June 10, 2015

Desmond DLEV-1 Leveler Leveling Base Review

Desmond DLEV-1 Leveler Leveling Base overview

The concept of thumb-wheel regulated leveling base goes back many years, even decades, ago with the introduction of Bogen® model 3416 Leveling Base and then replaced by Manfrotto® 338 QTVR Leveling Base when Manfrotto® Group absorbed their US distributors.

Manfrotto® 338 Leveling Base is big with two extra large diameter discs adjusted by three big brass dials and secured by three smaller ones.

A few years ago a trimmer and more refined model based on the same concept was introduced by Fanotec® the EZ-Leveler. Since Fanotec is engaged in the manufacture of panoramic heads their leveling base was designed with the total footprint in mind, so the regulating wheels were drawn closer to each other and the disks were also trimmed.

It didn't take long for Chinese manufacturers to replicate the EZ-Leveler as it was an easy to build design. So the DLEV-1 in question here belongs to the latter category. Desmod's role however, was to pick the best quality for the $ among the various similar designs.

The Leveling Base

Manufacturer Specification:
Model: DLEV-1
Top Platform Diameter:59.5 mm
Max Width:84.3 mm
Height w/stud:45.5 mm
Height w/o stud:38.5 mm
Stud Height:7 mm
Bottom mounting bushing thread:3/8"-16 UNC
Top mounting stud:3/8"-16 UNC
Weight:209 gr
Max Load capacity:> 5 kg (11 lbs)

The top platform of the leveling base is made of a 9.25 mm thick aluminium plate and forms an elliptical equilateral triangle, which is actually the best way to minimize the area of the platform around the mounting plate. The inner circle is filled with a cork plate, a classic way to prevent twisting.
The stainless steel 7 mm high mounting stud is threaded 3/8"-16 conforming with most ball head or panoramic heads standards.

Desmond DLEV-1 Leveling Base top view
Desmond DLEV-1 Leveling Base top platform with cork plate.

The bottom platform is made of a 8.5mm thick plate and minimizes footprint even more by using just enough metal to connect the three nested brass leveling bars with the top platform. It also provides a mounting hole for the base with a 3/8"-16 stainless steel bushing installed in the Aluminium thread of the base in order to reinforce the threads against wear from mounting and dismounting.

Desmond DLEV-1 Leveling Base bottom view
Desmond DLEV-1 Leveling Base bottom mounting stainless steel bushing.

Structure and Leveling Method

The operation of the DLEV-1 is based on three brass studs nested into internally threaded brass cylinders. Each column is regulated by large knurled thumb wheels in an iridescent electric blue color.
One should start with all three screws retracted to minimum. This is achieved by rotating the larger thumb wheels counterclockwise (looking from above) as far as they can go.

Desmond DLEV-1 Leveling Base regulating wheels
Desmond DLEV-1 Leveling Base regulating thumb wheels retracted

Each of the three leveling columns can be adjusted independently. Rotating each large thumb wheel clockwise (again looking from above) it extends the specific column by turning the stud into its corresponding fixed cylinder.
Do the same with other column if required.

Desmond DLEV-1 Leveling Base regulating wheels II
Desmond DLEV-1 Leveling Base hypothetical leveling fully extended with large regulating wheel.

After reaching the desired position by one of the larger wheels, it is essential to turn the smaller thumb wheels counterclockwise (always looking from above) until they tighten securely under the top platform. This has a twofold effect, it secures the large wheel making it less prone to loosen up while it stiffens the structure making it more sturdy.

Desmond DLEV-1 Leveling Base regulating wheels III
Desmond DLEV-1 Leveling Base with leveling secured by small thumb wheel.

Mounting on a Tripod

Mounting the DLEV-1 on a tripod like the similarly colored Nest NT-6294CT Carbon Fiber Traveler Tripod reviewed here is straightforward and just needs to screw the leveling base on the tripod stud, tightening well.
In order to avoid loosening of the base by counterclockwise motion of the equipment on top, the set screw on the tripod top mounting plate should be preferably utilized.

