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Old February 19th, 2007, 10:41 AM   #1
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Defending the 501

I just purchased my first Bogen/Manfrotto 501 head to use with my Sony FX1 and I really like it. I have it mounted on my old reliable Bogen 3021 legs and it is smooth as silk. I have not seen any of the "stiction" or "bounceback" issues that I've been reading about, as long as Steadyshot is turned OFF. (Yes I did zoom in all the way, and I would hope that 12x is enough to see a problem.) I did see some weird things with stabilization on, but that's not the head's fault.

So why do I see so much 501 bashing on this forum? Are you guys leaving stabilization on? Do you have the friction knob cranked too tight? Are you guys drinking too much coffee? Or am I just too ignorant to know the difference? I think I have a pretty good eye.

Anyone else on my side? Is there anybody out there?
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Old February 19th, 2007, 10:57 AM   #2
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I got a 501 about 6 years ago and I still use it from time to time. I think it's a really great value for the money. In fact, I have a shoot coming up soon where I have to lug gear around the city and I may use it with my Z1 because the whole setup is smaller and lighter than my Miller.

But when I zoom way in I find it pretty unacceptable, which is why I got the Miller. I suppose different ones might have different characteristics, or maybe it gets worse with age? But more likely, you have a shooting style that fits the action of the head better. For shooting stage performances I'm zoomed in all the way using a 1.6x Century teleconverter. There is just no way to get smooth pans and tilts consistently with my 501. But in this sort of situation I'm making small, subtle movements. If I was panning across a larger field then it probably wouldn't bother me as much.

BTW, I also find steadyshot an absolute must for my kind of work on the tripod. Without it there is just too much vibration and jerkiness. I almost never see any problems with turning steadyshot on for this application because the movements are all smooth and slow. If you're finding problems with steadyshot, this also makes me think you have a different shooting style.

But beyond all this, if you are happy with your setup then that's all that really matters. Don't spend more money on an expensive head if the 501 meets your needs. If you browse back through this forum or do a search you will find a number of other people who are also very happy with the 501.
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Old February 22nd, 2007, 06:43 PM   #3
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I currently have the 501/3221 setup for my XL2. It's a decent tripod for the money. I found the it becomes a wind vane as the slightest breeze and the legs "torque". Probably due to lack of a spreader, and the "head extension" pole thingy. Things get real bad when zoomed in. This is more likely the legs faults than the head though.

I'm currently eyeballing the Miller DS10 setup.
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Old February 22nd, 2007, 07:46 PM   #4
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I had my 3221/501 out today in 40+ mph winds and it was stable as anything. Guess I'm lucky.

I like it, and for my money it fits my needs currently.
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Old February 22nd, 2007, 07:53 PM   #5
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501=good=not=bad=pretty solid

No trouble from my world-traveled 501. My only issues are me doing stupid things. I wish I would stop that...
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Old February 22nd, 2007, 08:04 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Bray
I currently have the 501/3221 setup for my XL2.
Heh, I think the 501/3221 is definitely a bit too light to support an XL2!
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Old February 23rd, 2007, 03:43 PM   #7
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Just a brief addition to the discussion.

I have been loaned (by Manfrotto's UK distributor, DayMen International) one of the new 501HDV heads with the adjustable counterbalance. They also gave me one of the long 501 plates (I use a Canon XL2; this significantly helps balance the front heavy load of the camera) and a set of 525 legs.

Well worth a second look for anyone who has read bad press about the 501 with the XL2.

OK, it's no 1000+ system but for the price it is VERY smooth, with lovely smooth acceleration into tilts, really easy pans etc.

I already own one of the old style 501's (from my XM2/GL2 days) but stopped using it when I moved up to the XL2. The HDV (with long plate) is a major improvement and is an awful lot easier than lugging my 116 head and two stage cast iron drainpipes around!

I encourage you to take another look if you're in the market for a budget system that, in my opinion, exceeds expectations.

Ian . . .
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Old February 23rd, 2007, 04:40 PM   #8
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I've been using the 501 and 3221 legs for about 4 years now. I think Boyd pretty well sums it up IMO. Would I like better...you bet. Is it a good value..absolutely. I use a Pany DVC-30 on it which is a pretty light cam. I can get smooth pans now after a lot of practice. I guess what I really like the most is the versatility of the 501 and 3221 combined.

