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Author Topic: advice for tripod selection....  (Read 10687 times)

duffergirl

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advice for tripod selection....
« on: January 07, 2009, 11:31:36 am »

Hi

I am an amateur photographer with a d300. I have been using a very old (basic) aluminum tripod that I use to use on my old film camera. It is clunky, unstable, and not at all sexy. I am now able to upgrade this antique for something that I hope will last me forever.

I have a d300 and I mostly shoot on tripod for a lot of my landscape shots. I usually use my monopod for nature shots. I mostly shoot my Sigma 10 -20mm or my Nikkor 18 - 200 lenses. I do have a 80 - 400 mm that comes out on occasion, mostly when travelling. So, I would like the flexibility to be able to use this on all my lenses.

I shoot in landscape and portrait and frequently switch between the two. I also have a battery grip that I am hoping to use more on the tripod.

I have read that the RRS ballheads and plates are great, as are the Markin ballheads. I have never worked with a ballhead so this will be a new experience for me. Would a MArkins M10 or a RRS BH-55 work? Any preference between the two?

I am undecided on the tripod. Whether to go with Aluminum or Carbon Fibre. I do live in Canada so the Carbon Fibre has appeal for the minus temperatures...but do not know if it is worth the incremental $$. Manfrotto or Gitzo....?

I am a 5,8" female....does height play in the decision on the legs?

Any input would be greatly appreciated. It is a $$$ purchase so I am hoping to get enough information to make a good lasting purchase.

thanks
Tammy
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DarkPenguin

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« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2009, 11:44:03 am »

Quote from: duffergirl
I have read that the RRS ballheads and plates are great, as are the Markin ballheads. I have never worked with a ballhead so this will be a new experience for me. Would a MArkins M10 or a RRS BH-55 work? Any preference between the two?

Also look at kirk and acratech.  Make sure to check reviews of the kirk and rrs L-brackets.  You'll want one of those.  I've had better luck with RRS but it does vary by camera.

As to the tripod what is your budget?  We're already talking a good $400-600 for the tripodhead/bracket.
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francois

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« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2009, 12:03:19 pm »

I would only add to DarkPenguin's suggestions: you must have a tripod that brings your camera to eye level (or higher).

As for ball-heads, I've got good experience with Acratech and Really Right Stuff. My Arca-Swiss B1 locked up after a few years of use in the field. But before that, it was also an excellent BH.
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JohnKoerner

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« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2009, 12:08:19 pm »

I asked this "best tripod" question awhile back, and while there really is no one answer, there were a lot of great and thoughtful posts made on the subject. Conveniently, at the same time another fellow (Bruce Houston), was looking for one also and he did a lot of research on the subject and helped me greatly with my own decision.

I myself decided on the Giottos MT 8361, as the "most" tripod for the least money, but I made my decision because of its contortionist capabilities for macrowork.

For just a straight, solid tripod for landscape work, I think the majority consensus was Gitzo and the model 3541-L in particular (which is new and replaces the 3540-L we talked about).

I am very saitsified with my own purchase of a Giottos for macrowork, but to this day I am still rubbing my chin about the Gitzo for a possible trip later this year to the northern coast, for landscapes.

Hope this helps!

Jack
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duffergirl

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« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2009, 12:52:36 pm »

Quote from: DarkPenguin
Also look at kirk and acratech.  Make sure to check reviews of the kirk and rrs L-brackets.  You'll want one of those.  I've had better luck with RRS but it does vary by camera.

As to the tripod what is your budget?  We're already talking a good $400-600 for the tripodhead/bracket.

Hi there

I was hoping to get it for about 1000....but after reading these posts I realize I may need to stretch that!!!


