Legs, Ballheads, Plates, L-Brackets, Quick Releases... Oh My!

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by SuperSpiker, Jan 31, 2009.

  1. SuperSpiker macrumors member

    Sep 20, 2008
    Ok. Whoa.

    Researching the purchase of a Tripod + Ball Head + Plate + Quick Release is overwhelming and confusing.

    I'm looking for some advice from the MacRumors community to clear things up.

    I currently have a D300. I have an 18-200 VR, a Sigma 10-20, a 50 1.8, and a couple of basic kit lenses. I also have an SB-800 and SB-800.

    I'm mostly interested in shooting HDR.

    PLEASE NOTE: I have searched for the answers to my questions... but I am still very confused. Thanks for any help.


    1. Since I don't have any "heavy" glass and I won't likely be using any lenses larger than a 70-200 (if I can ever afford one) Do I need to spend the money on a Markins M-10? The M-10 is the ball head that I'm looking at buying. Is this overkill for my setup?

    2. Legs: How does anyone pick a good set of legs? There are too many options and considerations. Carbon Fiber, 3 vs 4 collapse points, Manfrotto vs Gizto, Oh my! - I just want a tripod that will hold my camera up. Anybody have a recommendation for a tripod that just holds the camera.

    3. It seems that Thom Hogan and the other hardcore guys advocate for buying the best of the best. I'm not sure that for MY situation I need the best of the best. I'm not trekking through the amazon and using my tripod to clear the trail.

    4. Plate: Isn't this just a piece of metal. What makes this hunk of metal cost so much? Why is one hunk of metal (RRS) better than another hunk of metal (Kirk) - Again... Why does this have to be so difficult? Recommendations please.

    5. L-Bracket: Would I get one of these in PLACE of a plate? What is the advantage of the L-Bracket?

    6. Quick Release: Is this a part of the plate or is this something separate to buy. Do need this? Why?

    7. Anything else I need to have a fully operational support kit. I don't want to buy all this stuff and then be missing something.

    I know thats a lot of questions. As always thanks for any help.
  2. Doylem macrumors 68040


    Dec 30, 2006
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    My recommendation: sit down, empty your mind, take a few deep breaths... and relax. Then go and buy yourself a tripod... :)

    You're making a simple shopping trip into a major worry. A tripod's only got one job to do: to keep your camera rock steady for long - or consecutive - exposures. Go to a store and try them out... with your camera and biggest lens. Pick one that stays steady, and is light enough to carry with you (no point in having a tripod you always leave at home). :)
  3. OreoCookie macrumors 68030

    Apr 14, 2001
    Sendai, Japan
    I'd recommend taking one that is capable of slightly heavier gear than what you have, same advice I give when people buy bags. I'm very glad mine is a little larger than I thought I'd need. But right now, it's filled to the brim and there is always stuff you'd like to put in (be it maps, notebooks, etc.).

    This gives you a little headroom should you replace your Sigma with a slightly heavier Tokina UW lens, for instance. Or if you replace your 50 mm lens with Sigma's heavy, but excellent 50 mm lens. Don't overdo it, though :)

    I recommend you go to a good store, don't go to a discounter. If you have a Calumet around your corner, that's a good start. The advice will be in general be worth it (so don't try to shave off $10 by then ordering online).
  4. GotMyOrangeCrus macrumors regular

    The Bottom line is buy the best Tripod you can afford. Its a mandatory piece of equipment and you get what you pay for. Personally I would buy a carbon fiber Gitzo. It keeps the weight down, doesn't get cold in winter, is solid as a rock and will last you a very very long time. Plus they have fantastic Warranties and customer service.

    You dont have to be trekking through a rainforest. The only requirement for needing a good tripod is the desire to make good pictures. Another good thing about the Gitzo CF's is that they hold their value and are very easy to sell used. While most of us never plan on selling our gear, the ability to do so is still extremely important.
  5. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    This is sound advice. Just look at the tripod as an investment that will outlast your camera most likely.

    L brackets are nice BTW. ;)
  6. Cliff3 macrumors 68000


    Nov 2, 2007
    SF Bay Area
    What is your budget?

    There are other choices than Markins: Kirk, Really Right Stuff, Arca, Acratech, Linhof and there are others. As far as any ballhead being overkill, the real question is how much does your gear weigh?

    4 segment legs collapse to a shorter length than 3 segment legs, and this may be useful for travel. 4 segment legs have 3 connectors per leg rather than 2, plus the last segments are smaller in diameter than those found in 3 segment legs. More connectors and thinner segments means it takes longer to set up and may be slightly less stable. 3 segment legs tend to have a taller deployed height than equivalent 4 segment legs.

