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Thread: Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

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    neverhood311's Avatar
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    Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

    Well, I think I've finally graduated from my $10 Davis and Sanford tripod and want to find something a little more robust. I want something that has a ball head and a quick release that can support my camera and a bunch more if I choose to upgrade that someday.

    I have a Canon Rebel XTi and my heaviest lens is the EF-S 17-85mm IS USM.

    I was thinking of getting the Manfrotto 190xb legs ($139) and the 494RC2 ball head with quick release ($70). I want a setup that allows for an interchangeable head in case I want to upgrade that, too.

    Is that a pretty good setup for me? Could I do better for that price?

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    Peter Ryan's Avatar
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    Re: Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

    Hi Justin,

    I have a Manfrotto (just can’t remember the model) will ball head and it is great. I have seen so many accidents with inappropriate tripods and they cost a lot less than your camera and lens.

    Something else worth considering is can you remove the centre column? I specifically hunted for one where I can remove the centre column so it lays flat to the ground for macro work. The mechanism that holds the ball head can be removed from the central column and affixed directly to the trip. Not required if you do not do any macro work.

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    neverhood311's Avatar
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    Re: Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Ryan View Post
    Something else worth considering is can you remove the centre column? I specifically hunted for one where I can remove the centre column so it lays flat to the ground for macro work. The mechanism that holds the ball head can be removed from the central column and affixed directly to the trip. Not required if you do not do any macro work.
    Thanks for the advice. Looking at the product description on the Manfrotto website, I can't tell if the center column is removeable. They say it's a 'rapid' center column. I don't really plan on doing much macro work, though. I'll be using the tripod mostly for landscape and HDR photography.

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    Re: Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

    We had a bit of a discussion of tripods and heads a while back ...

    Best Tripod and head for stability

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

    Justin

    I have the Manfrotto 055XP ProB with a 486RC2 head.

    If you looked at the previous thread Colin provided the link to, you'll have read the discussion about centre columns.

    If you're thinking 'Manfrotto' then the one I have has the, what I call, swivelling centre column in that you can turn it through 90 degrees to get it sitting horizontally. Of course, on tripods without centre columns you can achieve the same end, but the swivel facility on this one is good when needing to get down low and close with the Tokina 11-16 f2.8 mounted on the front.

    I very, very rarely use the centre column extended vertically. I much prefer using the legs to get to the height I want as it provides much greater stability.

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    Re: Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

    Justin, I think your tripod choice is a good one. I agree with Donald about getting the swiveling center column. My 55XProB (swivel column) has been awesome. Also look at the 322RC horizontal pistol grip head. Its a well thought out product that you may like better than a ball head.

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    Re: Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

    For what it's worth, my advice is to avoid centre columns if you'll be trying to shoot serious landscape - if you're trying to shoot, say, a 10 ro 20 minute exposure in a bit of a breeze then I suspect that you're almost certainly going to get movement. From a personal perspective I might add that I'd LOVE to have a centre column for the convenience (not having one is a royal PITA), but quality has to come first.

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    Re: Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

    Hi Justin,

    I have an old Culman model bought back in my film shooting days, it has a centre column which is divisble for getting the camera close to the ground when the legs are splayed. Obviously, that doesn't improve stability, but since the only place I tend to use mine is indoors in front of a light tent/box for macro or product shooting, it is, as Colin says, handy to be able to just raise the camera by a few cm/inches at the turn of a screw rather than phaff around with three legs and re-leveling it all.

    Cheers,

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    Re: Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    handy to be able to just raise the camera by a few cm/inches at the turn of a screw rather than phaff around with three legs and re-leveling it all.
    Just for the record, one "quick and dirty" trick I often use is to simply drag the legs of the tripod inwards or outwards a little - with a ball head one can even just move one leg and relevel relatively easily. It's a pain though; definately a pain.

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    Re: Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric M View Post
    Justin, I think your tripod choice is a good one. I agree with Donald about getting the swiveling center column. My 55XProB (swivel column) has been awesome. Also look at the 322RC horizontal pistol grip head. Its a well thought out product that you may like better than a ball head.
    That is the same set up that I use.

    This tripod is easy to use but a bit heavy to carry long distances. The centre column is reversable, but that means you are using your camera upside down which can be confusing. Alternatively the 90 degree low option can be useful.

