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Old May 19th, 2013, 07:12 PM   #1
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Step counterbalance vs infinite?


Still in the process to choose the right tripod...
I definitly forgot the idea to be lightweight anymore as I just bought a Canon 400 2.8 (6.2kg) for some slowmo work. My camera set up now weights around 13kg.
I'm hesitating between a Sachtler video 18 or Cartoni Delta. On one hand the Sachtler can do +90 tilt (which is usefull as some birds are high in the canopy) and says to counterbalance between 4kg and 18kg with 7 step drag. The Cartoni can do +70 tilt only but can a balance a bit more (22kg) and also the counterbalance system says it is infinite.
What is the difference in everyday life between step and infinite?
What I need is something that locks in tilt without having to do anything and be able to take tilt or pan control back seamlessly.
Is the infinite system better or the step one?
If I understood, infinite drag looks to be the one for me, but maybe I missed something important?

Thanks for any feedback, greatly appreciated!

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Old May 20th, 2013, 05:37 AM   #2
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Re: Step counterbalance vs infinite?

I've found the continuous counterbalance control to be more useful with large cameras like 35mm film cameras than with smaller cameras. Just so long the counterbalance with the smaller camera is within the range of the camera rig, the quality of fluid effect seems to be more important. Steps in fluid drag selection is fine, continuous selection is handier for counterbalance adjustment.
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Old May 21st, 2013, 01:54 AM   #3
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Re: Step counterbalance vs infinite?

Hi Alan,

I may be a bit biased on this one but it sounds like you may actually need perfect balance...

Counterbalance systems are all designed to resist the tendency of a camera to fall away from top dead centre on the tilt axis of the head. The force required to resit gravity is a function of camera weight, the distance of that weight from the tilt axis and tilt angle. Anything other than a perfect balance system will give you an aproximation of that force which means the camera will likley try to self level or will fall to one of the extremes of tilt (+/- 90 ish degrees).

Stepped systems by their nature will always be an aproximation and even most infinatly variable systems do not provide true perfect balance because the mechanism does not deliver the exact force required at all angles of tilt even if it is adjusted to be correct around the horizontal position. To an extent this imperfection can be masked by turing up the fluid drag but it is far from ideal.

If you are going to spend a significant amount of your time at tilt angles greater than +/-20-30 degrees with a camera greater than a few Kg in weight then perfect balance will make your shooting much more natural as you wont have to fight either the weight of the camera or the springs in the head and wont have to use excessive drag levels ( which lead to other nast effects like tripod springback)

Hope that helps

Andrew Butler

Product Manager - Vinten.
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Old May 21st, 2013, 06:41 AM   #4
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Re: Step counterbalance vs infinite?


I am probably biased as well....

The Sachtler Video 18 uses Speedbalance technology with a 16 step counterbalance system which is getting very close to continous setup. Plus giving you the advantage of a fast setup as you can just dial in the "step" required for your payload next time you use it again. If you ever want to use it with a very lightweight cameras, it will work as it goes down to min payload of 2 kg.

You might want to consider to use a heavy duty tripod if you do a lot of slowmo work to have more stability in the complete setup.

Best regards

Product Manager Sachtler
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Old May 21st, 2013, 08:01 AM   #5
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Re: Step counterbalance vs infinite?

I have both a Sachtler and Cartoni. I much prefer the stepped adjustments as I change rigs and find the Sachtler easier to have a repeatable configuration. Maybe it's the Cartoni implementation but it's not easily repeatable. I do love the side loading plates on both and will not go back to sliding ones. Ever.
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Old May 21st, 2013, 12:04 PM   #6
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Re: Step counterbalance vs infinite?

Alan...I went through the 'tripod system' purchase a little over a year ago. Since that time, my 'payload' issues and 'center of gravity (CoG)' have changed. I don't have any experience with Cartoni, but I was given the opportunity test several of the 'Vinten' products and actually purchased a Vinten Vision Blue system. Unfortunately, as much as I liked the 'Vision Blue' and Vinten products in general, I miscalculated my total overall payload and CoG and quickly exceeded the design capacity of the 'Vision Blue'. After testing several other Vinten products (loaned to me by Vinten. Thanks!) I finally decided on a Sachtler FSB-8 and 75 CF Sticks (Thanks, Barbara!). The Sachtler just worked out of the box for me, so I kept it and sold the Vinten VB.

Both, the Vinten and Sachtler products will serve you well. Make sure you consider not only the overall weight of your rig, but consider the 'height' of the payload and how the 'Fluid Head' is designed for CoG.

Lastly, go for a little more weight capacity than you currently think you might need. It's amazing how fast you start adding little bits; a few ounces here and there and the next thing you know you've added 2 or 3 lbs. The other reason I recommend going for a Fluid Head with a higher payload capacity is the closer you get to the upper end of the the 'Head's' capacity, the less range of motion you'll have.

I hope this helps.

Good hunting,

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Old May 21st, 2013, 04:02 PM   #7
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Re: Step counterbalance vs infinite?

Many thanks to you all for the knowledge. Even biased opinions are most welcome. Thanks to the product managers to be "close" to their public. I learned quite a good deal about fluid heads here.
James, you are right about weight capacity and CoG. Honestly, I don't feel like carrying more than 15kg when I track birds. At the moment, my heaviest set up is around 12kg, I just need to make sure my future system will counterbalance at any titlt angle and being able to swap for lighter rigs is also crucial (in that sense I heard the Cartoni Delta will only counterbalance a minimum of 10kg, so not a good choice for me)

I must admit I'm sold on Vinten's philosophy, Vision 100 looks ultimate, but that is another subjective opinion.;)
But from what I read about perfect balance, thin film and drag technology, it looks damn seducing for birding and any sports based application.
This choice is crucial, as I think each brand offers differents pros and cons, depending on application.

One more question maybe, about CoG, weight, height and lenght. When a fluid head says to handle max 20kg, and the rig weights 12kg and is approximatly 10cm above the system (due to baseplate, dovetail etc) and it is also around 80cm long, does it impacts much the CoG and max carrying capacity? In other words, with this kind of rig's specifications, 20kg max will allow me to counterbalance any tilt angles or those height and lenght factors will be limitating?

Any opinion most welcome, learning is good ;)

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Old May 22nd, 2013, 12:47 AM   #8
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Re: Step counterbalance vs infinite?

Oups... Read the CoG graphs... I got my answer. Sorry about that ;)
I finally ordered a Vinten 100. I got a good deal on ebay. Waiting to choose sticks.
Thanks again!
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