Video / Hands-on Review

What's Special About the Sachtler Flowtech 75 Legs


Unless you have been living under a rock since early September, you have probably heard about the new Flowtech 75 tripod legs, available from Sachtler and Vinten, either with a fluid head or without. I heard about and had a sneak preview of them six months ago but, like everyone else, I could not disclose what I had seen. That time has passed and I'm now free to share my thoughts about and experiences with the legs, based on the initial demonstration and my own tests. By the way, legs are the same, whether branded Sachtler or Vinten—the only difference is the color of the locking levers.

Vinten Flowtech 75 Carbon Fiber Tripod

What's the Big Deal?

Carbon fiber construction, single lock top of each leg, independent locking positions. “What’s the big deal?” you may be thinking, and I wondered the same thing when I first saw the legs. Just looking at the details, you can easily say there is nothing new here. Carbon fiber is old news in the tripod leg business, and the leg locks? Please—there are other legs out there that have a single leg lock for all stages. But hang on, because as I found out at that meeting and from working with the legs since is this: what the Flowtech legs do, they do quite well.

Putting the Legs Through Their Paces

First and foremost, the legs are stable. The Flowtech 75 legs do not twist when panning, and I tried, I tried a lot. I even leaned on them directly, but they were still rock solid, even when the legs were spread fully wide. This is often a point where I find tripod legs start to tilt, and I must fight the head fitting (leveling bowl), which likes to go off level. However, this was not the case with the Flowtech 75 legs. I can hear you thinking, “Sure, with a mid-level spreader, how low can you actually go?” Sachtler lists the minimum height with mid-level spreader as 63mm (that is just over 2.48", for we Americanos), but without the spreader you can get the legs down to about 10" (26 cm) off the ground. And the legs are still rock solid, even when spread that wide.

How is that possible, you may wonder? Well, the legs borrow a trick from the still photography world, and you can easily slide a tab and switch them into a mode that has three stop positions for the legs. A detent locking mechanism is often found on the single-tube variety of still photo tripod legs, and I understand that it can be extremely fast in use. However, with the larger payloads that video/cinema legs must carry, most of the time you sacrifice a little speed for security. Working without a spreader of some kind isn't on my list of most enjoyable things to do. It isn't something I thought I would like, but the “hinge lock slider” mechanism that the Flowtech 75 legs use is very sturdy, and it only took about a minute for me to become comfortable with the way it works. I'm sure that using these legs without a spreader would become second nature soon enough. If only I didn't have to return them.

Second is how the shape of the carbon fiber tube matters in level of comfort when carrying. The leg shape doesn't only help with the torsional stability (that would be an SAT word for you US High School students), but they make the legs very comfortable to carry over your shoulder. So, instead of two separate carbon fiber or aluminum tubes sitting on your shoulder, which can quickly become uncomfortable, you get a single solid surface, which is much gentler on the shoulder.

Third, the shape of the legs allows for magnets to hold them together without any wiggling. Gone are the days of legs separating when you lifted them onto or from your shoulder, minding those pinch points, or having to use that elastic cord to wrap around the legs. The magnets are strong enough to hold the legs securely when folded, yet easy enough to overcome when you want to set them up.

I had only the legs to work with, so to make this a true evaluation I mounted a head I have (not Sachtler, Vinten, Manfrotto, or O'Connor) on the legs and did some camera work. Then, my daughters and I went on a little adventure. My eldest carried the sticks on her shoulder, just like I had as an assistant for all those years, having no idea just how good she had it. Up some concrete boulders, and then down to the water's edge. It was fun watching my daughters team up to get the sticks out where I wanted them, even though when we were done shooting, they abandoned me and I had to carry the sticks back myself. I feel I should point out that my daughters are 11 and 9 years old, and had little trouble moving the sticks with tripod head up and over large concrete blocks.

I had thought that perhaps the weak point of the whole setup would be the mid-level spreader. I've never liked Sachtler's all-too-bendy ground-level spreaders, and I've seen enough mid-level spreaders bind, bend, and break to be wary. Spreaders in general have always been a necessary evil for me; touchy items that can cause much frustration and often made me want to just start carrying a 3 x 3' piece of carpet for the foot spikes to dig into. Still, the Flowtech 75 mid-level spreader works well, is easily removable, and when attached it folds up neatly inside the legs. But wait—I remembered the meeting months earlier, asking about what happened if the spreader was put in upside down. They should make the spreader so it can't go in upside down, because that is just going break something. Well, no one listened to me and I was able to install the spreader upside down (which I do not recommend), then the legs folded up nicely anyway. Here I was, ready to have to explain the broken mid-level spreader, but no, they just folded as normal, although in the down direction as they were mounted upside down.

Wrap it Up, I'll Take It

The Flowtech 75 legs are a re-imagining if you will, more than a complete reinvention of tripod legs. It is nice that I don't have to bend down to unlock the legs, and can easily adjust the height and secure each leg with its own independent top-mounted locking lever. It is a definite plus that the legs are designed to be field serviceable for most issues, and easily cleaned and adjusted. The integration of the hinge lock sliders, allowing the legs to lock at 20, 46, and 72 degrees without the use of a spreader, add greatly to the versatility of the legs (please note that Sachtler/Vinten caution to only use the 72-degree setting with the legs fully retracted). Comfortable to carry, and rigid, even when fully extended, these really are the next pair of legs that I want.