Any good reading resources on Tripods?

GBarrington

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I'm thinking I want to step up my Landscape game and I'm going to need a better tripod than the $20 department store models. But when I surf the net, regarding tripods I see things about removable heads, plates, Arca/swiss plates, Quick release etc. I am surprised to find myself more intimidated than I thought I'd be. Is there any reference material that discusses all this? So far, a casual search hasn't revealed anything.
 

ADemuth

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My own recommendation - remove your wallet from your pocket and replace it with a credit card bill for the next few weeks just so you can get used to life after a tripod purchase.

Serious reply:

https://photographylife.com/landscapes/tripods-and-heads-a-landscape-photographers-guide

I ran across this a while ago when I was looking at tripods and was all confused by the terminology. Some of it seems basic, though admittedly I was glad for some of that.
 
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ac12

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As far as I am concerned, there is no such thing as a "do everything" tripod.
So, you may end up with more than one tripod, depending on your needs. And there WILL be compromises to be made.
Example1 - my travel tripod, critical criteria, #1 it MUST fit into my suitcase, #2 not take up a LOT of space in the suitcase.
#1 immediately disqualifies most of my tripods, cuz they simply won't fit into the suitcase.​
Example2 - weight capacity. Of all my tripods, I have only ONE that I will trust to put my 4x5 view camera onto.
Example3 - weight. Example 2 above is a GREAT studio and near car tripod, but it is too heavy for me, to carry for more than a hundred feet or so. So I needed a lighter tripod that I could carry. A tripod that is too big/heavy to carry with you, is useless sitting in the closet.

re the head.
The tripod MUST have a 3/8 inch stud, to attach the head. Not the smaller 1/4 inch stud.
Most/all good heads are made for the 3/8 inch stud.
This becomes more important as the weight (and cost) of the gear on the tripod goes up.

To me, a permanently attached head is only acceptable for a travel tripod, and that as a compromise for size/weight.

Like the tripod, there is no ONE "do everything" head.
I have three different types of heads (pan, ball, gimbal), each has its own purpose that the others cannot fill well or at all.
And there are multiple types of each one of them, so it can get confusing.
Some love a pan head and hate a ball head, some love a ball head and hate the pan head. To each their own.
It is all about matching your needs to the gear.
And as in my case, I need and use the three different types of heads.

QR plates.
I find the QR plate to be VERY useful. It eliminates the difficult/problematic task of attaching and screwing down your camera to the tripod. Then unscrewing and removing the camera when you are done shooting. I always worry about dropping the camera/lens when I am trying to screw/unscrew the gear onto or off the tripod. The QR plate is easy and fast to use.
I like it so much that I have put AS plates and clamps on most of the gear that the high school yearbook uses, to try to reduce the chance that a student will drop the camera/lens as they are trying to attach/detach it from the tripod/monopod.​

WARNING If the tripod uses a QR plate, you MUST be able to buy a replacement plate.
Dept store tripods are of unknown brand and you most likely cannot get a replacement/extra plate. So, if you loose the plate, the tripod becomes a useless piece of junk. And you can't buy extra plates to attach to other gear.
My high school has a few such useless tripods. The proprietary QR plates were lost (probably went home on the bottom of a student's camera), and they can't find replacement plates. The teacher just can't bring himself to throw them in the trash can. So they sit useless, in the corner of the room.​
Manfrotto uses a few different proprietary plates, and you CAN buy replacement/extra plates.
Some heads are designed for the Arca Swiss (AS) plate, which has almost become an industry standard.

I have standardized on the AS plate, and have a plate or L-bracket on almost all my digital cameras.
So what is this L-bracket? It is an AS plate in the shape of the letter L. One leg is under the camera for a horizontal orientation. The other leg is vertical along the side, so you can clamp the camera on the vertical leg, and the camera is set up to shoot in the vertical orientation. This is very handy for those that shoot a lot, in the vertical orientation.

Several of the Manfrotto plates are cool plates. You can attach the camera+plate to the tripod with ONE hand. Position the plate over the head, push down, and the lock snaps shut. If you have to work with one hand, or if you have to use two hands, just to hold the camera+lens, this auto lock is REALLY helpful.

But, depending on what other gear you use, the QR plate could get in the way, and have to be removed.
 
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ac12

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My own recommendation - remove your wallet from your pocket and replace it with an credit card bill for the next few weeks just so you can get used to life after a tripod purchase.

Serious reply:

https://photographylife.com/landscapes/tripods-and-heads-a-landscape-photographers-guide

I ran across this a while ago when I was looking at tripods and was all confused by the terminology. Some of it seems basic, though admittedly I was glad for some of that.
Unfortunately true. Especially the carbon fiber tripods.

