Let's talk tripods

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Phrasikleia, Jan 12, 2010.

  1. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2008
    Location:
    Over there------->
    #1
    I'm in the market again for a tripod and am looking for some recommendations. I travel a lot by plane and also move around a lot on foot, so I would like the tripod and head to be relatively compact and fairly lightweight, especially now that the airlines have all reduced their baggage allowances for international flights. Carbon fiber appeals, but I'm not sure if it's really stable enough (I have no experience with it). My heaviest camera and lens combination right now weighs about 4.5 pounds (about 2kg).

    I'd like the head to be very good at doing both horizontal and vertical orientations. I nearly dislocated my thumb last week trying to get my little Manfrotto ballhead to stay tight enough while doing verticals. It's the smallest ballhead, and it just can't handle the weight I'm putting on it. I'm very nervous when doing verticals because it looks like the head is ready to come undone and drop the camera at any minute. I don't want to have to fight with the head to get the exact framing I want.

    My budget is around $500 max.

    Your thoughts??

    Thanks!
     
  2. wheelhot macrumors 68020

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2007
    #2
    Hmm, since compactness and weight is a decision factor for you, why don't check out the Gitzo Traveller series?

    Hmm, I'm not that familiar with tripods, but who is Gitzo Traveller competitors? Just wondering
     
  3. H2Ockey macrumors regular

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    Aug 25, 2008
    #3
  4. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    #4
    Here is what I have and I'm pleased with it. Manfrotto 055XPROB aluminum tripod 6.4 lb. weight/15.4 lb. max load. Manfrotto 488RC2 Midi Ball Head 1.5 lb. weight/18 lb. max load. The 488 has been replaced by the 498 which is 1.3 lb. in weight.

    It's a studio class beast and solid as a rock. Very good for me as I am 6 ft. tall. This would kill your travel budget, but it's what I have fwiw.

    The mini ball head is not worth it for a pro camera. The midi ball is very stable but you pay for it in weight. My Tamron 28-300 was difficult to manage on my old tilt/pan tripod but isn't going to slip with my new setup. What they really need is a carbon fiber head.

    I looked at carbon fiber and they are all they are cracked up to be. The CF version of the one I bought (read could afford) was just as stable and strong as the aluminum one while one lb. lighter.

    Your 7D with the 100 mm macro you use a lot is a combined 3 lb. in weight. The Manfrotto 190 CF (carbon fiber) weighs 2.8 lb. and has a max load of 11 lb. The Aluminum version of the 190 weighs 4 lb. and has the same max load.

    The 498 head is $120 at B&H Photo. The 190 cf is in three flavors between $250 and $325. The aluminum version is $130 or $160.

    One interesting thing the 190s will do is allow you to slide the extension out and reinsert it horizontal to the ground. The legs will extend out to very wide angles, placing the camera close to the ground. A short adapter is connected to the bottom of the regular extenuation tube and replaces it for these low angle shots.

    I know there are other manufacturers out there. This is just a bunch of info from me. Hope this helps some, I enjoyed doing the research.

    Dale
     
  5. joelypolly macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2003
    Location:
    Melbourne & Shanghai
    #5
    Benro Travel Angel 1/2 Series

    Consider the Benro Travel Angel series . I took one hiking last year and it was a pleasure to use. Cheaper than the Gitzo but of similar quality. It is a Chinese knockoff but they are trying to get away from that image. So it's kinda down to cost or brand name.
    http://benro.com/products_catalog_CarbonTravelAngelTripodKits.html
    I did a review of the 169m8 last year if you're interested.
    http://joelypolly.blogspot.com/2009/06/benro-travel-angel-review-c-169m8.html

    The weight I had on it was roughly 2.5 kg (1.7kg lens + 800g camera)
     
  6. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

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    Location:
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    #6
    If you mentioned the type of legs you have now I missed it - but if the legs are satisfactory, you could always just buy a better ballhead.

    I spent $300 on the Acratech Ultimate Ballhead - it's light (under a pound), and it'll hold anything. It is rather unconventional, but I love it.

    Now personally I paired that Acratech ballhead with a set of Bogen Manfrotto carbon fiber legs - Manfrotto 190CXPRO4 - that set me back another $300 though. The legs plus the Acratech head weigh in at a touch over four pounds total, which is darned light.

    There are decent aluminum legs that cost $100 or so less than carbon fiber. They weigh a little more, and aren't as nice to use when it's cold out.

