Kessler PB pocket dolly slider

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NOTE: this review needs a refresh, Kessler has send me a new slider and it has solved almost all of the issues. Will update when I have time (make time :P )
Back in the good old days when camera’s where made from glass tubes, we needed 60 miles of tape to record 20 minutes and men where made from testosterone and could wear fur anywhere they wanted, I used a lot of dolly and jib setup’s. But they where annoying, heavy and took a long time to setup. A lot of times we ran out of time and I ended up shooting things in some kind of handheld setup anyway. Slowly becoming the human steadicam, you can ask my back and shoulders if that really was such a good idea. These days everything seems to be getting smaller (well.. not everything just camera gear) and it seemed like a good idea to throw some money at a simple slider motion solution.
Iceland better known as Groningen

After trying a few sliders and experimenting with small dolly setups I decided to get a Kessler slider. Main reason to go for Kessler was the option to motorise the thing later on. Because it seemed like a good combo of features I got the Kessler pocket dolly Philip Bloom edition. Now I have to admit I only tried it a bit during a DSLR meetup in Amsterdam (video here: https://vimeo.com/49480650) and at the IBC the next day. Despite not being a big fan of any gear with bright colors, I ended up with the red lipstick version. (ordered the black one, but the guy said ‘we have a red one and can send it today if you want to shoot tomorrow)

Very pretty actually, was pleasantly surprised by the nice shine, it actually looks rather smart. The first two things I noticed where: just out of the box it had a lot of play when turning on a bit of drag control. A case of belt tension adjustment I guess, will sort that out later. Perhaps it is good for travel, but I would like things to be ready to go out of the box. Because I would like to use the slider for fast moving tracking, back and forth, or just fast action, I was a bit disappointed by the noise it makes. Not much better then Slyder from Digital Juice, which is about half the price. That one doesn’t seem to have a motorise upgrade path, or a crank though.

 

To make life easy, sadly not lighter, I added three Kwik release systems, two with the heavy duty plate, one for the tripod / slider, the other to put the fluid head on the slider carriage. And the last one on top of the fluid head so I can switch between any of the camera’s / rigs. For camera’s etc. I got another 4 short plates, they are nice and light. You can see they are very well made and the aluminium looks high quality. The odd thing is that the Kwik release comes with a bunch of allen keys but none of them fit the biggest screw, shame because the rest of the package includes the great utility plate, really easy to use big plastic knob bots had very nice plastic wrapped screws and tools. and we all know, if you are going to screw a nut, you better do it with the in the right key.
nut-keyFor US products it is not that easy for use poor non UK people to find the right allen key, we don’t have many people here called Allen or that special relationship they seem to enjoy, therefore we don’t get the special tools. I do use the big nut and would have preferred a fitting tool. According to Kessler almost nobody uses it and therefore they don’t see the need to provide one. They are a better judge of this situation then I am, I guess I’m one of the few who does like big nuts.

Before getting updated by Kessler about the function of this tool, I thought it was odd it did not work securing the low profile ball head. Ordered the low profile ball head at the same time as the slider and because of the temperature during shipping it was stuck. After watching the video again it turns out it is pretty easy to secure and you don’t need the tool in most cases. Perhaps I’m adding fluid heads that are too big and have too much drag for this purpose because sometimes it still comes loose.

For proper use of the Low profile ball head check out this video: https://vimeo.com/42364792

Now I like a lot of things loose, hanging, women and jokes, but not so much parts of gear that are suppose to be rock solid. The minute I picked up the slider I found both ends are kinda loose. They move up and down without any force, if this was a 400 euro slider I probably would not mention it. This is suppose to be a quality product so I do expect things to be locked in tighter then a mummy during a spaceshuttle launch… yeah that makes sense.

The real problem is that one of the sides holds a bubble level and this is the end result of the twisting ends.

UPDATE: The guys from Kessler have told me this was a known issue and this slider should have been recalled. Somehow it did make it do my door and they are going to replace it with a proper unit.

And now for the main event: The reason we like to throw money at Kessler products: To get a slider with perfect drag control you can set to match the fluid head. Perhaps this slider is one that quality control missed? It feels a bit like an old manfrotto tripod that used to give me nightmares in the 1980′s, that dream had a Giorgio Moroder soundtrack… the horror! (I think he shortened his name to Mordor and did some eye work in movies.)

So yes drag control, very important, with all the red lipstick on the sides you might think it looks enough dragged out but this time this is not the drag i’m looking for. Without it, you can’t make long controlled moves unless you throw another 700 euro at a electric motor setup. But that can’t be the point of this setup, it should work perfectly.

During the shoot of this video: I ran into another practical issue is: you really need strong tripod legs if you want to use a single tripod in the middle of the slider. After the first atempt with the legs of a Secced DV6 I used the legs of a Vinten 75mm, not only are they strong enough, the bowl comes off the fluid head and you can put a Kwik release on it. Nice because you can drop in a slider or a utility plate with the fluid head. The other good thing about that is you can put the fluid head a bit off centre and add two Zacuto quick release 15mm clamps. Nice if you want to have a Z-American arm with SmallHD or whatever monitor on it.

After the guys from Kessler send me a screw hole diagram I was able to screw the Kwik release to the slider carriage. Four small holes line up with the plate and Kwik release. Usually I’m good with puzzles but this is something you need to see on paper. (Or it is my first senior momen.. naah it’s someone elses fault I’m sure of it!)

Do I like the pocket dolly? The short sliding moves you can make with the slider are very effective, but the poor drag control is a big let-down. The total package is not cheap, it’s not extremely expensive but I did expect a lot more from it. I’m an optimist, if this was a design problem people would have mentioned this right? So will check with the dealer and see what’s up with that?!? (Cue DeAndre Cole) Will update if there are any changes.

have fun,

Maarten

Pocket Dolly version used:

Philip Bloom Edition Standard Length

Length: 41.5″ (105.4cm)

UPDATE:

Edited this post after some feedback from Kessler, some parts where shipped without any manual or link to the online KesslerU site for packing reasons (which I agreed on) incorrect assumptions have been updated. They responded within a day and have been very helpful. From the feedback and questions I have to admit to be very impressed by how well they read all my points and responded to them. It also turns out that the slider I got was a unit they had recalled but somehow got sold by my dutch dealer pals anyway. They where trying to help me get a slider quickly and there must have been a mixup. The minute I have time for an appointment with UPS the slider will be send back and they will replace it with a proper unit. I even got the question if I wanted a black one because it was one of the points in this review.