Sachtler FSB8 Fluid Head with DA75L Tripod

I am going to express, here, my first impressions working with the Sachtler FSB8 fluid head and the prepackaged aluminum tripod (DA 75L). This is an item I learned about on Cinema 5D from the well-informed and helpful Yoclay (thanks Yoclay!) I purchased it from B&H as a package ( http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/610342-REG/Sachtler_0772_0772_FSB_8_Tripod_System.html ) when the package for the FSB6 and carbon fiber tripod package went up over $200.00 in just one night (I was originally going to purchase the FSB6 with this CF tripod). After rereading the posts by Yoclay on Cinema 5D I realized that, for my long term needs, the FSB8 head and packaged tripod were actually much more suited for my needs.

Here are the pics –

Sachtler DA 75L Tripod with the FSB8 fluid head on top.

Closer view of head mounted on the tripod with the handle.

Close up of the operational controls of the Sachtler FSB8 fluid head.

I will start with the out of box first look experience. To say I was looking forward to putting this head and tripod to work quickly would be a bit of understatement. But, initially, I was not so happy. And until I deciphered the cryptic line art for dismounting/adjusting the mid-level spreader I thought I might have made a mistake. You see, the spreader initially comes fixed to the lowest points on the main legs. This limits the leg spread so the lowest the tripod can go is about 4o inches – not good or acceptable. But I went to the B&H site and re-read the specs and it said it would go much lower. B&H has proven over the years to be the poster child for excellent service and truthful sales and technical advice (at least for me and I have purchased hundreds of items and many tens of thousands of dollars of equipment from them over the past ten years) so I went back to the instructions which didnt seem to offer a way of changing the spreader in any way.

To make a long story short, I did discover a way to remove and reattach the spreader in a way that allowed the legs to spread  way out and lower the height to meet my needs. I am not certain I have it all correct yet, but what I have settled on can be seen in top photo and seems to work very well.

As I come out of the still end of the business (shot video for about 6 years back in the late 70’s thru the mid 80’s) and am very much rooted in the making of a still photograph, working with a tripod primarily designed to capture moving picture footage is quite eye-opening. But, once I fixed the spreader, I quickly came to appreciate the thoughtful design attributes of this package.

First the tripod is light and rock steady. It has stainless spikes at the end of the legs (for softer, spongier surfaces like sand or ground that might be moist or carpet over thick padding), but Sachtler has included red rubber feet that quickly attach/detach from those spikes and provide exceptional stability and grip on a harder surface like concrete, tile or wood.

The FSB8 head is mounted on a 75mm ball and rests in a 75mm bowl on the top of the tripod. It is fixed/leveled on the tripod with an M10 metric thread (similar but not compatible with a 3/8_16 thread) The head has an illuminated bubble level that has already come in handy.

The FSB8 head has a number of precise and functional adjustments. On top is the quick release plate that I have come to really like. Instead of sliding in from the back like so many quick release systems, you can place the plate with the camera rig mounted to it directly down on the head and hear it “snap” into place. You then tighten the red clamping screw to secure the plate with camera rig attached. To detach you loosen the clamping screw and press the red “release button” on the back of the head. Now, simply lift the rig off the head.

As you can see from the pictures above, the plate is quite long. This allows for a quick balancing of the weight of the camera rig so that the drag adjustments and the spring counter balance systems work properly. If you will look to the top left scale that controls the vertical drag of the head you will see some numbers in white – the scale goes from 0 to 5 with 5 being the highest amount of drag. While it isnt visible, a “zero” setting is allowed and this is what you set to get the basic balance of the attached rig by sliding the release plate back and forth. Once you get your basic balance, you turn this dial back to the amount of drag that you want.

Depending on the weight of the rig, you can set the counterbalance dial (marked 1 thru 10) to allow a camera weight anywhere from 2 to 20 pounds. It seems to be quite sensitive and the system does work. I have found that one must play with it a bit to get a sense of how to quickly get a usable head balance and a functional counter balance for silky smooth vertical moves.

