How to measure tripod shake? (windy beach with long exposures)

Started Dec 22, 2012 | Discussions
SPW1981
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How to measure tripod shake? (windy beach with long exposures)
Dec 22, 2012

I want to buy a new tripod. Currently I have a Velbon Sherpa 450R. It's quite sturdy, inexpensive, but it is not flexible at all (doesn't have a ballhead, so the movements of the head are quite limited, and the minimum using height is 64,5cm). It's also quite heavy and since it fell into the sea on my last trip to Iceland, sand has gotten into it and it does not operate smoothly anymore.

So what do I want? I want the lightest possible tripod that enables me to have perfectly sharp landscape photos. Currently I am using a Canon EOS 7D with a 10-22mm lens, but I want a tripod that will also do fine with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (or a future DSLR in that category) with the 16-35mm L lens.

Maximum height of the tripod is not important to me (although I agree that it can be very useful for some applications: shooting over a fence, etc.). Also I don't believe that tripod height should be related to one's personal height. I usually prefer lower viewpoints.

After a few days of research I wanted to get the Gitzo Systematic Series 3 (3542). Before clicking "Buy" I wanted to know if I could have any issues. As I like seascapes I had some fears that saltwater and sand could ruin this beautiful and expensive tripod. I found out that they also produce an "Ocean" version of the Systematic. But before committing I wanted to sort out the 2 problems I still saw. First, the Gitzo Systematic Ocean Series 3 is ridiculously expensive. Is there any alternative? (In order to qualify as an alternative it has to be as light or lighter and be as effective in salt water and sand. I didn't find an alternative.) The second problem I saw was that (if used with a sturdy ballhead), the tripod would weigh even more than my current tripod which is already quite bulky for travel and hiking.

So I thought: Do I really need a 2kg+ tripod that can carry a 400mm lens if I'm at focal lengths of 16-35 all the time? So my journey continued to the Gitzo Ocean Traveler which seems pretty nice and very lightweight. Maximum load numbers are pretty useless. They do not tell me if my 7D+10-22mm will give me tack sharp shots. I also should mention that I like long exposure times (often 10-30sec, sometimes even 2-3 minutes). Is there any way to know what sharpness to expect from a Traveler tripod in windy conditions on the beach with long shutter speeds?The bottom-line is that even after doing extensive research, I don't have the answer to that all-decisive question. Asking experts will give answers like "buy the systematic, you'll be on the safe side". That's not good for me. I want objective results from actual tests. I did some research and found that some companies are working on ways to measure camera shake: http://techon.nikkeibp.co.jp/english/NEWS_EN/20090413/168663/

Although I'm writing mainly about the Gitzos, I also did quite a lot of research on Really Right Stuff, Feisol, Manfrotto and Giottos, but in the end I always end up with Gitzo again. Build quality is REALLY nice. I visited a shop where I took virtually all the tripods in my hands and Gitzo really feels great.

I also did not talk about ballheads in this post, but I'm aware that a very good ballhead is needed. I have not yet done enough research to have clear ideas about ballheads yet.
Many thanks for your ideas!

Steve

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Canon EOS 7D
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happysnapper64
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Re: How to measure tripod shake? (windy beach with long exposures)
In reply to SPW1981, Dec 22, 2012

Hi Steve. I suppose the real answer to your question is that sometimes, even the best equipment can't compete with the ellements. I have just ordered a Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 & good solid [but a bit bulky] 3 way head for the same circumstances as yourself, + birding & wildlife. It needs to support a maximum weight of my 7D + Sigma 120-400 OS. For myself, I needed the height because as well as being 6' tall, I have back trouble, so for me the extra height is perfect. For lower angles like you mentioned the retracted legs will be even more sturdy, + I carry a small lightweight [but strong] stool, like they use for fishing. There seem to be hundreds of tripods out there, I am sure, & hope you find a suitable one. Good luck.

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lee uk.
There are old pilots, & there are bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots.

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GMack
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Re: How to measure tripod shake? (windy beach with long exposures)
In reply to SPW1981, Dec 22, 2012

You might want to read this write-up: http://www.pixtus.com/forum/equipment-talk/142954-gitzo-really-right-stuff.html#post1318890

Don't underestimate the height issue either.  I was out shooting in snow and the tall tripod I have was too short as it sunk down maybe 3 feet in height while I was sort of on top of the snowpack.  Tripod legs and snow are an interesting combo.  Always better to have more height than not have it at all with the ball head sitting a foot or two on top of the snow with the buried tripod legs. I would guess if the tripod pads are small, same may happen in sand.

You will have some issues with even a lightweight tripod no matter the price.  You need to weight them down a lot, imho.  I hang my bag on the column's hook.

Good luck in your hunt.

Mack

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SPW1981
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Re: How to measure tripod shake? (windy beach with long exposures)
In reply to SPW1981, Dec 23, 2012

Thank you very much for your answers.
Finally I'm going for the Gitzo Systematic Series 3 (GT3542LS) and the Acratech GP ballhead with a quick release clamp (lever-style - I don't understand why people call those with a knob "quick release" too).
I don't want to take the risk of having unsharp shots and as conditions I want to be able to shoot in are quite extreme (windy beaches and long exposure times) I definitely want to be on the safer side.
A tripod that's not totally stable is useless. As I don't have the possibility to do any objective measure (which is dependent on external factors like the weather like happysnapper said), I would constantly doubt if the Ocean Traveler is sufficiently sturdy. Maybe it is and I'm going to carry around much heavier gear than I would need… But I've done my choice now.
So why don't I take  the Systematic Ocean? It's really ridiculously expensive. I found a deal for the regular Systematic (GT3542LS) for 600 EUR; the cheapest for the Systematic Ocean (GT3542LOS) I found was 1500 EUR. This is totally insane… With the regular Systematic I will have to clean my tripod very well after each use in salt water and sand and I should be fine anyway.
PS: On days that I really want to travel lightweight, I can still take my Gorillapod Focus with Ballhead X (762gr).

Best regards,
Steve

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happysnapper64
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Re: How to measure tripod shake? (windy beach with long exposures)
In reply to SPW1981, Dec 24, 2012

Hey Steve, glad you made your decision, & hope it works for you.

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lee uk.
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Pelagic
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Re: How to measure tripod shake? (windy beach with long exposures)
In reply to SPW1981, Jan 4, 2013

That's a great tripod it will keep you happy for a very long time.

One suggestion.  Since you are shooting on a beach, take along one of those screw in dog run thingees and a heavy bungee cord.  Screw into the sand and then connect the tripod hook and screw with the bungee cord.  I've known nothing better for shutting down the wind or ringing vibrations from shutter slap.  In the mountains a bag filled with rocks does the same.

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ted
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Pelagic
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How to Compare Tripod Shake?
In reply to SPW1981, Jan 4, 2013

A standard means to compare support systems is with a laser pointer taped or rubber-banded to your lens.  Point it at a paper target 30 feet away.  Draw a circle around the light pattern for each tested system.  The smallest circle wins.  If the circle doesn't get smaller you've found the best price/weight/performance point.

I've fired shutters, played with mirror lock up,  tapped the end of a long lens and measured the time until the ringing stopped.

Be forewarned you may not be happy with what you own.

You can use this measurement scheme to easily test your field craft.  How tight is tight for an Arca clamp, different heads,  head adjustments,  etc, etc.

Sorry I've never seen isolated circle sizes to rate support systems.  Only used this method for real world comparisons and improving my craft.

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ted
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