Sachtler Ace review

At the tail end of 2011 I purchased a Sachtler Ace tripod and having spent the last few months putting it through its paces I thought I’d give it a review.

 I’ve been using it with a Sony A1E which is a very small, lightweight camera (one of the reasons why I bought it in the first place.) Although this makes it easy to carry around when self-shooting, it does make it harder to get nice smooth pans and tilts using a lower spec tripod. Whilst using the camera to film a documentary last year (see earlier posts) I had it on a Vinten and a Libec, both of which struggled without a big, weighty camera on top to counterbalance a slow pan.

 The Ace, however, with its three vertical and three horizontal grades of drag is perfect for my little A1E. This is certainly what has impressed me most about the Ace compared to other tripods in the same price range. The fluid head and adjustable drag makes it a breeze to produce lovely smooth, slow pans, tilts and pretty much any other movement you’re hoping to achieve. I recently filmed a point-to-point with it and the tripod really proved its worth, tracking the horses as they approached the camera and then panning across as they passed by with a nice fluid motion.

 The point-to-point also highlighted the other big plus about this tripod. Although it has a satisfyingly solid and sturdy feel to the build quality, it is still nice and lightweight – great for someone tramping across the countryside on their own with camera, tripod and mic whilst they following galloping horses up and down hills. I have the model with the mid-level spreader (I find it so much more convenient for outdoor filming on uneven surfaces/steps etc.) which only weighs 4.4kg and the ground spreader version only comes in slightly more at 4.6kg – perfect for follow the action, pick-up-and-go style documentary/news filming.

 However, this actually brings me on to pretty much the only downside I’ve found with this tripod -the two stage legs (a design I prefer but I think this is mainly down to whatever you are used to) do not lock on/off but instead have a twist mechanism to  tighten and loosen. There is no end-lock position on this mechanism either, which means it takes quite a bit of practice to lock into position quickly and I was also left worrying that it wasn’t fully locked off and might slip – although it never actually did slip!

This is a minor disappointment, frustrating on a tripod that in every other way is fast and easy to move, but for the price you are paying for this tripod I’d be very surprised if it was 100% perfect and overall I’m very happy with this tripod. I’ve taken it out in the rain and mud and it dries out and cleans up very well – seems to be pretty hardy and robust. The five-step counterbalance and 140mm sliding range make it flexible and easy to adjust to different camera set-ups. All-in-all a great tripod for smaller cameras and in my opinion unmatched within its price range.

 If you want the full specs you can go to the Sachtler website to find out exact payload, min and max heights etc. and I won’t bore you with them here.

 I bought mine from Production Gear for a competitive price, but most importantly to me I could go and visit their showroom to have a play with the tripod before making a decision. They were all very friendly and helpful and I would definitely recommend.