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Thread: Tripod or Flash?

  1. #1
    ktuli's Avatar
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    Tripod or Flash?

    All,

    I'm looking to buy both a new flash (as discussed here) and a new tripod. Eventually I will certainly be buying both, but for budgetary reasons, I have to do them one a time (one now, and the other probably later in the summer).

    For the flash, I was looking to do something similar to what Richard (rpcrowe) suggests in his post here. I will probably go with the Canon Speedlite 580EX II, and expect that the whole kit will run me around $500-$550.

    For the tripod, I was looking at the Manfrotto 055XPROB legs. I like the height on them (I'm 6'6" tall, so I would like something fairly tall, though I won't get anything relatively close to what I *should* have in my budget), and I hope they will be sturdier than what I use now. Currently, I have a cheapie Dolica tripod I got from Amazon for $40. For the price, it is a decent tripod, but it has too much flex and the head has issues, and it is just time for something new/better. The 055XPROB legs seem to be popular around here. I subsequently was looking at a Manfrotto Ball Head 498 with RC2 quick release plate. My largest combination would be my Canon 7D + battery grip + Sigma 150-500 f/5-6.3 OS lens (+2x teleconverter too I guess).

    I am mainly looking to make these purchases for macro, wildlife, and landscape photography (probably in that order). I also want to keep the budget for both items in the $500 or less range... if possible, I'd really like to keep the tripod in the $300 or less range, but will consider higher options if they really hit the mark. So here are my questions:

    1. Which purchase do I make first? Which will be most helpful right away? Flash or Tripod?

    2. If Flash - are there any last minute ideas/suggestions folks have there? I figured I'd ask, but I think I am pretty happy with the plan I have in place after discussing it on the other thread.

    3. If Tripod - is there a better suggestion than the 055XPROB? I've seen a lot of people here mention that they use it, so it helped to confirm that it was worth having on my wishlist. Like I said, I need something fairly tall, but also something that gets low to the ground for macro. It needs to be fairly sturdy, but lightweight enough that I'll actually carry it into the field. And lastly, I only really like flip-lock legs - unless someone has an incredibly strong argument for twist-lock.

    4. If Tripod - is the Manfrotto 498 ballhead the best combination with those legs? Should I mix/match manufacturers on this, or stick with one? What about pistol or handle grip releases?

    5. Bonus Question: Does anyone know if Canon's Speedlight production has been hit by the recent events in Japan? If flashes are going to become harder to get my hands on in the near future for a while, it might make sense to suck up one of them now before supplies get scarce, no?

    I'm hoping that folks out there have gone through the same questions or have used these or similar products and can make recommendations.

    Thanks in advance!

    - Bill
    Last edited by ktuli; 5th April 2011 at 02:34 AM. Reason: Added question 5

  2. #2

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    Re: Tripod or Flash?

    Bill seeing you will be using a 500 mm with tele I would definitely get the tripod first.I use the I use the 55xprob with a rc2 pistol grip, I have been very happy with the combo. At first it felt heavy but I dont even notice it anymore . I chase birds and really like the quickness and ease of use with the pistolgrip.I guess it really comes down to what you would rather have more , Ithink the tripod and head will be cheaper than the 550 speedlite . I ve been eyeing a lense and the price jumped 100 american$ since all the trouble in Japan,so you may have valid point about speedlite and availability.Goodluck with decision.

  3. #3
    rpcrowe's Avatar
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    Richard

    Re: Tripod or Flash?

    My requirements for my leg set are:
    1. It must be sturdy and able to support a 400mm f/5.6L lens and a Manfrotto gimbal mount
    2. It must articulate and enable me to position the camera/lens just about in any position
    3. It must adjust easily and hold the adjustment
    4. It must use interchangeable heads which I can switch with relative ease
    5. Although, not a deal breaker, I like carbon fiber pods because they absorb vibrations and are not cold to the touch in freezing conditions

    The tripod which I decided on is the Giottos MT-8180 on which I got a good deal when Giottos discontinued that model.

    I use several different heads because I don't think that there is any one head which is best for all types of photography.

