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Author Topic: Tripod / head choice  (Read 10859 times)
Roaring Bearcub
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« on: April 24, 2006, 06:52:29 AM »
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I would like help in deciding which tripod to get (apologies if there are so many other posts around like this - this is my first post). I have a Canon 350D that I've had for a few months, with a new 17-40L and a very cheap 90-300 f/4.5-5.6 (and the kit lens which I'll never use again). For the last few months, I've been using an old, cheap little Topman tripod; one of the bottom legs of it has broken off (after I leaned a bit too heavily on it). It only ever extended about 1 metre above the ground (without the leg broken   ), which I've never enjoyed all that much (I'm about 6ft). It is fairly light (I'm guessing about 1.4kg), and the camera-attaching thumbscrew occasionally comes apart, which can get annoying.

I've been looking at the Manfrotto range (I've looked a bit at Gitzo, but not as much), and I've been looking at the 058 Triaut tripod. It's attractive to me because of its height without centre column, and the leg releases. I primarily take landscape photos, as well as a bit of telephoto bird work. I would like a fairly heavy tripod rather than a light one - but that's just my opinion based on experience with my little tripod thing - are heavier tripods generally more stable?

You don't think that the tripod will be overkill for me, do you? I'm not professional, just a keen young amateur.

This brings me onto the point of heads - my little Topman thing has a 2-way inbuilt system, and I've been looking aroung various places for heads to go with the new tripod. From what I can make out, nobody seems to use 3-way heads - ball heads are all the rage. What can you recommend for my camera-lens system? Preferably something that isn't too expensive, but that I'll be happy with for a while. I won't be attaching any view cameras, or medium format systems any tme soon, but I might get a good, solid telephoto lens sooner or later (70-200 f/4, or 300 f/4)



Any help is appreciated - thanks in advance for your advice!
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2006, 08:33:43 AM »
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I've no experience with Manfrotto but I thought I would put a pitch in for Feisol.  Nice products and very reasonable cost.
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jimhuber
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« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2006, 09:55:59 AM »
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Although it would cost you as much as the camera, a Gitzo 1348 with a Really Right Stuff 40mm lever release ball head is as perfect as I've found for 35mm format. When I was using a Rebel XT I finally got tired of cheap tripods. I wanted something stable, durable, and quick to use. If you've never used a ball head you'll be surprised how much quicker and easier it is. The 1348 tripod will extend too high for me (at 6' also) on level ground, but on uneven ground the extra fourth leg section is very useful.

For lighter duty, like long hikes, I use a Gitzo 1128 tripod with really Right Stuff 25mm ball head. I've also since upgraded to a 5D camera, but either tripod & head combination will still support any camera & lens combination I own.

Do it right once, and never worry about it again. Most of the tools in this endeavor are technological wonders incorporating computers, so they get upgraded very quickly. Others, like printers, wear out mechanical systems. But a good tripod and ball head should last you a very long time... 20 years? 30 years?

Here's a good article for reference, too: http://bythom.com/support.htm
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nma
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« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2006, 02:27:55 PM »
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The purchase of a truly useable tripod requires a good of thought and research. I went through this exercise and considered advice like, "you have to buy a Porche tripod or your wheels will fall off."  After considerable dithering I bought a Feisol 3401 carbon fiber tripod with Acratech quick release mounting plates for my camera and an "Acratech ultimate ballhead."  My goal was a tripod that I could hike with and fit in my suitcase for air travel. At the time, Feisol was largely unknown and only sold over eBay. There is now a US agent and considerable experience with this company. Overall, it is a lower (not at all low) quality knock off of a Gitzo.

