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Photography by Grant Glendinning
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Sunwayfoto DYH-66i & Manfrotto 338 levelling bases

Manfrotto 338 levelling base mounted below a Manfrotto 410 geared head and Manfrotto 300n panoramic head Sunwayfoto DYH-66i levelling base and Manfrotto 338 levelling base. Sunwayfoto DYH-66i levelling base mounted below a Manfrotto 410 geared head and Manfrotto 300n panoramic head
Attached to the Manfrotto 410 geared head and 300n rotation unit above left is the Manfrotto 338 levelling base. Far right image is the Sunwayfoto DYH-66i levelling base.

Having the Manfrotto 300n panoramic head on my Manfrotto 190XPRO3 (new series) tripod is great for when I want to do panoramic images, but adjusting all the tripod legs to get precise levelling using the bubble level on top of the centre column, can be a bit of a pain and sometimes quite time-consuming. The solution to this levelling niggle was to purchase a levelling base that could get the tripod perfectly in level quickly.

After searching on the internet and reading various reviews, I decided to get the Manfrotto 338, which has a safety payload of 15kg, well above the weight of the heaviest gear I would be using. It also weights 600g and has 3 adjustment thumb knobs that can be moved 5° in any direction, with additional locking screws once levelled.

When it arrived I thought the build quality was great but the thumb screws were not just a little stiff they were very stiff! and no way to adjust them as the screws are glued, this is to keep them at a particular tension. I returned this one and ordered a replacement 338 levelling base and found that the levelling knobs on the replacement were a bit easier to turn than the first unit. I decided to keep it and hoped that the adjustment knobs would slacken a little over time.

Levelling was easy only if you have the tripod legs fairly level to begin with as there is only 5° adjustments in any direction. I had been using the 338 base for a few weeks doing several panoramic images until one day one of the adjustment knobs would not turn, it was completely locked and would not budge. I had no other choice but to send it back for a refund as I did not want to risk buying another Manfrotto 338 and then have the same thing happen again.

I scoured the internet again looking for a suitable levelling base and came across the Sunwayfoto DYH-90i, this base seemed to be better than the Manfrotto as it allowed 16° movements in any direction and could take an even greater load than the Manfrotto, it was also slightly lighter in weight. Sunwayfoto also have a smaller and lighter version of the DYH-90i called the DYH-66i.

The DYH-66i max load capacity is 10kg and weighs 250g, which is less than half the weight of the Manfrotto 338. I decided to get the DYH-66i as the max weight load it can take is well above the heaviest equipment I might have on it, i.e. Manfrotto 300n (609g) Manfrotto 410 (1220g) Canon 5dsr (840g) and Canon 400mm f5.6 L (1250g) which totals 3,919g, well below the 10kg max load capacity. It made sense therefore to buy the 66i version with the weight saving reduction and the reduced cost too.

Upon receiving the Sunwayfoto DYH-66i I was very impressed with the packaging it came in, not to mention the superb build quality. I recorded an unboxing video with my LG G3 with the help of an assistant, below.

As you can see in the unboxing video, the Sunwayfoto DYH-66i comes with some accessories, including an allen key for securing it against my Manfrotto 300n via the three allen key adjustment screws on the DYH-66i. There is also a 1/4″ to 3/8″ converter screw and cleaning cloth included.

The build quality is exceptional and feels sturdy in the hand, it is machined from lightweight aircraft aluminum with a scratch resistant anodised surface. In use, the DHY-66i movement is smooth as butter and makes levelling quick and easy using the offset bubble level, and once locked with the locking lever it will be held securely in place until the lever is unlocked. Below is a quick demonstration video I made showing how quick and easy it is to level the base.

Unlike the Manfrotto 338 levelling base, the Sunwayfoto 66i can be unlocked and swivelled (not independently) around to a convenient viewing angle for levelling with the offset bubble level, no matter which position my tripod is at, then it is just a matter of rotating the 300n or 410 geared head, which can be rotated independently of other attached equipment, if needed.

Another great thing about having this base paired with my excellent Manfrotto 410 geared head, is that it can add to it an extra 16° tilt, for shooting at a higher angle than what the 410 would normally allow.

The Sunwayfoto DYH-66i is an excellent levelling base I’m glad I purchased.

Canon 16-35mm f4.0 IS L

Canon 16-35mm f4.0 IS L and Canon-17-40mm f4.0 L. © Photoscotland.net 2011. Do not use without permission

Having used the excellent Canon 17-40mm f4.0 L lens for most of my landscape photography since 2006, I have now upgraded to the rather superb Canon 16-35mm f4.0 IS L lens. Until this lens came along I had no intention of considering another wide-angle lens from Canon, with the exception of the TS-E 17mm f4.0 L and Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II, two lenses which I have dreamt of owning. The 16-35mm f4.0 IS L lens, however, got my attention when it was announced recently, and was proclaimed as Canon’s finest ultra wide-angle zoom lens to date, with superior optics to the 17-40mm f4.0 L and indeed the 16-35mm f2.8 L II.

