Flowtech 100 with FSB 10 Fluid Head: Lightweight, Heavy-Duty Tripod

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Recently, I had the opportunity to test the Sachtler FSB 10 FT MS with Flowtech 100 Tripod System. I already own a set of Sachtler Flowtech 75 legs and an Ace XL head. I am very happy with the legs, as are my Camera Assistants. Light, strong, fast to set up, the Flowtech legs with the 75mm ball are a pleasure to work with, and really, I didn’t see much more to improve upon. That is, until I was introduced to the Flowtech 100 legs and FSB 10 head.

75 or 100: What Does it Mean?

The “75” or “100” designation of the legs refers to the size of the head fitting/leveling bowl. Does bowl size make a difference? Yes. I have always preferred a larger leveling bowl to a smaller one, and 75 is as small as I want to go. With a 100mm leveling ball, I just feel the results are better in all areas. Balancing is better because I don’t feel like I’m balancing the camera rig on the head of a pin but, rather, I’ve got some real estate latitude. This becomes more noticeable when working with a long lens or rig. The stability of the camera on the tripod just feels better to me when most of the camera rig is within the area of the leveling ball, and not hanging out over the edge. So, I was sure I was going to like the Flowtech 100 legs even before laying hands on them.

My Camera Rig

Currently, I’m using a Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 with MFT lenses, an external battery, 7" on-camera monitor, lightweight matte box, DSLR baseplate, and follow focus rig. While this is not unwieldy, it is also a bit more than a compact camcorder.

My camera rig mounted on the legs and head

However, I should point out that in the past I’ve shot with an old school 385mm Century Tele Athenar II, which is a very long lens—I used that with a RED GEMINI on my Flowtech 75 and although it was stable and the shots smooth, it felt like I was at the end of my drag and counterbalance settings, and I find that I like to be in the middle of the settings range when operating most shots—that leaves plenty of room for adjustment. Using the rig described above, I found the combination of the Flowtech 100 Legs and the FSB 10 head superior to my Flowtech 75 with the Ace XL head.

The Legs

If I had only one word to describe the legs, I would say, “marvelous.” Using more words, I would also describe the legs as strong, lightweight, secure, with excellent torsional stability (try to “twist” the legs while panning—no chance). I leaned on the legs, and they held, I tried to twist them, but no go. The legs remain solid, even though they are lightweight. As with the Flowtech 75, each leg is still controlled from a single lever-lock, making for lightning-fast adjustments, without requiring me to bend to open a lock at the bottom of the leg. As I age, I find this increasingly important. Now, I like working with a spreader and, by far, prefer a mid-level spreader to a ground spreader, though that is a matter of personal taste. The mid-level spreader that comes with the Flowtech 100 is different from the mid-level spreader that comes with the Flowtech 75.

You can lock the spreader in a partially raised position to fit into tight places.

This spreader features a locking mechanism that the Flowtech 75 spreader does not have. I’ve worked with similar spreaders in the past and was never a fan. They were always binding up and breaking when forced to fold when locked, and really, this mechanism lets you lock the spreader in one of three positions that limit the distance the legs can spread but allows the legs to be closed with the spreader inside. I liked that I could bring the legs closer together and lock the spreader to hold the position of the legs. This is a great feature for those times you have to work in tight spaces. The spreader features a pushbutton on each arm so you can adjust the length of the spreader arms. Good bye and good riddance to the old wingnuts that always wore out at the worst time, requiring generous use of camera tape to keep the legs from flying apart.

Of course, there are some who like shooting without using a spreader at all and, here, the Flowtech 100 keeps the same spreader-free leg-locking method as with the Flowtech 75. You can lock each leg at any one of four angles, and the legs retain their strength. So, the legs are fast to set up, easy to move around with, solid and secure. I will say the magnetic locks that hold the legs together when you pack the legs up feels a little less strong than with the Flowtech 75. This might just be that the legs are bigger, so the magnet feels weaker, but whatever the reason I like it, I’ve felt the magnets on the Flowtech 75 required too much effort to open, but with the Flowtech 100, it feels just right.

FSB 10 Head

The FSB 10 head comes in two configurations, one that incorporates the Sachtler Touch-and-Go plate and one that uses the Sideload mounting mechanism. I worked with the Sideload mechanism. Those working with 35mm motion picture or Digital cinema cameras may be more familiar with the touch-and-go system, which pops into the head’s camera platform, and the platform can slide forward and back so you can balance your camera. The sideload mechanism has a fixed camera platform and the camera plate slides within the platform for balance. You slide the plate out of the head when taking the camera off the head, but pop it back in from the top to hold it fast.

Press down on the sliding balance plate to mount on head.

The Sideload mechanism has become very popular, especially with heavier cameras and rigs, because it is so much easier to pop the camera onto the head instead of trying to line up the camera plate with the tripod head. It is almost as easy to use as the Touch-and-Go system. I worked for many years in the film business as an AC and DP and I became very comfortable with the controls of the FSB 10. The FSB 10 supports a weight range of between 8.8 to 25 pounds, outstripping the 4.4 to 17.6 weight range of the Ace XL.

Five settings for drag, plus 0; 10 settings of counterbalance; bubble level illuminates

The head has 5-levels of drag in both pan and tilt, which provides me fine tuning control as you adjust for each shot. There is also a zero setting for completely free pan and tilt which can come in handy. Ten steps of counterbalance, from 1 to 10, are a boon for getting the head to behave just the way you need it. Remember counterbalance isn’t about bringing the head back to the center position, it is about neutralizing the weight of the camera so you are not fighting the weight of the camera as you operate the shot—for more info on tripods and settings click here. Counterbalance is such a useful tool, being able to make these small adjustments to tune the head the way I want it means I can get smoother shots with less effort and stress.

Overall

There is a lot to like with the combination Flowtech100 and FSB 10 head. I was able to make fluid pans and tilts, as well as whip pans, and fine-tune my counterbalance, and I wasn’t pushing the limits of the legs or head. The Flowtech 100 is strong enough to handle whatever I threw at it, and light enough that I could carry it with me up flights of stairs, over rocks, and generally speaking, to places that are just going to be a big production getting to with other kinds of legs. How impressed was I by the Flowtech 100 and FSB 10? Well, in spite of the fact that I love my current head and legs, I’d trade them in in an instant for the Flowtech 100 with FSB 10 head.

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