Possibly naive and silly tripod questions

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Westside guy, Dec 6, 2007.

  1. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

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    Oct 15, 2003
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    #1
    Hey all,

    I currently have an el-cheapo, not-really-a-camera-tripod that was given to me some years ago. Although I don't shoot off the tripod all that much, I do it just enough that I'm thinking it's time for me to upgrade to the real deal. I'm trying to follow Thom Hogan's maxim about buying right the first time so it's only expensive versus horridly expensive overall. :D

    The times I've used a tripod, it's generally been for wide-angle stuff. I don't have any interest in birding, so the biggest lens I can conceive ever owning would be on the scale of the Nikkor 80-400 - or let's say the 70-200 f/2.8, with perhaps a teleconverter, to be safe. I don't currently have either, and my next lens purchase will likely be the 24-70 f/2.8 (so the long lens purchase is a ways off).

    So here are my (probably uninformed) questions:

    - If I'm not going to do a lot of backcountry travelling, what would be the downside of saving a couple hundred bucks and buying, say, Gitzo's aluminum alloy legs versus carbon fiber?

    - Is the ballhead-to-legs connection standardized, or do brand X legs have to go only with brand Y ballheads?

    - Other than the legs and some brand of ballhead (well, and camera plates of course), are there other required pieces to this puzzle?

    I will admit to being intrigued by the Acratech ballheads.

    Thanks for any help/instruction you can provide!
     
  2. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #2
    Handling in the cold is the biggest one. Metal gets a lot colder than CF or wood.

    There are two thread sizes, most everything has a reversible screw with one size on each end.

    Camera plates, lens plates, and a head is about it. The Acratech heads are nice and very easy to clean.
     
  3. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    Jan 5, 2006
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    Redondo Beach, California
    #3
    Gitzo? Why not save a few more bucks and go with Bogen? Both are first quality tripods that will last forever but Gitzo is known for it's lighter weight while Bogen's are known for strength per dollar spent. Carbon legs fall into the "exotic" category in any case. If you are worried about freezing your hands in winter the standard cure is pipe insulation. The kind that plumbers use. he foam insulation also makes a nice pad for carrying the tripod over your shoulder even in summer.

    Do NOT buy a ball head for wide angle landscapes. The cheaper three axis pan/tilt heads work better. The whole point of a ball head is that you can track some moving object and then quickly lock the head, snap the shot, unfreeze the head and continue tracking. If the subject is static, what you care about is framing and composition. Moving just one axis at a time is better for static subjects. Good ball heads are very expensive as they are hard to make. For thinks like macroes ball heads are not fun to work with, far beter to tweek just one axis at a time. With a ball head you have to get tilt, pan and yaw al perfect at the same time. A massive pan tilt like the Bogen #47 is cheap and sturdy enough for even the massive lens or even a 4x5 camera. The #47 has a very usefull feature, a built in bubble level. So my landcapes will have a level horizon Eventually you will want two or three heads. Buy the most useful one first

    You have spec's out a tripod that is good for back country wildlife photography. (ball head on carbon legs) but if you are shooting non-moving subjects near the road you can use heavier legs and a cheaper and stronger head and save a pile of money.
     
  4. Westside guy thread starter macrumors 601

    Westside guy

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    #4
    Thank you both for your replies.

    Do the pan/tilt heads also work okay for portraits? I don't do a lot of that, but I do shoot them on occasion (mainly for work).
     
  5. avincent52 macrumors regular

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    Nov 6, 2007
    #5
    You might look at the Tiltall tripod.
    They seem to be in the vicinity of $100. I recall paying like $75 for my Leitz Tiltall 25 years ago. These new ones seem to be the same design, and roughly the same construction but made in China.
    Mine is remarkably stable, sturdy and precise in operation, much better than Sliks ang Bogen I've used. Not the lightest thing in the world, but they really do the job. B&H stocks them.
    It has a 3-axis pan-tilt head and I like it better than a ball head for everything, including portraits.

    http://www.kk.org/cooltools/archives/000122.php

    I've got a Gitzo monopod and they're also beautifully built pieces in a different price range
    best
    Allen
     
  6. ChrisA macrumors G4

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    #6
    My opinion is that ball heads are for tracking moving subject. For any other purpose the pan/tilt head is better.
     
  7. Mr. B macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2005
    #7
    for something like a tripod I would recommend buying used.

    (actually I would recommend that for alot of things, but still)

    Tripods are pretty sturdy things, and like you said, the good ones last virtually forever.

    so, since pros often upgrade to lighter newer materials, and hobbyists often have to sell their equipment as they get bored or run out of money, there are always good tripods on the market for much less than they would cost new, and with no loss in functionality.