 
The 3401 is a four section tripod. This is a slight compromise in stability to obtain a smaller closed length, an important consideration if you want to carry it in your suitcase while traveling. The ballhead and tripod combo weigh a little less than 3 lb. I am 6'1" and can use the tripod without raising the center column and that helps stability. The Feisol has worked well in all kinds of conditions, including mud, sand, snow and rain. I find the Acratech to be fine, but not everyone agrees. A few apparently on't understand the controls. One good piece of advice. Whatever you get, be sure to get quick release plates made for your camera. Yuo can buy the best tripod and head, but if you don't get mounting plates that hold your camera so it can't twist, you are wasting your money, the setup will not be stable.
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2006, 03:14:16 PM »
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That's the one I have.  Do you have the original (weenie) aluminum collumn or did you buy the new fiber carbon one?  I tend to use mine with the fixed plate that came with the new center column kit.  Very stable.  Very light.  

They have a pretty interesting looking ball head these days.  But I have the Kirk BH-3.  Nice enough.  If I wanted seriously light I'd get the Acratech ultimate ball head.
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KenRexach
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« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2006, 12:30:12 AM »
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If you can afford a Gitzo Carbon 1227 lvl with a nice head like a Kirk BH3 or the RRS ball head by all means get it. You will use it a heck of a lot more than heavier and larger tripods. You can even take it carry on attached to a backpack no problem (the 1228 is even smaller and as stable)
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jd1566
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« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2006, 01:01:06 AM »
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If you are a keen photo enthusiast you will eventually end up spending quite a bit for a stable setup.  Before buying anything read this excellent article by Thom Hogan, who runs a Nikon specific site but has much information also for photographers:

http://www.bythom.com/support.htm

He gives various suggestions depending on the weight/mass of your setup as well as your type of photography.  To add to his list of suggestions there are some I would like to make.  Both Feisol and Giottos are Chinese manufactured tripods that are high in quality and low in price.  I have a Giottos aluminium monopod and a carbon fibre tripod.  The tripod is a bit short for my liking, so if you're tall get the 4 section one which is 10 cm taller.  Of course there is the centre column but I have removed mine, as the higher you go with a centre column the less stability you have.   As for how to attach your camera to the tripod, I would strongly suggest a ballhead.   For a long time I used a swivel and tilt platform, but it is too slow to get composition right.  With a ballhead you just ease it into place and it stays put, and its very intuitive.  If you have bucks to spend consider the Markins (Korean), an improved version of the original Arca Swiss ballhead.  The Nikonian site swears by them.  I personally have a RRS large ballhead.  When it came out it was all the rage, but I prefer the shorter and lighter Markins.  Don't underestimate the Giottos ballheads which are Linhoff copies and good quality.  Acratech's ultimate ballhead is also another practical and light solution, but make sure to get it with rubber nobs.  Whichever head you buy, I would suggest adding a RRS lever clamp which for me is a seriously intelligent invention.  Ballhead clamps are usually screwed closed, which means more time to close as well as not being sure it's been screwed tight.  The lever clamp is easy.. either the lever is open or it's closed.  Why it took someone so long to come up with that invention is beyond me.. but then the obvious is sometimes beyond us! :-)


In photography you generally get what you pay for, but these is still a lot of quality in these "no name" and lesser known brands.  Yes, a Gitzo does offer a lifetime warranty, but at more than double the price of a Giottos, I can afford to buy two tripods.. and am more likely to have it stolen than break from a defect. Yes, a RRS ballhead is the ultimate "dream" ballhead, but maybe it's too big and bulky for what you need it for, so consider the cheaper alternatives and try and get hands on testing before you buy.
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erusan
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« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2006, 01:03:57 AM »
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Regarding cheaper "copy cat" carbon tripods a la Feisol (in one of the previous posts), at the Photo Imaging Expo in Tokyo last month I looked at Gitzo copies from China under the brand "Benro". I assume this is a different brand / manufacturer than Feisol, but their products must be practically identical.
Anyone in for a comparison of Gitzo clones?

