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Thread: In the market for new tripod - what type??

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    In the market for new tripod - what type??

    Hi all,

    It's time my cheap and wobbly Velbon got the flick, so am looking at investing in a decent tripod. I've looked through a number of threads here, and have sort of sharpened my view of what to get, but before I suggest, can you tell me what you would get if you were in the market for a tripod as well. I guess I'm willing to pay up to $250-ish.

    My uses are fairly general. So I want an all-purpose tripod. For landscapes, product photography, studio shoots... something that can achieve most purposes.

    Main questions
    - preferred brands? which are the better/worse brands?
    - buy a complete tripod, or separately investigate tripod frames with attached head piece?
    - what are the better heads to use? I have looked at pistol grip and ball heads, and am unsure if these are that practical to use. It would be nice to fine-tune the position of a camera without completely unlocking a free-moving head.
    - how much compromise is there in a lightweight (but good quality) tripod, versus a chunkier (but maybe weaker quality) tripod for travel?

    I'm heading off to a photo store now to ask the same questions, but I'd like to hear the opinion of others that are not trying to sell me the latest and greatest.

    Thanks in advance, everyone.
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  2. #2
    Ausphotography Regular
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    Ah yes, the search for a tripod that is inexpensive, light and strong!

    You can basically have any two of the three.

    If you really want the best, then a Gitzo CF tripod is the type to aim for, but it will blow your budget considerably.

    Manfrotto make some good quality, less expensive tripods, I believe the 055 series is pretty good, but heavier than the Gitzo.
    Also some of the Chinese manufacturers have sort of Gitzo CF copies, I have heard some good reports of them. Look for Feisol CT3372 or Benro for example.
    Get a tripod that is tall enough without having to wind up a centre column, they get very unstable.

    If you want a head that you can adjust your camera position without locking or unlocking anything, a GOOD quality ball head is the way to go. RRS and Markins have some good ones. Not cheap.
    The advantage of a good ball head is thay have a 'sweet spot', where you can adjust the lock so the camera is easy to move, but stays where you put it. Don't get a cheap ball-head, they will just lead to frustration.
    An inexpensive pan head is better than a cheap ball-head.

    After thinking about it for months, I finally took a very deep breath and ordered a Gitzo GT3541LS tripod and Markins head. I'm not sorry I did. I will probably not need to buy another tripod again.

    Search on this site for more information, many others have gone through the same process you are going through.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by davidd; 16-11-2011 at 12:49pm.
    David

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    I too agree with the Gitzo tripods, and I'm saving up for one now.

    However, I am currently using a Vanguard 263AT tripod and Manfrotto RC pistol grip heads (as well as a geared head), and it works quite well, as long as I'm not using my 100-400 lens and a grip on my 60D.
    With all that weight on it, it can shake a bit if you're not careful, but I can still get perfect photos using it this way.
    The Vanguard is well made, and quite solid, and has the fantastically good feature that the column can be pullled up and swung into any horizontal positon and the legs can lay flat and a couple of other positions as well.
    At just on 2kg, it is also very light for an aluminium tripod, yet quite sturdy, and is hardly heavier than many CF tripods.
    You should be able to pick one up for less than $200 locally or even cheaper if you buy grey.

    I am 5'10" tall, and find the height of the Vangaurd to be perfect for me.
    With the legs extended, and the column down, the viewfinder is right in front of me and I don't need to stoop.

    I have both the Manfrotto RC 324 and the RC 327 heads, and they work well, but you do have to squeeze the trigger to move the head, but you can adjust the tension.
    If you aren't going to use BIG lenses on them, the smaller one is better to use as I find the spring tension of the trigger with the larger one is too stiff and the smaller one is almost as strong and a lot cheaper and lighter.

    All up, you can have this set-up for around $350.00
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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    The easiest way to solve this dilemma is to define the upper and lower limit of 'cheap' as the number one priority.
    (everyone has a different interpretation of cheap)

    Secondly and almost as importantly is to set out the intended function and use of the tripod.
    If it's primarily for wide angle landscapes, then this is easier to cater too as a lower priced unit is easier to cater too.
    If it's for critically sharp high magnification subject matter in difficult conditions, then cheap extends into an entirely new level.

    Definitely go for a separate legs/head setup tho. Initially this will be more expensive, but ultimately more flexible.
    Thom Hogan has written the best advice on the reality of tripods and the different stages of deployment of the various models and brands we tend to gravitate towards in the pursuit of happiness.
    His words of wisdom on the topic are exactly that .. wisdom!

    May sound weird that I've written that price is a higher priority over quality, but as you've specifically mentioned cheap, then this is the starting point, because you can end up with recommendation of hardware that will cost over $3K or more, which some people regard as 'cheap' .. and that's simply for either the head or the legs(but not necessarily both!)