The last adjustment is the horizontal or pan drag settings. Once again, the scale goes from 0-5. I should note that with any of the three settings (horizontal or vertical drag adjustments or the spring counter-balance system) one needs to move the head thru a full arc to get the new setting to engage. One will hear a noticeable but quiet “click” that indicated that the new drag or spring setting has engaged and is now functioning.

As my previous post indicates, I have recently purchased and received the Shoot35 CINEfocus and DSLRmount. It is mounted on the Sachtler head. Everything works quite well together and I am working on a simple video that will show the capabilities of both. I will post it when I complete it.

I should note here, as well, that all the lock-down/adjustment knobs are strong and secure – very well made from what I can tell. All in all a fine fluid head and tripod system!

I look forward to your feedback!

All images ©2010 by Bill Deuster, all rights reserved.

Thoughts on Shoot35 CINEfocus and DSLRmount

The shot above shows the Shoot35 equipment on the new Sachtler FSB8 fluid head and Sachtler Tripod – to be reviewed separately at a later date.

View looking from behind the Shoot35 CINEfocus and DSLRmount.

View looking from above/in front of the Shoot35 CINEfocus and DSLRmount.

Over the past several months, I have benefited from the experiences of the many posters on Cinema5D. As a result of the commentary there, I purchased the above items and wanted to give my first impressions regarding both the equipment and the shopping/shipping experience.

First for the very slight complaints. These observations should not be viewed as negative, but rather as constructive observations. I love the fact that I benefitted from the sale going on at Shoot35, but there were a number of errors on the refreshed site and I was never able to get all the info (from them – Wayne, I suppose) that I would have liked. I got all the info that I needed (to make the purchase) from the terrific folks posting their experiences on Cinema5D!! (Thank you!) Shipping was prompt. I ordered on a Monday and received the package on a Thursday. One must remember that by the time I ordered on Monday it was after business hours in Great Britain.

Now for the equipment observations.

Notice in the pics above that the rails have exposed threads. I want end caps to cover those and finish the otherwise flawless rendering of these clean, strong, no nonsense and superbly performing tools.

The manual is simple and informative. I read it and am glad that I did even though the gear is virtually self explanatory. The DSLRmount and rods are rigid and strong and provide a solid base for mounting the 7D to my Sachtler fluid head. The CINEfocus is both a work of art and a functional workhorse. I am not steady of hand and the CINEfocus helps me get shots I couldnt possibly get without it. And I havnt really learned how to fully take advantage of its capabilities. I need to practice and am looking forward to exploiting its full range of capabilities. I wasnt originally going to get the CINEcrank but because it is included in the sale package, I did – and I am grateful that I did. It is a profound benefit for someone like me who is just learning this gear and attempting to become proficient in the variety of techniques that produce the elegant shots that make a film special and an HDSLR like either the 5 or 7D such a powerful visual tool.

The CINEfocus is much bigger than I expected (but about the weight I expected – go figure) even with the commentary from the posters at Cinema5D. It is also more rugged than anticipated – it is a solid, well-machined, well-designed piece of gear. The red stop is quite beefy and more than a little helpful. So far I have found that removing the marking disk and using a small memo clip in conjunction with the stop (many thanks to Howard on Cinema5D) is a quick way to mark a firm termination point for your focus pull. Operation is smooth, though I did discover that it is imperative to line everything up properly and to keep just the correct amount of “looseness” between the lens gear and the drive gear on the FF – too tight renders a bit of “cogging” and too loose gets quite sloppy very quickly.

As for the Shoot35 lens gear, well, I am sorry that I didnt get a couple more. They dont fit several of my lenses (lens too big, gear too small) but on the ones that they do fit they are a solid, easy to set up gear. Had I fully understood the nature of these gears I would have purchased at least 2 more. As for my Canon 85 f1.2, well I havnt determined what gear is the best one to get at this point – Indisytems snap gears, Zacuto flexible gears or possibly the JAG35 universal gears. I am open to your thoughts, so please let me know.

To say that I am pleased with my purchase would be a bit of understatement. And that is primarily because of the great info available on Cinema5D. Thanks guys!!

All images ©2010 by Bill Deuster, all rights reserved.