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TomConnor

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Tripod question(s)
« on: August 19, 2006, 06:46:21 pm »

Hi all - first post here, so I thought I would start with an important one (to me, anyway :>),

I have a couple of questions related to tripods. Basically I am starting to look around for a suitable tripod to use with my 350D (which will also be suitable for use with other canon bodies in the future - most probably the 5D) and telephoto lenses with focal lengths up to 400mm.  This being the case I am looking for recommendations on good tripods which I could/should be considering purchasing.

In terms of usage, most of the time, I will be using the tripod over the course of walks or hikes, and as such, weight *may* come into deciding which tripod to buy.  

Now, with regards to budget, I donít yet have a fixed budget in mind (although I was thinking around £200 to £300)

So the first question is, what brands/models of tripods should I be considering? Gitzo seem to be pretty well regarded, but how are their lighter/cheaper tripods? (I generally operate under the principle that I prefer to spend a bit more money now, in order to avoid having to pay even more in future, so if there is a particular model which I should be considering which is a bit pricier, but would offer good/excellent long term usage, I would like to know).

In addition I would like to know how tall the taller tripods are that are currently available - I am 6'5" tall, and would prefer not to have to bend too much to look through the cameras viewfinder, so the taller the tripod the better (although, there may be other options, which I would like to hear).
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Tom Connor
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« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2006, 08:07:24 pm »

If you are willing to spend now to make sure that you get the right tripod for the long term, then Gitzo is the way to go. The question is then whether the light weight for possible hiking is more important, or if having a sturdier tripod for telephoto lenses is more important.

For light weight, I would recommend the Gitzo 1257 legset. Combined with the Really Right Stuff BH-40, Kirk BH-3, Markins M10, Acratech Ultimate or V2 ballheads it would make an ideal lightweight yet very stable hiking tripod that could handle most any load.

If you want a tripod that is even more stable for use with 400mm+ telephoto lenses, then the Gitzo 1325 tripod legset would be a good choice. A good ballhead match would be the Really Right Stuff BH-55, Arca Swiss B1, or Kirk BH-1. The heavier duty combo will also have the advantage of being 5 inches taller without the column extended.
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TomConnor

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« Reply #2 on: August 20, 2006, 12:06:17 pm »

Thanks, thatís pretty helpful, as I have found it a little hard to distinguish between many of the offerings from Gitzo, especially, as I havenít yet found any quantative comparisons between different offerings which would help me to distinguish between what is on offer (other than by the obvious specs).

A couple of other questions relating to specific Gitzo tripods;

Is the 1348 just a taller version of the 1325?

Is the 1326/1320 going to be too heavy to lug around (for a few miles)?
And is it worth getting an aluminium tripod, and saving a bit of cash in place of a (seemingly) more expensive carbon fibre one? (that question is asked because of my lack of experience, really.  I suppose I could always put a few kilos of extra weight into my camera bag the next time I go for a walk in the forest, and see for myself, but it would still be interesting to hear other peopleís views on it)

What views do people have on the 1228? I saw it mentioned on the review for the 2227 on the site, but it was a fleeting mention (which could even be a typo...), and I would like to know a little more :>

I also have a couple of other questions about tripods in general (some of these will probably seem ignorant, but you never learn without asking questions - and possibly making an arse of yourself in so doing - so...)

What effect does weight have on the overall performance of a tripod (and how do the different materials available effect this performance - is heavier always better?)?
Also, is it, in the experience of those here, definitely worth buying a carbon fibre based tripod in comparison to an aluminium based tripod? What advantages and disadvantages do the two materials have compared to one another? (and if you were to choose 'optimal' setups for both - which is better, and is the price worth it -both monetary and otherwise)?  

Thanks for the help.
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Tom Connor
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jimhuber

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« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2006, 01:28:38 pm »

The Gitzo 1348 is taller than the 1325, but it also has 4 leg sections instead of 3. I use the 1348 and most of the time just extend 3 leg sections and leave the 4th retracted - only using them for really unlevel ground or extra height when necessary. I'm 6'0".

