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Old February 24th, 2010, 05:30 PM   #1
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High-end heads for a DvSLR

Just to keep Chris on his toes...

What are the top three heads that would work well with a DvSLR nearly regardless of cost? (I'm shopping for my employer, so unlike with personal funds, I can start high and go down from there.)

The main requirements are that it be able to handle low weight (down to about 3 lbs), be easily adjustable (to accommodate various lenses), and be both solid and smooth.

I'll settle on the head first and worry about matching up legs later. For the legs, I don't need light weight, but I would consider carbon fiber if it adds stability.

Because of rolling shutter, stability is critical. Unfortunately, there are few 100mm bowl systems that are designed for light cameras.

All inputs welcome!
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Old February 24th, 2010, 08:27 PM   #2
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I'll bite..............

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Originally Posted by Jon Fairhurst View Post
Just to keep Chris on his toes...
Consider me on them!

Quote:
What are the top three heads
Geez, don't want much, do you? Three?

Quote:
The main requirements are that it be able to handle low weight (down to about 3 lbs), be easily adjustable (to accommodate various lenses), and be both solid and smooth.
Ooh, now you're making it hard.

OK, here goes.

The major problem with any DvDSLR is that they all have a COG somewhere below a gnats kneecap.

With all spring resistance counterbalance heads I am aware of, the COG of their weight range(s) are quoted at either 100 or 125 mm, with a minimum weight of anything from 3 pounds up.

As DvDSLR's aren't even 125 mm high to start with, you're out by a country mile.

One way to get around that is to fit a COG box between the camera and head plate, lifting it's COG up to a height at which it can engage the CB (counterbalance) system.

Given a known range of camera configuration weights it wouldn't be too difficult to work out just what height you'd need to get this box made (yes, I think you'd have to have it made specially).

Having got around that little problem, you run slap bang into another, which is "stepping", which is where a spring resistance CB system steps in such large jumps that it is impossible to get an accurate setting with a particular camera configuration.

So, throw out all the stepped systems - there goes Sachtler, Manfrotto, Libec, Miller etc etc etc.

Leaving you with.................Vinten.

This box thing is a bit of a bugger but with the current spring line up available from Vinten it's the only game in town (for the moment - more on that later**).

There is one other candidate for the task, which neatly sidesteps this COG problem altogether:

VariZoom ZeroGravity (Zero Gravity) Tripod Head, Tripods, Lens Controls, Camera Stabilizers & Supports, Batteries, Monitor Kits - Phone: 512-219-7722

It seems to tick all the boxes, there is no minimum weight listed for it and will work on any 100/ 75 mm tripod going.

The only thing about it I don't know is how easy it is to alter the settings for different rig weight configurations.

Do I get a star for 2 out of 3?


CS

** Much later, I need to phone a friend.

Last edited by Chris Soucy; February 24th, 2010 at 08:32 PM. Reason: +
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Old February 24th, 2010, 10:46 PM   #3
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You get FIVE STARS, Chris! (Ten, if my company approves the purchase...)

I asked for three just to give some wiggle room - and to allow for the fact that there's rarely a clear winner, just trade offs.

It looks like the Vinten 3AS is the head of choice. According to the specs, it does 4.4 to 11 lbs. Fortunately, I tend to run the 5D2 on top of a juicedLink preamp with a Bogen adapter on top. That buys me another inch and a half and just over a pound. The 5D Mark II weighs about 29 oz, and my lightest lenses are about a half pound.

For this system, I'm also considering rails and a follow focus. That gives me another pound or two and another inch and a half. If I plunk a monitor up there, then we're really in the sweet zone.

The VariZoom is interesting too. Have you had your hands on it? I'm wondering how smooth and easy to control it really is, compared to a traditional fluid head.

For our application, we would be doing some product shots, so I'm looking at a slider system as well. I'm thinking that a Zero Gravity head on a slider would be nice for complex moves, given that the weight on the slider would always be balanced.
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Old February 25th, 2010, 12:05 AM   #4
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Why, thank you, Jon............

