What CF Tripod Do You Have and Why Do You Like It?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Designer Dale, Apr 7, 2012.

  1. Designer Dale macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    #1
    I have some cash to upgrade my camera and want to add a CF tripod to the mix. The max it would be required to hold is a gripped 7D with a Sigma 120-400 lens. Main uses would be outdoor stuff like birding and landscape photography. I'd like to stay under $600.

    What do you have and why do you like that particular one?

    My current tripod is a Manfrotto 055XPROB Aluminum. It's tall and stable, but a load to carry at around 6 lbs.

    Dale
     
  2. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #2
    I have a Gitzo 2-series with three leg sections. I like that it stands very tall, so I don't have to stoop over unless the composition requires it. I also like that it has only three leg sections and that the leg locks (only 2 per leg) are very easy to open and close. One twist will get both locks open at once, and closing is only two twists per leg. The hook under the center column is also a nice feature for stabilizing the tripod in windy conditions. I also like that it's easy to take the center column out, which makes the tripod very easy to stow in a suitcase when traveling. The legs weigh only 3 lbs, so I don't hesitate to take them on long hikes with me.

    You say you want to stay under $600. People will want to know if that includes the head or not. A good head can easily take up half of that budget (or all of it).
     
  3. Designer Dale thread starter macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    #3
    I will keep my Manfrotto ball head and release plates. They are a bit heavy but get the job done. I have seen gimbal heads on some of the bird rigs and they impress me, but the prices are too far out.

    So it's legs and a column.

    Dale
     
  4. Cliff3 macrumors 65816

    Cliff3

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    #4
    I have Gitzo 1127 legs that are no longer made. I have been using them for the past 10 years or so. They are very light weight and in conjunction with my Arca B1 ballhead and various Arca-Swiss style plates they sturdily support all my gear up to but not really including my 300 F2.8 lens. It has 3-section legs that make it quick to set up and relatively stable (relative to 4-section legs). Downside: it has 3 section legs that make it a bit on the long side to fit in my 21" carry-on luggage (have to remove the head and put it in on the diagonal for this to work.

    I will complement these legs with a set of Gitzo series 2 or series 3 legs at some point, but this hasn't been a financial priority for me.
     
  5. Ruahrc, Apr 8, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2012

    Ruahrc macrumors 65816

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    #5
    Unfortunately, tripods that lend themselves well to birding and big lenses usually don't lend themselves that well to hiking and landscape. Maybe consider planning on eventually ending up with 2 tripods, one for birds and one for landscapes/hiking. Then, to keep costs under control, sacrifice weight and portability on the birding tripod. Logic being you're already carrying a large lens- what is a couple extra pounds of a heavier alloy tripod? Plus, you are more likely to stay close to your car or house when birding than when shooting landscapes, so the need for an ultralight tripod is less. Then, you can get a smaller tripod for hiking/landscape use, and focus on having it be compact and lightweight. Since it won't need to play the role of supporting a long lens for birds, you can get a smaller/lighter tripod that will be all the more portable for landscape work.

    From what I hear, the gimbal mounts are where it's at for birding. Theoretically, since shutter speeds for BIF are typically fast, I am not entirely sure how much "stability" you really need, other than enough to hold up the lens. However, I don't bird so I don't really know firsthand. What I might recommend though is looking for something you can grow into, namely a tall tripod. Something like a Gitzo 3-series XLS systematic might work well. Buying used might get you below your budget limit. Going alloy, basalt, or even wood with this may help reduce costs too, because portability may not be as important for this application.

    If you're a serious birder, you probably want to eventually pick up a gimbal system that you can mount on it, so plan on it and get the right platform for it now. The Wimberly sidekick ($250) paired with the right ballhead can be quite economical and quite versatile, and gets you into gimbal land without breaking the bank. As you are shooting a relatively "compact" birding lens, the heavy duty setups designed for the bazookas are pretty overkill anyways. The key is that since birds usually have you pointing your lens up, you need the extra height of the "long" or "tall" tripod variants like the Gitzo XLS (you want it to be well above eye height fully extended) so you can track birds while standing straight up.

    Anyway, to answer your question, I have a Gitzo 2531, just like Phrasikleia. I use it for hiking and landscapes. Why do I like it? I too like the 3-section over the 4-section because it has 33% fewer leg locks, and is therefore a little faster/easier to manipulate in the field. The CF is lightweight so it's easier to carry when hiking, and it's well designed and well made, so I don't have to think much when using it. It's kind of hard to explain, but not having to think about things like "well if I extend the legs too far it gets wobbly" or "better not put it in the water because it might get damaged" makes using tripods immensely more enjoyable. And the more enjoyable it is to use your tripod, the more you are inclined to actually do so- a key element of the equation. The best tripod in the world is useless if you left it behind because it was too fiddly to use or too heavy to carry with you.