The lighter weight tripods don't extend as high, so it's a matter of how low you're willing to stoop for the weight savings.

To make this post much shorter, here's the spreadsheet I used for my comparison before purchasing:

tripods.xls

I ended up buying two tripods and heads, highlighted in red.
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TomConnor

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« Reply #4 on: August 20, 2006, 01:51:27 pm »

Thanks, that spreadsheet is very useful - the 1348 looks like it could be a good choice - so it is definitely on the list of ones to look at, along with the 1325.

And in terms of lighter weight tripods or not - I think that carrying extra weight will annoy me less than having to stoop :>
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Tom Connor
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« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2006, 05:35:50 am »

Quote
Thanks, that spreadsheet is very useful - the 1348 looks like it could be a good choice - so it is definitely on the list of ones to look at, along with the 1325.

And in terms of lighter weight tripods or not - I think that carrying extra weight will annoy me less than having to stoop :>
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=73948\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I use a Velbon CF631 and a Velbon PHD-61Q 3 Way Head + QR.

Rock solid and holds my Canon 1Dmk2 with 300mm no problem. Also has the splittable column for low down work.

If you are in the UK Warehouse Express have these at half price at the moment
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Anon E. Mouse

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« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2006, 07:35:48 am »

I have and use both Gitzo and Manfrotto tripods. Both manufactuers make excellent products. I perfer carbon fiber over aluminium - they are lighter and have equivalent stability. While a beginner, you have pointed out some important points lots of folks miss:

1. Height. Yes, get one that lets you stand up straight. Tall folks have the disadvantage. Remember to add the head height to the tripod leg set height when looking at specs. I perfer looking at the yoke height, but I don't mind using a little center column extension to make up some difference. I don't like to rely on long center column extension for windy or gusty conditions.

2. Weight. I have taken a bunch of tripods intto the Japanese alps which are around 3,000m. While carrying a heavy tripod a few hundred meters never bothers people, any serious exertion can make this piece of equipment a real burden. You also want to take the head weight into account. Ball heads will be lighter (and more compact) than pan/tilt heads.

3. Storage and setup. It should fit on your pack without causing an imbalance or shifting mass. The easier it is to setup, the more inclined you will be to use it. Here I perfer carbon fiber as well as leg lever locks of Manfrotto tripods to collar locks the Gitzo uses. I also perfer fewer leg sections even though the tripod is longer when collapsed. I actually carry my tripod by slipping one leg over the pack strap so it hangs by my hip when I am working, so the leg length cannot be to long to interfer with my movement.

One problem with buying tripods is there is no standard manufacturers use to determine load limits. Also, load limits do not take torque into account. So you need to just use your judgement. I have used Gitzo's smallest tripod (Reporter) successfully with medium-format equipment in the mountains.

Head load is also important - no point in having a head with a 20kg load limit on a tripod with a 6kg load limit. The head weight would not be worth carrying and would take away from the tripod load limit as it would have to support the heavy head. Scale the head to the legs.

Whether you use a guick-release system with the head is personal. Personally, I don't like them. They add weight and bulk. I have not found srcewing a camera to a tripod takes that much time. The bulk of the plate can make putting a camera in a bag a pain. Unless you get a plate for each body and they can be expensive, there is not point in having the system as changing plates between cameras or lenses more time consuming than just using a plain head.

There is no perfect tripod. I have five "perfect" tripods. I think for a fisrt tripod would be a medium size. Large rock-solid tripods just don't get much use because they are too big and heavy. Small tripods are too short and are too limited. My ideal tripod was a Manfrotto 441 carbon fiber tripod.
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nma

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« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2006, 08:12:53 am »

