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The OM System M.Zuiko Digital ED 90mm F3.5 Macro IS Pro is finally here! Chris has opinions.
Let's face it, we’re all on a journey to improve our shooting, and some shots can be especially challenging in video work. There are lots of situations where incorporating some camera movement can create additional interest in shots. I've recently started using a combination of tools that have proven quite useful in this respect.
The Edelkrone DollyONE (DO) is an app-controlled, motorized flat surface camera dolly. The dolly can be used either in a simple track along a straight line or an arc around a subject.
The FlexTILT Head 2 (FTH2) is a lightweight head. The head extends, tilts and pans and it can to be mounted on any standard 1/4" or 3/8" screw mount or it can be used on its own on a flat surface.
Combining these two products allows easy camera mounting, re-positioning and movement either for video work or time lapse photography.
|The DollyONE with the low profile FlexTILT Head 2. The vertically extending head is a really great idea.|
I first discovered Edelkrone as a company some years ago when they launched their unusual take on the slider, the SliderPLUS. Then later I found out that they had launched a motorized system and I was very interested in using some of their products to help with my work. While not cheap, they have a very professional feel to them and their customer service is second to none. I’ve been using Edelkrone's sliders for a couple of months, and decided that maybe I should be looking at branching out to some longer tracking shots and more importantly, some arcing ones.
While I tried to get similar-looking shots with my existing equipment, I just wasn’t happy with the results. The fact that this combination allows you to combine long tracking shots with the time-lapse function in the app meant that I could explore other avenues in my work.
|The dolly operates on a single Canon LP-E6 battery.|
On picking up the box I was first struck by the weight of the DollyONE, measuring 160 x 160 x 57.5mm (6.3 x 6.3 x 2.26 in) and weighing in at 1.6 kg (3.52 lbs), while the dolly itself can handle loads of up to 6.8 kg (15 lbs). In addition to the DollyONE I chose to use the FlexTILT Head 2 to mount the camera to the dolly. It is possible to use a small tripod head instead, as the dolly uses a standard retractable 3/8" screw for mounting.
Why then use the Edelkrone head? It offers the ability to vertically extend the camera position and tilt it without having to change the height of the dolly, something I found incredibly useful. I couldn’t use a tripod with the dolly by its very nature so I needed a way of easily changing the height of the camera. The maximum vertical extension is 180mm (7.25 in) which doesn’t sound like much but covers quite a lot of situations for me in close-up product work.
|The FlexTILT Head 2 can be used without a mount.|
The head also allows panning, though not quite through 360 degrees. At first this might seem like a problem, however there is a good reason for this; it allows you to easily tighten the head on to the screw mount on the dolly. This is achieved by rotating the head until the stop is reached and then using the end stop to tighten the head down. The mount on the head is a standard 3/8" screw thread and Edelkrone includes a couple of 3/8" to 1/4" adapters in the box for other applications.
|Tensions on the FlexTILT Head 2 can be altered for tilt and extension.|
The FlexTILT Head 2 also provides the ability to adjust the tensions on each of the joints, and this includes the pan friction. I did this almost immediately as with a Sony a7 III and Sony 24-105mm F4 it was a little too loose. Your setup will probably be different but the the head is rated for loads up to 2.5 kg (5.5 lb) so some adjustment may be necessary. I'm pleased to say I've not encountered any loosening of the joints since I adjusted them. The Hex keys required to make all these adjustments are included in the box. One other feature is a small leveling bubble embedded into the base.
|Tensions on the FlexTILT Head 2 can be altered for panning as well.|
As with the other Edelkrone products I’ve used before the setup on the DollyONE was quick and easy. There are no buttons on the unit, just two adjustment wheels for tension and two sockets for camera control. There's not even a power button.
After attaching the FlexTILT Head 2 to the dolly, inserting the battery in the base (Canon LP-E6) and waiting for the confirmation beep I could then start the app. This is the only way to control the Edelkrone range of motorized products. There is a single app for all product combinations and it is available for iOS and Android devices.
