In an industry as old as ours, few things have withstood the test of time the way the Century Stand (more commonly known as the C Stand) has. On what seems like a daily basis we see insane improvements in camera and lighting technology. Yet we don’t typically see the same type of innovation in the world of grip where the C Stand you purchase today looks and performs in an almost identical fashion to one from 30 years ago. Is it time for it too to evolve?
Across the industry three brands stand out as the leaders in grip: American, Norms, and Matthews. Though there are periodic additions to their arsenal of grip gear their staple items have remained largely unchanged. But in just the past few months we have seen two new players, Lowel and Savage, enter the field with some changes to the classic 40” C Stand design. Could their fresh take on a classic drive the industry to move away from the traditional workhorse on set?
Lowel is not new to the production world and is known as a leader in location lighting. This year they’ve rolled out their new 40” C Stand offerings. Available in chrome or black with a sliding leg (Rocky Mountain Leg) or in black with a spring-loaded turtle base, these C Stands are backed by the Tiffen brand and priced very aggressively ($159 and $180 respectively).
There are some design innovations on these stands that users will either love or hate. The 2.5” grip heads feature t-handles that will look familiar in design to that of other C Stands on the market, except that they seem to be a bit narrow for bigger hands. They are still useable and you can really crank on them but its worth noting that they aren’t quite as “comfortable” as other grip head handles. Lowel has also redesigned the knobs on the riser and base. They’ve done away with the traditional t-handles and instead incorporated a three prong knob design.
At first look this appears to be less than optimal, however after actually cranking on it we found that the extra prong allows for the thumb and two fingers to grip and provides enough space to crank down and torque the knobs. The arm itself also has a small recessed notch on a baby spigot at the end of the arm opposite the grip head, a design feature that we absolutely love. This notch allows you to securely attach lights and other accessory without having to worry about said items sliding or slipping on the end of the arm.
Savage has been around since 1937 and has been popular with photographers and productions world-wide. Most recently they’ve focused on LED lighting and studio equipment, including a very fresh look at the century stand. Savage’s C Stand comes in a 40” flavor, available in your choice of stainless or black finishes. The Savage C Stand design has been the most revolutionary we’ve seen, it features a turtle base that also has a rocky mountain leg. At first glance you might think “how can a turtle base have a rocky mountain leg?” Let me explain.
The low leg on the turtle base features an open bottom receiver that accept the base of the double riser, or the included 20 inch riser. When using this leg on stairs or other uneven surfaces you can drop the riser out of the bottom of the receiver to give yourself a solid base for the third leg.
The 20” riser also includes a junior to baby pin adapter that can be used in the base. Savage also includes 2 newly designed heads with this stand. While the design is good in concept, and can be ideal for gripping onto some more delicate things like reflector boards, in practice it doesn’t feel as strong or sturdy as traditional grip heads. These grip heads feature “jaws” with rubber pads that, after the first use in an actual studio, will likely fall off making them more of a nuisance than an actual feature to help from marring flags or other accessories. The included arm is completely removable which, again, you may love or hate. It does feature a baby spigot on both ends with a ¼”-20 male threaded end on each. Price point is competitive (starting at around $212) with the industry standard C Stands on the market, and while chock-full of cool features this C Stand feels like it lacks the ability to take the place of the tried and true classic design.
So, Does The Humble C Stand Need An Upgrade?
In our opinion, not really. However we certainly believe its worth the effort for companies like Savage and Lowel to take a crack at redesigning something like a C Stand. Features like the anti rotation notch on the end of the Lowel arm and the turtle/ sliding leg base combo on the Savage stand are attributes that would greatly improve the traditional C Stand. Big three, take note!