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Thread: Sorry to post a tripod thread

  1. #1
    FlyingSquirrel's Avatar
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    Sorry to post a tripod thread

    I'm looking to buy a carbon fiber tripod for nature photography; many photos will probably be of wildlife. There are so many choices of brands, models, and features, it's difficult to sort it all out. I do have more research to do, but I was hoping to get some opinions from people that have experience with tripods for wildlife photography, which could help point me in the right direction.

    Here are a few thoughts on things I'd like and why:

    - carbon fiber (lightweight, strong, better vibration reduction, etc)

    - rotating leg locks instead of the lever type ones (at first I didn't like the idea of rotating leg locks, probably because I envisioned it taking forever to loosen/tighten them and that it would not be as secure, but I got a monopod with them recently and the loosen/tighten action is very short and fast, and holds solid. So that leads me to believe it is probably well done in at least some tripods. And on top of that, my current tripod has lever locks and they are a pain in *** - they get snagged on everything, making it hard to travel through natural areas and re-position the legs, they are difficult to work when they are facing away from you, and when working quickly they like to pinch!)

    - can stand up to water, mud, dirt within reason, assuming I clean it when I return home. (it's nature photography, so..duh) It is possible that in some cases I might be actually submerging the legs in water to a decent height (i.e. more than just a few inches)

    - ability to splay legs out nearly horizontal for very low angle shots

    - I've always been puzzled to some extent about the # of leg sections. From past research, if I recall, fewer sections means a longer closed length and/or shorter extended height? I don't need a really tall tripod, and I would rather have less things to adjust, so I guess 3 leg sections would be good?

    - I will be using a ballhead for nature in general, and a gimbal head for wildlife

    - I probably don't need (and would prefer not to have) a center column at all. Or have the ability to replace the center column with an extremely short one, or take a hacksaw to it, etc

    That's all I can think of for now, thanks for any suggestions, links, advice, experiences, etc
    Last edited by FlyingSquirrel; 6th June 2013 at 02:33 AM.

  2. #2
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Sorry to post a tripod thread

    “can stand up to water, mud, dirt within reason, assuming I clean it when I return home. (it's nature photography, so..duh) It is possible that in some cases I might be actually submerging the legs in water to a decent height (i.e. more than just a few inches)”
    Some time ago, I found a set of “tripod booties” on the Internet. These were plastic tubes which were sealed on one end. Placing the tripod legs in the booties protected them against water and sand. I don’t remember how they were kept on the tripod legs and I cannot find them again....

    “I will be using a ballhead for nature in general, and a gimbal head for wildlife”
    I use a Manfrotto gimbal bracket for long lenses on both tripods and monopods...


    "I probably don't need (and would prefer not to have) a center column at all. Or have the ability to replace the center column with an extremely short one, or take a hacksaw to it, etc”
    Some tripod manufacturers offer shorter center columns. However other tripods, like some Giottos models, articulate and make very good use of the center column to place the camera exactly where you want it.
    http://www.giottos.com/MTL-9.htm

    These are not the booties that I originally found but, it may give you some DIY ideas...
    http://www.nickcarverphotography.com/blog/?p=2243
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 6th June 2013 at 02:58 AM.

  3. #3

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    Re: Sorry to post a tripod thread

    Matt: Check out Really Right Stuff, or Feisol. Now RRS is costly however top of the line, read from drop down "be a gear expert", some very good stuff on what it look from when purchasing a tripod not just their but any tripod. I am going to include a link to both sites. I do own a Feisol tripod, with RRS ball head and L-brackets on my Nikon.
    Had trouble putting the links in so just type in the search box www.feisol.com for Feisol and www.reallyrightstuff.com or Really Right Stuff.

    Cheers:

    Allan

  4. #4
    FlyingSquirrel's Avatar
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    Re: Sorry to post a tripod thread

    Quote Originally Posted by rpcrowe View Post
    “can stand up to water, mud, dirt within reason, assuming I clean it when I return home. (it's nature photography, so..duh) It is possible that in some cases I might be actually submerging the legs in water to a decent height (i.e. more than just a few inches)”
    Some time ago, I found a set of “tripod booties” on the Internet. These were plastic tubes which were sealed on one end. Placing the tripod legs in the booties protected them against water and sand. I don’t remember how they were kept on the tripod legs and I cannot find them again....

    “I will be using a ballhead for nature in general, and a gimbal head for wildlife”
    I use a Manfrotto gimbal bracket for long lenses on both tripods and monopods...


