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Review of the eMotimo TB3
Motion Control Pan & Tilt Head

Review by Ron Risman, June, 2012

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What is the eMotimo TB3

The eMotimo TB3 is a motion controlled pan & tilt head designed for video applications and motorized time-lapse sequences. The eMotimo TB3 features a 1/4-20" and 3/8" mount designed for use with tripods and motion dolly systems.

Hands-on Video Review of the eMotimo TB3

My Hands-on Written Review of the eMotimo TB3

If you shoot time-lapse videos you'll soon start to drool over the variety of motion-controlled rigs that are now on the market. From moco (motion controlled) dollies, pan & tilt heads and even cranes, there are now endless ways to add creative movements to your time-lapse footage.

In this review I am taking a look at the new eMotimo TB3 MOCO Pan & Tilt head. The eMotimo TB3, like it's younger brother, the eMotimo PT, is a motorized pan & tilt head designed for use with video and time-lapse photography. The eMotimo TB3 can be mounted directly to tripods or to a motion-controlled slider or dolly setup from companies such as Dynamic Perception, DitoGear, or Kessler Crane.

The illustration below shows the size difference between the eMotimo TB (left) and the eMotimo TB3 (right) as well as the differences in the motors. You can purchase either model with the wired or bluetooth wireless remote control. What you cannot see in this photo is the extra stepper output port that the eMotimo TB3 featues on the left side of the unit. This port will allow you to control external stepper motors using a future firmware update or other firmware hacks or using motion controlled software such as Dragonframe.

The TB3 is an upgrade over the eMotimo PT model and now supports cameras up to 8 lbs, and allows the user to adjust the camera to sit centered on top of the motor, instead of off to the side as is the case with the original PT version. The motor and tilt mechanisms are stronger; the camera plate can be 'slid' backwards or forwards in order to find the perfect balance with a variety of camera bodies and lenses, and the center-mounted design makes the overall rig much more stable in windy conditions.

The eMotimo TB3 can automatically move your camera between point A and point B in both video mode as well as shoot-move-shoot mode (time-lapse). In both scenarios you use the included remote control (wired or wireless) to move the camera to its starting position (Point A) and then to the ending position (Point B). Depending on the weight of your camera / lens combination, the eMotimo TB3 can provide full 360 degree pan control and up to 80-degrees of tilt.

In video mode you set how long you want it to take to move from Point A to Point B (duration), whether or not you want to ramp the speed up or down at the beginning and end of the clip, then hit Start. This is a great way to capture live video over a period of, let's say, 30 minutes, while the camera slowly and automatically moves between the two set points.

For time-lapse movement you'll also set be able to choose the interval time (in seconds or minutes), the static time, the ramping (# of frames), and the amount of frames you want the camera to stay still before or after the motion part of the sequence. The TB3 connects directly to your camera in order to trigger the shutter after each micro-movement along the path you have set. This allows you to capture and create time-lapse videos that look to have real-time movement.

The eMotimo TB3 not only handles heavier cameras and provides a center-weight mounting system, it also has a new external port that can be configured, via future (or custom) firmware updates, to be able to control an external stepper motor. This will allow the TB3 to be connected to a motion slider, for example, in order to synchronize movement between the pan/tilt head and the movement of the slider. Even without the use of this port you can currently connect the eMotimo TB3 (or PT model) to the MX2 controller made by dynamic perception, you'll just have to use both interfaces to make it all happen. Some users have even replaced the motor of the DP Stage Zero dolly with a stepper motor, while others have used it with the Dragonframe stop motion animation software to control 3-axis motion.

Here are a couple of videos that have been uploaded by users that show some of the possibilities of using this new external control port:

eMotimo TB3 - 3 axis repeatable motion test from Brian Burling.

With repeatable motion, you can take multiple passes of the same scene and then layer them on top of one another in your editing software. Once lined up you may cross fade or cut between them. This creates a visually beautiful transition over time without having to shoot over that entire time....

The TB3 features a similar square, orange design of the PT model, but is a bit taller, uses smoked acrylic on the top, and features a stronger, milled aluminum motor with a top-centered, focussing rail-style mount. The centered mount handles wind much better than the offset mount in the "PT" model and also allows the TB3 to be better used for automated panorama capture, as you'll be able to more easily position the lens over its nodal point. This helps to reduce or eliminate parallax errors which will make stitching the images together a breeze.

The eMotimo TB3 is powered be an external 12v source. eMotimo sells a 12v 7.5Ah Battery with Charger for $70, but lighter (and sometimes less expensive) Li-Ion batteries can also be used. I have successfully used the unit with the eMotimo battery as well as with the JAG35 Li-Ion battery, the Dynamic Perception Li-Ion pack, and even the Jag35 LP-E6 battery adapter. The LP-E6 battery adapter will work in a pinch, but it doesn't have the Stamina of the other options mentioned.

My biggest complaint with the previous eMotimo PT model was with the rather bouncy camera mount. It made it a challenge to use in all but the lightest of wind. The new TB3 model solves that problem with the new center mount. I was able to successfully shoot with the TB3 on a pier, overlooking the Boston Harbor, with strong and gusty winds. If you look really close at that clip near the end of the video you may notice a very slight vibration, but you probably wouldn't have noticed it if I didn't point it out and it could have easily been eliminated using stabilization software. The winds were steady at about 15mph with gusts to about 25-30mph. Of course, using a wide lens will also help on a windy day, as any type of lens magnification will also magnify any camera movement.

Captured using the eMotimo TB3 Mounted on a Joby Gorillapod FOCUS with Ball-X Ballhead

Review Summary

Similar to the review summary I gave with the eMotimo PT, the eMotimo TB3 at its $729 (wired remote) or $749 (wireless remote) is a steal in the world of motion controlled pan & tilt heads. The eMotimo TB3 will easily save you at least $1000 over other professional quality pan & tilt heads designed for motion controlled time-lapse or video applications. It is extremely simple to operate, quick to set up, and compact enough to take anywhere you desire. There are few software features that I would like to see implemented in the future.

  1. I would really like the ability to stop a time-lapse sequence mid-stream and then start it back up from that exact position. This way if I needed to swap out a battery, either in the camera or attached to the eMotimo, I wouldn't have to start the entire sequence over. Currently, the only way to stop a time-lapse is to unplug the device, which means you'll be forced to start over.

  2. It would be great to be able to fine-tune adjustments while a sequence is running. For example, the ability to reduce the duration or total number of shots. The internal computer would then figure out what it needs to do to complete the sequence based on these live changes (i.e. increase movement between shots).

The eMotimo TB3 draws more power than the eMotimo PT. While it still does very well on external Li-Ion batteries, I wasn't able to get as much from my batteries as I did with the eMotimo PT version. Since it uses a more powerful tilt motor this was expected. Both units use about .4 amps for pans, but the TB3 draws about .80 amps for pan/tilt, while the PT model draws between .65 and .70 for pan/tilt.

If you are serious about time-lapse photography or would like a pan/tilt head that offers repeatable moves for video you would be nuts not to consider the eMotimo TB3 or the less expensive eMotimo PT. While not perfect, it offers professional quality moves without the pro price.

Duplicate: Hands-on Video Review of the eMotimo TB3

How to use the eMotimo PT / TB3 with the Dynamic Perception Stage Zero Dolly

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