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Friday, March 1, 2013

NEW Vinten Vision blue3 and Vinten blueBridge - Review & Video

Vinten welcomes a new tripod (center) to their popular Vision blue range
Introduction

In 2011 Vinten released the Vision blue tripod (review here) which is aimed at the top end corporate market and for professional broadcasters looking for true Vinten performance and quality support for their lightweight camcorders. The Vision blue became very popular in no time and they actually sold faster then Vinten could produce them. They were selling like hotcakes (but it's probably better not to eat the tripod) and it became difficult to find them in stock anywhere. Apparently filmmakers around the globe had been patiently waiting for a tripod that incorporates all the bells and whistles you'll find on higher range Vinten products, but now specially tailored for their professional lightweight camcorders and fully accessorised DSLR's weighting between 4.6 to 11 lb (2.1 to 5 kg). More and more people learned about the great capabilities of the Vision blue tripod and began to ask for the same performance quality of the Vision blue, but with a higher load capacity. Vinten listened and released the Vision blue5 at the beginning of 2012, to support cameras ranging from 12.1 to 26.5 lb (5.5 to 12 kg). Word kept spreading and a new market surfaced. Asking for the now famous Vision blue tripod range quality, but this time for a slightly different (in between) payload capacity. That's why Vinten decided to add a new tripod to their popular Vision blue range: the Vinten Vision blue3! Ideal for today's intermediate weight and highly accessorized camcorders ranging from 6.6 to 14.6 lb (3.0 to 6.6 kg).

Watch the video to see it in actionVinten Vision blue3 and Vinten blueBridge in Amsterdam

The Vinten Vision blue3 with its siblings
Blue What?
But there's more good news to share and this could also be of interest to people who already own a Vision blue tripod. Vinten designed a completely new accessory for the Vision blue range which has a special power. Let me first show it to you before talking about it.


Confused? I hope not! This simple and very handy accessory is called the blueBridge. The Vision blueBridge works by giving an additional offset (45mm) of the payload from the tilt axis. The counterbalance system is required to provide more output per unit weight of payload, and therefore the total balance capability of the head is shifted downwards. This enables you to use even lighter camcorders then specified on your Vision blue tripod. For example, when you use the blueBridge on the Vinten Vision blue3 it will 'bridge' the gap between the Vision blue and Vision blue3 capacity. So you actually have two Vision blue tripods for the price of one with a load capacity starting from about 4.6 all the way up to 14.6 lb (2.1 to 6.6 kg)! And when you're using it on your existing Vinten Vision blue tripod, you can now use cameras weighting below the minimum 4.6 lb (2.1 kg) required in order to get Perfect Balance. I told you it had a special power!
Underside of the Blue Bridge
The blueBridge mounts directly to the underside of your camera. You can mount the blueBridge in both directions to the camera, so you will always be able to get Perfect Balance with your camera setup. It's very cleverly engineered that way. It's rock solid, very light constructed and looks very slick. I'm very sorry I had to use the word 'slick' for this, but if anything can pull it off, it's the blueBridge. One word of advise though. Due to the slanted design of the blueBridge you have to make sure your camera is correctly balanced on top of it. Otherwise your camera might want to tip forward (or backwards depending on the center of gravity) when you put the camera down somewhere with the blueBridge still attached to the bottom. This happened to me the first day and I felt kinda silly for not compensating the slanted design when I mounted the camera to the blueBridge. This also made it more difficult to slide the camera on the head and to take it off.

The blueBridge works the same way as the standard Vision blue mounting plate. You simply slide the blueBridge on the head and proceed balancing like you did before in order to get Perfect Balance. Stops on either side of the head will make sure your camera can't fall off while balancing. If you are planning to buy one of the Vision Blue tripods, it might be a wise investment to also buy the blueBridge and have this accessory available to you at all times. Please note that the blueBridge won't work with other brand tripods. So unless you like owning a piece of Vinten equipment to proudly display on your desk, it might be superfluous to buy one. If you do however own a Vinten Vision blue tripod, I consider this to be a must buy. It's pretty cool that a simple add-on like this enables you to increase the payload range to this extend.

