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Thread: Tripod Confusion

  1. #1
    bisso7's Avatar
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    Jun 2012
    Bellefontaine, OH, USA
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    Tripod Confusion

    Hi, All:

    I recently purchased a Sunpak tripod, but I'm not so sure I'm 100% satisfied with it. It's the "Platinum Plus Ultra 7500TM." What I don't like most about it is it's almost 6 lbs and kind of bulky to carry around. I do like, however, that its maximum height is 6', which is perfect for me. I'm also not so sure I like the overall build of it. I keep debating on whether or not to return it. I'm trying to stay under $100, as I'm very much a beginner in all of this. I'm a bit unsure as to what to do. I'm going to FL the first week in July, and I'd like to have a tripod with me for the trip.

    I've read many of the posts in the "tripods" category on this website and found some useful information. although my wallet can't handle some of those prices (especially at "ReallyRightStuff"), though I would LOVE to own a nice, quality tripod. It doesn't seem very practical for me right now, however. The Sunpak I now own may need to suffice until I can afford something better. . . I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by everything, though I've learned so much in the recent past. Any advice would be appreciated...



  2. #2
    drjuice's Avatar
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    Oct 2011
    Southern California
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    Re: Tripod Confusion

    Hi, JB -

    I'd suggest returning the Sunpak and just getting a relatively inexpensive one at someplace like Wal*Mart.

    Back in the dark ages of film, I actually borrowed one from one or another of my friends anytime I needed one. The experience I got with various tripods led me to get one which lasted me more than 30 years, until I loaned it to a friend and he stripped the threads on one of the legs so it wouldn't maintain the proper extension.

    Then when I got into digital, I had so much to learn about the actual camera, how to deal with RAW and simlar things, etc., that I decided I'd just get a throwaway (Targus, WITH A CENTRAL HOOK TO HANG A WEIGHT). I've had it for four years (since I got my Alpha) and am just now thinking about a Giotto or Manfrotto to replace it. Except for the convenience of not having a ball head and wondering when the throwaway tripod will need to be thrown away, I'm pretty happy with what it's done in terms of supporting my camera. Probably the best non-requirement is that it comes with a ballistic nylon carrying back which rides easily on the handle of my walker while my camera, lenses, meter, remote, etc., are all in the under-seat basket.



  3. #3
    FrankMi's Avatar
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    May 2011
    Fort Mill, South Carolina, USA
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    Frank Miller

    Re: Tripod Confusion

    Unless you know exactly what you want in a tripod and head, you might want to get a used one. You don't need to spend a fortune before you decide on exactly what features you really need and in the meantime you'll still get the benefits.

    Over the past year, my wife has gotten me an MX600, an MX1000, a Targus TGT-66TR, a smaller 'no-name' tripod, and a Assia AM2 monopod, all in perfect condition and some with carrying cases for less than $5 each. Deals like this are almost always available at thirift shops and yard sales.

    I also have my primary tripod, a Manfrotto MA 190XB with a Gittos MH 1000-652 ball head which I use most of the time.
    Last edited by FrankMi; 19th June 2012 at 05:57 PM.

  4. #4

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    Dec 2011
    Cobourg, Ontario, Canada
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    Allan Short

    Re: Tripod Confusion

    Jeff: Some say to get a relatively inexpensive one, I would say don't to this. A good sturdy one is the best tall if you can get it, when you raise the centre column you open yourself to movement, I took a number of images with a slow shutter speed to get a smoothed out water flow, a number I was planning to use as pans, no such luck all the images are out of focus because of camera shake. They were taken on a trip no going back. A good sturdy tripod will out last your camera as you will upgrade your camera a couple of times. I use the Manfrotto 190XPROB, it is a great tripod I have used it both indoor and out, could not have been happier with it, however I discovered when the conditions went down the drain and stayed there I need something a bit taller and heavier. For me an extra 2 to 3 pounds does not make a big difference as I myself an a big strong guy, if I want lighter, well I could lose 3-6 lbs myself, so if I lose 6 add 3 for tripod overall load is 3 less. Works for me. Jeff, check out posts by kdoc856 (Kevin) from Columbus he has some great waterfall shots from the Ohio area.



