Tripod Advice
  • Mattyp
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    Tripod Advice

    by Mattyp » Sun Aug 24, 2014 4:00 pm

    Hey Guys and Gals,

    Im looking to upgrade my tripod as my current one was a hand-me down from my dad, is about 20yrs old and a little bit worse for wear.

    What do you use, what can you recommend and what would you steer clear of? Obviously the big names come to mind, Manfrotto, Induro.... But there is soooo much out there that it just gets a bit confusing for someone who knows very little about it.

    I'd mainly be using it for long exposures and I'd be looking at something that can go 170cm. Price range i'd be looking at around the $500 mark.

    Thanks,
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    Re: Tripod Advice

    by Dunnart » Sun Aug 24, 2014 4:37 pm

    My advice is spend up big once and save money :). You need stability for long exposures, which means you need quality.

    My advice would be to work out how much your camera and lens combo weighs, then buy a ballhead and tripod that can handle twice that weight.
    cheers

    Steve
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    Re: Tripod Advice

    by beeb » Sun Aug 24, 2014 5:11 pm

    Dunnart's advice is pretty well on the money. If the budget allows, I'd preference a tripod with carbon-fibre legs. They're extremely rigid, but a lot lighter than their aluminium counterparts. It makes a big difference to weight when you're looking at taller tripods too. I use a Manfrotto 055CXPro3 (now discontinued), but previously had a Manfrotto 055XB - which was nearly the same thing but aluminium. For D-SLR's (excluding ones with larger telephoto lenses mounted) I have had no dramas at all with either model. I have used them in the city, in the forest, in mud, on sandy beaches, wedged in rocks, in (shallow) waves, in strong and gusty winds, and even once to batter my way through a blackberry bush (that was with the aluminium model), and they're still going strong. The latches still operate, legs slide smoothly, etc... FWIW, I've actually found the carbon fibre model better in windy conditions despite the lower weight as the aluminium ones seemed to flex/wobble in strong gusts. A friend had a couple of 190-series Manfrottos, and they were a lot flimsier than the larger 055-series. Bringing us full circle back to Dunnart's comments. :mrgreen:
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    Re: Tripod Advice

    by Plays with Light » Sun Aug 24, 2014 7:45 pm

    As per normal, I am going to go against the mainstream opinion... :roll:

    I'm on a real tight budget with this photography lark and I swear by my Benro tripod. Like Tim/Beeb, mine's been through nearly every type of obstacle and is completely unscathed, apart from a couple of scratches on the powder coating finish. It's sand, dust and water proof for a third the price of a name brand one too. I'm pretty sure it's a direct ripoff of a Manfrotto from a few years back. I can't remember the exact model I got, but they are worth the investigation.

    In regard of heads, think about what sort of stuff you shoot and whether a ball-head is right for that and you. I definitely agree with the first comment from Dunnart to double the weight of your kit in regard of the ball-heads ability to cope with wonky angles, etc..
    Feedback and honest, constructive criticism is greatly appreciated.
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    Re: Tripod Advice

    by W G » Sun Aug 24, 2014 9:46 pm

    Buy any tripod you like as long as it is a GITZO (or maybe Foba if you can find one). I have had them all over the years and they are all shit except for Gizto. They have a range of sizes with a weight to suit.

    Another thing to keep in mind, go for heavy aluminium rather than carbon fibre.

    MASS is what keeps your kit stable and vibration free.

    As for heads, the only Manfrotto product that I use is their geared heads — ideal for precise camera alignment in architecture. For generl DLSR wotk I use a Gitzo Magnesium Ball Head. The Sinar has its own tripod head made by Foba which is perfect and strong.
    Walter Glover

    "Photography was not a bastard left by science on the doorstep of art, but a legitimate child of the Western pictorial tradition." —Robert Galassi
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    Re: Tripod Advice

    by beeb » Sun Aug 24, 2014 10:20 pm

    W G wrote:Buy any tripod you like as long as it is a GITZO (or maybe Foba if you can find one). I have had them all over the years and they are all shit except for Gizto. They have a range of sizes with a weight to suit.

