for that "fluid" feel when focussing.

There is a pretty large difference in price, no doubt due to the seals/machining required to contain the oil.

You could define grease as an extremely viscous liquid, so perhaps the marketers are just having fun with us.
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Old June 26th, 2005, 04:00 AM   #9
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Dennis,

With all due respect what is the basis for your assertion about how the 701RC2 head works? Have you taken one apart?

Marc Schotland, the Manfrotto Product Manager, provided a very detailed description of the 701RC2 as well as the 501, 503 and other heads in the thread titled Anybody see the newest (cheap) Manfrotto head? . He directly stated:
Quote:
the 700RC2 and 701RC2 are true fluid heads in that all movement is riding on bed of fluid (within the cartridge).
Quite honestly, Marc comes across as being very honest and straight-forward. I believe him when he says that the 701RC2 is a true fluid head. I sincerely doubt he would tell a complete lie in a public forum.
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Old June 27th, 2005, 02:56 PM   #10
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Interesting...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis Wood
Tim, a true fluid head uses actual fluid (oil). The 701 and 501 both use silicon grease similar to the stuff used in binoculars for that "fluid" feel when focussing.

There is a pretty large difference in price, no doubt due to the seals/machining required to contain the oil.

You could define grease as an extremely viscous liquid, so perhaps the marketers are just having fun with us.
Thanks for the information, Dennis. I never claimed to be an expert on fluid head technology, but at least now I know this. You learn something every day!
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Old October 31st, 2005, 11:45 AM   #11
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I stand corrected Pete: http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...t=31151&page=2

After reading the above thread, it is clear that Manfrotto introduced fluid cartridges to the 701RC2 and 501, contrary to the information I had gleaned about them. I suspect the silicon grease is only between the friction plate and the fluid cartridge itself.
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Old October 22nd, 2007, 02:13 PM   #12
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Manfrotto 710RC2 needs fixing!

For some reason, my 701RC2 no longer pans smoothly. It feels like it's getting hung up, almost as it there's sand inside it. But I've never taken my tripod anywhere near sand. I removed the head from the tripod and couldn't find anything wrong, nor could I locate any kind of leak or point of possible contaimination. I've only had the tripod 2 years and have used it maybe 20 times.

Looking over their warranty, I see that Bogen Imaging USA does not cover labor. I'd call that a half-warranty. Still better than buying a new head for $110. Has anyone had Bogen service performed? How was the experience for you? What kind of turnaround time can I expect? I have several student video projects in the works, and would rather not rely on my university's gear, which takes a lot of abuse; reliability of that stuff is a crap shoot. For example, half the Lowell light stands I use from there have broken clamps, so we can't raise the lamps up high enough. More hassle than it's worth most of the time.
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