Sachtler FSB-8 + 75 CF Speed lock VS Miller DV20 Solo CF at

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Old June 29th, 2009, 01:44 PM   #1
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Sachtler FSB-8 + 75 CF Speed lock VS Miller DV20 Solo CF

Short answer: There is no "VS" as the Sachtler wins hands down, no contest.

Long answer: There is a little more to this story and I waited to write this until I had a chance to test the Sachtler.

Miller DV20 Solo Price around $1500 (US) Weight 10lbs (measured)
Based on the glowing reviews provided here and other places by a couple of high profile people I ordered a Miller DV20 Solo setup for a foreign assignment as I needed light and standard luggage packable setup. I had little time to test it before my departure so it was trial by fire. It almost lost me the job.

Although the head balances perfectly with the EX3 on the "1" setting (out of 2), that is all the head does perfectly. Add some weight to the EX3 and that balance is no longer perfect and the second counter-balance setting is too much for all but the heaviest additions. One can overcome the problem a bit by adjusting the C of G a little forward or backward depending on what angle you need, but it is definitely just a hack to make due.

The head also has only one level of fluid drag. It is not enough for steady movement in most conditions. But wait, there is additional drag available for tilt and pan! Except the additional drag is provided by friction type screw locks and all it does is make that nice fluid action act like a Manfrotto 503 head with sticky starts and stops and rough movement. The locks are advertised as shift free when engaging and disengaging but it's not true. The head jerks a touch when trying to operate the locks. This might not be as important with a better moving head that can be setup better for load weight, but if one needs to end a move and hold it steady and the balance and drag doesn't hold the position then the locks become more important.

Two last quibbles on the head. The pan handle is a bit short and the level bubble is hard to see in anything close to low light as it is not illuminated.

The legs are well made and are probably the best part of the package. They adjust fairly easily if you are not in a great hurry as they are the twist lock type. I would trust the carbon fibre tubes to take a beating as well as the 75mm bowl head. The feet are spikes with built in concentric rubber pads that spin down to cover the spikes. The rubber pads are a bit of a pain though in that the wrong bump or inadvertent twist and they become loose and the leg can now walk around a bit on what is now a rolling round sideways wheel. One has to always check to see that the pads are jammed tight before shooting and after movement of the tripod or setup. The way these tips are made also makes it a bit tedious to clean as dirt, and in my case caked salt from a salt flat, gets up into the threads and crevices inside the rubber foot.

The best part about these legs is the way they can open up and lock into many different angles and independently. This allows the operator to get the camera setup in spots and terrain that would much more difficult to do with other tripods. The legs can open almost completely flat which gives the operator the ability to get stable camera shot from very very low.

The worst part of these legs is not the things I have mentioned above but rather they are far too springy. Even with only the largest tubes extended they bounce back at the end of pans enough that one can never end the pan precisely where desired. It is very noticeable on my EX3 from mid zoom and longer. It is absolutely disastrous at the long end and with anything longer. No problem with the springiness, just lessen the drag you say? Not possible with the DV20 head as the drag is on all the time, one level of drag, all the time. The springiness is bad enough for light breezes to move the camera even when locked down at longer focal lengths.

Sachtler FSB-8 and 75 CF Speed lock legs Price around $2000 (US) Weight 11lbs
After the frustrating experience of being in the middle of nowhere with a sub-standard tripod setup I had to get something I was not going to embarrass myself with. I decided an the FSB-8 for my EX3 because it fits nicely in the middle lower end of the head's recommended weight range by itself and would leave room to tack on accessories to more than double the weight. This head is what one expects a good fluid head to be; 0-5 drag levels on both axis, and 10 levels of counter balance from 2 to 20lbs. It balances almost perfectly with my naked EX3 on the "3" counter balance setting. The drag is smooth and the range of settings makes it easy to find the right movement for the shot. I dare say that this head can be used on the Miller CF Solo legs to much better effect than the Miller DV20 head because the drag can be adjusted to minimize the bounce back of the springy miller legs. This head just plains moves and feels right and allows for adjustments to your needs.

