A few Tripod Tests

Started Jul 29, 2007 | Discussions thread
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Zane Paxton Veteran Member • Posts: 6,947
A few Tripod Tests

Hi everyone

In another thread, the issue of being a bit more objective about tripods gained some momentum. To further the cause and to confirm some of my experiences, I did a few quick tests that are as consistent as I could reasonably do. I used Neil’s lens chart, it does not print perfectly crisp on my HP LaserJet 5100 @ 600 DPI compared to say offset printing, but it is useable for comparisons. I did all the tests with my D2x with the Nikkor 70-200mm VR with the VR turned off. The camera and lens was mounted on the tripods with the RRS lens foot that balances the lens + camera pretty well. The distance to the test chart was 18’-8” because that is where the brick steps are in relation to the test wall and I get a reasonable sized image in the viewfinder. I cropped everything down to 6” square that results in about 160 DPI image. That is zoomed in but not a 100% crop. I planned on including a laser pointer shining on the test chart attached to the lens barrel, but alas, my battery was dead…. All shots were taken at 1/15th @ f/11 which I figured was a challenging shutter speed for most tripods. The range of about 1 second to about 1/40th I’ve always found to be the most challenging shutter speed range for optimal IQ. I placed 2 legs on a brick step with the back leg on hard packed clay dirt. I waited 5-8 seconds between the mirror slap and the MLU enabled exposure. I don’t have anything to really accurately measure weight, but as a guide I used my bathroom scale and a more accurate but limited capacity kitchen scale. My D2x, battery, 70-200mm VR weighs 7.0 lbs.

If anyone has any (constructive) input as to how to improve upon such tests, sing out and I would see this as an evolutionary process to get to a reliably useful test that anyone with basic photography knowledge could do. The intent here is more comparative tests rather than absolute controlled laboratory results.

I have three very different tripods that I tested:

Dutch Hill P-900 Extended version, RRS BH-55-PCL Ballhead, total weight =8 lbs.

Gitzo G1228, Arca Swiss B-1 Monoball Ballhead (the original one from 25-30 years ago). Total weight = 4.5 pounds
Leitz Tabletop tripod with a RRS BH-40 Ballhead Total weight = 13 oz.

Dutch Hill P-900 Tests:

The setup:

This is a test from the normal 61” working height to the centerline of the lens barrel.

In this test I lowered the tripod to its lowest possible height of 41”.

To create a greater challenge, in this test I added the Nikkor TC 1.7e to see the results.

Just for grins, I changed the camera mount to the tripod to the RRS L-baseplate. Surprisingly, the IQ might be a bit better than expected, better than with the RRS Lens foot. This was counter-intuitive and differs from other tests that I've seen....

In this next series, I tested my Gitzo G1228 which I just won’t use due to bounciness in the wind. What was disconcerting was seeing the image shake for 2-3 seconds in the viewfinder after the initial mirror slap or exposure. I know that this tripod with my heavy camera on it vibrates badly with the slightest wind. The infamous finger thump test produces an average of 2-1/2 seconds of resonance which can’t be good. In spite of that, it did surprisingly well under the controlled conditions, which perhaps makes a case for good technique overcoming equipment that is too light (on a windless day).

Here the 4 legs were fully extended with the center column all the way down.

Here the center column is fully extended on the fully extended legs. The sharpness is reduced, but not by much. However; the mirror slap was really shaking the image in the viewfinder….

Just because Dept.
Leitz Tabletop tripod

Only one test:

Some conclusions for discussion:

Most obviously, MLU is of critical importance for optimal image quality.

Wind is an important issue, but I’m not so sure how to do a consistent wind impact test.

Good technique is very important.

More mass is good. Not enough evidence to prove out the classic maxim of “tripods should weigh at least as much as the gear that sits on it”.

For the pixel peepers: http://www.pbase.com/devonshire/tripod_tests

Nikon D2x
NAPP Member

'Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments it takes our breath away.” ~ Anonymous

 Zane Paxton's gear list:Zane Paxton's gear list
Nikon D7000 Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Nikon AF-S Nikkor 17-35mm f/2.8D ED-IF Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm F4G ED VR +2 more
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