The Vinten Vision blue3 head
The Vision blue3 Head
From the outside all three Vision blue tripods look alike, but the inside of each head is different and determines the amount of weight it can work best with. Vinten is famous because of their award winning Perfect Balance technology and the Vision blue3 incorporates this unique infinitely adjustable counterbalance system, just like its blue siblings. You can perfectly dial in the amount of counterbalance needed for your specific camera weight. Whenever you let go of the pan bar the camera will hold it's current position. No questions asked... The big advantage of this technology is that you can capture perfect shots with minimal effort and have easy and consistent movement of your camera throughout the tilting range. Thanks to the Perfect Balance technology, drag control isn't needed anymore to help and balance your camera, but instead can be used for shot framing.
Vintens famous Perfect Balance technology is embedded in the Vision blue3 head
The Vision blue3 is a "don't think just shoot" tripod head. It feels very natural to work with. You simply dial in the amount of drag you need (infinite adjustable so you have precise control over your camera... no fixed settings!) and you can start recording immediately. And even when you find yourself in the middle of a shoot and the action is suddenly changing, you can rely on the LF Drag technology for silky smooth movement and precise framing, to be able to keep tracking your subject.

So how does this work? Let's say you have dialed in a lot of drag to the pan and tilt. You will now be able to get a very slow and consistent camera move. Without the LF Drag you would have a problem if you needed to speed up the movement, because the drag would keep slowing you down. This is where the LF Drag Technology comes into play. When you speed up the movement the drag will decrease accordingly, making it possible to create a faster panning or tilting motion with the head, without having to change the drag setting first. And when you slow down the pan or tilt movement again, the drag will increase very subtle and gradually and you can continue to create your perfect smooth movement with the camera. The reverse is also true. When you have little drag applied to the head you will still be able to create very slow and precise movements with your camera, where heads without the LF Drag technology would struggle. It's almost like the Vision blue3 understands what you're trying to do and is constantly adjusting to your needs. And that's what I meant by saying it's a "don't think just shoot" tripod head. You have complete control at any level of movement without compromise. If you would like to know more about Vinten's LF Drag technology, please have a look here, especially if you like diagrams as much as I do.

Oh and before I forget, one of my most favorite things on the Vision blue heads: there's an illuminated leveling bubble that will light up with a fantastic bright blue color for about 10 seconds when you press a small blue button on the back of the head. The blue color isn't just for show, it gives you the highest possible contrast for easier leveling the head in low-light situations. I've said it before: use at your own discretion, since it's nice seeing the blue light on...

All of these great innovations are embedded in the Vision blue3 head and make working with it fun and effortlessly. You don't have to worry about anything, just take your camera and tripod with you and start capturing beautiful footage. Vinten is all about control and it puts you back in the drivers seat.
Complete Vinten Vision blue3 system
Two-stage Aluminium Pozi-Loc tripod and floor spreader
The Vinten Vision blue3 I was able to try out came with a very robust Vinten floor spreader. Just like the Vision blue and the Vision blue5 you can buy the system with either the floor spreader or the lightweight mid-level spreader. Although I've been using mid-level spreaders for the last couple of years, I was actually surprised to find out I really enjoyed working with a floor spreader again. Perhaps my opinion was colored by having to work with inferior legs and spreaders in the past and they just turned out to be a lethal combination. Figuratively speaking of course. The Vinten floor spreader and two-stage aluminium Pozi-Loc tripod (3819-3) are a great match. It only takes a few seconds to extend the legs to their full height and vica versa. The whole setup creates a very rigid base, ensuring smooth camera movement. I cannot emphasize enough how strong this setup really is. Thanks to the Pozi-Loc system there's no slipping of the legs when putting a lot of weight on the tripod. I'm not sure, but I wouldn't be surprised if you could actually sit on this tripod, although I doubt it will be very comfortable. The specifications are telling me that the legs can hold a weight up to 55.1 lbs (25 kg). That's why you can also use a slider on the Vision blue3 tripod with ease.
Slider is mounted directly on the head
The two-stage Pozi-Loc tripod with floor spreader provides a very sturdy base
The pictures above are showing the Vinten Vision blue3 with quit some weight on top. Thanks to the floor spreader the whole system stands firmly on the ground and it won't tip over. Yes, I actually tried this... But the floor spreader has one more trick up his sleeve. It can be extended so your camera can get closer to the ground. Around 5.7" (14.5 cm) lower then with the mid-level spreader in place. This will help you to get some really nice low-angle shots. You can see an example of this in the "Vinten Vision blue3 in Amsterdam" video you'll find below. Maximum height of both tripod setups is about the same when you use the hidden feature of the mid-level spreader to squeeze out a little bit of extra height. But this will also make it a bit unstable. So the floor spreader gives you a more rigid base, lower minimum height and about the same maximum height as the mid-level spreader, but with more stability. The mid-level spreader on the other hand can be used on all sorts of terrain making it very flexible.
 Lowest position possible with the floor spreader in use  
If you're not entirely sure which one of the two spreader options is the right one for you (since price is also the same), then I have a simple buying guide. If you're often shooting on uneven terrains, the mid-level spreader would be your best option. When you are mostly shooting inside or on even ground, go for the floor spreader. If you are still uncertain, I have another solution. Get the Vinten Vision blue3 with floor spreader (3363-3) and buy the mid-level spreader (V4032-0001) separately with a set of three anti-skid rubber feet (3378-902SP). The other way around would cost you a little bit more. Changing between these two spreaders options is very easy, so you will end up with two great tripod options at all time!

