What is the best kite for KAP?

If I had to choose one kite above any other that I’ve flown as a camera lifter it would be this one: the Into The Wind Levitation 9′ Delta.

ITW LevitationIt needs one simple modification for KAP: the replacement of the spreader spar with a deep ferrule 2 piece 8mm carbon one.  The only times it lets me down is at the slack end of Bft 2 when Mike Jones’s beautiful 8’Rokkaku does the job:

JA 8'RokkakuThe delta, being sparred like the Rokkaku and can be a bit awkward to carry around so I keep a a variety of soft kites to pack on the bike, like this one for Bft 3:

Explorer 2_7In punchier winds like Bft 4 and above its the PFK Nighthawk:PFK x640

which needs a lot of sky to work in so I always give it more line ahead of the camera to keep things steady.

I have been adding content to the KAPwiki and I think answers to ‘what is the best kite for KAP?’ is probably the most wanted information. Wicherd has made a start but definitive advice on this is problematic. It’s possible to get good pictures from all manner of kites and one KAPers opinion is very different to another. I have my own preferences and, like all advice I give, I’m loath to make any recommendation I have not tried myself.

One thing is very clear: the relationship between KAPer and  kite is personal, so here is how I see  some KAP personalities expressed by the kites they fly:

Brooks Lefler clearly loves his trusty fled

Ramon Palares is a big fan of the Levi Levitation Light, and a big Rokkaku. I am indebted to him for his recommendation of this excellent kite.

Scott Dun keeps a loft full of kites but I see him as a Dopero man.

Christian Becot is a master of many kites but has made the Calomil his own

Hamish Fenton is a flowform flyer but takes to the skies with a mighty Cody when the fancy takes him

Simon Harbord loves his Dan Leigh delta

Ralf  Beutnagel wouldn’t fly anything less than a 8m custom KAPfoil

And me?  It’s easy to characterize others but self-examination reveals a common KAPer trait- we like options!   Although we have our favorite kites we are always looking for a better option, the business of reliably lifting a camera by kite means, like a golfer with a choice of irons, KAPers take a set of kites into the field.

Flying an 800g rig  over the last 3 years I have figured out what works best in Bft 2- an 8’Rokkaku by Jones Aerofoils, or if I can’t pack sticks, a  CiM Lifter parafoil:

Over the moon I use a light (150 DaN) line with the big lifter and keep it well away from anything over 7mph. The ITW Levitation excels in Bft 3 and 4. I have the option of a Didak Explorer 2.7 if I’m packing light.  In winds over 10mph (Bft 3 ) the Explorer  has enough pull to fly on a heavy 250DaN line up to about 20mph and then its over to the PFK Nighthawk for the blustery stuff. Having watched the ‘soft’ kites kites weave about I always fly with a 15cm drogue towed about 5m behind- the drogue slows spins and dampens the weaving tendency.

3m Rokkaku When I was lucky enough to fly with Clive Hollins I got use of this big custom made kite and as a Bft 2 lifter It can’t be beat. It has snapped its original fiberglass spars and now has carbon fibre replacements. It is much more stable and creates more lift than the Cim Lifter in the same wind.

DSLR KAP I’m tip-toeing my way towards kites that will lift a 1.5 Kg DSLR rig happily. This is a process of seeing if I can push my favorite kites into faster wind-speeds or shaving weight off proven set ups by reducing the weight of line I fly with.  These tactics are risky as I’m in danger of flying an overblown kite or snapping flying line.

The idea of KAP balance is important to me- I like to walk the kite across the landscape I photograph. When Simon speaks of ‘KAP connection’ I know what he means:  KAP is at its most pleasurable when the lift from the kite, the pull on the flier and the mass of the camera are in balance: if I find myself fighting with the kite on a razor tight line or if the lift is erratic the process can become something of a grim struggle between the desire to fly and natural forces.

I used the HQ Flowform 2.0 as a Bft 3 lifter for a good while, it is a reliable flier  but can spin when its overblown. It’s been replaced by the ITW Levitation now.

So what are the basics of a good KAP kite then?

Size: in general large kites are more stable than small ones-I’d say 2m2 is a minimum except for the Bft 4/5 stuff where smaller sizes can work.

