tripod/ballhead advice please

Duckman

EOS M6 Mark II
Oct 5, 2013
56
0
38
USA
Hello,

I've been going back and forth trying to research and make a decision so I thought I'd share some thoughts and questions I'm having with the knowledgeable community here hoping for some clarity and advice...

I am looking to get a new tripod and ballhead with leveling base; I am willing to pony up money for quality since I want longevity and high quality performance..

My most demanding gear would be 5D/7d with 100-400ii 1.4x and rarely with 2x extenders, sometimes for long exposures (up to several minutes) less than 10% of its use would be this demanding.

I'd like to have "one to rule them all" though I realize there are always trade offs. I'd like it to be as light weight as possible whilst still having sufficient rigidity. (I might find myself packing and/or carrying it long distances)

Tripods I have narrowed it down to RRS or Gitzo. Heads: RRS, Markins , and the Arca swiss Z1.

I am leaning towards series 2 RRS in long version with RRS leveling base and markins Q10 head and RRS lever clamps installed. The 4th leg sections would be avoided as much as possible and mainly as a just in case I need it. (I'd sleep better knowing I have it if I need it)
This seems as light as I can realistically go but is it up for the most demanding tasks?

-would this stabilize long exposures at 400mm+?
-would adding weight to the hook allow for stabilization this kind of load? or a beanbag on the camera as weight stabilizer? any other options for adding stability?
-if I ever purchased the extender column, does it work with leveling base? can it be inverted to assist with low ground macro shots like the gitzo's?
(this isn't as important as I have a manfrotto with center column if I needed it, it'd just be a bonus to have on my "precious")
-would this tripod ballhead combo assemble nicely??(I'd love the RRS everything but the ball heads seem comparatively heavy.. am I wrong?)

The Gitzo would be equivalent size/price/load. I would get a long version also and center column removed most of the time (for rigidity) but installed when I thought I may need it..
-Does RRS leveling base work with their tripods?

Any thoughts, suggestions questions or input you have is welcome.

Thank you,
-Jonathan
 

hovland

EOS M6 Mark II
Aug 22, 2013
60
0
Norway
Hi
I use the Gitzo GT3542 in combo with a Markins V10 (to save weight ;).
Quite happy with it, and use up to 600mm. never used the hock to add extra weight, but sometimes I remove the center column.
 

Don Haines

Beware of cats with laser eyes!
Jun 4, 2012
8,265
1,935
Canada
YES! Add weight on to the hook, but don't suspend the weight in the air or you will make things worse... I tension my tripod to the camera bag with some string... it has the added benefit of making sure my bag does not "run off" when my attention is focused on the camera.
 

johnf3f

Canon 1Dx
Oct 25, 2012
931
19
Wales
I think you are quite right to look at the Gitzo and RRS tripod ranges - they are the best commonly available. To my mind which you buy depends on where you live.

I looked at RRS (in the UK) a while back and found that, at that time, a 3 series RRS would have cost me more that I paid for three brand new Gitzos and a used one! Admittedly the local camera shop was selling Gito tripods at very good prices but even so the price difference was huge. In the USA they appear to be pretty comparable in price so it is down to which you prefer.

I think something like the 3 series that "hovland"uses would be a good choice as it offers more stability without compromising too much on weight, I have the similar 3541LS which is just the job for my Canon 800 mm F5.6 L IS. There are direct equivalents offered by RRS.

One point to note is that my tripod has no center column (Gitzo call it Systematic) and is noticeably more rigid, but sometimes less convenient, as a result. Again RRS make an equivalent.

If you can get to a camera shop that stocks both then try them for yourself - I guarantee that you will be impressed, it is just a case of which impresses you more???

I don't have any experience of the ball heads that you mention but I have tried lever clamps and whilst they are quick and easy they do limit your choice of QR plates as many are machined to different specs though still perfectly compatible with screw type clamps. If you are only going to be buying QR plates from the same maker as the clamp then this should not be a concern.
 

Duckman

EOS M6 Mark II
Oct 5, 2013
56
0
38
USA
Thanks for the input guys! Yes prices are comparable in my area (CT, USA) Maybe I'll start looking more at the 3 series for extra rigidity. I suppose extra weight is less regrettable than shaky shots!

String is a great idea...currently, only in the most windy situations I do something similar; I use a "master" adjustable bungee cord to attach my camera bag to my tripod... it's really lightweight, the bag isn't suspended, it allows me to add adjustable weight/tension with minimal surface area to catch the wind plus I don't have to take gloves off to tie knots when it's cold :) Maybe I'll use it for longer focal lengths as well for the long exposures as an extra precaution! I'm already preparing to visit S. Carolina for next summers total eclipse!

