Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head Review

Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head
In-Depth Review

The Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Video Head and flowtech 100 Tripod, the latest to join the kit, are an outstanding-performing combination that sets up extremely fast. I know, I should have bought the best from the start. Unfortunately, and as usual, the best is expensive, and time was needed to surmount this obstacle.

This head and tripod were purchased as a kit, and the head is compatible with only a limited number of Sachtler tripods, but splitting the reviews seemed optimal to separate the functionality.

Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head with Lens

As I've said before, one of the easiest methods of improving video quality is to smooth the camera movements by using a fluid head, and my quest for upgraded support is a never-ending one.

I only want one, so the fluid head selection requirements list included the capability of supporting any camera gear in the kit, including lenses ranging from small up to 600mm f/4. In addition, counterbalance for the same weight and size range of gear was required. Counterbalance enables the camera to maintain a tilt position without hand pressure, regardless of the up or down angle (no flopping over, no return to zero).

At review time, video heads at B&H range in price from $26.95 to $37,148.37 for the Ronford-Baker Atlas 7 3-Axis Fluid Head (and the ARRIHEAD 2 Production Tripod Head has a higher, not disclosed price). Neither end of that range was going to work, and selecting a model with a great price-performance ratio, a strong value, was the initial goal, with significantly upgraded performance becoming the latest goal.

Along with performance, a fluid head's size and weight tend to increase with the price. The best fluid head for general-purpose use required reasonable portability — a modest size and weight.

This adventure started with the Manfrotto 608 Nitrotech Fluid Video Head, and the Cartoni Focus 10 Fluid Head Video Head was next. The Cartoni Focus 10 costs nearly twice as much as the Manfrotto 608 Nitrotech, but it was worth the upgrade. The Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head Video Head's price tag is nearly 3x higher than the Cartoni's. Is the Sachtler head worth the price difference? Let's find out.

Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head Front

Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head Tour

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The Sachtler aktiv10 features a typical fluid video head designed over a 100mm bowl adapter (larger is usually better for smoothness and strength) and housed in a strong, metal case fully containing the working mechanisms. A fluid resistance control knob and a drag/friction control knob are provided for each movement, panning and tilt.

Starting this tour at the bottom, the panning fluid resistance control wraps around the head just above the bowl adapter. This ring is easy to grasp and use.

This click-stepped ring rotates 90° in 8 steps, with panning fluid resistance ranging from free at 0 to tight at 7. In addition, there are weak click stops often apparent between the numbered index stops visible on both sides of the head. I was initially concerned about this head's stepped fluid adjustments vs. continuous adjustments, but I like having numbers to adjust directly to an expected resistance and don't find the stepped settings to be a disadvantage. Note that this head's fluid resistance changes sometimes require the movement to be zeroed before taking effect.

The panning drag control (brake) lever locks the base down quickly, with only about 25° of rotation between free and locked very tightly. The plastic lever does not feel robust, especially relative to the metal head construction, but it is reasonably sized and works quite well.

The partially tightened panning drag is smooth up until locked and seemingly good enough to suffice for fluid-controlled movement. The panning controls combine to provide a full range of panning resistance, from relatively free to fully locked.

Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head Rear

The large clicked tilt fluid resistance control, vertically oriented on the head, is designed similarly to the panning resistance control, featuring 90° of rotation. This click-stepped ring also has 8 indexed steps, with resistance again ranging from free at 0 to tight at 7. Indexing is provided on the front and back of the head.

The tilt drag knob has the same design and functionality as the panning brake knob. It also facilitates smooth movements until it is locked tight.

A large balance control dial is located on the rear of the head. The 16-step counterbalance adjustment allows precise, non-fiddly adjustment ranging from free up to this head's 26.5 lb (12.5kg) rating. This feature removes the gravity factor from tilting, permitting the up- or down-angled camera and lens to remain stationary.

Note that the counterbalance feature replaces the utility of a gimbal head.

A pair of rosette mounts are provided on the back of the head. Use these to attach the included long, strong panning bar and other accessories such as a monitor and articulating arm. The rosettes have centered 1/4" ports.

Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head Prism Level

It is important for a video head to be leveled. On the back, just above the head's base, is a spirit level with a reasonably unobstructed view from the top.

Of course, one might need a ladder to look down on the level when the tripod is set high. Solving that problem is a prism view window showing the spirit level and visible from the back of the head.

A short press on the back-oriented level window illuminates both views of the level, enabling setup in complete darkness without the aid of a flashlight. Hold the button slightly longer, and additional LEDs illuminate the two fluid adjustments and the counterbalance adjustment. The LEDs automatically turn off in approximately 10 seconds.

Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head Illumination

As usual, the camera mounting system is on top. The plate top loads into the clamp, with the clamp snapping closed and permitting fore and aft balance adjustment prior to being fully locked with the red plastic clamp knob. Pressing the red plastic safety release button is required to fully release the plate.

Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head Clamp

A 5.5" (140mm) long Sachtler Sideload Plate S is included. This plate has indexing to aid in quick balance adjustment.

Note that this head is the "Sideload" version. A Touch and Go model is alternatively available (aktiv10T for this model), allowing faster setup (no locking screw needed) and less balance adjustment range. Four screws make it seem that the clamp could be removed and swapped.

Cameras and lenses attach to the plate via flat-slotted mounting screws. The screws require a wide-bladed screwdriver — consider getting a Vello COOLTOOL Camera Plate Combo Tool or ProMediaGear Multi-Tool for each bag. Remember that multiple screw attachments prevent twisting.

Overall, I like how this quick-release system functions, and it is strong. As my kit is based on the Arca standard, I mounted a Really Right Stuff Lever-Release Clamp to the Sachtler plate.

While the just-discussed controls are somewhat standard for a fluid video head, all perform their functions at the upper end of the available range of alternatives and superior to most.

Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head SpeedSwap Lever

Not standard is a metal lever in front of this head. This lever is the key to Sachtler's SpeedLevel and SpeedSwap features, and it is the reason for the previously mentioned tripod compatibility requirement.

Pull up the lever to just past its spring-loaded stop position, and the head is freed just enough for leveling in the bowl. Fully pull up the lever (under 90° overall), and the head lifts out of the tripod or other adapted mount. Reverse the process to install and level the head. With the lever pressed down, the head is locked tight.

Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head SpeedSwap

The bowl connector, shown at the bottom of the head in the above image, mounts in the tripod bowl and receives the head's ball mount.

Conventional video head installation into a bowl involves turning a threaded knob many turns until nearly tight and then leveling the head (watching the spirit level) while awkwardly reaching under the tripod chassis to make the final locking knob turns. Minimizing this process down to lifting a lever makes removing the head from the tripod far more amenable decision.

No screw knob tightening is required for setup of leveling, and a screw knob no longer impeeds a low tripod position. With adapters in place, this technology makes swapping to a slider, jib, or other adapted studded mount just as fast and easy.

SpeedLevel and SpeedSwap are awesome features. Some subjects, wildlife for example, will not always wait for video rig set up, and some do not appreciate having to wait. Your time is valuable, and setting up a video head is not likely your favorite time consumer. SpeedLevel and SpeedSwap greatly reduce the setup and teardown time.

Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head Specifications

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In addition to the aktiv10, Sachtler offers a range of Focus aktiv Fluid Head models, from the aktiv6 (75mm bowl, 0 to 17.6 lb / 0 to 8 kg capacity) to the aktiv14T (150mm bowl, 0 to 35.3 lb / 0 to 16 kg capacity). The aktiv10 is the largest side-load option.