    I'm not sure what you meant when you said "Carbon fiber appeals, but I'm not sure if it's really stable enough". Stable enough compared to what? CF is about as stable as it gets... The main problem is if your gear is significantly heavier than your tripod - but that's not CF's problem, that's any tripod's problem.
     
  7. addaminsane macrumors member

    addaminsane

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    Location:
    Midwest
    #7
    wow, $500 for a tripod, i didn't know people got that hardcore
     
  8. iBookG4user macrumors 604

    iBookG4user

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    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    #8
    That's not even the high end if you're talking about both a head and legs. They can easily go above $1000 and more.

    As for a recommendation, I'd take a good look at the Feisol CT-3401 or 3402. They are about $220 each and should fit the bill as far as how small they are. Their max load is about 20 pounds and they only weigh 2.5 pounds, so it should be a great fit. I own the CT-3301 and it works great, it can easily hold your heaviest camera combination (I've used it with Super Telephotos and it held up fine).

    In regards to the head situation, you might consider getting an L bracket. That should alleviate your worries about the camera becoming dismounted and dropping.
     
  9. maddagascar macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2009
    #9
    question, is the tripod from best buy thats carbon fiber any good?
     
  10. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #10
    My gear is significantly heavier than my tripod, and I don't find it to be a problem. What sort of problems do you see? I shoot a D3x with an L bracket off a Wimberly II head with a self-leveling base and a 400/2.8 prime, sometimes with a flash bracket and SB-800 with a Better Beamer attached. That outweighs my CF leg set by a fair amount- I changed out the base on the leg set to allow for a hook to hang gear about 3 years ago and have yet to use the hook.

    My usual "no flash" setup breaks down like this:

    1548 leg set: 4.4lbs

    D3x: 2lb, 11oz
    Battery: 4 oz
    L Bracket: 5.2 oz
    Wimberly perpendicular plate: .21 lbs
    Wimberly II: 3.09lbs
    AF-S 400mm f/2.8 II: 10.2 lbs
    Acratech self-leveling base: 8oz
    2 CF cards: 1oz

    I make that ~17.31lbs sitting on 4.4lbs of legs- I could see if the gear was significantly heavier than the weight rating of the tripod, but the weight of the tripod?
     
  11. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    #11
  12. peskaa macrumors 68020

    peskaa

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    Mar 13, 2008
    Location:
    London, UK
    #12
    Manfrotto 190CXPRO4 gets the biggest thumbs up in the world, ever, from me. Seriously, best set of portable legs I have ever owned by far. They're lovely carbon fibre so weigh very little, and have four segments (there's a 3 segment model too) which allows it to pack down small - especially for the height. The legs even have a snazzy horizontal column action, which I have actually used more than once, which by my books is a mark of a useful feature.

    Couple it with a head of your choice - I'd buy a bigger ball head, but stay away from the pistol grips (learnt this at my peril by buying one).


    The huge advantage to this set up is portability. The tripod is tiny, light, yet extends up to a pretty high height and supports a decent weight. I heartily recommend it.
     
  13. Artful Dodger macrumors 68020

    Artful Dodger

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    #13
    I have the Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber 3 Section Tripod with Q90 Column and couldn't be happier with it. Now I only have a D50 and 18-200 lens on it most of the time and it handles it fine as that's a light setup compared to some. I think I went with this set of legs because the 190 CF units were out of stock just about everywhere at the time. I ended up pairing it up with a Gitzo head which supports up to 22lbs. and it has been rock solid.
    I have no troubles when the legs are fully extended as I'm 5'9" so the center column stays lowered which works out fine. I'm not sure but the 190 probably has the same thing, a hook for a bag to help hold it down if needed on a windy day. So far I haven't needed this but it's nice to have it there just incase. The leg action is really smooth and it's been almost a year now I believe since I got the unit.
    I think either CF model would be fine for you and as far as budget, I think my legs were $350-375 from Adorama. I will say that I'm looking for a different head because while the one I have is nice I'm just use to another type so I can't say I'm 100% in love with the Gitzo at this time.
    In the end I read, listened to many here and did the buy it once plan and it paid off. Light, quick to setup, easy to clean and always stays in my car.

    Good luck and enjoy whatever model you go with :)
     
  14. John.B macrumors 601

    John.B

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2008
    Location:
    Holocene Epoch
    #14
    I have the Manfrotto 190CXPRO4 legs and their (recently discontinued) 488RC2 ballhead.

