Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Hama single bubble level

I just got a new little toy the other day from Adorama. It's a VERY simple accessory, but it kind of disappointed me a little, so I felt like sharing my thoughts.

The new item is a Hama single bubble level. The purpose of this item is that you can slip it into the hotshoe of your camera, and then you can determine when your camera is level. Of course, the most common use for this item is to make sure your camera isn't tilted from side to side. This way, you can make sure any horizontal lines are straight.

That's pretty useful, because it can be a bit tricky getting the horizon straight. In such a small viewfinder, what APPEARS to be straight in camera can actually end up being at a pretty drastic slant once you print an enlargement. Another use can be for shots where you aren't looking through the viewfinder. Like maybe the ground is wet, and you see this nice looking puddle shot, and you want to get a wide angle shot from just a couple inches off the ground, but you don't want to lie down and get your clothing soaked. So you just hold your camera down low, and take a blind shot. I've done this a number of times, and almost always I end up with the horizon being crooked (often drastically). A bubble level will solve this problem...just position your camera, tilt until level, and shoot.

So, that's the reason I decided to get one of these levels. My only question was which one to buy. These levels come in 2 basic types...single bubble and double bubble. The double bubble levels have an extra level in a different orientation. This allows you to level your camera in 2 directions at once. For example, not only can you ensure that you are shooting the horizon level, but you can make sure the camera if pointing parallel to the ground, rather than tilting up or down slightly.

Now, in thinking about this usefulness of this, I asked myself when would I ever want to level my camera 2 directions at once? Perhaps it might make sense when shooting a subject from directly above. However, for landscape photos that doesn't make much sense. Having a level horizon is a technical issue, so a technical solution (a level) makes sense. However, the up and down angle is more of an artistic/composition issue. It doesn't generally make sense to apply a technical measure to it.

So I decided that a less expensive single-bubble level was what I wanted and ordered the Hama model from Adorama. When it arrived yesterday, I opened the package, slipped it on the camera, and made an unpleasant discovery. The bubble level has 2 connectors on it (so that you can attach it to the hotshoe 2 different ways). I knew this before ordering. However, what I didn't know was that the second connector was completely useless...it didn't provide the ability to attach it in any different orientation the first connector.

As a result, although you can use the level two different ways when the camera is in landscape orientation, once you turn the camera to portrait orientation, there is no way to level the camera left to right. You can only level the camera in the front/back (tilt up/tilt down) direction. In other words, the level is virtually useless in portrait orientation.

The most annoying aspect of this is that, if the extra connector had been but on the third axis instead, you would be able to use this level in either direction for either orientation. A very simple design change would have made this accessory MUCH more useful.

1 comment:

James said...

"However, the up and down angle is more of an artistic/composition issue."

The reason to level on this axis (checking "plumb") is to keep parallel verticals parallel. When the film plane is tilted forward or back, parallel verticals (such as the sides of buildings) will show convergence. If you want the parallel verticals to remain parallel, the film plane must be plumb.

The same issue exists with parallel horizontals, but bubble levels are no help there.