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Author Topic: Looking for tripod advice...  (Read 15701 times)

Harley

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Looking for tripod advice...
« on: December 17, 2011, 04:01:16 PM »
I recently got the Peak Design Capture as a gift which has an Alfa Swiss compatible tripod mount.  My current tripod is an inexpensive Slik aluminum with its own non-standard plastic tripod mount and a simple swivel head.  To be honest, it spends more time in the closet that under a camera. 
I had a little bit of sticker shock looking at the range of tripods and heads available, particularly because I started out interested in carbon fiber.  I would like to find a tripod that is somewhat easy to travel with and makes me want to bring it along and use it, but it doesn't necessarily have to be super-compact or high tech.  I have a GorillaPod for backpacking when size and weight are extremely limited. 
I guess I'm just wondering if anyone can help me evaluate what is worth it and what isn't when it comes to picking out a tripod. 
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Looking for tripod advice...
« on: December 17, 2011, 04:01:16 PM »

Cannon Man

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Re: Looking for tripod advice...
« Reply #1 on: December 17, 2011, 05:08:48 PM »
I tried manfrotto tripods and was very dissapointed! Then bought a gitzo carbon fiber series 2 tripod and head and i am perfectly happy with them! They are light, strong, works great in all conditions.

Minnesota Nice

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Re: Looking for tripod advice...
« Reply #2 on: December 17, 2011, 05:14:50 PM »
A Gitzo will probably last you forever, it's made of Carbon Fiber so it's strong and light, they are generally pretty tall, and very sturdy.

A good tripod is worth the extra money.

handsomerob

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Re: Looking for tripod advice...
« Reply #3 on: December 17, 2011, 05:27:45 PM »
Manfrotto is a decent brand, offers great value for the money you pay.

But if you want the very best and if your budget permits, get a Gitzo. Carbon fiber should be your choice if you travel a lot and want a very sturdy yet very light setup. For maximum stability go for a model with 3 sections, instead of 4 or 5. Make sure it's tall enough so you don't have to bend each time you are going to take a shot. I personally try to avoid rising the center column for extra stability.

Get a decent ball head. This is a very important component, mostly underestimated. If money is no issue; brands like RRS, Markins, Kirk are the very best.

Make sure it can carry the weight of your current and future gear when choosing your tripod/head.  It is supposed to serve you for a very very long time (there are people who use the same tripod for over 2-3 decades) so buy the best you can and save yourself a lot of cash in the (near)future.

Gitzo product names might be confusing but you can use their configurator to find the one that best suits your needs:
http://configurator.gitzo.com/gitzoConfiguratorWS/default.html
« Last Edit: December 17, 2011, 05:37:17 PM by handsomerob »

pwp

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Re: Looking for tripod advice...
« Reply #4 on: December 17, 2011, 07:09:47 PM »
Gitzo is a great choice, whether carbon fibre or metal. I've got a 20 year Gitzo, a mid sized model with a ball head. It gets punished...banging around in the back of the car, rattling around in light stand bags, it gets wet, dusty and dirty and still performs like new. There are a lot of chips in the paint, but this tripod gets used heavily, it's not coddled. If it died tomorrow I'd be surprised, but I'd go straight out and get another one.

It's something like this http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/488035-REG/Gitzo_GT2941_GT_2941_Reporter_Tripod_Legs.html
with http://www.manfrotto.com/057-magnesium-ball-head-with-q5-quick-release

For more considered work in the studio or for precision architecture jobs, I have a large heavy Manfrotto which is just fantastic. http://www.manfrotto.com/475-digital-pro-geared-trripod-black with http://www.manfrotto.com/3d-super-pro-head

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tron

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Re: Looking for tripod advice...
« Reply #5 on: December 17, 2011, 09:07:55 PM »
My previous tripod/head combination was a Manfrotto 055Pro + a 410 Gear Head for a total weight of 3.7 Kg!
It was not bad but it was heavy.