It sounds like the Marlins is up for the job, and saving those few ounces of weight is a good thing for long hikes. I'll confirm the head is fully compatible with RRS legs. I do also plan on using the same brand plates. Just to keep it homogenous and consistent.

Thanks again for the replies gentlemen, I really appreciate it.
-Jonathan
 

Random Orbits

EOS 5D Mark IV
Mar 14, 2012
2,444
328
I have the 24L with a BH-55 head and it works fine. Longest focal length I've used on it is 600mm f/5.6. The added height comes in handy on slopes and also when taking video over people's heads.
 

Zeidora

EOS RP
Feb 15, 2015
667
10
Had Gitzo 1300 before and now use RRS 34L, for same reason as you: usually just 3 sections, but the 4th occasionally comes in handy. On my Gitzos, the metal coating on the metal parts has been flaking off over 15/19 years I had them, and the platform of the center columns has separated several times, on several different models/units. That's why I cannot recommend Gitzos anymore. Service with RRS is excellent, getting parts for Gitzo is an illusion. Tried to get internal brushings and grease for Gitzo, but just hit a brick wall.

Re levelling plates, don't use them, but are supposed to be excellent on the RRS.

Re adding center column, no problem on RRS. The fixed platform can be field-switched to a column. You realize that you will sacrifice stability and vibration with column. You can also invert the column for really low level work. Once in a while, I hang my ArcaSwiss 4x5" upside down. Or I put a leg clamp (Manfrotto???) with tripod socket on one leg. The legs can take that no problem with a bit heavier macro set ups (gripped 5D, Zeiss MP 100, MT 24Ex).

As others have said, hanging weight is good, but make sure it is not swinnging. With a 400 + 2xTC = 800 mm, think hard about long lens support (two point support), mirror lock-up, cable release etc.
 

Duckman

EOS M6 Mark II
Oct 5, 2013
56
0
38
USA
Zeidora said:
Had Gitzo 1300 before and now use RRS 34L, for same reason as you: usually just 3 sections, but the 4th occasionally comes in handy. On my Gitzos, the metal coating on the metal parts has been flaking off over 15/19 years I had them, and the platform of the center columns has separated several times, on several different models/units. That's why I cannot recommend Gitzos anymore. Service with RRS is excellent, getting parts for Gitzo is an illusion. Tried to get internal brushings and grease for Gitzo, but just hit a brick wall.

Re levelling plates, don't use them, but are supposed to be excellent on the RRS.

Re adding center column, no problem on RRS. The fixed platform can be field-switched to a column. You realize that you will sacrifice stability and vibration with column. You can also invert the column for really low level work. Once in a while, I hang my ArcaSwiss 4x5" upside down. Or I put a leg clamp (Manfrotto???) with tripod socket on one leg. The legs can take that no problem with a bit heavier macro set ups (gripped 5D, Zeiss MP 100, MT 24Ex).

As others have said, hanging weight is good, but make sure it is not swinnging. With a 400 + 2xTC = 800 mm, think hard about long lens support (two point support), mirror lock-up, cable release etc.

Thanks. It seems like RRS is the legs I'll go with! I'm thinking 3 series!
I realize about the center column, it wouldn't be used much either and never fully extended.
I always try to minimize shake but two point lens support isn't something I've never tried before... It seems so obvious now that you say it! Thank you! I will look into thisl!
Thanks you for your insightful reply
-J
 

neuroanatomist

I post too Much on Here!!
CR Pro
Jul 21, 2010
25,022
2,959
Duckman said:
Tripods I have narrowed it down to RRS or Gitzo. Heads: RRS, Markins , and the Arca swiss Z1.

Good choices, might also consider an Acratech head.


Duckman said:
I am leaning towards series 2 RRS in long version with RRS leveling base and markins Q10 head and RRS lever clamps installed. The 4th leg sections would be avoided as much as possible and mainly as a just in case I need it. (I'd sleep better knowing I have it if I need it)
This seems as light as I can realistically go but is it up for the most demanding tasks?

Seems you're now considering the RRS 3-series as well. I have the TVC-33, it's perfect for my 600/4L IS II, but the 2-series would be fine for 400mm or less.


Duckman said:
-if I ever purchased the extender column, does it work with leveling base?

Yes, the leveling base works with the accessory center column.

TA-2-LC-Series-2-Leveling-Base-with-Clamp.main-3.PNG


That's for the 2-series leveling base. The 3-series leveling base is not compatible with the center column, AFAIK. The reason is the 2-series bases are adjusted with a 'butterfly' that sits above the platform, whereas the 3-series leveling base is adjusted with a handle that sits below the platform (you actually replace the platform with the leveling base for the 3-series legs).

