Help in choosing the correct tripod

Discussion in 'Digital SLR' started by Scratch and Sniff, Feb 10, 2006.

  1. I am sure this topic has been beaten to death but here goes.

    I am looking to purchase a tripod and head. I have looked at a bunch of
    stuff and I am confused as to what the ideal properties are used for
    choosing a tripod.

    Weight
    Max vertical height "not including raising the top tube"
    Structural rigidity
    Ease of use
    Price

    The largest lens I currently own is the canon EF 70-200 2.8L USM on a Canon
    20D

    Thanks for any impute
     
    Scratch and Sniff, Feb 10, 2006
    #1
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  2. Scratch and Sniff

    Toby Guest

    It depends on what you need to do with it. All these factors are trade-offs.
    Structural rigidity depends on the diameter of the leg tubing, for the most
    part. Larger, thicker tubing is heavier and costs more. Materials such as
    carbon fiber and Gitzo "basalt" are about 1/3 lighter than aluminum and
    about equal in rigidity, but cost significantly more. So here you balance
    price against weight. If you do a lot of trekking you'll probably want to
    spend the extra money; if you do mostly setup shots in the studio it would
    hardly be worth it.

    Generally I find that it is nice to have a set of sticks that will be at my
    eye level without raising the center post. I also have a little Gitzo that
    has a range from about 35cm to 1m for just packing along easily. Most of the
    photojournalists I know have big heavy beasts that go up to about 2m. With a
    200mm lens you don't need anything too heavy-duty, but keep in mind that no
    tripod is completely steady once you introduce motion into the picture--even
    the most heavy-duty ones will vibrate to some degree if the wind picks up,
    or due to camera mirror-slap.

    Gitzo and Benbo make unique tripods in which the legs and head post can be
    set at any angle, as they are all aligned on a common axis. They are
    excellent for working on mountainous or angled terrain, or setting up macro
    shots in the field, but they are not as easy to use as a standard tripod.
    It's all trade-offs, and what you need.

    Personally I like a ball head, since I can adjust all the movements with a
    single knob, but others prefer three-axis heads.

    Another question is about having a geared center post. Non-geared is lighter
    and generally faster, but geared allows for very fine adjustments, which can
    be very useful in macro work.

    Do you have more specific questions?

    Toby
     
    Toby, Feb 10, 2006
    #2
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  3. It depends on *greatly* on what you want to do with a tripod.
    I've got several (most of them relatively inexpensive too), and
    commonly use at least three of them.

    In addition to your list, there are some other things which
    might (or not) be important.

    The type of mount for a head (for example if you have more than
    one tripod or more than one head, being able to interchange at
    least some things is useful).

    Another possibly useful consideration is what type of accessories
    are available for it. Sidearms for example, to mount the camera
    off center from the tripod.

    The ability to get the camera down low for taking pictures of
    things at ground level (flowers, bugs, whatever). And perhaps
    the ability to have the camera at a low level to match your
    height when sitting on the ground. (That's not one I do, but
    I've seen sports photographers on the sidelines at football or
    soccer games sitting on the ground with a tripod that has legs
    spread way apart, and the camera right at eye level.)

    Obviously one tripod cannot be all things to all situations. I
    have a very lightweight tripod with a ball head that I use when
    I have to carry things, but don't need super stability. Setting
    up for shooting social functions indoors, for example (games,
    political rallies, school functions, etc. etc.). On the other
    hand I have three tripods with Majestic gearheads on them, and I
    just love them all. The tripod I use (and love) the most is my
    one genuine Majestic tripod (made by Bencher). I have two
    different kinds of sidearms for it and it gets used for just
    about anything where I can tolerate packing a tripod that heavy.
     
    Floyd Davidson, Feb 10, 2006
    #3
  4. Scratch and Sniff

    zeitgeist Guest

    weight and rigidity seem to be related, dead weight counts quite a bit, (but
    its easy to add weight with a plastic bag and some rocks, water bottles
    filled on site and tied together and looped over the cross brace.

    the cross brace helps a lot. it makes the pod a solid form and not 3 sticks
    in a hub. triangles are the strongest structure. in the old days they
    used a triangle on the ground and put the spikes into the ends.

    ease of use, quick release clamps. cheap ones cause loose joints that can
    let the camera vibrate, good ones can cost as much as the pod. pneumatic
    legs lets you set up faster, makes adjusting a whole lot faster.
     
    zeitgeist, Feb 10, 2006
    #4
  5. Scratch and Sniff

    Tony Polson Guest


    You have to be joking. A rigid tripod doesn't need a brace, unless it
    is exceptionally large and/or has to carry heavy loads. All the
    Manfrotto (Bogen) and Gitzo tripods suitable for outdoor use with
    DSLRs share something in common - they have no cross brace.

