ROI Reviews: Miller DS20 Tripod System
Steady Support for Your Shots
Few things are more important in a videographer’s or filmmaker’s kit than a good tripod system. There’s really no replacement for the smooth, steady shots that it can give you.
That said, with today’s low cost of entry for HD acquisition, new shooters will at times gravitate to extremely inexpensive tripod systems. This can be a costly mistake. Sometimes what you don’t know can hurt you.
While inexpensive systems are fine if you want to lock off a shot, when you start to pan and tilt you need to have fluid motion that lets you use your shots from start to finish. While you don’t need to break the bank, you will probably need to make an investment in a good tripod system at some point.
The Miller DS20 system that I tested was a good balance of features and price point. The system includes the SOLO DV carbon fiber tripod, SOLO DV Softcase and the DS20 Fluid Head. While not designed for every camera on the market, it is well suited for many of today’s small-format cameras like the Sony PMW-EX1 and Panasonic AG-HPX170.
DS20 Fluid Head
The 75mm fluid head is rated with a payload capacity of 22 lbs. This is possibly overkill for people who will only use a small format, stock HDV or DV camera, but for setups where you will likely add and remove accessories on your camera (like I do), it’s great.
The DS20 head has a counter balance system with two selectable positions and drag controls for both pan and tilt. When balancing your camera, position one is probably what you’ll use with a stock camera body with lens. For larger setups, such as a camera with a 35mm lens adapter, position two is probably what you’ll use.
During my tests, I used the system in a variety of shooting situations with both my stock camera (the Sony PMW-EX1) and with the camera kitted out with a 35mm lens adapter system. I shot greenscreen, exteriors, interiors and some footage for a fundraising video.
In the past I have used heads that cost both more (and less), than the DS20 and which suffer from what I call the dreaded “kickback” effect. This is basically when a properly balanced head still drifts back slightly after you end your shot. This is definitely not what you want.
The DS20 doesn’t have that problem.
I used a number of lenses, along with my 35mm lens adapter, and I didn’t detect any of the “kickback” that I have experienced with some heads. Regardless of how tight the drag was set, the head started, changed and stopped smoothly. Shots were usable from start to finish.
I did get to a point where seeking out a head with a higher payload capacity started to cross my mind. In fact, on a recent shoot we needed to use a different head as we had the EX1 with a 35mm lens adapter system, matte box, follow focus and very long lenses. While we could have just made it with short lenses, the 80 ‘ 200mm lens we were using would have pushed the DS20 a bit too far.
SOLO DV Carbon Fiber Tripod
What I love about this tripod is its versatility. The two-stage ring lock leg extensions are really easy to use. Turn clockwise to unlock and counter clockwise to lock. Simple.
Each leg can also be locked at different angles and heights, which makes working in varied terrain a snap. Being able to set the tripod’s height to anywhere from 12 ‘ 63 inches in height gives you the ability to get a ridonkulous number of shots. Yes, I said ridonkulous!
A level is standard on the tripod, but I would have liked to have seen an illuminated version for those times when you’re in the dark. Other than that there’s not much to complain about. No spreader, but that’s what gives you all those setup options.
The sheer number of setups that is possible with these legs, not to mention their portability, have made them my new favorite sticks.
SOLO DV Softcase
The SOLO DV Softcase that comes with the kit is the right size for the tripod system, is weatherproof and the included strap can be used either on the case or on the tripod (when you need to do quick setups on the go). Not much else to say about it other than I wish it came in black.
Except for the lack of an illuminated level, and my own wish for a slightly higher payload capacity, I have absolutely no complaints about this tripod system. The first requirement that I always have is smooth operation, and the DS20 head does not disappoint.
If you’re looking for a high ‘ quality and versatile tripod system for small-format cameras, and are ready to make a small investment, the DS20 should definitely be on your short list.
For more information about Miller Camera Support’s products, visit them in Booth C5525 at NAB this month.