    My general purpose head is a Giottos MH-1300 ball head with an Arca Compatible quick release. I love the Arca system because I can easily interchange L-brackets and base plates from different manufacturers. I love the Really Right Stuff L-bracket when shooting with a camera/lens combination which doesn't include a tripod ring. The L-bracket system is IMO the very best way to mount a non-tripod-ring equipped camera/lens ( http://reallyrightstuff.com/WebsiteInfo.aspx?fc=80 ). I use generic Arca Compatible base plates from several manufacturers on my three lenses which incorporate tripod rings.

    When I follow fast action with my 400mm f/5.6L lens; I will use the Manfrotto 3421 Gimbal Mount which can handle the largest lenses out there and can follow action easily.

    Now that I have a Canon 7D camera, I need to think about a head for video work. A ball head, while very good for most still photography is not the greatest for panning with video. I was able to pick up a used Manfrotto Fluid Pan head for $50 (USD) on eBay. That head works great with a video camera for which it was designed. I could actually do without the Manfrotto Gimbal if I shoot all action with the fluid pan head.

  4. #4
    ashish's Avatar
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    Re: Tripod or Flash?

    Hi,

    I would recommend you buy the tripod first.

    Also, evaluate the Manfrotto 055CXPRO3. I bought it recently and it works great. I paired it with the 498 RC4 ball head. I think the plate on the RC 4 is bigger than the RC2 and will give more stability.

    Cheers,
    Ashish

  5. #5

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    Remco

    Re: Tripod or Flash?

    If you can have only one at the time, I'd also say 'First the tripod' (and what follows assumes you have either flash or tripod, not both)

    Of the three fields you listed, only macro might benefit from the flash. 'Might' as I found i quickly wanted to use the flash off-camera and with a reflector => not enough hands to hold all items steady enough => tripod needed (not to mention supports for the other items). For insects, on-camera flash might work, if the light reaches the subject (which means that the head has to tilt down a bit).

    For wildlife and landscape, flash is a lot less useful (as your subject will be too far away), whereas a tripod becomes essential in low light situations (or with a long lens, I wouldn't be able to hold your setup stable for long enough in any case).

    That said, your current tripod might be sturdy enough for macro work in calm conditions. Then the choice would depend how much you do of each.

    Good luck,

    Remco

  6. #6
    RockNGoalStar's Avatar
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    Re: Tripod or Flash?

    I have the Manfrotto 055cx3 and a Markins Q10 ball-head. I steered away from the PRO version of the tripod as I could never see myself using the feature where you can tilt and swing the centre column.

    I am happy with it. It's no where near as solid as the Gitzo tripods, but it's like 1/3 of the price. I find you need to weigh it down (with a bag hanging from the centre column) to make it extra sturdy in windy / other challenging conditions but I am happy with it overall.

    I love the Markins ball-head too - it's a work of art! I got it from America and I forget how much I paid for it now. It's probably overkill on my current tripod with my current lenses but I took the advice that if you buy cheap you buy twice. I read so many reports where people have a stack of tripods and heads because they have constantly had to upgrade as they skimped out in the first place. I though if I am going to be spending x on a setup then i may as well spend a bit more in the hope that I would still be happy with its performance a few years down the line.

    I think i will upgrade from the Manfrotto legs at some point, but not until I have got all the lenses I want first. It is more than capable of doing what I need it to at the moment.

  7. #7
    ktuli's Avatar
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    Re: Tripod or Flash?

    Here's a twist to the question...

    Today, my wife suggested that perhaps I go with the 430EX instead of the 580EX ($289 vs $474). The $185 difference would then make it much more feasible to buy both the flash and the tripod now.

    Down the road, I could always upgrade to the 580EX and use it to control the 430 as a slave unit.

    Any input on the 430 instead of the 580?

    - Bill

  8. #8

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    Re: Tripod or Flash?

    Decisions, decisions, always decisions.

    Well Bill, like James, I have the Manfrotto tripod and 322RC2 ball head; which all works well, although a bit heavy to carry long distances.

    I have reversed the attachment of the ball head onto the control handle which makes it easier to control with my left hand while my right index finger is always on the shutter button. This makes those quick shots even faster; particularly with insects.

    I also use the 580 Speedlight which I also frequently use for insects. So I would consider getting both for that use. The 480 may however work just as well for this. But can you vary the flash output easily? I'm not sure about that model but I continually adjust my 580 flash compensation for insects and it needs to be easily altered.

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