    The tripods that do have cross braces are the cheaper models with soft
    extruded U-section aluminium legs. They are so soft that they will
    bend in a breeze. They wilt before your eyes if you stare hard at
    them for more then twenty seconds. ;-)

    They come with brand names like Velbon, Kodak and Slik. Avoid them
    like the plague!
     
    Tony Polson, Feb 10, 2006
    #5
  6. Scratch and Sniff

    Bigguy Guest

    the cross brace helps a lot. it makes the pod a solid form and not 3
    Second that....

    Guy
     
    Bigguy, Feb 10, 2006
    #6
  7. Scratch and Sniff

    Arthur Small Guest

    There are so many variables to consider and many have been listed. I have
    had many tripods of the years and many are collecting dust. Just picked up a
    carbon fiber model, light weight but not cheap.

    It is a tough decision on what to get, and the best way is to look at
    various models and pick the one that will do the job for you and you can
    afford .

    www.alldigital.fotopic.net
     
    Arthur Small, Feb 10, 2006
    #7
  8. Scratch and Sniff

    Bigguy Guest

    True... It's best to buy the tripod you can't really afford ;-) and not
    have to 'upgrade' later.

    Tripods appear very expensive to the 'novice' but you do get what you pay
    for.
    For years I thought all tripods wobbled at full extension - then I got my
    hands on a Gitzo and understood the meaning of quality... and saw why light
    weight AND rigidity have to cost money.

    You either buy a whole series of crap tripods and finally pay again for a
    good'un OR you get smart and buy a good'un first ;-)


    Guy

    If you don't mind the weight Manfrotto are good value.
     
    Bigguy, Feb 10, 2006
    #8
  9. Scratch and Sniff

    babalooixnay Guest

    It's really hard to get an "all use" tripod without paying a small
    fortune for carbon. Stability generally = weight at all but the
    highest cost factors. I use a relatively heavy and clunky Manfrotto
    when the gear is going in the car and a lightweight and very compact
    Cullman Magic II for traveling by bicycle and long trips. The Magic II
    just won't work all the time but it's better than having nothing. All
    the lighter tripods can be made more stable by adding weight to the
    center. I made up a 12"x12" nylon drawstring bag that I fill with
    rocks when traveling light then hang it from the center. The Magic II
    center post is removable and can do double duty as a monopod of sorts
    as well. The real money should go into the head for your main tripod.
    Get something smooth and easy whatever style you decide on. I like a
    ball head that gets replaced by a real simple rotating disc for
    panoramas.
     
    babalooixnay, Feb 10, 2006
    #9
  10. Scratch and Sniff

    Sheldon Guest

    My rule of thumb is that the lighter the camera the heavier and sturdier the
    tripod needs to be, as the weight of the camera will help stabilize the
    whole thing. You can have a very rigid and lightweight carbon fiber tripod,
    but something has to keep it on the earth. A decent wind and you'll be
    running after a very lightweight tripod. Also, I like a head that lets you
    easily flip the camera for vertical shots.

    Fancy heads are only if you need them, and look for a tripod that has a
    comfortable grip at a nice working distance from the head. Futhermore, look
    at the feet. The combo rubber feet with recessed spikes are nice (no extra
    parts). The spikes work well on really thick carpet, too.
     
    Sheldon, Feb 10, 2006
    #10
  11. Scratch and Sniff

    Kyle Jones Guest

    Maybe. Some people never need a good'un, just like some of us will
    never need a flagship camera body or L glass. Even a cheap tripod is so
    much better than no tripod at all that I can't see advising a non-pro to
    keep saving for that special gilded tripod that will last a lifetime...
    only to have their son back the car over it in the garage a year later.
     
    Kyle Jones, Feb 10, 2006
    #11
  12. I agree completely.

    When choosing a tripod, extend the legs, grab the head
    and twist. Note how much twist in each one.
    Put a big camera with big lens on it and
    tap the legs and watch and feel the vibration. Most
    tripods are pretty poor. The carbon fiber will be
    the best. Test a Bogen 3001, and 3021 for reference.
    A 3001 is kind of the bottom in my opinion and with the
    20D and 20-200L lens might show some shake, and definitely
    with with a 2x extender on it. Then test a carbon fiber,
    like a Gitzo 1228 and it is an amazing difference.

    A dozen years ago when I started getting drum scans of my
    slides, and seeing blur. I analyzed what did it and it turned
    out to be the tripod. I upgraded to Bogen 3001, then
    3021, then carbon fiber. The CF was a big jump
    in stability.

    I feel I can do better with a Gitzo 1220 CF
    than I can with a Bogen 3021 aluminum tripod. Metal 3021
    legs vibrate. The 3021 (8 lbs, 3.6 Kg) has an 11 pound load
    capacity while the Gitzo 1228 weighs 3.8 lbs (1.7 Kg), and las a
    load capacity of 17.6 pounds. I have both, and the 1228
    is much more stable at half the weight. Just an example.

