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Old Aug 26, 2008, 6:06 PM   #11
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Thanks, John, for the information.

I'm having a tough time coming up with a tripod/head combination at all, regardless of price. I'm thinking I'll have to go carbon fiber as weight is a definite issue for me (I'm small and I hike). I know I won't use something that I find cumbersome or awkward to use - I tried a Gitzo with twist joints and a Manfrotto with clip locks and I didn't think either was terribly user friendly (I pinched my thumb in the Manfrotto's clips) or quick. The head is another issue as I have a relatively small 300mm lens that has it's weight all at the front element and no tripod mount. I'm starting to think that they don't make what I'd want, regardless of price (and I'm not scared of a $500 plus price tag if I can get something that I'll use and will last 20 years).
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Old Aug 26, 2008, 6:38 PM   #12
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Harriet,

If you don't like the Gitzo legs I'm at a loss. That's about as good as it gets. I'm not sure if there are different types of twist mechanisms on their legs or if it's all the same. And pretty much every other set of legs of any decent quality is going to be either twist (like Gitzo) or clip (like manfrotto).

Now, I will say on the manfrotto you can adjust the pressure and they become a little more giving after some use. I also find the following technique prevents pinching:

Open: thumb on back and use side of fore-finger to snap up (this way nothing is in back of the snap to get pinched

Close: simply slide thumb down to end of snap and wrap fingers around the legs and push closed. (Easier if you're holding legs parallel to ground). I think there's more a tendancy to get pinched if you're using the heel of your hand to close the snap. Not sure if this technique would work for you or not but it's what I use.

Velbon and Slik both make mid-grade carbon fiber legs - maybe try one of those.

I will say I don't like 4-section tripods at all. Sure 3-section don't go as small but they're easier to set up.

But given you've tried some and didn't like them I'd advise against buying sight unseen.
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Old Aug 26, 2008, 8:55 PM   #13
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Thanks for the info- I'll have to play with them again, try your method with the Manfrotto legs. I'd probably stick with 3 section legs - fewer things to extend for one thing. I'm not going to be flying with it any time soon.

How light of a head can I get away with if I'm going to be using a front-heavy 300mm lens, the 488? I'm definitely interested in a quick release plate - I've tried the screws and thought that was for the birds. Since I do a fair amount of macro, are the ones that can move forward and back a bit part of the head or the plate?
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Old Aug 27, 2008, 9:36 AM   #14
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I unknowingly went counter to probably every point touched on here. I picked up a cheap ($15) light (2 lbs) plastic travel tripod, because I needed it to fit in to my carry on luggage, be very small, light and I did not want to pay a small fortune just in case it did not work out for me. I do not consider myself a tripod person at all.

Well, so far it has worked out very well - and it does have limitations. It has carried the weight of the camera (K100) very well. I was able to pick up the new 55-300 lens a couple of weeks ago and the weight is not a factor at all. The head is cheap and I find it difficult to work with at times. It is too short for me at 6-3. But it has been very serviceable, and has shown me what I need to look for. It has worked when and where I had the need. Would I want to work with it every day - NO!!!

All of the points here are well founded, however - I would still go for a very light travel unit for what I use it for. A carbon fiber unit is on my wish list. Now the head, is another matter, since that is where your primary interaction is. I would still go for lighter than heaver (personal preference). Still have not found one (but have not spent any time looking either). I have done a little looking at Panoheads, but completely undecided.

I picked up a monopod for an air museum (at the last minute), and would like to find a head that is interchangeable between the tripod and monopod (just thinking out loud and maybe not too clearly). I would also like to find another monopod - but that is a different story....
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Old Aug 27, 2008, 12:13 PM   #15
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I use a Giottos tripod and ballhead. Giottos MT-9160 and MH-3000 ballhead which supports 33lbs. To some this may be overkill or not to their liking due to the type of ballhead. I find the plate release to be different from most and definitely one I like using and much easier as well. It just works for me. There are many to choose from and makes one head spin like trying to choose which camera, which lens, flash or no flash and the list goes on and on and on.