    Anyhow just my thoughts

    Ruahrc
     
  6. thekev macrumors 604

    thekev

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    #7
    I've managed to hike with some of the heavier manfrotto legsets and heavy ballheads. It's doable *flexes*:p
     
  7. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

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    Dec 1, 2008
    #8
    Gitzo 1541T. Bought it for its compactness and light weight, and haven't been disappointed.
     
  8. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    Oct 5, 2006
    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #9
    Manfrotto makes an ugly but relatively inexpensive gimbal head.

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&sku=554099&is=REG&A=details&Q=

    It functions like any other, even though it is butt ugly.

    Paul
     
  9. Designer Dale thread starter macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    #10
    Thanks for the comments. So far, by choices are as follows:

    Gitzo Mountaineer (GT-0531) 54/25/3

    Gitzo Explorer (GT-2531) 55/25/4

    Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 55/25.6/3.6

    Manfrotto 190 CXPRO3 48/23/2.8

    The numbers stand for: Max height w/o column / folded length / weight in pounds

    Three sections are more stable but a bit longer folded. I want short but require stability.

    My current tripod is the Manfrotto 055XBPRO in aluminum. Its weight is 5.3 pounds. One of the Gitzos looks like a winner. for some reason I like the offset column on the Explorer.

    Dale
     
  10. Laird Knox macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2010
    #11
    I'm curious why you say the Gizos look like a winer when the Mafrotto sits right in between? Besides the weight is there something you don't like about your current Manfrotto? I might be missing something but I don't see a big difference between the three.
     
  11. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #12
    The Gitzo GT-2531 is a Mountaineer, not an Explorer, and it's 3lbs, not 4. B&H link with specs.
     
  12. Designer Dale thread starter macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    #13
    This one. I don't quite understand Gitzo's numbering system. 2531 is assigned to both the Mountaineer and Explorer. That's why I included names and not just numbers. The legs are identical but the collar that connects them is different.

    I'm leaning towards the Gitzo models because they seem to have stronger leg construction. The offset riser on the Explorer intrigues me but I can't really say why. My 055XB aluminum just seems too big out in the field and the metal gets really cold in the Winter. When the check for all this clears I'll go down to Robie's Camera and handle them. That's the best way to make decisions like this. I want to keep the money local, so the camera and tripod will come from them.

    Dale
     
  13. Ruahrc, Apr 9, 2012
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2012

    Ruahrc macrumors 65816

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    #14
    I wouldn't really recommend the explorer in general. The offset column reduces stability, which only gets worse the more extreme the camera positioning gets. You want to keep the camera load on top of the tripod as much as possible, not hanging out on the end of a (wobbly) boom. For some very specialized or hardcore macro users, it may be a good bet for convenience, but not for the general user and not as a general tripod. Personally, it also looks way too fiddly to me.

    Gitzo 0-series is way, way too small/flimsy for your needs if you are thinking of putting a 400mm lens on it. I'd skip this one. Don't forget it's not just about load ratings, but really the key factor here is torsional rigidity. A small tripod can easily support a large weight, but cannot hold it steady in the torsional axis. That's where larger leg diameter really comes in to play. Gitzo only recommends 2-series tripods to be used with up to 200mm lenses, 300mm is doable but not optimal.

    Have you thought about the new 2-series systematics from Gitzo? Those are likely to be "more stable" than the mountaineers. If I were buying a new Gitzo today I would most likely end up with a systematic and not a mountaineer or explorer or traveler.

    Re: 3 vs 4 sections- AFAIK the consensus is that among modern, well-designed tripods, 4 sections is no less stable than 3. It's really more a matter of operating convenience. If you want a 4-section for compactness, don't worry about it being less stable.

    PS Gitzo's numbering system is a little weird and at times inconsistent, but here are the basics. However it only describes the parameters of the tripod legs, not necessarily the model like mountaineer or systematic.

    2-letter prefixes (usually) indicate the design. GT for mountaineers or travelers, GS for systematic. I don't know if it is still like this though.
    First digit: "series"- basically indicating diameter of the leg tubes. Larger number is bigger diameter
    Second digit: material. 3 for alloy, 5 for CF, 9(?) for basalt
    third digit: number of segments per leg
    fourth digit: model revision number- newer designs may have slight modifications but the fundamental leg geometry, etc. will be the same. One of the leg tubes on my 2531 has "2530" written on it because the tubes are the same.
    2-Letter suffixes indicate special designs. Like OT for ocean traveler, EX for explorer, LS/XLS for tall/extra extra tall, etc.
     
  14. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #15
    Oh, OK, the proper model number of that one is actually GT2531EX. The numbering system works like this:

    First digit: Series #
    Second digit: Material (5=Carbon Fiber)
    Third digit: Number of leg sections
    Fourth digit: Not sure, but I think it's the number in the series of that release.

    Then they add suffixes to denote other features, so the EX in this case denotes the articulating column of the Explorer series.

    And I agree with Ruahrc, the offset column is best for macro work and is probably terrible for birding.
     