The good the bad and the ugly
I've talked about the 'good' of the Vision blue3 and since this is a beautiful tripod I think anyone will agree we can skip the 'ugly', so we are left with the 'bad'. Well to be honest, I couldn't find anything 'bad' about the tripod. I absolutely love it. But I did notice two things that might be worth sharing. There's a small ring attached to the center of the spreader that makes it easier to pick up the spreader and helps to quickly close the legs together. One time this little ring got caught between the spreader parts when I planted it down on the ground and as a result the spreader didn't lie completely flat on the ground. Yes I know... the horror! Of course this isn't a major concern, but its still worth mentioning I guess? Second thing is about the pan and tilt locks. When you lock off the head you have to this pretty firmly, otherwise it will still allow for small movements when using a lot of force on the pan bar. This also isn't a major concern since the only time you need to use the pan and tilt lock is when you need to mount or unmount the camera onto the head and when you're balancing it. And even a slight twist on the tilt knob is more then sufficient to be able to do this. I've always been used to locking off heads thanks to former *slight* accidents with inferior tripods. But since I've been using the Vision blue I actually rarely use these locks at all anymore. But there you have it. The good the bad and the ugly all in one place. How convenient!

Video: "Vinten Vision blue3 in Amsterdam
Thanks to Vinten I was able to try out the Vision blue3 tripod before it was officially released and take it out for a spin. I was also very curious to see how the new blueBridge would perform in the wild and decided to take them both with me on a trip to Amsterdam. You can see the resulting video here:


Perhaps needless to say, but I really enjoyed filming with the Vision blue3 and blueBridge in Amsterdam! Everything was filmed using the Sony NEX-FS100 and all the BTS footage was captured using a NEX-5N. The beginning of this video was shot using the Vinten Vision blue5 with the FS100 mounted on the Pocket Dolly. For some of these shots I could even use this setup to act like a mini jib and to control everything by simply panning and tilting the Vision blue5 head.


Filming the opening sequence for "Vinten Vision blue3 in Amsterdam"
Conclusion
A tripod is a very important investment. If you take good care of it you'll be able to use it for many years. There's nothing digital about it, so it won't be outdated when new cameras flood the market. Cameras come and go but tripods are forever. That's why it's important to choose a high quality tripod that will provide you with reliable support. The Vinten Vision blue3 is such a tripod in the 6.6 to 14.6 lb (3.0 to 6.6 kg) weight range and can be your truthful companion for many years to come. Over the years Vinten has proven itself to be a reliable partner to provide excellent camera support with their innovative and award winning technologies. So when you find yourself in need of a new tripod please take all of this into consideration. By now you've probably noticed I'm very enthusiastic about the new Vision blue3 and the whole Vision blue range in general and that's why I also chose a Vinten Vision blue tripod to support my camera. But don't just take my word for it, be my guest and ask around. There are many Vision blue owners around the world who are happy to share their experiences with you and they will all tell you the same thing: It's an amazing tripod for an affordable price that can't be beaten in it's class and you will absolutely love it!            

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About Vinten

Vinten® is a global market leader in camera support technology for broadcast professionals and videographers. The company’s wide range of equipment enables camera operators to work the way they choose without compromise and includes pan and tilt heads, tripods and pedestals suitable for ENG, EFP, OB and studio environments.
Vinten provides the most innovative, intuitive camera support products available by working closely with today’s professionals and understanding their changing needs.
Along with other leading brands in the broadcast and videographer industry, Vinten is part of Vitec Videocom, a Vitec Group company.  For more information on Vinten, visit www.vinten.com

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