Aluminum or Carbon tripod for Landscape ?

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by PantelisMor, May 5, 2016.

  1. PantelisMor

    PantelisMor Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 14, 2013
    I need a Tripod for landscape Photography. I don't khow how to search it. Which are the criteria that i should consider.

    Aluminum or Carbon ?
    Maximum Height ?
    What Head ?
    Anything else i have to think ??

    I have seen the above Vanguards tripods
    Vanguard Alta Pro 283CT Carbon Fiber Tripod Legs with Multi-Angle Central Column System : Vanguard Alta Pro 283CT Carbon Fiber Tripod Legs with Multi-Angle Central Column System : Camera & Photo
    Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 Aluminum Tripod Kit : Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 Aluminum Tripod Kit : Camera & Photo

    Plz give me your help, your thoughts !!!!
  2. AG_Alex2097

    AG_Alex2097 Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 18, 2015
    Alex S.
    You'll want to go carbon fibre, it's the best of both worlds in terms of strength and weight
    Maximum height depends on your shooting style, do you shoot lowe to the ground, higher up or at eye level? Note that you lose stability when the height increases, so if you're going for high you might want to go for a better leg system than the typical tube in tube (the smaller tubes get really fragile/bendy depending on the weight you put on it) (which will however increase weight and cost)
    The head is mostly personal preference, a ballhead is easy and fast to set up but not as accurate and doesn't allow for fine adjustments, but if it's only for landscape i'm presuming you have enough time to tweak the head and would suggest you to go with a 3-way head

    Anything else:
    a hook on the bottom middle of your tripod is nice to hang some extra weight to keep it stable
    The twisty mechanism is simple, but it's not the best as twisting those legs for each tube in each leg loose and then tight again takes time, a quick clip lock is better (i use twisty ones and find it annoying more often than not)
    Having a water level indicator is nice to make sure your shot is horizontal, although you can live without them imo, but it can be useful to have at times, same thing for a compass if you need stellar specific shots (sun, moon, milkyway,...)
    Being able to unscrew a leg to be used as monopod is also a nice feature some tripods offer
    Make sure the rubber feet are rounded and not flat, if the legs are angled you'll have more contact surface (Cone shaped is fine too)
    If you want to be able to easily carry it over your shoulder it could be interesting to get one without center support struts (the struts get in the way) at the cost of stability (you don't need the struts if you have good legs though and it also limits possibilities with the legs (eg having 1 on a bigger angle than the others))

    That's everything that comes to mind right now, there might be more things, but others will have to fill in there ;-)
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  3. Holoholo55

    Holoholo55 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2014
    Honolulu, HI
    Boy, this is a interesting topic, on which there are no end of opinions. You can search for other threads in the forums on tripods or on the wide Internet and get a couple of hundred hits.

    I'm no expert on this, but this is what I've gleaned from reading some of those posts by people wiser and more experienced:

    People have said you can get two out of the three, but not all three: Sturdy, Lightweight, and Inexpensive.
    The weight and size of the tripod you need will depend on whether you plan to hike to your spots or drive there. Obviously, for the former, something light and compact would be preferable.
    You can use a shorter tripod if you sit down. Maybe you can get a sturdy, smaller tripod and use a folding camp stool to sit on. Unless you need the height, this might be an idea.
    Leg diameter matters for stiffness, whether aluminum or carbon fiber. Bigger = stiffer.
    The more leg sections the tripod has, the thinner and bendier the lowest leg sections get.
    Carbon fiber dampens vibrations better than aluminum, generally. Wood tripods are probably the best at dampening vibration, but not as easy to find or carry around.
    I don't think fliplocks are any faster than twistlocks. I used to think they were, but I can deploy the legs on my twistlock MeFoto Roadtrip faster than on my big fliplock Bogen 3025. Really.
    The best head (presumably ballhead) for your tripod may come from someone else. You're not stuck with the one that comes with the tripod, and you can get separate legs and head.
    Don't skimp on tripod - you'll probably regret it.
    One tripod cannot do everything. The last time I bought a tripod, I got one that I thought was good for both travel and for "sedentary" use. Not true, it's a compromise for both. You may end up buying more than one, depending on your needs.
    I think it's true that you probably don't keep your first tripod very long. I didn't. :)

