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Manfrotto 393 Gimbal Head - Video Demo/Review (1 Viewer)

tdodd

Just call me Tim
I recently bought a Manfrotto 393 gimbal head, as I have no plans to pay Wimberley prices. I used it yesterday for the first time in the field and it seemed to work very nicely. I shot a short video just to demo the head so people can see how it works in practice....

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTBslHjfrtY

If you have any questions then please feel free to ask :)
 

Kevin Conville

yardbirder
Thanks for the video, looks interesting. You use the cradle in the down or U position and Manfrotto shows the cradle above the lens. Why do you suppose they show it used this way and have you used it overhead?
 

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RJM

Don't Worry, Be Happy!
When supported from above the lens takes less force to move. I believe you may get a more user friendly angle when pointing to the extremes too.

cheers,
Rick
 

tdodd

Just call me Tim
There is a school of thought on this which, now I think about it, seems to me to be misguided. The school of thought is - When you have a longer lens than my 100-400, in order to maintain balance the camera body is positioned further back, behind the head. When you want to aim (very) high for an overhead BIF or the moon, for example, with the U orientation the body will hit the head and prevent you going as high as you might like. By inverting the "yoke" you gain some height to the system and a bit more room to swing the camera higher.

My issue with this is that the camera/lens needs to pivot about the centre of gravity, and as well as fore/aft balance adjustment you also need up/down balance adjustment, so that the equilibrium is not upset as you tilt the system. What that basically means is that the camera/lens need to be at the same height whether suspended from above or supported from below. However, when you place the yoke at the top, you are moving more of the mass upwards, which means that the camera/lens will actually have to sit a little lower in order to maintain vertical balance. Thus the intended purpose of suspending from above is actually self-defeating.

Now, when using a scope, which is relatively short and light, compared to a 1D3, flash and 600/4, by inverting the "U", as I said above, you will actually end up with the scope sitting a little lower, because the mass of the "U" is now above. That could be an advantage when using an angled eyepiece, as the scope will be at a better height for comfortable viewing without needing the tripod legs to be collapsed an inch or two.

As far as one configuration being easier to move, I don't see that at all. If your system is perfectly balanced, which is the aim, then it should be equally easy one way or the other.

I think the benefit, if any, of inverted configuration for photographers might come if/when you find you can't get satisfactory balance in the conventional "U" shape. Your height adjustment is limited to three pre-drilled holes. Thus height adjustment is a little crude and you may not be able to find perfect balance with the "U" shape. It may be that by inverting the yoke the weight distribution is altered and you may find that you can get a better balance, or very close. This is where I can see the Wimberley system offering a benefit, where it appears that you have the ability for infinite height adjustment with a sliding system rather than a series of holes.

EDIT : Actually, having taken another look at the image above, it might also be the case that the inverted "U" provides a little more space beside the lens, which might make access to lens switches easier, depending upon whereabouts they are positioned. So far I am more than happy with the more conventional "U" configuration. As the attached picture shows, I have plenty of access to switches and the camera is well clear of hitting anything, even if rotated to vertical. Maybe other lens configurations will be more problematic.

EDIT 2 : I did try setting it up overhead as well but found no benefit, and in fact it was a little harder to get close to perfect balance with the "U" inverted. On a different combination of camera/lens/flash etc. the results might well end up reversed. Also, as I have added the Manfrotto 323 QR adapter, it happens to be a bit easier to fit and release the camera with things the way I have them, with gravity assistance when fitting the camera.
 

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Kevin Conville

yardbirder
Thanks for the report Tim. It was well written and explained. It appears the 393 is an effective cost saving alternative to a Wimberley, for many.

Manfrotto has, for years, provided well thought out, utilitarian, yet high quality and affordable products. :t:
 
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postcardcv

Super Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
Thanks for the report Tim. It was well written and explained. It appears the 393 is an effective cost saving alternative to a Wimberley, for many.