Static stability: a single line kite is better than a high speed stunter, kites designed for traction don’t work well as lifters. The flying angle is important, it’s often an advantage to be able to have the kite a long way down wind without gaining too much height, the ‘soft kites’ do this well.

Wind range: The kite neeeds to be able to fly and carry your camera in both lull and gust, not all kites fly in a wide range of wind speeds: if a kite will only lift a KAP rig at a critical wind speed and then be uncontrollable in anything above that it’s a not a good KAP kite! (see wise words from Tom Benedict below on this)

Durability:  the repeated  bending and flexing of kites can lead to snapped spars or ripped sails so those kites that are put before Bft 3 and 4 need to be well stitched!

Controlability, by this I mean ‘recoverabilty’, for example I know, with luck, I can escape from a spin with the flowforms but not an inversion of the parafoil. Another aspect of this is how manageable a kite is when hauling it down, big parafoils are not for me as they need industrial levels of anchor, flying line and arms of steel to get back on the ground!

Availability: very often the best kite for the job is the one you have to hand, adding a drogue or tail and changing the line weight can help an unpromising kite do better.

Now I hear the question…’So go on then Bill, enough of the chat, tell us which is best for a beginner to start their KAP adventure then?’

Well, so far I have to say, the easiest to fly in the gentlest winds is the Rokkaku, a 3m one might be a bit much for a beginner but a 2m one should do the trick. Failing that the Colours in Motion Lifter is a good light wind lifter provided you take the time to tune it, but once the KAP bug has bitten its very hard to pick just one kite!

The Hq Flowform 2.0 at £99 (on request)  and the CiM Lifter is £105 from EMKay kites in the UK.

A 1.98m Rok is made by Premiere Kites- I’ve not flown it so I won’t recommend it!

So not a simple answer to the question but there a whole lot of fun to be had finding out the answer!

For continuity with the comment thread below I point out that a mainstay lifter for KAP has been the Sutton flowform which is a very reliable soft kite. I used the 2.7msq ’30’ model until it went out of production in Jan 2012. I have tested both the Didak Explorer 16 and the larger 27 model and they serve as good replacements: a bit less lift, a shallower flying angle than the Sutton but they are stable.

Happy flying,

B

 

PS: Since posting this the exploration of KAP kites has continued: here and here

Updated 29/04/2014

 


About billboyheritagesurvey

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15 Responses to What is the best kite for KAP?

  1. Very usefull comment on this has been posted here:;

    http://arch.ced.berkeley.edu/kap/discuss/comments.php?DiscussionID=3720&page=1#Item_21

    and the wiki updated accordingly here:

    https://sites.google.com/site/kapwikipage/kap-kites

    I recall Simon Harbord’s comment ‘there as many different ways of doing KAP as there are KAPers!’

  2. I may be a flowform flyer (8&16 + rarely 4), my workhorse kites are a 2metre Rokkaku (Premier Kites) and the Flow Form 16 (Sutton). Then I also fly a Trooper (ITW), Cody, Delta Conyne and another Rokkaku.

    The all up weight of the camera and rig that I normally fly is about 275g.

    The colder it is the less wind I need to get the same amount of lift from the same kite.

    Hamish

    • Thanks Hamish,

      My you work light! my lightest rig is 200g and I have resolution ‘issues’ with that (7mp) but I see you have a good range of kites in your flight and I think this is a key message to get on the wiki-you can’t expect one kite to do it all.

      Any thought on what to replace the Sutton flowform with?

      Careful with those volcanoes….I’d expect some surprise lift there!

      B

      • My Sutton Flowform 16 is getting fairly worn, and the thought of replacing it crossed my mind a few months ago. An order with intothewind.com was placed before Christmas when they still had stock, nothing received yet, apparently they are dispatching it tomorrow (3 February 2012). I’m not very hopeful – so a need to replace the Sutton flowform 16 with something else may be on my mind very soon indeed.

        I didn’t get far enough over the crater for the surprise lift, but I did get far enough over to loose the wind a couple of times, If the wind I was flying in had been steadier I would have carefully let the kite and camera drop/drift down into the crater before pulling it out again.

