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Thread: How many sections would you like your legs to have?

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    How many sections would you like your legs to have?

    Now - this is a not a question about which make of tripod I should have. It's about understanding leg sections.

    If you were thinking of offloading your Manfrotto 055XPROB for its carbon fibre cousin ('cause you're getting old, want something lighter and that doesn't freeze your fingers off in the winter), would you get the one with the 3-section legs, or the one with the 4-section legs that costs 16 GB Pounds more.

    Are 4 better than 3? If so, why?

    I know that there are slight weight differences and size when compacted and fully extended. But these are not decision-deciding differences.

    Insights welcomed.

    ps - I'm planning to keep my (now no longer sold) 486RC2 ballhead. That ok?

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    Re: How many sections would you like your legs to have?

    The only advantage I could see for a four legged over a three legged would be in very windy conditions, or if you were using a very heavy camera (like a Deardorf 8 x 10). The D7000, because of the titanium frame is substantially heavier than a D5000, but even at that, with a standard tilt/ball head Monfrotto, I've never felt uncomfortable in winds exceeding 40mph. My nickel's worth (is that a two-pence?).

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    ktuli's Avatar
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    Re: How many sections would you like your legs to have?

    Quote Originally Posted by MiniChris View Post
    The only advantage I could see for a four legged over a three legged would be in very windy conditions, or if you were using a very heavy camera (like a Deardorf 8 x 10). The D7000, because of the titanium frame is substantially heavier than a D5000, but even at that, with a standard tilt/ball head Monfrotto, I've never felt uncomfortable in winds exceeding 40mph. My nickel's worth (is that a two-pence?).
    Chris,

    Can you elaborate here? I have never heard of wind having any bearing on the number of sections you want in your tripod legs.

    My understanding has always been that 4 section legs were mainly just to get the folded size of the tripod down smaller. However, the tradeoff here is that in order to do that, they generally have to make the diameter of the fourth leg section rather small (since all of the legs have to nest inside each other) or the first leg section would have to much wider diameter. Additionally, I've read that often times to combat this problem, many manufacturers use a thinner wall thickness on the leg tubes, but that in turn reduces their ridgity and strength.

    Donald, can you povide specific models that you're looking at? Perhaps looking at the specifics will draw out the pros/cons of each.

    - Bill

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: How many sections would you like your legs to have?

    Quote Originally Posted by ktuli View Post
    Donald, can you povide specific models that you're looking at? Perhaps looking at the specifics will draw out the pros/cons of each.
    Yep. The 055CXPRO3 (3-section) and the 055CXPRO4 (4-section) The '4' closes down to 10.5cm (app 5 inch) smaller, weighs 50 grams more, and had a shorter max height by 5cm.

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    ktuli's Avatar
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    Re: How many sections would you like your legs to have?

    Quote Originally Posted by Donald View Post
    Yep. The 055CXPRO3 (3-section) and the 055CXPRO4 (4-section) The '4' closes down to 10.5cm (app 5 inch) smaller, weighs 50 grams more, and had a shorter max height by 5cm.
    Donald, so the 4 section does have some very thin sections for those last sections....

    3 section model leg diameters: 29.2 / 24.8 / 20.4 mm
    4 section model leg diameters: 29.2 / 24.8 / 20.4 / 16 mm

    So if you don't need the smaller folded size, I would go with the 3 section model since it should be somewhat more stable at full height than the 4 section model.

    I'm in the market for a tripod, and I wish I could afford the carbon fiber ones...

    - Bill

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    Re: How many sections would you like your legs to have?

    Donald,
    FWIW I have a Manfrotto carbon fibre tripod – 3 section legs and a 4 section mono-pod The only reason for four sections is to make the collapsed length shorter. IMHO that's fine for the mono-pod but three sections is more rigid – and better for a tripod.

    Other points – Don't underestimate the extra time it takes to set up a four section, and on a tripod that is x3. If possible, make sure that the legs are long enough to enable you to stand upright, and look through your viewfinder – without having to extend the centre column. A way to help the rigidity of your tripod is to buy or use your existing angle finder Under the right circumstances using the angle finder means a shorter leg extension , and thus more rigidity.

    HTH

    Regards,

    Nick.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: How many sections would you like your legs to have?

    Thank you all. That has been extremely helpful and, in a sense, confirmed what I was thinking. I was concerned that I was missing some secret ingredient in terms of the 4-section, that, if I had it, would make me into a wonderful photographer!

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: How many sections would you like your legs to have?

    One other thing would be that another set of leg locks are just 3 more things to potentially go wrong.

    Further; might they not also contribute to wobble?

    I'm not familiar with Manfrotto leg locks, so perhaps the last, or even both, points are irrelevant.

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    Re: How many sections would you like your legs to have?