Btw, the Benro tripods looked sturdy enough but I am not sure about their ballheads. They showed a bit of rough finishing. Very eager to sell they were though :-)

(perhaps BernardLanguillier or other Japan members have seen the booth?)
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erusan
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« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2006, 01:05:27 AM »
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Regarding cheaper "copy cat" carbon tripods a la Feisol (in one of the previous posts), at the Photo Imaging Expo in Tokyo last month I looked at Gitzo copies from China under the brand "Benro". I assume this is a different brand / manufacturer than Feisol, but their products must be practically identical.
Anyone in for a comparison of Gitzo clones?

Btw, the Benro tripods looked sturdy enough but I am not sure about their ballheads. They showed a bit of rough finishing. Very eager to sell they were though :-)

(perhaps BernardLanguillier or other Japan members have seen the booth?)
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erusan
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« Reply #9 on: April 25, 2006, 02:02:01 AM »
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Search Photo Net and you will find some user feedback on Benro heads. They sound good but one or two people report roughness. I suspect there are quality control issues, so it's a case of "Do you feel lucky punk, well do yah?".

I disagree with Hogan's advice. My first tripod was a Benbo Trekker that fell to pieces in 18 months. My second was a Uniloc 1600 that is still going strong after 8 years. Cheap but excellent.

I used a Slik Pro 800 head for many years. Large, sturdy, cheap, but a bit 'coarse'. I discovered that taking it apart to clean it, and smoothing 'tears' on the ball's plastic covering with emery cloth help. Not a Porsche, and not a Trabant.

Leif
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Roaring Bearcub
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« Reply #10 on: April 26, 2006, 05:55:33 AM »
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Today, I went over to G&V Imaging in the city (in Australia) in order to play around with the tripods and heads - they stock Manfrotto, as well as cheap Velbons, but don't have Gitzo, or Kirk/RRS/Arca Swiss heads. Only Manfrotto heads.
Anyway, the store attendant recommended the 055 series of Manfrotto tripod - the 055 CLB ($360 Aus) in particular. It is very light (2.3 kg), and extends to 1.35m without centre column. Apparently, it can lower to 8cm off the ground, and the centre column comes out for macro work. I also used a simple ball head, the Manfrotto 488 RC2 ($175 Aus). The attendant also seemed to think that the 058B is a video tripod, not a still camera tripod...

My thoughts after using the equipment were:

1. What makes a tripod stable in windy conditions? Is 2.3kg enough for a sturdy aluminium tripod?

2. The ball head was awkward to use - it gave roughly the same amount of movement as my current tripod does, but is hard to precisely position. The camera is also limited to depressing by about 15 or 20 degrees. After tightening the ball head, the ball head seems to drop by a few degrees, which is what I can expect from my current tripod thing.

3. Quick release plates are nice. I like them.


Due to the fact that I don't make money from my photography, and that I'm still in high school, my parents are reluctant to spend too much money on the tripod/head. It seems that I'll just go with a 3-way head for better precision - I've lived with a 2-way head for 6 months, so I know what to expect.
I feel a bit depressed now, too, since my 90-300 lens actually wobbles around enough to move the image. And the chromatic abberation seems to get worse as the aperture decreases... Even text on a piece of paper has a green ghost and a red ghost. And the lens is so soft at 300mm that I might as well use it at 200mm, and then crop the image... Sorry if I sound a bit angry. At least the 17-40L is very good.
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jd1566
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« Reply #11 on: April 26, 2006, 11:20:04 AM »
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Tripod in windy situations - Hang a weight to the tripod to steady it. Stand between the wind and the tripod. Try to find a bit of shelter (if possible) to avoid the wind. There's a 100 ways to skin a cat.  Even very large and heavy tripods will dance if the wind is strong enough.  If you're shooting with the tele zoom you can try and lean on the lens a bit (without breaking it) and hold the camera.. this may help a bit.
Buy a cable release and use mirror lock up (which the 350D has).. this will again improve.  Shoot at f8 with the consumer lens, as it improves whatever deficinecies are in the lens.  You don't need expensive gear to take great shots, just a bit of technique and practice. Try not to use too many filters when shooting.  Even skylites and UV filters can be removed as every piece of glass has the possiblitiy of degrading the image a bit.    Now get out of this forum and start shooting.  Practice, and not forum dwelling makes perfect! :-)
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #12 on: April 27, 2006, 10:52:15 AM »
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Quote
Regarding cheaper "copy cat" carbon tripods a la Feisol (in one of the previous posts), at the Photo Imaging Expo in Tokyo last month I looked at Gitzo copies from China under the brand "Benro".