    Another thing to keep in mind, go for heavy aluminium rather than carbon fibre.

    MASS is what keeps your kit stable and vibration free.

    As for heads, the only Manfrotto product that I use is their geared heads — ideal for precise camera alignment in architecture. For generl DLSR wotk I use a Gitzo Magnesium Ball Head. The Sinar has its own tripod head made by Foba which is perfect and strong.



    Hahaha, I knew I/we'd get a response like this from you. I've seen similar responses from you in the past (not a criticism, everyone's entitled to their opinion), but out of curiousity - What makes you preference the Gitzos over the other major brands?

    The thing that puts me off them is the price. I could completely understand them for anything bigger than a D-SLR and (sub-telephoto) lens setup, as I think that's where most of the common commercial brands like Manfrotto would start to wave a little white flag - but for everything I've done the 055 series Manfrottos have been either good performers in extreme conditions, or total overkill for run-of-the-mill shooting - and for nearly double the pricetag on the equivelant model Gitzos - I just can't see the advantage. I'm happy enough to put money into the hobby (and photography is still just a hobby for me), but I just haven't had a drama with either of my Manfrotto tripods. Don't get me wrong, I'd avoid using a 190 series Manfrotto whenever possible as they tend to wobble around a fair bit when extended (and because I'm 6ft+ tall and I tend to shoot quite a bit at my eye level), but the 055 series (particularly the carbon one) are so rigid it's not funny. With a broad footing, no play in the latches or leg pivots, the only thing that could be an improvement is the centre column. I can see the Gitzos are a great product, and where they fit into the market, but for a D-SLR they just seem like a unneccessary luxury. Not trying to get all ranty, but I think the Manfrottos and some of the other recently created brands are a fair bit better than "shit".

    As discussed in the past, carbon can be a real advantage if you're out walking and carrying the thing by hand (it's why I preference it), as lightweight can mean that the tripod comes along instead of getting left in the car or house. I got to the point where I just couldn't be bothered taking the aluminium 055 out, as the extra 0.8Kg was just too much to sling under the arm on top of several kilo of camera and lens(es) in the bag over the shoulder. It doesn't sound like much of a differenec, but you feel it very quickly when you're walking a few kilometers through the forest!

    Still each to their own, and it's one of those issues that's always contentious... :wink:
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    Re: Tripod Advice

    by Doug » Mon Aug 25, 2014 12:39 am

    I'm about due for a new tripod as well.
    Here is my current one reviewed in a 1971 edition of Popular Mechanics. :)
    Image

    I've been looking at the Sirui range, which have a lot of similarities to the Benro tripod Alex mentioned.
    Either this one
    http://www.mainlinephoto.com.au/prod1074.htm

    or
    http://www.mainlinephoto.com.au/prod1181.htm
    Neither are feather weights in the range at around 2kg without a head.
    I just wonder how fiddly I would find not having a centre column (as in the second one) for getting the desired height without too much fine tuning the leg adjustments.
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    Re: Tripod Advice

    by Plays with Light » Mon Aug 25, 2014 8:46 am

    A few things I did forget to mention include looking at a tripod with a short extendible centre column. If you need height, get it from thick (28mm and wider) and sturdy legs rather than a long and flimsy centre column. Mine only extends about 20cm or so, whilst I can still shoot at eye height (5' 11".) Also look at how many leg sections there are, does it have five parts to each leg, four, or maybe three? The less, the more sturdy, but the longer it will be to carry.

    There are some good Aluminium/Magnesium alloy legs out there, with great stability and they are not too weighty, well, around the 2-3kg mark... Without a head... My tripod and head is nearing the 5kg mark... But for the stability, I'll keep it!
    Feedback and honest, constructive criticism is greatly appreciated.
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    Re: Tripod Advice

    by Plays with Light » Mon Aug 25, 2014 8:50 am

    Doug wrote:I just wonder how fiddly I would find not having a centre column (as in the second one) for getting the desired height without too much fine tuning the leg adjustments.


