November 21, 2012

Sunwayfoto DYH-66i Leveling Base Review

Sunwayfoto DYH-66i leveling base overview
Some of the more frequent readers may recall my ongoing engagement in the study, preparation and testing of a new Heavy Duty Panorama Head.

Continues testing under various setups brings out more and more details that should be taken care of, before bringing a new idea into the public.

As the load and especially the offset weight increases so do the demands from the supporting gear. After my initial tests with quite a heavy duty and low profile ball head, I reached the conclusion that the stability of the new heavy duty panorama head would benefit more from a leveling base than a ball head.

As it usually happens to me, I ended up ordering the updated and improved Sunwayfoto DYH-66i Leveling Base, "leveling" and "basing" my decision on its strong locking ability, broader range of +/-16° tilting and logical price.
DYH-66i is the latest (i= improved) version of the DYH-66 model that originally came out two years ago and the smallest of the three models in the Sunwayfoto line of Leveling Bases.

The Package & Contents

Sunwayfoto DYH-66i box
The Leveling Base comes in the lately adopted by Sunwayfoto recycled-carton box; shrink wrapped which ensures that the product has not been opened after it left the factory. A large white label on the side shows the content photo, model and main specification; while a smaller white label exists in the front together with an oval-shaped transparent label that bears the Quality Control stamp.
Sunwayfoto DYH-66i box contents
The DYH-66i Leveling Base travels in the box within a thick foam padding, with all the accompanying documents and accessories in separate zip-lock nylon bags.
Sunwayfoto DYH Operating Instructions
There is an "Operating Instructions" fan-fold leaflet with basic but adequate instructions to set up and maintain the leveling base.
Sunwayfoto DYH-66i Accessories
A good quality microfiber Sunwayfoto Cleaning Cloth together with an 1/4"-20 ~ 3/8"16 conversion bushing and an Allen hex wrench are also found in the box.
Sunwayfoto DYH-66i warranty & customer cards
And last but not least a credit card sized warranty Card stating Model and Serial Number and a "Customer Information Card" for use together with the Warranty card in case of applying for a warranty claim.
I should point out here, that Sunwayfoto offers a 5 year limited warranty extension, upon registration of certain products in their website, within one month from the date of purchase.

The Leveling Base
Manufacturer Specification:
Model: DYH-66i
Platform Diameter:66 mm
Base Diameter:60 mm
Height:42 mm
Bottom mounting thread: 3/8"-16 UNC
Top mounting stud:1/4"-20 UNC
Weight:290 gr*
Max Load capacity:> 10.0 kg (22 lbs)

*Verified weight on electronic scales: 285 gr

Sunwayfoto DYH-66i leveling base full view
Coming in direct contact with DYH-66i leveling base, brings the -usual to me now- feeling of a sturdy structure with a very fine and high quality CNC machining and finishing. All aluminum parts are hard coat anodized in a satin black color with only accents of the stainless-steel stud, screws and lock-knob shaft. 
The design is pleasant to the eye with all edges finely rounded, while the three inclined extensions in triangular formation holding the security anti-twist screws and the large offset bubble level give the leveling base a distinguishing appearance. It's more compact than it shows in the photos, though.
Sunwayfoto DYH-66i Lever Lock knob positioning
The half-ball is controlled via a quite large off-center Lever Lock-Knob extending out from the side of the mounting base. The Lever knob is all metal, spring-loaded, capping a stainless-steel shaft that actually controls the Leveling Base locking mechanism. If in any case the rotation of the Lever lock-knob is blocked or it interferes with other equipment (lower left photo above) it may easily pulled out until the internal hex nut is revealed (central photo above) and relocated in one of the 12 possible positions that proves more convenient (lower right photo above). 
Sunwayfoto DYH-66i tilted right
The verified* ability of DYH-66i to tilt +16° or ...
Sunwayfoto DYH-66i tilted left
... -16° degrees, permits leveling of a tripod head in almost any terrain whichever the tripod leg angles may be.
While, on the other hand gives a clear advantage to the DYH-66i over the competition.
*Tilting to 16° was verified with an electronic inclinometer.

