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Author Topic: Tripod for DSLR and Medium Format  (Read 3567 times)
Sareesh Sudhakaran
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« on: May 29, 2011, 12:57:24 AM »
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Hi. I am hoping somebody can help me with this:

I need a tripod for landscape photography/studio photography using my Mamiya RB67 (4kg with everything) or Canon DSLR kit. Material is not important, though it will be used for exteriors mostly. I also don't care about the brand or country of make, as long as it works.

Maximum load capacity should be 6-8 kgs or more. It must be rock solid in all weather and terrain conditions.
Maximum height should be around 6 feet (my eye level)
I don't want a center column tripod.
I need both horizontal and 90 degree vertical ability (for the DSLR). I'll also need to tilt the camera for occasional shots.
I am not interested in Macro photography.
I will be carrying it around, so lighter the better, and smaller when folded the better.
I can go with three-way head or ball head, doesn't really matter since I will have a lot of time to set up my shot. Sports or fast photography is not my thing.

Since I'm just an amateur, I don't want to spend a lot of money right off the bat. I need the cheapest possible system that is reliable and conforms to my specifications.

If anyone can assist me in making my decision, I'll be grateful. Thanks!
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Anders_HK
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« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2011, 02:01:12 AM »
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Hi, In ten years of serious photography I am on my second tripod. My first was a Manfrotto Carbon One, four section. That was an excellent tripod but I wanted one more solid; as you state one solid as a ROCK.

I followed John Shaw's recommendation;

- three section Gitzo (more sections add more weak points)
- no telescoping column (telescoping column is like a monopod ontop a tripod)
- carbon fiber (light, solid and reduced vibrations)

You mentioned price? Above is not lowest price, but will be a very long time keeper if you pick a good one.

Regards
Anders
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Sareesh Sudhakaran
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« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2011, 05:18:44 AM »
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Thanks Anders...I would love to get a Gitzo, but it's out of my budget for now. The choices and brands are so confusing.
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David Watson
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« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2011, 01:49:43 PM »
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I have a Gitzo 3530 plus an Arca cube - this is the best but very expensive.  I had to recommend something to a friend on a limited budget and suggested a Calumet tripod with a Manfrotto junior geared head.  Calumet have many of the features of the GItzo tripods at a fraction of the price.  The geared head will be a better solution than a ball head for your camera.

Something like the Calumet 8132 (has a centre column but don't use it) would be a good choice.
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feppe
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« Reply #4 on: May 30, 2011, 04:02:24 PM »
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There are plenty of alternatives to Gitzo carbon fiber, Feisol seems to be highly regarded although I haven't tested them. Given your list of requirements, check out that they can be used without a center column - just because it is removable doesn't necessarily mean you can use the tripod without it! That goes for the Calumet mentioned above. All of Gitzo's Systematic tripods (model number includes "S") have a removable center column, and the head can be attached directly to the top plate.

You might also benefit from spiked leg caps depending on where you shoot. The 90-degree stable tilt is easiest to achieve with an L-bracket - using the head to tilt the camera will put weight off-axis and result in less stability.

As to David's suggestion on geared heads, take a note of their weight before going that route. Consider Acratech's Ultimate Ballhead, which is the best combination of light weight and solid stability I know of.

Also, check out used tripod sales here, largeformatphotography forums, Fred Miranda and eBay. I got my large minty 3540LS Gitzo on eBay for significantly less than a new one. Before you consider that one, it's a hulking beast even without a column, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone wanting to travel unless you travel with LF gear and need a rock solid platform.

Finally, note the rule of tripods: cheap, stable, light - pick any two Wink
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Sareesh Sudhakaran
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« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2011, 10:24:11 PM »
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Thanks David. I had never considered a geared head. Does it offer any advantages for landscape work over the ball head?
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Sareesh Sudhakaran
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« Reply #6 on: May 30, 2011, 10:38:16 PM »
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Thanks feppe! A few questions:

The 90-degree stable tilt is easiest to achieve with an L-bracket - using the head to tilt the camera will put weight off-axis and result in less stability.

Does this apply to all ball heads and 3-way heads?

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Finally, note the rule of tripods: cheap, stable, light - pick any two Wink

I pick cheap and stable. Weight is not an issue. What choices do I have?
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feppe
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« Reply #7 on: May 31, 2011, 05:51:46 AM »
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Does this apply to all ball heads and 3-way heads?

Yes, it's a matter of physics. Note it depends on how stable/heavy your tripod/head combo is, so it might not make an appreciable difference if you go for a rock steady setup and don't load it with a 600mm lens. L-brackets are light, cheap(ish) and quick to use, so I'd highly recommend going that route.

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I pick cheap and stable. Weight is not an issue. What choices do I have?

Don't really know since my research has always been towards stable and light... Probably an aluminum tripod from one of the manufacturers mentioned above. Just be careful with going really cheap: there are numerous stories from seasoned photographers who've gone through several tripods, each more expensive than the other, to end up with a top-of-the-line brand name.
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DiaAzul
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« Reply #8 on: May 31, 2011, 10:13:16 AM »
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Thanks David. I had never considered a geared head. Does it offer any advantages for landscape work over the ball head?

It depends upon the quality of the ballhead - when lining up the camera on a ballhead it can be difficult to get the camera into position and keep it there when the grip is tightened (especially with heavy camera/lens combinations). In my experience I could never get the camera to line up correctly and stay in place (quite often the camera would slip slightly when the grip was tightened). Obviously, the better (and more expensive) the ballhead the easier and more reliable it should be.