Mahalo,

Tom
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Old Aug 27, 2008, 1:13 PM   #16
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I bought a "Flashpoint" tripod from Adorama for my wife to use with her K200. She's only had it a few weeks, but so far is very pleased. She uses it primarily with the Tamron 90mm macro lens, but has also used it a bit with the Pentax 55-300 zoom. (Both lenses are similar in size and weight.) I got the middle of the line legs and ballhead, the F-1228 Tripod (supports 17.6 lb, and 60" height) and the F-2 Ballhead. Seemed like the best carbon fiber unit we could get for the money.

http://www.adorama.com/catalog.tpl?o...ods%20/%20Accs

Since it is only available from Adorama, I doubt if there's any way you could try one if you're not in the NYC area. (We live in Vermont and had no interest in going to New York, so I ordered it sight unseen.) AsI said, my wife has only used if for a few weeks, but so far she is pleased. Hope this helps.
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Old Aug 27, 2008, 5:50 PM   #17
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Hi Biro,

I Have 5 tripods that I use for different purposes, so I think I've been through the deciding process enough to give you some hints.

1) Get the best you can afford. If you want the best stability, get a carbon fiber, but an aluminum set will do you well if it meets your weight/stability requirements. CF absorbs vibration better than AL, and the mirror slap of a DSLR does cause vibrations --

2) Look for a max height spec "without extending the center column". If you want to be able to stand straight up using the pod, take your height, subtract about 10.5 inches (4.5" to get your eye level, then 3" for the head and 3" for the camera body) to get a MINIMUM max height for the tripod with no extension of the center column. This is where you should start. -- Anything longer will also do, since you don't have to extend the legs all the way out, but any extra length will also add to the weight and make it a bit less compact folded.

3) Look for all metal construction (except for the CF stuff, of course) -- mainly at the leg to body joints -- many of the cheaper models will use plastic here, and with any kind of use, this is where it will break (usually at the most incovenient time possible), and render the pod useless, and usually unrepairable.

Other features that are desireable are legs that you can open at different independent angles (3 position angle stops are the most common), a reversible center column so you can mount the cam lower to the ground, alternative center column positions (some allow both vertical and horizontal, others allow infinitely variable angles), and adjustable spiked/rubber feet. If any of these features is something you might use, then keep them in mind when looking.

If you are looking at a tripod that has twist type leg locks, see if it has non-rotating leg sections, as this makes setup and takedown much easier. If it has platic flip levers, ask either the dealer or mfg if they are available as replacement parts separately, as these will be the most easily broken parts.

4) Expect to spend some money on a good head. There are two main alternatives, the ball head and the pan/tilt head. There are also geared and gimbal heads, and probably some others that I am missing here, but they are really specialty heads, and don't have a place in most people's bag.

I prefer ball heads, so I'll limit feature selection to those.

I like a ball head with 3 separate tightening knobs. 1 each: for locking the ball, locking pan rotation, and unlocked ball tension. The third one is the key for me -- I almost always use really big lenses (2 to over 5 lbs), and I like being able to adjust the tension on the unlocked ball so I can make small positional adjustments without having to worry about the camera/lens flopping down when I unlock the ball. I set the tension so it's tight enough to hold the cam in just about any position, but loose enough that I can move it very precisely without any jerking or drooping.

The last thing is Quick Release. I like a cam lock QR if I need speed mounting and dismounting the cam to the pod. I settled on Manfrotto RC2 QRs early on, and still use them, but now mostly use Arca Swiss compatible QR clamps and plates on my really big lenses for both security and steadiness.

These AS clamps use a dovetail plate on the camera or lens, and have a moving jaw on the clamp that screws down tightly, and while many mfgs have their own designs, the plates are pretty much interchangeable (usually depending on the safety stud placement. It may or may not have a safety stud which will hold the plate in the clamp even if it's not tightened, and you have to press a button to release it completely.

If your curious as to exactly what I've chosen -- here's a list with a few quick comments on each:

Tripod legs lightest to heaviest --

1 Velbon Ultra Maxi -- very small and very light, but too short for extended use. Too lightweight for normal use for DSLRs, but great as a travel/table top pod, or for use with a digicam. Very quick to set up.

