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Manfrotto 393 Long Lens head (Gimbal type)

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Old Tuesday 12th April 2005, 14:06   #1
Andy Bright
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Manfrotto 393 Long Lens head (Gimbal type)

Just taken delivery of the Manfrotto 393 head (Bogen 3421). Initial use proves this is more than just another 'poor man's Wimberley'.
Very solidly built from steel instead of a lightweight alloy (gallery regular Romy Ocon is using it with his Sigma 300-800mm). Super smooth in operation, the lens stays exactly where you point it, no matter what the angle.
I have only tried it with the dslr+lens (and my lens is not a heavyweight). I will be trying the digiscoping gear on it next.

More to follow, but an early review on my site HERE
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Old Sunday 1st May 2005, 10:41   #2
Romy Ocon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Bright
Just taken delivery of the Manfrotto 393 head (Bogen 3421). Initial use proves this is more than just another 'poor man's Wimberley'.
Very solidly built from steel instead of a lightweight alloy (gallery regular Romy Ocon is using it with his Sigma 300-800mm). Super smooth in operation, the lens stays exactly where you point it, no matter what the angle.
I have only tried it with the dslr+lens (and my lens is not a heavyweight). I will be trying the digiscoping gear on it next.

More to follow, but an early review on my site HERE

Hi Andy,

After several weeks of using the 3421 (with the Sigma 300-800 DG) in the field, I can say that I'm impressed with its performance.

Here's my impression posted at DPReview:

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/re...ssage=13110122

It pans smoothly, and it's very stable even for long shots with the Sigma 300-800 DG at relatively slow shutter speeds. Here are a couple of long shots taken with the gimbal head on Manfrotto 475B tripod.

1. Dollarbird, over 50 meters distance, 350D + Sigma 300-800 DG + Sigma 2x TC, 1600 mm, 1/160 sec, ISO 400, f/22:

http://www.pbase.com/liquidstone/ima...98840/original

2. Moonshot, 20D + Sigma 300-800 DG + Sigma 2x TC, 1600 mm, 1/100 sec, ISO 800, f/22

http://www.pbase.com/liquidstone/ima...58598/original

Cheers,

Romy
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Old Friday 3rd June 2005, 01:23   #3
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Besides the Wimberley you can now find trhe "Mongoose" and also the Hercules from Helix Manufacturing which is really made for the astronomical market but should work well with the lighter lenses nature photographers use.
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Old Wednesday 29th June 2005, 11:24   #4
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Andy, Just curious as to where you managed to buy the Manfrotto 393 head in the UK? Been checking all the usual suspects this morning and can't seem to find one.
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Old Wednesday 29th June 2005, 12:08   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Atoman
Andy, Just curious as to where you managed to buy the Manfrotto 393 head in the UK? Been checking all the usual suspects this morning and can't seem to find one.
Hi Atoman,

Warehouse Express (amongst others) have them listed, give them a call ...

Otherwise our old friend Google should help you track down a few more likely suppliers.

Cheers,

(another) Andy.
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Old Wednesday 29th June 2005, 15:42   #6
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Ok I'ts definately time to get some new reading glasses as I spent all morning trawling through warehouse express and completely missed them. That's computers for you, before I started working with computers I had superman style Xray vision, now my powers are fading.... this time next year I'll need a couple of Bigmas welded to my face in order to function at all.
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Old Wednesday 28th September 2005, 23:53   #7
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now my powers are fading.... this time next year I'll need a couple of Bigmas welded to my face in order to function at all.[/quote]
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... and supported, hopefully, by a pair of Manfrotto's 3421

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Old Thursday 6th October 2005, 15:30   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Atoman
Ok I'ts definately time to get some new reading glasses as I spent all morning trawling through warehouse express and completely missed them. That's computers for you, before I started working with computers I had superman style Xray vision, now my powers are fading.... this time next year I'll need a couple of Bigmas welded to my face in order to function at all.
I guess you've found one by now... but if not it's worth noting that Manfrotto actually list this as a 'long lens monopod bracket' so it's not always in teh most obvious place in peoples listings...

