Tripod recommendation

Started Apr 22, 2012 | Discussions
Desmond Ong
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Tripod recommendation
Apr 22, 2012

I intending to buy a tripod but not so sure about what are the good one I should go with since there are tons of choices out there, hence I need to seek for some advise and recommendation for those who knows about the requirement for my current equipment. Based on my current knowledge, I only know that the tripod have to withstand the weight double of your equipments in order to maintain its stability, that's all.

So far, what I know various brand are Gitzo and Manfrotto.

I owned a D800 with 14-24mm, 24-70mm, 50mm f1.8G lenses and a SB700. If based on the maximum combination weight, it shoud be approx 2.5kg.

Basically, my shooting style are landscape, portrait and night landscape shooting.

What I looking for in a tripod are:
1. I want the tripod that do not have monopod in between, just purely tripod.
2. Light in weight that easily carrying around because I will use it for travel.

3. Budget wise, I still not so sure until I get more recommendation regardless of price.
4. Can be either Aluminum or Carbon fibre or Composite.

I need some advise and recommendation for that. Thank you

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newtoy
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Re: Tripod recommendation
In reply to Desmond Ong, Apr 22, 2012

I would only recommend Gitzo. Go for the 3 series, 4 sections, no column. Carbon fiber are a lot lighter.

You also need a head. Geared head is good for landscape, ball head is lighter. L-bracket is also very important.

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acipriano
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Re: Tripod recommendation
In reply to newtoy, Apr 22, 2012

I agree with all the recommendations given above. But I would add RRS in addition to Gitzo. I would also say that an L plate is a must, I prefer a ball head, and carbon fiber is really the only way to go. I like a three section and no center column.

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GMack
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Re: Tripod recommendation
In reply to acipriano, Apr 22, 2012

A few reasons I ditched some pods were:

  • Flipper leg locks: They can be tight. Hardware and rivets loosen. Threads strip. Irregular feel to how secure they clamp. Slippage. Lots of maintenance. More prone to wobble.

  • Bubble levels located in heads or clamps that are covered when you put the camera onto them. Have to take it off to see if something has changed, and some flimsy ones will change level with a lot of gear loaded onto them.

  • Get it rated for maybe 4 times the load. You can stabilize the better ones that have a hook under them by attaching your gear bag or some weights. Don't trust the rated claims (like a Gorilla pod holding a MF body.).

  • Carbon fiber is very nice and light, but it costs. Not prone to corrosion either.

  • More leg sections equals more instability and wobble, but they pack smaller. Drawback is they are much slower to set up with all the locks. I'd even settle for a two-section twist-lock leg, but they seem rare in a tall variety. I leave mine loose so I can put it upright, legs slide out on their own, and then I tighten them.

  • L-plates are nice and make centering the load better rather than throwing the CG off to one side where the entire thing may topple over. They fit the camera better and don't loosen as do cheaper plates. You can get most with a wrist strap (Camdapter brand) that make carrying the camera easier and flipping it to the side more secure while holding it.

  • Center columns get sort of flimsy and add shake to the overall setup. Most have a flimsy crank unit. Try and avoid if possible. They also slow you down and raise the CG too (easier to topple.).

  • Some columns have a cheap locking screw that will screw into the center clamp post and distort it and then it binds.

  • Too bad it takes maybe 3-4 cheap and flimsy tripods before you finally realize you paid a lot for what should have been a one-time purchase.

  • Get one where the camera's viewfinder is at your eye level or a bit higher. Some are really short.

  • Legs should remain where you point them and not loosely flop around.

Mack

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Gazphotos
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Re: Tripod recommendation
In reply to GMack, Apr 22, 2012

All great advice so far, but I would add a plug for Really Right Stuff. If you want to buy once and be done with it and enjoy the very best tripod/head/L-plate combination, go to RRS you won't be sorry, it's by far the best tripod I have ever used, period!

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Desmond Ong
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Re: Tripod recommendation
In reply to newtoy, Apr 23, 2012

newtoy wrote:

I would only recommend Gitzo. Go for the 3 series, 4 sections, no column. Carbon fiber are a lot lighter.

You also need a head. Geared head is good for landscape, ball head is lighter. L-bracket is also very important.

For both geared and ball head, what does it serve its differences?

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wfektar
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Re: Tripod recommendation
In reply to Desmond Ong, Apr 24, 2012

Desmond Ong wrote:

newtoy wrote:

You also need a head. Geared head is good for landscape, ball head is lighter. L-bracket is also very important.

For both geared and ball head, what does it serve its differences?

Not sure what you're asking. The L-bracket allows vertical orientation on the axis. Simplifies movements and means camera isn't hanging over to one side.

