Today, we’ll have a quick look at SmallRig’s latest solution for camera stability, the AS-100 FreeBlazer Heavy-Duty Carbon Fiber Tripod System.
A few years ago, after purchasing my first cinema camera, I rushed over to my local camera store in search of all the accessories. Cages, cables, and monitors, oh my! Whatever I could buy that might in any way be related to my new toy was on the shopping list. All except for one thing.
After a flurry of questions about how that little dongle doohickey at the end of the counter I had never heard of before but was now certain I couldn’t live without but that would benefit me as a filmmaker, the salesman asked a far more simple question: “Do you have a tripod?” To which I had no choice but to respond, “as a matter of fact, I do not.”
As filmmakers, we naturally turn most of our attention to the headline grabbing specs of new cameras and all the advanced tech that goes along with them. But, the most useful tools can often be the simplest. Those things that aren’t going to get you any likes on Instagram, but might stand a chance of actually making your work better. In today’s episode, we’ll look at an example of a new entrant into the market, the SmallRig AD-100 FreeBlazer Heavy-Duty Carbon Fiber Tripod.
Despite my earlier story, I do now have several such three-legged contraptions in my possession, which I use on a daily basis. When I’m shopping for a tripod, I look for a few basic things. How much weight can it hold? I shoot with everything from paperweight mirrorless cameras to Mack truck heavy cinema cameras. Knowing just how much weight you can layer on a tripod is important if you don’t want your new fancy camera to suddenly collapse to the floor and shatter into several progressively more depressing pieces.
How high does it go? How low does it go? It’d be great if your tripod could go from an inch off the ground to a bird's eye view all while maintaining enough stability to support a sumo wrestler, but the odds are it will not. So knowing that your tripod’s range will match your use-case is important.
How heavy is it? I’m getting older just as the equipment I’m using seems to be getting heavier. Bigger lights, heavier stands. Every trip to the van is a workout. So, the last thing I want to do is add to my coming joint pain by making the act of lugging my camera support around into a chore. So having a lighter weight tripod (still capable of supporting a heavy camera) makes it far more likely that I will actually use the system and get the most out of my investment.
So, how does SmallRig’s new AD-100 FreeBlazer stack up? Pretty darn well. Its carbon fiber legs offer an operating height ranging from 37 to 77 inches. As I stand 6 foot 2 inches myself, I was happy to see how tall this thing gets. Very helpful for overhead shots without needing more extensive rigging to elevate your camera. The entire system itself weighs 11 pounds and offers a 22 pound load capacity. It uses a standard 75mm ball head, which makes it interchangeable with a number of other products. The fluid head features a dual mode quick release system, making it quickly adaptable to either a standard Manfrotto system or the DJI RS system. This is helpful if you are one that frequently changes between using standard tripods and gimbal setups to help you work faster. I have a cage for one of my cameras which has the DJI RS mount built in, so it’s great because I don’t have to ever take the camera out of its cage to swap between tripod, gimbal, and handheld. The 75mm half ball head can pan 360° and tilt +90/-60°. The tripod legs feature double spiked feet for more secure grounding in grass, while also having removable rubber feet that can be put on when digging spikes into your hardwood floors is less desirable.
The three tiers leg extensions are operated by single latches on each system. This means that unlocking the latch on a single leg unlocks all three levels of that leg (as opposed to having three latches on the leg, one for each level). This should be a good thing. Allowing you to adjust the height with a single latch (as opposed to multiple latches per leg). Being used to adjusting every section of a tripod independently, this might take me some getting used to personally. But it should work to my advantage. There is an adjustable mid-level spreader so that you can increase stability when necessary and reduce vibrations. Also, the telescopic handle is a nice touch, allowing you to collapse the arm when not in use for easier transport. The system comes in a convenient shoulder bag, making for easy transport.
And the best feature yet is that the system comes in at a very affordable price. The AD-100 FreeBlazer Heavy-Duty Carbon Fiber Tripod Kit which I have retails for only $399, a solid price compared to much of the competition.
- Dual Quick Release System
- Weight Versus Weight Capacity
- Collapsible Arm
- Value for Money
- Doesn’t Go Super Low (A Fair Tradeoff for the Height)
The reason why you don’t see a million and one videos on new tripod releases is that their reviews are relatively straightforward. But that doesn’t make them any less important to your success as a filmmaker. And the new SmallRig AD-100 FreeBlazer Heavy-Duty Carbon Fiber Tripod, much like the other products SmallRig has brought to market, is a solid product and a solid price point.