It looks like a very useful head, I was very tempted to get one for use with the camera, but was not sure how it would go with a scope (the lack of pan handle seemed strange for this). Has anyone used it with a scope, if so how did you get on with it?
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Old Monday 10th October 2005, 18:28   #9
Andy Bright
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Quote:
Originally Posted by postcardcv

It looks like a very useful head, I was very tempted to get one for use with the camera, but was not sure how it would go with a scope (the lack of pan handle seemed strange for this). Has anyone used it with a scope, if so how did you get on with it?
I find a scope fine on the 393 but the downer is that the high sides cn get in the way when you go to focus the scope at times. Controlling the pan & tilt by gripping the eyepiece isn't too awkward for me. However, I still prefer a fluid video head in general use with a scope. The 393 comes into it's own when you're controlling things with a nice large grip on a dslr camera.

For digiscoping, there's possibly more of a worry with the 393... you are holding the camera to pan & tilt and this will tend to put some stress upon the connection between camera and eyepiece (certainly the more fragile plastic links around).

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Andy
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Old Tuesday 11th October 2005, 17:26   #10
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[/quote]It looks like a very useful head, I was very tempted to get one for use with the camera, but was not sure how it would go with a scope (the lack of pan handle seemed strange for this). Has anyone used it with a scope, if so how did you get on with it?[/quote]


I would think a gimble type head would be better if you want to Digiscope as well.

I use a BWG similar to the King Cobra by Kirk and this works well with both DSLR and Scope. A pair of QR plates and I can change from one to the other in secs, practice enables you to know where the balance point is.

Hope this is of help

Pete
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Old Monday 5th December 2005, 13:28   #11
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Hi Andy. I was very happy to recently find your 393 article on your Digiscoped site. I've been delaying getting a large lens (Canon 500mm L IS) because of the extra expenses of a Wimberly just to safely handle it. The 393 sounds like the affordable answer to my dilemma. I'd have never found it on the Manfrotto/Bogen web site if I didn't KNOW it existed because of your article. With persistence, like some other folks have noted, I found it in the monopods sections. Whatever prompted Bogen/Manfrotto to hide it there? They might sell more of them if they made it public knowledge. Thanks for your info.
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Old Tuesday 7th February 2006, 11:07   #12
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Have just purchased a Manfrotto 393 for use with D70/Sigma 300mm f2.8/2xTC. It's incredibly smooth in use although I did have to adjust the tensioning of the panning knob (thanks for the review Romy).

Not sure what was meant by
Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Bright
Super smooth in operation, the lens stays exactly where you point it, no matter what the angle.
as the only way the lens will stay exactly where you point it is if you have a very steady hand or if you tighten one of the locking knobs on the side once you have the angle you want - both of which seem like common sense to me anyway. It may be possible to adjust the locking knobs so that the lens will hold a tilted position once released although I'm not convinced of this yet.

All in all an excellent product - and at less than a 1/4 of the cost of a full Wimberley head All I've got to do now is convince my other half that the smooth panning and 'weightlessness' of the lens on this head make another trip to Falsterbo an absolute necessity.

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Old Tuesday 7th February 2006, 16:36   #13
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Hi Martin,

Andy isn't alone in saying that.

This review http://www.nikonians.org/html/resour...393/393_1.html has the following to say:

Quote:
You can see [on this right side image] how, if well balanced, you can point it anywhere and just leave it there without locking it further - it will stay put - this is a great feature!
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Old Wednesday 8th February 2006, 07:52   #14
martin kitching
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Originally Posted by Keith Reeder
Hi Martin,

Andy isn't alone in saying that.

This review http://www.nikonians.org/html/resour...393/393_1.html has the following to say:
I still maintain that the only way to release the lens and to guarantee that it will remain at that angle is if the locking knobs are set quite tightly. Any movement of the lens in the vertical plane will almost certainly shift the centre of gravity from directly above the centre of the tripod/monopod and, if you had the lens balanced in the first place, it will try to return to the original position.

