Adorama recently added some new affordable video tripods to their catalog from Davis & Sanford. I had a chance to try out the versatile and heavy-duty ProElite Tripod with a 525 Fluid Head for a few weeks and I share my test results with you from both an indoor shoot with a DSLR and a teleprompter plus on-location outdoors with a heavy camcorder.
Before I was contacted by Tiffen's PR firm to consider testing and reviewing the ProElite 525 tripod, I hadn't heard the name Davis & Sanford® before; but it turns out they've been around for over a hundred years and producing tripods since 1930. The brand is currently owned by Tiffen®. Still, at the pricepoint of under $1000 for a heavy-duty video tripod capable of up to 88lb payload, I had my reservations and limited expectations.
However, after receiving the tripod and unpacking it, any hesitation I had quickly vanished as I inspected all the components and features of this tripod and fluid head combo. I had a chance to run it through various configurations and shooting scenarios to see how it managed in different production environments – even inviting my colleagues to try it on a corporate production to see how versatile and adaptable this kit could be.
What's Included with the Kit?
The Davis & Sanford ProElite 525 offered by Adorama comes in a sturdy padded tripod bag for easy transport and to best keep all the parts together in any configuration. This is a big plus for keeping your tripod protected while in storage or in the back of your truck.
The tripod comes with the 525 Fluid Head already attached, a set of quick-release center spreaders, ground spreaders and both rubber feet and spiked feet. However, the center spreader cannot be used in combination with the ground spreader for added stability (as tested).
The legs are easily adjustible with a single clamp that's easy to adjust with just one hand.
However, I was disappointed in the plastic leg clamps that hold the tripod firmly together when in storage/transit as they easily break and fall off. I lost two of them before I even got the tripod into outdoor testing scenarios. It's fine as long as you keep the tripod in its bag all the time (which I always do anyway) but just slightly annoying to have a feature not designed as well as the rest of the components on this kit.
The rubber feet are easily attached with the rubber grommets on each leg, as is the ground spreader. (Also featured on Adorama's web site, is the Davis & Sanford Tripod Dolly that this tripod will work with for smooth floors and maneuverability.) The center spreader attaches easily with a quick-release on each leg that you simply squeeze with one hand to engage. I found this design particularly ingenious.
When in it's most compact state with the center spreader, the tripod with fluid head are approximately 24″ (60cm) in height, and at it's full extension, up to 64″ (162cm) – and at around 15lbs (6.8kg) makes this quite a versatile portable tripod for general production use.
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525 Fluid Head
The leveling and dampening adjustments on the 525 Fluid Head are as you might expect for most any mid-range video tripod.
It features a knob-style leveler in the bottom center and a built in bubble level in the base. The dampening tilt, pan and counterbalance are between 4-5 steps with a tilt range of +90 to -75 degrees.
The 525 fluid head is rated for 8.5-25lbs (3.99-11.33kg), so my Sony PMWEX3 video camcorder weighing in around 10lbs without the extra battery packs was quite stable and performed full fluid motion as I tested in several scenarios.
Below is a video test I shot in an outdoor location near a local reservoir:
Other Configurations in the Studio
We tested the ProElite 525 in other settings, including one in a corporate shoot with my colleagues that utilized a DSLR rig with a head-mounted teleprompter on rails. It was remarkably flexible and very steady throughout the entire production. My colleagues were commenting on the portability factor as well, since they do a lot of on-location shooting for interviews and B-roll.
Another test I did was a 6-hour long time-lapse I shot from an upstairs window in our home last weekend, looking out over the bay. I wanted to see if there was any noticeable “sag” over time with my Sony EX3 mounted to it. I was running with AC power adapter and in 1-second interval mode, I shot for 6 straight hours until dark one afternoon. I did notice a slight “jump” a little past the halfway mark, but discovered my wife had let our 70lb Belgian Shepherd in the room in the late afternoon and she obviously bumped it.
Here is the resulting video of 6hrs compressed down to 2 minutes:
Jeff Foster is a published author of several how-to books and training videos in the motion graphics, animation and video production industries and is an award-winning video producer and artist. Visit his web site to learn more about his training methods, tips & tricks at PixelPainter.com