I spend hours each month convincing new shooters that the camera is only a small part of their total production kit investment. Behind the camera and lens, the tripod is the third most important element. If you are merely going to lock off a shot, I’ll grant you that the camera head is of lesser importance, but in the real world there are tilt and pan movements. That’s where a good fluid head makes a difference.
Australia’s Miller Camera Support, which celebrated its 60th anniversary last year, actually invented the fluid head. While Miller has products that run the gamut in terms of features and functionality, Miller engineers are adapting to today’s changing production landscape. As cameras are getting smaller, naturally tripods and heads need to be built to accommodate the lighter loads.
With a payload range of about 4.5 to 11 pounds, the Miller Air Carbon Fiber System brings historic Miller quality to the DSLR, mirrorless and small camera market. The kit includes the Miller Air fluid head, Solo 75 two-stage carbon fiber tripod, camera plate and pan handle, as well as a carrying bag and strap.
Weighing less than 10 pounds including the camera head, the Air Carbon Fiber System is remarkably lightweight and compact. Its two-stage construction features secure extension twist locks. The matte black finish on the carbon fiber sticks cuts down on reflections.
The Air fluid head is a 75mm ball head, with a rated 11 pound capacity. Manufacturer ratings are for the absolute maximum, so I would be hesitant to mount a rig that hits the 11 pound limit. This is a system designed for smaller cameras.
There is no drag adjustment—Miller maintains that drag is constant and automatic. I found pans to be very natural when using a basic Canon DSLR with a short zoom lens.
Counterbalance is of some importance even in smaller rigs. The Air provides two levels of counterbalance. I’d like to see more adjustability here—small cameras are often outfitted with mics, rigs, lights, filter holders and a whole host of accessories that shift the camera’s natural center of gravity. Balance can be achieved by adjusting the movable camera platform, but counterbalance is much more subtle.
The Air Carbon Fiber system has a street price around $1,200. Those new users who come to me for advice are shocked. “I paid less than $1,000 for my camera and the tripod costs more!” Experienced professionals can attest that only a well constructed fluid head can deliver smooth camera movement. And stable legs protect that camera investment.
The Miller Air system is a worthy entry in the small-camera tripod matrix and really deserves a look when you’re in the market.