    If you're willing to have a completely superficial ding or two on the outside and save a hundred or two hundred dollars that would be the way to go.
     
  8. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem

    GoCubsGo

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    Feb 19, 2005
    #8
    The point is to invest in a great tripod now. It's another one of those long term investments. Upgrading from el cheapo to la cheapo is silly. While you believe your tripod is stable, I'd reckon given the right combination of lens + camera it's not nearly as stable as you think.


    Used is a great way to go actually. My next tripod will be CF and it will probably be used to save a buck.
     
  9. gRobertW macrumors newbie

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    Dec 7, 2007
    #9
    The first tripod I had was a Tiltall--and while the construction was strong and heavy, Tiltall was a good name for it. I found the section twist-locks to be very slow to set up and hard to turn, and as the tripod got older they became very difficult to lock. I finally got rid of it when I had my Hasselblad sitting on it and the one leg section collapsed (because the lock was not tight enough), crashing the camera to the ground.

    I would look for a tripod with lever locks on the sections--they are much quicker to set up and have a much more positive locking action. I've always preferred the Manfrotto design (I think they're called Bogen in the U.S.)

    An important design feature of these tripods is the fact that the parts are not just cheap, stamped metal. They are well made and the parts are replaceable if they wear out.

    I'm currently using a Carbon Fiber Manfrotto and I find the light weight combined with strength is wonderful for carrying for any kind of extended distances (I also prefer a ballhead for most uses--it's very quick to adjust--one knob instead of three). The 3-lever pan-and-tilt is ideal for video use--for live panning, for example.
     
  10. avincent52 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2007
    #10
    I don't mean to be difficult, but I think that spending $1700 is a little, well, crazy IMHO.
    If you're shooting baboons for National Geographic go for it.
    But it seems to me that a $1,700 tripod is a little like a 300mm 2.8 lens, a specialized tool for the few pros who need it.
    A tripod can be cheap, sturdy, light. Pick two. I'll pick sturdy and cheap like the Tiltall (or for that matter the Manfrotto that Robert likes but I can take or leave)
    Think about it. How many great photographs--I mean MOMA great--have been taken with a 35 mm on a tripod. The great 35 mm stuff (Robert Frank, Gary Winograd, Cartier Bresson) was all about the being free to capture the moment.
    Ansel Adams and Edward Weston used tripods. And view cameras.
    FWIW, I've worked with lots of professional photographers. And outside the studio I can't ever recall a single one using a tripod. Even the guys who carry their own lighting tend to hand hold the camera, or at most crack out a monopod for long telephoto work (and to whack other shooters who encroach on their space.)
    Just my $.02 and good luck with whatever you decide.
    Allen
     
  11. Westside guy thread starter macrumors 601

    Westside guy

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    #11
    You're not being difficult; I appreciate hearing all perspectives on this.

    BTW (and I realize this doesn't affect the meat of your argument) we're talking probably $800-$1000 less than that, even if I get the higher-end of the range where I'm currently investigating.
     
  12. gRobertW macrumors newbie

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    Dec 7, 2007
    #12
    I totally agree, spending $1700, or even $700 on a tripod is a bit crazy. When I spent $500 on the CF Manfrotto I thought I was crazy because I don't use it all the time, by any means. But for me, light weight and sturdy were important issues. If it's too heavy, I'll never take it with me, anyway. But there are times when a tripod is a very useful tool. And that's all these things are--tools to help you create.

    I've worked as a professional photographer, both in the studio and on location. And Vincent is correct. Outside the studio, I've spent much more time without a tripod than with one. Depending on the type of photography I'm doing on a particular day, a monopod, or a simple beanbag, or a steadying wall, may be all I need. But other times, I may need a $1700 (or $200) tripod.

    And then, given today's lens technology, an Image Stabilizer lens (or camera) replaces a tripod in many instances--but not all. Those other times, only a good tripod will do.

    But you use whatever is needed for the situation at hand. If you can't use a higher ISO setting or a faster shutter speed, if you want a solid image then you need a solid support. You just have to decide how often that situation arises with your type of photography, and what it's worth to you.

    Good luck with your decision. And thanks for the question, it's provoked some good discussion.
     
  13. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #13
    The biggest waste of money is a tripod that you don't take with you. Forget cheap vs expensive. For any casual user, any light to mid-weight tripod that's quick to set up beats all else. You can get this in many forms, but Manfrotto probably will give you the best bang for your buck.

    I don't know much about heads, or the difference between similar ball heads from different companies, but what I really want is the Manfrotto 322 RC2 head. I think I want the 190 XPROB legs because they're light, "fold up" small, and may be something I'll carry with me. Anything heavier, and I may not.
     
