Old 05-08-2007, 06:15 PM   #1
JRMDC
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Default Tripod and Head

Sooner or later it will be time to move up from monopod and hand-held shooting to a tripod. Most of my shooting is with my son along and it is more important to be mobile in between shots than steady in the shot. But I hope to get away for a few independent outings this year.

So what do you guys like? Maximum height, minimum? Carbon/light weight? What type of head, ball, pan/tilt, grip action, etc? Are level bubbles useful? I like the quick release on my monopod so I'll want to have that; I think that is just done with a plate on the camera so any head will match up if there is enough clearance.

My largest lens is a 70-200/4. I might find reason some day to rent a 300/2.8 (the 400/2.8 is a back breaker!) and so I might want to have the support for that.

Anyway, any/all thoughts welcome.

J
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Old 05-08-2007, 07:51 PM   #2
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I highly recommend you get the lightest, best quality tripod you can afford. I have a good sturdy Manfrotto with 3 way adjustable head and built in bubble level - I'm not home now so I don't know exact model numbers - but it is very heavy and I tend to leave it behind and use my monopod instead. Below is what I would look for in a tripod:
  • Light in weight.
  • Built in bubble Level.
  • Max. height - same height as you.
  • Min. height - ground level

If you can afford the $500+ carbon tripods I would buy one.
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Old 05-08-2007, 08:11 PM   #3
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Cool

In my experience the biggest issue is how easily and quickly can you set up and put away. since this tends to be a train chasing hobby. And you want it high enough to look through the finder easily. As you have already discovered, the quick release is a gotta have. For setting up and putting away I find the lever locks a bit more convenient than the various kinds of twist locks.

The weight issue depends on your shooting. I use my tripod mostly to discipline my framing, since if I hand hold I tend to make involuntary adjustments as the moving train enters the picture. For that weight is not an issue, I could probably use the cheapest and lightest pod around.

But I do have one of those backbreakers, a 80-200/2.8 lens. And I do occasionally take time exposures or other shots requiring a slow shutter speed with a long lens. So for that kind of lens and use weight is an advantage. (You can also hang rocks from the head to make a light pod more rigid!)

Packing for travel is also an issue. I wish my tripod didn't take up so much room.

I think the leveling bubble is pretty worthless unless you're a video person trying to pan. It is better to level by eye. Be interested if anyone feel differently and why. Maybe I'm missing something. I have used it occasionally when I was planning to pan for several shots.

I have had both aluminum and carbon fibre, and not sure I can think of a reason to prefer one over the other. Carbon fibre is lighter, which can be good or bad.

The head is another issue. You can spend as much on a head as on the pod. I currently use one of those three way models, but am buying a ball head for traveling because it is smaller.

You can spend a mint on a tripot. Gitzo makes some great stuff at astronomical prices. I have a Manfrotto which seems to be good quality at a reasonable price. But my guess is you could spend less and do just fine.

Hope this helps. Didn't plan to be this long winded, but thoughts just kept cropping up. Just my opinions, you mileage may vary! Good luck.

John West

Last edited by John West; 05-08-2007 at 08:20 PM.
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Old 05-08-2007, 08:45 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lwhistler
If you can afford the $500+ carbon tripods I would buy one.
LMAO! $20 at Walmart for me!
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Old 05-08-2007, 09:35 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Blaszczyk (2)
LMAO! $20 at Walmart for me!
You don't shoot RAW, you have a $20 tripod, what next, you don't think about things in advance and every shot is a grab shot?
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Old 05-08-2007, 09:49 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John West
But my guess is you could spend less and do just fine.
Well Andrew is living proof of that advice. He does just fine thank you!

John
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Old 05-08-2007, 10:18 PM   #7
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Default tripod

I have an old Bogen with a quick release head that works well, but I also had a tripod I bought at K-Mart in 1977 that was great. I agree with John about the bubble, and sometimes I think my old K-Mart tripod was better than my current Bogen.(Manfrotto) If I could I'd buy a Gitzo carbon fiber, but I just can't justify the expense.
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Old 05-09-2007, 05:45 PM   #8
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Hi Janusz,
I've used quite a few tripods & I think the best 'affordable' tripods are Slik products. I currently have a 330DX & I'm about to upgrade to a 700DX (although the 7lb weight has me debating...I might save my pennies for something lighter).
Ballheads are nice...but I think for railroad photography (where more panning could be involved), a pan/tilt head is more appropriate.

