Vinten Vision 8 tripod review
by Nigel Cooper
Unlike some other manufacturers, all Vinten tripods come with a case and what's more they are very well designed cases. They are made from very tough fabric with large zippers that are easy to open and close when shooting in cold weather conditions. The strap is nice and wide with a thick shoulder pad which makes the tripod feel like a quiver of arrows on your shoulder when you are lugging it around in the field.
The Vinten Vision range are a breeze to set up. No rotating knobs to extend the legs, instead they use a very clever twist levers that are shaped like arrows, just half a turn of these levers and a quick shake of the tripod (holding it by the head) and all the legs extend to the floor with the spreader extending between them, a quick half turn of the levers to lock the legs and the tripod is set up. All this equates to much faster set-up times with less fumbling around.
The final part of the tripod set-up is leveling the head using the built in spirit bubble, this is a quick operation using the large knurled knob underneath the head, simply loosen the know anti-clockwise then adjust the head in any direction to level the bubble. Finally there is a small button on the side of the head near the leveling bubble, if you press it "Hey Presto" the leveling bubble is illuminated which makes leveling the bubble in dimly lit (or total darkness) conditions so you won't need that small Maglite that you bought to level your old tripod in the dark.
The best feature by far of the Vinten Vision range is the "Perfect Balance" control. Vinten are the only tripod manufacturer in the world to have this feature, this is how it works. The head has a tough spring inside that can be adjusted by using the balance control knob that is numbered from 1 to 10. When no camera is mounted on the tripod the head will always spring back up to it's horizontal position, once you put your camera on the tripod setting the balance is a breeze, you can then tilt the camera down and let go of the pan handle and it will stay right there, it won't fall forward and crack your lens on one of the legs like your old tripod, if you tilt up and let go of the pan handle, the same thing happens, it simply stays right were it is. If you're not used to this unique system you would be forgiven for not wanting to let go of the pan handle until you tighten up the tilt locking lever in fear of the camera falling forward. This is the cleverest piece of scientific engineering that I have seen in a very long time and as Vinten have patented this feature you won't find it on any other tripod so in my opinion if the tripod doesn't have the Vinten name on it, it simply isn't going to balance properly, sure other manufacturers have their own systems, but they are workaround designs that simply don't work.
All Vinten tripods offer four distinct technical advantages, some of which are unique in the industry.
1. Perfect Balance - A Vinten Exclusive
During the normal camera mounting process, the cameraperson attaches the camera to the tripod and then centers it on the tripod plate so that it balances without falling forward or back. Then, the cameraperson adjusts the tilt compensation. Tilt compensation keeps the camera from tilting too quickly forward or back. Essentially it is composed of a spring mechanism which places a variable amount of resistance on the tilting motion of the camera.
A critical problem exists in many tripods, caused by the center of gravity of tripod head. As the head is tilted, the center of gravity shifts, since the pivot point is in the center of the head, not higher up in the balance point of the camera. As a result, when the tilt compensation is set so that the camera remains balanced at, say a 30 degree tilt forward, the camera will start to drift if the camera is tilted significantly off the 30 degree point. The common solution to this problem is either for the cameraperson to compensate physically or to set the tilt compensation so tightly that tilting becomes prohibitively stiff. This significant design fault, taken for granted for so many years, has been corrected by Vinten with a feature they call Perfect Balance.
If you haven't explored tripods in awhile, you are in for a pleasant surprise when you try Vinten's Perfect Balance. It begins with a vernier type of dial mounted on the rear panel of the head, just above a red LED, numerical readout. Pressing a small button on the side of the head lights the LED and, incidentally, a light beneath the leveling bubble! I know several great cameramen who carry a small flashlight just for leveling the ball in a dark setting. The larger Vinten tripods feature a light-sensor that turns on the light automatically!
To actuate the Perfect Balance system, the camera operator tilts the camera slightly forward and twists the dial until the camera remains stable. After this single adjustment, the camera will remain stable at any angle of tilt, forward or back. If you change the configuration of the camera such that the weight distribution changes (a change in lens or batteries), you will need to reset the Perfect Balance, but you can record the number in the LED readout and use it to return to your previous configuration's balance point. Using the Perfect Balance system, angles up to 90 degrees (pointing straight down or up) may be achieved with no drift.