When starting the app it checks for neighboring compatible Edelkrone devices that are powered up. It is possible to use 3- or 4-axis control and there are a number of Edelkrone products which can be controlled at the same time. This includes the HeadONE and HeadPLUS, the SliderONE V2 and SliderPLUS, the DollyPLUS and even the Focus Module. The interface itself changes according to the devices it finds, in this case as I had only one device it offered a relatively simple 1-axis control.
The first thing to do is decide what sort of movement you need as you have three choices when selecting the ‘Path’ button on screen: Slide, Arc or Dolly In/Out.
Of course you can choose to pan the camera on the head so that the movement is not either directly parallel or at 90 degrees to the direction of travel.
The three options available when choosing the path of the dolly:
A basic slide with the lens pointing perpendicular to the direction of travel.
An arcing movement. The angle is calculated when the camera moves automatically to an off center position. You have to angle the camera with an on screen button for the arc to be calculated.
An in out move, note here that the lens is at 90 degrees to the arrow on the dolly.
The result is that you can create three distinctive movements depending on how you program the device in the app. The video below shows some real world examples of these movements.
My first attempt at a move was a simple dolly move from left to right. After setting the path type I was then able to set preset positions with the pose button. There are three positions available to start with, which increases to six when the first three have been used. The pose buttons allow saving shots from the camera on a smart device; the photo is saved on the pose button to act as a reference. Simply tapping the respective button will initiate the move.
At 100% I was slightly worried that the dolly might not stop the first time I selected it – it's that quick. I shouldn’t have been concerned though. It’s also possible to set it to a crawl, and with a gentle in and out curve it’s incredibly slow. I set it to make a move with the speed set to 1% and the ease in/out set all the way to the left. A move over a distance of 44cm (17.25 in) took eight and a half minutes, at 100% set to minimum ease in/out it took four seconds.
When initiating any move you get a read out on the button of the time remaining, which changes when you adjust any of the sliders. Although the move can't be updated live you need to stop the current move for the new settings to take effect. However, sometimes the real-time readout of how long this is going to take doesn't update every second when moving very slowly.
The app has a simple single axis control with just a DollyONE.
Power Mode adds more torque for heavier payloads.
The Path lets you choose between Slide, Arc or Dolly In/Out.
The three pose buttons allow you to set individual dolly positions. You can move between them by tapping, You can also save reference photos to each position.
When all three are set these buttons shrink to reveal three more.
Speed control from scarily fast to hardly perceptible.
Ease In/Out can have a huge effect on overall movement duration.
Additional Time-Lapse and Stop Motion functions which are highly configurable.
The speed of this move and the ease in and ease out dynamic can be adjusted with the appropriate slider underneath the row of pose buttons. You can cancel or delete moves by tapping the pose button at the top right hand side, denoted by the usual ‘x’. You can also quickly reposition the dolly by double tapping on the pose button. Another function is the ability to loop back and forth by tapping simultaneously on the two poses that you want the dolly to move between.
The app also offers some additional buttons, one is a very tempting ‘record’ button that doesn’t do much at the moment apart from bringing up a ‘feature that we’re working on’ message. I reached out to Edelkrone about this and they told me that it’s going to be enabled for the DollyONE in the near future. It is available when using other Edelkrone products.
This button will allow the recording of bespoke timings using the on screen controls via a macro record function. This will allow an amazing flexibility in terms of moving between poses in a non-linear way and even allowing movement to be terminated and reinitialized if required mid-move. This becomes even more powerful when you combine this with other Edelkrone motorized products. It’s even possible to convert these movements into time lapse and stop-motion tracking movements.
The main time lapse option page.
It also offers the ability to change the interval dynamically as well as the step size.
Intervals can be set in 0.1 second increments.
Number of exposures can be set here.
The app also easily enables you to send feedback messages to the customer support team. I found myself doing this on a few occasions, to ask questions or suggest new ideas. Customer support with Edelkrone products has been excellent. Included in the app are links to the various product set-up videos on YouTube which can be really useful.
