Jeff Freeman Saddles Up With Sachtler

by Jeff Freeman

SAN DIEGO I bought the new Sachtler Video 20SB fluid head with the speed lock carbon fiber tripod in connection with work on a new series for PBS. It's called "Saddle Up with Dennis Brous" and is shot entirely on location in Iowa. The show is about horses and horse training. Translation: dirt, heat and humidity. My equipment had to stand up to that test.

I've checked out many other tripods over the years, and to me, none of them ever came close to Sachtler. The reasons are simple: stability, very smooth head movement, ease and speed of setup and very light weight for the payload capacity. Also, the equipment is rugged enough to last for years in very extreme conditions. I've had a Video 18 Plus for more than 10 years and it's still in great condition.

Jeff Freeman readies for a location shot with his jib arm and Sachtler tripod. For "Saddle Up," we needed to use a jib arm. So I mounted it to my older heavy-duty carbon fiber tripod and put the Video 18 Plus head on the jib arm. It was a perfect setup—the legs were more than strong enough to hold the camera, 9-foot jib arm, wireless receivers, matte box and about 90 pounds of counterbalance weight. As always, the Video 18 Plus was easy to balance, level, and not too heavy for the jib.


The new Video 20 SB and two-stage CF tripod with the speed lock system was used on all our ground shots. When extended, the tripod was tall enough to get over the top rail of a training pen. Then, when I needed to get a low angle through the bottom rail, I could lower the tripod in seconds—without even bending down to release the leg locks. I didn't have time to take the camera off. I just lowered the tripod with the camera attached.

The speed lock system is great for run-and-gun shots. It uses one leveler to open and close both the top and bottom locks on the two stages. And, the lever is on top so it's easy, convenient, comfortable, and most of all—fast.

The new head is also great. The improved balance system makes it really easy to adjust the camera for just the right feel. Other tripods I've tested are boxy, heavy and not as well balanced. They were about function—not ease-of-use or pleasing aesthetics. The Sachtler still performs better and also offers ease-of-use and aesthetics.


The dirt got into everything we used on this shoot, but I never worried about the Sachtlers. In Iowa, on the farms and ranches we had the combination of high humidity and dirt. Everything really stuck to the equipment. However, the legs continued to slide in and out, and the heads didn't care at all. After a thorough cleaning when we got back home the equipment was ready for the next challenge. It's nice to know that should a problem come up, there are service centers in New York, Los Angeles and all over the world.

As much trouble as tripods are to lug around, it's great to know there is not a better one out there. Sachtler has always given me peace of mind—because I have the best tripods available.

Jeff Freeman is a freelance director of photography for numerous network TV programs and documentaries. He's the owner of Broadcast Images Inc., located in San Diego, and may be contacted at

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