Glad to be of service, but I think you knew where that was going to go already, just a guess.

Nope, haven't been able to prise a Varizoom off anybody, but the sales video sure is impressive, tho' have my doubts about a dragless, fluidless system - gotta be touchy as hell, methinks.

Sliders. Hmm. Seems such a limited device.

I'd (personally) go for a decent jib system as per the demo, far more versatile (and a darn site heavier and bulky) but what a range of moves - mount the jib support on rails and you're really cooking with gas, now them's moves!

(Yeah, yeah, I know, 'cos I have a setup like that and it does moves like you wouldn't credit. Bugger of a thing to get right tho'.)

A jib with the Varizoom would be pretty awesome (I use motor drive underslung so no hands required, even better but hey, you guys will have a budget).

Good luck with the sales pitch to the powers that be.

Can I get off my toes now?


CS
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Old February 25th, 2010, 12:06 PM   #5
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Yeah, we'll see how big the budget is...

I work in a research lab for an overseas corporation. This past month I shot an internal demo/lifestyle video with my own gear that was a big hit. Besides reasonable fundamentals and gear, the key was to "show, don't tell". I used employees as actors, and purposefully kept faces largely off the screen and had no dialogue. It was the perfect technique - the focus is on the concept rather than the people, how they look, how they act and how they speak.

Video isn't my day job here, but other groups are in the company are now interested in me helping them make similar videos. So, now I can pitch an equipment list. My equipment loan was a one time deal. But given that we're not a production house, I've got a good sales job ahead of me.

The good news is that the difference between the camcorder videos that others have done and my DvSLR video is apparent to everybody. The buzz has reached the top levels of the company.

Back on equipment... my experience with jibs and dollies is limited, but I've seen enough to know that setup time with a one man (with inexperienced helpers) crew is an issue. Even with a crew, I've seen people spend well over an hour to get a track perfectly level and solid for one setup.

I remember seeing a video demo of a jib/slider that was a veritable transformer of a device. It would go high, low, horizontal, vertical - you name it - with a few quick releases and moves. That looked like a killer, quick-setup, flexible system. But I can't recall the name. :(

Anyway, today I'm hoping to make my pitch, get an overall budget and direction, and should get the nod to make the final decisions. Once I get the budget, it will hopefully be up to me to balance camera and lenses with support gear and accessories. I hope so anyway, I'd rather not get second guessed about why specific tripods, lenses and such cost so dang much.
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Old February 25th, 2010, 01:30 PM   #6
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I've been a huge fan of the O'Connor line for many years. I've used all the others but I've never felt as "transparent" a head as the ones they make. The drag and counterbalance adjustments are continuous, not stepped, and they are built like tanks. Their 2575 is the industry standard for fluid heads--you'll find them on virtually every set in the U.S.

I use the 1030B with DSLR's; that's an older version of their current 1030HD. The head is rated for quite a bit more but it works dialed down for a small payload. Not quite sure it will be "happy" with a bare DSLR and lens, but it's also important to make sure you have enough payload for a potentially fully-loaded version (baseplate, onboard monitor, battery etc). For what it's worth, I introduced Vincent Laforet to my 1030B and now he doesn't want to use anything else.

For slider/jib ideas, I checked out the Losmandy Porta-Jib Explorer at a show recently and it seems like a really clever and beautifully made piece of gear. Instantly converts from jib to heavy-duty slider.
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Old February 25th, 2010, 04:38 PM   #7
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Thanks Charles!

The Explorer is exactly what I was thinking of. It really does it all. I'm definitely going to make a pitch to get that system.

The 1030HD looks fantastic. It would probably be a tough sell though, at $5k or so. If we were planning to use it day in and day out, that would be the target, assuming you can really dial down the spring.

So... if we get the Explorer and a 3AS head, I would have a 75mm ball in a 100mm socket. Any recommendations for an adapter or other solution?
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Old February 25th, 2010, 04:55 PM   #8
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I vote O'Connor too. I have a 2060HD and a 1030B and once you've used a stepless system anything else seems a bit naff. AFAIK all the O'Connors can be "dialled down" to zero, ie no counterbalance at all.
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Old February 25th, 2010, 05:14 PM   #9
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Easy.............

