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Better Balance: Evaluating Vinten’s Vision blue5 Pan-Tilt Head

Vinten is a well known manufacturer of tripods and pan-tilt heads, with a reputation for quality products. The range of camera support systems the company builds is broad, from lightweight systems for field use with small cameras to heavy, remote-controlled studio systems.

Camera operator Tom Guilmette with a Vision blue5

I received the company’s new Vision blue5 pan-tilt head, coupled with a model 3819-3 75mm two-stage aluminum tripod. It an elegant and lightweight system that uses a new Vinten development called “Perfect Balance.”

Features
The Vision blue5 pan-tilt head is intended for medium-sized cameras; its capacity range is 12 to 26.5 lb. It sports the usual controls for pan and tilt drag, though these controls are “infinitely adjustable” instead of being set in discrete steps. Where a more basic product might have settings of 1-2-3-4 and so forth, Vision blue5 can be set to somewhere between two and three, for example, if that’s what works best for you.

In addition to infinitely adjustable pan and tilt drag, the Vision blue5 offers a sliding quick-disconnect plate that balances the weight on top of the head. Vinten suggests balancing the weight so that it just starts to tilt down, then adjusting the head’s Perfect Balance counterbalance control so that the payload can be tilted at any angle (±90° tilt range) and remain there.

The Vision blue5 head comes with a lightweight pan arm that can be attached on either side of the head and a sheet of instructions explaining how to properly adjust the Perfect Balance feature.

Vinten Vision blue5 with Sony PMW-F3 camera

The model 3819-3 tripod I tested is made from aluminum and has a floor spreader. The tripod has two stages, with a minimum height of 28” to the pan-tilt head’s top platform and a maximum height of 66.5”. The stages are locked in place with triangular knobs that Vinten calls Pozi-Loc leg clamps.

The floor spreader is fastened with strong rubber loops that double as feet for the tripod. Removing the loops and the spreader exposes steel spikes on the bottom of the tripod for use on soft surfaces.

The Vision blue5 head and 3819-3 tripod arrived in a sturdy and padded cloth bag that’s suitable for shipping as baggage or tossing in the trunk of a car.

In Use
The Vinten Vision blue5 and 3819-3 head seemed a perfect combination to me; however, although the components look relatively small and the entire system is reasonably lightweight, this setup requires a camera with some heft in order to get the Perfect Balance counterbalance adjustment dialed in properly. You really do need a camera/equipment payload that weighs at least 10 lb. to configure the pan-tilt head appropriately.

With its ball mount and heavy leveling knob, it’s easy to get the head level. Vinten says that the cool blue LED on the bubble level enhances the viewability of the level in both darkness and daylight.

Vision blue5 goes on location with professional videographer and mountain bike racer David Jaquin

Once I got it set up and leveled, I used the sliding quick-disconnect plate to balance the camera as Vinten recommends, then set the Perfect Balance counterbalance adjustment. With the tilt drag set where I liked it, the tilt stayed wherever I put it—in fact, I was able to tilt it straight up or down and it remained in place without backlash or drift. The Perfect Balance knob was stiff at the ends of its range, the only downside to its function.

Everything about the Vision blue5 whispers “high quality,” including the silky pan-and-tilt drag controls. Lesser pan-tilt heads click into discrete settings for pan-and-tilt drag, then lurch to the next setting. The Vision blue5 was simply smooth wherever I set it, and the only thing that changed was the amount of drag. It was a classy performance, if that can be said about a pan-tilt head.

I took the Vision blue5 and 3819-3 combination to a park to get some shots of spring flowers and associated wildlife. With a combined weight of around 13 lb., the system was easy to carry the half mile or so I needed to take it.

I panned smoothly to follow insects and birds as they visited flowers. Much of this was at maximum zoom, and the Vinten system kept the shots steady and smooth. There was no backlash or twisting torque from pans with this combination.

Some of the birds returned to a large birdhouse, where they hopped around seemingly at random. Although the birdhouse was above my position, the head’s counterbalance feature held the tilt without drifting, even with the fairly light drag control settings I used. That’s a great feature for keeping a camera on unpredictable subjects like wildlife.
 

The 3819-3 tripod worked well with the Vision blue5 head. The two-stage legs can be locked at any height, so setting up on a slope was not a problem. The bottom locking knob on each leg is close to the rubber locking loop for the spreader, so twisting the knob with my fat fingers was a little tricky.

Vinten says that the Vision blue5 pan-tilt head will work over a wide range of temperatures. I can’t confirm that, as I had it for only a few days and the weather was fine. I was impressed with this unit’s features and overall level of quality.

Summary
Vinten’s Perfect Balance feature is new to me and I was impressed at how it will hold a camera in exactly the position you want. Normally I tilt my camera and then dial in just enough tilt lock to hold the camera there, which then means that I have to fight the lock some when I inevitably have to move the camera.

The Vision blue5 eliminates that annoying pan-tilt head problem, which will be a major selling point for many shooters. And let’s not forget the Vinten 3819-3 tripod, which is a pretty fine set of sticks. I was a little sad to see this system go back to Vinten, but such is the lot of the reviewer.

Score:


Product: Vinten Vision blue5
Pros: Solid, smooth and infinitely adjustable for any camera weighing 12 to 25 lb.
Cons: Pricey, and it may not balance perfectly with DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, which are too lightweight for this pan/tilt system.
Bottom Line: You can pay less for a good tripod, but it won't be this smooth and adjustable, or have this build quality.
MSRP: $2,900 (pan/tilt head, tripod and pan handle)