Miller DS20 Solo DV Carbon Tripod


Having purchased a Manfrotto 525/503 tripod with my Canon XH-A1 a couple of years ago I’ve never really felt the need to own another tripod. After being hired to do some filming in St Tropez though where I’ll be required to carry a tripod around with me all day, I knew I’d need something else. The manfrotto can be unwieldy to move around, and it’s not the lightest of tripods.

miller_legs

After hearing much about the Miller DS20 DV Solo Carbon I decided to order one. Tripods are one of those things in the video world that seasoned pro’s are used to spending huge amounts of cash on. To many professionals a £1000 tripod is a budget choice, but for me this seems like quite an investment and at almost twice the cost of my Manfrotto I had high expectations.

When the box arrived I was immediately struck by the weight, I was expecting it to be a lot lighter than the Manfrotto but the weight is actually closer than I expected, even with its sexy carbon legs it weighs in around a kilo less! On setting the tripod up I soon realised that although a kilo didn’t feel like much when weighing the box, the form factor actually makes it feel loads lighter to handle than the Manfrotto. Rather than the lever locks and and double rod legs used on the Manfrotto, the Miller uses more traditional two part telescopic legs that are locked by tightening the rotating locking pieces.

The legs can be set at three angles which are reached by pulling up on a ratchet mechanism at the top of each leg which in turn allows that leg to be tilted up to it’s steepest angle. As the leg is then lowered the ratchet clicks into the locked positions with a positive clunk. It took me a while to get the hang of this as the ratchets can seem hard to release to begin with, it’s a lot easier if you take the weight of the legs and move them inwards as to lift the ratchets.

The tripod goes really low on it’s steepest setting, and is very stable too, the carbon legs perform exactly as I expected, being light and stiff. The ends of the legs have metal points which can be covered by rubber ends which thread over the spikes when working on wooden floors or other surfaces where the points wouldn’t be practical. The top of each leg is covered in nice grippy foam and are a nice beefy diameter that makes picking the tripod up in one hand very easy. This is what makes the DS20 Solo so much easier to carry, it also features a nice padded strap that allows the tripod to be carried slung under your shoulder.

miller_head

Before mounting my EX1 & Brevis rig on the tripod I was staring to wonder if I’d wasted £1000 on a tripod that’s just a bit easier to carry around without being much lighter, but once the camera was attached and I got to play with the DS20 head I new I’d made a wise investment. I’d never really had a problem with my Manfrotto 503 head, it was the first video head I’d used and seemed to perform perfectly well. The DS20 however made the 503 pale in comparison. Panning and tilting the EX1 feels so much better on the DS20, the only way I can describe it is that it feels as though you’re maneuvering a much heavier camera, there’s more resistance and steadiness but at the same time there’s absolutely no bounce or springiness. With the head’s counterbalance on 1, the camera just freezes wherever it’s left, it doesn’t start to move on it’s own weight which something that was never really possible on the 503 without locking it down and cranking the friction right up.

With the counterbalance set to 2 the head is supposed to return to it’s central position when the handle is released. I didn’t find this to be particularly reliable though, the camera definitely stats to move towards it’s neutral point but doesn’t really make it all the way back.

On the downside it’s a shame that Miller have used plastic locking knobs ands buttons throughout the head, this is something I wouldn’t have expected on a product of this price and certainly gives it more of a budget appearance. I felt like I had to be really careful not to apply too much force to the locking knobs when tightening them, something that had never crossed my mind when using the metal versions on the Manfrotto.

To purchase the Miller Solo DV 20 visit B&H Photo Video

[update 25-2-2010]

After taking the DS-20 to all of the European events I shot last year I can confirm that it did a fantastic job. There were no problems relating to the tripod and it has performed like a work horse. The plastic buttons have held up just fine although I do treat them with a little more care than I would if they were metal.

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  • Comments (8)
    • Ben
    • May 16th, 2010 4:17pm

    Hello Paul,

    Love the look and sound of the Miller tripod but alas, it’s too expensive for a mortal like me!

    I have a Manfrotto 190XB Pro and wondered what head you might recommend for a dSLR for video work? I have just invested in a 550d. All thoughts welcome.

    Ben

    • Hi Ben.

      It’s very difficult for me to recommend a video head for your tripod because I’ve always used a dedicated video tripod and not a still tripod as you describe. There certainly are video heads available from Manfrotto that would fit your tripod though so I would recommend trying either the 501HDV which you may find too bulky for your tripod or the 701HDV which is a bit smaller but has a lower weight capacity. It depends how much you want to load your camera up really.

  1. Hey Paul,

    Have you ever tried a Sachtler or a Vinten head? I’m trying to figure out which one to get, For video I hear positives/negatives about each from different people/forums/etc

  2. Hi Paul,

    I just read this post. Today april 24 2012, if you would have to buy another tripod (a similar one, of course), are you still recommending this one?

    Thank you for share your experience!

    Best!

    • To be honest Dario I haven’t really followed the developments of tripods that much, The DS20 and carbon legs is still performing as well as it did when I got it and I’ve never once thought to myself that I need to look at upgrading it.

      If I were buying another one today I might look at the compass range, they seem to add some functionality but they do add more cost as well. I have no plans to change my DS20 at the moment though.

    • Sheldon Charron
    • March 19th, 2013 4:10am

    Hi Paul.

    I have a Sachtler FSB-8 kit with aluminum sticks, and I’m considering selling them and getting a miller kit since most of my work is location based and it would allow me more flexibility outside in uneven ground and for low shots. I’ve been carrying a second Manfrotto tripod and I can get rid of that one too and carry just the Miller. Do you think I’ll regret selling the Sacthler and moving to the Miller? The Sachtler is pretty nice, but when I’m going bare bones with a DSLR it’s almost too little weight for the FSB-8. On the heavy side though, the Sachtler is rated for 26 pounds vs 20 for the Miller.

    • Malia
    • July 17th, 2014 4:44pm

    Hi Paul,

    Debating about purchasing this model, might break it up and just buy the legs. There’s no spreader included–did you find that it was stable enough without? Thinking about purchasing the Manfrotto 165 On-Ground Tripod Spreader in addition, do you think that would be a worthwhile purchase?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Malia, I’ve never felt the need to use a Spreader but it obviously depends on your usage and needs. I have a Manfrotto with a spreader and I find it cumbersome to work with, although it certainly does make things more locked down.