This impressive yet small tripod fluid head announces itself to the market by sporting a 10kg load bearing capacity. This means it can accommodate nearly every DSLR or mirrorless camera (with lens) on the market, but offers amazing advantages for travel photographers, or those looking for an extra light set up, at 355 grams. With just a 40mm tripod base and standing at just 80mm from base to plate, at its widest point the fluid head is 90mm. Add to this an optional 200mm long handle, and you’re ready to go.
But what is a hydraulic fluid head, you may be wondering? Most tripod heads are called ball heads because the mechanism for enabling panning and tilting to take place is a ball that sits in a socket. A fluid head contains a pressurised water chamber within its design to dampen or slow sudden movements and vibrations allowing the user to get smooth video panning, tilting, and tracking.
As soon as you pick up Ulanzi’s U-190 fluid head you’ll notice a few things. First, you’ll feel a metal design that is very well made. It’s solid, sleek, matt finish is very pleasing to the eye, complimented by its colour palette of black, silver, and red, all matte finished. Second, you’ll find that the hydraulic mechanism always wants to bring the tripod plate to horizontal level. It’s this pressure that enables you to pan and tilt slowly and smoothly with ease. Thirdly you’ll find four knobs adorning the fluid head.
The uppermost knob loosens and tightens the tripod plate (which allows your camera to be attached). The next two knobs down, sit adjacent from each other. The smaller one holds secure the handle if you choose to attach it. The handle can be inserted both sides of the fluid head, and can be bent downward, outward, inward, or upward. This knob securely holds the handle in place by the use of small internal teeth, which grip for position, once you’ve selected the angle you prefer. The other adjacent knob is larger and locks the fluid head at any desired tilt (up and down) angle, from -80 degrees to positive 90 degrees. The fourth knob has a bevelled finished and locks the panning (side to side) function of the fluid head.
The panning function of the fluid head can be measured by a 360-degree base plate, indicated by a small downward facing arrow on the lowest part of the fluid head. Underneath the unit is a 3/8” female thread to secure the Fluid head to the tripod. The U-190 comes with a ¼ 20” insert and a small tool to secure it, for smaller tripod mounts and other accessories.
Fluid Heads are the perfect addition for anyone shooting video as this little beauty is robust enough to carry heavy gear and small enough to be easily carried around. I tried out my Nikon Z6 with 14-24mm wide lens, weighing just under 2kg, to see how it went. I discovered that with a kit weighing over 1.5kg, you tend to lose the feel of the hydraulic pressure, that you push against to achieve smooth panning and tilting motion. If, however, you intend to mainly use the U-190 Fluid Head for photography, you shouldn’t experience any limitations due to weight. Just make sure you securely attach your camera via the base plate (or your own l-bracket) and that the tilt knob is also locked down, so that you camera doesn’t go for a walk, or a fall.
The Arca-swiss interface means that any tripod bracket, other than Manfrotto, can work seamlessly with the U-190. The bracket supplied is also sleek, stylish, up to the task and reminiscent of their Falcam 38 plates, used on Ulanzi’s quick release system.
I have been frustrated with my Manfrotto ball head for a long time and the U-190 Fluid Head from Ulanzi is a wonderful replacement. It neatly fits onto my Manfrotto travel tripod, via the underneath universal 3/8'' thread. It also takes up a similar real estate to all other ball heads in that medium range. My one concern and I’m unsure if it is related to this tripod or any tripod is that the Fluid Head often slips even after being securely tightened to the tripod. To fix this it would be ideal if the U-190 had a bevelled or foam finish under neath the red ring, to help it grip every tripod it is attached to, without the need to be frequently checked and tightened. The end result of the Ulanzi U-190 on my mid-range tripod is a wonderful partnership that gives me numerous creative options, that my original set up didn’t.
The handle is 200mm long, giving enough grip space to move the camera effectively, while taking up as little space as possible to transport and store effectively. The handle is detachable and can be used a variety of angles to work with your preference and needs. The handle is essential for you to get the most out of the U-190 Fluid Head, enabling panning and tilting to happen effortlessly.
To help you secure the arca-swiss plate to your camera there is a hidden hex-key which is magnetised into a slot underneath the base plate. This is very handy when trying to set up your gear for a shoot in the field, when you don’t want to go back to your bag and rummage for your tightening tool.
At just $49.95 the Ulanzi U-190 Fluid Head is a really great addition to your film and camera kit. It has found a permanent place in mine already. It’s light, small, versatile, multi-functional and extremely well made that I am delighted to recommend it to you. You can check it out for yourself here.
Thanks to Ralph Mayhew for the review article, here is the link to the original article.