Action Level

The Korean-made Seculine Action Level AL105 was on the Kaiser stand at photokina 2008; it is imported to Europe by Kaiser, though US distribution was not clear as we wrote this. If you ever have difficulty in levelling your camera, it is absolutely brilliant.

The pictures below are all but self-explanatory. It goes into the accessory shoe, and at the highest sensitivity setting it enables you to level the camera left/right to an accuracy of better than 10 seconds of arc (under 0.2 degree), whether the camera is held "landscape" (horizontal) or "portrait" (vertical).

The instructions are at first sight forbidding, but that's mostly because the manufacturers have fitted two photographs, 21 tiny diagrams and instructions in 6 languages (Korean, English, Japanese, German, French and Spanish) onto a single sheet of A4 paper. What is more, the instructions are far from perfectly translated into English. They may be a little easier to understand as illustrated here.

ac-01 leveling device

The secret is a 5-LED "traffic light" for leveling: red for "tilted', amber for "almost there', green for "level' (top right).

1   Put the level in the accessory shoe of the camera in which you intend to use it.

2   Place the camera on a flat, level surface or (better still) align the viewfinder with a vertical or horizontal line (such as the horizon) to make sure the camera is level.

3   Slide the on-off switch on the back to 'on'.

4   Press the right-hand button (the one on the 'off' side, marked with a +/- sign) for two seconds. The two amber lights should come on (the ones under 'on' and 'off'). Release the button. All five lights should then blink sequentially to indicate that the horizontal level is set: red-amber-green-amber-red.

5   Turn the camera through 90 degrees so that the Action Level is on the left (a tripod is handy!) Repeat step 4. This sets the left vertical level.

6   Turn the camera through 180 degrees so that it is vertical again, but the other way, with the Action Level on the right. Repeat Step 4. All levels are now set for that camera.

This takes less time to do than to read, and after you have done it for the first time, you don't need to do it again until you change cameras. Then it takes a minute or two, though the first time may take three to five minutes, especially if you try to follow the the manufacturers' instructions.

7  To adjust the sensitivity, switch the unit on and press the right-hand button briefly. One of the LEDs will shimmer briefly, indicating the current sensitivity level. Counterintuitively, the leftmost LED indicates the highest sensitivity; the rightmost, the lowest. Each press of the button changes the sensitivity by one 'click' to the right. When it reaches the far right, it starts again at the left.

8   To adjust brightness, switch the unit on and press the left-hand button briefly (the one on the 'on' side, marked with a 'radiant sun' symbol). One or more of the LEDs shimmers and becomes brighter. Each pressure makes it brighter until you reach maximum brightness, at which point it reverts to minimum. At least, that seems to be how it works, but even with both the instructions and the unit in front of us, we're not sure.

9   For 'battery power save' (blinking LED instead of continuous), switch the unit on and hold the left-hand button down for two seconds, then use the right hand switch to toggle between blinking and continuous. Blinking extends battery life by about 30%. We find the continuous version vastly easier to see and to use.

10   To reset to factory values, switch the unit on and hold both buttons down for two seconds. Then switch it off and on again.

A 2-plane level (left/right, and forward/back tilt) is under development, though of course the trade-off will be slightly greater bulk and slightly reduced battery life. Check www.kaiser-fototechnik.de for importers.

Of course it's not perfect. We'd like a rangefinder version where the level is closer to the eyepiece of the cameras; we'd prefer red-red-green-red-red to the current red-amber-green-amber-red, because it would be easier to differentiate out of the corner of the eye; and the 2x CR1220 batteries mean yet another set of batteries in the camera bag, with a battery life of 10-15 hours (maximum brightness, on all the time) to 30 hours (power save mode, minimum brightness).

Even so, it is an absolutely superb accessory, and having managed to 'win' one for review at the show, we are all ready to buy another.

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© 2007 Roger W. Hicks