    Sorry if that isn't very specific, but I hesitate to recommend specific models, given my limited experience.
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  4. DoofClenas

    DoofClenas Who needs a Mirror! Subscribing Member

    Nov 9, 2012
    Traverse City, MI
    Carbon fiber...

    Manfrotto 190cxpro3 with an Acratech GP-S head is what I've been using since 2010. Still works and looks like day one...well minus a little bit of wear from all the sandy/rocky beaches around here.
  5. I have a carbon fiber Benro that has an articulating center post like theVanguard you linked. It is very useful for macros and similar odd moments. It's also like having your camera on the end of a diving board. Any movement is greatly amplified.
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  6. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    First, what is your budget? It makes no sense making recommendations without know what you can afford. Yes, carbon fiber is generally a better material than aluminium, but if you are on a budget, then you might be better served spending your funds on other features. And, remember that you should budget funds for a ballhead. In some respects, your ballhead selection is more important than your legs. A good ballhead can be a pleasure, and a bad head can make you curse your entire set-up.

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  7. SojiOkita

    SojiOkita Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2014
    When comparing different products from the same brand & material, that is correct.
    But when comparing different brands, it's not.

    I tried a Gitzo traveller tripod with more sections & smaller leg diameter than the other tripods, and the stability was better.

    I used to think this too finally, I like twistlocks much better now. Very easy & quick to deploy
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  8. SojiOkita

    SojiOkita Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2014
    -> Aluminum or Carbon
    Carbon is better but much more expensive.
    The best tripods are in carbon (I was this close to buy a Gitzo GT1555T, very expensive but impressive).

    In the end there are several things to consider: weight, price, stability, etc...
    For the tripods I considered, aluminum was only a little heavier and a lot cheapier, so I choose aluminum (Sirui T-1004x).

    The carbon version of the same tripod had no difference in terms of stability, so I found the price difference too important to be justified.
    If I go carbon one day, I'll take a Gitzo.

    -> Maximum height
    It depends on what you want/like.
    I'm quite tall, and I'm comfortable with a tripod with a 1400 mm height.
    If you add the ball head height + the camera, the final height is OK for me.
    The best way to know is to test.

    -> What head?
    Very difficult question ;)
    There are a lot of different head types. A lot of different brands. And a very wide price range.
    Budget will be a key to the final decision.

    First thing to know is the type of head. 3D head? Ball head?
    Ball head is small & convenient for micro four thirds cameras.
    Some heads like 3D head give you more precision, though. 3D Geared heads make small adjustments very easy to make, it can be handy for landscapes.

    One other thing is to know which type of plate you want.
    I used to have manfrotto plates, I now only want Arca Swiss compatible plates because there are a lot more compatible accessories (for example, panorama systems).

    The best brands for tripods are not necessarily the best brands for head.

    I think that Sirui K heads are a good choice if the budget is limited.
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  9. travelbug

    travelbug Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 20, 2014
    For landscape, you're better getting twist locking legs imo. Flip locks can easily accumulate dirt and dust and get stuck. Twist can easily be cleaned and disassembled even on the field. Imagine how hard it would be if your flip lock gets stuck while out on field.

    Sent from my GT-I9300 using Tapatalk
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  10. DoofClenas

    DoofClenas Who needs a Mirror! Subscribing Member

    Nov 9, 2012
    Traverse City, MI
  11. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    Really, the carbon-or-aluminum question is not the most important. @Holoholo55@Holoholo55 reminds us of the old tripod rule: light weight, low cost, stability -- pick any two.