    The choice of pod material is mostly about weight versus cost. If you're taking your pod on a trip to the top of a mountain, weight means more to you than cost.

    You didn't ask about center columns, or even whether you should want one at all.

    Finally, your choice of legs is further refined by the weight they must support.

    Hogan advocates buying what you need the first time, instead of realizing that actual need iteratively over many smaller and collectively more costly purchases. So again, what's your budget?

    The plates are pretty nice examples of CNC machining work. Good machining work does not come cheap. Good plates are designed to fit closely to the object to which they're being attached. Generic plates tend to not support well the object to which they're attached.

    An L-plate allows you to quickly change your camera's orientation from landscape to portrait and back again without affecting the positioning of the head or having to re-level it. An L-plate is only applicable for camera bodies, and you either get an L-plate or a regular plate for your body, not both. I use L-plates. They're not inexpensive, but when you upgrade your body they hold most of their original worth. You may want to see if there are any for sale for your body on Fred Miranda or Ebay before buying a new one - anodized machined aluminum doesn't wear out.

    You're actually talking about the clamp. I would stick with screw clamps and pass on the lever clamps. Screw clamps are quick enough, they're more tolerant of plates from manufacturers other than the one who made the clamp than lever clamps, and they're more reliable. Having your camera and lens break loose from your tripod is potentially catastrophic, so reliability is more important here than a second of so of time to close the clamp.

    A strap or case for your tripod, possibly. I use an Optech strap for both my pod and camera bodies.
  7. SuperSpiker thread starter macrumors member

    Sep 20, 2008
    Thanks for the informative responses.

    I'm considering the Gizto GT2540 legs. I'm not overly thrilled about the 4 sections but I like that it's compact when collapsed. The GT2530 sounds good (only 3 sections) it's more stable but I'm not sure if it will travel well.

    I plan to do a moderate amount of hiking with the tripod but rarely any air travel. Do you think that the GT2530 is portable enough for me to take hiking?

    Cliff3 brings up a good point about the center column. Are they a factor to consider in my case? I'm clueless about them.

    I'm also on the fence about getting the Markins M-10 or the M-20. Seems smarter to buy the M-20 to help with future lens purchases. Eventually I'll buy the 17-55 and the 70-200.

    I'm convinced on the idea of the L-Bracket now that I have a better understanding of it (Thanks Cliff3). Seems like it doesn't matter what L-Bracket I buy as long as its from RRS or Kirk. Am I correct in assuming its just a personal prefrence or does one have advantage over the other?
  8. GotMyOrangeCrus macrumors regular

    Center columns are a must for large format, not so much a necessity for 35MM or Medium Format. It just gives you the ability to raise the camera up without tipping or readjusting the tripod legs. If your shooting just 35 digital, I would probably go without it especially if price is an issue. Your tripod will be that much lighter without it.

    Stick with Gitzo! You wont regret it.
  9. Cliff3 macrumors 68000


    Nov 2, 2007
    SF Bay Area
    The 25xx Gitzo legs should be more than suitable unless you start buying exotic telephotos (300 f2.8 and up). If air travel is not much of a factor, then 3 section legs would probably be preferred over 4 section legs. I don't think the 25xx legs have a no center column option and a geared column isn't necessary for still photography, so your choice is whether to opt for the regular 'rapid rise' column or to spend more for the leveling column. The leveling column is a nice convenience, but an expensive one and your budget should be the guide there.

    I have no personal preference between RRS and Kirk - I have gear from both companies.
  10. jaduffy108 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 12, 2005

    Seems to me you're on the right track. Congrats...cuz few avoid wasting money on "affordable" tripods.

    Thom Hogan gives great advice in terms of investing big in your tripod, but I doubt Thom would suggest a 3 series gitzo for you.

    The 2530 with a Markins m20 or M10 is a great set up. Want to save some cash?...get the 2592 Basalt...great value ($350)....but the 2530 is a bit better. If you talk with B&H guys, they love the 2592 for it's price/performance ratio. I agree.

    Getting the M20... always seems worthwhile to me...just for the extra umfff for not a huge price difference. That said, the M10 is fine for lenses up to the 70-200....and worth every penny.
    L bracket for sure...Kirk or RSS ..Perfect. Look at nikonians for a used one.

    You're done. Enjoy!

    Edit: Kirk L Plate for d300 w/o grip at Nikonians for $99 as I type.

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