    I reckon it could become a pain in the @$s, if you were in a hurry to grab a shot, but, with time to spare it could be more stable again. I did look at something similar, without a centre column, but was swayed by the ability to use the centre column upside down for some macro and that I can literally have the camera mounted and get it at ground level, with the legs going out so wide.
    Feedback and honest, constructive criticism is greatly appreciated.
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    Re: Tripod Advice

    by W G » Mon Aug 25, 2014 9:27 am

    Tim,

    For me, there is only one purpose to a tripod and that is to form a rock solid support for camera kit. The fabrication of the Gitzo and Foba is such that that purpose is served to perfection. I have had all sorts of Manfrottos right up to the massive http://www.manfrotto.com/super-professional-tripod-mk2. It was very big and heavy but still did not offer what a big Gitzo does. Reason being the materials. The legs are light aluminium tubing which is highly resonant. I got shot of 'em all pretty much on that basis.

    Mass raises its head again. I do have a carbon fibre Gitzo cine tripod which is okay for DSLR use but for the 4x5 it is metal all the way.

    Centre columns are another conundrum. Despite having flat plates and levelling heads for the Gitzos I do find I use the centre column much of the time. Reason being that the legs can get you to a ball park of the ideal height but minor adjustment are handy in fine tuning viewpoint. (I dearly wish I still had my geared centre column for the big Gitzo bit sadly they are no longer made and I flogged my last one a decade or so ago. Centre columns are not an idel to gain extra height — invariably you ed up with a pumpkin balance on a knitting needle.

    Doug, I see issues with the illustrated tripod. A good solid base requires a massive casting from which the legs splay with solid hinges. My experience with tripods such as the one in the illo is that the legs develop a wobble over time.

    Of course, in an ideal world a studio stand (Foba, again) is the ideal in the studio but your really do need a proper big studio with a solid floor to justify one.

    At the end of the day we all use what works for us.
    Walter Glover

    "Photography was not a bastard left by science on the doorstep of art, but a legitimate child of the Western pictorial tradition." —Robert Galassi
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    Re: Tripod Advice

    by beeb » Mon Aug 25, 2014 6:56 pm

    W G wrote:Tim,

    For me, there is only one purpose to a tripod and that is to form a rock solid support for camera kit. The fabrication of the Gitzo and Foba is such that that purpose is served to perfection. I have had all sorts of Manfrottos right up to the massive http://www.manfrotto.com/super-professional-tripod-mk2. It was very big and heavy but still did not offer what a big Gitzo does. Reason being the materials. The legs are light aluminium tubing which is highly resonant. I got shot of 'em all pretty much on that basis.

    Mass raises its head again. I do have a carbon fibre Gitzo cine tripod which is okay for DSLR use but for the 4x5 it is metal all the way.

    Centre columns are another conundrum. Despite having flat plates and levelling heads for the Gitzos I do find I use the centre column much of the time. Reason being that the legs can get you to a ball park of the ideal height but minor adjustment are handy in fine tuning viewpoint. (I dearly wish I still had my geared centre column for the big Gitzo bit sadly they are no longer made and I flogged my last one a decade or so ago. Centre columns are not an idel to gain extra height — invariably you ed up with a pumpkin balance on a knitting needle.

    Doug, I see issues with the illustrated tripod. A good solid base requires a massive casting from which the legs splay with solid hinges. My experience with tripods such as the one in the illo is that the legs develop a wobble over time.

    Of course, in an ideal world a studio stand (Foba, again) is the ideal in the studio but your really do need a proper big studio with a solid floor to justify one.

    At the end of the day we all use what works for us.

    It looks like we are actually agreeing in our thought process here, but looking at the same topic from opposite viewpoints in terms of "real-world" uses - You opt for weight and solidity for your larger cameras, I opt for light-weight and portability as it suits my needs better. If I was shooting medium or large-format, I'd be lugging around a heavyweight aluminium tripod too. :wink: Cheers for the added detail also Walter, hope I didn't tread on any toes. :)


    W G wrote:I do have a carbon fibre Gitzo cine tripod which is okay for DSLR use...

