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Author Topic: Getting a camera level?  (Read 2071 times)

Bob_B

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Getting a camera level?
« on: February 27, 2022, 04:51:08 pm »

I have a Gitzo series 3 tripod, a Neewer leveling base, and a RRS BH-55 ballhead, which has a RRS quick release clamp. The tripod, leveling base, and quick release clamp each has a spirit level. With all three bubble levels centered, if I loosen the RRS's base lock and rotate the ballhead on the center axis, within 45 degrees rotation, the RRS clamp's spirit level is no longer centered. My camera's digital level also shows that rotation from the initial point causes the camera to become unlevel. So, I don't think that one or more of the spirit levels is wacky, rather that there's something inherently wrong in how I'm setting this up.

This has left me scratching my head second guessing what I'm doing. My guess is that I am obviously missing some fundamental aspect of leveling a tripod. Where have I gone wrong? Your input is very much appreciated. Thanks!
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John Hollenberg

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Re: Getting a camera level?
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2022, 05:09:48 pm »

You might consider switching to the Arca Swiss D4 (geared) tripod head which combines the flexibility of a ballhead with the precise adjustments of a geared head.  That would solve your problem:

https://forum.luminous-landscape.com/index.php?topic=140266.0
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kers

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Re: Getting a camera level?
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2022, 04:45:32 am »

Maybe you would need something like this:


PS
the problem is probably the not precise bubble of the neewer leveling base.
the RRS bubbles are perfect i find. with the solution below you only have to focus on one perfect working bubble.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2022, 04:58:30 am by kers »
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Bob_B

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Re: Getting a camera level?
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2022, 06:47:30 am »

Thanks, John. BTW, that was my post. A D4 is on my wish list, with hopes of buying one next month. In the meantime, I was hoping to solve this leveling problem, as it is one that I've had since I first bought my tripod and BH55.

My thinking: If the leveling base is level and the bubble level on the RRS clamp is level at point #1, then the only way for rotation around the axis to cause the bubble to become unlevel is through a ballhead that is not 90 degrees on-axis, i.e, maybe I have a problem with the BH55 itself.
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mcbroomf

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Re: Getting a camera level?
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2022, 08:06:01 am »

I would see if you can use a small (maybe 6-8" or so) level and check each component.  ie remove the ballhead and check the leveling base at 90 degree points to see if it's level is accurate, then do the same for the head.  It might be a bit tricky laying the level across the components but I think you could do it.
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Bob_B

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Re: Getting a camera level?
« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2022, 10:04:01 am »

I would see if you can use a small (maybe 6-8" or so) level and check each component.  ie remove the ballhead and check the leveling base at 90 degree points to see if it's level is accurate, then do the same for the head.  It might be a bit tricky laying the level across the components but I think you could do it.

Good idea. I have suspicions that the ballhead may be the problem, maybe it's bubble level.
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tcphoto1

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Re: Getting a camera level?
« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2022, 10:43:49 am »

I try to keep it simple so I have been using this hotshoe bubble level. https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/888040-REG/vello_bl_hs1_low_profile_bubble_level.html
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Bob_B

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Re: Getting a camera level?
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2022, 11:13:11 am »

I try to keep it simple so I have been using this hotshoe bubble level. https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/888040-REG/vello_bl_hs1_low_profile_bubble_level.html

Thanks, but here's my concern: How is this hot shoe bubble level better than any of the other three bubble levels (and camera digital level) I am currently relying upon to level my camera? I suspect one bubble level is just as good (or bad) as the next, no?
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Eric Brody

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Re: Getting a camera level?
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2022, 11:14:47 am »

Once you have an Arca D4, it's hard to return to a ball head. The Arca D4, thanks again to Charlie Cramer, changed my photographic life, as silly as that may sound. When I'm not willing to lug the Gitzo Series 3 and D4, (6 lb) I take a Gitzo Series 1 and an Acratech head (3.6 lb). The Acratech is a great, very light ball head but each time I use it it makes me crazy. In the day, I had an Arca B1 ball head and thought it was great until I got the D4.

The D4 makes leveling everything a snap. Get it, you won't regret it.
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Jonathan Cross

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Re: Getting a camera level?
« Reply #9 on: February 28, 2022, 12:37:04 pm »

I would test the 3 main components in stages with a linear spirit level, not a round bubble level which I have found may not be too accurate.

Set up your tripod and check the top is level in 2 directions at right angles. When you are happy with that, mount your Neewer and repeat the level check in 2 directions at right angles. If you are happy with that and the Neewer can rotate, turn it 90 degrees and repeat check. If now it is not level in both directions there is a problem with the Neewer mount or the tripod mount. Try mounting something else on the tripod mount and repeat the check. If all is well put your head on and repeat the 90 degree check and doing the same, having rotated the head 90 degrees.

The only thing you have spent doing this is time!

Jonathan
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leuallen

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Re: Getting a camera level?
« Reply #10 on: March 01, 2022, 04:06:02 am »

Once you have an Arca D4, it's hard to return to a ball head. ...

I have and use the D4 and have nothing against it. I have bought and used many of the geared heads available. I have found that the SunWay GHPro II for $225 to be a very satisfactory substitute for the D4 for those who don't have the $1100 for the D4. Is the D4 better, yes, a little. Pair the SunWay with an AcraTech leveling base and you are all set. I have not affiliation with SunWay just a satisfied user.

