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Thread: Tripod trade-offs

  1. #1
    purplehaze's Avatar
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    Tripod trade-offs

    Hi all,

    My Xmas present to me was going to be a Manfrotto 190 carbon fibre tripod and Acratech ballhead, but when I went into the store on Friday, they had no more of the 190s left. The salesman was good (or savvy) enough to offer to let me bring home the 3-section 055 to play with pending arrival of the next shipment of 190s and I really love it, but think it is probably too much for my needs. Portability is a big priority for me as I want to be able to carry it hiking, biking and possibly even cross-country skiing and the 055 is quite a bit bulkier and a pound heavier (not to mention half the cost of a Speedlight 700 more expensive). The one question mark in my mind is whether at some point I might find myself wanting to exceed the 5 kg weight limit of the 190. My current kit (camera body, telephoto and ballhead) add up to just 1.6 kg, so it is hard to imagine how I would get up myself up past 5. Is my imagination lacking? How much should I factor in for ballast in a strong wind? Has anyone gone for the 190 and wished they had got the 055?

    I'd be grateful for any guidance you can give me.

    Thanks,
    Janis

  2. #2
    Klickit's Avatar
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    Re: Tripod trade-offs

    Hi Janis.
    I can't speak directly about the specific tripods you mention but can tell you a kind of parallel story around the Joby Gorillapod range.

    I wanted a gorillapod for ease of transport and for those situations when you need stability but you are not wanting or able to carry a larger tripod. I looked at the Joby site and decided on the Joby SLR-Zoom, which will support up to 3kg in weight - well over the combined weight of my D80 and a 70-300 zoom. I foolishly bought without actually attaching the camera+lens to the tripod and giving it a try and on getting it home and setting it up with the cam and lens, found that even the most careful finger triggering of the shutter would cause the rig to wobble about like a drunk. I tried triggering with the remote and still saw a lesser, but still distinct wobble.
    Took the Joby back to the shop the next day and demonstrated it to the salesman who was a bit shocked that the thing did NOT come up to spec. At that stage, the SLR-Zoom was the biggest Gorillapod available in New Zealand but a few months later, the Focus arrived, which is said to support up to 5kg. It barely does the job, but is OK so long as I use the remote to trigger.
    Now, I know that structurally, the Gorillapod is a mile from your Manfrotto, but I would really say, try before you buy. While it may be OK on the shop floor, out in a wind, it might well prove to be too light, despite the supposed weight allowance.

  3. #3
    purplehaze's Avatar
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    Re: Tripod trade-offs

    Quote Originally Posted by Klickit View Post
    I foolishly bought without actually attaching the camera+lens to the tripod and giving it a try and on getting it home and setting it up with the cam and lens, found that even the most careful finger triggering of the shutter would cause the rig to wobble about like a drunk.
    Hi Kit,

    I have the SLR-Zoom GorillaPod too (with ballhead) and it was seeing the lens sag during long exposures that convinced me not to scrimp too much where the standard tripod setup was concerned.

    Your experience is instructive; thanks.

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    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Re: Tripod trade-offs

    Unfortunately, there is no generally accepted method of testing tripods in order to determine their maximum weight support capability. Just because a tripod/head can support a certain weight without breaking or crashing down doesn't necessarily mean that it will solidly support that weight; especially in windy conditions.

    I will generally divide the manufacturer's recommendations in half to determine if a rig will support my gear solidly. However, I have found that a single tripod will not do everything I need such as support my longest lenses and gimbal head AND AT THE SAME TIME be light enough for me to easily carry into the field. I ended up with a pair of tripods:

    1. Full size Giottos MT-8180 with a MH-1300 Arca Compatible Ball Head which is very solid and could hold a Volkswagen but, this tripod and head weigh well over 3.5-kilos (close to 7+ pounds). This is a bit heavy for hiking when every ounce carried at the start of the day seems to weigh a pound at the end.

    2. Modified SLIK Pro 330DX with an optional short center column in place of the longer heavier center column and a Flashpoint F-1 Arca Compatible Ball Head in place of the heavier and more bulky stock pan-tilt head. These modifications reduce the weight of this travel and boonie-tromping tripod to just 1-kilo which is quite easily carried just about anywhere. Here is an image of my Giottos full size and modified SLIK tripods...

    Tripod trade-offs

    The heaviest load that I support on this combination is a 1.6x camera and 70-200mm f/4L IS lens. The modified SLIK can support this load even in brisk winds.

    Tripod trade-offs

    BTW: when supporting a non-tripod ring equipped lens/camera I use an RRS L bracket which allows a lighter weight tripod/head combination to support the load more securely since the camera is not hanging cantilevered over to the side when in the portrait (vertical position)

    This rig is great for travel, especially for hiking but, it is not an overall use tripod because I would not want to use a heavier load than the camera + 70-200mm f/4L IS lens and also, the rig us fairly short. I can live with a short tripod in order to have one that is as light as my SLIK but, would not want to work bent over for most of my photography.

    Tripod trade-offs
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 3rd January 2011 at 04:57 PM.

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    purplehaze's Avatar
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    Re: Tripod trade-offs

    That is very helpful, Richard. I think I am going to go for the lighter weight Manfrotto and if I have to add something more solid down the road, so be it. My number 1 priority right now is getting my camera out into the field (i.e., in the woods and lakeside) to learn about and exploit all of its potential and I don't want to find myself leaving the tripod behind because it's too awkward or heavy. The shorter height of the 190 is not going to be much of an issue for me as I am a shorty myself.

