In preparation for getting married, I strode into Barneys and purchased an Armani suit. Just resting on the hanger that fabric is otherworldly, with a drape like nothing else. Then you put it on, and it’s like armor protecting and enhancing your very being. Seriously, I walk differently when I’m wearing it. Way back there at Barneys, when they left me alone on the platform with an honest to God Italian tailor marking up the suit, I tried to ask him to let out the waist a little, help a brother out.
“No,” he replied, in extremely broken English, “you lose.”
He was right. I did. And that suit still wears as beautifully as it did, lo, those two decades ago. It may seem strange to mention couture clothing in a tripod review, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind when confronting Manfrotto’s MVKN8TWINMUS (note to corporate: work on branding) Nitrotech N8 video head and tripod system. Weird, but somehow this thing is sexy. All the mechanisms and knobs work smoothly, yet for all the ease of adjustment, when locked down, it’s as solid as earth.
The tripod and head weigh just over 17 pounds. If you have a lot of schlepping in your work, you’re not the target user for this axe. But if you’re shooting video in the studio or on location, that weight helps provide a solid base and dampens vibrations, making your work smoother and sharper.
Now, that’s all well and good, but when you load this thing up with a big honkin’ Canon EOS C300 or RED EPIC, with all their accompanying weighty hardware, it’s still rock-solid, which is necessary but not sufficient for a video tripod.
Which is where the sexy comes in. Two features of this tripod are supremely notable: balance and movement. The former is managed by a nitrogen (come on, exotic gases are sexy, even though nitrogen is more common in our atmosphere than oxygen, if I remember my high school physics correctly) piston that enables the head to counterbalance any weight (up to 44 pounds). Professional touches include mount points to get weight off the camera, removable feet (for hard or soft surfaces) and lockable spreader arms to keep the legs right where you put them. The 75mm ballhead makes leveling up a cinch. Industry-standard sizing means one could use the smooth-moving Manfrotto head with other bases such as a jib. A little, easy-to-miss feature I thought was silly (A battery? What kind of tripod needs a battery?) turned out to be fabulous: a light-up spirit level. Any cinematic camera moves are thrown off without perfect leveling. This is a great little detail.
Moviemaking is all about moving the camera, and this tripod’s fluid-dampened head makes moving your camera a joy. Tilts, pans and complicated combined moves become effortless and repeatable. Sliding that pan a little too fast? Dial down the tension a tad. Pan not stopping naturally at the end of the move because of your top-heavy camera rig? Turn up that tension until it’s just right. The dials and knobs on this head are fluid and smooth, and easy to adjust repeatedly and consistently.
There’s something very Italian and, yes, sexy about working with this rig. You don’t have to don Armani and sip doppio espressos, though I find it does help in operating this equipment. For under a thousand bucks, this tripod/head combo works and feels like much more expensive setups and would admirably serve as the basis for a solid and enjoyable camera support foundation.
Learn more about the Manfrotto Nitrotech N8 video head and tripod system here.
Photographer and filmmaker Chris X Carroll has been fired upon by Norwegian whalers north of the Arctic Circle, swum naked with REM, taught Viscount Charles Spencer to sail, and turned to ask Elizabeth Taylor if the melon he was holding was ripe at a grocery store before realizing who she was and nearly passing out. Visit Chris at www.chriscarrollphoto.com, and follow him on Instagram @chrisxcarroll and on Facebook at chrisxcarroll