Review: Libec RS-450R Tripod and Head
First a quick disclosure: I do not work for Libec. I am an end user who purchased this product and wanted to convey my thoughts in a review.
I’m just getting into the whole DSLR for video revolution. I am not a newbie and have almost twenty years in the film industry in Los Angeles, working on commercials and television shows to theatrical feature films. That being said, I am used to the high-end gear working on these production affords. But when it came to putting down my own cold hard cash, I want my money to buy the best in class I could afford. I looked to other brands, including the high priced Sachtler sticks and heads but they were out of my price range.
So I turned to the Internet to do some research and time and again this company, Libec, out of Japan kept popping up. So I did some more research and came across the Libec RS-450R (RM) tripod and head system. The R stands for floor spreader model an RM is a mid-level spreader. Both models come with the RH-45R head, the RT40RB tripod, the appropriate spreader and a nice case to carry it all. A quick note about the head, it is a true fluid head with real counterbalance—just like the much more expensive heads have. And the fit and finish is everything you’d expect coming out of a product designed and built in Japan. These tripods are not made in China or anywhere else. With the Libec system I actually got the best money could buy at an affordable price—something that doesn’t happen often.
I’m going to quote you with some of the specs from the Libec website: http://www.libecsales.com/ and then I’ll get in to actually using the set up.
The RH-45R 75mm ball head boast a payload of up to 26.5lb (12kg) with a Counterbalance range of 10.0 to 23.0lb / 4.5 to 10.5kg. The counterbalance is Continuous. It also comes with a telescoping panhandle.
This is not a carbon fiber tripod and it doesn’t bother me that it is aluminum. Carbon fiber can splinter and if you ever get a carbon fiber splinter in your hand then you know what I mean. The tripod has two stages. And the legs are easily adjustable with the turn of a leg lock knob. As this is a two-stage tripod, each section has its own locking knob. I didn’t find this a problem nor does it slow me down when I am setting the tripod to the shooting height I want. It is solidly built and supports the weight of my camera without any problems. I’ve been shooting with the Canon 5D Mark III. I know this isn’t a big camera, but by the time you put on a rail system, 2 stage matte box, a follow focus, an EF-70-200mm lens, not to mention a 7” HD monitor, batteries, etc., the weight adds up. But the Libec RT40RB tripod takes it in stride. It just feels solid with no vibration. The tripod stands on rubber feet that come off to reveal spikes protected by a ball cap if you need them. When you are done shooting for the day and fold up the tripod, there is a built in binding strap that keeps the legs tethered together. The tripod has a nice black powder coated finish, as does the head.
The RH-45R 75mm ball head is the backbone of this set up. As I mentioned before it is a true fluid head with real counterbalance. The counter balance works great. I can point the camera up or down with the tilt lock off, dial in the counterbalance and the head will not move. Think about this as you do a shot where you start at an extreme tilt up or down—no drift! The head is balanced, you finish the move and the head isn’t fighting you to stay where you want it.
This is a 75mm ball head and leveling it takes mere seconds. Just undo the tie down, (Bowl clamp), use the built in bubble level that—did I mention lights up at the touch of a button, and level the head. That’s all there is to it. Once you tighten the tie down again, it stays level. Again it is solidly built and compares to anything I’ve used costing much, much more. The fact that the bubble level lights up is a real plus, especially if you are shooting at night or in a dark location or sound stage.
The Head comes with a quick release plate that can be slid forward or backward to balance the camera and then locks with the turn of a knob. It has a quick release lock button so you can’t accidently slide it off the head.
Once the camera is leveled and balanced, you can adjust the tilt and pan drag by adjusting the tilt drag and the pan drag controls. Each drag control has free plus three steps so you can take the wobble out of your pan and tilts and have the ultimate control for smooth operation. The pan and tilt feel good. Depending on the type of move you are doing, whip pan or a slow follow, you can dial in the right amount of drag.
There are just so many niceties in this package. The sliding plate for the head comes with a video pin and a ¼” 20 threaded camera screw that is locked into place and can’t accidently get lost. When you remove the sliding plate from the head, it reveals an extra ¼” 20 camera screw as well as a 3/8” camera screw for larger cameras such as the Red Epic or Arri Alexa or an ENG field camera. The bubble level lights up. There is a built in binding strap for the tripod legs. The whole system comes with an easy to use carry case. And it is extremely well built and machined—all at a price of about $1500.00 depending where you purchase it.
I haven’t had any problems with the Libec RS-450R since I bought mine and have used it all over Los Angeles shooting with my Canon. The US headquarters is located in Torrance, CA, a stone throw from where I live so I made an appointment to visit their facility right before NAB 2013 to say hello. They are friendly, helpful and have great tech support if you need it.