    The 190CXPRO4 is carbon fiber, has four leg sections, and at <20" it fits easily into standard sized carry-on luggage. The flip lever type leg locks make it bulkier than other leg lock systems, but you can see at a glance whether any sections aren't locked. Two things I needed in a tripod were a spirit level on the legs themselves for panos and a center section that will reliably go horizontal for macro.

    The 488RC2 ballhead has just recently been replaced with the 498RC2; I don't know all the differences. They both do 360° panos, which I consider a must-have for any ballhead. I got this partially because it used the same RC2 quick release system I'm using with my 680B monopod + 234RC swivel head. (Apropos of nuthin': the 680B also fits in a carry-on, but just barely.)

    If I replace any of this stuff -- and I'm seriously thinking about it -- it would be for Gitzo legs and a much more expensive ballhead (for backpacking probably the 1541T with the Markins Q3T, probably something like the Gitzo 2 series or 3 series for other less adventurous locations).

    PM me if you're in the used market.
     
  15. Maxxamillian macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2004
    Location:
    Utah
    #15
    I use a Gitzo Explorer--almost exclusively. It will handle your weight requirements while offering stability as well as a healthy dose of versatility.
     
  16. Phrasikleia thread starter macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2008
    Location:
    Over there------->
    #16
    Wow. Lots of replies! Thanks so much for all of the recommendations and tips.

    The Manfrotto CF legs keep coming up, and I'm curious about two differences with them. Some have three sections and some have four. Seems to me as though the ones with four would be more fussy (lots of levers to lock and unlock each time). What's the benefit of having four? Also, that tilting center column sounds too good to be true. Can it really support the camera when tilted?

    As for the travel tripods: the ones that make me have to hunch over too much are out of the question. I have an angle finder that helps a bit with lower tripod settings, but it only makes up a few inches of height. I'll squat down for macro stuff, but otherwise I don't want to stoop over unless my composition requires a lower angle; I really don't want to be forced to stoop over on a regular basis.

    westside guy, the legs I have now are the Manfrotto 190B. They're the old kind with screw knobs, and I continually have problems with one section not being tight enough and slipping down while I'm trying to work.

    iBookG4user, I'm very interested in getting an L bracket. I'd love an RRS setup, but that's way out of my budget. I will almost certainly get an L bracket at some point, but probably not right away. I'm in deep with photography expenses right now!

    Dale, I'm not sure where you're getting 3lbs. My cameras are gripped (well the 5D2 isn't yet but will be soon), and the 100mm I use a lot is the heavier L version. It's not my heaviest lens, though; that would be the 17-55, which weighs about 23oz. The 7D is the heaviest camera, and its grip adds about half again its weight. If I attach my speedlight, I'm up over 5lbs of weight. Plus, I'm very keen to get a 70-200 someday, and that would then be an even heavier lens in the mix.

    peskaa, thanks for the warning against pistol grips. Those had caught my eye, but I did wonder if they tighten well enough in a vertical orientation. I really hate it when I lose my composition because the tripod head sagged.

    John.B, good point about the pano lever. I'm not into doing panos but really like being able to adjust my horizontal positioning without changing the vertical too. Of course I'm in the used market, but only at fire-sale prices. ;) I really want to get it right this time. My last tripod/ballhead purchase was a Craigslist buy just four months ago or so...and here I am already replacing it. :eek:

    Maxxamillian, looks like the Gitzo Explorer would break the bank. I really don't want to go over $500 for both legs and head.
     
  17. Maxxamillian macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2004
    Location:
    Utah
    #17
    Save up! A tripod is something you can rely on year in and year out without having to worry about obsolescence. The extension / swivel arm on the Explorer model is a match made in heaven for your macro photo skills as also is the finesse of a screw system vs. lever release.

    Good luck in whatever you decide.
     
  18. Phrasikleia thread starter macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2008
    Location:
    Over there------->
    #18
    Yeah, you're probably right that I should save up, but I'm completely without a tripod right now. I left the other one back in Europe, and I'll be in the US for the next five months. I'd really like to get something in the next few weeks. I know, typical situation with tripod purchases, and exactly what caused me to waste money on one four months ago. :(
     
  19. John.B macrumors 601

    John.B

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    #19
    The four section version collapses down small enough to fit in a carry on. The three section version doesn't. If you fly, the four section is a better bet. If you don't, maybe the three section version is a better bet?

    FWIW, I always extend the smallest section a small bit when I'm using the tripod in less-than-ideal conditions as that keeps dirt, mud, moisture, etc. out of the leg lock mechanisms.

