Sachtler Flowtech 75 Tripod hands on review

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Sachtler Flowtech 75 Tripod hands on review

I remember once I was chatting to two friends of mine, one a stills shooter and one a video guy. I and the video guy were talking about a new “lightweight” video tripod that had just come out and we were talking about how impressed we were that it only cost about $1500. At which point the stills shooter spat out his coffee and couldn’t believe that a tripod could cost so much. But for video tripods that is super cheap.

Tripods are super important in the work that I do. I love shooting hand held or on the shoulder, but sometimes, a lot more lately, my setup is just too heavy to carry all day long. Also it helps sometimes to not have that “shackey cam” look.

A video tripod is not like a camera that you buy a new one every 3-4 years, or for some of us even more frequently. Video tripods are a bit like lenses in that they are long-term investments. You may buy one and not need/buy a new one for the next 10 years.

So what’s the difference between a stills tripod and a video tripod?

  1. They are heavier.This may seen obvious, but generally a video camera setup is going to be heavier than a stills setup and so you need a tripod that can hold more weight. With it needing to hold more weight, of course the tripod itself is going to end up being heavier. The other reason it needs to be heavier is that a stills tripod just has to hold the camera still and steady as you take a picture. With video, often, you’ll actually be moving the camera either for a side-to-side pan or a up-and-down tilt. The tripod has to be extra steady while you are moving the camera on it. Thirdly, the tripod needs to be sturdier because your tripod head is going to be a bit more complex for video. These days video heads are fluid heads which use fluids to give resistance when letting you move the camera smoothly.
  2. They cost more.Once again, the reason here is pretty obvious. Video tripods are more complex than stills tripods and need to be tougher. This kind of engineering costs more.
  3. They normally have a bowl that the head will fit into. This makes it really easy to quickly adjust the level of the head and get it straight on some pretty funky angles.
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So when it comes to tripods for my video work, I am looking for something that is super sturdy, yet not super heavy and easy to set up and pack up. That’s a big wishlist, I know.

BUT enter the Sachtler Flowtech 75.

This is a carbon fibre tripod that tries to rethink how tripods work. Let’s first talk about the standard features it has.

Features

It weighs a relatively light 3.5kg with feet and mid-level spreader but without the head. There are a load of different heads to choose from, more about this later.

It can go as high as 153cm and as low as 26cm, which is a good range.

It has three locking levels for the legs so you can get very close to the ground if you need to and you can do it pretty darn quickly.

It can handle a payload of up to 20kgs, which is way more than what my back can handle, so we’re good there.

A really cool little feature is that when you are storing the tripod it has magnets toward the bottom, so when you close the legs together they just “click” together and you don’t have to fiddle with plastic or materials to get the legs to stay together during transport.

Speaking of transport, the tripod folds down to a height of 67.4cm without the head, which fits perfectly in my ThinkTank transport manager 30.

It has rubber feet that sit on top of metal spikes. You can use the spikes in soil and such and the feet just about everywhere else. The feet are really easy to get on and off, which is another nicely thought out feature.

I went with the Ace XLhead which only has a payload limit of 8kgs but since I really like my setups as light as possible I figured this would be ok. Also this was one of the lightest heads available coming in at 1.7kg. Initially, I wasn’t sure about it as it feels kinda cheap and plastic, but it has performed beautifully. It uses a standard Manfrotto 501 type plate, which is nice as surely most of us have a few of those lying around.

The show-stopping feature though is how you can quickly deploy and adjust the height of the tripod. There is a red plastic “tab” on each leg and you simply flick it up and the leg just drops to the ground, or you just lift the tripod. So getting set up is as easy as three flicks, lift and then flick the tabs back down. This is an awesome feature for folks who often find themselves working on their own.

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Hands on

I recently got back from a shoot in the Galapagos Islands and one of the big challenges on this shoot was time. I was shooting footage for a medical conference and so while I was there to capture behind the scenes footage, I had to work around the schedule of the conference. So when the group had to move on, I had to be able to grab my camera, pop my tripod on my shoulder and move onto the next location. Then once I got to the next location I had to be able to set up as quickly as possible since I had limited time to shoot in each spot.

Now I know about 4kg for a tripod seems heavy to schlep around an island along with a camera, but it’s actually about 2-3kgs lighter than my previous tripod, which made a huge difference.

Conclusion

At $1282.50 USD for the legs alone without a head, I can see how this may seem expensive if you’re coming from a stills background. But for video folks, this is actually a really well-priced tripod. The only drawback for some shooters is that it doesn’t have a high enough payload that it can handle. This is not an issue for the way I shoot and I absolutely love the mechanism they’ve developed for deploying and adjusting the height.

Compared to other tripods in this range, it is also one of the lightest around, which is a great feature.

Not only do I really like this tripod, I think I can see a second one in my future.

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iFootage Monopods

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iFootage Monopods

I've been using the Cobra2 for a few months now, really like it and just got the Cobra Strike. Here is a little about them and what I think of them.