    On this - I have looked at the carbon fibre material used in the legs/center columns of Manfrotto and Gitzo tripods, and I have to say I'd be amazed if they're not coming off the same production line. Identical texture, weave, colour, finish, etc... It makes we want to saw through a coupe of them an compare the cross-sections! :lol: What you say of the aluminium legs on the Manfrottos sounds spot on though.
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    Re: Tripod Advice

    by Doug » Mon Aug 25, 2014 8:45 pm

    Plays with Light wrote:
    Doug wrote:I just wonder how fiddly I would find not having a centre column (as in the second one) for getting the desired height without too much fine tuning the leg adjustments.


    I reckon it could become a pain in the @$s, if you were in a hurry to grab a shot, but, with time to spare it could be more stable again. I did look at something similar, without a centre column, but was swayed by the ability to use the centre column upside down for some macro and that I can literally have the camera mounted and get it at ground level, with the legs going out so wide.


    I thinks yours and WG's comment regarding non centre columns have talked we into going with the one that has a column.
    I'm find I use a tripod less and less, a habit I want to change and anything that makes it even a little harder than it needs to be I want to avoid.

    I'm used to just one extension per leg which is mainly why I want to go with a three segment leg.
    Less things to tighten, but still able to use minimal column extension.
    Good point about the lowest section being a larger diameter when there are fewer segments.
    My current tripod though quick to set up, (particularly since you can do lock//unlock from the top of the leg) suffers from the need to use more than is desirable column extension.

    Something new to the SIRUI N-3203X model since I first looked at it is that the centre column is no longer a long and short version where you have to screw the head mount off the long column and screw it to the short one.
    Instead it can be left as a long column (and just use it with short extension) then when you want to splay the legs right out for low work where a full length column would get in the way, instead of a swop you can just unscrew the lower 2/3's of the column off leaving the short section still in place holding the head.
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    Re: Tripod Advice

    by Mattyp » Mon Aug 25, 2014 9:47 pm

    Whoa, lots of great info there, thanks guys.
    I'm thinking I may have to raise my budget a tad, but I'm no pro photographer so will probably keep to a sturdy alluminium tripod. Although I do occasionally throw it in a backpack and jump on my bike, but i think the extra weight is negligible.

    Now, Ball head Mounts... why must there be soooo many different types. I've never used one personally, my trusty old tripod just had the pan/tilt options, however I can see the benefits of a ball mount in ease of composing/leveling a shot. Probably also better for panning/tracking for video which I have played around with a bit.
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    Re: Tripod Advice

    by Doug » Mon Aug 25, 2014 10:21 pm

    W G wrote:
    Doug, I see issues with the illustrated tripod. A good solid base requires a massive casting from which the legs splay with solid hinges. My experience with tripods such as the one in the illo is that the legs develop a wobble over time.

    Of course, in an ideal world a studio stand (Foba, again) is the ideal in the studio but your really do need a proper big studio with a solid floor to justify one.

    At the end of the day we all use what works for us.


    I did have a double take at the base and its attachment points.
    All bases and leg lugs on Sirui tripods are forged, so the strength and wear resistance could be deceptive due to the density and grain structure of a forging.

    This one from their broad cast range might be more to your liking with large format.:) http://en.zssirui.com/videos.php?videoid=22

    Thanks as always for the benefit of your experience.

    Sorry for using your thread Mattyp for my own line of questions, but it all adds to the info pool I guess.
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    Re: Tripod Advice

    by W G » Mon Aug 25, 2014 10:49 pm

    Doug,

    I realise now what the 1971 review was — I worked for a guy who had Slick Quick Sets. He also had the Samson model with a geared view camera top. The head was okay but I was never too impressed with the sticks.

    I used to use a Miller cine and video tripod but they work better with cine than stills And the spreader can be a pain on rough terrain.
    Walter Glover

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