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Karl Lee

Help With Selecting Proper Fluid Head and Sticks for a Camera Rig?

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Hi all.


I'll preface this message by saying that it's somewhat similar to another thread I started in the 16mm forum, but I'm trying to make the scope of these particular questions a little more general and thought the general discussion would be a good place to start.


In any event, I was curious if I could get some tips on selecting a proper, adequate fluid head and sticks for a camera rig. I know most fluid heads are rated by a maximum load capacity or a load capacity range based on the counterbalance system. That said, is looking at a fluid head's maximum capacity or counterbalance specs the primary factor to consider when selecting a fluid head and sticks, or is there more to it than only that?


Case in point. I have an SR3 rig which, when fully assembled with film, battery, lens, etc., weighs in at around 23 lbs. I also have a Sachtler Video 14II fluid head (75mm ball mounting) with a set of Sachtler single-stage aluminum sticks (which I've had for quite some time and didn't acquire specifically for the SR3). The Video 14II is rated for a maximum load of 33 lbs. and a has a counterbalance system of 15 - 35 lbs. Based on the specs alone, it would seem that the Video 14II would be more than sufficient for my 23lb SR3 rig. In practice, however, I'm getting the feeling that the fluid head/sticks combo is a little under-powered for my SR3. While the Video 14II pans and tilts smoothly with the SR3 rig attached, the tilt resistance (even at its max setting) seems a little light, and as a whole, the entire rig does seem a little top heavy.


As for actually testing whether or not a fluid head is adequate for a particular camera, I vaguely remember reading somewhere that with a properly selected fluid head, you should be able to tilt the camera backward and forward, and the camera should remain in the tilted positions after letting go of the handle. If that's the case, then I'm guessing my fluid head is insufficient, as the camera always wants to swing back to the center position when tilt up or down.


I think I'll end up looking for a set of fluid head and sticks that are a little more sturdy and well-suited for my SR3 rig, but I just wanted to have a few of my questions answered and learn a bit more about selecting a proper fluid head before doing so.


Thanks to anyone who can help!

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It's always a compromise between stability and weight -- if I'm the one picking up the camera and sticks, I'd probably opt for a smaller head even if it's not stable enough, but on most of my shows, my operators are more than happy to use the biggest O'Connor Ultimate and let the AC's deal with moving it around...

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Under my point of view, the O'Connor 2575D is the best fluid head in the market.

It is reliable, sturdy, stable, very well constructed, it is very easy to operate and it is heavy too, something very important for me though.




It has an excellent pan and tilt friction, and the counterbalance is more than adequated for almost any film camera (with and without accessories) in the market at the moment, the counterbalance itself is quickly adjustable and the head has a light for you to see if it is leveled or not.


Regarding how to balance the camera, you are right. You can find more instructions on how to balance the camera on the link above though.


As for the tripods, again, O'connor creates great tripods, some of them are heavy, some others are a tad lighter but at the end of the day, the quality is superb.


Have a good day.



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Yep I'd second Satsuki's recommendation of a Sachtler Video 18, even a 150mm bowl Video 25 would be OK if you can get a deal on a 2nd hand one. A 75mm bowl is too small for a loaded up SR3.


O'Connor 2575s are industry standards, great heads, but overkill for an SR3, and pretty expensive. Never had much love for the smaller 1030s, particularly the older model with its poorly designed counterbalance adjustment. But they seem to have corrected that design flaw now.

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The newer OConnor 1030D/S models are pretty nice. I'm not a fan of the counterbalance crank on the back, it's much easier to use when it's on the side, like on the 2575 and 2060.


Also, the Touch and Go baseplate sticks out a bit, so if you're using an Arri FF4 follow focus in Lightweight 15mm configuration then locking knob on the bottom will hit the baseplate. It's nice that you can get your choice of Arri Dovetail or Euro Plate 16 or 35 Touch and Go systems and switch back and forth easily.