The locks do what every lock does on a tripod, cause movement, but at least they are much more gentle in the amount of movement when they do cause it. This is perhaps a biased point of view in favor of the FSB-8 in this regard.

In contrast to the Miller, the pan handle length is more in keeping with the norm. Also in stark contrast with the Miller DV20 is the illuminated level bubble that also appears to have much less parallax.

The carbon fibre speed lock tripod looks rather flimsy at first go. It is anything but. Informal testing shows it to be much stiffer than the Miller Solo legs and less springy by a long shot. All tripods spring but these do so at a very acceptable low amount. One can hit the markers at the end of a move knowing that the camera isn't going to spring back a touch. Of course the ability to lower the drag on the head to make this so is a benefit of the right head, but the legs seemed to hold quite steady right to the maximum drag level of the FSB-8. I have not tested the ability to resist movement in wind yet but based on the tests of panning I would say it is going to be much less a problem for these legs than the Solos if not any problem at all for the stock lens on my EX3. I believe that the mid spreader is contributing quite a bit to this stability whereas the Millers have no spreader at all.

The speed lock feature is a treat. Their use takes a few tries to get used to, but being able to adjust for the total height of the tripod with only one lock per leg is a much quicker and easier to judge task. One can also see that the locks are engaged properly so the worry about whether those twist rings have been tightened enough are gone. The feet are the typical two angled spike ends and have pads for flat and more delicate surfaces attached by rubber rings as is common. They are going to be much easier to clean than the feet on the Miller legs.

The surprising thing for me is that the Sachtler system is easier to pack in standard luggage than the Miller. The Sachtler legs take up much less room.


If you need a good system to hold up your camera, then DO NOT consider the Miller DV20 and Solo legs unless you need the leg position versatility that is offered. In that case forget the DV20 head and get just the legs and get a head that is not full of compromises.

The DV20 head is a minor step up from a Manfrotto 503 and for a whole lot more money.

The DV20 Solo system is not light enough compared to the FSB-8 and the 75 speed lock legs to make any difference in carry and probably the FSB-6 makes it even.

$500 might seem like a big jump in price but it is more than worth it. I would consider the FSB-6 or FSB-8 and the 75 series legs to be the bare minimum one should consider for a tripod system for the EX3 and similar sized cameras. Perhaps other systems in the same price range are also suitable but I do not have experience with every 75mm system out there.

The FSB-8 is a very good fit with the EX3.

My work would have looked much better if I had have been able to test properly before my trip. Never buy gear and run off to nowhere to test it on the job. In this case I could have and should have been much more forward looking and done a shakedown under many conditions long before I trusted it for a job. My only excuse is I had many other issues to deal with at the time before I left.

Last edited by Les Nagy; June 29th, 2009 at 08:58 PM. Reason: spelling and grammar fixes
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Old June 29th, 2009, 06:55 PM   #2
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Thanks, Les...............

for that highly detailed A/B comparison.

Not at all suprised by your results.

Yet another great post to add to my "don't use Solo's for HD" campaign war chest.

Do hope you got your money back on the Solo's?

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Old June 29th, 2009, 07:59 PM   #3
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Anyone needing or wanting a lightweight tripod like the Solo, I suggest looking at Gitzo, series 3 or higher. For me this work very well, and they fit in a suitcase, and they are very lightweight. There are a number of posts about that give specific. (Much better than the Solo).

I use the Gitzo 1380 head which has continuous drag and comes with several springs, so adjustments are quite easy compared to what is described with the Solo.

