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Thread: Making a bean bag to reduce camera shake - advice sought on spec!

  1. #1
    Senior Member Ed Hurst's Avatar
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    Making a bean bag to reduce camera shake - advice sought on spec!

    Hello all,

    I have a rather 'Heath Robinson' question for you all! (Is that a phrase that makes sense across the world, or only to Brits like me?)

    I have a Pentax 645D together with a range of lenses, including many from the Pentax 67 system; some of these are large (up to and including the wonderful 300mm f4 EDIF 67 lens).

    I have a reasonable tripod and a pretty good head, but sadly it does not always remain totally steady in windy conditions when using the longest lenses. I realise that I could solve this by getting a better tripod and head, and perhaps using two tripods when using the longest lenses. However, practical and monetary constraints prevent this solution for now.

    In the past, I have had some success by mounting the camera and lens combination on the tripod then applying a reasonably weighty object to the top of the camera to damp the vibrations and hold things steady in a high wind (it just can't wobble so easily in the breeze due to the object weighing it down). A 'bean bag' is quite good because it moulds itself to the contours of the camera.

    Someone very dear to me has generously offered to make me a 'proper' bean bag by hand and I am trying to give her the specifications I require for optimal use! Clearly good, robust fabric is required. But I am not sure what is the best size and weight combination. I want the smallest, lightest item that will guarantee holding a 645D and 300mm f4 EDIF 67 lens rock solid in a strong wind!

    This is a silly question, because the chances of anyone having definitive advice are very slim, but can anyone advise on the sort of size and weight I should ask for? I realise I have not told you what the tripod and head are, or how strong the wind would be, but I guess I am looking for reasonable 'rule of thumb' advice.

    Anyone feel like answering this stupid question?

    Best wishes,

    Ed

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    Re: Making a bean bag to reduce camera shake - advice sought on spec!

    Hello Ed,

    there are no stupid questions.

    Interesting read and idea to put something like a bean bag on top of the camera. One should consider that any topping will increase size for wind attacks and adds more weight which increases on one hand the moment of inertia (more dampening) and on the other hand moves the center of gravity up which destabilizes the whole setup. Only you know your setup (tripod type, head etc, stiffness) and know which parameter could be fine tuned.

    Maybe you should add a hook below your tripod head which allows you to hang there some weight (e.g. backpack) which would lower the center of gravity for this setup. If there is still a bean bag needed you could just start your own experimentation with different sizes and shapes of plastic bags (long and narrow, square sized, etc) with different fillings (rice, beans...) till you reach your point of satisfaction.

    Once you found the right weight, filling and size you are ready to produce your own bag. For the final bag I'd recommend to have the rice or beans in a dust and water proof plastic bag (cover) together with some kind of silica gel to keep the filling dry and this covered by the final bag made of a proper fabrics.

    Good luck and best regards,
    Udo

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    Re: Making a bean bag to reduce camera shake - advice sought on spec!

    To hold the camera down on the tripod, the usual trick is to hang your gadget bag off the bottom of the center column, but putting a strap over the camera might be better.

    For bean bag for use without a tripod, the size would be big enough for your longest lens, sand or gravel (or play-dough) would be better than beans if weight was not a consideration. Polystyrene pills would be light but not as effective... you could use a double bag - one over and one under the camera... but access to controls might be a factor.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed HUrst View Post
    Hello all,

    Someone very dear to me has generously offered to make me a 'proper' bean bag by hand and I am trying to give her the specifications I require for optimal use! Clearly good,
    Best wishes,

    Ed

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    Re: Making a bean bag to reduce camera shake - advice sought on spec!

    Scuba divers use weighted bags in their belts to get themselves to neutral buoyancy. Camera stores also sell weighted bags to hold down light stands... both filled and empty.

    And I agree with Udo... it's not a dumb question. To the contrary, it's made me think about trying it myself.

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    kipdawkins
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    Re: Making a bean bag to reduce camera shake - advice sought on spec!


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    Re: Making a bean bag to reduce camera shake - advice sought on spec!


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    Re: Making a bean bag to reduce camera shake - advice sought on spec!

    My common solution when travelling with a 5x4 field camera and a cheap Chinese made carbon tripod, was to use the rubber bungee ropes off my rucksack to pull the tripod down from the centre column, with the rucksack on the floor (I found suspending anything could cause catch the wind more and cause problems). I'd kick the legs slightly wider than then tighten the straps to the hook. I also avoided the death zone where possible (1/2 to 1/100s for me). That being said, I eventually moved to a Gitzo Traveller and Linhof head and it's wonderful to have the stability without all the messing around, but yes, very costly.

    I'd recommend your bean bag use gravel or sand, and have a large eyelet so you can hang it or suspend it via a bungee.

    Good luck with it
    Paul

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    Senior Member Ed Hurst's Avatar
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    Re: Making a bean bag to reduce camera shake - advice sought on spec!

    Thank you all for your suggestions. I certainly do think that adding weight from below the top of the tripod (i.e. pulling it downwards from the centre column) would help. However, I have found with my set up that however steady the base, the camera and lens combo can vibrate somewhat, so remain convinced that I want to add some weight resting on top of the camera or lens.

    So I may do both of these things - and experiment with using 2kg on top of the camera as a starting point - together with suspending some weight.

    I'll let you all know how I get on.

    Best wishes,

    Ed

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    Re: Making a bean bag to reduce camera shake - advice sought on spec!

    lead shot gives the best wt to volume ratio, in a suede bag about 1/2 filled?
    i like david's suggestion about the scuba bags...i actually have some so i will take a look. they are tightly filled though

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    Re: Making a bean bag to reduce camera shake - advice sought on spec!

    I met a photographer who carried an empty gallon plastic milk or water jug. He enlarged the opening to about four inches. When he hiked to a spot where he wanted to shoot, he filled the jug with whatever was nearby... water, sand, gravel, rocks, etc... and hung the jug with an adjustable tie-down strap from the center of his tripod to just touching the ground. When he was finished, he returned the jug's contents to where he got it and went on his way.

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    Re: Making a bean bag to reduce camera shake - advice sought on spec!

    Ed, are you using the tripod collar on the lens? Perhaps this might give you a little inspiration from a similar problem with a Pentax 600mm and a 645D:

    http://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/p...s-support.html

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    Senior Member Ed Hurst's Avatar
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    Re: Making a bean bag to reduce camera shake - advice sought on spec!

    I love the idea of the jug!

    Shashin - yes, I do use the tripod collar but I can physically see the lens vibrating in the wind on occasion - especially with the hood on to act as a sail!

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    Re: Making a bean bag to reduce camera shake - advice sought on spec!

    I was just thinking about the jug and it occurred to me that a "dry bag" that I use to stash things to protect from splashes or tipping over when I'm paddling, could be used the same way, and it rolls up when not in use. Mine are several years old, made of vinyl and are much heavier than the jug (and a lot more expensive than a gallon of water), but I think there are some newer ones made of lighter material.

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