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Old June 2nd, 2006, 10:29 AM   #1
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Tripod/Head Advice; Sachtler, Miller, Cartoni

I know similar questions have been asked but in looking through a lot of posts I didn't find anything that covered all of the options I'm looking at, so...

I'm looking for a tripod to support a JVC HD100 and I primarily shoot sports, High 50 yd. line football. The three tripod/head systems that seem to most closely match my needs and budget, around $1,000, are:

Sachtler DV-4II/2 Aluminum Tripod System - consists of: DV-4II Fluid Head, DA-75/2D ENG 2-Stage Tripod, Mid-Level Spreader and Softcase - Supports 13.2 lbs B&H $999.95

Miller DS-10 Aluminum Tripod System - consists of: DS-10 Fluid Head, DS 2-Stage Tripod, Mid-Level Spreader and Softcase - Supports 10 lbs B&H $1,399.95

Cartoni F101 Focus Aluminum Tripod System - consists of: F100 Focus Fluid Head, A302 1-Stage Ultra-Light Tripod, Mid-Level Spreader and Softcase - Supports 22 lbs B&H $1,299.95


Of the three options the Cartoni seems like it has gotten the best reviews but before I make my purchase I wanted to see if anyone had feedback on any, or all, of the above options.
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Old June 2nd, 2006, 07:46 PM   #2
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Here is my opinion. Keep in mind I don't own any of these heads but I have tried them briefly at trade shows.

Sachtler DV-4II/2 Aluminum Tripod System:
Conclusion: Excellent fluid feel but features are too limiting.
Pros: Well known German brand; high-end heads are often used at rental houses. Can completely disengage the fluid module for fast whip pans. Has sliding balance plate separate from the quick release plate.
Cons: Head only has one fluid module (so it only has one drag setting). Higher-end heads have 5 or more modules. Head only has two balance settings. Fixed length pan bar. Bubble level is not illuminated. Tilt range only +/- 60°. Sachtler traditionally very expensive.
Miller DS-10 Aluminum Tripod System:
Conclusion: Features and performance are not competitive in its price range.
Pros: Well known Australian brand, but I don't see them used too often in North America. Tripod leg options (Sprinter II or Solo) are very nice. Tilt range +90/-70.
Cons: Head only has one fluid setting. The drag adjustment is actually a "friction boost" (ref: DS-10 owner's manual). I didn't like the feel of the head that I tried. It seemed to have some play when you first start a movement. Maybe it was just that particular head, but the DS-5 next to it seemed to feel the same way. Only two balance setting. Quick release plate is also balance plate. Fixed length par bar. Bubble level not illuminated.
Cartoni F101 Focus Aluminum Tripod System:
Conclusion: Probably the best bang for the buck.
Pros: Well known Italian brand; high-end heads are occasionally used in film productions. Continuously variable fluid drag and counterbalance. Balances an extremely wide range of weighs but at an unspecified CG height. Illuminated bubble level. Tilt range +/- 90. Telescoping pan bar. 100mm bowl level vs 75mm for the others.
Cons: Quick release plate is also balance plate. Somewhat heavy. Drag is continuously variable so the adjustment dial gets tighter the more you turn it.
Among these three choices I would choose the Cartoni. But for me, I ended up buying the Sachtler DV-6SB. I just prefer the Sachtler step fluid drag system. The DV-6SB has 5 drag settings and 10 balance settings. I will be getting it next week and will report back with a mini review. Also, I suggest buying from someone other than B&H. Their prices are not that good at all, at least not for Sachtler tripods. I got mine from Custom Supply Inc. for 15% less.
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Old June 6th, 2006, 04:57 PM   #3
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I've worked with all three of these heads, and of three, I'd pick the Cartoni as well. The Cartoni gives the best feel and the most adjustability of the heads you mentioned. Be aware, however, that the Cartoni sticks that you have indicated are just 1 stage vs. 2 stage on both of the others, so to really get an "apples to apples" comparison, you'll need to spend more for 2 stage legs. Of the sticks, the Miller tripods are really nice, and I'd probably pick them as the best supports.

There are some potential trade-offs in here. The 100mm bowl on the Cartoni head is a much more standard size than the small 75mm bowl, which is good. The downside, however, is the weight. The Cartoni is much heavier than either of the other two heads, so this might be a consideration if you are into highly mobile operations.
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Old June 7th, 2006, 10:08 AM   #4
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I use the Gtizo 1380 fluid head and the Gitzo carbon legs. There is a good review on various systems on http://www.studiodaily.com/main/tech.../pvr/5997.html
Cameras come and go but a good fluid head system will stay forever. My system was not the cheapest around but I am so thankful for having spent the time and money to research and make what I think was a very good buying decision.
If you care in the least about the product you are making. you will really appreciate a good tripod/fluid head system. It is worth the extra money.
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Old June 30th, 2006, 09:15 PM   #5
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Hi Dennis,

Not to hijack the thread, but I just got a second hand G1380, and want to find a good set of sticks for it. Which model Gitzo are you using? Can you level the head without adjusting the leg clamps? My current tripod (Manfrotto 755B) is great for that, but I can't mount the Gitzo head on it. At least, I don't think I can...