However, I was able to save a LOT, buy careful shopping on Craig's List. That BIG Bogen/Manfrotto for my 4x5 camera was only $50 :biggrin:
But on eBay or Craig's List, you have to know what you are buying.
If you have a local camera store with a used gear section, that is another source.
 

Stanga

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The suggestion about the screw on plate is vitally important. I have two tripods for which I lost their plates and have been unable to find a replacement unless I buy the same tripod 2nd on eBay.
For travelling and hiking check that the bag you intend to use can carry a trip is strapped on at the back of it. To save weight I use a monopod with a removable three legged platform and removable head. It also has a shoulder strap so I can carry it over my shoulder, and a handstrap so it can be used as a walking/hiking stick.
 

Holoholo55

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Here's another source of various articles on tripods. https://www.mytraveltripod.com/category/travel-tripod-advice/
Another one with specific recommendations. https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/photography/buying-guide/10-recommended-tripods-photography

I echo @ac12's admonition that there is no such thing as a "do-everything" tripod. I used to think all I needed was one tripod, and when I bought an MFT system, I sold my bigger tripods and got a MeFoto Roadtrip, figuring it would do for everything. I was wrong. Not about the Roadtrip, because it is a great travel tripod and for taking on short hikes. But, I needed a bigger, sturdier tripod for extra height and stability, and where weight doesn't matter so much. Just like bags, there will be a tripod that will best suit a particular purpose. I wouldn't use my travel tripod when I need height and super stability. Conversely, I wouldn't take my big tripod on a hike or on travel. Sometimes, all I need is a monopod or a table-top tripod, and I got those too.

My second, heavy duty tripod is a Slik 700 Pro AMT plus a Manfrotto fluid video head, which I can replace with a ballhead if needed. It is big and heavy (and quite reasonably priced) and I wouldn't carry it more than 50 yards from the car, but it's stiff and sturdy. :)

Even though I've standardized on Arca-Swiss plates for my QR, I like the Manfrotto RC2 QR mount and plate. The RC2 has a self-latching mechanism that partially locks the plate when it is engaged, reducing the chance that the camera could fall off before it's tightened. The lever lock is also a lot quicker to secure than the screw-in knob of the usual Arca-Swiss head. If my L-plates and other ballheads weren't made for Arca-Swiss mounts, I might switch everything to RC2.

BTW, there's been discussion on other threads about the necessity to have a hook on the bottom of the center column to hang your bag. The idea is that the weight of the bag will stabilize the tripod. As someone else noted, hanging a bag that can swing freely under your tripod makes your stability worse, not better. On a windy day, a suspended bag will swing back and forth, causing the tripod to move too. Someone instead recommending hanging a bag from the hook with a bungie. Attach your bag to the hook with an adjustable bungie. Adjust the bungie until the bungie is under tension without lifting the bag off the ground. Contact with the ground will prevent the bag from swinging, and the tension on the hook will steady your tripod.
 
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Haven't researched any of this but on another forum a bloke showed a photo of an expensive Gitzo with the head casting smashed.
The casting looked very ordinary. Not fine metal but bubbly junk IMO.
Personally, I'd find one with machined head parts. Simple, strong etc.
 

The Grumpy Snapper

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Haven't researched any of this but on another forum a bloke showed a photo of an expensive Gitzo with the head casting smashed.
The casting looked very ordinary. Not fine metal but bubbly junk IMO.
Personally, I'd find one with machined head parts. Simple, strong etc.
That used to be a Manfrotto problem but as Gitzo and Manfrotto are now owned by the same parent company I suspect that the Gitzo quality has dropped.

My newest Gitzo is over 20 years old and I no longer have contacts in the trade to get the low down on quality issues. I tend to agree that a machined apex assembly is the way to go these days.
 
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read this:
http://www.dslrbodies.com/accessories/camera-accessories/tripod-101.html

find a used Gitzo and put a good used ballhead on it (Markins, RRS, also AcraTech)

or spend more $$ and buy an entire RRS setup

do it once and do it right - my oldest Gitzo is 35 years old
I do support buying a high quality tripod which is a good fit for your purpose/needs will save you money in the long run. But Gitzo/RRS are certainly not the only high quality tripod makers, there are other very good tripods available which (still not cheap) but also not as expensive as Gitzo/RRS.

As far as I am concerned, there is no such thing as a "do everything" tripod.
That's also my experience. All tripods are a compromise based on height/weight/pack-ability. Price is a relative minor factor in the compromise.

