It is important for filmmakers to have a wide range of options when it comes to filming. Different situations and environments require bespoke methods of shooting. A tripod head can help you tailor your shoot to meet the situation.
While all tripods come with a standard head, these heads are not well suited to highly individualized filming styles. Standard tripod heads lack the control and flexibility that specialized heads provide, which is why most serious photographers and filmmakers also use specialized tripod heads.
A variety of heads are available, including pan-and-tilt, gimbal, pistol grip, and fluid heads.
A fluid head is a sub-type of a pan/tilt head, which uses a hydraulic damping system that provides smoother, steadier movement than mechanical pan/tilt heads.
Compact camcorders are especially susceptible to vibrations and jerks, which makes this feature especially useful.
It is possible to purchase fluid heads at a variety of price points and performance levels.
It is possible to buy a fluid head on a budget for under $100, or you can spend over $1000 for a more advanced model.
Things to Consider
It is important to look at your setup closely before investing in a fluid head. How heavy is your tripod? What is its maximum and minimum weight? You should think about how much your rig will weigh when everything is taken into account if you are a hiker or an action photographer.
Here are some things to consider when shopping for fluid tripod heads in addition to your tripod and camera.
1. Balanced Camera Plate
A camera plate is essential for most tripod heads, including fluid heads. In general, a camera plate that doesn’t come with a quick-release mechanism isn’t worth your consideration unless your budget is very limited. Most good camera plates come with a quick-release mechanism, so you can quickly remove your camera from the head.
2. Pan and Tilt
The fluid video head is a modified version of pan/tilt heads, so pay close attention to how flexible it is. It’s desirable to have 360o pan and 90o tilt. It’s also beneficial to have more control over the pan and tilt. Some users prefer stiff drag control, while others prefer smoother motions.
A fluid head should have a counterbalance with fine steps, as this will make the head easier to handle and operate. Then, the lower the counterbalance weight, the better off you will be. Ideally, the counterbalance weight should be as low as possible (or as close to zero pounds).
4. Bubble Level
It is pretty obvious why you need a level for your tripod head – it helps you set up your tripod head so that it is level, leading to better video results. Some fluid heads, however, do not include a level.
5. Fluid vs. Friction
It’s possible that some low-cost models are friction heads, instead of fluid heads. Friction heads don’t perform like fluid heads and aren’t nearly as smooth as fluid heads.
The Best Fluid Head Slider for 2022
There is no mistaking the sleek, modern design of the Manfrotto Nitrotech N8. Not only does it look fantastic, it offers outstanding performance, offering a wide range of capabilities, features, and functions for beginners and professionals alike.
Its amazing counterbalance system provides continuous counterbalance at weights ranging from 0-17.6 pounds (0-8 kg), which is one of the best features of this video head. With variable pan and tilt, a side lock plate attachment, and three 8-pin connectors, it is ideal for attaching a variety of cameras. In addition to providing a secure base for your camera and accessories, the flat base mount is designed to resist rotation.
As you might imagine, the video head is quite heavy, weighing 6.3 pounds (2.86 kg). The fluid video head is one of the best fluid video heads on the market, regardless of whether you’re an aspiring video blogger or a professional with a lot of attachments.
1. Meco VT-1510 Fluid Drag Video Head
It isn’t possible for everyone to afford a tripod head that costs hundreds of dollars. It doesn’t mean you won’t want to get the most out of your equipment just because you don’t have a lot of money to work with. Youtubers and streamers usually start out small, and that includes their equipment.
It is definitely a video head for people on a budget, the Meco VT-1510 Fluid Drag Video Head. It weighing just 1.9 pounds (0.86 kg), is extremely light and compact, but it is also not very durable, and the maximum payload is limited, so it is best suited to DSLRs and action cameras like the GoPro. Although it lacks versatility, the VT-1510 makes up for it.
A standout feature of the Meco VT-1520 is its pan and tilt range. A bubble level and a sliding quick-release plate provide convenience and flexibility. With 360° pan and -85°/+90° tilt, it offers a flexible, versatile performance. Although it isn’t a top-tier video head, it was clearly designed by someone who knows what makes a great video head.
If you’re a professional filmmaker working in a studio, you will need a video head that can bear the weight of heavy cameras and equipment, such as VT-1520. In contrast, if you’re looking for something cheap to take with you on a hike, or if you’re making Youtube videos on a budget, the VT-1520 is your best bet.
2. Manfrotto Be Free Live Fluid Head
There is no doubt that Manfrotto makes high-quality tripod heads. Although it won’t be mistaken for a $500 model, the Be Free Live Fluid Head does offer decent performance at a great price. Although it may not be expensive, its stylish design certainly doesn’t look cheap either.
A great advantage of this fluid head is its lightweight. At just 0.84 pounds (0.38 kg), it weighs very little, making it a great camera head for hiking or outdoor shooting. The camera has a safety payload of 8.82 pounds (4 kg), so it can handle even quite large camcorders.
Aluminum makes it fairly durable, and it comes with fixed drag fluid cartridges for pan and tilt. An optional pan bar allows more fluid motion.
The fluid head isn’t perfect, but it’s a pretty good one for the price. The most prevalent issue is a lack of tightness – it’s hard to tighten, and sometimes it’s hard even to keep the knobs tightened. This means that this isn’t a high-end professional camera. But then again, you get what you pay for.
3. Benro S6 Video Head (S6)
With their S-Series of video heads, Benro provides a variety of options, ranging from the S2 (priced at around $85) to the S8, which we reviewed. In the Benro S6 model, you’ll find some advantages over cheaper models even though it won’t provide the same sophistication as a more expensive model.