(perhaps BernardLanguillier or other Japan members have seen the booth?)
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=63628\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Oops, no...

A friend told me he saw them, but I must have missed them during my 56 min dash through the show....

Anyway, as long as I can afford to buy a Gitzo every 10 years I'll go for that instead of copies, wherever they come from!

Cheers,
Bernard
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2006, 10:53:03 AM »
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If you can afford a Gitzo Carbon 1227 lvl with a nice head like a Kirk BH3 or the RRS ball head by all means get it. [a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=63623\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I'd recommend the new 1257 instead, but agree otherwise.

Cheers,
Bernard
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richardga73
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« Reply #14 on: July 05, 2006, 06:53:36 AM »
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Hey, fellow photographers. Have a 1325 on order, traded a 1227 in on bogen's trade-in program. I have an arca-swiss b1. Would like a lighter head. Looking a rrs40 and kirkbh3. Any thoughts? I have a canon 5d and longest lense is canon 70-300IS Dont want cheap. Any thoughts?
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Mike Boden
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« Reply #15 on: July 05, 2006, 10:04:06 PM »
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I have the Gitzo 1325, which I've owned for over five years now, and it's a workhorse. It can be a little heavy for long hikes, but all in all, it's a great tripod that works for any format I use, including 8x10.

Furthermore, I use three different heads on it, which is easily swapped out. I have a large Manfrotto pan/tilt for the 8x10, a small Manfrotto for the 4x5, and a RRS Ballhead for the Canon DSLRs.

So, my recommendation would most definitely be any of the Gitzos for a tripod and Really Right Stuff for the ballhead and quick release plates.
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996sps
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« Reply #16 on: July 06, 2006, 10:24:20 PM »
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Quote
I would like help in deciding which tripod to get (apologies if there are so many other posts around like this - this is my first post). I have a Canon 350D that I've had for a few months, with a new 17-40L and a very cheap 90-300 f/4.5-5.6 (and the kit lens which I'll never use again). For the last few months, I've been using an old, cheap little Topman tripod; one of the bottom legs of it has broken off (after I leaned a bit too heavily on it). It only ever extended about 1 metre above the ground (without the leg broken   ), which I've never enjoyed all that much (I'm about 6ft). It is fairly light (I'm guessing about 1.4kg), and the camera-attaching thumbscrew occasionally comes apart, which can get annoying.

I've been looking at the Manfrotto range (I've looked a bit at Gitzo, but not as much), and I've been looking at the 058 Triaut tripod. It's attractive to me because of its height without centre column, and the leg releases. I primarily take landscape photos, as well as a bit of telephoto bird work. I would like a fairly heavy tripod rather than a light one - but that's just my opinion based on experience with my little tripod thing - are heavier tripods generally more stable?

You don't think that the tripod will be overkill for me, do you? I'm not professional, just a keen young amateur.

This brings me onto the point of heads - my little Topman thing has a 2-way inbuilt system, and I've been looking aroung various places for heads to go with the new tripod. From what I can make out, nobody seems to use 3-way heads - ball heads are all the rage. What can you recommend for my camera-lens system? Preferably something that isn't too expensive, but that I'll be happy with for a while. I won't be attaching any view cameras, or medium format systems any tme soon, but I might get a good, solid telephoto lens sooner or later (70-200 f/4, or 300 f/4)
Any help is appreciated - thanks in advance for your advice!
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=63541\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Just like yourself i started with a 350D. I used a Manfrotto 190Bpro and a pistol grip. Lenses were a Tamron 18 - 200mm and 200 - 500mm. Basic static shots were OK but try  panning or birding then it doesn't cut it.