So, I got a Gitzo Systematic GT 3541LS with a Markins M20 head (I think it has been replaced now by Q20)

Total weight of the new combination: 1.7 + 0.58  < 2.3 Kg.

So it is much easier to carry it now.

In addition, this combination can support telephotos and even more weight than the previous one, not that I need to.

neuroanatomist

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Re: Looking for tripod advice...
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2011, 09:10:25 PM »
My current tripod is an inexpensive Slik aluminum with its own non-standard plastic tripod mount and a simple swivel head.  To be honest, it spends more time in the closet that under a camera. 
I had a little bit of sticker shock looking at the range of tripods and heads available, particularly because I started out interested in carbon fiber.  I would like to find a tripod that is somewhat easy to travel with and makes me want to bring it along and use it, but it doesn't necessarily have to be super-compact or high tech.  I have a GorillaPod for backpacking when size and weight are extremely limited. 
I guess I'm just wondering if anyone can help me evaluate what is worth it and what isn't when it comes to picking out a tripod.

For your stated purposes, I'd recommend a Manfrotto CF tripod.  I think they offer the best compromise between quality and value.  Gitzo is tops, and costs like it; Manfrotto is owned by the same company as Gitzo, for what that's worth. For the Manfrotto CFs, there are two lines - 190 and 055. The 190 is smaller, lighter, cheaper, and has a lower weight limit.  I have a 190CXPRO4 (4 leg sections for better portability), and it supports a gripped body with 70-200/2.8 or 100-400 lens just fine.  The key factor should be your height - you want the tripod tall enough to have the viewfinder at your eye level - do not include the center column in that measurement (but do add in the distance from camera base to viewfinder.  Don't consider the center column because you should only extend that as a last resort - it adds much instability and vibration.

You'll also need a ballhead.  Gitzo makes the best legs, but their ballheads aren't so good.  Really Right Stuff, Kirk, Markins, and Arca Swiss all make excellent ballheads - and they're priced to match the Gitzo legs.  Manfrotto has decent heads, but they don't use an Arca Swiss-compatible clamp.  The solution is the Wimberley C-12 clamp, AS-type which can mount on other heads, including some by Manfrotto. The two I'd recommend are the 468MG and the 498 (no RC# since you'd be attaching the Wimberley clamp).  The 498 is relatively inexpensive but good quality; the only downside is that after you tighten the ball, when you release the camera there's a very slight droop that's ok for most uses, but can make critical adjustments tedious. The 468MG is a hydrostatic head that locks down firmly with minimal effort, and doesn't move at all once tightened.

Other than Manfrotto, a few other intermediate lines are worth a look - Induro, Benro, and Feisol.

Hope that helps...
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Re: Looking for tripod advice...
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2011, 09:10:25 PM »

sawsedge

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Re: Looking for tripod advice...
« Reply #7 on: December 17, 2011, 09:26:58 PM »
This is a worthwhile read:  http://bythom.com/support.htm

I had an old Bogen 3221 with a very heavy Bogen ballhead... it was aluminum, moderately sturdy until I used a long tele with the legs fully extended, and fairly cheap at $100 or so (legs).  I replaced it with a Gitzo 3530 (about the same size) and a Kirk BH-1 ballhead.  Gitzo is worth the money.  If the ground it is on is stable, it won't budge.

cbphoto

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Re: Looking for tripod advice...
« Reply #8 on: December 17, 2011, 10:00:46 PM »
Although I have a 4-section carbon Gitzo and a hefty 5-section alloy Gitzo (from my 8x10 days), if I had to buy another 'pod for my DSLR I give this RRS carbon tripod a try.
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neuroanatomist

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Re: Looking for tripod advice...
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2011, 10:16:57 PM »
This is a worthwhile read:  http://bythom.com/support.htm

It is a good read, albeit somewhat misleading on regards to costs. He assumes that when you 'move up' you toss the superceeded gear in the trash or let it gather dust in the basement.  Personally, I sell the stuff I upgrade from, usually for 70-80% of what I paid (hard to do with a cheapo tripod, but fine with mid-range stuff).  It's also important to have a plan.  One reason I picked the Manfrotto 190CXPRO4 was that with the head removed it fits in an airline carryon hard case (my Pelican Storm im2500).  I know if I ever get a supertele (likely the 500/4 II, but the 1D X is first), I'll need a Gitzo 3-series or higher and a Wimberley II gimbal.  But I'd still keep the Manfrotto for travel. 