2 Bausch and Lomb Advanced Titanium (rebadged Slik 300DX). a bit too short extended, but good enough for the 300/2.8 in a pinch, and very lightweight. Quick setup with flip locks, and 3 section legs, but a bit long folded.

3 Benbo Trekker I. Unique "bent bolt" design, the most versatile positioning tripod made. Not a lightweight, tho this is the lightest model, and not as nicely built or as easily functional as the Uni Loc, but also half the price new. I got this on a whim in an overlooked ebay auction, so I got it really cheap. This one is my main backup pod that stays in the trunk of my car.

Amnova AT A104T CF tripod -- this one is one of my around the house tripods, and my backup main pod. Paid a just a bit over $100 USD new in an ebay auction from Amnova. This was about 1/3 of their regular BIN price. I don't think they are offering it at auction anymore tho. . .:sad:

Amnova CF94T CF tripod -- I carry this one in the trunk all the time also, and is my main use tripod for the heavy glass. I get around the rotating legs with twist locks by leaving two of the three sections extended, so I only have to deal with the top lock on each leg to set it up. I got this one after getting my feet wet with the above auction, so I knew a bit better what to do -- $70 USD new at auction. This apparently is not a current model.

Uni Loc System 1700. The best of the "bent bolt" designs -- made by the original owners of Benbo, who kept rights to the patents and started Uni Loc. They've improved the design in some subtle ways, and the UL is smoother and locks in position much more firmly. These are a bit fiddly to setup at first (been described as wrestling with an octopus while trying to hold your camera), but after a little practice, it's very quick. The UL is heavier than the Trekker, but overall, a much better pod. I also got this one cheap in an auction (@ 1/3 MSRP). Unfortunately, there is no longer a North American Distributor for these, so they're not very common.

I've justified all of these by telling myself that the total I paid for all 5 is still less than a top of the line Gitzo, and I have a lot of versatility that I wouldn't have with just the Gitzo. . .LBA made me do it. . .:-)

Heads -- The one I use the most is an Amnova ATH-A02. Won an auction for @ $17.00. I also have 2 ATH-A01s which are the A02's little brothers. They are all under 1 lb ea, and are all rated for considerably more than my biggest glass with the K20. If you can get these at auction for anywhere near the prices I paid ($12-17 + shipping) then they are a steal -- a near pro quality and pro featured ball head with the three controls I like.

I also have a Manfrotto 468MG RC2 that I use and like a lot, and a Manfrotto 486RC2 and a 484RC2 that are the first ball heads that I had bought, and are backups for the 468 since they share the RC2 QR. These last two don't have the separate tension knob.

Whew! Sorry for the long post, but there's gotta be something that helps a little. . . :-)

Scott
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Old Aug 27, 2008, 5:56 PM   #18
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mtnman wrote:
Hi mtnman,

This looks like a nice find -- and they have free shipping and QR plates that look like they'll work for me at good prices. Normally AS compatible plates will cost $40+, so a cheap source is a good thing to find. Thanks!

Scott
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Old Aug 27, 2008, 6:17 PM   #19
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mtngal wrote:
Quote:

How light of a head can I get away with if I'm going to be using a front-heavy 300mm lens, the 488?* I'm definitely interested in a quick release plate - I've tried the screws and thought that was for the birds.* Since I do a fair amount of macro, are the ones that can move forward and back a bit part of the head or the plate?
Hi Harriet,

Arca Swiss plates can be as long as you want them, for use with different long lenses to balance them, but you'd have to loosen the clamp to move the cam -- probably not the best.

I have a Velbon Macro Focusing Rail, but it's really big and awkward -- probably so it could be used to mount larger format cameras. The Manfrotto is supposed to be really nice, and pretty compact especially compared to the Velbon.

Here's a link for the Manfrotto:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...g_Sliding.html

And one for the Velbon:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...ag_Slider.html

Hope that helps some. . .

Scott
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Old Aug 27, 2008, 9:33 PM   #20
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Whew, snostorm... there's tons that's usable in that post! This entire message string has been great. Like I said earlier... this is going to be fun.
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