How to Level a Tripod That Has a Center Column

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Norm Neely Senior Member • Posts: 2,683
How to Level a Tripod That Has a Center Column
8

Set the tripod to working height.

1) Level two legs with a post level on the center column between the legs.

2) Then level the third leg.

Very easy and quick after you have done it a couple of times.

I use this one:

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Swanson-5-in-Speedlite-Magnetic-Post-Level-PL001M/300224977

It comes with a rubber band for attaching to the column.

Your actually leveling the center column.

Ps. Harbor Freight also has a post level.

https://www.harborfreight.com/2-piece-post-level-and-square-set-39183.html?_br_psugg_q=post+level

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mamallama
mamallama Forum Pro • Posts: 59,697
Re: How to Level a Tripod That Has a Center Column
2

Norm Neely wrote:

Set the tripod to working height.

1) Level two legs with a post level on the center column between the legs.

2) Then level the third leg.

Your description is unclear. How do you level a tripod leg?

Very easy and quick after you have done it a couple of times.

I use this one:

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Swanson-5-in-Speedlite-Magnetic-Post-Level-PL001M/300224977

It comes with a rubber band for attaching to the column.

Your actually leveling the center column.

Ps. Harbor Freight also has a post level.

https://www.harborfreight.com/2-piece-post-level-and-square-set-39183.html?_br_psugg_q=post+level

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OP Norm Neely Senior Member • Posts: 2,683
Re: How to Level a Tripod That Has a Center Column
5

mamallama wrote:

Norm Neely wrote:

Set the tripod to working height.

1) Level two legs with a post level on the center column between the legs.

2) Then level the third leg.

Your description is unclear. How do you level a tripod leg?

Sorry. Your leveling the center column as if it was Fence Post.

So the top plate of the center column and head will be level.

After attaching the level to the center column. Adjust one of two legs up or down until the bubble on the level that is attached to the center column is centered. Then adjust the third leg up or down until the other bubble is level. You want both bubbles centered to show the column is level.

It was easy for me as I have adjusted fence posts many times.

Look at the picture of the level, hopefully it will become clear how it works.

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Swanson-5-in-Speedlite-Magnetic-Post-Level-PL001M/300224977

Let me know if you need more help.

Home Depot and Harbor Freight have a return policy. If for some reason you don't like it.

Ps. I have thought about it some more.

In step 1) two of the tripod legs are level with the center column.

After step 2) all three of the tripod legs are level with the center column.

I think this makes the center column level enough (in the ballpark) for my use.

The easiest and most accurate solution solution would be to get a leveling base.

https://www.acratech.net/categories/leveling-products.html

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFgshdAjwy8

My post is for those without a leveling base and want a close and quick leveling solution for doing occasional panorama photos.

Others should consider purchasing a leveling base.

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David1961
David1961 Senior Member • Posts: 4,984
Re: How to Level a Tripod That Has a Center Column
1

Great tip!!

Thank you for sharing

And for anyone in Australia you can get a post level at Bunnings.

https://www.bunnings.com.au/craftright-post-level-with-strap_p5660229

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FrancoD Forum Pro • Posts: 15,004
Re: How to Level a Tripod That Has a Center Column
3

How did we managed without that for so long ?

OK, if shooting panoramas it could be handy but in my experience most can figure out how to level the head if the legs are slightly out.

That is why they come with the 3 way locks

or

OP Norm Neely Senior Member • Posts: 2,683
Re: How to Level a Tripod That Has a Center Column
1

FrancoD wrote:

OK, if shooting panoramas it could be handy.

Your right and thanks for pointing that out.

The thread was intended for those who do not have a leveling base.

This is a much cheaper option than purchasing one for occasional panorama use.

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mamallama
mamallama Forum Pro • Posts: 59,697
Re: How to Level a Tripod That Has a Center Column
1

FrancoD wrote:

How did we managed without that for so long ?

OK, if shooting panoramas it could be handy but in my experience most can figure out how to level the head if the legs are slightly out.

That is why they come with the 3 way locks

or

Using these devices, if you level the camera platform when the column (that rotates during a pan) is not vertical the camera platform will not remain level during rotation.

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FrancoD Forum Pro • Posts: 15,004
Re: How to Level a Tripod That Has a Center Column

mamallama wrote:

FrancoD wrote:

How did we managed without that for so long ?

OK, if shooting panoramas it could be handy but in my experience most can figure out how to level the head if the legs are slightly out.

That is why they come with the 3 way locks

or

Using these devices, if you level the camera platform when the column (that rotates during a pan) is not vertical the camera platform will not remain level during rotation.

I think that is what I had in mind when I wrote " if shooting panoramas it could be handy', what do you think ?

BTW, those "devices" , called tripod heads, are of standard use on every tripod. Ever used one ?

Most do not have those spirit levels built in but historically many photographers were able to tell if their camera on a tripod was on level or not.

john isaacs Veteran Member • Posts: 5,513
Re: How to Level a Tripod That Has a Center Column

Norm Neely wrote:

Set the tripod to working height.