However, if you are lucky enough that the centre of gravity of your camera/lens lies exactly on the axis between the locking nuts then the lens will probably remain at any angle you move it to. If the centre of gravity is slightly above, or below, the axis then angling the lens will move the centre of gravity off-axis and destabilise the balanced position.

Now, where's my drill..................

martin

Last edited by martin kitching : Wednesday 8th February 2006 at 10:27.
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Old Wednesday 8th February 2006, 10:42   #15
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Hi Martin

I too can get the lens to stick at any angle without tensioning the locking knobs. The trick is to adjust the position of the lens by sliding the QR plate forwards or backwards until the centre of gravity is in the correct place. When I swap between the 1ds Mark II and the 350D on my Sigma 500mm the centre of gravity of the lens / camera changes quite dramatically but it only takes a matter of seconds to loosen the clamp around the QR plate, slide it to the correct position and re-tighten the clamp.
Sean

Quote:
Originally Posted by martin kitching
I still maintain that the only way to release the lens and to guarantee that it will remain at that angle is if the locking knobs are set quite tightly. Any movement of the lens in the vertical plane will almost certainly shift the centre of gravity from directly above the centre of the tripod/monopod and, if you had the lens balanced in the first place, it will try to return to the original position.

However, if you are lucky enough that the centre of gravity of your camera/lens lies exactly on the axis between the locking nuts then the lens will probably remain at any angle you move it to. If the centre of gravity is slightly above, or below, the axis then angling the lens will move the centre of gravity off-axis and destabilise the balanced position.

Now, where's my drill..................

martin
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Old Wednesday 8th February 2006, 11:39   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeanKP
Hi Martin

I too can get the lens to stick at any angle without tensioning the locking knobs. The trick is to adjust the position of the lens by sliding the QR plate forwards or backwards until the centre of gravity is in the correct place. When I swap between the 1ds Mark II and the 350D on my Sigma 500mm the centre of gravity of the lens / camera changes quite dramatically but it only takes a matter of seconds to loosen the clamp around the QR plate, slide it to the correct position and re-tighten the clamp.
Sean
Hi Sean

Sliding the QR plate forwards/backwards only works for the balance in one plane and is very easy to do. If however, the centre of gravity doesn't sit exactly between the locking knobs vertically it is almost impossible to get the lens to balance when at an angle. For some lenses this will be a problem, for some it won't. Try changing the height of the central 'U' and you should find that it no longer balances as any adjustment will shift the centre of gravity off the axis of rotation. Adjusting the height of the 'U' has meant that I can get the lens to remain at a set angle without fully tensioning the locking knobs although some friction is necessary. Still an excellent bit of kit though

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Old Wednesday 8th February 2006, 13:17   #17
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The ability to let go of the camera/lens and it remains solid (and safe) is down to friction AND balance, yes the tilt knobs need tightening up pretty tightly but you should still be able to move everything smoothly with gently pressure on the camera grip... then let go of it and it will be totally secure. You shouldn't need to mess with the tilt knobs very often, if at all.
I not sure you're getting the most out of this head yet, but with practise, I'm sure you will. In anycase, another 393 convert by the looks of things.

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Old Wednesday 8th February 2006, 13:39   #18
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Add me to the list of satisfied users! I use my 393 (3421 here in the states) with a Sigma 500 4.5 and 20D and usually a 1.4x tc. It's an excellent gimbal for the price. Now I just need a better tripod to support it (Gitzo 1325 soon I hope). I'm currently working on a flash bracket for it that bolts into the additional tapped holes in the central U.
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Old Wednesday 8th February 2006, 17:02   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy Bright
The ability to let go of the camera/lens and it remains solid (and safe) is down to friction AND balance, yes the tilt knobs need tightening up pretty tightly but you should still be able to move everything smoothly with gently pressure on the camera grip... then let go of it and it will be totally secure.
Thanks Andy, that was the point that I was making. There are reviews, however, which seem to hint that it is simply the balance which holds the lens in place. It would, if the centre of gravity was the pivot point in both the horizontal and vertical planes. Without the very smooth friction provided by the locking knobs this would lead to the lens moving rapidly in one direction if knocked though. Haven't tested its capabilities with flying raptors yet but plan to do so very soon.