    "I probably don't need (and would prefer not to have) a center column at all. Or have the ability to replace the center column with an extremely short one, or take a hacksaw to it, etc”
    Some tripod manufacturers offer shorter center columns. However other tripods, like some Giottos models, articulate and make very good use of the center column to place the camera exactly where you want it.
    http://www.giottos.com/MTL-9.htm

    These are not the booties that I originally found but, it may give you some DIY ideas...
    http://www.nickcarverphotography.com/blog/?p=2243
    Richard, thanks for your reply. That is some helpful info, and I'll check out Giottos products. Regarding the booties, I did happen across this today http://www.carolinawildphoto.com/TripodDryLegs.htm

  5. #5
    FlyingSquirrel's Avatar
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    Re: Sorry to post a tripod thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Polar01 View Post
    Matt: Check out Really Right Stuff, or Feisol. Now RRS is costly however top of the line, read from drop down "be a gear expert", some very good stuff on what it look from when purchasing a tripod not just their but any tripod. I am going to include a link to both sites. I do own a Feisol tripod, with RRS ball head and L-brackets on my Nikon.
    Had trouble putting the links in so just type in the search box www.feisol.com for Feisol and www.reallyrightstuff.com or Really Right Stuff.

    Cheers:

    Allan
    Allan, thank you for your reply and help. I own a RRS ballhead and a few small accessories, in my opinion their prices are absolutely absurd and will not buy anything else from them unless I absolutely must. I have never heard of feisol, I will check them out. Thanks

  6. #6
    Adrian's Avatar
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    Re: Sorry to post a tripod thread

    To avoid repetition, see also this thread on this forum about tripods:

    Travel Tripod Search Results

    A good friend of mine who spends half the year living on his (large - ocean going) sail boat, swears by a Gitzo Ocean Traveller tripod. Uses Swiss Arco head on it. The quality of the tripod and fittings is beautiful and it stands up to the very harsh environment (salt water is extremely corrosive) very well. However, this is upper end pricing for a photography (as opposed to pro film) tripod.

    Of all the heads I have seen, Swiss Arco are hard to beat for quality and smooth operation in my experience.

    Personally I am using a mid range three legged thing set up with their ball head 2. Very good. Not as good as Gitzo in quality terms. Depends how much you want to use it. If I were buying again, for long term, I would choose Gitzo or RRS, with Swiss Arco head. I know RRS are expensive, but their heads are also well engineered in my view and very smooth in use (again - never owned one but have a pro filmaker friend in New York who is an enthusiast for this brand and his equipment is certainly nice quality).

    As for twist versus lever locks: the 3LT tripod is twist and it works well. But, the other tripods we use in my business have lever locks and I think they are both quicker and more secure. It is also obvious when they are locked, which is not teh case with twist locks. Twist locks are less bulky for travel though.

  7. #7
    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: Sorry to post a tripod thread

    There are a lot of RRS fans on this site and they seem to make top end gear. Others I know swear by Kirk, Markins and Novoflex (sometimes referred to as the German RRS; but too expensive on this side of the pond because of import duties) for ball heads. I don't own any because the price is way over the top. Most of the serious shooters I know have either the Gitzo or Manfrotto tripods.

    I've been shooting with the Benro / Induro carbon fibre tripods and heads for the last 4 years (I own two of their tripods and 3 ball heads) and while not in the same league as some of the others, they run at around 1/2 the price for performance that is close to the high end stuff. They meet all of your requirements except the one for no centre columns. Carbon fibre is great for water / salt water as it does not rust or corrode (aluminum does NOT do well in salt water) and I do a quick rinse after exposure to salt and will take 5 or 10 minutes to disassemble and clean the gear thoroughly after I get home. Benro / Enduro uses the "standard" Arca-Swiss style plate.

  8. #8

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    Re: Sorry to post a tripod thread

    All your criteria are good for a general tripod. However do also look at the Benbo Tripods if you are working in water or very uneven ground. The sealed bottom legs give you 24" or so (depending on model) of immersion by a sealed leg. On uneven ground the ability to place each leg where you want it is a big plus, especially where the ground is soft or muddy. they are aluminium and have knobs on, but they can give a stable "tripod" where no other one can. I use mine with a Manfrotto pistol grip head, heavy but oh so quick to adjust and lock, great with macro work or following an animal.

    There is no perfect tripod, there is no perfect head.

  9. #9

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    Re: Sorry to post a tripod thread

    I use the Manfrotto 055 tripod for wildlife use; and last year I went over to the carbon fibre version. 055CXPRO3

    Certainly strong and stable.

    I was using a 'pistol grip' type release handle ball head Manfrotto 322RC2) which worked well, although there was a little slippage with heavy equipment. Now I have the 468MGRC4 fluid action head.