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DarkPenguin

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« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2009, 01:07:53 pm »

What John said about the Gitzo.  I really love my Feisol and it is worlds cheaper but if I was buying one to last forever it would be a Gitzo.
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David Sutton

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« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2009, 04:28:55 pm »

It's one of those things that make life easier when you get it right, and cost you much more in the long run if you try to save a few dollars initially. The Markins Q3 should suit your set up. I have one for my Canon 40d and it just works. Ditto a RRS quick release clamp and L plate. The L plate lives on the camera now and there is no more fumbling with levers and horizons and missing the moment.
As to tripods, if you are able to try one out in a shop first, that can be an eye-opener. David
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Colorado David

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« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2009, 08:43:11 pm »

I own a very sturdy carbon Gitzo with a Kirk ball head, no center column.  All camera bodies and lenses are equipped with RRS plates or replacement feet.  Last year I thought I would save some money when buying a light tripod and purchased a Giottos.  I'm sorry I don't have all the model numbers committed to memory.  A colleague and I were preparing for a trip and we did a side by side comparison of our tripods.  My big carbon Gitzo was the most sturdy with no flex from side to side in legs.  We each had a lighter tripod, mine the Giottos and his was a Gitzo.  There was no comparison.  The Gitzo was sturdy while the Giottos was as limber as a willow wand.  I could set it up on firm footing and hold it with one hand by the head and twist it right and left.  We could not get any twist with the Gitzo.  I would not buy another Giottos.  I will use the one I have under the right conditions, but only with the very best tripod technique under ideal conditions where carrying weight is an important factor.  Otherwise it will stay in the office and the Gitzo will go.

Ken Bennett

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« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2009, 09:21:52 pm »

I've had a long line of tripods over the years, from heavy to heavier. None of them were all that good. Last year, with some advice from the folks on this forum, I purchased a Gitzo 3530LS and an RRS BH-55. This is a *very* sturdy setup, and it's lighter than any of my aluminum Bogens. Note that I am over 6 feet, and the tripod puts the camera just over my eye level without any center column.

The RRS-55 head is awesome. Solid as a rock, and very smooth. Given your requirements, it might be a little more than you need. Take a look at the mid-size RRS head, as well as the Acratech head. The RRS lever action quick release works well.

Any mid-size Gitzo carbon fiber tripod should do well. Just make sure that the height of the tripod puts the camera at eye level without using the center column. (Remember that the head and the camera body -- and the battery grip -- will add to the height of the tripod. So a tripod that comes to 5 feet should be pretty good.)
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Paul Sumi

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« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2009, 09:27:57 pm »

Lots of good advice so far...  My setup is a Gitzo 1349 carbon fiber tripod, Acratech V2 ballhead and RRS L plates for my cameras.  The heaviest lens I normally use with this is a 70-200 f/2.8 zoom with extender.

I would reiterate that you want to get a tripod tall enough that you don't need to use a center column and can attach the ballhead directly to the tripod plate.  This will maximize system stiffness/rigidity and reduce vibration.

With this setup, I can extend the legs up to 65" which gives me a lot of flexibility (I'm 5'11").  If you don't always shoot on level ground, longer legs can also help level a tripod on mountain slopes, rock fields, bodies of water, etc.

Finally, if you can personally try out the tripods and ballheads suggested, this will help you make a better decision.  Play with the knobs and levers and other controls, etc.  You'll know when it feels right to you.
 
Paul
« Last Edit: January 07, 2009, 09:42:42 pm by PaulS »
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brianrpatterson

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« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2009, 09:40:53 pm »

Just a few consensus remarks I've gathered at forums and among friends in my own quest for the 'perfect' tripod/head combination.

First, I'm sold on Markins based on reviews, design comparisons and user comments I've read. I'll be going for a clampless M20 to make that a single, lifelong purchase decision - weight diffs between their other models is insignificant compared to performance expectations and I've been recommended to do so for a larger 'sweet spot' as well.

Second, RRS has the most consistent quality among Arca Swiss-mount makers. I'm getting their D300 L-bracket and 70-200 VR plate (not replacement foot). My strategy is to use the L-bracket made for the body only to keep CG low and will only use the MB-D10 grip with VR lenses in handhold situations. I will also be putting their QR Clamp on my Markins M20. Personal contact with RRS confirms a 50-lbs. clamping force with this QR design along with a safety pin scheme that works for anyone paying attention to their exorbitantly expensive gear.