Improvements Over the Previous Version

Sunwayfoto DYH-66 original
Photo by courtesy of Sunwayfoto.com
Obvious differences between the DYH-66i and the original DYH-66 pictured here are:
The exchange of the 3/8"-16 top mounting stud with an 1/4"-20 one for compatibility with more equipment.
The positioning of the large bubble level outside the top platform perimeter in order to remain visible after the attachment of equipment.
The addition of three security anti-twist screws in the perimeter of the top platform.
On the other hand there are less obvious changes like a slight decrease in the height and a better scratch proof anodizing, or invisible but felt improvements in the weight and handling of the leveling base.


Comparison with the Competition
The table below shows a comparison of Sunwayfoto DYH-66i leveling base with leveling bases of similar characteristics and price range coming from well known brands.

Manufacturer: SunwayfotoAcratechBenroManfrottoRRS
Model:DYH-66iLBLBA-1438VS 2
Leveling:+/-16°+/-10°+/-15°+/-5°+/-15°
Platform ∅:66 mm /2.60 "60 mm /2.37"65 mm /2.56"-- mm73 mm /2.9"
Base ∅:60 mm /2.37"60 mm /2.37"60 mm /2.37"-- mm-- mm
Height:42 mm /1.65"45 mm /1.77"40 mm /1.57"50 mm /1.97"72 mm /2.8"
Bottom thread:3/8"-16* 1/4"-20 / 3/8"-16 3/8"-16 3/8"-16 3/8"-16 
Top stud:1/4"-20* 1/4"-20 / 3/8"-163/8"-16 3/8"-16 3/8"-16
Weight:285 gr /10.05 oz240 gr /8.5 oz295 gr /10.4 oz650 gr /22.9oz330 gr /11.6 oz
Max Load :10.0kg / 22 lbs11.5kg / 25 lbs05.0 kg / 11 lbs15.0 kg / 33 lbs16.0 kg / 35 lbs

*Convertible via 1/4"-20 to 3/8"-16 bushing

Mounting on a Tripod
DYH-66i has the usual 3/8"-16 threaded center hole at the bottom for mounting onto an equivalent tripod stud. However, after mounting the leveling base on a tripod for testing, I realized that there was something wrong as the leveling base had a peculiar and unstable behavior in locking. Since prior to mounting the Leveling Base seemed to operate properly a closer examination revealed that the tripod mounting stud was causing the trouble.*

Sunwayfoto DYH-66i bottom view
The small issue here lies on the fact that due to its low profile, the bottom mounting hole threads of the leveling base  are 6 mm deep. So if the top mounting stud of the tripod, stands out higher than 6-7 mm (as mine usually do), it presses against the base locking mechanism internally, preventing it from functioning properly.
Sunwayfoto DYH-66i tripod mounting
There is no drawback whatsoever, since 6 mm of a 3/8" stud are more that adequate in holding very heavy equipment. Only caution should be taken with the height of the tripod stud, when mounting the Leveling Base. Otherwise frustration will make you blame demons and gods for a malfunctioning base.
As we can see above DYH-66i sits very nicely on top of a 58 mm tripod mounting plate usually found on most Series 2 and 3 tripods. The load specification is also suitable to these tripods' max load specs.
* I have contacted Sunwayfoto headquarters on the matter and they confirmed that a warning note will be appended  in the "Operating Instructions" manual in order to avoid any possible user frustration in the future.

Sunwayfoto DYH-66i Lever-knob rotation
With the DYH-66i Leveling Base mounted properly, everything operates very smoothly and it needs only half a turn of the Lever lock-knob from the "loose" to the "tightly locked" position.

Mounting Equipment on the Leveling Base
Besides my original intention to use the leveling base for the support of a heavy duty Panoramic head illustrated later on, a leveling base of this size and load capacity will prove equally suitable for use with a Gimbal head, a 2-way Video Pan-head as well as with medium-frame 6 X 6 and 6 X 7 cameras.

Sunwayfoto DYH-66i top stud w/ conversion bushig
As fore mentioned the DYH-66i Leveling base comes with an 1/4"-20 ~ 3/8"-16 conversion bushing pre-installed on its top mounting stud. In this way any gear with either an 1/4"-20 or 3/8"-16 mounting socket can be mounted directly on the top platform of the leveling base.
Sunwayfoto DYH-66i top platform security screws
Three angled headless screws with hex socket, which are located in a triangular formation around the top platform perimeter, offer an extra security. The included Allen hex key is intended for use with these exact screws. There is no need to over tighten your equipment on the leveling base, since by tightening a little the security screws, their rounded tip will block any mounted gear from twisting under load and eventually unscrew off.




