By technical editor Matt Allard:
I have used Sachtler’s professional tripods for more than 20 years. For news and documentary work you cannot beat them. At NAB earlier this year I stumbled across the company’s new Speed Level Clamp. Replacing the regular twist lock clamp it is designed with squeeze handles that let you accurately and easily level your fluid head, No more twisting and untwisting, simply squeeze the handles, position the head and then release to set it in place. It takes a moment.
It was my favourite product of the show. Given how many products were on show at NAB this might sound a little strange. The reason is this – unlike many of the other toys, I could actually see myself using the Speed Level Clamp on a daily basis. My immediate reaction was “why hasn’t someone done this before?”.
As a news and documentary shooters know that speed is key. I probably adjust my tripod legs and tripod head at least 50 – 100 times a day on most jobs and this all takes valuable time. If for example adjusted your tripod head 50 times a day and it took you an average of 10 seconds to do it each time, then that is 8 minutes a day your spending adjusting your tripod head.
In addition being able to adjust your tripod quickly can sometimes mean the difference between getting a shot and missing it. I have certainly missed shots because I was still trying to level off a tripod head. The Speed Level Clamp is Sachtler’s attempt to solve these problems. In fairness there was nothing wrong with their regular clamp system but the SpeedLevel Clamp gives you the ability to level your tripod head even quicker and gives you the added piece of mind that it won’t slip.
The video at the top of this article is a quick and fun (if unscientific) test to show you the difference in the time it takes to adjust a Sachtler tripod head the old fashioned way compared to the new Speed Level Clamp. Going as fast as I can it takes me almost twice as long to adjust the tripod head using the regular clamp. The Speed Level Clamp is a lot faster and also a lot easier to adjust.
The Speed Level Clamp is compatible with all Sachtler 100mm heads and supports a maximum weight of 55 lb. It does not work with 75mm heads like the Sachtler Ace and other manufacturer’s heads may not be compatible because a Sachtler 10mm thread size is required.
The Speed Level Clamp retails for $144.00 at B+H. It will be interesting to see if they make different versions for other tripod heads in their range.