Third, a Gitzo 3531LS Systematic will be my tripod choice for several reasons - three legs sections for max rigidity, wider mounting plate for max ballhead stability, stronger 6X construction, and Systematic future upgrade potential vs. older model 'remakes' that may become obsolete in a few more years.

Simple but expensive - it will take a good part of 2009 to acquire all this stuff. In the meantime, my Bogus 3221 legs and a Manfrotto 486r2 ballhead are working very well making sharp images and a providing a psuedo-gimbal functionality. Hope this helps...
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Jerry Clement

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« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2009, 09:50:44 pm »

Quote from: duffergirl
Hi

I am an amateur photographer with a d300. I have been using a very old (basic) aluminum tripod that I use to use on my old film camera. It is clunky, unstable, and not at all sexy. I am now able to upgrade this antique for something that I hope will last me forever.

I have a d300 and I mostly shoot on tripod for a lot of my landscape shots. I usually use my monopod for nature shots. I mostly shoot my Sigma 10 -20mm or my Nikkor 18 - 200 lenses. I do have a 80 - 400 mm that comes out on occasion, mostly when travelling. So, I would like the flexibility to be able to use this on all my lenses.

I shoot in landscape and portrait and frequently switch between the two. I also have a battery grip that I am hoping to use more on the tripod.

I have read that the RRS ballheads and plates are great, as are the Markin ballheads. I have never worked with a ballhead so this will be a new experience for me. Would a MArkins M10 or a RRS BH-55 work? Any preference between the two?

I am undecided on the tripod. Whether to go with Aluminum or Carbon Fibre. I do live in Canada so the Carbon Fibre has appeal for the minus temperatures...but do not know if it is worth the incremental $$. Manfrotto or Gitzo....?

I am a 5,8" female....does height play in the decision on the legs?

Any input would be greatly appreciated. It is a $$$ purchase so I am hoping to get enough information to make a good lasting purchase.

thanks
Tammy
I use a Gitzo GT3530LSV with a Acratech GV2 ballhead, as well as a Jobu Black Widow gimbel head and after a year, I am very happy with my selections. I went with the Acratech ballhead because of the weight (very light) and as far as the tripod goes, I like to demonstrate how ridgid it is by extending the legs full out and then grasping the tripod top with both hands, I suspend my full weight, feet off the ground (160lbs) from the tripod (it does not budge). It has proven to be rock solid for my 500mm and other lens. And yes, the carbon/fibre is a plus, when handling the tripod in -30C temperatures.

Jerry
« Last Edit: January 08, 2009, 10:26:34 am by Jerry Clement »
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Philip Weber

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« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2009, 10:15:04 pm »

Tammy -

I also have the D300 (and the D700) and have been very happy with a Gitzo 3540 LS and the RRS BH-40. I thought about the BH-55 but wanted to keep the weight down and it's all I need unless I'm using my biggest lenses (Sigma 300-800 and Nikkor 200-400) where I'll go to my Wimberely head. In a pinch, the BH-40 manages the 200-400 fairly well. For what you're shooting with, the BH-40 should be more than enough and between the two, you're looking at about 1k.

I decided on the 3540 as I wanted 4 sections. It used to be that was frowned upon as it meant less stability but with todays carbon fiber construction, most feel that's not an issue anymore.

Whatever you decide, as long as you go with HIGH QUALITY, it should last you a lifetime.

Good luck Tammy!
Phil

PS - Once you get your ball head, you'll probably want an L Bracket too and RRS makes great ones.
PW
« Last Edit: January 07, 2009, 10:16:37 pm by Philip Weber »
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JohnKoerner

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« Reply #13 on: January 08, 2009, 01:08:15 am »