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Old Wednesday 8th February 2006, 17:49   #20
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I've never tried a 393, but I have had a fiddle with a Wimberley gimbal head, loaded with a 20D and a 600mm bazooka (at Cresswell).

My understanding is that although the design is different, the way these heads work is effectively the same.

With less pressure than the weight of my hand alone, I could move the camera/lens to any position - and I mean, one finger, no sensation of resistance or friction - and as soon as I took my hand away, everything just stopped exactly where it was, regardless of position.

That was down to balance I was told, and it was most impressive!



Based on the oft-used description of the 393 as a "poor mans' Wimberley (with the similarity of function that implies), I'm pretty sure that some people really do mean that, with the 393 properly set up, balance alone will keep the camera/lens where you leave it...

Obviously there has to be some friction in the set-up, but is it still getting lens the lens/camera's COG just right that allows gimbal heads to do this.
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Old Thursday 9th February 2006, 02:44   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Keith Reeder
Based on the oft-used description of the 393 as a "poor mans' Wimberley (with the similarity of function that implies), I'm pretty sure that some people really do mean that, with the 393 properly set up, balance alone will keep the camera/lens where you leave it...
They do, it will, and I've already described/explained the requirements for this to happen. As you've used a Wimberley head you should realise that if the lens can be moved with so little pressure then, while balanced, it is critically unstable. Setting the head up with the right amount of friction and balance is critical. Increasing friction will increase the pressure required to adjust the angle of the lens but will also make it less likely to be moved by 'accidental' pressure. With lower friction there is also a greater risk of the photographer moving the lens while taking the shot. Using the 393 with the locking nuts set quite tight it still requires only minimal effort to move the lens. I can honestly say that I will never go back to using a pan and tilt head for photography. The great test will come in July when I mount the 393 on a monopod and take it out on the first of this year's Northumberland pelagics (details to be posted soon on 'Sea Watch' forum and 'Northumbrian Birding' thread).

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Old Sunday 30th July 2006, 11:05   #22
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Hi everyone,

Ive only recently come across this piece of kit the Manfrotto 393, and was wondering if it would work effectively with a Canon 400 f/5.6 lens, or would this be 'overkill' due to this lens not being so big? At the moment Im using a 128RCNAT head on a Manfrotto 190 tripod (green with black rubber grips). My camera is a Canon 20D.

Would appreciate someones observation,

Thanks,
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Old Sunday 30th July 2006, 17:12   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tracker
Hi everyone,

Ive only recently come across this piece of kit the Manfrotto 393, and was wondering if it would work effectively with a Canon 400 f/5.6 lens, or would this be 'overkill' due to this lens not being so big? At the moment Im using a 128RCNAT head on a Manfrotto 190 tripod (green with black rubber grips). My camera is a Canon 20D.

Would appreciate someones observation,

Thanks,
Hi Tom sorry I cannot comment on the 393 as I have never used it. But what I can tell you is the 400 F5.6 works very well with a gimble type head.

I use it on a BWG head similar to the King Cobra and I wouldn't go back to a normal pan & tilt head. I even use this head with my scope (Swarovski 80).

Hope this is of some help.

Pete
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Old Sunday 30th July 2006, 17:40   #24
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Thanks for the suggestion, Pete. Not sure of the price of the gimbal type head, but I quite liked the price tag on the 393.

I'll check out your suggestion, thanks
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Old Sunday 30th July 2006, 17:48   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tracker
Thanks for the suggestion, Pete. Not sure of the price of the gimbal type head, but I quite liked the price tag on the 393.

I'll check out your suggestion, thanks
Tom I am not suggesting you go for a gimbal like mine just saying that a gimbal works well with that lens. I think there is a big difference in price mine cost 300+ I believe the 393 is quite a bit cheaper and should work just as well. Best bet if poss try one out.

Best of luck

Pete
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