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Author Topic: Tripod for D800?  (Read 14081 times)


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Re: Tripod for D800?
« Reply #20 on: June 17, 2012, 12:57:37 PM »

Hi everyone,
   Thanks for all your comments. Definitely helping me to get my bearings. A number of people have mentioning trying out the tripods before buying -- do I understand correctly that that wouldn't be an option for the RRS products?

you don't say what lenses you'll be shooting or subjects - landscapes, wildlife, macro, panoramas? weight, budget?

My primary interest is landscapes, although I enjoy doing some macro and wildlife as well. I'm planning to do most or all wildlife shooting with my GH2 w/100-300mm lens. I hadn't thought about using a tripod for that, too, but I suppose I ought to consider it. In any case, I won't be using heavy telephoto lenses. I plan to use a Sigma 150mm for macro, and this may well end up being my heaviest lens. But even then, a lot of my macro is insects, so I don't think the tripod would be very practical for that. For landscape I will start with the 24-120mm f/4 and possibly a prime or two, and I am expecting I may get some T/S lenses at some point. But it seems like I am unlikely to be using anything weighing more than about 1 kg, unless I end up upgrading to the 24-70 and 70-200 lens combo (no immediate plans to do so).

cost no object, the RRS tripods are the best.  Gitzo are nearly as expensive with many more choices.  Some of the Chinese CF tripods are good value - i like Feisol.  for static subjects (except in high winds) you don't need a super heavy tripod if you use liveview or mirror lockup and a remote release

heads are equally or more important.  although i'm not a big fan of ball heads, you can get by just fine with a medium weight head like the Markins Q3 if you use a L-bracket on your camera and a focusing rail to balance the camera-lens combination (which you really should do with any kind of head).  even large ballheads don't work well with un-balanced cameras or flipped over for portrait.

Wow, this opens up a whole new set of complications for me. I hadn't realized that at least the RRS ballheads don't even come with plates, and their plates are camera-specific (even to the extent that you choose versions with or without battery grip!). Plus, their D800 L-plates are sold out. Do people use their plates, or non-specific ones? Do others agree that an L-bracket is necessary for portrait? Also, I could see the value of getting the weight balanced, but do I understand correctly that a rail could easily be incorporated into my setup later, after I'd had a chance to play around with how it feels without it?

Thanks again,



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Re: Tripod for D800?
« Reply #21 on: June 17, 2012, 04:44:56 PM »

Brian, you could try Kirk for an L-bracket. But I have found with RRS, when they say they are sold out it usually doesn't mean weeks of waiting, just put your order in and you'll have your bracket fairly soon.
I use an RRS tripod but a Markins ballhead with an RRS rail when necessary. I have never liked the knobs on the RRS ballheads.

Ellis Vener

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Re: Tripod for D800?
« Reply #22 on: June 17, 2012, 06:52:10 PM »

I'm not going to offer you brand specific purchasing advice,  just some simple basic 'what to look for advice. After all, all this is is a tripod and head, not a religion or even a cult.

Ideally you want a tripod+head+camera combination that brings the camera up to your eye level when you are standing up - not not even slightly stooped - when the the legs are fully extended without using the center column of the legset. If legs extended fully + head and camera brings the eyepiece up above your standing eye level  simply mark the smallest leg sections with a Sharpie so that you can quickly get to that height.  

The center column needs to be reversible.  I am not one of those snobs who say never use the center column, but do use it sparingly. If offered , get a tripod that hasa hook atthe bottom of the center column. Hangign your backpack or bag from the center column does two things: adds ballast to stabilize the rig and gets the bag off the ground which keeps it cleaner and out from underfoot.

Ideally you want legs that spread to flat or nearly flat.

Tripod heads:

 I have both ball beads and double tilt pan heads. Both have their place. Whether you prefer one over the other is sort of dependent on what you take photos of. For me I find that for photographs of cityscapes, landscapes, panoramics, still life and buildings I prefer a double tilt panning head. For photographs of moving people and objects I prefer a ball head. With either type of head I much, much prefer a panning mechanism at the base of the head and at the top of the head directly under the camera/lens, even if you have to add it to a head that doesn't have this feature built in and even if you never plan to shoot stitched panoramas.

Weight limits: To be conservative get a tripod and head combination that supports substantially more than your current heaviest combination of camera and lens.

Quick release system: there is only one logical choice here: a system based on the Arca-Swiss open ended channel clamp and bar type foot. I am not a fan of anyone's  lever operated locking clamps as they tend to also lock you into that brand's plates as well.

You may end up eventually with more than one tripod. I have three sizes: a small  but sturdy for hiking, a medium large for general work, and a massive for very serious work. Only the small one is a carbon fiber. The other two are 25+ year old Gitzo aluminum ones.

« Last Edit: June 18, 2012, 12:09:39 AM by Ellis Vener »
Ellis Vener
Creating photographs for advertising, corporate and industrial clients since 1984.


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Re: Tripod for D800?
« Reply #23 on: June 17, 2012, 10:47:23 PM »

I'll echo the advise of others that you carefully think through the purchase. I made all the "mistakes" that one can make with tripods over the year; always getting something that I thought would be "good enough" only to wish I had bought something better at each decision point along the way. The old-school guys always had stories about guys like me, buying tripod after tripod after tripod when they should have gotten what they needed correctly the first time.