  5. #5
    William W's Avatar
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    Jan 2009
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    William (call me Bill)

    Re: Tripod Confusion

    I have not used the Sunpack Tripod you have bought.

    I assume that is US$100?

    I also am of the opinion to NOT go cheap on a tripod and head assembly. Also it is my best guess that for US$100 you will NOT get a new good quality Tripod and Head.

    If you are really limited to $100, then buying second hand at a pawn store / money lenders or similar would be my advice and take your camera in and set it up to ensure the steadiness of the tripod with the camera on it.

    Also, as a secondary comment, you are fortunate that you have the option to return the item you purchased, simply because of your change of mind that is not the situation everywhere.


  6. #6
    kaneohebud's Avatar
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    Apr 2011
    Chico, California
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    Bud Ralston

    Re: Tripod Confusion

    Here is the most comprehensive discussion on tripods I've seen:

    Give it a look.

  7. #7
    DanK's Avatar
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    Dec 2011
    New England
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    Re: Tripod Confusion


    Buying a tripod is a nightmare because there are so many different features in different combinations. For what little it is worth, here is my two cents:

    --I agree that you are unlikely to get something satisfactory for less than $100 unless you buy used.
    --The standard advice is not to buy something really cheap because you will end up dissatisfied and will replace it. That was my experience.
    --However, "not buying cheap" is not the same as "necessarily buying top-end" (you mentioned RRS). There are lots of good carbon fiber tripod legs in the $200-300 range. For many people (including me), they are more than sufficient.

    Even $200 plus a head is a real money, however. I'd suggest keeping it cheap (used would be one way) until you have a better idea what mix of features you want. Do you prefer light weight or stability? Twist or flip locks? How tall? 3- or 4-section? A hook for a weight? No column, reversible column, split column, or a column that can moved off the vertical? A big, smooth, but heavy ball head, or smaller, lighter, but less smooth one? And there are more. I gradually figured out what I wanted (which took a lot of reading on the web), then looked at some, and finally put some contenders into a spreadsheet with features, because none had everything that I wanted. It was the most tedious purchase of photo equipment I have ver made, but I am quite happy with the results.

  8. #8

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    Jul 2011
    A Pacific Island
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    Re: Tripod Confusion

    If you already don't like the tripod you bought then return it. It's not going to get any better and it will disappoint you forever. That means it is a waste of money which can use for one you do like when you figure out what's best for you. Don't go cheap but you can go inexpensive. "Best" is what it is for you and your usage and certainly doesn't mean the more you spend the better your photos will be. I've had a Manfrotto 55 aluminum for years. It's gone through some tough stuff and will continue to work for years to come. It's bit heavier than the high-tech lighter ones but at 6 feet and over 220 pounds I can honestly say I have no problem carrying around the tripod as others seem to. (I actually carry a monopod and use it all the time due to some hand-shake I have.) My camera bag on the other hand needs some lightening but I'm not prepared to do that either. Anyway, keep looking. Try going through
    this link for some added input.
    Last edited by Andrew1; 20th June 2012 at 06:28 PM.

  9. #9
    New Member
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    Mar 2012

    Re: Tripod Confusion

    There are 3 kinds of tripods
    (1) Too heavy
    (2) Too expensive
    (3) Useless
    Better stick with type (1) or (2) because when you will have broken or rejeted several of the (3) you will go back to 1 or 2 and have spend your money for nothing.
    I stay with (1) namely used Gitzo. Having the money for carbon would be nice, but I rule this out.
    All parts are good sturdy mecanic, replacable, and when I'll die, my children will be able to sell my tripods .

