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Old February 19th, 2013, 05:51 AM   #1
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Tripod and fluid head in water

What will happen if I place the tripod (Sachtler ENG) and fluid head (OConnor 1030 HDs) in water?

Will it be a problem if the tripod with midlevel spreader are completely immersed in water and the fluid head kind of half immersed in the river water? I would love to hear your experience.
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Old February 19th, 2013, 11:10 AM   #2
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Re: Tripod and fluid head in water

Speaking from experiences of other equipment in water, salt water is very corrosive and intrusive. Not to mention ocean waves coming through when you don't expect them, and once a camera is swamped it's usually done. If that happens you want to power down immediately, rinse the cam in fresh water, and perhaps throw it in a bucket of fresh water to take it to your service center, expecting sad news.

The cards are quite robust when it comes to water, rinse in fresh, allow to *thoroughly* dry, and your footage is probably there.

A calm freshwater lake - I think I'd want a sacrificial tripod, at least. Can you fully disassemble your Sachtler pod to promptly get all the water out of the legs? I've got an old Manfrotto in the garage that is really quite sturdy (no half-ball leveler), and if I could get away with using it's rather poor head I'd try that.

You would think that the guts of the Sachtler head would be well sealed to keep the fluid and silicon grease inside, but the counterbalance spring assembly is probably easily penetrable by water. If it's fresh, that might not be the end of it, but, can you disassemble it so you can dry it?

But do remember that if water penetrates the camera it will short out the electronics, salt or fresh water.

A small hairdryer and a place to plug it in is very valuable on these sorts of shoots... Not a heat-gun, that's too hot. A plastic bag with dessicant silica gel packets can dry out a card rather well.

How about a planted Gopro camera that's close, instead of a big cam that's far?

Oh, I should read more carefully, you wrote "river water". Freshwater, good! However, there will be waves, and sometimes a river can go up and down rather quickly in response to far away weather changes.
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Old February 19th, 2013, 05:22 PM   #3
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Re: Tripod and fluid head in water

The obvious people to ask are Sachtler and OConnor.

For several years I used to use an early model Miller head in sea-water after replacing all steel screws with stainless steel screws. It worked well except where a bronze fitting was seated on aluminium, a combination that not surprisingly produced rapid electrolytic corrosion. Replacing the bronze with aluminium solved that problem.

Since then I have made my own tripods and fluid heads for underwater use as I found it easier to engineer suitable gear from scratch rather than modify existing equipment. I still use a tripod and fluid head made more than 30 years ago.
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Old February 19th, 2013, 05:31 PM   #4
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Re: Tripod and fluid head in water

Never used a Sachtler or OConnor. But I have submerged my Manfrotto WN3221 legs in creeks and rivers hundreds of times over a 10 year period with no problems. I just wipe them down with a clean rag when I am done and wipe them with a greaseless lubricant. Never submerged a head on purpose.
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Old February 20th, 2013, 03:22 AM   #5
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Re: Tripod and fluid head in water

From my experience of Vinten kit, river or lake water is usually fine with tripods and spreaders but sea water, not only can it be corrosive, but the sand it washes in can case premature wear. We always suggest you wash your tripod and spreader after submersion with clean water. A shower or hose is best. As for pan and tilt heads, they don’t like any kind of water and it will still damage them even if you rinse them after. Light spray, rain or incidental splashes is OK, but not total immersion.
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Old February 20th, 2013, 11:15 AM   #6
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Re: Tripod and fluid head in water

I wonder if it would be possible to rig a heavy duty giant plastic trash bag to legs and then submerge that.

Salt water would have me thinking about a different shot...

Or if where you are shooting is very sandy, maybe a monopod sunk deep in the sand might be some support. Just hang onto the camera.

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Old February 20th, 2013, 08:36 PM   #7
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Re: Tripod and fluid head in water

Sabyasachi I specialize in shooting u/w. Your sticks & head will be fine in fresh water. Just clean & dry them when you are done. In salt water I use a cheap Manfroto head and old Gitzo sticks. I consider both of them disposable because the salt water will destroy them.
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Old February 20th, 2013, 11:18 PM   #8
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Re: Tripod and fluid head in water

To be honest, I have no idea of the long term consequences of half submerging a quality pan/ tilt head, whether it be fresh or salt water (but I do have my theories), though I have quite happily given my various sticks a swim on numerous occasions, though always with a decent hose down afterwards.

(Though I do take heed of Peter Harmans warnings on the subject and certainly wouldn't quibble)

However, even I have drawn the line at submerging the head, in whole or in part, fearing the worst.

Given that your OConnor head is US$5k's worth of move-able metal, I'd suggest you get an el cheapo expendable head to use instead, then you can tell US what happens when you take a Manfrotto/ whatever head under for a bit of a dip.


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Old February 21st, 2013, 01:03 PM   #9
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Re: Tripod and fluid head in water

Thanks a lot for the responses. Better sense prevails. :) I will make some alternate arrangements rather than sacrifice family jewels. :D
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Old February 21st, 2013, 05:19 PM   #10
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Re: Tripod and fluid head in water

Hi Sabyasachi,

Keeping your O’Connor out of the water seems a good idea. Although you did not explicitly say so I assume you want to use an unprotected camera as close to the water surface as possible.

In the absence of a waterproof head have you considered using a ‘nodal’ style head? These align the center of gravity of the camera with the tilt axis and have the advantage of being able to be used upside down. Below is a photo of one attached to a boom. Although not shown the camera platform attaches to the lowest point on the inverted head so that the camera and working parts of the head at the same level.

In my previous post I mentioned using an early Miller head below several meters of sea-water with no adverse effects other than the one mentioned. I should have added I discussed the idea with Miller first and received a lot of encouragement from them. The Miller was replaced over 30 years ago by the one shown. Although it has been ‘re-arranged’ several times over the years for different projects the pan and tilt sections are still original. http://www.dvinfo.net/forum/images/attach/jpg.gif
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Old February 27th, 2013, 12:33 PM   #11
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Re: Tripod and fluid head in water

Wow ! This looks like a rig from a space ship.

I am now thinking that I will use a cheap manfrotto. Don't want a heart attack. :)
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