Either way, get the 2-stage carbon fiber sticks with mid-level spreaders (OConnor or Sachtler, they are both exactly the same). Rubber floor spreaders on carbon fiber sticks are the worst.


You can also get the Sachtler speed lock legs in 100mm, which use one latch per leg to lock/unlock both top and bottom stages. Pretty convenient in that you don't don't have to bend down to unlock the bottom stage. But it's a little heavier than the standard 2 stage sticks.

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Thanks for the tips, guys. Since I'm just a hobbyist, I don't want to throw a boatload of money into a new fluid head and sticks, so I'll definitely be going the pre-owned route. Even at that, I think an OConnor would be out of my price range, so I'll probably go for a second hand Sachtler, Vinten, Cartoni or Miller system. And, since weight isn't too much of an issue for me, I may even save a few bucks and go with aluminum sticks instead of carbon fiber.


I haven't had much experience with Vinten, Miller, or Cartoni heads or sticks, so any thoughts on their overall quality? I've seen a number of Vinten 100mm ball systems out there (like the Vision 10, Vision 11, and Vision 12) at reasonable prices, so that's something I might consider.


Judging from my personal experiences, I'd probably agree with Dom that regardless of a head's max load rating, a 75mm bowl is too small for a fully-loaded SR3. That said, is the extra 25mm in diameter of a 100mm bowl enough to create sufficient stability for a loaded SR3, or would a 150mm bowl be preferable? Having seen some of the load ratings of the 150mm bowl fluid heads, I'm guessing that a 150mm head might be overkill for an SR3.

Edited by Karl Lee

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I have the smaller Oconnor. Its vertical axis will get pretty light. And its got to be pretty close to locked to hold a wildlife lens well. Its horizontal axis is much beefier. I have an old set of wood sticks for it that are HEAVY. And, I dont like scratching them up. And I have newer lightweight ones. Don't care if they get scratched. I dont like the lighter ones. Much less stability. So I break down and setup the wood set almost everytime. When I could just pitch the new ones in the truck. So trade offs come into play.

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Hey Karl,


If you are working on your own outside with a lot of moving from place to place then you probably want something not too heavy, on 100mm bowl legs. If you are making something akin to a narrative drama that needs smoothness, precision, steadyness, then the weight of the better heads and bulk of the 150mm bowl legs is no problem. There are some older big heads that are quite cheap. Ronford S15 (150mm bowl) are a really nice head, but don't have a ballance spring.


Don't forget that with the smaller frame (16 vs 35) you need more smoothness, precision, stability to achieve that on the same screen size.


What about an O'Connor 50?


Normally, with legs you want stiffness. The wooden legs I had for my old 75mm bowl Miller were stiffer than the Sachtler aluminum 100mm bowl legs I have. This is mostly due to (I think) the narrow width where each leg anchors to the bowl. It's designed to pack away small, rather than be stiff. Also, the old school designs normally formed a triangle between the leg anchor points and the foot, and, when locked, there are less places for movement to occur between parts as the legs age.


Good luck.


Edited by Gregg MacPherson

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Hi Karl, my business IJES.ca specialises in the repair of camera support equipment, perhaps I can offer some help and insight here as we perform factory authorised work on all of the named equipment mentioned in this thread.

The OConnor 2575 is no good for you, way too big for your 23lb payload. The 1030 would work but is yet a little big. The Video 18 is a robust little head but you'll never get "perfect balance" unless you weight your setup just right. All the same it is very popular.

If as you say you are just using the setup for hobby work then consider the Manfrotto combo's, although basically prosumer equipment as opposed to professional, they offer a pretty good bang for the buck.

Cartoni has the Focus HD and a number of different tripods some of which are quite inexpensive. Good quality and reasonable pricing.

If you contact me directly through our website IJES.ca I'll be happy to help you further.

Regards, Ian.

Edited by ian Johnson~IJES.ca

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