The app contains some other functions behind the buttons on the bottom. Time lapse and stop frame both can be used with the correct cable by plugging into the right hand socket to trigger the shutter on your camera. The left hand socket is for LANC control which is going to be supported in upcoming updated firmware.
|The LANC and remote shutter sockets.|
In actual use I found the app very intuitive, a minor issue was getting the timing right for the tapping on two pose buttons to get the loop function working. Due to limitations of this sort of system i.e. a Dolly that isn’t on tracks, there is some drift in repeated looping movements. Edelkrone advise that repeated movements are only accurate for around five to ten loops. Set-up is key to getting the best performance.
The two tension controls on the side of the dolly need to be set appropriately for the weight of the camera, lens and head. They have to be set so that the dolly doesn’t drag across the surface it’s on, but they also have to be set so that there is no rocking of the dolly during movement. This can be tested by gently pressing alternately on the sides that don’t house the tension wheels to see if there is any side to side movement.
In practice I found that I was able to get acceptable results over quite a few more than that with careful adjustment – around 100. While there was a drift of around 12mm (1/2 in) perpendicular to the move it was almost perfect along the length of travel. Your mileage will vary as this depends on the balance of the camera and also the resistance of the surface you are using.
Setting up arcing movements was also easy. You do need to follow the instructions in the app to first place the camera at the start position, line it up with the on-screen controls and then the DollyONE will move slightly to one side. You then need to use the on-screen buttons to re-center the camera – this provides the dolly with enough information to derive an arc which can then be used for 360-degree movements around a subject. You can of course make a different sort of arcing move and re-orient the camera so that it faces outward. This can be useful for parallel moves around subjects placed in an arc.
I got around 90 minutes of battery life when setting it up in loop mode at 30% over a 75cm (30 in) move. Edelkrone states that the expected life is 60 minutes when set to 100%. I did find that the in-app battery level meter was rather pessimistic. It showed the battery to be exhausted when in fact I had around 30% of life remaining. An update to make this more accurate is being worked on by their R&D department.
You may find from time to time that the main control slider disappears and is replaced by the message 'recover path'. You then have to select this option and the dolly relocates itself to recalculate the original position. This only tends to happen if the DollyONE gets moved manually either deliberately or by accident.
While using the dolly I found that there are surfaces you should avoid – basically ones that are glossy and uneven. Glossy will cause issues with traction; heavily varnished wood for example isn’t great. Uneven ones can also cause traction problems but will also introduce some vibration and can be noisy if that’s a consideration. You can’t use it on carpet and rugs as the clearance of the wheels underneath is only about 5mm (0.2 in).
|One of only 2 dolly wheels.|
As usual nothing is perfect and there are a few things that could be improved. I’d like the ability to use external power as the run time with a single LP-E6 can be a little limited when using the time lapse function over extended periods.
One thing that is not as easily available as it could be with the DollyONE is the ability to rotate 360 degrees around its own center axis via a single button press. It is feasible to make your own 360 degree arc. You do this by setting it up in such a way that the second position that you choose to orient the dolly is 90 degrees to the first position. This is not as intuitive as it could be but I’m told that a simpler way of doing this will be added at a later date.
For the FlexTILT Head 2 I do wish that the tension adjustments were tool-less. I realize that accommodating this and maintaining a low profile head might prove difficult. Although not having to adjust up to eight hex bolts would be beneficial, even though the need for it is rare.
What at first may seem like quite niche products have actually given me more inspiration for new shots than I thought possible. I haven’t even touched on the fact that you could actually mount things on the DollyOne and use it as a movable platform for some subjects. I'm sure there are many more uses that I haven't even considered yet.
These are not budget products but I’m a firm believer that you get what you pay for. My old, cheap dolly skater and head were used once and they haven’t been out of their boxes for over two years. The DollyONE and FlexTILT Head 2 are a natural pairing and I eagerly await the updates that will make this system even more creativity-inspiring.
Apr 26, 2022
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The OM System M.Zuiko Digital ED 90mm F3.5 Macro IS Pro is finally here! Chris has opinions.
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|Sproing! by BrassGlass|
from My Best Photo of the Fortnight
|Roman snow globe by Surfwalker|
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|_MG_2302 battersea 2 1500 by Pavel Kohout|
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