  6. #6
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    Re: Tripod trade-offs

    Now that I own three tripods, I can safely say that the most important aspect of a tripod is stability or freedom from vibration.

    Stability isn't necessarily related to weight and strength - all three of my tripods are strong enough to carry any camera + lens I'm likely to ever use. I've never yet seen a tripod break because of lack of strength.

    The more common weakness of a tripod is lack of stability or vibration, either from the impact of a shutter releasing, but more usually from wind, or accidentally bumping it when the shutter is released.

    Tripods acquired in chronological order: Manfrotto 190CLB, Manfrotto 055PROBX, and Giottos MTL 9351B.

    The 190 is fine if it wasn't windy (living by the ocean means wind is common). The 055 is very stable, but it is heavier. The Giottos is light and very versatile (the centre column can be angled horizontally or even be pointed down), but its light weight translates into being not stable in terms of vibration.

    There is no perfect tripod that suits all occasions. I use all three in situations in which they will function.

    Glenn

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    Re: Tripod trade-offs

    Hi Janis,

    If you haven't seen this thread already, you might like to take a quick look.

    If for no other reason, you can see me standing on, and hanging from, the venerable Gitzo 1548!

  8. #8
    purplehaze's Avatar
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    Re: Tripod trade-offs

    Oh, my head hurts. So many variables to consider. I like the weight of Richard's SLIK and the compactness of Glenn's Velbron, some other specs perhaps not so much. In any case, neither of their exact models appear to be standard inventory locally and, spoiled child that I am, I want something now. I think I am pretty happy with the Acratech GP ballhead. It is quite light at 450 g and its panoramic features are something I can grow into. The legs are a different matter, however. After reading the various threads on the subject, I am thinking that between my desire for something light and compact to take on the hiking trails and my inevitable desire to shoot Lake Winnipeg at its wildest, both Manfrotto models (the 190 and the 055) may turn out too much in the middle of the spectrum, specifications-wise. I will sleep on it some more.

    Colin, I agree that Gitzo should use your photos for marketing purposes.

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    Re: Tripod trade-offs

    Hi Janis,

    My personal take on it is "it all comes down to how long your exposures are going to be". If you're down to fractions of a second with average weight lenses in relatively calm conditions - and using a remote release (or self timer) then the lack of rigiditidy of the light weight / low cost models isn't going to be a big issue ... it's more when you get into multi-minute exposures with heavy gear - in breezy conditions - that you need "the heavy weights" (and trust me, in those types of conditions the lightweight / cheap tripods don't even come close to cutting it).

    Horses for courses

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    Re: Tripod trade-offs

    Hi Janis. I own both of the Manfrottos you mention. The 190 is a fine tripod. The ability to swing the center column out, and set the legs to different angles is worth the cost itself. I put a D700 and 300f4 with TC on it quite a lot, and its very stable. I also hang my bag under it at times for more stability. I leave my 055 at home or in vehicle, if hiking or on a long walk, its the 190......EF

  11. #11
    purplehaze's Avatar
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    Re: Tripod trade-offs

    Colin: that's a good way to frame the issue; thanks.

    Ernest: I like that Q90 feature on the Manfrotto, and the range of leg angles. It is encouraging that you get such good use out of your 190; thanks for that, too.

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    Re: Tripod trade-offs

    Clickit is right.
    Test before you buy the tripod, it would wobble in some conditions.
    I sell mini tripods.Some of them are used on even surface like table, some of them are flexible enough to be fastened on even a branch.
    One more thing, they are lightweight and portable.You can easily take them anywhere.But the max load is between 0.5g-3kg. It's recommended not to use this for your SLR camera.I always tell this to my customer.
    Any question for mini tripods, kindly contact me:fangqiangwu@yahoo.com.
    Thanks.
    Marvin

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    Re: Tripod trade-offs

    With regard to carrying the Manfrotto 055. When walking, I normally pack my camera kit into a Lowenpro Mini Trekker back pack and strap the tripod outside. There are some elasticated quick release clips provided for this purpose.

    That makes everything easier to carry (even when over 60 with a weak back and knees) and my backpack usually contains a 40D plus a couple of heavy long lenses plus other accessories.

    For easy occasional use I have a Velbon tripod which folds up into 4 sections. I have used it successfully with a Sigma 150-500 lens but slower shutter speeds in strong cross winds are a bit tricky and I usually keep one hand firmly on the tripod under those conditions.

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    purplehaze's Avatar
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    Re: Tripod trade-offs

    Clickit is right.
    Test before you buy the tripod, it would wobble in some conditions.
    Thanks Marvin. I traded the 055 for the 190 with the flip-out centre column and so far I love it, but I haven't yet tested it on the trails for lack of a carrying solution, which brings my to Geoff's post.

    Quote Originally Posted by Geoff F View Post
    With regard to carrying the Manfrotto 055. When walking, I normally pack my camera kit into a Lowenpro Mini Trekker back pack and strap the tripod outside.
    Very timely post, Geoff, as I have outgrown my Lowepro Slingshot and have been looking for a pack that incorporates a tripod carrier. I will check out the Mini Trekker models. I see there is one that will also carry a laptop, which would suit me for trips to the cottage. Thanks!

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