Here are some specifications for the aktiv8 and aktiv10 video heads:

Base Mount75mm Half Ball100mm Half Ball
Vertical Tilt+90° to -70°+90° to -70°
Load Capacity0 to 26.5 lb (0 to 12kg)0 to 26.5 lb (0 to 12kg)
CounterbalanceContinuous 15-Step Plus 0Continuous 15-Step Plus 0
Height7.3" (186mm)7.3" (186mm)
Height Above Bowl6.1" (156mm)5.7" (146mm)
Width4.7" (120mm)4.7" (120mm)
Clamp Length5.0" (126mm)5.0" (126mm)
Other Length4.1" (1.3mm)4.1" (1.3mm)
Weight6 lb (2.7kg)6.4 lb (2.9kg)

Primarily, the difference between the aktiv8 and aktiv10 is the bowl size, weight, and price.

Aside from the plastic control knobs, this otherwise metal head appears ruggedly constructed and ready to take on the rigors of daily professional use.

Balancing the Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head Video Head

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The Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head Video Head requires minor setup when a different camera and lens weight is mounted. Fortunately, the setup is easy.

Ensure the camera is supported in hand, and loosen the tilt drag lever until there is no resistance. Next, slide the mounting plate forward or backward until the rig is balanced, and lock the plate into the selected position.

Then, adjust the counterbalance until the pressure matches the weight of the lens. When the counterbalance is properly adjusted, the lens can be tilted front or back without gravity affecting the position upon release of the gear or pan handle.

Adjust the four fluid and drag controls as desired to finalize the setup.

The Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head Video Head In Use

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Any strong head, including relatively inexpensive ones, can hold a big lens solidly when fully locked. You get a fluid video head for unlocked use, specifically, for smooth pan and tilt motions, and this head is an impressive performer in that regard.

What you get for this head's high price is a superior fluid system that creates a difference visible in the video results, including extremely smooth movements with minor or no backlash (pushback, kickback, rebound) when releasing the panning handle pressure with a 600mm lens mounted. Skill remains required to create the perfect pan and tilt moves, but this head makes acquiring them, even with a large lens and long focal length, quite easy.

Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head Video Head Alternatives

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My previous video head, the Cartoni Focus 10 Fluid Video Head, despite having a far lower price, is an alternative to consider.

The Sachtler head provides slightly smoother pan and tilt movements, especially when starting and stopping the motion, including less backlash, though these advantages are not dramatic. The Sachtler head is considerably faster to set up and tear down, and it is easier to use, including easier to turn, shorter throw fluid control dials, and larger brake knobs.

The Cartoni head has a +/- 90° tilt range vs. +90° to -70° and continuous counterbalance vs. stepped, a difference more than an advantage. The Sachtler head has an indexed camera and lens plate. The Sachtler head has the aesthetic advantage (if you have clients to impress).

Overall, the Cartoni Focus 10 is a great value that will easily satisfy the requirements of advanced videographers. However, the Sachtler head takes performance and, especially, ease and speed of use to the next level. Serious and professional videographers should choose this option.

The Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head Video Head features a limited 1-year warranty, extendable to 2 years with registration.

The reviewed Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head Video Head was purchased online/retail along with Sachtler flowtech 100 MS Tripod Legs. Head and leg combinations are available in significantly discounted kits (with a nice padded case included). Read the Sachtler flowtech 100 Tripod review to learn more.

Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head


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If capturing movies is part of your life, you likely frequently rely on a fluid video head. If recording professional-grade footage is important to you, that fluid head is a high-performing model.

The Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head Video Head performs its movements at the high end of that head class.

This head is also at the top of this class when sorted by setup speed. As I said in the Sachtler flowtech 100 Tripod Review, the fast deployment capability can distinguish between getting the perfect shot or footage and wishing you had purchased a system with this capability. Everyone's time is valuable, but for commercial use, the timesaving side of this head's SpeedSwap and SpeedLevel features directly translates to increased revenue.

The Sachtler aktiv10 is a strong, superior-performing fluid head ready to deliver professional-grade with-motion video. You pay more for this head, but as I've said before, you often get what you paid for in the fluid tripod head world.

Bringing you this site is my full-time job (typically 60-80 hours per week). Thus, I depend solely on the commissions received from you using the links on this site to make any purchase. I am grateful for your support! - Bryan

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Sachtler aktiv10 Fluid Head
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