    For a head, be sure it has a quick release plate system,
    and one that if you release the clamp, the camera will
    not slide off or fall out of the clamp. This is VERY important.
    After going through several clamp systems, there are only
    two I like: the arca-swiss style that Wimberly puts out
    that has screw stops to prevent sliding out, and a Bogen
    329 head (Manfroto 3410). The 329 head has the highest
    camera load/head weight ratio in the Bogen line for pan/tilt
    heads and has a quick release with a safety stop.
    I use it and ball heads with the Wimberly clamp. Then for
    big telephotos, I use the Wimberly heads (sidekick for up to
    300mm, full Wimberly for 500mm f/4).

    Roger
    Photos at: http://www.clarkvision.com
     
    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Feb 11, 2006
    #12
  13. Scratch and Sniff

    VK Guest

    Maybe I am not doing it right, but this test has never really worked
    for me. Even my Gitzo 1548 + Arca Swiss combo shakes when I do this.
    I guess this is more usefu as a comparative test - or could be that I
    am doing it all wrong :)

    Vandit
     
    VK, Feb 11, 2006
    #13
  14. Pretty much every tripod vibrates, so it is a matter of degree.
    But it is a great relative comparison test. I have Gitzo 1325
    CF tripod and it is better than a 1228, with is better than a
    Bogen 3021 aluminum tripod which is better than a 3001, which
    is better than .....

    Even my Losmandy G11 tripod vibrates (3-inch diameter aluminum
    legs, weighs 35 pounds, head = 36 pounds + counterweight =
    21 pounds, so pretty heavy to lift). Concrete piers
    work real well, but aren't very portable ;-).

    Roger
     
    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Feb 12, 2006
    #14
  15. :I am sure this topic has been beaten to death but here goes.
    :
    : I am looking to purchase a tripod and head. I have looked at a bunch of
    : stuff and I am confused as to what the ideal properties are used for
    : choosing a tripod.
    :
    : Weight
    : Max vertical height "not including raising the top tube"
    : Structural rigidity
    : Ease of use
    : Price
    :
    : The largest lens I currently own is the canon EF 70-200 2.8L USM on a
    Canon
    : 20D
    :
    : Thanks for any impute
    :
    I really appreciate all the responses.
     
    Kratzer und Atemzug, Feb 12, 2006
    #15
  16. Scratch and Sniff

    VK Guest

    I've seen that at my gym - it's got the words "advanced bench press"
    written next to it.

    I gotsta ask - what *do* you put on that thing, other than the
    1200/5.6?

    Vandit
     
    VK, Feb 12, 2006
    #16
  17. Scratch and Sniff

    Toby Guest

    That being said, both Velbon and Slik have some excellent tripods on the
    market that can go head-to-head with the likes of Gitzo. The Slik heavy duty
    CFs beat the Gitzos for vibration damping.

    Toby
     
    Toby, Feb 12, 2006
    #17
  18. Scratch and Sniff

    Toby Guest

    Yes and no. Put a body + 600mm f4 tele on a light tripod and see how far you
    get. You need some rigidity with long heavy teles, which you just don't get
    with puny legs. Touch the camera and you end up waiting for minutes for the
    vibrations to stop.

    Toby
     
    Toby, Feb 12, 2006
    #18
  19. Astrophotography:

    http://www.clarkvision.com/galleries/gallery.astrophoto-1
    Many of the above photos are with the same 500 mm f/4 telephoto
    lens I use for wildlife. (Jump to the home page above and
    you will see links to wildlife photos.)

    Roger
     
    Roger N. Clark (change username to rnclark), Feb 12, 2006
    #19
  20. :
    : : >
    : > : >>I am sure this topic has been beaten to death but here goes.
    : >>
    : >> I am looking to purchase a tripod and head. I have looked at a bunch
    of
    : >> stuff and I am confused as to what the ideal properties are used for
    : >> choosing a tripod.
    : >>
    : >> Weight
    : >> Max vertical height "not including raising the top tube"
    : >> Structural rigidity
    : >> Ease of use
    : >> Price
    : >>
    : >> The largest lens I currently own is the canon EF 70-200 2.8L USM on a
    : >> Canon
    : >> 20D
    : >>
    : >> Thanks for any impute
    : >
    : > My rule of thumb is that the lighter the camera the heavier and sturdier
    : > the tripod needs to be, as the weight of the camera will help stabilize
    : > the whole thing. You can have a very rigid and lightweight carbon fiber
    : > tripod, but something has to keep it on the earth. A decent wind and
    : > you'll be running after a very lightweight tripod. Also, I like a head
    : > that lets you easily flip the camera for vertical shots.
    :
    : Yes and no. Put a body + 600mm f4 tele on a light tripod and see how far
    you
    : get. You need some rigidity with long heavy teles, which you just don't
    get
    : with puny legs. Touch the camera and you end up waiting for minutes for
    the
    : vibrations to stop.
    :
    : Toby

    Does this include using the lens mount?
     
    Kratzer und Atemzug, Feb 13, 2006
    #20
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