Possible to level a flat base head (Manfrotto/Bogen 503) at DVinfo.net

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Old April 24th, 2007, 11:48 AM   #1
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Possible to level a flat base head (Manfrotto/Bogen 503)

Apologies to those who've already read this on another site; I hate people who post the same note all over the place too, but I thought maybe a different audience here...

Okay, I feel like a complete idiot here (and it wouldn't be the first time), but:

Is there any way to level a flat base head like the 503 independent of the legs? I have it attached to the 3046 legs, and when the legs are level the head isn't, and vice versa. The manual says to "level the head" using the level bubble on the head, but doesn't say how. There are no apparent adjusting screws on the head. The set screws to lock the head to the tripod do not seem to affect the level of the head when adjusted.

And if I just adjust the legs to level the head, it goes out of level when I pan.

I know this head isn't the same as a half-bowl adjustable head, but I guess I assumed that the only advantage in leveling a half-bowl head is not having to use the legs to level the thing.

Here's the entire text about leveling the head from the manual (more like a pamphlet, but...):

"Level the head on the tripod (you can use both tripods with flat attachment or leveling bowl) using the spirit level "J"."

It has this exact quote in two places but does not refer to any leveling method. Adjusting the legs was all I could think of.

What am I missing? It's gotta be something obvious...

I'm now wondering if one (or both) level bubbles themselves might be off.. sort of like the "check engine" light in your car; when it lights up, it usually indicates a problem with... the "check engine" light.

I've written to both Manfrotto and Bogen USA but of course haven't heard anything yet.
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Old April 24th, 2007, 12:19 PM   #2
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Just got this response from Bogen:

"To adjust the "level" of the 503 head, a 3502 leveling base is recommend as adjusting the tripod legs to achieve a level plane is possible, but tedious."

This is a bit of a surprise as this base isn't mentioned anywhere in the context of the 503 head, in the manual, on the Manfrotto, Bogen or B&H websites, or anywhere else. Searches on each site come up empty. B&H does have another leveling head, the 3416.

But of more concern is that when the legs are level according to their bubble, the head isn't. And if I use the legs to level the head, the head goes out of level when I pan. I can live with the tedium of using the legs to level the head, but I'm concerned that any "leveling base" wouldn't address the disparity.

Am I making any sense? Is this typical?
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Old April 24th, 2007, 12:58 PM   #3
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With a flat base head there are only two options for leveling:

1. Adjust the legs to level the head. This is very undersirable because it takes too long and it's tedious.

2. Add a leveling base between the head and the legs, such as the 3502. This adds about 1.5 lbs.

With either method, you level until the bubble level on the head shows level. If you do this and the horizon is still not level when you pan then there two possible problems:

1. Your camera is not mounted perfectly flat to the camera mounting plate. This happens a lot with small cameras because they have very little room on their bottoms and they little bosses that can skew the mounting plate. This happened to me with my HV10.

2. The bubble level in your fluid head is off. This is unlikely but you can check it by leveling the head according to the bubble level and then placing a torpedo level from the hardware store on top of the head. Move the torpedo level around in a circle and check that it's level in all directions. Then pan the head around and check again.
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Old April 24th, 2007, 03:08 PM   #4
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Thanks Tim.

I finally found the 3502 and have ordered it. I'll try your other suggestions as well.

Appreciate the feedback.
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Old April 25th, 2007, 08:49 AM   #5
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My experience is that the built-in levels on the Bogen tripod legs/heads aren't accurate. (Can't speak to other brands.) I sometimes use them as an initial guide, but I'll re-adjust the legs to get everything right. I look in the viewfinder and get something (corner of a ceiling, steps, etc) that is horizontal, and 'level' out to match it. Then, I'll pan the camera 90 degrees and do the same thing. This levels the camera in 2 directions. Usually it's perfect for my purposes. Plus, when I level to the background, the subject looks like it's oriented correctly. After all, I think what really matters is how it looks like on tape, not if the camera was perfectly level.

Just my 2 cents...it's what works for me!

Cheers!
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Old April 26th, 2007, 01:06 PM   #6
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I think that's a great strategy and the advice is much appreciated.

The 3502 just arrived, I've installed it -- and now I have THREE bubble levels that are "out of sync."

I think I'll just use the methods outlined above and stop torturing myself.

Last edited by Adam Gold; April 26th, 2007 at 10:17 PM.
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Old May 18th, 2007, 06:49 PM   #7
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Now you just have to get three little video cams, point them to the three levels, get the feed side-by-side on a monitor (or better yet, three separate monitors) and you will have next to the most complex leveling system, which would still be out-of-synch :)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Gold View Post
I think that's a great strategy and the advice is much appreciated.

The 3502 just arrived, I've installed it -- and now I have THREE bubble levels that are "out of sync."

I think I'll just use the methods outlined above and stop torturing myself.
Maksim Yankovskiy is offline   Reply
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