Pages: [1]   Go Down

Author Topic: hiking/birding tripod: balancing weight vs stability w/ 100-400mm lens  (Read 6324 times)

craigf

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1

Hi all,

I do a lot of hiking/birding and am looking for a tripod that can handle a Canon 50D w/ 100-400mm lens and ball head (I intend to purchase something from Acratech, Arca-Swiss, RSS, or Kirk).  The camera, lens, and battery grip together weigh approximately 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs).  I've read your many excellent and helpful posts about tripods and ball heads for hiking and travel, but many of the posts referenced smaller lenses (e.g., 70-200mm).  My question is:  what's the lightest I could go and still get reasonable stability/sharpness with a 100-400mm lens?

For example, is the Gitzo 3541 necessary, or could I "get away with" the lighter Gitzo 2541?
Similarly, would I need the RSS BH55 or Kirk BH-1, or would the lighter RSS BH40 or Kirk BH-3 be sufficient?
For those who use Feisol, which tripod do you think would best fit my needs?
Would the Velbon Sherpa 630 have sufficient stability for a 100-400mm lens?

I realize that you get what you pay for, so I'm flexible about price.  My main concern is finding a set-up stable enough to hold my 100-400mm lens but light enough that I won't be tempted to leave it at home.
Logged

fike

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1391
  • Hiker Photographer
    • trailpixie.net
hiking/birding tripod: balancing weight vs stability w/ 100-400mm lens
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2009, 01:52:30 pm »

Quote from: craigf
Hi all,

I do a lot of hiking/birding and am looking for a tripod that can handle a Canon 50D w/ 100-400mm lens and ball head (I intend to purchase something from Acratech, Arca-Swiss, RSS, or Kirk).  The camera, lens, and battery grip together weigh approximately 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs).  I've read your many excellent and helpful posts about tripods and ball heads for hiking and travel, but many of the posts referenced smaller lenses (e.g., 70-200mm).  My question is:  what's the lightest I could go and still get reasonable stability/sharpness with a 100-400mm lens?

For example, is the Gitzo 3541 necessary, or could I "get away with" the lighter Gitzo 2541?
Similarly, would I need the RSS BH55 or Kirk BH-1, or would the lighter RSS BH40 or Kirk BH-3 be sufficient?
For those who use Feisol, which tripod do you think would best fit my needs?
Would the Velbon Sherpa 630 have sufficient stability for a 100-400mm lens?

I realize that you get what you pay for, so I'm flexible about price.  My main concern is finding a set-up stable enough to hold my 100-400mm lens but light enough that I won't be tempted to leave it at home.


Well.....
I shoot my 50D with a 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 L on a Gitzo Traveller carbon fiber tripod.  I use a small gitzo 1177 ballhead and a really right stuff panning clamp as the platform and spherical head for panoramics.  This also functions as a gimble.  With the lens-foot on the 100-400 it works okay.  I can get very good results with it.  This shot used that setup: http://www.trailpixie.net/general/pride_on_inaugu.htm

In a wind, it doesn't work well.  At all times, it is better to kneel in front of the tripod than to stand full-upright.  If it is a dark wooded scene or near dusk, it becomes difficult with this lens. This lens isn't particularly fast, so I wouldn't expect to be shooting into the evening with it regardless of the tripod. I use a cable release for long exposures like this: http://www.trailpixie.net/general/2008_panoramic.htm .

Under the right lighting conditions, you can shoot the 100-400 handheld like these shots: http://www.trailpixie.net/general/bld_eagles_clos.htm

I value light-weight equipment, so I deal with the limitations of the gitzo traveller tripod.  It is light enough to carry for 8 or 10 miles in a day.  It will fit in luggage without taking all your space.  It is well balanced and easy to carry in your hand for long hikes.  As a matter of fact, I almost always hike with it in my hand...otherwise I just don't use it. If I have to stop, take off my pack, pull out the tripod, extend it, and mount the camera, I am less likely to bother with it.  

I don't use a battery grip.  I think they add unnecessary weight.  I have never outlasted two fully charged batteries in a day in the field--even in subzero temperatures.
« Last Edit: May 11, 2009, 01:55:04 pm by fike »
Logged
Fike, Trailpixie, or Marc Shaffer

Ken Bennett

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1777
    • http://www.kenbennettphoto.com
hiking/birding tripod: balancing weight vs stability w/ 100-400mm lens
« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2009, 04:54:45 pm »

I think the 3541 is way overkill for a 50D and a 100-400 for most uses. I have a 3531 and an RRS BH55, and while it's a great tripod combo, it's not something I want to carry in the field unless I am using something 300/2.8 or larger. This combo is rock solid, big, and while it's lighter than an aluminum tripod, it's not really all that light.

For birding, I use a Manfrotto 190CX3 with a Manfrotto fluid video head for my spotting scope. When I want to switch to a camera, I put a mid-size Giottos ballhead on it. (However, I am very interested in downsizing to a smaller, lighter head for photo use. Maybe a BH25?) This combo is fine for my 40D and 300/4 lens (and a 1.4x converter), and it's terrific for the spotting scope. For critical work you'll want to hang a camera bag from the tripod, and use mirror lockup and all that, but that's standard form for almost any tripod.

Now, if you are talking about serious bird photography, with a Wimberly head and a big serious telephoto, then you'll need the bigger tripod. But for a spotting scope and a lightweight 400mm lens, the mid-size 'pods are fine.
Logged
Equipment: a camera and some lenses. https://www.instagram.com/wakeforestphoto/

JeffKohn

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Offline Offline
  • Posts: 1668
    • http://jeffk-photo.typepad.com
hiking/birding tripod: balancing weight vs stability w/ 100-400mm lens
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2009, 07:19:31 pm »

I use a Gitzo 3-series CF (extra tall version) for medium-length hikes and it's not too bad to carry, especially with pipe insulation on the legs so it's comfortable to carry over my shoulder.

For longer, more strenuous hikes (eg in the mountains) where I need to strap the tripod to my backpack so I can use trekking poles, I use a Gitzo 2-series CF. It's much lighter than the 3-series. Unfortunately it's not nearly as stable, and because of this I only use it on hikes when I just can't lug the 3-series. The biggest problem with the 2-series is not so much the leg thickness, it's the narrower leg spread that compromises stability.

Honestly it just depends on your fitness level and how much gear you're willing/able to carry. For me, the 3-series is worth the extra effort to carry most of the time, and I'm not even using telephotos as I mostly shoot landscapes. But if you're worried about carrying too much weight and only want to purchase one tripod, maybe something like the 2-series is the way to go, since carrying the 2-series is bound to get you better shots than leaving the 3-series behind because you can't stand the extra weight.
Logged
Jeff Kohn
[url=http://ww
Pages: [1]   Go Up