    So, first, how critical is weight? Are you an ultralight backpacker or will you be pulling the tripod out of your car and carrying it a minimal distance? Somewhere in between? The reason this is important is that for a given amount of money, you can get a lot more stability by buying an aluminum tripod. Carbon is expensive and may be an unnecessary luxury for you.

    Height is whatever you like. Assuming you have a tilting LCD or are willing to hunch down a little bit, you can go shorter and hence have even more stability.

    Heads are a huge topic in themselves. It's fairly easy to spend as much on the head as you do on the tripod. (The Acratech GP-S has a cute pano conversion feature. Mine cost me $250 on eBay with their excellent lever clamp.)

    This is a good read: Tripods and Ball Heads by Thom Hogan

    Personally, when I'm looking for a tripod I never buy new. Carefully bought used tripods on eBay will cost half of new. Said another way, your budget will buy a lot more tripod on eBay than it will at Amazon. For cheap and super stable, nothing beats an original Marchioni Brothers TiltAll tripod. Like this one: Tiltall 4602 Tripod and you have a usable head for free! Plus you shouldn't have to spend more than $100. More mainstream, the Series 2 or Series 3 Gitzos are wonderful. Lots to choose from, like: Gitzo G220 Reporter Performance Tripod with Center Column & Carrying Bag though it is higher priced than the G220s often go for. This one: Gitzo Camera Tripod w/ 3-Way Head for 8" x 10" Cameras is a 3-series I think and may go fairly cheap. I'd toss that head, though, and shop for the best ball head you can afford. Putting your camera on that 3-series will be like mounting it to a huge rock; it's not gonna go anywhere!

    Heads? eBay Search is again your friend. Take Hogan's brand suggestions, click the "Used" box, and have at it.

    If you like quirky things, there is a rare 3-series Gitzo "Safari" tripod here: What makes it unusual is that the legs collapse from the top, not from the bottom. This means you can set up in deep mud, sand, or water and never have to worry about the crud getting into your tripod leg insides. The guy's price is a bit high (IMO $200 would be more attractive) but it is a fun option. I've got it on my watch list but with three really good tripods and a couple of good monopods it would be a silly thing for me to buy.

    Twist versus flip legs? IMO the speed of setting up and collapsing is so close as to be negligible. I like twist because the flip leg levers tend to catch on things and generally take more space when being carried.

    Here is a final thought: Often the first thing you buy just teaches you what you really wanted. You're not getting married here. Just buy good used copies of whatever strikes your fancy, then go from there. Sell what you end up not liking and buy what your (now educated) heart desires!
    Last edited: May 6, 2016
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  12. Holoholo55

    Holoholo55 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2014
    Honolulu, HI
    One more thought. If you're thinking of doing panoramic shots, you'd want a head that helps make it easy. That is, one that has a separate lock for rotating the head, marked with degrees, and has a bubble level that helps to level the base of the tripod (the part where the head attaches to the legs - whatever you call it). If the tripod doesn't have a bubble level on the base, I've seen some leveling plates that go between the head and the tripod base that have bubble levels on them.

    I have seen heads made specifically for panoramas around. I have no specific recommendations here, but I'm sure others can chime in.
  13. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    All nice stuff, but there is IMO an unwarranted mystique associated with panos. I have successfully shot many single-row landscape panos with the camera hand held and no extra hardware at all. All you have to do is to pick a horizontal reference like a horizon and keep it in the same place for each shot as you swing left to right. Also for each shot, eyeball the edges and make sure there is a generous overlap (maybe 20%) with the adjacent photos. There is no penalty for too much overlap except you'll have to stitch more shots. The penalty for horizon errors is you'll end up cropping a little from the top and bottom of the pano because the tops and bottoms of the images won't line up correctly.