Vinten | Bowl Adapter | 3330-243 | B&H Photo Video


CS

PS: You want cheaper?

Manfrotto | 319 75mm to 100mm Bowl Adapter | 319 | B&H Photo

Last edited by Chris Soucy; February 25th, 2010 at 05:13 PM. Reason: +
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Old February 25th, 2010, 05:42 PM   #10
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Thanks!

The Vinten 3AS on a PortaJib Explorer looks to be my target.

While I really like the idea of the VariZoom, the lack of fluid drag puts me off. Last summer, I borrowed a jib that had no drag adjustment, and no matter what we did we weren't able to finish our moves cleanly. We would always get bounce. With a light camera with little polar moment on the VariZoom, I'd be afraid that it would be hard to control.

It's unfortunate that our fiscal year ends on March 31st. Otherwise, I'd buy after a hands-on tour at NAB.
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Old February 25th, 2010, 06:16 PM   #11
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BTW, what adapter/plate is compatible with the 3AS? The Manfrotto 357? The 577? Something else?

Thanks!

(And, yes I'm still drooling over the O'Conner, but that would get into the capital budget, which is a different story...)
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Old February 25th, 2010, 06:53 PM   #12
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Adapter.................

I'm sure both adapters mentioned will fit on the Vinten head plate no problems.

The decision is really which size plate to use.

The 357 from memory has a more robust plate than the 577 which uses the far more common 501PL plate (as used on the Manfrotto 501/ 503/ 519 heads).

Guess if you have one or other in use already, go for a direct match to keep everything compatible.

That Porta Jib Explorer looks the bees knees, does everything but make the coffee!


CS
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Old February 25th, 2010, 08:23 PM   #13
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I was thinking that the quick-release on the Vinten might be directly compatible with one of these plates.

That said, it looks like I'll only really need to move things from the shoulder rig to/from the tripod. It's possible that I'll make that happen with rails and a quick-release, rather than the multiple adapters that I use on my personal systems.
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Old February 26th, 2010, 09:46 PM   #14
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So... Digging in a bit deeper, I'm starting to lean toward the Kessler Pocket Jib and Dolly with the swivel head, rather than the PortaJib Explorer. For one thing, it's about $2k, rather than $3.4K. But also, the Explorer is either a jib or slider, but it doesn't combine the two. To go from a jib to a slider, you first turn the jib on its side, eliminating the jib motion.

With the Kessler, the Pocket Dolly mounts on the jib. That lets me do angled slides. The crank on the Pocket Dolly is especially cool - not because you can crank it, but because you can wrap some string around the crank and pull. I expect that would be super smooth for tilted shots. Not to mention that there will be a motorized option soon...

http://www.kesslercrane.com/index.ph...=284&Itemid=64

One concern with either solution is whether I would be happy with such a beefy tripod under the 3AS head for days that I don't want to slide or jib. I'd imagine that the K-Pod or Explorer tripod would be a real boat anchor to haul around. They don't go real low, but for corporate pieces, I don't expect that we're going to need many dramatic low shots. And, if I need to go low, there's always the jib...

Anyway, to be able to simply move the tripod head from the end of the jib to the slider and set it to any angle looks like a very nice way to go.
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Old February 27th, 2010, 12:50 AM   #15
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Er.............

was there a question in there somewhere, or you just thinking in type?

You really DO NOT WANT a monstrous tripod when doing run'ngun shooting, I've tried it and the resulting hernia operation (keyhole, but I do wish they'd used smaller keys!) tells the rest of the story.

Knowing the way corporates work, ask for considerably more than you're prepared to accept, but have a "stick line" beyond which you will not retreat.

Get yourself the jib by all means, but factor in a decent run'ngun tripod to boot, your groin/ back will love you for it!

Been there, done that.


CS
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