As HDSLRs and smaller, lighter-weight cameras gain in quality and popularity, shooters are finding the need for a professional, yet inexpensive camera support system to integrate with the more inexpensive cameras.
Sachtler has stepped up to fill this niche with Ace, a lightweight tripod and head system designed specifically for use with smaller cameras. Able to accommodate a payload of up to 8.8 lb., Ace is perfect for decked-out HDSLRs or smaller HDV cameras. The tripod itself is a glass fiber reinforced composite material with a 75mm ball socket. Ace comes with its own fluid head, with a range of +90° to -75°, that performs as you would expect a Sachtler to perform.
The whole unit is incredibly lightweight. I liked the positive locks on the legs, with knuckles rather than the simpler tension clips you see on a lot of inexpensive tripods. The locks on the two-stage legs gave me confidence that they weren’t going to slip.
Ace has a built-in spreader that is adjustable but not removable. A fair range of spreading is possible, but I’d like to be able to remove the spreader to better position the tripod on uneven terrain or stairs.
For an inexpensive tripod, having a ball-leveling head is an incredible bonus. For a professional tool, it’s a must.
The head has a long quick-release plate (104mm), which allows a good range of positioning options to balance the load on the head. It has calibration marks, which I really like because they tell you where you need to position it for repeat setups.
The 1/4-20 screw in the base of the quick-release plate has a tiny locking-pin plate, which is great for some cameras, but I had to remove it for use with my Canon EOS 7D, as the Canon doesn’t have the pin hole in its base.
The head itself has four stages of drag for both pan and tilt functions. There is an “off” (no drag) setting as well as light, medium and heavy. I really liked the no-drag option; you don’t see that on inexpensive tripod heads, especially not on one that functions so smoothly. The three stages of drag are well designed to provide a great range of operation.
There are five stages of counterbalance on the head, which allowed me to quickly adjust for different camera configurations and counterbalance each of them perfectly.
The pan and tilt locks are located on the left side of the head and left front, making for easy access to locking and release while keeping the right hand on the pan handle. This is what you’d expect from a professional head—and it never ceases to amaze me how often this simple consideration is not incorporated in head design.
The pan handle can be mounted only on the right side, which I found a little limiting. There are certainly occasions when having a mount on the left side would be handy, or when being able to add a second handle would be preferred.
Range of height for the legs is good. Lowest mounting plate height is 31″ with legs down and spreader full spread. 66.5″ is the highest with the legs fully extended and the spreader in as tight as it will go.
I loaded it up. I put on my Canon EOS 7D, along with a K-Tek Norbert cage, Marshall V-LCD50-HDMI monitor, Litepanels MicroPro Hybrid and Switronix TorchLED Bolt to get the weight right at the top end: 8 lb. With a few adjustments to the sliding base plate position, I found that—even with this load—the top stage of counterbalance worked wonderfully to keep the load balanced and even on the Ace head. I did wish that I had one more stage of drag with all of that weight on the head, but the third stage was workable.
The unit comes with a custom Petrol soft carrying case. It’s easily carried over the shoulder and lightweight enough to add to any small kit without burden.
Sachtler Ace tripod system
PROS: Excellent price point, all-in-one head and tripod system, professional control and performance, great flexibility, lightweight.
CONS: Just the tiniest details: only three drag settings, spreader not removable.
BOTTOM LINE: True professional performance from a lightweight and extraordinarily affordable tripod/head system that provides top-end results for users of HDSLRs and smaller cameras.