        H

  3. Hamish

    I have tried the Didak ‘flowform 4’ and is no substitute for the Sutton even after a lot of tweaking I couldn’t get the same flexibility out of it. It’s a light wind kite at best. It looks like their Exporer is the next best option as a Sutton replacement. Ralf Dietrich was very impressed with it back in 2009 (when we thought we could get Suttons for ever eh?) The Explorers all seem to be sold out now but I trust Peter is in touch with Didak at KAPshop.

    http://www.didak.com/en/nieuws/2011/explorer-kap

    they even do a ‘2,7’ version which equates to the famous FF30 size I’ll be getting one in due course and post the results here. Peter is selling them through KAP shop but he’s out of stock at the mo. They have been around since 2009 so I expect Didak have to set up another batch now.

    I have hacked together a translation of Ralf Dietrich’s review of the the 2.7: https://billboyheritagesurvey.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/didak-explorer/

  4. Tom Benedict says:

    Wait a second. The Flow Forms from Air Affairs are going out of production?! CRAP! I love my FF16. I’ve put a ton of miles on it (so to speak). I wish I had the cash to get a reserve Flow Form and set it aside for future need.

    One other characteristic I’d add to your list: Wide wind range.

    When I started doing KAP I had an Into The Wind parafoil that had about the narrowest wind range of any kite known to man. It would fly in about six knots, lift in about eight, and fall out of the sky in about ten. “Gawdawful” is how I’d describe it. Contrast that to any of the kites you listed, you can see the problem. It was utterly unsuited for KAP.

    My favorite kite to fly is still a rokkaku, but ever since doing the Wind Watcher mods to my Dopero, I love the wind range it can fly in. It’ll fly in 3.5 knots, lift a DSLR in 5-6, and continues to fly well into rokkaku range. (Actually, since the mod I haven’t managed to over-power it. Jim flies his in 25kt winds. I think that’s nuts, but it’s possible.)

    I’ve got a Didak RGB rokkaku. The bridle was horrid right out of the bag, and the fiberglass spars are too heavy for the sail, but the construction of the sail itself is rock solid. If the Didak Flow Forms are built along similar lines, they should be solid lifters.

    I’m off to read your review!

    Tom

    • Tom,
      I have added ‘wind range’ to my list above and also added your comment to the wiki. I think pull and lift are considerations here too although I suspect the guidance on this would be something like – if it pulls wear gloves / if it lifts wait for it to over fly you and then tweak the bridle…and keep wearing gloves!

      Btw it’s great to see your hit rate with the vid Tx/Rx set up: those shots look like stills from ‘The Descendants’ !

      B

  5. Reblogged this on Billboyheritagesurvey's Blog and commented:

    There has been a flurry on interest in this post so I have brought it up to date!

  6. Phil Tuggle says:

    While the Levitation, Flowform 16, and others are great, the KAP winner for me is the 8-foot Rokakku. It is a super-stable workhorse almost like an island in the sky even in the lightest of winds. After all, for photography with the most consistent outcome and highest number of “keeper” images, a light steady wind is ideal. Yep, the others certainly have their place and will keep you in the sky, but a big Rok is for true ART.

    • Phil, It’s true the 8’Rok days are the best, in 4-7mph it is a joy to work with but over 12 it’s too powerful to handle easily, that’s where the 9′ delta wins; it can take quite a pasting and still keep a smooth motion in the sky without putting your fingers at risk.

      As for the ‘keeper’ rate I’d say good sunlight, right tame of day and right wind direction are more important than which kite you fly!
      B

  7. Renaud says:

    Hi all,

    I own a DC Alpine and a Fled, and I was wondering how a Levitation Delta compares to them in the often very light and unstable winds I have here (Nice, France, the Alps diving int the sea, think of it as a big lake surrounded with high mountains). Do someone have experience of them ?
    Thanks for your thoughts !

    • Renaud,

      The Levitation delta is a good allrounder. Having flown it for a good while I find its best in lighter winds with Bft 3 ideal. I have to say it is more fragile than I expected given its simplicity. The balance of the wing spars is lost in time. As to the local micro climate where you are I can’t comment- you will have to explore and discover its vagaries for yourself!

      Good luck,

      Bill

  8. Renaud says:

    OK Bill, thank you. I think I’ll stick with the Fled > Rokkaku 78″” (or soft Kite) > Kiwi base trio, according to the wind strength..

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