  15. Designer Dale thread starter macrumors 68040

    Designer Dale

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    #16
    Thanks for the info, especially how to read the model numbers to find series 2 and 3. My local camera store has both Gitzo and Manfrotto CF tripods. When the check clears, I'm going to take my camera with the Sigma 120-400 on it to see how they manage the weight.

    Dale
     
  16. chrono1081 macrumors 604

    chrono1081

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    #17
    I have a Gitzo GT2541 with a Really Right Stuff BH-40 LR II ball head (I think, it doesn't say on my ball head but thats the one that matches the item picture).

    I use the L clamp for my 5D Mark II (the larger L clamp since I have a battery grip.

    Its a great setup. I like it a lot. Its lightweight yet still really sturdy.


    ...Also I just found the receipt for how much I paid for this setup 0_0; *barf*
     
  17. fcortese macrumors demi-god

    fcortese

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    #18
    FWIW, I've got the Manfrotto 055XPROB3. It's shorter than the 4 legged version, I felt it was a little more sturdier than the 4 and fits in nicely in my travel duffel bag or hard backed luggage when traveling via airplane. I've taken it out in the field with me and really have not noticed a big problem weight-wise, either with my backpack camera gear of even just carrying with my camera with one leg extended and draping it over my shoulder. I had a prior Manfrotto set up with ball head and plate, so I decided to stay with Manfrotto
     
  18. jabbott macrumors 6502

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    Nov 23, 2009
    #19
    Count me in as another Gitzo GT-2531 (Mountaineer) owner. I really like it and fully expect it to last for many years. I was also impressed with Manfrotto and Induro when I was looking. I like the Gitzo because it is rock solid and yet very lightweight.

    To protect the legs I bought some black bicycle handlebar cork and wrapped it around each leg, and used black electrical tape to secure it at the ends. Looks good and was much cheaper than dedicated leg pads. ;)
     
  19. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #20
    To protect the legs from what? I always thought leg padding was for metal tripods that get very cold to the touch in low temperatures. Why would you need that on a CF tripod?
     
  20. tmagman macrumors 6502

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    #21
    I really like my 190 CXPro4... The four leg sections make it a little bit shorter and fits on the outside of my Kata bag a little bit better for hauling around. Tad heavier than the 3 section version cause of the extra set of leg locks, but overall really nice.

    Obviously going Manfrotto or Gitzo (albeit I don't have any experience with them other than window shopping) you're not gonna go wrong. I'd just say get a nice light and basic ball head for hauling around.
     
  21. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

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    #22
    The padding also helps if you sling your tripod over your shoulder with camera attached, as it can be uncomfortable to walk like this, especially if you have a heavy camera+lens combo attached (or a bony shoulder). I have even heard of people padding only one or two of the tripod legs to keep the added weight down.

    People also like to use the padding to protect the legs from getting scuffed up when the tripod is in the folded position. I know my tripod has some minor scuffing on the largest leg section as a result of being rubbed up against this or that while folded (and usually attached to my backpack). That said, the scuffing I have accrued over a few years' usage is extremely minor, and doesn't bother me at all (it's added character!) but some people like to keep their tripods in "mint" condition and the padding can help with that.

    P.S. while we're on the subject of addons/modifications, Dale if you have not considered already, I do recommend getting tripod spikes for your new set of legs. Be it the Gitzo ones or ones you make on your own out of a bolt and washer. On softer surfaces, driving the spikes into the ground makes a big difference in terms of tripod stability. I've been happy with mine, and have even considered getting the very expensive Markins titanium spikes to shave those few grams off the added weight :).
     
  22. r.harris1 macrumors 6502a

    r.harris1

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    Denver, Colorado, USA
    #23
    I'll add my own rig for your consideration, though it does exceed your budget. I use the RRS TVC-33 with BHS-55/BHS-40, depending on lens and wimberley sidekick for birding. Good stuff. Very light (4.25 lbs without head), will hold 50lbs and has really been a great companion - absolutely rock steady. Not cheap, but not something I'll need to replace soon either and it does allow for acquiring larger lenses later as my budget allows.

    If you haven't read Thom Hogan's article on tripods, might be worth a look.
     
  23. Photoshopper macrumors regular

    Photoshopper

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    Mar 24, 2010
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    Idaho
    #24
    Can't go wrong with a Mountaineer. I also prefer 3 over 4 section, less hassle and in some cases (0531/0541) the bottom section of the 4-piece is thinner, more likely to flex.
    Had a GT1541 as an all-around, very practical for those who can only have one set of sticks. I never use the columns, I take them out to maximize rigidity and save weight.
    I've since replaced it with two others: a GT0531 strictly for long hikes in the mountains, and a RRS TVC-33, for video and heavy artillery stills. As much as I've liked my Gitzos, IMO the ReallyRightStuff tripods are amazing (and priced to match!)
     
  24. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    Where am I???
    #25
    Induro CT-213 legs with Manfrotto 498R2 ball head.

    Sturdy, light-weight, and didn't break the bank. Highly recommended.
     

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