    Very sturdy with no slippage, although perhaps not quite the universal ball head action. But I have learned how to cope with that. Can be a bit of a finger trapper if you aren't careful though.

    I have a twist type leg lock on my 4 section lightweight and easy carry Velbon tripod and I hate it. I would always get lever locks again. Being of average stature I struggle to stretch my arms wide enough to set up all four sections.

    It needs quite a bit of wrist power to securely lock the joints, and even more to unlock them. I have to grip the knob at the bottom (foot) to twist the sections and considering where that knob is often placed, I'm not over keen on gripping it again!

    The Velbon does have a two stage centre column, part of which can be unscrewed and removed. At one time I did consider reducing the length of my Manfrotto centre column to enable me to get closer to the ground.

    Eventually, I realised that I can position the centre column alongside one leg so when the legs are fully splayed I can get down to 9 ins which is usually sufficient. With the centre colum upright, instead of lying alongside a leg, this closest distance is 18 ins from ground level.

    There is an optional horizontal position for the centre column which takes me as low as 5 ins.

    With my previous Manfrotto 055 the legs won't splay so far which limits the distance to 12 ins from the ground.

    One reason which prevented me from reducing my centre column length is that when moving around in dense undergrowth I like to keep my tripod leg splay to a small footprint and gain height with the centre column. Exactly the reverse to what is recommended for landscape photography.

    There is however some risk in that the tripod can be a bit unstable and liable to fall over, so I always keep a hand on it just in case.

  10. #10
    Ollokot's Avatar
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    Re: Sorry to post a tripod thread

    Hi Matt,
    My advice would be to go for a Gitzo, I had a reasonable tripod before the gitzo but it did not stand up to the hardships of nature photography, such as Birds.
    The gitzo is strong, durable, and can take an immeasurable amount of hardship and keep functioning, I have put my one through a lot of hardship in wild places and it comes up smiling. As carbon fiber goes the gitzo is probable that bit heavier than most so take that into account.
    Hope this helps, Best Wishes,

    Pat

  11. #11
    FlyingSquirrel's Avatar
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    Re: Sorry to post a tripod thread

    Thanks for all the replies, advice, and suggestions. This gives me quite a lot to think about.

    I was really set on the twist locks, but now you have me reconsidering the lever locks. It's a tough call, because like I said, the lever locks get snagged on things and make it really hard to move the legs around when you are in foliage. I don't know about the newer ones, but my old bogen tripod levers make a loud snapping noise...not the best thing to have loud noises when you are trying to photograph wildlife. But then I like the point that was made about how the levers are a visual cue as to whether it's locked tight or not, and also I can now probably believe that the lever is still faster than a twist lock. Darn, time to mull it over some more.

    I've been to a lot of manufacturer's websites, done some web reading, looked at bh/adorama, etc, but I think I need to do it again, more carefully. It's a lot to do, but considering I will be spending between $400-800 and have to live with the choice, it's probably not a bad idea to spend the time and effort.

    Thanks again

  12. #12

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    Re: Sorry to post a tripod thread

    I have had several tripods and, in fact, I discarded the very first tripod I ever bought (Star-D Davidson) a year or two ago. It was getting on to 50 y/o... The newest I own (bought new) is a Leitz TiltAll, from the days before ball heads. I won't attempt to persuade you of its three signal virtues (stability, stability & stability) since it has several more vices (weight, pan head and a few others). However, it does have a center column and twist leg locks so I feel competent to discuss those features.

    Center columns have a very bad rep and, if I only had the Star-D to go by, the rep would be entirely deserved. (The TiltAll has enough stability and rigidity that careful use of the center column is quite justifiable.) The major use I have had for the center column is to invert it and hang the camera between the legs. This enables the lens to very closely approach ground level - a lot closer than if the spider and ball head were between the ground and the lens. It also makes the tripod a useful occasional copy stand. Live view on the camera is the natural accompaniment for this tripod behavior.

    Twist vs. clip leg locks is a matter of taste. I have owned a monopod with clips for several months now and use it daily. It's been attached to the shooting camera for several K-shots. Coincidentally, today was the first time I experienced any problem - a clip got caught in one of my belt loops. (But, then I probably don't use the monopod in the manner most might expect.) I actually prefer the monopod's clips to the TiltAll's twist locks but I can live with either. The TiltAll's major problem is that the legs are not designed for anti-twist so managing the order in, and degree to which one loosens or tightens the locks is a necessary art to master.

    I would be interested in your decision as well as your later thoughts of how your decision may or may not have missed reality.

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