I also really like the Sachtler heads, perhaps even more in some ways than the Gitzo. The legs are also nice, but the ones that come with the Sacthler 6 were not as untwisting as the Gitzo I have.
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Old June 29th, 2009, 08:37 PM   #4
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The only downside with the 75mm sachtler tripods are that the spreaders are not very good. it lacks the QR function of the larger legs and adjustment as you get with the larger tripods. I've got a DV6SB with 2stage alu tripod and a Video18plus on rent for this week, i do now get what all the fuzz's about and why all the rental houses in Norway either use O'Connor...or Sachtler.

I regret buying my small tripod with alu legs only after one day with the speedlocks, must be some of the best legs out there, in both 75 and 100mm.

Another manufacturer i think is interesting are Panther, usually large grip stuff for film production, but started doing broadcast sized heads/tripods. The 75mm Panther CF1 stage legs are about as stiff as most 100mm legs are and the 100mm resembles having the tripod set in concrete... Apparently a lot of Sachtler people now work for Panther as Sachtler became more business and moved production to a low cost country for most of their heads.
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Old June 29th, 2009, 08:53 PM   #5
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Thanks for the comments.

I will not be able to get my money back on the Miller stuff. it was in another country taking a beating for a month and is now over two months old.

And as far as the comments of the other systems, like I said I am sure there are other ones worthy too. This Sachtler system is the minimum anyone should consider. If others are better then thats.... well better!

Last edited by Les Nagy; June 29th, 2009 at 09:54 PM.
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Old July 1st, 2009, 07:23 AM   #6
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A little more testing .....

The Miller Solo CF legs do flex a noticeable amount more than the Sachtler 75 speedlock CF legs. It should be noted in fairness to the Miller tripod is that it is taller in each stage of extension than the Sachtler. Longer legs flex more by default. This is just one issue. The second issue is the level of dampening of any vibration and this is the biggest problem with the Miller legs. There is very little.

The job of the fluid head is to dampen out irregular motion when panning so as to get the smoothest move possible. If the tripod is bouncing around underneath the head, then all the fluid dampening in the world is going to be lost to the tripod legs bouncing around.

It is not just about pans though. Just touching the pan handle or some other part of the camera or tripod or head makes things move. If the tripod doesn't damp things out you get shaky camera views. The Sachtler is much better in this regard. It dampens out any vibration almost immediately while the Miller vibrates for a second or so.

So I thought about my "bad" old tripod and head, namely my Manfrotto 351MVB2/503 head setup and wondered how bad the legs really were. I mounted the FSB-8 on the legs and they are actually better than the Miller Solo CF legs and pretty close to the Sachtler legs. They actually work well enough that I would use this configuration. So my conclusion from this is if someone has this setup and want to take a big step up in performance then just getting a Sachtler FSB-6 or FSB-8 head and mounting it on the Manfrotto 351MVB tripod would be a worthwhile thing to do. Of course one is then faced with trying to unload a bare 503 head.

I will keep all the tripods. Why would I keep the Miller legs? I still see their utility in very specific situations such as ground level shots and awkward terrain. The Manfrotto 351MVB tripod is usable and heavier than the Sachtler 75 CF speed lock and heavier can sometimes be a good thing. Backup equipment is never a bad thing.

Another Sachtler head is in my future. Anyone want to buy a Manfrotto 503 and a Miller DV20 video heads?
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Old July 1st, 2009, 08:22 AM   #7
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Great to see a comparison from someone who has had the chance to compare different tripods. It makes me happier that I went for the Sachtler DV6SB (forerunner of the FSB-6/8) with the 75 CF legs.

The spreader that comes with the legs is obviously not in the same league as the "big" Sachtlers, but I don't have any issues with it, other than finding it a bit quirky.

The only disappointment for me with the Sachtler was a lack of carrying strap - I didn't want to use the one that comes with the padded case because it had plastic catches. I bought the Sachtler strap (padded shoulder strap with metal clips) and life is a bit easier.

I ruled out the Miller tripod due to the legs, I thought there was no way they could be stiff enough for my uses (which occasionally have long-lens wildlife shots) - it looks like it was a wise move for me.
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