I use a bubble-level that sits in my camera hot-shoe flash slot, it's not on the tripod istelf. I find it helpful, crooked horizons are a pet-peeve of mine.

Good luck...
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Old 05-09-2007, 09:40 PM   #9
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Quote:
I might find reason some day to rent a 300/2.8.
Alright this is news to me. Who rents lenses?

As far as the tripod goes I like Andrews approach.
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Old 05-09-2007, 11:06 PM   #10
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Renting

online: rentglass.com; there are other similar firms that don't come to mind at the moment. I had a good experience with rentglass.

local: generally speaking, in any major city there is at least one shot that rents equipment, with pros being the target market. Here in DC, Penn Camera rents and, I am happy to say, they are walkable from my office!

EDIT: In DC and, I believe, in other places, the local market tends to be a weekday market so there is excellent rental pricing for weekends.
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Last edited by JRMDC; 05-10-2007 at 11:56 AM.
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Old 05-10-2007, 11:45 AM   #11
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i have four tripods, right now...

a $20 mini tripod that folds small enough to fit in a shirt pocket. good for point and shoot only.

a $10 cheapo aluminum unit that was a spur of the moment purchase. ok for point and shoot and small video cameras. too scary for the d70, if the legs are fully extended.

a slik u-212 that i bought back in college. sturdy, bulky and heavy. doesn't travel well - especially by air. does not fit into the side pocket of my back pack. it has a three way head. never liked it. too mutch 'futzing' to adjust easily or quickly.

a benro aluminum unit with matching ball head. bought it in china last year. i don't think they are available stateside. good price (a fist full of chinese yuan that amounted to less than $100usd). compact. decent quality. sets up fairly quickly. not too heavy or bulky. travels by air reasonalby well - i can stuff it in one of the side pockets on my backpack. this is my favorite, now.

i prefer the ball head for quick/easy adjustment. you can adjust the friction controls to the point where the camera/lens will stay put, but you can still move it with minimal force without having to release the locks.

if you opt for the ball head, look for one that has a rotating base. i didn't care for the units that required rotating the ball in order to rotate the camera. with a rotating base, you can pan easily while maintaining reasonable control over level. i like to mess around with panoramic shots, so the rotating base is helpful. a tripod that will allow itself to be used at/near ground level is a bonus, since you can get some intersting vantage points, without being a contortionist.

as with all purchases, i researched and stressed over this one for a long time. i had a hard time spending over $200 for a tripod. if i had not found the benro unit, i would have likely bought a manfrotto aluminum combo. carbon fiber gets scary pricey for my tastes.

hope this helps.

good luck.
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Old 05-10-2007, 04:13 PM   #12
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Quote:
nline: rentglass.com; there are other similar firms that don't come to mind at the moment. I had a good experience with rentglass.
Holy cow! Cool to know places like this exist! Alot of their stuff was currently unavailable on the Canon side and they didn't really have anything from Tamron and a limited selection from Sigma, but it's still a neat resource to check out to try a lens you might be thinking about buying...
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Old 05-10-2007, 08:34 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ween
Holy cow! Cool to know places like this exist! Alot of their stuff was currently unavailable on the Canon side and they didn't really have anything from Tamron and a limited selection from Sigma, but it's still a neat resource to check out to try a lens you might be thinking about buying...
Plus, although I personally would never suggest to do something like this, keep in mind that places like Ritzcamera.com offer 30 day no questions asked returns, so technically you could use a lens for a weekend shoot & return it....or so I've heard.
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Old 05-10-2007, 10:24 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill
Plus, although I personally would never suggest to do something like this, keep in mind that places like Ritzcamera.com offer 30 day no questions asked returns, so technically you could use a lens for a weekend shoot & return it....or so I've heard.
True, but not my style...
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Old 05-11-2007, 01:08 AM   #15
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Thanks, everybody, I'll continue to ponder and then probably get something I spot used that seems to fit the bill.
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