Thanks,
Vito
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Old July 1st, 2006, 03:22 PM   #6
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Vito
I am using the Gitzo G1325 legs. Yes you can level the head without adjusting the leg clamps. This is a very nice system, doubt I will never replace it.
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Old July 1st, 2006, 08:33 PM   #7
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Hi Dennis,

Is that the G1325V Carbon Mountaineer? The straight G1325 seems to have a flat plate instead of a bowl.

Man, I can't wait to try out the G1380 head!

Thanks for the help,
Vito
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Old July 16th, 2006, 04:29 AM   #8
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my 2c

I bought a miller ds-10 (aluminum legs) for my fx1.

I'm an editor by trade, so my experience with tripods is very limited. That said...

I was expecting quite a lot after dropping $1200 on a tripod... probably too much.

I really like the weight and setup speed of the legs. The downside is that there is a tiny bit of flex in them. I cant speak for other legs, but i was expecting "rock steady". It is easy enough to compensate for any flex in most cases, but you can kinda "pluck" the legs like a string and get a couple seconds of reverberation. Granted, you probably wont pluck your legs much, but still. It also makes shooting in wind a little bit problematic.

The head is... "pretty good". Definitely a big step up from the bogen 501, but again not the magic i was hoping for. (i probably have unrealistic expectations.)
The fluid adjustments are crap. When you turn them up, you get sticktion ala the bogen. I had no idea why, but the guy above's explaination seems to be spot on. With the extra friction turned off, I can definitely get better moves than with my 501, but i'm not sure that is saying much.

Before buying i had a friend try out all the tripods at b&h and send me photos of the various models. His personal pick was the sachtler. The cartoni in the b&h showroom is in absolutely horrible shape. Bent legs, broken plastic. It just looks like crap. According to my friend it felt as bad as it looked. Cartoni dv tripods might be nice, but that one very much so wasnt.

I had to buy my tripod without touching any models. Overall, i'm ok with it. It does the job. I have my suspicions that the sachtler might be better, but i dunno if i'll ever get a chance to see. It might just be a "grass is smoother on the other side of the tripod fence" thing.

One last thing... miller seems to be the only tripod maker that isnt owned by the one big tripod amalgamated corporation. At the moment i clicked "buy", i was feeling particularly anti-multinational-corporation, so that might have clouded my judgement.

Hope that helped some. feel free to ask me specifics if you think i can help.

-a
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Old July 16th, 2006, 10:34 AM   #9
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Tripods and fluid heads are such fickle things. Since I made the post above, I've now changed my opinion about a few things. I did buy a Sachtler DV-6SB with 75mm CF 2-stage legs at the end of May but it was backordered. I waited a month and it was still backordered so I decided to cancel my order. I spoke to a Sachtler sales manager at CineGear Expo and he said they were having supply problems at their factory in Costa Rica. But the main reason I cancelled my order was because I was able to compare the latest fluid heads again with live cameras on them at CineGear and I was a little disappointed with the Sachtler.

If you're a perfectionist regarding camera moves, I don't think any of the heads under $2000 for small cameras will probably satisfy you. They all seem to flex somewhat and you can't do consistently smooth frame adjustments on heavy drag at telephoto. Although I do believe within that price range there are some heads better than others. The Cartoni Focus is decent, but I could feel flex in the tilt platform and the pan bar. The Sachtler DV-6SB on 75mm CF 2-stage legs was also decent but the legs flexed way too much IMO. Maybe it's just my imagination but the head also didn't feel as high quality as the older DV-6 that I tried a few years ago. The lower end Sachtlers like the DV-2 and DV-4 didn't have the same feel as the larger heads. I guess this is a consequence of being a small, lightweight head. There were no Vintens at the show so I don't know how they feel.

You're right, Miller is not part of Vitec which owns Bogen/Manfrotto, Gitzo, Vinten, Sachtler and OConnor. Cartoni is also independent. I wish OConnor was still independent but when they were bought in 2003 they were already losing money for the past year or so. OConnor still make their products in Southern California so it's not like they're using cheap labor in Costa Rica.

Anyhow, I'm now convinced that a really good fluid head has to be big, heavy and cost a lot. You just can't fight the laws of mechanical design. So I decided to try to find a used OConnor and I'll put that on my old Gitzo G340 for now.
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Old July 16th, 2006, 01:13 PM   #10
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I have an O'Connor 1030, which I suppose is relatively big and heavy for a smaller head (not compared to their full-size heads though!) and it is fantastic. Not in production any more, so may be locatable used.
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Old July 20th, 2006, 12:06 AM   #11
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A used 1030B would be nice head. I think it has been replaced by the 1030HD. OConnor seems to have consolidated their product line a lot. I ended up looking for and finding probably the last brand new Ultimate DV heads in existence. OConnor stopped making this head late last year but this dealer had one left in stock. I just got it today and it's fantastic.

Last edited by Tim Le; July 20th, 2006 at 11:20 PM.
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