Contour is a relatively unknown company. I certainly didn’t know about them prior to this review. They started making tripods back in 2006. Omega Broadcast & Cinema’s Vice President David Fry has lent a hand with the factory engineers in assisting with the tripod’s design and features. Contour products can be found in Amerca and Europe. They have a full line of aluminum and carbon fiber tripod systems ranging from 75mm to 150mm bowl sizes. Contour has a two-year warranty on all tripod systems and if repairs or additional parts are needed the Austin Texas center is where its handled.
They even have a 19.5 ft, (6M) arm reach Conture CJ6M jib.
Tripods are one of the most important tools you need for video production and filmmaking yet also one of the most unsexy pieces of kit to buy. The good thing is you usually buy one and you’re done. A good set of legs will outlast most cameras and other gadgets we need for filmmaking. Now more than ever we need a stable platform for our not so ergonomic Cameras to get steady shots while also keeping our camera packing safe.
The Contour System CT30K is a 100mm carbon fiber 2-stage system that comes with a Contour video 30 Professional fluid head. The system doesn’t have any truly unique features however, being somewhat basic isn’t a bad thing. What features it does have work well. I do notice a lot of similarities to older Sachler systems but the 2-stage design has been around for some time.
Contour CT30K system Key features
- Video 30 Professional Fluid Head (Retails for $1,899.00 )
- 8-step Counterbalance Settings
- 6 Steps of Drag
- 100mm Bowl Mount
- Two-Stage Carbon Fiber Tripod
- Supports 8.4-30.8 lbs (3.8-14kg)
- Ground Spreader (optional mid-level available)
- Includes 1 Pan Bar
- Includes Quick-Release Camera Plate
- Total weight with mid spreader and single pan arm 17 lbs 2.5 oz
- **Two year USA manufacturer’s warranty.
- Contour tripod System catalog
Matching the camera to a tripod system
One common problem I see a lot is overweight cameras on tripods that can’t handle it or is at the top of the weight limit. This can be disastrous if the head can’t be counterbalanced correctly for the camera. The head will tilt up or down and won’t hold in the stopped position. Instead, drops to the end of the range quickly causing the tripod to tip over. Bye bye camera and lens. Ouch!
Fluid Heads have come a long way to accommodate lighter cameras like mirrorless models. Especially in the 75mm range now having lower weight limits but also able to adjust for higher payloads. It’s essential to have the right type of system for the cameras you use. The downside to having a tripod at the limit is you no longer have the flexibility to put a heavier camera or other camera tools like a jib or slider on it safely.
It’s always good to plan ahead and get a little more just in case. On the other end is having a system that is overqualified for your camera. The tilt and pan will be impossible to perform as the head will snap back to the center due to the low weight. Do your homework and pick the right system for the cameras you will use. I have a couple of different payload heads that work on the same tripod.
For camera setups that are approximately 8.5 lbs, the Contour System CT30K 2-Stage 100mm carbon fiber tripod works very well. It comes with the Contour 30 Fluid Head and is priced very competitively at $2,295US. I know some will say that’s an expensive system but like I said earlier tripods aren’t sexy and they always feel like they are expensive, but a solid set of legs will make your pan and tilt shots look smooth and professional plus keeping your expensive camera and lens safe.
Video 30 Professional Fluid Head
Let’s start with the Video 30 Fluid Head. The fluid head has 8 counterbalance steps and 6 drag settings. The resistants feel similar when paring the stages. If you have both pan and tilt set to 4 they flow nicely together with equal resistants. The applied friction-free technology is resistant to extreme temperatures. Here in San Deigo, we don’t have extream weather conditions so I wasn’t able to test for that. 😀
The head is all metal as well as the handle rosettes on both sides. These can grind down over time. The rosettes are not replaceable. They are also very small when compared to other 100mm Miller and Sachtler heads.
The Mini Euro style top deck is a nice size at 6 1/2 by 4 1/4″. If you are using a VCT type plate or longer ARRI dovetail the large deck will accommodate it nicely. The quick release and camera plate are a simple, fast and secure design that unlocks from behind the head with a familiar two-step process.
Quick Release Plate
A simple pull-down of the latch and slid the knob to the left unlocks the camera plate. This is pretty much the same as on a Sachtler system.
If you like using the tripods QR system extra camera plates are available. I’m not sure if the plate is a Sachler type or proprietary.
I personally add a Kessler Kwik release or Really Right Stuff Arca/Swiss QR to all my tripods since I tend to use different cameras a lot and having one system for all is just easier.