    Spending more on hardware will make the process easier and more precise and it will make multiple-row panos possible. How much do you want to spend? You do not, however, need to buy one of the special pano rails that locates the no-parallax point of the lens over the pivot point. These are for situations where there are objects fairly close to the camera like interior shots of businesses for Google. The issue is a little too complicated to explain here but you can find explanations elsewhere on the web.

    To shoot from a tripod, you basically need a level platform that allows the camera to pivot. Something like this: 360°Panorama Panning Tripod Ball Head Quick Release Plate Clamp Arca-Type 8VX5 mounted on a level tripod platform is good. If you have a ball head with an independent pano lock screw that will work too. The tripod platform must be leveled and the ballhead platform must also be leveled. Both. Then you can shoot.
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  14. SojiOkita

    SojiOkita Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2014
    For panoramic if you have something in the foreground it's easier with some dedicated gear.

    You need something that rotates above the ball.
    Either a ball like arca swiss p0.

    Or a classic ball head with arca mount and something like this:
    MENGS® PAN-02 Panoramic Head with Quick Release Plate 3/8 inch Mounting Screw for Camera Tripod Ball Head - Camera Quick Release Clamp - Photography Accessories - The World's Local Shop | Best prices for LED Lights, Photography / Computer / Portable Accessories
    (same as above with a possibility of having 15° steps)
    Plus nodal rail and L plate.
  15. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    Sorry to say, most of @SojiOkita@SojiOkita's post is incorrect.

    Incorrect. Most ball heads can be used as I described in post #13. The ball head must have a panning base with a locking knob that is separate from the knob(s) that lock the ball. With this arrangement, leveling the tripod platform and leveling the ball platform essentially takes the ball out of the equation and using the ball head pan function works fine.

    Incorrect again.

    Pano bases like this (or the one I linked to) are used by mounting them directly to a leveled tripod platform. No need for any other kind of head. They are more compact than a ball head and you don't need to fiddle with leveling the ball head platform. So it's really a convenience thing assuming you also own a ball head with a separate pano lock.

    Re steps in a precise number of degrees IMO this is mostly a personal thing. I never check the degrees indicator; I just frame my shots so there is a generous amount of overlap. This may result in a few more shots to stitch but that's not a big deal for me. YMMV

    Nodal rail is unnecessary for landscape panos unless there are close foreground objects. (There is a trick here, though: If you have just one or two close objects, just avoid placing them so that they are in a stitching area. Put each in the center of a frame. In most cases this will avoid giving the software a parallax problem.

    L bracket has little to do with panos. If you use one to shoot vertical format, your pano will be 33% taller (4/3, get it?) which may be desirable in some circumstances.

    As an example. this pano was shot from a tripod due to low light, with the ball head and tripod platforms leveled, and with the frame horizontal:


    Note that using an L bracket would not have improved the photo. All it would have done is give me more sky and more hillside. An L bracket is a good tool to have but it is not always what you want.

    (All of this blather is directed at single-row, horizontal panos. Typical landscapes in other words. Multi-row and vertical panos are a completely different ballgame.)
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  16. SojiOkita

    SojiOkita Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2014
    It can work but it is more complicated.
    Both levels should be perfectly aligned.
    It's much easier with a panning base on top.

    The one I linked to has an arca dovetail mount at the bottom.
    Very convenient because you don't have to take off your ball head from your tripod, and you use the ball head as a cheap leveling platform.

    Of course.
    The beginning of my post was "if you have something in the foreground it's easier with some dedicated gear."

    Having a foreground on a panorama can be something very interresting.
    And I spent a lot of time on some pano stiching because I didn't turn properly around the correct axis.

    That's the point.
    33% taller gives you 75% more resolution in the end.

    Not necessarily, as you would not have used the same focal length with a vertical framing.