  10. #10
    Moderator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Mar 2012
    Ottawa, Canada
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    Manfred Mueller

    Re: Tripod Confusion

    As the proud owner of three tripods and a monopod, I do have an opinion or two. The first question might be why I own three tripods:

    1. One is a tiny, light weight one that I use when I am out and about. It straps to my camera backpack and has been all over the world with me. Light also means it is a bit shorter than I might prefer and a little less robust, but it does exactly what I bought it for.

    2. My second tripod is a much more heavy-duty unit and is one that generally only comes along when I shoot indoors or use something other than my feet as the main form of transport.

    3. My third tripod is a video tripod, complete with fluid head. If you are ever planning to shoot video, either with your DSLR or dedicated video camera, this is the only way to go. No, it does not go on long walks; it's big and heavy but holds the camera steady and the fluid head lets me do silky smooth tilts and pans.

    4 I also have a monopod, but frankly hardly ever use it.

    In tripods, like everything else, you get you paid for. My tripods are not expensive; but they certainly cost a fair bit more than $100. On top of the features I've already listed, the important considerations were as follows:

    1. Get a tripod that is built for your height. There is nothing more miserable than spending a day bent over a tripod that is too short. By "right height" I mean one that you can stand up straight when shooting, with the column all the way down. Yes, columns are great and give your extended range, but it is not as rigid as with the column down;

    2. Quick release plates. These are wonderful and I will often leave them in place on the body or the lens collar on lenses that have them. If you can, I would recommend getting a head that uses the Arca-Swiss plate. There is no standardization in plates, but the Arca-Swiss is a bit more common than most;

    3. Weight hook - the last thing you want is having to have your camera and tripod blown over when it is windy out. A hook on the bottom of the column lets you hang a weight there (I often use my camera backback). Good feature to have.

    4. Reversable column - nice to have if you want to get low to the ground for a shot. This allow you to mount your camera between the tripod legs to get close up and personal with low-lying subjects;

    5. Locks - screw or quick release clamps. I like screw types; they take a bit more effort to tighten, but I've never had one slip. This is personal taste;

    6. Changable feet - my tripods have nice rubber feet for indoor or outdoor smooth surfaces and I can exchange them for spiked feet when outside when shooting on grass or sand.

    Materials - Usually aluminum or carbon fiber. I've run across wooden legs too, but these are not that common. Aluminum is far less expensive than carbon fibre, so if you are not planning to do a lot of walking with your tripod, this is one place you can save a fair bit of money by going aluminum. If you are planning to carry your tripod around, strongly consider carbon fiber, if you can afford it.

    There are really two types of head; ball head and 3-axis. I tend to prefer ball head as it is easy to adjust and lock without taking your eye from the viewfinder. If I did more studio work I might investing in a 3-axis head. This allows you to lock / move the three axes independently, which is nice for product shots and other studio work. By the way, if your tripod does not have an interchangable head, it is rather low end and I would look at replacing it.

    I do use tripods a lot, and I think others have said it well; if you don't like your tripod now, things are not going to get better...

  11. #11
    Glenn NK's Avatar
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    Sep 2010
    Victoria BC

    Re: Tripod Confusion

    From the other thread on this topic:

    Quote Originally Posted by bisso7 View Post
    I'm trying to stay under $100, as I'm very much a beginner in all of this.
    Most things I learned in photography brought me delight - one of the sad things I learned is that a cheap tripod is just that - in all ways - and it just brings frustration.

    I spent too much on tripods that were cheaper than the one I have now - I could have saved money by just biting the bullet and getting it in the first place.

    The links I posted in the other thread are well worth reading right through - particularly this one:

    I learned the lesson the hard way, and respectfully suggest that $100 won't buy anything but disappointment.

    In addition to the types of tripod posted by "missumlaut", I have one that has the following features:

    1) Not heavy

    2) Expensive

    3) Very useful

    If one insists on having features 1) and 3), then 2) is a prerequisite.


    PS - the six points that Manfred lists should be mandatory knowledge for everyone looking for a tripod.

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