Desmond DLEV-1 Leveling Base mounted on tripod
Desmond DLEV-1 Leveling Base mounted on Nest NT-6294CT CF tripod

Mounting Equipment on the Leveling Base

In the same manner any equipment mounted on the top platform of the DLEV-1 like the Novoflex Panorama=Q 6/8 II Plate, also reviewed here, need to be tightened well and then secured by means of their own set screws.
Nonetheless, the cork plate on the DLEV-1 plays a significant role as an anti-twisting mechanism in case there are not any set screws available.

Desmond DLEV-1 Leveling Base mounted on tripod w/ panorama plate
Desmond DLEV-1 Leveling Base mounted on tripod and Novoflex Panorama=Q 6/8 II Plate on top platform of base.

Combined with DDSC-60 Discal Clamp

For fast action, when devices need to be mounted and dismounted very quickly on top of the leveling base, Desmond offers a combination of the DLEV-1 with their DDSC-60 diskal clamp which matches the size of the top platform and is attached on the top stud via its 3/8"-16 center hole.
On the other hand the DDSC-60 offers an external bubble level, missing from DLEV-1 itself.

Desmond DLEV-1 Leveling Base w/ DDSC-60 QR Clamp
Desmond DLEV-1 Leveling Base with matching DDSC-60 diskal QR Clamp

As mentioned in the New Line of User Serviceable QR Clamps Announced by Desmond article the DDSC-60 presents an innovation regarding its quite large bubble level. Nonetheless, the user can relocate the bubble level at will and position it in 3 different holes on the perimeter of the QR clamp, very easily. These holes are located on either side below the safety relief grooves and opposite the QR clamp screw knob.

Desmond DLEV-1 Leveling Base w/ DDSC-60 QR Clamp top
Desmond DLEV-1 Leveling Base with DDSC-60 QR Clamp bubble level set opposite the screw knob

Using the Leveling Base
Nevertheless, the uses of a Leveling Base are not limited only to supporting and quick leveling a Panoramic head as described above. A leveling base can also easily level and support Gimbal heads, Video heads (without a bowl) and Medium Frame to Large Frame cameras.

Somehow, while DLEV-1 is easier to operate with smaller footprint panoramic heads, it does not seem to cope well with large Gimbal heads loaded with large telephoto lenses and generally with large heads with offset weights as heavier weights which make it look wobbly to some users.

But here's the catch! After leveling the base by regulating one of the larger wheels, always remember to turn the smaller thumb wheels counterclockwise until they tighten securely under the top platform (as previously described) since this makes the leveling base more sturdy.
Then supporting larger and heavier Multi-Row Panoramic heads, Gimbal heads and/or Medium format cameras, would also fit into the service range this small leveling base.

Very good metal quality plus machining, finishing and fitting.
Compact size and low weight.
Smooth thumb wheel operation under load.
Minute and precise adjustment.
Excellent value for money ratio.

No integration of a spirit bubble level.
A little more time consuming to level a device than a half ball leveling base but more accurate.

If you are interested to support a Panoramic head or medium sized Gimbal head with balanced loads then the DLEV-1 will be a great companion almost vibration free.
To be on the safe side better keep it within the manufacturers load limits, which at 5 kg is not bad.
Desmond is always seeking best quality possible for the buck and this leveling base proves that they abide to their rules. I do not consider DLEV-1 unique but on par with the quality Desmond has accustomed us up to now. Actually is better than most similar clones from China circulating in the market, making it an excellent value for money.

This review and test was run on a single product sample, using the specifically described methods. Independent of the favorable or unfavorable results of any test, a test on a single product 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.

Note: The Desmond DLEV-1 Leveler presented in this article was kindly offered by Desmond Photographic Distributors, USA, for evaluation and review.

I hope you found the review useful, thank you for viewing.
All Photos © 2015-2017 S.C.Vlachos

Price and Availability:
Current prices for the Desmond Leveling base is US$ 49.95 for the DLEV-1 or US$ 63.95 for the DLEV-1 combined with the DDSC-60 Discal Clamp. Both are available from Amazon and from eBay

Referenced Articles:

New Line of User Serviceable QR Clamps Announced by Desmond

Nest NT-6294CT Carbon Fiber Traveler Tripod Review

Novoflex Panorama=Q 6/8 II Plate Review

Novoflex VR-System Slim Panorama Head Review

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Sunwayfoto DYH-66i Leveling Base Review

Sunwayfoto DYH-90 Leveling Base Review

Sunwayfoto DYH-90R Leveling Base Review

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