    The nice thing about L brackets is that you can use it as you want: horizontally, or vertically.
    It's very convenient, and not just for panoramas.
    For long exposures framed vertically, it's much more stable than a ball head turned at 90° (and the plate can't turn around the camera)

    It's one of the huge advantages of the arca mount for me: it's very to find cheap compatible L-brackets.
    Last edited: May 8, 2016
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  17. fedward

    fedward New to Mu-43

    Apr 11, 2016
    Washington, DC
    I'm in the market for a travel tripod (lighter and more collapsible than the Manfrotto I have already) and I had my eye on the Sirui T-1005X. On a recent trip to NYC I checked it out at B&H and asked if it would be stable and sturdy enough for the occasional pano. The employee helping me started to ask what kind of camera I would be using, but then he looked at my bag and said "if it fits in that bag, you'll be fine." He said they've learned its weight capacity isn't quite as much as it's rated for, and he said the 40-150/2.8 PRO might be on the edge of what's usable, but he said it would be fine for a medium sized SLR with a 24-70 lens, and with m43 with almost any lens. Its big limit is height, but if you're OK composing with the touchscreen (or lowing your eye to the viewfinder) you can get reasonable enough stability with a lightweight aluminum tripod. The price of carbon fiber is hard to justify in my book.

    And since there's been a pano digression: I own a leveling center column for my Manfrotto and a dedicated pano head, and I almost never use them. The Manfrotto has an integrated bubble level, and if I'm doing a pano I just use the calibrated degree markings on my original Acratech Ultimate Ballhead for quick, accurate panning. I might buy a different head today simply to get a smaller and lighter one, 'cause I bought that for a Canon with heavier lenses, but I haven't had any problems with it even in portrait orientation.

    Shenandoah National Park is in driving range, so this was on a tripod:
    20405910820_f3d61537fa_k.jpg The View from Stony Man

    Mount Rainier isn't, and the visit wasn't planned in advance, so this was handheld:
    17119201390_802c803250_k.jpg Paradise Valley, 360°

    The tripod ones are much easier to stitch, but handheld ones aren't impossible. Just don't look too close.
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  18. SojiOkita

    SojiOkita Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2014
    I've got the T-1004X and it's quite stable, the T-1005X should also be OK in normal conditions.
    Just be careful there is no bubble level on this tripod ;)

    I almost buy a nodal ninja head a few months ago and I didn't... because of size / weight, and the time necessary to set up correctly the head...

    Currently, the vast majority of my panoramic pictures are taken handheld.
    (I had an home made pano head that was nice but only permitted horizontal framing, so I rarely used it)

    I would say that for 50% of them, the stiching is quick and fine even looking closer.
    The other half is divided into:
    - the ones where the stitching is not perfect but in areas where it's barely noticeable, so no problem.
    - the ones that are OK after some work and some time spent (too much time).
    - the ones that I finally give up with because the result is not as expected.
    When you find out your images won't stitch correctly, it's impossible to go back and take the pictures again.
  19. Mellow

    Mellow Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2010
    Florida or Idaho
    I was wondering how long it would be before someone posted this link. Not picking on you oldracer, but I really hate that article. Hogan basically says you need to spend $1,000 to get something adequate, so might as well spend it now instead of incrementally in an endless cycle of upgrading.

    I've found this to be completely rubbish. There are excellent tripods, both aluminum and carbon fiber, that cost far less than $1,000 that will serve you well for many years. Here's one I bought and have absolutely loved: MeFOTO GlobeTrotter Travel Tripod Kits - Carbon Fiber and Aluminum. I got the carbon-fiber model. I have a friend with the aluminum Road Trip (MeFOTO RoadTrip Travel Tripod Kits - Choose Your Color!) that is nearly as good. The reason I went with CF over Al is because I'd read and seen data that support the claim that CF does a better job of reducing vibrations. (Sorry, I've searched for the article but can't find it . . . if I do I'll post it.).
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  20. tkbslc

    tkbslc Mu-43 Legend

    With the size and weight of m4/3 gear, I don't know why you'd need to spend much on a tripod or get a large one. Seems counter intuitive.