Note:The following review first appeared in "Pro Video Review," an IMAS Publishing Group publication devoted to equipment reviews for video professionals.Click here to receive a subscription.
A videographer’s relationship with a tripod runs almost as deep as the feeling about the camera he or she uses. Most newsphotogs I know want sticks that are light in weight, quick to deploy, with a head that balances easily and that has smooth fluid action.
:!:side01_right:!I’ve been using Bolex legs, new in ’82, and a Sachtler head that’s about five years old. The head is still in great shape, but the legs are getting somewhat long in the tooth, and Bolex is out of the tripod business. So I was pleased when PRO VIDEO REVIEW gave me a brand new set of Miller legs with their new Arrow 50 head on top, to try out.
It’s a beautiful combo, and additionally it has Miller’s Highjack center column. (The Highjack column is a joint design and manufacturing effort of Miller USA and Peter-Lisand Corp. of Edgewater, NJ.) If you do crowded press conference work, as we do here in Washington, DC, you need to be able to shoot over the row of camerapeople in front of you. The Highjack column can be very quickly raised and lowered, giving me an extra 18-inches (46 cm) of tripod height.
The head itself is Miller’s new Arrow 50. It’s a state-of-the-art fluid head that weighs 6.8 lbs (3.1 kg). The tripod is a single-stage unit ¾ the bottom section slides down from the top or stowed portion, and three knobs tighten to set the legs. It has a mid-level spreader that is easily removable and which collapses nicely when the sticks are stowed.
This combination, without my Sony tripod plate, weighed in at 17.6 lbs (8.0 kg)…not bad. In the two weeks I’ve been using it, it’s been easy to use and fairly quick to deploy.
It has smooth action with a wide range of pan and tilt drag. Plus, it has an easy to use counterbalance system. I liked the method of moving the top plate fore and aft to achieve balance, a very nice feature for those of us who use different weight batteries during our working day. The pan and tilt drag controls are easy to reach on the back of the head, and the tilt and pan locks are both in logical places ¾ easy to reach. I found the action, once I had dialed in a tilt increment, to be smooth. However, the feel of the knobs themselves was somewhat lumpy ¾ not smoothly transitioning from low to high drag settings. But hopefully this will improve as the head breaks in. The tilt lock was effective, but didn’t release quite like I thought it should, hanging up a bit internally. The Arrow 50 has a neat built-in illumination system, lighting up the bubble for level and the pan and tilt indicators.
The "Highjack" center column, which is an accessory that can be added to any Miller 100mm ball-level tripods, does what it should except for a few glitches. It raises and lowers easily, tightens quickly, and is very stable. However, the tightening wing nut for the leveling ball (located at the bottom of the Highjack column) hurts my hand, and because the ball does not contact much surface area of the metal bowl it sits in, I found myself really torquing down that wing nut…ouch. What’s more, I found that I didn’t have much leveling range from any axis once the sticks are set. Shooting on an incline means eyeballing the legs for level and then adjusting the head. My Bolex has much more range in the leveling mechanism. This has been a criticism I have had of the Sachtler Hot Pod... just not enough latitude in leveling, in my view. Those of us who set up and strike our tripod as many as several dozen times a day grow to appreciate the little things that save time. Also it seems the entire mechanism is held together by one small roll pin.
The large rubber pads for the leg ends worked great. However, it would be my preference to have them permanently attached, and still replaceable, rather than the metal studs that are the permanent tips now. In 26 years of shooting both film and tape I can’t recall a time when I really needed the metal spikes.
This tripod/head combo is an elegant piece of gear. It’s a thoughtful, definitely high-tech approach to the problem of camera support. The ease of use of this system is a real highlight. This rig lists for $7,075.
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