Here are a few infos I stumbled on :
COPYRIGHT 2005 DMG World Media Ltd.
The companies I have in mind are Panther, Sachtler and Vinten. Since the beginnings of television, Vinten has provided excellent camera support for studio and OB applications. As the camera and lens weighed, at that time, some 80 kg the main issue in designing the pan and tilt heads for such cameras was 'counterbalance'. Stabilising the camera when tilted has since then been Vinten's domain, with smooth panning being achieved by a friction device combined with the mass of the camera equipment.
Another type of camera support is needed if a 16mm portable movie camera is to be operated. The cameraman Wendelin Sachtler looked for it and he found himself--with the help of friends--designing it. A 15 kg camera needs counterbalancing when tilted, but more important for smooth movement is perfect damping of vibrations caused by the operator, wind etc. And no jerks are acceptable when panning. Friction based systems need a certain input force to overcome the 'stiffness' at the beginning of movement and tend to 'swing back' at the end of any movement. Whilst a friction system combined with heavy mass can control the movement, with a lightweight camera in most cases the result is a jerk. Sachtler's design philosophy is therefore predominantly concentrating on friction free--so called 'fluid damping'. The word 'fluid' characterises more the fluent feel of the movement rather than fluid being involved with damping system, which is definitively not the case. All modern systems avoid liquids and use grease instead.
The Panther solution
Panther perfected dollies and cranes to support the moving camera, predominantly aiming to allow for smooth horizontal 'rides' and jerk free 'flights' of a camera. Now, in view of HD and HDCAM, DVCam and all the other compact and portable video cameras, it was a logical step forward for Panther to add pan and tilt heads with good tripods to their range of camera supports.
Besides a series of traditionally designed fluid heads for DV, ENG and EFP/Film cameras, with the friction free 'Sachtler style' damping and counterbalance, the first of a new design is the Fluid Head X15. In a new way it combines the advantages of continuously adjustable counterbalance and continuously adjustable friction-free fluid damping which can also be preset in defined, reproducible steps. Panther is calling this feature step & spin.
Let us look inside the damping system first. Imagine two cones fitting into each other, one is static and the other one rotates like the pan or tilting part of the head. In-between the cones you make sure there is a gap, small but ensuring that the cones do not touch each other. Now put viscous grease in-between the gap, vary the gap and make sure the gap is always filled with grease. As a matter of fact the gap varies from 1/10 to 6/10 of a millimetre which results in heavy to light fluid damping. In addition the selector--a ring around the horizontal and vertical part of the head--has defined click stops, numbered 1 to 12, which allow for precisely adjusting the horizontal and vertical drag to the same amount. This is an essential feature for diagonal camera movement. The system is based on a well established patent, but the way of using the idea is new and is protected itself under a new patent. The recipe for the grease was nearly forgotten, but now the formula is exclusively revitalised.
For the continuously adjustable counterbalance, a complete new technology is used. The goal was to allow--from minimum to maximum load--the full range of +/- 90[degrees] angle of tilt and offer identical performance in both forward and backward tilting. As with many effective solutions, the one used in the X 15 Fluid Head from Panther is simple but protected by a patent. Please imagine a bar shaped plate which is supported by two sets of springs. On top of the plate rotates the axle of the vertical part of the head. By tilting the camera forward or backward, the cam pushes on the plate and gets pushed back in the same way no matter what the direction is. To save space and weight, the assembly is somewhat more complex than the principle. The cam is not pushing, it is dragging on the plate and it is located between the springs. However it works the same as the principle--simple. To adjust the power of the springs, one has to know that the more one presses a spring the more the resulting force. As long as one makes sure that the spring does not become flat, the tension can be varied by the preset of the springs length. The shorter the spring the more power one gets out of it. By turning the knob for setting the balance at the X 15 Fluid Head one moves a ramp, which varies the initial length of the springs.
Within the main assembly, instead of spiral springs a disk type is used, because of its performance at the end of its maximum power. Spiral springs continuously increase their force whereas disk springs match better the required counterbalance in the range 80[degrees]-90[degrees] of tilt without additional correctives.
Bringing it all together, one concludes that a new standard has been set. The further features are a sliding balance plate with quick lock for the camera, illuminated bubble level, telescopic pan bar, prepared to accept two pan bars for EFP use, positive locks for pan and tilt, durable aluminium housing, black synthetic coating and standard 100mm bowl to fit any professional tripod of the customer's choice.
Needles to say, Panther is making suitable tripods of very high stability with new features for their entire range. The range starts with the Fluid Head T 4 and T 6 for compact DV cameras (74 mm bowl) up to the T 10 (100mm bowl) for general ENG recorders. The L 40 is a modular system which can also be used to add the 3rd (roll) axle to an existing head. Tripods are made from the combination of carbon fibre tubes and connectors out of aluminium with tight tolerances for high stability and anti-twist. All double extension tripods do feature double tube designs in both stages, another element for extra stability.
In summary, we have not invented the tripod but have put together an utmost appetising menu of most valuable ingredients.
COPYRIGHT 2005 DMG World Media Ltd.
If anybody could compare this head to some other RedOne compatible heads like :
- Sachtler Panorama plus (with Speed Lock CF HD tripod)
- O'connor 1030 HD (with adequate tripod)
The Panther System X15 SX1500 is listed here as well:
Note that here it includes the C100/2 HD tripod which are different from the C75 tripod included here:
this explain the price difference I think
I happen to live 800 klms from the nearest shop where I could check this myself, so anybody with better access is welcomed to comment. Especially Red Team drag shooters.:)