  14. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    Northern/Central VA
    #14
    You'll find that if you're a methodical shooter, you'll gain in terms of both sharpness and composition for relatively static scenes if you shoot off a good, solid tripod.

    Not everyone is concerned with getting the ultimate sharpness, and not everyone slows down enough to really check a scene out- but anyone who's shot large format will tell you that they pay a lot more attention to each shot because they're forced to slow down and really look.

    I too prefer shooting a ball head to a pan/tilt head, even with medium format bodies. These days though, I shoot off a gimbal head. I've got Berlebach wooden legs, Bogen/Manfrotto aluminum legs and Gitzo carbon fiber legs. My order of preference is CF, wood, aluminum in terms of use in the field.

    If you're shooting people, it's easier to interact if you're mobile, and sometimes it's easier to make micro adjustments at the camera than to keep nit-picking a model. For large vertical changes, a tripod does't work well at all. By the same token, shooting panos without a tripod is silly- so a lot depends on how and what you shoot.

    The first time I spent real money on support, I found it a lot easier to carry everywhere ;)
     
  15. Clix Pix macrumors demi-goddess

    Clix Pix

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    #15
    I've always associated pan/tilt heads with videography, not still photography. Most photographers I know use Gitzo legs and a ballhead for many shooting situations and a gimbal head for wildlife/birding situations (long lenses). Many use a ballhead and a macro rail when doing macro work.

    Several years ago I got a pair of Manfrotto carbon fibre legs and they were fine, but I allowed the salesman to talk me into a "geared head," which was a BIG mistake. I soon came to hate that thing and subsequently stopped using a tripod even in situations where I really needed one. Finally I tried again, this time going with what I'd learned many people really liked and used: Gitzo legs (1325; they are now superceded by newer models) and Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead. That made all the difference for me!! My cameras now have L-brackets which make it easy to slide right into the BH-55 clamp on the tripod and position either in landscape mode or portrait mode. I'm shooting quickly and easily and the ballhead responds to my touch immediately. In situations where I need to shoot wildlife or birds I use a Wimberley gimbal head on 1325 Gitzo legs and each of my long collared lenses has an appropriate Wimberley plate for quickly fitting the camera and lens into position in the gimbal head and shooting away....

    The Wimberley and RRS systems work together because they both use Arca-Swiss type plates and clamps. Bogen-Manfrotto has a different type of quick-release setup and personally I never found it to be very quick or satisfactory.

    My setup isn't cheap but it is one which I will be happily using for years to come. Take a look at Really Right Stuff http://www.reallyrightstuff.com and also at various tripods in your local shop. Experiment with the way the legs open. Some people prefer the snaps, others prefer the twist style. There are lots of options out there -- choose wisely and you will be satisfied for a long time. More importantly, your images will improve because you're using tools to stabilize the camera, resulting in much sharper images.
     
  16. Westside guy thread starter macrumors 601

    Westside guy

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    #16
    I see that KEH has a couple used previous generation Gitzo 1228 tripods available. How much difference is there, really, between the older and newer generation tripods (I'm guessing it's minor)?

    It's been great reading the varying opinions on this! Even if I do end up spending more than others might want to do, I hope this thread will prove useful to others down the road.
     
  17. Cashaw macrumors newbie

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    Nov 25, 2007
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    USA
    #17
    322 Rc2

    I use this with both my tripod, which I use for night shooting, and my monopod, which I use for low light situations, or when I need to move fast, plus a good walking stick. Try the Manfrotto monopod with the attachable feet. I really like this the 322 RC2. Smooth roll, and the tension can be adjusted. Since I am left handed, it truly nice
     
  18. avincent52 macrumors regular

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    Nov 6, 2007
    #18
    Here's a non-rhetorical question? How durable is the carbon fiber in tripod legs. In my experience with carbon fiber in other applications--bike frames, ski poles, etc--it's a break-not-bend material, and it's much more prone to snap and shred after it gets a couple of nicks in it.
    Materials technology is constantly changing, so I'm wondering if this is still true.
    One good thing about investing money in a tripod--it's not going to become obsolete like a camera. I don't think I'd hesitate to buy a last-year's-model Gitzo.
    Or I'd search on the classifieds on a site where amateur shooters took Thom Hogan's advice, but decided they didn't really like tripods--or even photography--and are selling a used-three-times Gitzo-RRS combo for 40 cents on the dollar. It's a win-win for you. If you like it and use it, you've still got many hundreds to toss at a new lens. if you don't you can sell it for what you paid.
    Good luck.
    best
    Allen
     
