The Acadalus Self-Leveling Camera Head Takes the Pain Out of Tripod Shoots

April 28, 2010
By Dan Havlik, PDN's Technology Specialist


We don't know about you but getting our tripod head properly level on uneven ground can be a time-consuming, pain in the neck. And that's exactly why Dr. Carl Koch has created the Acadalus CPS-H1, an electronically controlled self-leveling camera head.

"This is for all those poor guys who have to run around with a tripod," Koch said today at Manhattan photo specialty store Foto Care which will be selling the Swiss-made device. "With this head, all you have to do is press a button to level it."

The Acadalus CPS-H1 uses a digital inclinometer to provide angle information to automatically level the head in a few seconds. The lower platform of the device is designed after a flight simulator with stepper motors that turn those digital signals into leveling movements. Photographers can also make manual adjustments with a keypad on the side of the head.

Of course, all this sophisticated technology makes the Acadalus CPS-H1 quite a bit more expensive than most tripod heads. It's selling for $5,000 and can also be purchased through the Acadalus website ( Shipping will begin in May.

Koch, a former managing director of Sinar AG, said he came up with the idea for the head on a cold night in Switzerland while he was trying to photograph an outdoor Christmas display. Frustrated and freezing as he manually tried to get his tripod level, Koch thought there had to be a faster way.

"I searched the Web to buy one but I couldn't find anything. And I remembered how we solved things in the good old Sinar days. You find capable people to help you build a solution."

Four years in the making with a team of eight people -- though only two others full-time -- who worked in a room next to Koch's garage, the Acadalus CPS-H1 is finally finished. Koch says he thinks architectural, panoramic, or studio photographers will find the Acadalus to be an ideal solution.

In a brief demo at Foto Care, the head seemed to work exactly as Koch had planned, automatically adjusting itself until it found a level plane. The camera can then be manually tilted along the axis of the lens, if necessary, or rotated.

Power is provided via an AC pack that plugs into the wall or by an attachable lithium ion battery. Battery life is estimated at two hours of continuous use or a full day's shooting with intermittent usage.

Weighing just a few pounds, the head is made of stainless steel with bearings that don't need to be re-lubed.

Koch said the design of the device had come a long way from the beginning when team members jokingly called it the "rocket launch base."

"In photography, I was used to having a nice technical solution, such as autofocus, for everything. So I thought why not do the same thing with a tripod head."

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