So finally I learned my lesson and stopped screwing around. I have a Gitzo 5 series (the 5530, current model is 5531 I believe) with the RRS BH-55 ballhead. I expect it will be the last tripod/head I'll ever need. Is it heavy? Yup. Expensive as hell? Yup. Is it a pain in the arse to hike with? Yup. But I've done 10 mile round trippers with it, and while it's a bit uncomfortable at that distance, I know that when I get to my destination I'll have something that's not going to let me down, no matter if it's windy, if I'm using a bigger lens like my 200/2, or whatever else I might find. I also figure if a friend of mine could deliver twins with natural childbirth, I can deal with a bit of pain hauling a 5 series Gitzo for a number of miles. The pain is forgotten once you're back home looking at the images.

It's been about 5 years now, and both legs and head have been through several trips on the Oregon coast and the sea-spray, salt, and wind, as well as several trips through the dunes and near wind-storms at Death Valley, and it's been banged around the slot canyons of the southwest. It's no longer pretty, but the stuff has held up tremendously well and is quite reliable. I do feel you get what you pay for when it comes to legs and heads.

If I were to do it all again, I probably still would get the Gitzo 5 series, but I do also seriously admire the heavier RRS tripod (TVC 33?) as well, although I don't think it's quite as massive as the Gitzo 5 series. But I could see that the RRC 3 series might be the perfect 'pod out there, and it would have to be seriously considered as well. No way would I ever scrimp on one again, learned my lesson for sure.



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Re: Tripod for D800?
« Reply #24 on: June 19, 2012, 12:58:29 AM »

Hi Brian,

There are so many variables that go into choosing a tripod and head - I agree with the other recommendations that you should really try to find samples of the models you are considering, and test them out in person.  Bring the gear that you plan to use, and check the rigidity, stability, and usage features with those items mounted. It's hard for other people to give definitive advice. You need to consider the things that you like to shoot, how you set up (eye level? close to ground? in a blind? in water?), what techniques you will be using (panoramas? macro? long tele? wide-angle landscapes?), how much weight you are comfortable carrying, and over what distances, how fussy you are about sharpness in your shots, how big you print, etc.  And cost, of course.

Here's one other consideration that has not been mentioned so far in this thread: will you be shooting any video with your D800E?  If so, you may want to consider a pan/tilt head, or ideally, a fluid head.  The damping in a good fluid head helps you to make smooth camera moves, which is one of the distinguishing features of a professional-looking video. A pan/tilt head can be quite serviceable for landscape stills, but a ball head (even a very good one) will be less than ideal for video.  One disadvantage of fluid heads is that they tend to be bulky, and the best of them are a bit heavy. You might eventually want to have more than one type of head.  This argues for choosing a modular tripod, one that can be fitted with different types of heads.  With Gitzo's series 3, 4, and 5 "Systematic" tripods, you can remove the flat base plate, and attach a "video bowl" adapter which mates with high quality fluid heads.

That's what I did. I have a Gitzo G1348, somewhat similar to their current model GT3541LS. This is a series 3, carbon fiber, 4 section tripod. I don't use a center post, and almost never use the smallest leg sections.  Using only the largest three sections, this tripod puts my D800E at eye level.  I am 67" (170cm) tall. The smallest leg sections are only needed if I am shooting on a slope, or over a crowd.  If I am only shooting stills, I mount an Arca-Swiss B1 ball head, the predecessor to the current Z1 model.  This combination is quite solid.  If I want to shoot video, I loosen one bolt on the Gitzo, pull out the Arca and the Gitzo's flat base plate, and drop in a Sachtler FSB-4 fluid head on a 75mm Gitzo video bowl adapter. The switch-over takes less than a minute.

For hiking long distances, I use a different combination: a Gitzo GT1542T ("Traveler" series 1, 4 section, carbon fiber), with an Acratech GP-s ball head. This setup is light, small enough to fit inside my backpack, and certainly strong enough to hold a D800E with 24-70 or 14-24. I can't vouch for its suitability with big glass - since I'm not strong enough to haul that stuff up steep mountain trails. The Acratech has a couple of clever features. You can detach the panning swivel from its normal position, under the ball, and reattach it over the ball and under the quick-release clamp. In this configuration, you can level the panning swivel, and it functions as a horizontal panorama head.  You can also drop the ball sideways into a yoke, so that its motion is constrained to movement around a horizontal axis.  With the panning swivel as your vertical axis of rotation, this lets the Acratech work as a gimbal head. Both of these tricks are not ideal substitutes for dedicated panorama or gimbal heads, but still useful when traveling light.  If my explanation is unclear, see the tutorial videos on their web site.

I'm not a fanboy for Gitzo. I have had no problems with their products, although I gripe about their high prices, especially on accessory parts. Some people claim that the tripods from Really Right Stuff have better build quality.  I have RRS plates and clamps, but have not used their tripods or heads.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2012, 01:02:56 AM by julianv »

Colorado David

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Re: Tripod for D800?
« Reply #25 on: June 19, 2012, 10:18:25 AM »

I use one of these mounting my ball head on the tripod;
I bought it because I use a Wimberley Side Kick with a Nikon 200-400 f4 and wanted the extra security.  It makes it more time-consuming to change to a bowl and video fluid head.  I was going to mention it in my original post but forgot.  If you're not using a big heavy lens, you probably don't need one.
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