The camera deck has approximately a three inch range for counterbalancing the load. In the front of the deck is the lockdown lever. On the side of the deck are markings to easily recall your setup.
2-Stage Carbon Fiber
I like the 2-stage carbon fiber legs a lot. They are lighter than aluminum and very sturdy. The whole system including spreader and the fluid head comes in at 17 lbs 2.5 oz. The two locking stages are separate. I do prefer having both sections locks higher up on the leg as opposed to the lower sections locks on the lower part of the leg. I tend to release the lower section first and use the second stage to get the correct height for shooting. Less leaning over is a plus if you have a heavy camera package too. The Sachtler Flowtech design is really great. Check out Matts review of the Sachtler Flowtech 100 to learn more.
The leg locks are pinch-free or at least I haven’t got a surprise yet. They are plastic but feel rigid and locks the legs down firmly with no slipping. Over time locks on all tripods can get loose. The locks are adjustable if this occurs.
Each section releases smoothly with minimal pulling on the legs. Over time the sections did get a little smoother once the tripod broke in.
The kit comes with a floor or ground spreader. I don’t like them since I’m not in a studio with a flat surface all of the time and like the flexibility of a midlevel spreader much better. My review sample came with the midlevel spreader that has a good build with an adjustable center mount dial to get the legs locked closer in. Also, a telescoping feature when you want to go low or need even more stability.
Midlevel spreaders tend to be the first part of a tripod to break. The mounting system for the spreader is made of metal and locks in securely.
In the center of the spreader is an adjustable dial to bring the legs in closer and keeps them in place. This is very handy when shooting in tight locations when a smaller footprint is essential. You have 4 positions available on the spreader mount.
Maximum and minimum height
- Legs fully extended 5 feet 3/4 inches
- Legs fully extended with spreader dialed up making the legs come in. 5 feet 5 inches
- Legs fully retracted. 2 feet 8 inches
- Legs fully retracted with spreader fully extended. 2 feet 2.5 inches
An important feature on all tripods are the feet. I’ve used tripods where they get stuck in the wrong position and I have to kick them or bend over to lay them flat.
The Contour feet won’t do this as they are designed to stay flat and angle inside as opposed to out making them less prone to tripping on. If needed the feet are removable and exposes a spike for use on different types of surfaces.
Not all tripod systems come with a bag however, the included bag is not that great. It does have thick padding all around and a padded collar to wrap around the fluid head. but that’s not the issue.
The zipper tabs broke very early in the review processes. The zipper itself seems to be holding up but I have to remove the leftover pieces and get some string or a zipper tab replacement from Amazon to more easily open and close the bag. To be fair a lot of systems don’t include a bag so it’s a simple fix to be able to transport the tripod safely.
Other Tripod Systems
In the 100mm bowl 30 lbs max class, here are a few options from OConnor, Sachtler, and Vinten.
- OConnor Ultimate 1030D Fluid Head & 30L CF Tripod with Mid-Level Spreader & Case – $9889.50
- Sachtler DV 12 FT MS flowtech 100 Tripod System – $6901.75
- Vinten Vision 8AS System with flowtech 100 Legs, Mid-Level Spreader & Case – $6222.50
The Contour System CT44K is a simply designed solid stable tripod that does exactly what it’s supposed to do. Support your camera and make pan and tilt moves smooth. The fluid head doesn’t have any bounce back issues and holds in place when the movement stops. You have to meet the minimum weight to get a proper counterbalance. With a minimum payload of 8.4 lbs. the Video 30 fluid head isn’t for small hybrid cameras. A larger heavier camera like a C300 MKII, URSA Mini Pro or FS7 would work perfectly.
I’m not a fan of the long handle that it comes with. I would prefer the shorter telescoping model. At $229 that would be a tough upgrade to buy but I probably would throw down for it. I would’ve liked a built-in handle on the leg to carry the system as without it the tripod is harder to move quickly with when closed.
All in all the Contour System CT30K system is a very nice usable tripod that feels like it would last for many years. Being a somewhat unknown company does have drawbacks, however, they do have a 2-year warranty and in that period a tripod will definitely show it’s worth. All repairs and parts come from the Austin Texas location.
The carbon fiber legs are sturdy with well-designed locking mechanisms. I do prefer the lower section locks up higher on the tripod as opposed to low near the feet. For higher weight capacity Contour has the Video 44 fluid head that can support over twice the weight at 19.8-44 lbs (9-20kg). The Contour System CT44K Video 44 Fluid Head with 2-Stage 100mm Carbon Fiber Tripod retails for $4,495.US.
Contour System CT30K system can be purchased or rented from Omega Broadcast & Cinema for $2295US