Probably been belted a thousand times over but I am looking at my first decent tripod and am still as confused as ever after researching here and elsewhere on the net.
In a nut shell I am looking at something to accommodate my height (6') and potential overall load (if I ever get all of my wishlist) of 1D body + 500mm lens. At times I may have a flash on board.
I see this as the future maximum so am setting up the basics for that even if never achieved. Budget will be around the $350 mark. I was considering the Vanguard aluminiums (don't necessarily need carbon fibre unless there are other reasons to buy other than weight advantage). Then there's the Manfrotto 055XPROB + 808RC4 head (but nearly $600rrp). Compactness is not a real requirement for me either (although I would like to be able to attach it to a backpack). I am not too concerned about carrying a lot of weight, more the solid build and flexibility (to get those close to the ground shots).
I have put a lot in here though hopefully not being too unreasonable.