    Is lightness a priority? If so this only makes it harder to cater to both the quality of the stability of the set up,and also makes it hard to cater to a particularly low price point.

    FWIW, I regard cheap as somewhere between $600-1000 as a cheap setup that will give you what most photographers usually end up wanting.

    Just some (quick) thoughts on the topic of travel. Once again this idea is open to interpretation and those interpretations vary wildly.
    Someone sees the term travel(in a photographic context) as backpacking for 12 months through difficult terrain with as much photography gear as possible and compromising on other necessities, such as food and water
    My idea of travel(and I used to do lots of this up until recently) was 80-90K klms per year around the state(Vic) where all my gear was stored safely in the car and easily accessed and the total weight was approx 20kgs, where I may have walked for a few hours on short treks here and there with it all. There was literally no room for any form of sustenance other than a bottle of water or drink hanging on the outside of the camera backpack.(food was stupidly just forgotten )

    My tripod setup weight probably 2-3kgs, but is very solid and most of this is in the head itself. The legs are CF and feel like rice paper.
    Taking into account that I have a severely disjointed knee, I found that more so than the weight of the tripod(whilst walking) was less important than the inertia it has whilst you walk. That is a slightly heavier but short tripod legs are easier to walk with than a longer lighter tripod as the pendulum effect can become tiring. Even tho I don't like 4 section leg tripod legs, I can see the value in their existence.
    More leg tubes means less rigidity.
    But what I used to do was to use mine as a 'walking stick' where I had the camera mounted, and the centre column slightly extended to act as a counter balance to the inertia of the lower part of the legs.
    I had only one lens slightly extended where it would just miss the ground, but where I could also comfortably rest it on the ground when walking up an incline. As I said almost like a walking/hiking stick.
    Camera was subsequently instantly ready for use.
    The longest hiking trip I've ever done was for approx 5 or so hours, but only due to my knee's inability. I'd love to be able to do more.

    If your intention is backpacking, then I can't offer any advice as I've never done it in my life, but there is Gitzo series where the legs flip back up and over as opposed to the standard fold downward style.
    That is, instead of the legs simply folding down and the head and camera sticking up and above the legs, these ones have the legs fold up and over the head so that the head is tucked between the inverted legs. Makes for a shorter tripod when travelling(easier to carry).
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    It's always going to come down to the money!

    I own several sets of Gitzo legs and I agree with davidd that the 3541LS legs are beautifully light and stable.
    Depending on your style, your choice of head (geared, ball, pistol...) could easily run to more than $250.

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    Member Tommo1965's Avatar
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    for me..I look at a tripod as just a set of legs..and as long as they are strong enough to do the task needed..then a half reasonable pair of alloy legs get the vote..take a look at the goldphoto range..they are a manfrotto rip off made in good old china..but non the less do a great job of holding my camera...light weight tripods are good for carrying around..but lightweight also means less of a sure footing..and carrying around bags of sand to anchor a $600 dollar carbon fiber beauty to the floor kind of defeats the object ....a caveat to buying inexpensive legs is they must have a good leg latch..well built and robust..the gold photo has them I believe

    as far as the head goes..buy a very good one...im at total odds with myself when it comes to this end of the apparatus..as investing in a good ball head is vital..at least a 50mm IMO, the cullmann range do a good one I think its a 8.3 ..also Fiesol are a very good product..made in Taiwan..but equal to anything ive seen..

    id steer clear of the pistol grip type heads..ive seen many of these at camera swap meets that no longer have the spring resistance to hold a camera in place..and that's after spending a bit of time with them to try and increase the tension..I did want them to work..as they were dead cheap for a frotto product
    Last edited by Tommo1965; 18-11-2011 at 12:56am.

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    Just another point, there are screw locking legs and flip lock legs. I have a screw lock tripod and a flip lock monopod p trust me, the flip lock is far easier to use and live with. The screw locks can be fiddly to use. I am going to buy a new lightweight tripod before we go on our next holiday and fliplocks is one criteria that I have set.
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    I have a Manfrotto 190XPROB and purchased 3 prior to this thinking a cheaper unit would be ok. The Manfrotto is working out a treat.

  9. #9
    It's all about the Light!
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    How tall are you? try one in a shop with your camera, and make sure you're not stooping
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    all the above is great advice. Just bought (ordered toda on ebay) the manfrotto 055carbon pro tripod as it`s a better height for me being about 5-10 and now I don`t have to stoop. The ball head is a Markins Q10 and it`s a beauty. Not a cheap set up but I doubt I`ll have to buy again. Height is a huge factor so do your homework.
    Graeme
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    Hey everyone, thanks so much for the advice. There's a lot to absorb (and a lot of models to check out) so I'm going to print out your suggestions and use them to guide me through my next store visit.

    Kym, I'm 6"0 so a tall tripod will also be a consideration for me.

    cheers

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