Key point - lots of talk about setups costing well over $1K, but we don't know Harley's budget.  Harley, that info would help with recommendations.
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tron

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Re: Looking for tripod advice...
« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2011, 09:51:16 AM »
It is nice to have small and light tripods. However, if we overdo it they will be useless. I mean tripods are meant for steady photos and if we use telephotos and/or there is wind there might be a problem with ultra light and with many sections tripods.

Kernuak

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Re: Looking for tripod advice...
« Reply #11 on: December 18, 2011, 10:30:40 AM »
I started off with the Manfrotto 190MF3, a relatively small mag fibre tripod (now replaced by the carbon fibre series). As Neuro said, it is handy for travelling, as it will fit in my suitcase, once the head is removed. Once I got my 300 f/2.8 though, it wasn't sturdy enough, so I started looking around for something a bit heavier duty. I looked at Gitzo, but didn't like the price and Manfrotto didn't seem to do anything with the right specs. Then when I was at the Focus show in 2010, I looked at some Giottos legs and heads. They have alternatives to Gitzo at a lower price. While the quality may not be as good as Gitzo, my model at least is a much better build quality then Manfrotto. It's much sturdier than the 190MF3, yet is lighter (although the ballhead is a big lump of steel, so adds significant weight).

http://www.giottos.com/
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Harley

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Re: Looking for tripod advice...
« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2011, 01:02:21 PM »
@Neuro: I was asking in part to establish an appropriate budget for hopefully a one-time purchase of a tripod.  I had sticker shock at some carbon fiber tripods in the $800 range, but I didn't know if it was appropriate to feel like that was unreasonable. 
@everyone:  This is all really good information and super helpful.  I will be dolling out +1's to each of you.
@scrappydog:  The dimensional info is very helpful, too, and makes perfect sense.
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Re: Looking for tripod advice...
« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2011, 01:02:21 PM »

Harley

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Re: Looking for tripod advice...
« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2011, 01:11:28 PM »
The other part of the equation is that I have been considering getting a Gura Gear Kiboko bag (either the 30L or the 22L+) and possibly a supertele at some point in the very distant future.  My camera is the 7D.  I will eventually get a FF body, too.  (The prices on the 5D MkII have gotten so low that it's made me wonder if I should just scrap the idea of bringing up my accessories and go for a second body!)  My big thing, as many of you have so rightly pointed out, is to try to buy it once and then use it forever.
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Harley

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Re: Looking for tripod advice...
« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2011, 04:36:04 PM »
Has anyone had experience with Benro?  I just tried out a couple of Benro Travel Angels:
http://www.benrousa.com/products_catalog_TransfunctionalTravelAngel-CF-TwistLocks.html

The sales people suggested this as a better alternative to Gitzo.  I looked at the 2691 and the 1691.  The ballhead that comes with the 2691 looked ok and usable, but not great.  The one for the 1691 looked weak. 

The tripods seemed fantastic though.  Carbon fiber, lightweight, great design for short folded length (legs bend 180 degrees up toward ballhead), hook under non-rotating, reversible column, twist-lock non-rotating legs, rubber and spiked feet, foam over one leg, very good quality case, converts to monopod, packs flat...  Both the 2691 and the 1691 seemed to have about a 1/2-stop (sic) better load rating than equivalent models from other makers.  I'm not a big fan of five-segment legs -- four is about as much as I would like -- but they were solid and straight at full extension.

Also, when I went back over to the Gitzo tripods, two of the three legs fell off of a GT2541 when we loosened them!  The sales guy was embarrassed.
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Re: Looking for tripod advice...
« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2011, 04:36:04 PM »