Ballhead vs geared: ballhead smaller, lighter, much faster to move and adjust camera. Most people prefer this as an all-around solution.

Geared: bigger, heavier, slower, far more precise. The new Arca-Swiss D4 is actually about the weight of the RRS BH55, though, provided you can find one. The Arca-Swiss Cube might be the ultimate in precision.

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newtoy
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Re: Tripod recommendation
In reply to wfektar, Apr 24, 2012

Not sure what you're asking. The L-bracket allows vertical orientation on the axis. Simplifies movements and means camera isn't hanging over to one side.

Ballhead vs geared: ballhead smaller, lighter, much faster to move and adjust camera. Most people prefer this as an all-around solution.

Geared: bigger, heavier, slower, far more precise. The new Arca-Swiss D4 is actually about the weight of the RRS BH55, though, provided you can find one. The Arca-Swiss Cube might be the ultimate in precision.

Ball head have a little imperfection, whenever you lock it down, its move a tiny bit that enough needing readjustment.

For the geared head, I recommend the 405. Its as good as any other high dollars made. But you may need to spend some extra dollars to install a area-swiss type cramp.

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PHXAZCRAIG
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Re: Tripod recommendation
In reply to Desmond Ong, Apr 24, 2012

My two cents:

First, a question. How tall are you? You generally want a tripod that doesn't require you to stoop to use. That includes shooting upward into trees. Some compromise can be made there for a travel tripod, if you are not using it constantly.

I went through the classic scenario listed by Thom Hogan. Started with a cheap 'has every feature' Slik tripod that only cost me about $100. Absolute cr*p. I've still got it, but it's really worthless. It bends and flexes even with a point-n-shoot on it.

I've got a couple of light travel tripods too, and one isn't actually too bad, but it's just too small for reasonable use with a DSLR.

Then I bought a big metal Bogen with Manfrotto 3-way pan head. Used it for years, but gradually got sick of the weight, the pan head, the head mounting system, the leg locks and the metal. The weight issue is obvious. If you have to carry it at all, you start not bringing it.

The pan head just wasn't as flexible as a ballhead, though I didn't know it until I got a ballhead. (That said, I believe a pan head is probably better for video).

The mounting system was to put a hexagonal quick-release plate on the camera, and clip it into a locking mechanism on the pan head. I liked the quick locking system, but the plate was very uncomfortable in the hand when not shooting on a tripod, and it constantly was unscrewing itself and loosening and turning when shooting in portrait mode with a longer lens.

The leg locks were flip locks. I will never understand why some people prefer them. They constantly pinched me, were sometimes sticky and balky, and you had to do them one at a time. (With screw locks on my Gitzo, I can grab all of them on one leg to loosen them at once.)

The metal was extremely cold to the touch in winter in the mountains.

Eventually I bought a 3550 LSV Gitzo. Problems pretty much solved. It's light enough to carry. Even though it has longer leg sections, it still fits in a large suitcase for travel. (I remove the ballhead and carry that with me, partly for weight savings on checked luggage). I picked 3-section legs instead of 4 sections for two reasons: 1 less lock per leg, which you will benefit from every single time you collapse the tripod, and a bit more stability with fewer, larger leg sections. On the other hand, a 4-section leg collapses farther for packing, and often allows a taller tripod. My tripod puts my camera at eye level (I'm 6' 2") when mounted on my ballhead. This is just right, except when shooting upward. However, there was no taller choice in a 3-series Gitzo with 3 leg sections.

I did not get a center column, for stability reasons. I don't miss it.

I got an RRS BH-55 ballhead, and I'm happy with it. Gives me a bit of room to grow into some larger lenses. Works well with my longest lenses (80-400 and 300F4 with TC). It is heavy though, and for travel I could see getting a smaller RRS or Markins.

I have the RRS quick-release clamp on the ballhead, and L-plates on my cameras. Also RRS plates on my lenses or RRS tripod collars. They are all extremely well made and fit the clamp perfectly. The L-plates are also pretty comfortable in the hand, so I have never felt the urge to remove them when not using the tripod. (Something I can't say about the Kirk collar I put on my 80-200).

If you get a ballhead and arca-swiss mount, you definitely want an L-plate. It's just too much of a pain to shoot in portrait mode on a ballhead without an L-plate. Trying to line up the head into a drop slot and then make little adjustments to the framing is an exercise in frustration. Conversely, using an L-plate and quick release clamp is about a 1 second change with no framing issues.

In short, my recommendation is carbon fiber, no center column, twist (not flip) locks - as long as the legs don't rotate when not locked, and fewer leg sections if you can get away with that for the sizing you need. Get a good ballhead, arca swiss mounting style and L-plate for your camera.