Sunwayfoto DYH-66i & DDP-64M+DDY-64 direct mounting
As a direct mounting example I use the Sunwayfoto DDP-64M Panoramic Indexing Rotator. Since DYH-66i has an 1/4"-20 top mounting stud and DDP-64MX has a 3/8"-16 bottom mounting hole it is imperative to use a conversion bushing. Both come with a reducer bushing preinstalled. therefore one has to be removed. I preferred to keep the one preinstalled at the DDP-64MX bottom hole as less prone to unscrew, thus removed the one installed on the DYH mounting stud (top right photo).
Pictured above DDP-64M fitting perfectly on DYH-66i leveling base.
Sunwayfoto DYH-66i & DDP-64M+DDY-64 - security screws
By tightening with moderate force the security screws around the top platform perimeter, the indexing rotator is secured without fear of twisting and loosening.

Combined with DDY-64 Discal Clamp
As I also mentioned in the Sunwayfoto DDY-64 Discal Quick Release Clamp Review, although DYH-66i leveling base is equipped with the appropriate 1/4"-20 mounting holes, the combination with DDY-64 clamp has not been documented or at least has not come into my attention.
This combination may well increase the versatility of the leveling base when fast action is required in exchanging gear on top of the leveling base. Even more when for example a medium-format camera is mount on the base, via an Arca-Swiss® compatible base plate/rail; since the combination will permit a fore-aft or lateral adjustment.

Sunwayfoto DYH-66i & DDY-64 clamp aside
The DDY-64 QR clamp can be mounted on top of the Sunwayfoto DYH-66i Leveling Base, either using the conversion bushing or more preferably the two included 1/4"-20 bolts and the 5 mm Allen hex key.
Sunwayfoto DYH-66i & DDY-64 clamp mounted
DDY-64 screwed and secured on DYH-66i. As a plus DDY-64's long shaft knob may prove quite useful in handling the leveling base during the leveling process.
Sunwayfoto DYH-66i+DDY-64 on Triopo GX-1328 tripod
DYH-66i leveling base combined with DDY-64 discal clamp on top of the Triopo GX-1328 Classic Carbon Fiber Tripod (review) is ready to accept any gear equipped with an Arca-mount plate.
Sunwayfoto DYH-66i+DDY-64 mounting DDP-64MX+DDY-64 example
As is the case with the Sunwayfoto DDP-64MX+DDY-64 Panoramic Indexing Rotator shown above. Fast and secure clamping without having to fiddle with small securing anti-twist screws.

Torque Test results
A full torque test is under preparation.

Sunwayfoto DYH-66i ball diameter
The model name DYH-66i, by "66" does not only represent the diameter of the top mounting platform but also the diameter of the half ball that bears all the weight undertaking the leveling task. Therefore, considering the ball diameter the declared maximum load of 10 kg by the manufacturer is quite preservative.

Using the Leveling Base
I have been with DYH-66i for a few months by now, testing and stressing it under different loads supporting my Heavy Duty Multi-Row HDR/Gigapixel Panoramic head (under development). It proves very sturdy, with far less flex than a ball head and almost vibration free. Any vibration is absorbed instantly which is very suitable for the purpose of fast changing shooting positions while maintaining accuracy for an HDR spherical panorama. Less stitching errors less post processing.

HDR Multi-Row Panorama head assembly
DYH-66i is pictured above supporting and leveling the Multi-Row panorama head in question with Sunwayfoto DDP-64M as horizontal rotator, Sunwayfoto DDP-64SX as vertical rotator (both equipped with DDY-64 Discal Quick Release Clamp) and Hejnar PHOTO rail and clamp structure. The Leveling base equals in sturdiness the rest of the structure giving the ability for smooth minor leveling adjustments even fully loaded.
Canon EOS50D+EF 70-200L IS USM on HDR Multi-row Pamrama head
Fully loaded with Canon EOS 50D + EF 70-200 L IS USM at quite an offset and unbalanced position in order to meet the lens nodal point. Checking with the bubble level on the Leveling Base the displacement was insignificant in order to need any adjustment. For such tasks DYH-66i is ideal as it can withstand far more torque compared to a ball head designated for even heavier loads. An extra plus is that it weighs only 290 gr which is far less than the weight of any heavy duty ball head.