For a geared head the camera is cranked into position and tends to stay fixed - so for landscape photography (imho) it is easier to line up the camera and keep it in a stable position.

As with most things, each to their own - some will prefer ballheads, others geared heads. It depends on your personal ways of working.

When picking a tripod make sure it has a hook underneath to hang either your camera bag or weights on - this is vital if you are going for a lighter tripod and want maximum stability.
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Sareesh Sudhakaran
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« Reply #9 on: May 31, 2011, 10:48:27 AM »
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Thanks David and feppe...hopefully I won't make a mistake.
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David Watson
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« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2011, 12:32:41 PM »
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Thanks David. I had never considered a geared head. Does it offer any advantages for landscape work over the ball head?

You are most welcome.  I used a Really Right Stuff ballhead for some years and, whilst it is a nice piece of kit, it was frustrating to use.  Like some other posters I found it very difficult to get precise movements or even to level the camera very accurately.  This became even more important when I started using MFD and 35mm pro DSLR's.  It was replaced with an Arca Swiss Cube which is ridiculously expensive but works extremely well.  A geared head enables precise and predictable movements and is ideal.  Using an L plate (which is possible with the Cube) adds a further advantage in that the camera can be rotated in the same position by 90 degrees.  These L plates only work with the Kirk/Arca/RRS system although it is possible on some tripods to swap the top plate on the head for a clamp plate that will work with these L plates.

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feppe
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« Reply #11 on: May 31, 2011, 12:49:40 PM »
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I'm one of those who never understood the need for geared heads. Then again I've never used one, and I don't intend to - it might be almost as expensive as that one trip to the TV store where they had HD projectors on display Tongue BTW, a projector with 86" screen was the best damn investment in home entertainment I've ever done.

There are Arca Cube knock-offs at considerably cheaper prices sold around the internets, but read reviews before committing as quality might also be comparably cheaper. There might be some questionable business practices going on depending on any patents involved - although I doubt Arca has the capital to invest in global patents (cost 100k+ EUR a pop).
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alain
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« Reply #12 on: May 31, 2011, 02:52:10 PM »
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... although I doubt Arca has the capital to invest in global patents (cost 100k+ EUR a pop).
Ethically that doesn't make any difference.
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Jack Varney
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« Reply #13 on: May 31, 2011, 09:21:37 PM »
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There has been lots of good advice here. You mentioned that six feet (72 inches) height is about right for your eye level. However, remember that when you use the tripod on significantly unlevel ground, six feet of tripod can effectively be significantly reduced, in practice. You may wish for more height.
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Jack Varney
Sareesh Sudhakaran
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« Reply #14 on: May 31, 2011, 10:27:13 PM »
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Good point Jack...didn't think of that. But then what would be the ideal tripod height for my purposes?
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EPd
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« Reply #15 on: June 01, 2011, 06:56:15 PM »
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In your situation I would go for this combo:

Manfrotto MPRO Carbon Fibre 2-Stage Video Tripod (http://www.manfrotto.com/product/8709.58969.76923.0.0/535/_/MPRO_Carbon_Fibre_2-Stage_Video_Tripod)

Manfrotto half bowl 520BALL 75mm Bowl for easy and perfect leveling (http://www.manfrotto.com/product/0/520BALL/_/520BALL_75Mm_Bowl_With_Knob)

Manfrotto 410 Junior Geared Head (http://www.manfrotto.com/product/8374.31708.76913.0.0/410/_/410_Junior_Geared_Head) or the 405 model if you want an even stronger solution.

The above combo will fit all your specifications at a reasonable price. I am a big fan of using video tripods with half bowls for ultimate stability and ease of use in the field. The 410 Junior Geared Head is a very usable (and much cheaper) alternative to an Arca Cube. I'm using one for many years already with heavy medium format equipment.
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Sareesh Sudhakaran
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« Reply #16 on: June 01, 2011, 10:30:04 PM »
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The above combo will fit all your specifications at a reasonable price. I am a big fan of using video tripods with half bowls for ultimate stability and ease of use in the field. The 410 Junior Geared Head is a very usable (and much cheaper) alternative to an Arca Cube. I'm using one for many years already with heavy medium format equipment.

Thanks!
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jeremyrh
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« Reply #17 on: June 03, 2011, 04:10:02 AM »
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There are Arca Cube knock-offs at considerably cheaper prices sold around the internets, but read reviews before committing as quality might also be comparably cheaper.
Anyone have any specific recommendations?
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jeremyrh
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« Reply #18 on: June 03, 2011, 04:12:10 AM »
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- no telescoping column (telescoping column is like a monopod ontop a tripod)
I always think this is a bit of an exaggeration - the telescoping column is short and attached to a stable base, not long and held in my shaky hands.
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Christoph C. Feldhaim
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« Reply #19 on: June 03, 2011, 04:27:59 AM »
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Honestly - for landscape work you might want to consider a large tripod.
Since I have my XXl Gitzo (4 segments) tripod I increasingly often have situations,
where I want to get up the tripod as high as possible because it gives a nice "Rider perspective".
I allows a very different and IMO pleasing handling of foreground.
I even consider getting some sort of light-weight movable stand to be able to reach the top of the tripod,
when there are no natural ladders nearby.
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