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Matthew Allard ACS

Sachtler Aktiv Fluid Heads

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Certainly very interesting.

I like the pin for attaching the head to the sticks (as I commented on Disqus, it looks eaxtly liek a windsurf mast universal joint! ( https://www.poolewindsurfing.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/windsurf-mast-extension.jpg ).

So great being able to level without having to "bend and reach".

From looking at the photos, i question how strong/hard-wearing the realise catch for levelling is. No doubt they've selected good materials, and you talk about how they've tested it in extreme conditions... but the design looks like could easily snap off.

I wonder if when/if they make versions of this for bigger heads they'll keep the sliding top plate mechanism. I like that... and would prefer a Touch'n'go plate any day.

Only negative for me is that the design feels a bit ugly compared to previous models. A bit... cartoony!

Also, the price... I mean, I get it... but I can't imagine that many people will be in a position to drop £2000 on a new head for these added features if they already have a perfectly functioning previous model. Personally that's a cost I cannot justify.... and would only consider it if my current one broke beyond repair, or I was starting fresh now.

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I'm always interested in the engineering aspects of how things work and no mater how many videos I've watched or websites I've read, not one explains how the mechanism actually works. From what I can tell (only a guess) is that the pin and lock mechanism is really nothing more than a reverse application of the traditional bolt and knob mechanism.

It appears as if the pin is 'relatively' loose  in the tripod mount, allowing the ball to tilt, and when the locking lever is applied, all that happens is that the pin is drawn in tight rather than having a knob tightening a bolt. I'm only assuming this to be the case as one comment I read noted that when using the flat adapter plate on say a slider, there's no tilting adjustment available with the head, that needs to be done with another attachment.

If what I have noted is true, then that leads me to consider the long-term durability of the locking mechanism. A screw and knob system is pretty infallible, as it's really only one moving part that adjusts for wear over age. This mechanism seems far more complex and there's no indication on how it adjusts for wear, that it can be adjusted, and whether things can become 'loose' internally over time. I look at the mechanism in a similar way to locking clamps on a tripod leg, they do loosen over time, but can be re-tensioned quite easily.

This is a completely new design, so why isn't there more information regarding how it works and analysis on whether it actually is better?

 

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Definitely would be interesting to see if the internal grip on the pin loosens over time... and if so, can it be repaired. I can only assume Sachtler have thought of this, and tested as best possible!

Bit of a shame if there isn't a way to tilt on the flat base.

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Clearly all of these things would have been tested to some degree, but they can't really replicate every use scenario. Did they test the system if exposed to salt water conditions, mud, dust and grit? This is where problems can arise in that the pin itself is far more complex than a simple threaded bolt. And who knows how many moving parts and nooks and crannies there are inside the head. The copper bushing at the base of the pin already points to a sacrificial component, but were any foreign muck to get inside the head mechanism, can it be easily cleaned? And how careful do you need to be with the pin, in outdoor conditions, so that it doesn't accumulate grit etc and pass it on up the chain? It also appears that it's only friction that prevents the head from turning on the pin, so will wear of the locking mechanism affect the ability to remain solidly in place?

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As a side note, much is being made about getting the fluid head low to the ground, so I tested my tripod that uses a 100mm bowl and a short locking knob, and I have to say that there's not much in it between the two. The differentiating factor is the height of your fluid head. I measured mine and from the ground to the plate it's 25cm.

I'm also somewhat surprised that they didn't make the fluid head a flat base unit and use the ball adapter that's available and make it a screw-on component (given that it has the same mechanism built in) so that the fluid head could then be easily transferred to other devices in the regular way. This would also allow older fluid heads to be adapted to the newer system if people desired. But more importantly, if something did go wrong with the locking mechanism, it would be far easier to change over one or the other, or both, and not have to get a fluid head repaired and be without for who knows how long. With a flat base fluid head, there's always a backup available.

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Edited by Australian Image (Ray)

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5 hours ago, Australian Image (Ray) said:

I'm always interested in the engineering aspects of how things work and no mater how many videos I've watched or websites I've read, not one explains how the mechanism actually works. From what I can tell (only a guess) is that the pin and lock mechanism is really nothing more than a reverse application of the traditional bolt and knob mechanism.

It appears as if the pin is 'relatively' loose  in the tripod mount, allowing the ball to tilt, and when the locking lever is applied, all that happens is that the pin is drawn in tight rather than having a knob tightening a bolt. I'm only assuming this to be the case as one comment I read noted that when using the flat adapter plate on say a slider, there's no tilting adjustment available with the head, that needs to be done with another attachment.

If what I have noted is true, then that leads me to consider the long-term durability of the locking mechanism. A screw and knob system is pretty infallible, as it's really only one moving part that adjusts for wear over age. This mechanism seems far more complex and there's no indication on how it adjusts for wear, that it can be adjusted, and whether things can become 'loose' internally over time. I look at the mechanism in a similar way to locking clamps on a tripod leg, they do loosen over time, but can be re-tensioned quite easily.

This is a completely new design, so why isn't there more information regarding how it works and analysis on whether it actually is better?

 

I don’t think anyone can speak for long term durability until the head has been out in the wild for a few years. I found out as much information as Sachtler was willing to divulge. 
 

Having tried it out I personally found it a lot easier to use and a lot better in terms of fluid head performance than other 75mm fluid heads I have used previously. 
 

I think like anything new people need to try it out in person to see if they like it or not. 

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I'm quite sure that the fluid head performance is going to be to Satchler's usual standard and the new system clearly is quicker to operate than the knob and bolt style, but I do have reservations about the new locking system.

There's obviously a grip and cam system that provides for tensioning, but when you consider where the pin is located and where the locking lever is located, that's quite a distance, especially when you compare it to the accessory plate that has the locking lever near the pin.

Still, all you need is a bit of grit inside the head and the lock will likely not work. Personally, I wouldn't ever use such a system in an outdoor environment such as desert, bush or beach.

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3 hours ago, Australian Image (Ray) said:

I'm quite sure that the fluid head performance is going to be to Satchler's usual standard and the new system clearly is quicker to operate than the knob and bolt style, but I do have reservations about the new locking system.

There's obviously a grip and cam system that provides for tensioning, but when you consider where the pin is located and where the locking lever is located, that's quite a distance, especially when you compare it to the accessory plate that has the locking lever near the pin.

Still, all you need is a bit of grit inside the head and the lock will likely not work. Personally, I wouldn't ever use such a system in an outdoor environment such as desert, bush or beach.

I don’t get the last comment. How are you going to get grit inside the head? 

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24 minutes ago, Matthew Allard ACS said:

I don’t get the last comment. How are you going to get grit inside the head? 

Through the opening where the stud goes in. I'm not suggesting that grit will enter into the fluid parts, but the cavity that holds the pin.

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1 hour ago, Australian Image (Ray) said:

Through the opening where the stud goes in. I'm not suggesting that grit will enter into the fluid parts, but the cavity that holds the pin.

I think that would be fairly unlikely, especially anything that is likely to cause any issues. 

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