In addition the the 350D I now use a 5D coupled with a whole set of L glass and correspondingly upgraded the tripod  to  the Gitzo 1325 CF and both the RRS BH-55 and BH-40. Sold the 190 but bought the 055B Pro.

I feel the Gitzo / BH-55 and Wimberly sidekick is a brilliant combo for birding and not too heavy and can take whatever you throw at it. The Manfrotto 055/BH-40 is more than capable for the 350D and the lenses you mentioned.

The Gitzo combo does not come in cheap but for sure it will last you for a very long time to come.

I hve seen the Benro (Gitzo lookalike CF stuff) and am very impressed with the carbon fibre bits for  a fraction of the  cost of  a Gitzo except for  the locking arrangement which looks flimsy to me.

You will also not  go wrong with clamping arrangement. I was using Manfrotto RC22 quick releases but once the extra weight comes on you will need more.

Ballheads - There are many at various costs to suite all budgets. IMO buy the better ones to avoid repeat buys later. A good ballhead will retain its value. Alternatives to the RRS are Markins (Korean made with exceptional reviews and value, Acratech and Kirk to name but  a few of the more reputable ones. Even Manfrotto  do carry a good ballhead in the 468 hydrostatic model.

Do checkout the various sites for reviews but  bear in mind the tripod/ballhead should be part of an overall package of your system and not a just  a add on bit on a cheap budget.

Good luck then
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bander
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« Reply #17 on: July 07, 2006, 11:58:05 AM »
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I love my Gitzo 1325. It may be more than you need right now, but it is light and can carry just about any conceivable set-up. For heads, I prefer the Markins (M10 or M20) or the Kirks. Everyone raves about the RRS, but I found the controls awkward to use for what I do. I've not seen any of the Chinese knock-off "products."
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Roaring Bearcub
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« Reply #18 on: July 09, 2006, 07:34:29 PM »
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Thanks for all of the advice that you people have given me!

I went to Foto Riesel in the city a while ago, as they were the only place I found that carried any Gitzo tripods at all. I played around with some Manfrottos, and also played with two Gitzos - a 2227, and a 2-series model which I forgot the exact code of.

The Manfrottos and the Gitzos at the shop were not tall enough for my liking, and the taller Manfrotto 475 was far too heavy - I underestimated the need for a light tripod.

I then did some further research about the Gitzos, and came to the conclusion that the 1327 would fit my needs best - lightweight, yet sturdy and tall enough to avoid ever needing a center column. Pity about the price, though...

I did eventually place my order for the Gitzo 1327, along with a Gitzo pan/tilt head, hotshoe bubble level and remote trigger. Apparently, Australia does not have any at all in the country, so I need to wait for another 6-8 weeks before it arrives.

I did borrow an old Manfrotto 055 from the shop for use over a weekend with an old Minolta SRT (the 350D has been playing up, not focusing, not responding, frezzing, buttons not working, et cetera, and I sent it to Canon for repairs).

The Manfrotto, about the same weight as the Gitzo, was a fair bit shorter - after levelling the tripod on very uneven ground, it was often too short for me. The tripod seemed fairly sturdy, but a little bit unstable occasionally - it has seen a lot of action, after all.

I'm now impatiently waiting for the Gitzo - although very expensive, I'm very sure that I won't need to upgrade this tripod ever in the future, and I'll be able to use it with practically any camera or lens that I get later. I'm quite happy about my choice, even though I haven't even touched the tripod yet.

Again, thank you all for your replies and your advice - it seems to have persuaded me to get the Gitzo, and spend twice as much money as I might have before (in my blissful ignorance).
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