Pros
Innovative and original design.
Exceptional machining, finishing, fitting and build quality.
Compact size and low weight.
Great stability and vibration absorption.
Very smooth ball operation.
Large offset bubble level.
Extra security screws.
Good value for money ratio.
5 year limited warranty extension upon registration.

Cons
Minor issue with the bottom mounting hole depth that only needs caution when mounting on a tripod.

Conclusion
As DYH-66i represents the 3rd generation of the DYH-66 leveling base model, most if not all of the functional issues reported with former DYH-66 and DYH-66X models are gone. Sunwayfoto proves that abides to their moto for listening to customers needs with the continues improvement of their products.
Nevertheless, the uses of a Leveling Base are not limited only to supporting and quick leveling a Panoramic head as described above. Gimbal heads, Video heads and Medium to Large frame cameras can be quickly leveled and supported by a Leveling Base like the DYH-66i.
As a bottom line, I consider DYH-66i one of my best purchases and can only recommend it.

Disclaimer:
This review and test was run on a single product sample, using the specifically described methods. Although the findings are good and some overcame the expectations for the product, it can not be used as a rule, unless more samples of the same product are tested. Furthermore, similar comparison tests should be run with comparative capabilities products so as to reach a solid conclusion.


I hope you found the article and ideas useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos & Photosynths: © 2012 S.C.Vlachos

Update Feb 2014
Although Sunwayfoto in latest production batches has increased the bottom mounting hole depth of the DYH-66i to 9.2 mm in order to address the issue mentioned in the "Mounting on a Tripod" section, they have also released Accessory Tripod Mounting Spacers for owners of leveling bases from older batches.


Price and Availability:
Current price for the DYH-66i is US$ 118.00 96.00 (+Shipping where applicable) and is available from Amazon.com
Using above link(s) to make a purchase you help support this site.

Referenced Articles:
A Quality Lens Cleaning Cloth by Sunwayfoto
Sunwayfoto DDY-64 Discal Quick Release Clamp Review
Sunwayfoto DDP-64MX Panoramic Indexing Rotator Review
Sunwayfoto DDP-64SX Panoramic Indexing Rotator Review
Triopo GX-1328 Carbon Fiber Classic Tripod Review

Relevant Articles:
Sunwayfoto DYH-90 Leveling Base Review
Sunwayfoto DYH-90R Leveling Base Review
Sunwayfoto Pano-3 Panoramic Head Review
Create a Heavy Duty Multi Row Panorama Head

4 comments :

  1. So, if my tripod stud is more than 6mm (and mine is), then I cannot tighten it all the way but stop short? I am less concerned about the stability, I am more concerned that the contact will be free to rotate if not tightened all the way. Isn't that true?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was informed recently that the depth of the the DYH-66i bottom mounting hole has been increased to 9.2 mm in latest batches, in order to address and rectify this issue. However, as long as I don't have a new test sample, I could not publish an official update to the review which is more than a year old now.
      Still, if you own or run across a DYH-66i leveling base coming from an older batch, there are two possible solutions.
      As most tripod studs are removable/reversible, the user can regulate how much they protrude, therefore bring it down to 6mm. (It's exactly what I have done in the review),
      In the adverse case your tripod stud is fixed, thus non adjustable, you can ask the leveling base supplier for a spacer disk.
      In any case, a leveling base should be tightened very well on the tripod. There is no room for compromises when expensive equipment are involved.

      Delete
    2. Thanks for the quick response and also for the thorough review. I shall try and confirm the increase in depth. I do have a tripod with reversible stud- did you use a washer or something like that to control the depth?

      Delete
    3. As long as your tripod stud has an adjustable hex-nut (like the ones described in the Triopo Tripod Spare Parts and Accessories Reference article) then it is easy to regulate how much will the stud protrude above the mounting plate, as I did.
      However, if your tripod stud has a non-adjustable fixed nut, then you'll need one of these Spacer Plates recently released by Sunwayfoto.
      Hope that helps.

      Delete