But, backing up a step...why do you want a leveling base and a ballhead? To me, that seems illogical. The leveling base is a great addition if you'll be using a gimbal head (which is what I use for my 600/4, and I have the clamping leveling base so I can easily swap the gimbal for a BH-55 LR ballhead). But the ballhead itself can be easily leveled for a shot (ideally using the in-camera electronic level, which is more accurate than the bubble on the clamp). So, the only reason I can envision to use a leveling base with the ballhead is for setting up a panoramic series – and if that's the only use for the leveling base, IMO you're better off just having the ballhead directly on the platform, and putting a panning clamp (PC-LR or PC-PRO) on top of the ballhead for pano shooting.

Alternatively, if you'll be doing a lot of panos, you might consider the Acratech GP, which is a great ballhead that can also be 'inverted' to function as a leveling base for pano shots.
 

Duckman

EOS M6 Mark II
Oct 5, 2013
56
0
38
USA
neuroanatomist said:
Duckman said:
Tripods I have narrowed it down to RRS or Gitzo. Heads: RRS, Markins , and the Arca swiss Z1.

Good choices, might also consider an Acratech head.


Duckman said:
I am leaning towards series 2 RRS in long version with RRS leveling base and markins Q10 head and RRS lever clamps installed. The 4th leg sections would be avoided as much as possible and mainly as a just in case I need it. (I'd sleep better knowing I have it if I need it)
This seems as light as I can realistically go but is it up for the most demanding tasks?

Seems you're now considering the RRS 3-series as well. I have the TVC-33, it's perfect for my 600/4L IS II, but the 2-series would be fine for 400mm or less.


Duckman said:
-if I ever purchased the extender column, does it work with leveling base?

Yes, the leveling base works with the accessory center column.

TA-2-LC-Series-2-Leveling-Base-with-Clamp.main-3.PNG


That's for the 2-series leveling base. The 3-series leveling base is not compatible with the center column, AFAIK. The reason is the 2-series bases are adjusted with a 'butterfly' that sits above the platform, whereas the 3-series leveling base is adjusted with a handle that sits below the platform (you actually replace the platform with the leveling base for the 3-series legs).

But, backing up a step...why do you want a leveling base and a ballhead? To me, that seems illogical. The leveling base is a great addition if you'll be using a gimbal head (which is what I use for my 600/4, and I have the clamping leveling base so I can easily swap the gimbal for a BH-55 LR ballhead). But the ballhead itself can be easily leveled for a shot (ideally using the in-camera electronic level, which is more accurate than the bubble on the clamp). So, the only reason I can envision to use a leveling base with the ballhead is for setting up a panoramic series – and if that's the only use for the leveling base, IMO you're better off just having the ballhead directly on the platform, and putting a panning clamp (PC-LR or PC-PRO) on top of the ballhead for pano shooting.

Alternatively, if you'll be doing a lot of panos, you might consider the Acratech GP, which is a great ballhead that can also be 'inverted' to function as a leveling base for pano shots.

Neuro thanks for the reply!

Yes I started considering the 3 series for the same " sleep well at night" reasons... I know the 2 series is up for the weight but I wondered if it had the rigidity I might need (for heavy loaded long focal lengths). I was unable to find empirical testing done that could answer the nag in the back of my head...
I plan to photograph the solar eclipse next year and want to get more into astrophotography (wide and deep) and I don't want to get this purchase wrong! I want my skill, not my gear to hold me back if anything. So worst case would be manfrotto 410 geared head, with astrotrac, with ballhead (to be determined) with a 100-400 1.4x on a 5d or 7d. With possible 120 sec+ shutter speeds I think I might be better off with 3 series; even if it's slight overkill. Plus, maybe somehow someday ill be fortunate enough to get one of those super 600's like you have. ;)

As far as the leveling base, Yes it would primarily be landscape panos on a ballhead but I also shoot my son's baseball games and wildlife and thought it would be a good idea to replace my manfrotto type gimbal (cant recall the name) with a nice ballhead/Wimberley sidekick combo on a nice leveling base. (I'd love to get the RRS full gimbal pano set up but it's out of the budget for quite a while)
It's probably easy enough to level in camera using the legs and unscrew heads (vs. quick release on the leveling base) though for my sports/wildlife panning I'd do... I suppose I should heavily consider the leveling clamps/alternate ballhead you suggested.

You have given me a lot to think about. Thank you!
-J
 

Zen

EOS 90D
Sep 23, 2012
114
3
Buffalo, NY USA
I too have the RRS series 3 pod with leveling base [no center column], and it's a terrific combo. The Wimberley gimbal and RRS ball head are instantly interchangeable, and I couldn't be happier. I do not have any of the super teles, and this rig might be a bit of overkill for my 5d3 with 100-440 and 1.4 telextender, but it is as solid as a rock.

I can recommend it highly.

Zen