Finally, after a little over a decade, I recently decided it was time to invest in a new tripod and fluid head system. I could no longer deal with the performance of my old system and dealing with those annoying intermittent jerky movements that occurred whenever I would pan and tilt.
To solve the problem I began using Sachtler's Speed Lock 75CF Tripod. It's made from carbon fiber, which makes it extremely light. It is designed to be used with any fluid head that has a 75mm ball, which includes cameras like the Sony PD 170, DSR 570, and the like.
It is a double-extension tripod, which simply means it has one tier that is stationary and there are two extensions on each leg. It also has a clamp on each leg that is used to adjust the height of the tripod very quickly compared to the time-consuming screw method favored by older tripods.
Weighing in at a mere 4.4 lbs., this tripod is light enough that I can easily fold it up with my PD 170 still attached to it and move with ease from location to location. It has a payload of up to 44 lbs., depending on the fluid head you use with it.
Optional accessories include a mid-level spreader, pan bars, a padded carrying bag, and a set of dolly wheels that are so light and sturdy I was blown away.
The Sachtler's DV-6 SB speed balance fluid head is a beautiful thing! The head boasts a 10-step counterbalance, which saves a lot of time during setup. Counterbalance allows you to obtain the center of gravity based on the weight and size of your camera. By adjusting the counterbalance dial, once you find the right center of balance for your camera, it won't fall forward or backwards.
All you have to do is set this up once, and every time you put your camera on the fluid head it will be perfectly balanced unless the weight of the camera changes. For example, if you initially balance the camera without an on-camera light and later add a light or another accessory, you will need to rebalance it. So I suggest you set the counterbalance with the camera in its most common configuration, with all the bells and whistles you normally have attached when shooting an event.
The head weighs 5.5 lbs. and has a payload of from 2 to 20 lbs. The two cameras I use with the tripod are the Sony DSR 570 and PD 170, which have a substantial weight difference. When switching back and forth between the cameras, all I need to do is change the counterbalance number depending on which camera I am using, switch the camera plate, and I'm ready to go with either setup.
Leveling and Drag
Leveling this tripod is a snap. It has a fluid head tie-down handle that moves very easily, and a self-illuminated touch bubble that glows in the dark. This is one of my favorite features. I can remember many times trying to level my tripod in the dark with a flashlight in my mouth while both my hands were occupied adjusting the camera head. Needless to say, that's not an issue with this model.
It has five vertical and five horizontal grades of drag settings from 0 to 5, which means you can adjust the amount of resistance for both the tilt and pan functions. The feel of the pan and tilt are smooth as silk and I've experienced no jerks or jumps on any of the five settings.
The Bottom Line
The Sachtler 75CF is a very well designed, sturdy, lightweight, easy to set up tripod. And let's not forget about that illuminated touch bubble that I love so much! The DV-6 SB Fluid Head is a product of unmistakably fine craftsmanship and attention to detail. By all means, if you will be attending a trade show or visiting your local vendor, request a hands-on demonstration so you can experience this amazing piece of gear for yourself. I am extremely happy with my Sachtler tripod system and I'm glad I finally decided to take the plunge and invest in a quality product that I will use for many years to come. That said, I have to fess up and tell you that I had to let go the three guys that used to carry my old gear—thanks to the Sachtler tripod, I no longer need them. Sorry, guys.
I would like to give credit to the people who helped me with this review, like the photographers at Photography by Joanne, Gary Zindel Photography, and my friend, the late Gene Martin, all of whom were kind enough to take the pictures free of charge. A very special thank you to my assistant, Dona Serio, who has been invaluable and whose job description includes: camera operator, gaffer, lighting technician, crowd management, and personal body guard. She does it all, and no you can't have her! And, of course, the management at Sachtler (especially president Bob Carr and regional manager Bob Jones) who provided the technical and product information.
Lauri S. Batwin owns and operates Montage Video Productions in New York City. She has been in the event video business for 20 years and has served on the WEVA Camera Committee. She is the Vendor Sponsor Coordinator for the Long Island Video Association and has been the recipient of several first place creative excellence awards.