  19. avincent52 macrumors regular

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    Nov 6, 2007
    #19
    One more thing

    One more thing, Westside. (Mad props to the hood, yo!)
    You might check out Nikonians as a place to buy gear. Both the "Want to Buy" and "Want to Sell" forums had Gitzos for sale in the last day or so.
    I can't comment about the prices or models, but it's worth a shot.
    FWIW, I bought a perfect D200 (3400 clicks, boxes, receipt, the strap wasn't even wrinkled) for less than $900 once you factor in overnight shipping, a card, and a card reader. I'm well pleased.
    The site seems to be frequented by the kind of people you want to buy from--prosumers who don't use their equipment a lot, take care of it when they do, and are always thinking about upgrading to the next big thing.
    best
    Allen
     
  20. Westside guy thread starter macrumors 601

    Westside guy

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    #20
    Word up, avincent52!

    You know, I visit Nikonians almost every day - yet didn't even think about their marketplace forums. Thanks!

    (I love the discussions on Nikonians; but their forum software sucks rocks.)
     
  21. avincent52 macrumors regular

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    Nov 6, 2007
    #21
    Big up to you, my main man W.

    Just bought an 18-70 there. The seller called me up all worried about some cleaning mark on the lens before he shipped it. There isn't even any dust on it.
    You do have to register at silver level to get to WTB/WTSell, but you can get access with a trial membership.
    I found what I needed lens wise and body wise within a day or two.
    thanks
    Allen
     
  22. mtbdudex macrumors 68000

    mtbdudex

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2007
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    SE Michigan
    #22
    This thread is timely for me as well.
    My 25 year old lightweight backpacking tripod finally needs replacement.

    I'm looking for a relatively compact when folded, around 15 - 17 " tall, yet can have extended height of say 55" - 60", up to 5 pound capability.

    I'm willing to pay up to $140, so the CarbonFiber leg ones are out of my price range.

    I actually bought from BestBuy this one, Sunpak - Platinum Plus TravelLite 56.5" Tripod
    http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage.jsp?skuId=7302821&st=tripod&lp=4&type=product&cp=2&id=1118842310364 ,
    [​IMG]
    however it's kinda shakey on its 5 extended legs, so I am returning it tomorrow.


    Any suggestions are appreciated.
     
  23. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #23
    Yeah, I've always wondered about that, because I personally think they only use carbon fiber for the same reasons they use it in expensive car interiors.......for marketing and bragging rights.

    Carbon fiber is, to my knowledge, overrated for many applications. You just won't see the benefit of CF in many applications, and yet you pay for it. People hear the words "carbon fiber", and just pull out their wallets willingly for it. It's a strong material, but not for every application. For tripods or any application where the weight is being put along the length of the material (eg: along the length of the cylindrical legs of a tripod), it's likely stronger, and I think that's why it makes sense for tripods and monopods. However, kick a sheet of carbon fiber, and it's as fragile as an aluminium can of Coke, except it'll snap instead of bend because CF is not malleable. I'm not a materials expert though.

    With tripods and monopods, carbon fiber seems like a good idea, although for the weight, a regular monopod is small and light enough. That leaves tripods. Is the light weight worth the high cost for a tripod? I guess it is if you want the lightest tripod for travelling. However, in many ways, you're better off getting one of those cheaper 7-series Manfrotto tripods that weigh very little, and fold very small. Fantastic for travelling too, I bet. The carbon fiber legs probably hold 2.5 kg or 4 kg, but so do the 7-series carbon fiber legs (although the heaviest is probably only 2.5 kg.....not sure).

    For travelling, I'd rather get the 190XPROB or 190XB legs. They're light, but also heavy enough to make themselves useful. Tripods that are too light don't make excellent tripods, so if a 190XPROB was made from CF, I don't think it'd be as good. It'd be lighter, but not by too much.

    Anyone want to chime in?
     
  24. cutsman macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2006
    #24
    I just received my Feisol CT-3442 CF tripod last week. I got it with the CB-50D ball head which has a separate pan lock and allows the legs to fold up around the head, reducing the folded length even more.

    It's very light... head and tripod combo weigh about 1.7kg in total... with a folded length of 48cm. The legs can support up to 10kg. The best part is that despite it's short folded length, once fully extended, it is tall enough for me (I'm 6'1") without a centre column. This wasn't the cheapest setup by any means, but a relative bargain as far as CF tripods go. Despite not having had a chance to use it much since I got it, it does seem to be built extremely solidly and Feisol has probably the best customer service I've ever experienced.
     
  25. theblueone macrumors member

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    Aug 5, 2007
    #25
    I want to know where you get sheets of CF cheap enough to kick.:D
     

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