Quote from: Colorado David
I own a very sturdy carbon Gitzo with a Kirk ball head, no center column.  All camera bodies and lenses are equipped with RRS plates or replacement feet.  Last year I thought I would save some money when buying a light tripod and purchased a Giottos.  I'm sorry I don't have all the model numbers committed to memory.  A colleague and I were preparing for a trip and we did a side by side comparison of our tripods.  My big carbon Gitzo was the most sturdy with no flex from side to side in legs.  We each had a lighter tripod, mine the Giottos and his was a Gitzo.  There was no comparison.  The Gitzo was sturdy while the Giottos was as limber as a willow wand.  I could set it up on firm footing and hold it with one hand by the head and twist it right and left.  We could not get any twist with the Gitzo.  I would not buy another Giottos.  I will use the one I have under the right conditions, but only with the very best tripod technique under ideal conditions where carrying weight is an important factor.  Otherwise it will stay in the office and the Gitzo will go.


I am assuming this was directed at me, in reference to my saying I had a Giottos tripod.

As you admitted above, you do not even recall the model number of the particular Giottos you used. I am aware that some of the lesser Giottos can be flimsy and are designed for smaller cameras and lenses and so would not be suitable for the purpose referred to in this topic. However, the MT 8361 is their top model, and I can assure you it is not flimsy at all, when performing the tasks it was designed to perform. You not clarifying which tripod model you're talking about, and dismissing an entire product line because of "your model," is as silly as comparing camera capabilities without reference to model either, and dismissing an entire product line over one model not meeting your needs. The difference in ability between camera models (even amongst the same brand type) can be night-and-day also.

Still, that being said, I do recall that I myself stated the Gitzo would be the consensus choice for steady, eye-level landscape purposes. If rock-steady shooting from an elevated "eye-level" position, with heavy gear, is what a person is after, Gitzo seems to be the nearly-universal consensus. However, what I said still applies I believe, and that for lighter gear, and for shooting from low-to-the-ground, contortionist "leaning forward" type applications, my Giottos is a wonderful tool. Thus it is a matter using the right tool for the job. Quite frankly, a big 4-piece Gitzo would be worthless for macro applications on the ground or in low shrubs. So again it's a matter of the right tool for the right job.

Jack
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Colorado David

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« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2009, 08:00:00 am »

Quote from: JohnKoerner
I am assuming this was directed at me, in reference to my saying I had a Giottos tripod.

No. I'm sorry you assumed that.  I was just answering the question.

Bronislaus Janulis

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« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2009, 09:16:18 am »

This will be sacraligious; but I think the quality of Giottos is equal too, or better than Gitzo. I own both. One problem in researching Gitzo is they seem to change model numbers randomly and frequently; hard to tell what one is looking at.

One thing I advocate for is twist leg locks; they are quick, quiet, and they are hard to foul with sand or water/mud. The Giottos is smoother and quicker than my 2 Gitzos.

Gitzo 2560 monopod with RRS BH-25 ballhead
Gitzo 1257 with Markins M10 ballhead
Bogen 3001
Giottos MT 9241 with Giottos MH 1002 ballhead
Amvona/Dynatran AT858

I still use all of them, different projects.


cecelia

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« Reply #16 on: January 08, 2009, 09:25:23 am »

Tammy,

Congratulations on this upgrade, I think it is one of the most important part of a photographic system.  

I have used many different tripods and heads (mostly Gitzos, CF or Al) and I've had Kirk, RRS, and Markins heads and I've used body plates and L-plates.  My favorite combination right now is the Gitzo traveler 1550T with the Markins Q3 and an L-plate.  The Q3 is plenty for a D300 with a 70-200 (this lens requires its own foot), and it is lighter and stronger than the BH-40 or BH-55.  None of the CF tripods seem as sturdy as a heavy Al tripod, especially in a wind.  The Gitzo GT2531EX is also FANTASTIC if  you want to get off the center of the tripod.  The clips can bite your fingers, but this design is great for macro shots in a natural environment where you want to bring your camera to the subject. The Gitzos come in Al versions at approximately half the price.  For the overall system, I recommending getting the Q3 from Markins, an L-plate from Kirk, and a Gitzo tripod of your choice.  This should be just about $1000 if you go with a CF Gitzo through one of the big NYC dealers.  You can also check Fred Miranda's Buy and Sell forum where many of these items a sold used at a discount.