Manfrotto has, for years, provided well thought out, utilitarian, yet high quality and affordable products. :t:

I thought that this might be a good cheap gimbal when I first saw it a few years back. I was able to get hold of one to try for a couple of weeks before committing to buy. To be honest I was massively unimpressed, don't get me wrong the movement is very smooth and it's well made, but I struggled to dampen vibrations enough when taking shots (perhaps less of an issue with an IS lens). I did wonder if I'd got a dud head so sent it back to Manfrotto explaining my issue and got a replacement. Unfortunately the replacement was just as bad so I gave up on gimbals and went back to my old 501 video head. I have since moved to Jobu gimbals, the Black Widow LW is ~£200 so almost twice the price of the Manfrotto 393, but less than half the price of a Wimberley. It is rock solid (a world away from either the 393 or the 501), I doubt that there's a better value gimbal on the market.
 

tdodd

Just call me Tim
It's early days to comment on vibration. So far I haven't noticed a problem, but I've only been out with it once. I didn't get any worthwhile birdy shots, but I've attached an unedited 100% crop of shot with my 50D and 100-400 lens, supported by this head, at 400mm, 1/250, f/8, 100 ISO. I'm happy with this degree of sharpness. Some PP would help to liven it up a bit.

EDIT : I haven't read through it, but here is an old thread about this head - http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=31488.

EDIT 2 : And if it's good enough for Romy's Sigmonster I'm sure I will get by OK ;) - http://www.pbase.com/liquidstone/image/73440057; http://www.cinema5d.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=3257&p=21894
 

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postcardcv

Super Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
I know that a lot of people get on well with this head and in some situations I found that it worked well. When initially testing it I was very impressed, but when using it in the field (or more accurately in a hide) with others around the vibrations became a real issue for me. The fact that the likes of Andy Bright and Romy Ocon rate it means it can't be bad, but it just didn't work for me.
 

OBXGuide

Nature Photographer
I think your flash unit is making the camera body+flash side of the balance point a tall bit of mass, so when it tilts up or down, the mass moves forward and back at an accelerated rate like the far end of a fulcrum, thus transitioning to an out-of-balance condition much quicker than the body would alone.

I too use the 393, Tim. I was surprised to see you using the 323 clamp, but then I realiazed you are using it on a 100-400, which is considerably lighter than my 500mm. If you ever add a 500 or 600 to your lens lineup, I would consider leaving the 323 out of the mix and putting the 357 plate right on the lens foot. I just don't trust the 323 style clamp with a heavy load any more than I would trust an Arca Swiss/Wimberly style plate or clamp that opens. As you know, by using only the 357 plate and clamp (which does not open or spread) there is NO chance the thing can fall off.

As to PostcardCV's comments on the vibrations compared to a Wimberly or Jobu single post style gimbel, I would like to be able to confirm that one way or the other. I've been using a Manfrotto 055 tripod with the 393 gimbel/500mm combo. However, I just purchased Gitzo 1548 legs to replace the 055 Manfrotto and haven't had a chance to seriously compare for vibrations. Once I've checked out the Gitzo legs, I should know what vibration, if any, is left. If the 1548 legs don't remove it all, I'll know it's coming from the gimbel. I have to say that I have been happy with the 393's smoothness, though as I've mentioned in other posts on the gimbel subject, it's not as elegant or sexy as the others. I will try to remember to revisit this post when I've tried out the new legs and report on my findings.

Comment added: I think it's great to get others experiences with the same equipment we use. It helps me, at least, to take more critical looks at stuff I THINK I'm happy with to see if it's really as good as I believe. Ain't these forums great ??
 
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OBXGuide

Nature Photographer
Concerning the vibration noted by PostcardCV, I did some autofocus Micro-adjustment test shots today with my EF 500mm f/4 IS on the 393 gimbel and Gitzo 1548. I have to agree that there is still jiggle with even this heavy duty tripod. It might not be noticed with a 300mm, but with the 500mm I did see it. I was shooting a test chart indoors down a long glassed hallway with sunlight streaming in on the chart. Indoors there was no wind to put the blame on, I was using a release cable, and the tilt was locked down on the gimbel. Whenever I touched the camera to line up the image in the viewfinder, I could see a fine vertical juggle when I let go. Must be in the gimbel. Can't be the fault of a vertical post in the tripod because it doesn't have a post. I didn't try locking the tilt any tighter than enough to hold the lens firmlly, but I doubt that would have made any difference. I would be very curious to see if any of the single armed gimbels ( Jobo, Wimberly, etc.) would actually do any better. Anybody got one they'll loan me for testing ?? ;)
 

postcardcv

Super Moderator
Staff member
Supporter
I would be very curious to see if any of the single armed gimbels ( Jobo, Wimberly, etc.) would actually do any better. Anybody got one they'll loan me for testing ?? ;)

Well I'm now using the Jobu BWL and it is a lot better than the Manrotto was, with no obvious vibrations. I have just got the new Jobu BWG-Pro so will be giving that a good testing over the next few weeks. If you lived a bit closer you'd be welcome to test one of them...
 
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