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Zoe-III (PRO)

Wayne Orr Reviews Zoe-III (PRO) for CreativeCOW.net

A CreativeCOW Product Review

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Wayne Orr Wayne Orr
Wayne Orr Digital Video Productions

©Copyright 2004 Wayne Orr and CreativeCOW.net. All Rights Reserved

Article Focus:
CreativeCOW contributing editor Wayne Orr reviews The Zoe-III professional
from Bebob Engineering in Germany and finds "an excellent line of camera gear, including the Zoe zoom controllers." Read on for a great review of a great product. Click here for a recent review of the Zoe-DVL for small format cameras. About two years ago, Wayne wrote a review of the Zoe-DV zoom lens controller, which he suggested was the best controller in the marketplace at the time.

Zoe What?
Anyone who thinks that owning a home is a “moneypit,” has obviously never bought any professional camera gear. The original purchase of the camera is only the beginning of a hemorrhaging of dollars that never ends as the owner/operator attempts to stay afloat in an industry that has no respect for the individual entrepreneur. My favorite tenet about the biz, “If it was easy, they'd get a relative to do it,” might just as well be, “If he'd do it cheaper, they'd get a relative to do it.”

Meanwhile, some snot-nosed kid in your neighborhood is shooting commercials for the local cable channel with an amazing one-third inch chip camera he got for his high school graduation, and editing them on his PC using software he pirated off the Internet. And, he's bidding on your next job! Welcome to freelance hell.

So when the opportunity to save a few bucks on an equipment purchase comes along, it goes down as a pretty major event. Which brings me to the topic of this review. The folks at Bebob Engineering in Germany manufacture an excellent line of camera gear, including the Zoe zoom controllers. I have been using one of their controllers with my PD150, and was wondering how well their pro model would work on professional cameras in a real situation.

zoe-vs-Canon
David and Goliath: The Zoe III mounted in front of the Canon ZR2
for size comparison purposes



The opportunity presented itself to test the Zoe III on the NBC series, “The Last Comic Standing.” Among the eight cameras used on the show are a couple Sony 930 cameras, outfitted with Canon HJ11 lenses, along with a Steadicam with a similar Canon lens.

Hooking up the Zoe to the Canon lens is a snap: just like any other controller, attach it to the panhandle and plug it into the lens. The attaching clamp works up to 34mm in diameter, to permit attaching the Zoe to a variety of handles or pipes. There are three permutations of the Zoe III; one for Canon, Fujinon, and Angenieux lenses. Did I just hear someone groan? Your standard lens is a Fujinon, but you also own a wide angle Canon. Do you have to buy an additional controller? No, because the kind folks at Bebob have adapter cables you can purchase for the various lenses. They also have other goodies available, such as long cables so you can use the Zoe with a jib.


ZoeProzoom1

Zoe III Professional results in a small package


Once attached to the panhandle and plugged in, the Zoe may need to be fine tuned to your specific lens. Zoe includes a screwdriver and instructions on how to calibrate, but the one I connected to the Canon lens worked perfectly right out of the box. Nice smooth zoom control via the rocker, just as expected. The Zoe also has a wheel device on the side of the unit to control maximum speed. And here is something you won't find on most professional zoom controllers: on the backside of the Zoe is a switch to change zoom directions. Did I just hear the lefties say, “Amen?”

After using large sized controllers, such as the above ZR2, you may be inclined to sneer at the small size of the Zoe, but don't confuse this with a “toy.” The Zoe is built in a molded polycarbonate case that is strong enough to just about hammer nails, and that small size will allow you to use it where others can't go. More on that in a moment.

There are two button controls on the face of the Zoe for Return and Record, and they work exactly as they do on your pro lens. But what I soon discovered was that they also mimic the controllers in the studio configuration: the “return” button would allow the operator to see what had been programmed into effects, and the “record” button keyed the intercom talk function. Sweet. And the buttons each have a different profile, so you can tell by feel “return” from “record” without taking your eye out of the viewfinder.


Zoe with speed control wheel and Attaching clamp

While I was testing the Zoe, another operator on “Last Comic Standing” joined me. Ted Ashton was the show's Steadicam operator who has worked on many other shows including all the major award shows, and series like “American Idol.”

I thought Ted would find the Zoe interesting, and might like to try it out on “LCS.” Ted gave me laugh and said, “Are you kidding? I already own TWO Zoe's. They're great.”

It seems Ted has been using the Zoe on his Steadicam rig as a replacement for his Stanton controller when he can get away with it. He prefers the Zoe for its small profile and light weight. And, it delivers those smooth zooms we all want. (The Stanton controller operates focus and zoom in much larger package)

But Ted did have an idea for checking out the new Zoe on the show: he was to do a lot of handheld work, and he wanted to mount the Zoe to the camera's carry handle. That way he could get low angle shots, and introduce a bit of a zoom when warranted. No problem for Zoe.

hand_on_pro
Zoe attached to Sony DSR-390 handle

As you see in the above photo, the Zoe can go where larger zoom controllers cannot. This versatility is one of the Zoe's strengths. You can attach it to virtually any device, such as a Steadicam, a shoulder brace, a jib, or a monopod.

That was the last I saw of the Zoe. Ted used it for the entire show, and found it to be just as slick as he expected, and he was particularly pleased to note that pressing the record button keyed the intercom. Apparently he had not tried that with his units. Ted declared the test a success, and gave the Zoe III his personal stamp of approval.

In Conclusion

Will the Zoe work for you? I can't imagine why not. But what about those cost savings I mentioned earlier?

Well, that Canon ZR2 controller you see in the top picture will set you back $937.50 from that well-known store in New York city. But, you have to add in the Canon CR10 clamper to attach to your panhandle.
Cost: an additional $288.50
Total cost: 1226.00.

Remember, this is a moneypit we're talking about here.

Cost for the Zoe III (which attaches directly to the panhandle) $579.95
So we just saved you over six hundred dollars, and found you a device that is more versatile than the one that comes from the lens manufacturer. Now, what can you do with six hundred dollars? Maybe you can hire some guy named Guido to have a serious talk with that snot-nosed kid down the street about careers in waste disposal. Hey. Just kidding.

The Zoe comes with a two year warranty. You can find additional information at: http://bebob.de/international/zoe-III_eng.html

Zoe is distributed in the U.S. by 16x9 Inc. http://www.16x9inc.com/

Please note, that as the value of the US dollar is in decline, we can expect to see higher prices for import goods, and I have a very strong feeling the Zoe will see an increase after the first of the year.

To find a review of the Zoe for small format cameras, such as the PD170, click here.
The Zoe III (pro version) gets 4 1/2 Cows.

4 1/2 Cows





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