Lots of good advice so far. Here is my contribution. With similar requirements for hiking/walking and price, I did extensive research. If you don't care about budget in any way Gitzo and a good ball head is a no brainer.  I did not go that route, as I could not accept the inflated cost.  If you do a google search for Feisol tripods you will find that they are a relatively new compnay in Taiwan who are making a name for themselves with high quality CF tripods at moderate price.  To make a log story shorter, about 2 years ago I bought a Feisol 3401 tripod that is more or less a knock-off of a Gitzo. I don't regret this at all (~$200 and ~ 2 lb). To that I added an Acratech Ultimate ball head  (~ $250. and ~ 1 lb) with quick release mounting plates for my  D60 and 20D.  I have used this setup in mud, rivers, sand, heat, cold, etc. I've had no problems. Notice that the 3401 has 4 leg sections. That provides a trade off between ultimate stability and size. The 3401 closes to ~ 19 in. and thus fits in a standard suitcase for air travel with the head mounted. Fully extended, it is also high enough to use without raising the center column and I am 6' 1" tall.  In the interim, there has been gowing acceptance of the Feisol as a lower price alternative to the Gitzo. Of course there are a lot of other alternatives, but my requirements for low weight, stability and cost led to my decision.

You can buy direct from Feisol and there are many testimonials on the web to the quick and relaible shipping.
 
Note that I am in the camp that values the quick release system for mounting a tripod.  Placing a camera and telephoto directly on the screw atop the tripod head is not that stable. Simple physics will convince you that when tilted it will tend to rotate about the screw. The Arca Swiss QR system and a mounting plate for your camera body solves this problem and is most convenient for field work.  Without the plate and mounting system, you will not have the same stability.
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Slough

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« Reply #8 on: August 23, 2006, 03:23:22 pm »

My understanding is that Gitzo are very high quality, light weight, and very expensive. Good for pros who make a living from taking pictures, but amateurs can gt away with paying less.

I have used a Uniloc 1600 for the last 8 years and it is incredibly versatile and weighs only 2.4Kg which is okay for carrying on long walks. I bought the bendy bit for the centre column which adds weight but is worth having.

The 631 Velbon mentioned is superb value given that carbon fibre usually costs an arm and a leg. One point not mentioned is that CF dampens vibrations more than metal, presumably because it is less resonant.

Ball heads can be expensive. Often this is because they are made to handle large lenses. For a 400mm F5.6 you can probably get away with a Manfrotto 488 which is robust and well made. I use a Markins M10, which is rated for larger lenses, but it is very expensive. The Kirk BH3 from Warehouse Express is better value.

You might want to look into Benro tripods which are Gitzo rip offs. Microglobe in central London stock them and they look very well made though I only spent 5 minutes checking one out so I can hardly comment on the quality.

IMO a quick release system is worth having. They are more convenient and more stable but the plates are expensive. Benro plates are well made and good value.

Leif
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Slough

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« Reply #9 on: August 23, 2006, 03:28:46 pm »

Quote
Placing a camera and telephoto directly on the screw atop the tripod head is not that stable. Simple physics will convince you that when tilted it will tend to rotate about the screw. The Arca Swiss QR system and a mounting plate for your camera body solves this problem and is most convenient for field work.  Without the plate and mounting system, you will not have the same stability.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=74076\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

That's a good point. When you attach a QR plate to a lens, you tighten it with a wrench/spanner, and it will stay put. Whereas when you attach a lens directly to a ball head via a screw, there's a limit to how tight you can make the connection. You will end up rotating the lens about the ball head which is absurd especially when it is a big lens. And as you say the lens can work loose.

Slotting a lens and camera into a QR platform takes seconds, and you then turn the locking screw to secure the load.

Leif
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jimhuber

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« Reply #10 on: August 23, 2006, 05:43:52 pm »

Printers come and go. Camera bodies get replaced, though perhaps a bit less often now. Even lenses get superseded with better glass. But a quality tripod and ball head may last a lifetime for a serious enthusiast, and many years for a busy professional. I finally gave up on the cheap stuff and bought two Gitzo tripods and two Really Right Stuff ball heads, plus the 'L' plates needed for my camera bodies (see post above with the link to the spreadsheet). I consider it a great investment, and have been very pleased at how much quicker and easier they are to work with. Setting up takes seconds. Getting the horizon level is a snap. Stability is fantastic. I know why Michael complains about setting mirror lockup... it takes longer to do than setting up the tripod!

