From humble beginnings in a garage workshop more than half a century ago to the far corners of today’s video production world, Sachtler has built a solid reputation for innovation and quality. Higher quality equates to higher price and unless you’ve been blessed with particularly deep pockets Sachtler quality has most likely been well out of your reach – until now. Available together as the System Ace M MS, the new Sachtler Ace 75/2 D tripod and Sachtler Ace M fluid head are both affordable and especially well suited to users with smaller camcorders or video DSLRs.
What’s Not To Like?
The tripod/head kit comes with a shoulder strap equipped, Sachtler logo emblazoned carry bag by Petrol. Spreader options are either mid-level, as with the one we received, or ground level (System Ace M GS). The Ace M is a true fluid head that allows for near frictionless movement resulting in jerk-free tilts and pans. Beware of heads touted as “fluid-like” or “fluid-effect” which are not true fluid heads at all and can produce less than satisfactory results over time.
To test out the various features of the Ace M head, we attached the mounting plate to a heavy-ish 7.8lb Canon XL2 camcorder. The head is rated up to 8.8lbs so we thought this would provide a good test of its upper limits. The added length of the 4.1-inch plate aids in achieving proper camera balance atop the tripod. Markings on the plate itself as well as on the top of the mounting platform assure reproducible results. A pair of spare camera screws (1/4-inch and 3/8-inch) are stored away discreetly in the underside of the platform. We discovered too, that the Ace plate and the adapter plate from our Manfrotto 501 tripod and 561B monopod are interchangeable. If you happen to own one of these, there is an added bonus in not having to swap out plates as you switch from your mono to your Ace.
Leveling is quick and easy as the Ace M is a bowl mount head. Loosen the center column and adjust until the single bubble level is centered then retighten the center column and you’re ready to go. With the camera mounted, we wanted to see how securely the lock downs hold and were happy to note that once the locking levers are in place your positioning is secure and the camera isn’t going anywhere. In fact, the horizontal lock was so secure that the head actually began to unscrew itself from the bowl before the horizontal positioning gave way. With both locking screws backed off, horizontal and vertical movements are extremely smooth. The weight of the XL2 however, made it a bit unwieldy and difficult to control. You definitely would not want to lose control of the pan bar because the camera would come crashing forward or backward depending on its center of gravity at the time. With a tilt range of +90 to -75 degrees, a sudden crash in either direction would surely not be a good thing for your very expensive equipment. Thankfully the clamp and lock mechanism holding the adapter plate to the mounting platform is very secure and will prevent the camera from taking a dive onto the ground.
A given amount of drag could be created by tightening the pan and tilt locking screws but this is an extremely clumsy solution with mixed (usually poor) results. Fortunately, this is not at all necessary, as the Ace M is equipped with a drag system called SA Drag (Synchronised Actuated Drag). Two wheel mechanisms provide three levels of drag both horizontally and vertically with a zero setting for disabling drag altogether. Properly adjusting these wheels will achieve an appropriate amount of drag and smooth out the camera’s movement, resulting in greater control. In addition to the drag system, the Ace M features a five-step counterbalance. Set-up is quick, easy and more than sufficient to control an unwieldy beast such as the Canon XL2. With a combination of its drag and counterbalancing features, the Ace M is capable of producing extremely smooth pans and tilts with a wide range of camera sizes and weights.
The unit is constructed using a glass fiber reinforced composite material to keep the price affordable. While not metal, the material is sturdy, light and especially well suited to the needs of run and gun HDSLR users.
The Ace 75/2 D tripod is a two-stage tripod with aluminum legs and spreader bars. The spreader is of the rigid, mid-level type and does not allow the legs to spread out enough for those nice low angle shots. Plastic components join the leg tubes together with leg lengthening and shortening chores accomplished using plastic knobs rather than any sort of quick release mechanism. At the bottom of it all, a set of plastic feet may be quickly spun up or down a threaded rod to reveal or hide the integral pointy feet, which are so useful in the great outdoors.
Very smooth action with nice, professional features, the Sachtler Ace tripod system is hard to beat in this price range.
Sachtler Ace M Fluid Head
Sliding range – plate: 4.1″
Grades of drag: horizontal and vertical (3 each)
Tilt range: +90° / -75°
Temperature range: -22°F / +140°F
Camera fitting: Ace plate
Tripod/Pedestal fitting: 75mm bowl
Pan bar(s): 1, Type: Ace
Level: yes, bubble
Sachtler Ace 75/2 D Tripod
Weight with floor spreader: 6.4lbs
Weight with mid-level spreader: 5.7lbs
Height with floor spreader: 15.9 – 59.1″
Height with mid-level spreader: 25.2 – 60.6″
Head fitting: 75mm
Transport length with floor spreader: 27.7″
Transport length with mid-level spreader: 27.2″
- Great performance for the price
- Very smooth action
- Drag and counterbalance features
- Legs can’t spread out for very low shots
- Plastic feet may slip on some surfaces
It’s a Sachtler, it’s affordable and it’s a perfect fit for DSLR and small camcorder users at every level.
The Vitec Group plc
Contributing editor Mark Holder is a video producer and trainer.