    I misread the original query thinking you were looking for a "sturdier" tripod, and not one that folded into a smaller, but stable unit. It was odd because I kept thinking of the old cinemagraphic tripods used, some of which did have four legs. I promise to read more carefully, next time.

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    Re: How many sections would you like your legs to have?

    I went for the 055 carbon with three sections for the practical reason that it's a pain in the proverbial every time you use a tripod having to open and shut all the catches/legs. Three more would drive me insane.
    Also, other than the warm hands bit which should never be underestimated, the whole point of a CF tripod is a reduction in weight. A four section one weighs closer to an aluminium one that you want to replace.

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    Re: How many sections would you like your legs to have?

    It was odd because I kept thinking of the old cinemagraphic tripods used, some of which did have four legs. I
    A four legged tripod?

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    Re: How many sections would you like your legs to have?

    Well, so to speak;...maybe I should have said, "tryfour."

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: How many sections would you like your legs to have?

    Thank you guys. You now realise I'm going to have to spend the weekend smiling, being nice and doing my share of tidying up in the garden .. all so that I can quietly introduce the idea of a new tripod!

    I may not survive to see next week!

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    Re: How many sections would you like your legs to have?

    Im in the market for a tripod too primarily for travel. What Ive been reading- in addition to what you guys have been saying about the 4 section legs, another benefit I understood is that it allows the tripod to be more comfortably used by those 6' tall or more without using the center extension, and without having to constantly bend down to look through the viewfinder. That is a consideration for me being 6' with a achy back.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: How many sections would you like your legs to have?

    Mike

    An intersting point about the two Manfrottos I was comparing is that the 3-section one actually is 5cm higher than the 4-section in terms of advertised maximum height. - 175cm v 170cm. I also thought as you did.

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    Re: How many sections would you like your legs to have?

    The big difference (other than stability) is the folded length of the tripod. If both tripods are close to the same height when set up (not considering the center column); then the four section will fold into a smaller package than the three section pod. This can be critical for air travel because many (if not most) airlines discourage (or simply prohibit) hand carrying a pod aboard the plane. If your tripod (or monopod) cannot fit into the suitcase you plan to check aboard; the only solution is to purchase another suitcase or pod which is an expensive solution.

    I used a Manfrotto 681 monopod which is an aluminum 3-section pod for several years and was quite happy with its capabilities. It is relatively light weight for its ability to support a heavy load but, it cannot fold small enough to fit into the suitcase which I use for air travel. Before I traveled to China, I replaced the perfectly good 681 three section pod with a Calumet 4-Section 8x Carbon Fiber Monopod which folds down to about 20 inches (51 cm) and which will fit in my suitcase. This pod has a manufacturer's recommended load of 30 pounds (13.6 kg). Even when halving the manufacturer's recommendation (which is my common practice with tripods and monopods) the Calumet pod can support any camera/lens combination that I am likely to own or use.

    One thing that I might mention when choosing the height of a tripod or monopod. The pod doesn't have to be as tall as you are. The viewfinder is above the base of the camera and your eyes are below the top of your head (at least mine were when I last looked in the mirror). Additionally, you will gain some height by using a tripod head and may use a head on your monopod. I am 73 inches (about 185 cm) tall and I am quite comfortable using the 63 inch (about 160 cm) monopod with a Kirk MPA-1 swivel Head. I actually have a bit of height to spare.

    However, if you don't plan to fly with your pod or if the three section pod will fit into your check-on luggage; then the three section pod is probably a better choice since it can be sturdier, easier to set up and may be a bit lighter in weight. Either a three or four section pod should fit in the trunk (boot) of just about any car except some of the minis.
    Last edited by rpcrowe; 8th April 2011 at 02:47 PM.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: How many sections would you like your legs to have?

    Thanks Richard.

    You've helped me slot the final piece of the answer into place. I don't ever intend to fly with it.

    I have to confess it's not often that I want to go for the cheaper of two options, but in this case I can tell my dearly beloved that if I get this one, then I'll save 16 GB Pounds over the other one I could have got.

    Think that'll swing it for me? No, neither do I.

  18. #18
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    Re: How many sections would you like your legs to have?

    Donald,

    Don't forget to point out how frugal you are being by reusing your current head. I mean isn't that what women argue all the time? 'It is ok that I bought these shoes (which are of course indistinguishable by male eyes to three other pairs already owned) because they were on sale, so in effect I saved $X!'

    Just be ready to duck a flying projectile nonetheless - probably one of said shoes...

    - Bill

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    Re: How many sections would you like your legs to have?

    Donald,
    I know you've reached your decision (correctly, I might add) but I thought I'd just say that in terms of stability between the two, there really is no real difference. A friend of mine has the three section and it's a great tripod. I have the four section and can happily say the same. We both use the junior 410 head. I only got the four section as we do fly frequently and it fits perfectly in a case.

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: How many sections would you like your legs to have?

    Cheers, Mark.

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