Seriously, if you took away my prime lenses I'd get by with zooms. If you took away my 5D and I had to work with my Rebel XT, I'd just not make prints bigger than 12x18. But without a good tripod I might just give up and go home. For landscape photography it's that important. I'd rather have a Really Right Stuff 'L' plate than a Canon 'L' lens because without a good support system you'll never realize the potential of the camera and lens. It would be like having a great car with poor tires - the performance potential is ruined. Don't skimp on your tripod(s) and head(s).

<I've no affiliation with Gitzo, Really Right Stuff, Canon, Michael, or anyone else you've heard of...>
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Anon E. Mouse

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« Reply #11 on: August 24, 2006, 03:43:16 am »

Quote
That's a good point. When you attach a QR plate to a lens, you tighten it with a wrench/spanner, and it will stay put. Whereas when you attach a lens directly to a ball head via a screw, there's a limit to how tight you can make the connection. You will end up rotating the lens about the ball head which is absurd especially when it is a big lens. And as you say the lens can work loose.

Slotting a lens and camera into a QR platform takes seconds, and you then turn the locking screw to secure the load.

Leif
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But have you tried it? I have used lenses up to a 600mm f/4 directly on a head and have not had this problem. With a quick-release plate there is still only a one point connection. Over tightening the screw with a spanner can cause it own problems. Many plates have just a small key for attachment; I can apply more force with the large head screw on my heads. Like I said, quick-release systems are a personal choice.
« Last Edit: August 24, 2006, 03:45:42 am by Anon E. Mouse »
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nma

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« Reply #12 on: August 24, 2006, 07:40:23 am »

Quote
But have you tried it? I have used lenses up to a 600mm f/4 directly on a head and have not had this problem. With a quick-release plate there is still only a one point connection. Over tightening the screw with a spanner can cause it own problems. Many plates have just a small key for attachment; I can apply more force with the large head screw on my heads. Like I said, quick-release systems are a personal choice.
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You may have missed the point of the Arca Swiss style QR system. It is secured with a clamp that is part of the ball head. There is no screw to tighten at all. The QR plate IS fastened to the bottom of the camera body at a single point, but the geometry of the plate design uses the camera body itself to prevent rotation. The QR plate also has two rails that fit into the clamp. Once the clamp  is tightened the camera body ain't going nowhere.
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Colin Griffiths

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« Reply #13 on: August 24, 2006, 08:08:21 am »

I use a series 2 mountaineer carbon fibre tripod, offset ball head and and quick release, all Gitzo. No problems with 6x9 Ebony, Mamiya 7 or Canon 5D cameras. I love the set-up and it's a pleasure to use. However for lightweight, especially when trekking in the winter I also take a pragmatic approach. I use a cheap Slik lightweight tripod fitted with a climbing karabiner under the centre post and a Gitzo ball/socket and QR. I hang my rucksack on the karabiner and get a very, very steady support. The Slik, athough cheap and not very high, has the big advantage that I can extend the legs very quickly whilst wearing gloves, it weighs very little and packs up small too. The Gitzo's legs have to be unscrewed and is not nearly so fast to use. Wouldn't use the 6x9 on the Slik though!
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Slough

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« Reply #14 on: August 24, 2006, 03:52:56 pm »

Quote
But have you tried it? I have used lenses up to a 600mm f/4 directly on a head and have not had this problem. With a quick-release plate there is still only a one point connection. Over tightening the screw with a spanner can cause it own problems. Many plates have just a small key for attachment; I can apply more force with the large head screw on my heads. Like I said, quick-release systems are a personal choice.
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NMA has pretty much made the points I wanted to make. However ...

You attach the QR plate to the lens then leave it there. Mounting the lens on a tripod is trivial, just place the QR plate into the QR platform, and gently tighten the clamp. There's no danger of over tightening thanks to the design. And there's less danger of dropping the lens. Or stripping the tripod thread on the lens because you are tired, and in a hurry. I find it hard to believe that anyone could use a 600mm F4 lens directly on a ball head.

Leif
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