    When shooting macro insects etc in dense undergrowth, I find it easier to keep the tripod legs narrow and raise the centre column. But beside Colin's worries, this makes the whole structure rather prone to falling over so this method needs using with care. The column will lock securely when in the down position.

    For macro work, I reversed the ball head assembly (simply unscrew the camera mount plate and replace using the alternative position threaded holes after rotating the handle). Now I can quickly move the camera position simply by holding the pistol grip with my left hand while the right is always on the shutter button and ready for an instant shot. This also works well for sport etc.

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    neverhood311's Avatar
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    Re: Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    For what it's worth, my advice is to avoid centre columns if you'll be trying to shoot serious landscape - if you're trying to shoot, say, a 10 to 20 minute exposure in a bit of a breeze then I suspect that you're almost certainly going to get movement.
    I've heard that a center column makes for a less-stable tripod. Why is that? For the record, with my current tripod I rarely extend the center column; I always keep it as low as possible. I don't imagine I'll be extending the column on my next tripod too much, either.

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    Re: Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

    I've heard that a center column makes for a less-stable tripod. Why is that?

    For the same reason the top of a tall building sways more than the top of a short building. It's possible to get a tripod with the center column extended that is very stable but it will be really really heavy.

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    Re: Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

    I've heard that a center column makes for a less-stable tripod. Why is that?
    Yep, it's probably all to do with physics, which never made any sense to me when I was in school or since. But I'm sure it's connected to the notion of centre-of-gravity. Something low and with a wide base (think of three tripod legs, low and splayed to their full capacity and you've got a very wide base and low centre of gravity upon which to sit your camera) gives more solidity.

    Probably need someone like Steaphany to come in here with the scientific explanation.

    EDIT - Oh ... and wind.

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    Re: Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

    Hi Justin,

    In terms of why a column mounted head is less rigid - the securing mechanism for my centre column is just a screw thrust plate, about 30mm high and 8mm wide, this clamps the column against the far side of the hole it is in. I do have to do it up tight, or the free play that allows the column to be moved up and down makes for lateral wobble on the tripod head.

    It's not a fantastic quality tripod, but for the amount of use I give it, it'll do for now. I suspect the securing mechanisms on more modern tripods are somewhat better mine is about 30+ years old.

    Cheers,

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    Re: Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

    Regarding a tripod which is not heavy but, can extend the center column solidly... I really doubt that. I have an ancient Davis and Sanford tripod which has a center column about 3 inches (about 7.5 cm) in diameter). This old steel tripod is extremely sturdy and I could support a Volkswagen on top of its center column. Unfortunately, this tripod is not used very often since it weighs about as much as the Volkswagen it could support.

    I don't mind a Tripod having a center column but, I seldom use it to adjust the height if my setup.

    However the center column of my Giottos MT-8180 tripod articulates and thus, I can place the camera/lens just about any place I want.

    There are several models of Giottos made of aluminum, carbon-fiber or other materials which have the articulating center column. Other tripods which can articulate are the British Benbo, the Chinese knock-off Benro and others.

    http://www.giottos.com/

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    neverhood311's Avatar
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    Re: Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

    Can't I avoid most of that instability if I never extend the center column? 95% of the time I leave it all the way down. That counts for something, right? Because the camera's basically resting on the very tops of the three legs. I imagine that would make it more stable.

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    Re: Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

    Quote Originally Posted by neverhood311 View Post
    Can't I avoid most of that instability if I never extend the center column? 95% of the time I leave it all the way down. That counts for something, right? Because the camera's basically resting on the very tops of the three legs. I imagine that would make it more stable.
    Try this with a cheap tripod and see how you get on!

    Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

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    neverhood311's Avatar
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    Re: Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

    Haha, that's a great photo. What tripod is that?

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    Re: Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

    Quote Originally Posted by neverhood311 View Post
    Haha, that's a great photo. What tripod is that?
    The one in the thread I pointed you towards in post #4 of this thread

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Sturdy tripod for an amateur?

    Quote Originally Posted by neverhood311 View Post
    Can't I avoid most of that instability if I never extend the center column? 95% of the time I leave it all the way down. That counts for something, right? Because the camera's basically resting on the very tops of the three legs. I imagine that would make it more stable.
    Justin

    I think that is the point of some of the posts above. The sort of top-of-the-middle-range tripods you're talking about tend to have a centre column. But if you use it as you describe (as I do), then you've got a pretty good and robust set-up.

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