(I am a 5'2" tall woman--and I like a longer tripod than you'd think because many times 1 leg is going down hill.)

Best,
-Cecelia
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Jon Meddings

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« Reply #17 on: January 08, 2009, 09:29:47 am »


Tammy, I think you've gotten great advice here and I would echo almost all of it. I've had more than my share of tripods and ballheads and over the years have given many away as I've whittled my kit down to a few keepers for different situations. I have not been able to find the 'one size fits all' solution.

Like many in the thread I've settled on the Gitzo carbon fiber tripods and have my old and trusty favorite (the old 1345) out for repairs with Gitzo right now. I miss the old beast. It is large, amazingly stable and absolutely reliable. No center column just looonnngg legs. I'm over 6' and this thing fully opened is above my head level. While you might think that is not useful I love the option for working on a steep slope or having one leg in a river...  The only drawback with the beast is weight and with the RRS large ballhead on it can be a handful. I don't mind carrying it for a few hours but a full day hike is hard. I've hauled it into the Wave in Arizona but would not want to do that too often.

While the beast is away I now have the newer Gitzo 2531EX that is a niftly little unit using an off center column that can swing over to make macro work easier. Mid size RRS ballhead. This is a nice unit that is certainly lighter but I am getting impatient to get the old one back. In the wind this smaller tripod is just not steady enough even if you hang something from the column. I would use it indoors, for a long hike or where macro work was critical.

Good luck with your purchase!
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JohnKoerner

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« Reply #18 on: January 08, 2009, 02:26:50 pm »

Quote from: Colorado David
No. I'm sorry you assumed that.  I was just answering the question.


Okay, David, thanks for that. Sometimes a bad experience with a particular model can make a person flush a whole product line down the tubes, but for macro work I can assure you the Giottos MT-8361 is a great tripod:



As sturdy as the Gitzo 3540 is, it could never contort to such a position as above, and so would be useless for my intended application. The Giottos has a unique feature where the center column comes out, and is able to be re-inserted into a central axis point to achieve a wide variety of angles ... and can be pulled-out farther or pushed-in deeper to achieve a wide variety of extensions ... as needed to achieve the perfect focal distance for macro work.

As Bronislaus Janulis pointed out, some of the Giottos are in fact quite sturdy, and as you can see above my model has no problem supporting a modest equipment weight, at nearly ground level, suspended about a foot out from the center. To make this possible, the Giottos legs widen to the extent it actually "flattens" the whole tripod framework.

Jon mentions a newer (and also flimsier) Gitzo model now achieves this same kind of contortionist work for macro, but I do believe it was Giottos who pioneered these unique (and quite useful) features. I for one couldn't be more pleased with mine. BTW: The subject of my photo was this little guy right here:




Anyway, I don't want to deviate from the topic too much, as I too am rubbing my chin about adding the Gitzo tripod legs for landscape work later on in the year. I just wanted to correct some (what I perceived to be) misinformation as to the Giottos tripod legs, as they are simply wonderful for arguably a wider range of applications that any kind of standard legs and they can support modest equipment weight just fine.

Jack
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Colorado David

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« Reply #19 on: January 08, 2009, 04:52:48 pm »

For the sake of comparrison, my Gitzo is the G1325 Pro Studex Carbon.  I use it interchangably with the plate mount for the large Kirk ball head and a 75mm bowel for a full size video fluid head for use with a Sony DSR130 video camera.  I will use a Wimberly Sidekick with the Kirk head for my Nikon 200-400 f/4 VR lens.  I have been very satisfied with its performance.  This model number has been replaced with some new number.  The Giottos is an MT-8250.  I have the smaller Kirk ball head on this tripod.  This tripod has a 15 pound rating.  My complaint with this tripod is that the carbon legs simply are not rigid enough to be a stable platform in any but the best conditions.  I am not attacking anyone else's choice in equipment, just making an observation.  My colleague had an older Gitzo Mountaineer of the same size and configuration as the Giottos and it's legs were far more rigid in a side-by-side test.
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