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Desmond Ong
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Re: Tripod recommendation
In reply to PHXAZCRAIG, Apr 26, 2012

Thanks for your explanation, Forgot to mentioned that my height is 6' 2" as you. What are the other recommendation brand beside Gitzo? As I know tall tripod variety not really much in the market isn't it?

PHXAZCRAIG wrote:

My two cents:

First, a question. How tall are you? You generally want a tripod that doesn't require you to stoop to use. That includes shooting upward into trees. Some compromise can be made there for a travel tripod, if you are not using it constantly.

I went through the classic scenario listed by Thom Hogan. Started with a cheap 'has every feature' Slik tripod that only cost me about $100. Absolute cr*p. I've still got it, but it's really worthless. It bends and flexes even with a point-n-shoot on it.

I've got a couple of light travel tripods too, and one isn't actually too bad, but it's just too small for reasonable use with a DSLR.

Then I bought a big metal Bogen with Manfrotto 3-way pan head. Used it for years, but gradually got sick of the weight, the pan head, the head mounting system, the leg locks and the metal. The weight issue is obvious. If you have to carry it at all, you start not bringing it.

The pan head just wasn't as flexible as a ballhead, though I didn't know it until I got a ballhead. (That said, I believe a pan head is probably better for video).

The mounting system was to put a hexagonal quick-release plate on the camera, and clip it into a locking mechanism on the pan head. I liked the quick locking system, but the plate was very uncomfortable in the hand when not shooting on a tripod, and it constantly was unscrewing itself and loosening and turning when shooting in portrait mode with a longer lens.

The leg locks were flip locks. I will never understand why some people prefer them. They constantly pinched me, were sometimes sticky and balky, and you had to do them one at a time. (With screw locks on my Gitzo, I can grab all of them on one leg to loosen them at once.)

The metal was extremely cold to the touch in winter in the mountains.

Eventually I bought a 3550 LSV Gitzo. Problems pretty much solved. It's light enough to carry. Even though it has longer leg sections, it still fits in a large suitcase for travel. (I remove the ballhead and carry that with me, partly for weight savings on checked luggage). I picked 3-section legs instead of 4 sections for two reasons: 1 less lock per leg, which you will benefit from every single time you collapse the tripod, and a bit more stability with fewer, larger leg sections. On the other hand, a 4-section leg collapses farther for packing, and often allows a taller tripod. My tripod puts my camera at eye level (I'm 6' 2") when mounted on my ballhead. This is just right, except when shooting upward. However, there was no taller choice in a 3-series Gitzo with 3 leg sections.

I did not get a center column, for stability reasons. I don't miss it.

I got an RRS BH-55 ballhead, and I'm happy with it. Gives me a bit of room to grow into some larger lenses. Works well with my longest lenses (80-400 and 300F4 with TC). It is heavy though, and for travel I could see getting a smaller RRS or Markins.

I have the RRS quick-release clamp on the ballhead, and L-plates on my cameras. Also RRS plates on my lenses or RRS tripod collars. They are all extremely well made and fit the clamp perfectly. The L-plates are also pretty comfortable in the hand, so I have never felt the urge to remove them when not using the tripod. (Something I can't say about the Kirk collar I put on my 80-200).

If you get a ballhead and arca-swiss mount, you definitely want an L-plate. It's just too much of a pain to shoot in portrait mode on a ballhead without an L-plate. Trying to line up the head into a drop slot and then make little adjustments to the framing is an exercise in frustration. Conversely, using an L-plate and quick release clamp is about a 1 second change with no framing issues.

In short, my recommendation is carbon fiber, no center column, twist (not flip) locks - as long as the legs don't rotate when not locked, and fewer leg sections if you can get away with that for the sizing you need. Get a good ballhead, arca swiss mounting style and L-plate for your camera.

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Dickymint1964
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Re: Tripod recommendation
In reply to Desmond Ong, Apr 26, 2012

Have a look at three legged thing.....
UK based but selling well in the US now.

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PHXAZCRAIG
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Re: Tripod recommendation
In reply to Desmond Ong, Apr 26, 2012

I have limited experience with larger tripods - only Bogen and Gitzo.

I bought the Gitzo when I decided I was tired of compromising on a tripod, and I decided that instead of yet another lens, I needed to spend money on all the non-camera-or-lens components of photography. I'm happy I did as I use the Gitzo a lot, though I don't take it on all vacations.

At 6' 2", your choices for tripods are limited if you want:

  • no center column

  • 3 leg sections

  • reasonable leg size (3-series Gitzo for instance)

If you want even higher - and it would be nice at times if my tripod were about 2 inches higher, AND you want it to collapse small enough to pack for air travel, then you probably need a 4-section tripod. The day-to-day issue there is that you'll have those extra 3 leg locks every time you take down the tripod, and every time you put it up too if you can't unlock all the locks on a leg at one time.