Each model Vinten head offers a wide range of weight specifications to fit the camera system you will most often use.
2. Whip Pan Capability
How many of you professional cameramen have ever made love to your tripod? Know what I mean? You're covering some action that offers opportunities for fast horizontal action - a basketball game, for instance. You're panning slowly to cover action up court when someone shoots a long pass down court. You try to whip the pan handle and your head's fluid suddenly gels up like a rock. Instinctively, one hands goes to the head to switch off pan drag while your legs wrap lovingly around the tripod to keep it from falling over. Or worse, you work with no pan drag at all, over panning your shots. This happens because all fluid pan heads tend to lock up when the fluid in the head cannot move fast enough around the internal baffles. It's a limitation in the design of most brands of heads. Vinten's heads, however, have newly designed baffles that permit sudden whip panning. While it is possible to create a lockup at the highest levels of pan drag, a camera operator may set the pan drag anywhere within the medium range and never experience a lock up while executing any speed of whip pan. A significant improvement on all other brands of heads.
3. Torsional Rigidity
A little known attributes of tripods is "torsional rigidity." The best way to explain this is to imagine your tripod as if it were made of rubber. Now, consider setting this rubber tripod into the earth, locking the head and then applying panning pressure to the pan handle. The twisting force against the pan handle would be absorbed by the rubber legs of the tripod, which would twist, storing up that energy until you let go of the handle. The result would be a powerful "snap back" action as the stored energy in the legs was released. The twisting motion is called, "torsion." Tripod designers, employing new, lightweight alloys and carbon fibers, which are flexible by nature, attempt to engineer as much torsional rigidity into a tripod as possible, in order to eliminate the snap back effect.
Torsional snap back can be seen, quite clearly, however, in most tripods, even though they are obviously not made of rubber. To test your equipment, examine the image of a camera equipped with a telephoto lens, mounted on your tripod. Using a moderate amount of pan drag, execute a long pan to a specific target and then release the pan handle. Most tripods will exhibit a small degree of snap back, such that your image will not center on the target, but will settle a few degrees back along the pan path. This is because your tripod's legs have stored up torsional energy which is released when you let go of the pan handle.
Vinten tripods do not exhibit snap back. Extensive design enhancements were engineered into Vinten legs which allow the use of lightweight materials, yet the legs retain the highest degree of torsional rigidity.
4. Quick Set Up
As in every part of industry, time is money. The ability to set up you gear quickly can make or break a camera operator's career. The legs of Vinten tripods feature locking knobs that require only a quarter turn to release or lock the telescoping extensions that llow the tripod to stand at its full (or any intermediate) height.
Furthermore, once released, the telescoping extension fall to their full length if the tripod head is held above the ground at the desired setup height. In essence, all an operator has to do is hold the head out with one hand while releasing the knobs with the other. As soon as the third knob is loose, a slight shake of the tripod will spread the legs slightly and the extensions will fall as the spreader carries them outward. With a little practice, operators may make an impressive display of their skills as the tripod is extended in a matter of seconds, the leg knobs re tightened and the camera mounted in record time.
Please note that most of these features, especially the "Perfect Balance" are not featured on the budget Pro 5 model, which is basically a re-badged Manfrotto tripod.
©2004 Nigel Cooper
Product: Professional tripod
Model: Vision 8
Reviewed by: Nigel Cooper
Review Date: 23-02-2004
Summary: While many operators have taken their tripods for granted for many years, it is time to reexamine the attributes of today's recent design enhancements. Vinten offers a great many of these enhancements, in a manner which is innovative and highly competitive in terms of price vs functions. Four specific enhancements are well worth considering; Perfect Balance, Whip Pan Capability, Torsional Rigidity and Quick Setup. There is no doubt in my mind that Vinten makes the most innovative and useful tripods on the market today. I enthusiastically encourage you to try these four specific improvements at your local dealer soon.
Pros: Build quality, superb fluid and balanced head, easy to set up to perfection.
Cons: Nothing really.