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New Tripods for 2003.

by Christina Fox  and David Fox

"It's very unusual in mechanical ideas to come up with something revolutionary," but Nick Kent, Vinten's vice president for marketing, believes the company has done so with its new, "square tripod", just one of several innovations to feature amongst the latest tripods from Vinten, Manfrotto and Miller.

Nick Kent (left) and Graham VINTEN

The new Fibertec tripod has been three years in development and is claimed to be more than twice as rigid as Vinten's previous best performing tripod (the Pozi-Loc), and up to four times as rigid as some competitors. It does even better on backlash, where less rigid tripods spring back at the end of a movement (changing the shot framing slightly), being claimed to be about four times better than anything else.

The design of the U sections resists bending better and is designed not to twist. Rigidity is also increased because wherever the legs overlap they are clamped. "A conventional two-stage tripod is not optimised for rigidity. Only the two clamps are rigid. The rest of each leg is not. That gives reasonable results, but it doesn't give real performance," explains product manager, Graham Ramsey.

Fibertec supports up to about 45kg and costs about 5% to 10% more than Pozi-Loc. Its weight is only slightly more, at 3.2kg compared to 2.9kg. Sky News, which tested prototypes, was so impressed it bought 26 units, the first month's production.

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Manfrotto's MDeVe tripodFor compact lightweight tripods, Manfrotto's new MDeVe is available in aluminium (2.8kg) and the lighter carbon fibre (1.9kg). A centre column makes height adjustments easy, but can also be removed and mounted horizontally. To level tripods with a centre column you normally have to adjust the tripod leg length, which can be very fiddly, but Manfrotto's unique centre column has a built-in levelling system. The available kits allow a choice of tripod with six different heads from the large 501 to the new 700RC2.

The 700RC2 is a mini video head for cameras up to 2.5Kg. At only 80 Euros for the head or 280 Euros for head, 756B tripod and bag, this is a low-cost, lightweight option for miniDV owners.

Manfrotto has also upgraded its 515MV lightweight tripod, for cameras up to 15kg, which comes with either a floor level spreader or with the Squid, a mid level spreader.

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Miller's VJ20 tripod systemMILLER LITE

Miller Camera Support's new VJ20 Video Journalist system, for DV camcorders, is designed for use with mid-range models, such as the Canon XL1s or Sony DSR250. The ENG-style head offers four-position, fluid-action pan and tilt, plus dual counterbalance and a sliding camera plate to suit a wide range of lenses and batteries.

The 100mm ball levelling fluid head has bubble level adjustment and is available with eight different tripod and spreader configurations: from Lightweight alloy with toggle clamping; up to the Sprinter two-stage carbon fibre tripod. All systems include mid-level or ground spreader, adjustable pan handle, detachable carry strap, transport leg clips, and a rigid-walled soft case.

The new Sprinter ENG tripod can be set up quickly thanks to the dual-action Sprint-Lok system - side-action leg clamps enabling independent adjustment of both stages of a two-stage tripod with one hand. The Sprinter uses newly-designed carbon and alloy tripods, which Miller claims provides more stable shooting thanks to "an unbelievable level of torsional rigidity in a tripod this light." It weighs from 2.5kg to 3.5kg with a 45kg carrying capacity.

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Miller's Arrow fluid headMILLER FLUID HEADS

Miller's Arrow and Arrow HD fluid heads, for news and documentary use, have a completely new internal clutch design for smoother pan/tilt and diagonal moves, that is claimed to eliminate backlash and inertia, plus an extra 30% drag range. A four-position selectable counterbalance lets users quickly change battery, microphone or lens payloads while maintaining a full tilt range and optimum payload balance. The Arrow HD handles an extra 5kg of camera and accessory payload, has a larger camera platform and extended 100mm sliding platform range. They are available packaged with the Sprinter tripods.

Miller's DS60 fluid head supports mid-size sports or EFP cameras as well as 16 or 35mm film cameras. Its fluid drag clutch system offers four selectable stages of pan and tilt resistance, from light to super-heavy. A four-position counterbalance allows users to alter the lens or battery payload without repositioning the camera plate. Calliper pan/tilt locks and a tilt safety lock offer shudder-free lock-off for adverse conditions.

For video use, it has: 150mm ball levelling; rear mount drag, counterbalance and pan/tilt lock with easy access to controls at all times; solid telescoping pan handles to take all lens remote controls; a Euro Quick Release camera plate; and a mid-level spreader.

For film production it has: 100mm sliding platform for offset loads like zoom lenses and matte boxes; optional flat base mounting, compatible with all Mitchell or 4-pin style tripods; eyepiece leveller adapter for Arriflex attachment; HD dolly wheels that are sturdy, smooth and detachable; and tie-down hooks for additional attachment strength.

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    Christina Fox and David Fox