Zacuto, a small company out of IL, rised to fame in middle - late 2007 with their Universal Baseplate + Z-Riser combo, thanks to the introduction of 'flip' 35mm adapters, like the Letus Extreme. Before the flippers, everybody in indie land was living happily with their redrock, cavision, (insert your brand here) baseplate system. Baseplate and rods are cheap and everybody was happy as a clam.
With the Letus Extreme, suddently everybody have ergonomic issue with their camera setup. Cameras were suddently levatating 3-4 inches up in the air, 5-6 inches away from the center of the tripod. Many people do not realized COG (Center of Gravity) concept and how it affects the operations of your tripod. E.g. you can hold more weight if you hug the item closer to your body (your COG) and if you extend you arm away from your body (COG), you can hardly support or hold the same weight load.
Yet, you see people putting their camera all the way off the COG of their Bogen 503 tripod, with long noga arm extending left and right supporting their Marshall LCD and their monitor battery. Then they wonder why their footage is not smooth or why their monitor keeps falling off their noga arm. If you want to learn more about COG and your tripod, check out Vinten's website.
Enter the $560 Zacuto universal baseplate (v3 now). I know, the price, that was the same initial reaction that came out of me. What could the Zacuto do that my $160 Cavision couldnt do, I scoff. Well ... lets see.
Horizontal adjustments of ~ 2 inches. The long silver plate clamps down and hold the red anodized main plate in place. You tighten down the silver plate with two 4mm allen bolts on the bottom of the baseplate.
Vertical adjustments of about 3/4" of an inch. Also note the threaded female rods, allowing extention with male rods. Every single bolt in the whole system is 4mm in size.
Back/Fort adjustments on your tripod plate of ~ 4 half inch so you can balance your front or rear heavy cam.
The underside of the Zacuto universal baseplate v3. Notice the 4 bolts on the outside of the system. Those are the bolts that you use to clamp down the silver plate in order to secure the red anodized main plate.
Now here is the best feature of the Zacuto Universal Baseplate system. Every single bolt and element in this design is MODULAR and removable/replaceable. No wonder Zacuto is providing free lifetime warranty to their products. Everything is very very very VERY well designed and executed, there are no wobble, no misfit parts and everything was made to withstand the rigours of life on the set. For god sake, this thing weights 3 1/2 pounds ++ vs 1 1/2 lb on the other rod support system, you can slam the Zacuto universal baseplate hard to the ground and you are probably just going to scratch it. The only downsize of the product is that the allen bolts are not stainless steel, and one of the bolts on my baseplate developed some corrossion and I had to remove the rust.
My old Nightmare. The $160 Cavision rod system is just a toy compared to the Zacuto. The design is extremely flimsy and do not inspire confident at all. I could never get my cam to be rock steady on the tripod with the Cavision. Some bolts ont he Cavision would not aligned with the slots, as a result every single bolt needed to be checked and tighten and forget about that peace of mind that your $15k + camera system might just come falling off.
Like I used to say, your camera is outdated annually in April (NAB) but there are certain things that are part of your foundation that will follow you and last forever. Your rod support system and tripod are certaintly on that list. Yes, everything Zacuto is expen$ive, but you are actually paying for something that works incredibly well that you can pass on to your grand children.