There is a significant difference between the S6 and the Be Free (or, indeed, the S8) in terms of maximum payload. In addition to offering full 360° fluid pan, it also has a pan bar for smooth and fluid motions. The S6 can support cameras up to 13.2 pounds (6 kg), 50% more than most models at similar prices.
This tripod features sliding quick release plates that provide good balance forwards and backwards, and is backed by a three-year warranty. It weighs 2.6 pounds (1.17 kg) and is backed by a limited warranty.
This is a decent fluid video head that offers great performance at a reasonable price. Although the pan and tilt locks could be tighter, and the counterbalance could be more refined.
A consummate professional may find it inadequate, but vloggers or internet streamers may find it sufficient.
4. Manfrotto 502 Video Head
You may want to consider the Manfrotto 502 Fluid Video Head if you’re looking for a fluid head in the same price range as the Benro S6, but you want something heavier. In addition to supporting your camcorder, the Manfrotto 502 has a counterbalance of 8.8 pounds (4 kg) and a maximum payload of 15.4 pounds (7 kg).
It offers both 14″ and 3/8″ screws for connecting your camera. The top plate detaches quickly and adjusts for easy balancing, and the pan fluid drag provides ease of operation.
The fluid head offers a 360° pan and a 90°/85° tilt for incredible flexibility.
It weighs 3.53 pounds (1.6 kg), so it’s not overly heavy, but it’s large enough and stable enough to hold all your attachments in place. The 502 video head is backed by a five-year warranty, ensuring years of reliable performance. Despite the fact that the 3/8″ threads aren’t as strong and secure as I would like, the head is a pretty good fluid head for the price, particularly for newbies.
5. Benro S8 Video Head (S8)
With a weight of 5.29 pounds (2.4 kg), the Benro S8 Video Head weighs significantly more than the smaller S6. However, even though its weight is significantly greater, the maximum payload is much lower at 8.8 pounds (4 kg). While this head is not ideal for climbing Mt. Shasta, its added weight provides better stability than the S6, making it a good choice for local shoots.
In addition to the sliding quick release plate for balancing, the S8 offers 360° pan rotation and a slide quick release plate. Pan and tilt drag is excellent, giving you plenty of control over your filming, and the large size of the head makes this a good choice for large, heavy rigs. While the S6 is great for shooting on location, the S8 is designed to be used in the studio.
Although the Benro S8 is not as expensive as more expensive fluid heads, it offers great value for money. Like the S6, the S8 is backed by a three-year warranty, so the average vlogger or indie filmmaker should find it perfectly acceptable. But the consummate professional will probably want something more.
6. E-Image GH06 Fluid Video Head – 75mm
There is a wide selection of fluid video heads from E-Image as well, ranging from less than $200 to over $3500. This actually places the 75mm E-Image GH06 Fluid Video Head at the lower end of the price scale.
This may be one of E-Image’s cheaper fluid heads, but that doesn’t mean it’s a budget model. Priced at nearly $500, this is a professional-grade tripod head that will please everyone but the most demanding. There are two ways to use the quick-release plate for greater convenience, and a bubble level makes leveling your camera simple.
It can support a payload up to 13 pounds (5.9 kg), leaving room for a variety of attachments to accompany your camera. With a variable fluid pan and stepped settings, the head gives you more flexibility. The head weighs 3.5 pounds, making it ideal for professional shooting environments where all your tripod attachments can be used.
7. E-Image GH10L 100mm Fluid Video Headhunter
A professional-grade, high-end tripod head, the E-Image GH10L is one of the more expensive E-Image video heads. In terms of price, it is definitely not cheap, and as a consequence isn’t suited to many vloggers, streamers or casual users, but is an excellent choice for serious filmmakers or people who want the best.
A counterbalance option of 1-7 is available on the GH10L, which has more counterbalance options than the GH06. A fluid pan system, similar to the GH06, gives you greater control over pan and tilt. The intuitive quick-release plate allows you to separate the device in two different ways.
The fluid head is very sturdy. It weighs 4 pounds (1.81 kg) and has a maximum load of 22 pounds (10 kg). The head telescopes up to 570 mm, and the head comes with a 1/4″-20 threaded mounting point to support a variety of accessories and attachments. In spite of its cost, this is a serious piece of equipment.
8. Cartoni Focus HD
Lastly, we have the Cartoni Focus HD, which is a high-end fluid video head for professional videographers. With a five-year warranty, this product looks like it’s going to last you a lifetime.
The Cartoni Focus provides top-of-the-line performance and functionality. With 360° pan and 90° tilt rotation, as well as continuous counterbalancing and fluid drag for enhanced performance and stability, it offers a maximum payload of 22 pounds (10 kg), and offers a number of 14″ threads for additional attachments.
The Focus weighs 6.7 pounds (3 kg), so it isn’t ideal for shooting on location, especially if you are filming by yourself. For professional filming projects, however, Focus provides some of the best performance possible. Although not cheap, it’s a great value.
Although there are a number of fluid video heads on the market, many of them fall short when it comes to performance. Many of them are inexpensive budget models that work fine for casual use but aren’t reliable when put to the test.
It is imperative that you be selective when choosing a video head that will last for years and provide satisfactory performance. Fortunately, there are good choices available, regardless of your budget. Whether you’re looking to spend less than $100 or need top-of-the-line equipment, you’ll find the products here to satisfy every budget and every requirement.
Let us know what you think in the comments section. We are eager to hear from you!