Tripods tend to fall into that broad category of items that we never notice when they work, yet can’t live without when they don’t. And there aren’t too many things that can ruin a great shoot faster than a tripod that slips, catches, or doesn’t stay put when you want it to. I’ve used or tested a lot of tripods in my career, and in my opinion Vinten tripods have always risen to the top of the pile, both in initial quality and longevity. The Vision Blue5 is a fairly new addition to the family, and it brings a lot of good features to the party.
I was sent a Vision Blue5 head mounted on a 3744-3 aluminum 2-stage tripod, which was fitted with a mid-level spreader.
The tripod legs and head together allow for a maximum height of about 5 ½ feet, and a minimum altitude (with spreader) around 20 inches. If I am likely to complain about any one element of the package, it would be the mid-level spreader.
It has a knob in the middle that regulates whether the spreader legs can open fully, a gimmick I can’t fathom.
The mid-spreader also necessitates the use of three individual rubber feet on the tripod legs; lose even one and the tripod system is seriously impaired. All of this can be easily fixed with the use of a floor spreader with built-in feet, which is the other option available, and by far the better choice. But that’s the end of the bad news – the Vision Blue5 head is an impressive piece of work.
,The Vision Blue5 has a 75-millimeter tripod mount ball, with a recommended weight range that runs from 12 lbs (5.5 kg) to a whopping 26.5 lbs (12 kg).
That’s a lot of weight for a 75mm ball head, so I decided to test the Vision Blue5 with a full-sized ENG camera, the Sony HDW-750 HDCam.
I took the camera into the mailroom and placed it on a scale, where it weighed 24.75 pounds fully loaded with a tape and an Anton-Bauer battery pack.
Unlike some of the other Vinten 75mm-bowl heads, the Vision Blue5 features a camera plate that is the same design as the Vision 10 100mm heads we use on a daily basis. Compared side-by-side, however, it’s fairly obvious that the casting of the new plate isn’t quite as precise as the older version. On the other hand, it does offer a mounting assembly that includes a guide-pin and ¼-20 screw assembly for lighter cameras; 3/8″ screws can be used as well for heavier units.
And leveling the head is made quite simple, even in the dark, by toggling the (almost blindingly) bright blue LED light that illuminates the spirit bubble on the bottom-left of the Vision Blue5.
Vinten’s claim to fame is their Perfect Balance system.
A large knob on the back of the head adds or subtracts spring tension so that (theoretically) a camera can be held in place at any angle of tilt. If you take the time to dial it in, it really works, even with a camera that is within ten percent of the head’s maximal load limit. And just an aside here: Vinten includes both spiral-bound instruction booklets (in NINE languages!) and a “cheat sheet” mounted prominently inside the excellent tripod bag that accompanies the kit. They REALLY want people to know how to use this tripod correctly. Who does that anymore? Not many manufacturers.
I took the Vision Blue5 tripod set out on a multi-camera piano concert shoot at a local high school, and while it wasn’t stressed in any way by the 7-pound Canon XL-H1 it was carrying, it did attract positive reviews from the camera operators that worked with it. As well it should; this unit was brand new. How tripods perform as they age is the real wild card. In my experience, all tripods give back what they get – if you abuse them, smash them around in the back of the van, or just plain don’t know how to use them properly they’ll die an early death.
And at a street price north of $2300, I think it would pay to treat any tripod nicely. Vinten has a good track record, so I’m going to give the Vision Blue5 the benefit of the doubt. If you are in the market for a new middle-weight tripod, it’s worth a look.
DISCLAIMER: Vinten provided me with a Vision Blue5 for review purposes only, which will soon be going back. Nothing of value has changed hands in the course of this review.