Larry
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kers

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Re: Getting a camera level?
« Reply #11 on: March 01, 2022, 05:07:42 am »

.... I have found that the SunWay GHPro II for $225 to be a very satisfactory substitute for the D4 for those who don't have the $1100 for the D4. ...

Larry

The only design problem i see is that you can not check the bubble with the camera in place... very important i find.
the bubble in camera may be not so precise ( nikon d850)
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Bob_B

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Re: Getting a camera level?
« Reply #12 on: March 01, 2022, 07:02:43 am »

I would test the 3 main components in stages with a linear spirit level, not a round bubble level which I have found may not be too accurate.

Set up your tripod and check the top is level in 2 directions at right angles. When you are happy with that, mount your Neewer and repeat the level check in 2 directions at right angles. If you are happy with that and the Neewer can rotate, turn it 90 degrees and repeat check. If now it is not level in both directions there is a problem with the Neewer mount or the tripod mount. Try mounting something else on the tripod mount and repeat the check. If all is well put your head on and repeat the 90 degree check and doing the same, having rotated the head 90 degrees.

The only thing you have spent doing this is time!

Jonathan

Yep, that's my plan.
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Bob_B

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Re: Getting a camera level?
« Reply #13 on: March 01, 2022, 07:03:21 am »

I have and use the D4 and have nothing against it. I have bought and used many of the geared heads available. I have found that the SunWay GHPro II for $225 to be a very satisfactory substitute for the D4 for those who don't have the $1100 for the D4. Is the D4 better, yes, a little. Pair the SunWay with an AcraTech leveling base and you are all set. I have not affiliation with SunWay just a satisfied user.

Larry

Thanks for the suggestion.
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leuallen

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Re: Getting a camera level?
« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2022, 01:16:00 pm »

The only design problem i see is that you can not check the bubble with the camera in place... very important i find.
the bubble in camera may be not so precise ( nikon d850)

Most bubble levels on tripod head are small and inaccurate. I don't trust them. That is why I suggest the AcraTech leveling head for tripods with center columns. It has a LARGE bubble level and is easier to use and precise. If that is not the solution then I use and external level. I have two from the home supply store that work well. One is about 1.5 inches long and the other about 3. They work well and are accurate. They plug into the hotshoe levels do not work well for me. I sometimes swing out the mirror and press the small level on the edge of the mirror recess. That works well on my camera. You would have to check because that ridge may not align with sensor or base of the camera. Same for hot shoe, another place to check level.

I shoot many single row panos and get very good results with just little slivers of unexposed areas at the top and bottom.

Larry
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Alan Klein

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Re: Getting a camera level?
« Reply #15 on: March 01, 2022, 02:33:11 pm »

Try this app in your android phone.  Precise Level. Free. Maybe it will help.   Set the phone on your leveler base. I don't think leveling the tripod matters. 

digitaldog

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Re: Getting a camera level?
« Reply #16 on: March 01, 2022, 02:56:36 pm »

Try this app in your android phone.  Precise Level. Free. Maybe it will help.   Set the phone on your leveler base. I don't think leveling the tripod matters.
What android phone?  :P Did the OP say anything about a phone?
"We all make basic assumptions about things in life, but sometimes those assumptions are wrong. We must never trust in what we assume, only in what we know." -Darren Shan
Now getting back on topic, my RRS ball head and Gitzo have a bubble, they both correlate to 'level'. Works for me when I look over both.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2022, 03:00:31 pm by digitaldog »
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BernardLanguillier

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Re: Getting a camera level?
« Reply #17 on: March 04, 2022, 04:40:07 pm »

In the end the question is how level…

Even with supposedly highly accurate and calibrated pro levels 10+ inch in size, different levels from different reputable manufacturers often give slightly different readings. I spent quite a bit of time on this in the context of a high end camera scanning set up I have created to do 8x10 stitch scanning.

I think that close enough is good enough is the only sane answer.

For my set up I use both zig align and a laser based system.

Something similar may work to check parallelism btwn sensor and a reference plane such as a wall, and may end up being more accurate than levels.

Balafre

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Re: Getting a camera level?
« Reply #18 on: March 31, 2022, 01:34:49 pm »

The bubble of any kind on any head at the point where the camera is fixed is only a starting point - one can't place much stock in it unless your subject is very close. You're up against geometry - simply consider the triangulation. Variance over distance is magnified. If it's critical and if alignment is in doubt, you can allow for a cushion and crop on screen more successfully. I appreciate this is more plausible with a large sensor/file size than it would be with something smaller, but everything in life has constraints.
Ultimately Bernard's assessment is the best (as it often is) - 'close enough is good enough' - for life is a practical art :)
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Alan Klein

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Re: Getting a camera level?
« Reply #19 on: March 31, 2022, 02:14:51 pm »

In the end the question is how level…

Even with supposedly highly accurate and calibrated pro levels 10+ inch in size, different levels from different reputable manufacturers often give slightly different readings. I spent quite a bit of time on this in the context of a high end camera scanning set up I have created to do 8x10 stitch scanning.

I think that close enough is good enough is the only sane answer.

For my set up I use both zig align and a laser based system.

Something similar may work to check parallelism btwn sensor and a reference plane such as a wall, and may end up being more accurate than levels.
My eye works better than a bubble level getting it to within 1-2 degrees, maybe less.  Look through the viewfinder and line the horizon up with your eye.  It's easier that way.  Maybe shooting slide shots SOOC teaches your over the years. 
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