    The tilting section does work, but you have to pay attention to where the tipping point is. The gear hook helps add weight centered and low. The weight of the lens is obviously critical, but I've had no problems with my EF 100mm Macro USM (non-IS) lens on a 50D or 7D.
     
  20. Maxxamillian macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 16, 2004
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    Utah
    #20
    Wish I were going to be in Europe for the next five months ;)

    I have an older Manfrotto I am not using. I'd be more than happy to loan it out for five months or however long you may need it. Perhaps not the situation you were thinking of, but it would save you some money. PM me if you are interested.

    Good Luck!
     
  21. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #21
    Probably not, I've yet to see a good tripod in a retail store.

    Four sections are a trade-off between portability (the overall length of the collapsed tripod is less) and stability (the more joints, the less stable.)

    To a point, though you might want to make sure you can hang weight from the center of the tripod.

    THe problem is that the higher you go, the less stability- have you tried squatting vs. stooping? The last thing you want to do with a tripod is to raise the center column if you have one, as it again reduces stability.

    If your plan is to use it extended fully, then you should really go up one size from most of the tripods mentioned here to get the best stability- but that makes travel difficult.

    I'm a fan of the gitzo screw locks, which tend to hold very well, be easy to tighten and easy to loosen. They don't get in the way like the lever ones, and IMO do much better when there's a lot of sand, mud or grit around.

    I've been happy with Kirk's brackets, not sure how they compare price-wise though.

    Seriously, save up- it's a one-time purchase which will amortize out over as long as you shoot. Compromise in a tripod will just have you buying a new one. Even not compromising sometimes will- so take your time and spend the money.

    The last tripod I got before my current Gitzo was a Mamiya Carbon Fiber tripod- I compromised for two reasons- the store I was in didn't have the equivalent Gitzo in stock, and the Mamiya was significantly cheaper- I got about three years out of the setup, including the Gitzo ballhead that was "in my price range" that took three years to develop creep- even though I went through the "cheap tripod," "Bogen/Manfrotto not-quite-big-enough but travels well," "big, heavy, expensive wooden tripod that won't travel" thing, I still thought I could compromise in "smart" ways- I was wrong- stability-wise it tested out and worked just fine, but one leg came off and Mamiya had exited the US tripod market- haste makes waste. I go out in the wind, I go out in the weather, and I use my tripod most of the time- my Gitzo 1548 leg set was used from B&H, but they're holding up significantly better than any tripod I've owned- and I think I bought my first tripod in the early '80s. They're also more stable than anything other than the expensive German wooden legs, but way more friendly over my shoulder.

    Paul
     
  22. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #22
    Carbon fiber is one of the stiffest materials you can find.

    If you want to make a light weight tripod more stable hang a weight between the legs. A plastic shopping bag filled with rocks or water bottles works well. Given that you can do this trick you can use a much lighter tripod than you'd think.

    The "tripod law" reads as follows: Tripods can be
    1. light weight,
    2. sturdy or
    3. in-expensive
    but any one tripod can have only two of those characteristics.
     
  23. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #23
    Plastic bags tend to puncture, and can blow away when you're getting them out of a pocket, please use cloth- Scotchguarded if it's not Nylon so it doesn't hold water. It'll hold rocks better, and won't end up suffocating something if it does blow away.

    Paul
     
  24. John.B macrumors 601

    John.B

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    Holocene Epoch
    #24
    To further Paul's point: Thom Hogan's tripod page.

    Of course that's in total conflict with your budget.
     
  25. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

    Joined:
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    Location:
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    #25

    I don't actually see a problem. :D However I was trying to deduce why the OP might think carbon fiber wasn't stable enough, and all I could come up with was the possibility that there was a weight issue on an unbalanced tripod.

    I could see it being an issue on uneven ground, in theory.

    Oh, so the legs aren't adequate either - that's too bad.

    The ones I have use the flip lever.

    I've been thinking about hacking off the center column of my tripod. :D It's reversible, so you can get really low that way - but it's a pain in the neck to use it like that IMHO. I think I'd prefer to have the camera on top and just be able to drop the tripod near the ground.

    Unfortunately Manfrotto doesn't sell a short center column for my tripod (I asked).

    I spent a bit over $600, and even doing that involved making particular choices and compromises. There are leg sets from Gitzo and others that get up in the $1000 range - put an expensive head on that and you're talking real money!

    Heck, Bjørn Rørslett swears by Sachtler tripods - those can run in the $2000-$3000 range.
     

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