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Synology Diskstation DS3617xs Review

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Synology Diskstation DS3617xs Review

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When Synology got in touch with me and asked if I wanted to have a look at the DS3617xs as a NAS that could be used by video professional, I was curious. 

I was curious about a lot of things. I wondered how much it would cost them to ship it to me as this bad boy is not small. It’s a 12 bay NAS and has a maximum capacity of 12 X 10TB hard drives which give you, well, it gives you about enough storage to backup a small country. *

Also, it’s fast. “How fast?” I hear you ask. Well it has a 2.2 Quadcore Intel Xeon chip with 16 gigs of RAM. That’s faster than some computers. That RAM by the way is also upgradable to 48 gigs.

Now there would be plenty of IT admins out there who would love one of these babies in their server room, but I was curious as to what in heaven’s name is a video editor going to use it for?

Well that’s a really good question.

To begin with, let’s look at what I use my current Synologies for (Synologys? Synologs? Another thing I’m curious about but that’s for another day). I’ve got four 1515+ units. These are 5 bay units that I have 5X3TB drives in.

Truth is, I don’t use them for very much, considering all the things that they can do. One of them is a backup of my files and photos with one drive redundancy built in. So if one of the drives in it dies, I don’t lose anything, I just replace the drive.

The other three are redundancy back ups of my editing drive.

I’ve got a Thunderbolt drive that is my main “live” drive that I edit off of and that gets backed up every night onto the three 1515+’s. One is in my office and two are in the garage. I use Carbon Copy Cloner to create the backups.

Now the thing that is missing is off-site backup. For now, I manage that by backing up everything onto external hard drives once a quarter and leave those at my in-laws. What would be better is if I could get that to happen automatically.

Synology has a cool sync feature where you can tell one Synology to stay in sync with another. So I could have my stuff being backed up to my home units and then via the internet or over a network it syncs all that is on it onto another unit. 

Why don’t I just do that, you ask?

Because Australian internet is a joke and it would take me about 20 years to do it. Fortunately I am getting fibre soon and that may make automated offsite backup a reality for me.

Another cool feature that I found was that you can save you MS OneDrive on your Synology. Now I am guessing Windows people say “So What?” Well, for us Mac users that’s super handy because the Mac OneDrive App doesn’t let you install your OneDrive on an external drive. So I’ve got 1TB of online storage, but I have to save it on my 512GIG iMac. Not going to happen.

So with my Synology, I don’t have to keep any of my OneDrive files on my computer and they’re all on the Synology. One of the things you can use this for is sharing big video files with clients and editors you’re working with.  

I was pleasantly surprised with how easy the Synology were to setup and there are tons of support pages on their website. for example, setting up the OneDrive thing does have a few steps, but there are instructions and images to take you setup by step through it.

There are tons of other features like hosting your iTunes library on the RAID, backing up to it from Mac laptops using TimeMachine, now that the Time Capsules are going away.

But what about the DS3617xs? Could you edit off of it or is it just a huge NAS for storing or backing up your data?

I decided to test this by coping my footage onto the drive and my library file and using the “leave files in place” feature of FCPX. So all the original files as well as optimised or proxy media was being read and written to the Synology. It’s connected to my iMac via a gigabit ethernet hub.

The timing of this test was great as I had just gotten the RAW update for my Sony Fs5 and it was a great way to really test the unit to see what it could handle. You could say I was curious.

And? Well, I was nicely surprised.

I didn’t expect it to be that as good as it was. It actually was usable, which I didn’t expect. I’d tried this with other NAS system, which I won’t name, and they couldn’t even manage HD footage. 

I was able to edit ProRess 422 off of the DS3617xs via ethernet. That’s pretty cool. Of course, once I started adding effects, multiple tracks of video or tried to push it too heavily, it did start to struggle. But if I was just doing simple edits, it was totally usable.

A quick note about hard drives. The lovely folks over at Synology very kindly sent me 4x8TB Seagate drives to use in the unit and they worked flawlessly. Don't forget that the speed of your drives will also effect the overall speed of your unit. The model number was uninspiring, but the name of the drives is IronWolf, which is a lot better than just letters and numbers don't you think?

Final verdict? I think if you’re working on mainly HD projects you could use this RAID array as not just back up, but actually for editing(gotta be gigabit etherneted in of course). If you’re working with a lot of 4K footage and up, I’d say it might work in a pinch, but you’re better off with a direct attached drive.

I admit that, for most single video editors, this unit would be overkill and you’d be better off with Synology’s smaller units - perhaps the very popular 1515+, of which I have four. But if you work in an office that has multiple editors working together, while you can’t edit the footage at the same time, it still provides a massive advantage in that you can easily access it from any machine.

Now I’m curious to know if it could actually back up a small country. Anyone got one I could “borrow”?

* Not actual back up capacity of most small countries.

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