The first thing I noticed about 16-35mm f4.0 IS L compared with my 17-40mm f4.0 L when I received it is the increase in length compared with the 17-40mm f4.0, as shown on my side by side comparison image above, it’s little heavier than the 17-40mm, too. The build quality feels the same as the 17-40mm, quite solid and is resistant to dust and water. I love the lens hood on this lens as it is much slimmer than the 17-40mm making it easier to store. The lens hood also has a little push tab that locks the hood in place and removing the hood requires pushing the tab. The 4 stop image stabilization is a nice feature to have especially in places where a tripod might be prohibitive or in situations where you do not have time to set up a tripod and just have to grab and go.

Shortly after receiving the lens I promptly set off down to the West coast as the weather forecast was looking good for a nice Sunset. The Sunset was not spectacular as I had wished for but I didn’t care anyway as I was eager to take some photos to see how the lens compared with my 17-40mm f4.0 L, and to examine the RAW files at 100% when I got back home. The image below is the one from the coast, 118 second exposure at f16, ISO 100, 20mm. Even before doing a comparison with my 17-40mm lens, I knew this lens was optically superior when viewing my coastal image.

I preferred the warm white balance that I had set in camera for this shot.

Click on image for larger preview

To try and find out the optical quality of this lens compared with my 17-40mm f4.0 L lens, I decided to take a series of test shots (full res files available below) at various apertures and focal lengths and then compare them side by side. The settings for each lens were: 16mm, 17mm, 35mm, 40mm and f4.0, f8.0 and f16. shot with mirror lockup and tripod mounted. Please note, there is slight CA (chromatic aberration) exhibiting from the far left of the 16-35mm f4.0 IS L images and none from the 17-40mm f4.0, even though the lens aberration correction is enabled in camera, I think this is because Canon has not released the 16-35mm f4.0 IS L lens data for DPP yet. All these images have been processed in Canon’s DPP with the same settings for each image. These samples are only to show the sharpness across the frame and are not useful for comparing vignetting or CA, due to the varying light.

Click on links below and “save as”. These images are for personal inspection only and not to be used on other websites or publications without my permission.

16/17mm f4.0 comparison 35/40mm f4.0 16/17mm f8.0 35/40mm f8.0 16/17mm f16 35/40mm f16

As you can see with the full resolution sample images, the 16-35mm shows much better detail right across the frame to the edges with better contrast too, although at f16 and at 16/17mm, the difference is much less pronounced.

I’m very happy with this lens so far and think it’s a worthy upgrade to my 17-40mm f4.0 L lens, but at twice the price of the 17-40mm, (£1,199.00 UK prices) it’s not twice as good! Shop around or wait till the price falls. Amazon have it in stock for £682

Update: I have 100% crops of the above samples which you can roll over below with your mouse to check the extreme corners of the 16-35 and 17-40

Canon 16-35 f4.0 16mm @f4. mouse over for 17-40mm @ f4
Move your mouse over me

Canon 16-35 f4.0 16mm @f8. mouse over for 17-40mm @ f8
Move your mouse over me

Canon 16-35 f4.0 16mm @f16. mouse over for 17-40mm @ f16
Move your mouse over me

Manfrotto 190XPRO3 Tripod

Having used the excellent Manfrotto 055PROB tripod for over 5 years for my landscape photography, I decided to look for something more manageable as the weight and height increase with my Manfrotto 300n panoramic head attached made it a little cumbersome for landscape outings that required walking a long distance. I wanted something that was as sturdy as the 055PROB but with reduced weight and height, I soon found my requirements in the Manfrotto 190XPRO3, (the new series). The height is 7 cm shorter and 0.4kg lighter than the 055PROB tripod, and when the legs are fully extended with my 300n and 410 attached, the camera is at my eye level now without me having to tip-toe or  adjust the legs as with the 055.

New features I like about the 190xpro3 are the easy to use quick lock system, which enable you to extend each leg fully with one hand without having to unlock each leg section individually, which is also very easy to use especially if wearing gloves in cold environments. The tripod also has a bubble level which can be rotated around the center column when required, making leveling much easier.  The 190XPRO3 has an Easy Link connector for attaching accessories such as LED lights, flash and reflector.  I have not had the need to use this easy link connector for the photography I do, and doubt I will, but I can see its potential use for macro photography and studio photography.

Overall the Manfrotto 190XPRO3 is a worthy replacement for my aging, but otherwise excellent and trusty 055prob tripod.


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