Fluid heads have historically been more expensive due to the specialized construction and the materials involved in creating a hydraulic system. These days, they’re a lot more affordable, and while some of the entry-level models are true fluid heads with hydraulic construction, others simulate the advantages of fluid heads by changing levels of drag through friction. This method isn’t as smooth or precise as true fluid heads, but you can’t argue with the price.
The fluid-effect Giottos VH6011-658D mini-video tripod head features independent pan-and-tilt locks and a quick-release plate that slides forward or backward for better balance of your camera. It can hold up to 6.6 pounds, and the pan handle can be placed on either side of the head for righties or lefties. Estimated Street Price: $99. Contact: Giottos (HP Marketing Corp.), (800) 735-4373, www.hpmarketingcorp.com.
The only head in its class to offer three axes instead of two, the Slik 504QF-II fluid-movement head pans and tilts on horizontal and vertical axes, as well as a 90-degree vertical orientation, otherwise known as portrait mode. The head is quick-release with a leveling bubble. Estimated Street Price: $69. Contact: Slik (THK Photo Products), (800) 421-1141, www.thkphoto.com.
The 3 Section Video bi-post tripod from Tiltall includes a 2-way spring counterbalanced head with a quick-release plate for removing the camera easily when you want to go handheld. It holds up to 15.5 pounds and extends to a maximum height of five feet. Estimated Street Price: $149. Contact: Tiltall (Adorama), (800) 223-2500, www.adorama.com.