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Old February 23rd, 2007, 05:34 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyd Ostroff
Heh, I think the 501/3221 is definitely a bit too light to support an XL2!
So far I have not needed a tripod for anything other than vacation videos and goofing off, so it had met my needs thus far. Not to mention it fits in my suitcase when I travel. But it has taught me that it wont meet my needs if I want to shoot anything more serious, which I am looking into the Miller DS10.
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Old March 28th, 2007, 08:19 PM   #10
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I've used a 501 for about 3 years now, and I guess you could say I am moderately satisfied with it. The motion does get sticky sometimes, and not because the friction knobs are cranked too high. I keep them pretty loose. In fact, a couple of times, after not using the head for a month or so, the first pan movement was so sticky, I thought the pan lock was on. I re-checked to see that it was off, then with a little muscle it moved. If you look at the pictures posted in this thread, you can see that the "fluid" even looks sticky. So, usually before I first start shooting, I tilt and pan it a few times to get some smoothness back. Still, I can get pretty good results with the 501. So, I'm not ready to spend the big bucks on a new, super-smooth head just yet.
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Old April 6th, 2007, 10:02 PM   #11
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I used to use a 501/3221 for my XL2, and just bought a Miller DS10. I played around with the Miller today. It's a major improvement, but the jury is still out if it's a $1,100 improvement. The half bowl on the Miller does blow the stick-thingy of the 501 out of the water though. I never knew was I was missing in that department.
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Old April 7th, 2007, 07:48 AM   #12
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There is nothing WRONG with the 501 and for the price it is a great value. But, if you really want to see why it is not the top recommendation just try the 503. They may look just the same but they are not.

The 503 is more of a true fluid head, pan & tilt, and the biggest advantage for the larger cameras are the counter-balance springs for tilt.

As Boyd said, the 501 simply cannot handle the weight of cameras in the XL2 weight class during tilts. The camera will fall forward or back unless the friction is set way too high for proper tilts.

If you are happy with the 501--great! They are a good value for the money. For slightly more money, you get much more value with the 503.

Either way---Good luck!

Mike
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Old April 7th, 2007, 10:38 AM   #13
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Mike, does the 503 head have rosettes on both sides to switch the pan handle like the 501, or just one side? Couldn't tell by the pix I've seen, I'm nowhere near a store to "kick tires", and I use the extra screw hole on my 501 to mount a MicroTrack (custom bracket I built) for wild audio/backup, etc - but would like to move up a notch for main cam and relegate the 501 to second cam sometime in the future.

So, 1 choice for pan handle mounting or two? Thanks in advance... Steve
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Old April 7th, 2007, 10:42 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Leverich View Post
Mike, does the 503 head have rosettes on both sides to switch the pan handle like the 501, or just one side? Couldn't tell by the pix I've seen, I'm nowhere near a store to "kick tires", and I use the extra screw hole on my 501 to mount a MicroTrack (custom bracket I built) for wild audio/backup, etc - but would like to move up a notch for main cam and relegate the 501 to second cam sometime in the future.

So, 1 choice for pan handle mounting or two? Thanks in advance... Steve
There are mounts on both sides Steve.

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Old April 7th, 2007, 04:04 PM   #15
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Just wanted to chip in again about the upgraded 501, the 501HDV - this is an improvement over the 501 in that it has a counterbalance system for just the kind of thing Mike mentions - ie decent action during tilts without turning up the friction too high.

Combine it with the extra long mounting plate (to shift the CoG for front heavy cams like the XL2) and I have to say it's performance to value ratio over the old 501 head is significantly improved. I own both and use a set of 525 legs (not sure what the Bogen equiv is).

I just took one on a two week run 'n' gun documentary shoot in the Kenyan bush and I was DELIGHTED with the performance . . . for the money.

Personally I'm unlikely to buy a new system until I can afford something several price brackets up. I am almost certainly going to skip the 503 level now having experienced the new 501HDV.

Just my two cents. All I'm saying is it's worth checking out if you're on a tight budget.

Last edited by Ian Stark; April 7th, 2007 at 04:05 PM. Reason: Oh what a moron - changed it back again having read it properly!!
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