1) Level two legs with a post level on the center column between the legs.

2) Then level the third leg.

Very easy and quick after you have done it a couple of times.

I use this one:

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Swanson-5-in-Speedlite-Magnetic-Post-Level-PL001M/300224977

It comes with a rubber band for attaching to the column.

Your actually leveling the center column.

Ps. Harbor Freight also has a post level.

https://www.harborfreight.com/2-piece-post-level-and-square-set-39183.html?_br_psugg_q=post+level

Strap the level to the center column so that one side is aligned in the direction of one leg.  Then level the other side by adjusting the other two legs, and finish by leveling the selected side with the third leg.  Repeat once if needed, and you should have it leveled good enough for gov't work.

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mamallama
mamallama Forum Pro • Posts: 59,697
Re: How to Level a Tripod That Has a Center Column

FrancoD wrote:

mamallama wrote:

FrancoD wrote:

How did we managed without that for so long ?

OK, if shooting panoramas it could be handy but in my experience most can figure out how to level the head if the legs are slightly out.

That is why they come with the 3 way locks

or

Using these devices, if you level the camera platform when the column (that rotates during a pan) is not vertical the camera platform will not remain level during rotation.

I think that is what I had in mind when I wrote " if shooting panoramas it could be handy', what do you think ?

I told you what I think already.

BTW, those "devices" , called tripod heads, are of standard use on every tripod. Ever used one ?

Yes, I have. Many types. Also a simple $2 circle level to level the platform.

Most do not have those spirit levels built in but historically many photographers were able to tell if their camera on a tripod was on level or not.

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HRC2016 Veteran Member • Posts: 6,272
Easier solution

You can always use your camera's built-in level. All of my newish (last five years) have them.

Also, there are smartphone apps that have levels.

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Gato Amarillo Veteran Member • Posts: 7,678
Re: How to Level a Tripod That Has a Center Column

I recently discovered these devices:

https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B089FC8ZKX?psc=1&ref=ppx_yo2_dt_b_product_details

It goes on top of the post or tripod under the head -- allows leveling the head when the tripod is slightly off. There are a number of these on the market at all kinds of prices -- some have rotation for panorama. I'm pretty happy with this one at the low end of the price scale. It might be worth a look for those who do a lot of panorama or the like.

BTW, if your tripod legs are not tied together with a spreader you can level quickly by moving legs in or out. Set up the tripod, check the level, and move the legs on the low sides toward the center. This can be quicker that adjusting the length.

Gato

NickZ2016 Senior Member • Posts: 2,311
Re: How to Level a Tripod That Has a Center Column

Kind of looks like somebody took the idea of a bowl tripod and adapted it.

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Gato Amarillo Veteran Member • Posts: 7,678
Re: How to Level a Tripod That Has a Center Column

NickZ2016 wrote:

Kind of looks like somebody took the idea of a bowl tripod and adapted it.

Yep -- Exactly what I thought.

mamallama
mamallama Forum Pro • Posts: 59,697
Re: Easier solution

HRC2016 wrote:

You can always use your camera's built-in level. All of my newish (last five years) have them.

Also, there are smartphone apps that have levels.

The problem is simple and the solutions are even simpler. That is why there are so many of them. There is no need to use some of the pricey devices for normal work. $3 fence post levelers and $2 round bubble levels are all that needed.

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nevada5
nevada5 Forum Pro • Posts: 15,001
Re: How to Level a Tripod That Has a Center Column
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OP Norm Neely Senior Member • Posts: 2,683
Re: How to Level a Tripod That Has a Center Column

nevada5 wrote:

Leveling just the camera will not work for panoramas.

Hopefully this video will make it clear why I was leveling the center column.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFgshdAjwy8

The head on the tripod will be level for panning

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sybersitizen Forum Pro • Posts: 20,366
Re: How to Level a Tripod That Has a Center Column

Norm Neely wrote:

Leveling just the camera will not work for panoramas.

Hopefully this video will make it clear why I was leveling the center column.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OFgshdAjwy8

The head on the tripod will be level for panning

Most of us do get the point. However:

You could slightly loosen the screw that secures the camera to the plate and rotate it that way, thus keeping the camera level no matter how wonky the rest of the tripod is.

Just sayin'.

OP Norm Neely Senior Member • Posts: 2,683
Re: Easier solution

HRC2016 wrote:

You can always use your camera's built-in level. All of my newish (last five years) have them.

Read my reply to nevada5. Hopefully the video will explain my reason for the thread.

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john isaacs Veteran Member • Posts: 5,513
Re: Easier solution

HRC2016 wrote:

You can always use your camera's built-in level. All of my newish (last five years) have them.

Also, there are smartphone apps that have levels.

That will level the camera, not the tripod.  In particular, it will not help if you are rotating the camera on an axis that is aligned with the tripod, which is what most tripod heads do.

It is easier to do this with a leveling base, with a panoramic head that has the rotator at the base of the clamp rather than the base of the head.

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