At this point, the only tripod I'd consider besides a Gitzo is an RRS Versa, and that's even more expensive.

But for cheaper decent tripods, I've heard Benro is OK.

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crs-collectibles
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Re: Tripod recommendation
In reply to PHXAZCRAIG, May 8, 2012

PHXAZCRAIG wrote:

I have limited experience with larger tripods - only Bogen and Gitzo.

I bought the Gitzo when I decided I was tired of compromising on a tripod, and I decided that instead of yet another lens, I needed to spend money on all the non-camera-or-lens components of photography. I'm happy I did as I use the Gitzo a lot, though I don't take it on all vacations.

At 6' 2", your choices for tripods are limited if you want:

  • no center column

  • 3 leg sections

  • reasonable leg size (3-series Gitzo for instance)

If you want even higher - and it would be nice at times if my tripod were about 2 inches higher, AND you want it to collapse small enough to pack for air travel, then you probably need a 4-section tripod. The day-to-day issue there is that you'll have those extra 3 leg locks every time you take down the tripod, and every time you put it up too if you can't unlock all the locks on a leg at one time.

At this point, the only tripod I'd consider besides a Gitzo is an RRS Versa, and that's even more expensive.

But for cheaper decent tripods, I've heard Benro is OK.

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Would any of the Gitzo traveler tripod be able to keep from vibrating if the camera is tapped? I saw a video from this review of the manfrotto and it looks like there is a lot of vibration. Wouldn't that also be a function of the head and not just the legs?

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PHXAZCRAIG
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Re: Tripod recommendation
In reply to crs-collectibles, May 8, 2012

I couldn't say about other tripods and the tap test.

I don't think that the head contributes to vibration, but a heavy head probably dampens it more than a light one, or at least reduces the amplitude and changes the frequency.

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NancyP
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Re: Tripod recommendation
In reply to Desmond Ong, May 9, 2012

Geared head: precision in 3 separately controlled axes. Great for architectural photography, macrophotography, and can serve as a leveling base with clamp for a pano system. Lousy at action, not what you would want for birds in flight or fashion shoots. I love my geared head, but it is definitely a specialized beast, and a heavy one as well (approx. 1.5 kg, 3 pounds few oz).

Ball head: less precise but far more intuitive, only one adjustment made. You can get good strong ball heads weighing 450 grams (1 pound), and almost all are under 1 kg. This is most people's first head. It can also be used as the base for a panorama system, and as a base for a lightweight add-on gimbal (Wimberley Sidekick).

Google "Denton Imaging" for a good explanation of tripods, heads, clamp types, etc

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Edgar Payne
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Re: Tripod recommendation
In reply to Dickymint1964, May 29, 2012

Lots of good advice here so far but you need to read this. It will put it all into perspective. While written many years ago, however updated, It is the best tripod advice I have come across.

http://bythom.com/support.htm

I will endorse both Gitzo systematic legs and anything by RRS.

Edgar PAyne

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NancyP
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Re: Tripod recommendation
In reply to Edgar Payne, May 29, 2012

I am also in the market for a tripod and head, and will pass on some info.

I have seen some recommendations for Feisol, and their largest (37 mm top leg diameter) column-less "Elite" 3372 or 3472 tripod looks very interesting. It is approximately $550.00 vs $925.00 and $1045.00 for the Gitzo and RRS versions. However, the Feisol height is only 58", perfect for me (65" tall). I would guess that Gitzo and RRS are the only sources for top quality tall column-less legs. There are a lot of people out there who find a mid-level tripod adequate for lighter weight kit not including supertelephoto lenses. I like my Induro carbon fiber monopod (CM25), very well made, and I would suggest looking at the Induro tripods, again approximately $500.00. Gitzo had some QC issues in the last few years but has changed its product line for 2012.

Geared heads are generally heavy, 3 lb and up. My Manfrotto 410 is an excellent small inexpensive geared head, but I hated the Manfrotto QR system, so I bought an Arca-Swiss style adapter (Hejnar Photo), and now I am very happy with the 410, less so with the Manfrotto 055x aluminum legs, which are problematic in wind, heavy, have the annoying flip locks, and fold a little long for hiking. The combo is an excellent tripod for architectural or roadside work, though, and I am keeping it.

I have come to the conclusion that Thom Hogan is right, but would add that you may require more than one head if you do specialized photographic techniques.

Don't forget the L bracket, lens foot plates (if appllicable), and cable or wireless shutter release.

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