At A Glance: Air Apparent

Due to their small size and inconspicuous nature, the biggest advantage of shooting with a DSLR or compact camcorder is that you’re able to shoot in locations where most full-sized, digital motion-picture cameras can’t. But if you want stabilized shots, you need a solid tripod system—a tool that usually negates a DSLR’s small size. I’ve always found that when shooting with a DSLR, it’s best to shoot with a tripod system that complements the camera’s small size.

Australian-based Miller Camera Support Equipment has released the Air Tripod System range, which includes the Air Alloy System and Air Carbon Fibre System. Considered "little brothers" to Miller’s Compass tripods, the Air systems can serve both the indie filmmaker and the working pro in capturing stable static shots or smooth pans and tilts. Both Air systems are very lightweight and easy to set up, making them ideal for the run-and-gun shooter who needs to capture shots at a moment’s notice. Both the Alloy and Carbon Fibre consist of the Air Fluid Head, which has Miller’s fluid head pan-and-tilt technology, and the Solo 75 2-Stage Tripod.

Miller sent over a review unit of their Air Carbon Fibre System, which I tried out with a Canon EOS 70D DSLR. From my experience, most fluid heads have been a little large for DSLRs, but the Air Fluid Head’s camera plate was the perfect size for a compact system. The fluid head offers a two-position counterbalance knob, which can support a payload range of approximately 4.4 to 11 pounds. The fluid drag system remains constant across all temperatures and offers extremely smooth performance, so you won’t have any sudden jerky moves. (This is no surprise since Miller is the creator of the fluid head.) The quick-release plate slides out easily once the release knob is pushed. Overall, the metal build of the Air Fluid Head has a solid, dependable feel; it’s one of the best heads I’ve tested with a DSLR.

I’m a previous owner of a Miller Solo DV Tripod System, and I’m a big fan of the Solo’s adjustable tripod legs. The carbon-fiber legs have two stages that are easy to unlock, extend and lock. A soft, protective Neoprene casing lets you comfortably grip the legs to make adjustments. You can quickly adjust the length of individual legs, making the Solo Tripod ideal for shooting in uneven and rough terrain such as a mountain range or stadium bleachers.

What I also love about the Solo Tripod is that you can pivot each leg low to the ground to shoot at extremely low angles (approximately nine inches off the ground). In terms of maximum height, you can extend up to 69 inches. But because there’s no spreader and because the system is very lightweight, make sure to keep it within eyesight because it will tip over if bumped. (With a ground spreader, you can throw a sandbag on top of it.) You have to remember that the Air Tripod Systems are meant to be used primarily for run-and-gun shooting with lightweight cameras, not heavy, full-sized cameras. For better traction outdoors, you can wind up the rubber feet and dig into the ground with its built-in spikes.

The Air Carbon Fibre System weighs less than 10 pounds, and it’s easy to grab one of its legs and throw the entire system over your shoulder. (The Air Alloy comes in at 10.8 pounds.) Included is a no-frills, weatherproof carry case that lets you pack the Air for travel, and the whole unit can easily fit in an overhead bin on a plane. There’s also an optional ¼" accessory mounting block to attach accessories like a monitor or recorder.

The Air Alloy System has a list price of $1,165, and the Carbon Fibre System has a list price of $1,453.

Contact: Miller Camera Support, LLC, www.millertripods.com; Sales, (973) 857-8300.

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