Shooting with an O’Connor 515

A few weeks ago, I packed up my video kit and headed out to Chicago’s lakefront to shoot some random sunny day footage. The kit consisted of my O’Connor 515 fluid head, a Gitzo carbon fiber four-stage tripod with a 100mm bowl, my Panasonic Lumix GH3, an Olympus 35-70mm autozoom f3.6 OM lens, and my camera support system consisting of pieces from Berkey System, Zacuto, and Hejnar Photo. I had planned on capturing a bunch of B-roll, but during my practicing I ended up with an assignment.

While standing there, a person approached me and asked if I would take some photos of a soon-to-be-made marriage proposal. Unfortunately, the proposal didn’t occur where planned (right next to me) and instead he popped the question along the tree-lined walk of Olive Park. Although I had a bad angle, I tried to make the best of it and captured what I could in a piece entitled “Beautiful Day” (now on YouTube):

Marriage proposal aside, the O’Connor head performed well given my inexperience with it. With every “zoom” feature turned on, I was shooting with an equivalent of about a 300mm lens and the head was solid. I could track rolling cyclists and running children with ease from across the harbor and maintain smooth, vibration-free shots.

One thing I did learn, however, is that a GH3 is just too light and as such, focuses the balance too close to the center of the head. I’m asking a lot of the O’Connor 515 with such little pinpoint mass that it is difficult to achieve a precise balance and not encounter some backlash at the end of a camera tilt move. What I’m trying to do now is figure out a way to add mass that can be spread out over a greater length above the head to dampen the movement a bit more. By spreading out the mass, the camera at the top of the fluid head can act more like a balanced see-saw rather than a cup on the top of a nail. That should make the movement smoother and the balance easier to achieve.

All in all, the O’Connor 515 continues to amaze me. There is a definite reason why O’Connor fluid heads are priced as they are. I don’t know if they’re the best, but at least the 515 I have is simply fantastic. Now I just need to shoot more to grow my skills to match its quality.