The site is very helpful but test results can be deceiving as most testing is done with the tripods at "normal operating height" e.g. fully extended legs, center column not extended. The site does explain how they calculate the overall score.

If you need super solid and can get a way with a larger/heavier tripod you can get equally stable and keep a lot of money in your pocket. Almost non-travel sized tripod (at any price point) can not compete with the stability of a mid-tier (not crap but also not ultra-premium) full size tripod correcting for height.

Larger/beefier tripods will overall be more stable if set up to the the same height as a travel tripod as there are i) fewer leg sections needed ii) sections used are much larger iii) the overal tripod is heavier.
The best performing (RRS) travel tripod with an exceptional high overall score is outclassed by an (FLM) full size tripod costing less than half. You could even go to 1/3 of the price and have a full size tripod that outclasses every tested travel tripod (except the top 3 all with a very premium price tag) on stability.

Sorry for my rant.. but i I do still often read remarks that a travel-sized premium brand tripod is more stable vs a larger/heavier full size tripod, based on some incomparable numbers and/or half decent testing.

Obviously all this is irrelevant if you need to; pack small, reach x height, minimize weight or need specific features (e.g. water proof legs).

So completely agree with @ac12 pick the most important factor (height/weight/pack-ability) and find the optimal compromise on the others. Not happy with the compromise... paying a (big) premium can improve the compromise sometimes to a certain degree. But so does carrying a bit more weight ;-)
 
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Stanga

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The one benefit of shooting m43 is that you can often get away with a good tripod built for DSLR users.
 

robcee

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@ac12 posted a great response, and I agree with all of his points. A rare thing and I don’t know how I feel about that! :)

my rec, if you’re not sure you want to have a tripod or that you’ll use it, is to get the cheapest, most versatile unit you can that comes with a decent ball head. The Manfrotto 190 is I think a fantastic all-purpose tripod that you could be happy with and would last you your whole life. Aluminum is decent and with a m4/3 camera you don’t have to worry about blowing the weight limits.

A lighter, travel tripod might also be a good starter. I’ve got an aluminum Slik Pro that I got for cheap and put a portable RRS ball head on it. It’s small enough I can carry or sling onto a backpack and don’t really notice it.

Once you’ve used one and know that it’s a thing you want to use, then consider moving over to a carbon fiber tripod and better ball head.

PS, don’t forget to turn off IBIS and lens stabilization when you’re on a mount!
 

ac12

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One other thing that I forgot, and I don't know why, cuz it bugs me.
HEIGHT

As I get older, I dot not like to bend over as much.
A tripod that is eye level, but ONLY with the center column is extended all the way, is a BAD idea. Someone called that a monopod on top of a tripod.
I want a tripod that is eye level, with the center column DOWN. I only use the center column for +/- a couple of inches for fine adjustments. I don't use the center column for more height.
So my primary tripods have to put the camera at eye level, with the center column down.

Travel tripod is a different story. Primary consideration is fitting the suitcase, so I will compromise and accept a shorter travel tripod.
Or a 4 section leg, rather than a 3 section leg.

Another is material.
I did not think of this before, because I normally shoot with the tripod in relatively comfortable weather.
But I was at my BiL's place where the ambient air temp was 110+F, in the shade. Anything metal was too hot to hold. I had to wear a glove to hold the tools.
Same with COLD, my aluminum monopod would suck the heat out of my hand.
So if you shoot in either ends of the temp range, a carbon fiber tripod is much more comfortable to handle. Or wear gloves.

But CF is generally more expensive than aluminum, and harder to find used.
 

ralf-11

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Gitzo uses Magnesium for light wt.

Pressure casting can be stronger than "machined" parts (of course, the casting is machined too - I assume that poster meant a part that is carved out a billet, but there is nothing particularly strong about a billet of material. RRS uses aluminum, which is stronger but heavier. For real strength, you'd forge the head pieces - at considerable cost...

I listed two xlnt brands in the US - ones used by pro landscape photographers for a long time. Gitzo costs less than RRS but has much worse support in the USA. Gitzo is a lot easier to find used too.

BTW, there is a Markins Q ballhead for sale on FredMiranda - no affiliation.
 
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robcee

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Again, I agree with @ac12, but would like to point out you can cover the exposed aluminum bits with polypropylene wraps to protect your hands against extreme temperatures. Total cost is like 5 bucks.

The height thing is bang on though, and you'll find a tall tripod can get you shots that wouldn't otherwise be possible. Short 'pods for travel are an acceptable compromise, though.

@ralf-11 I use a Gitzo as my main tripod and it's excellent. I remember losing one of my feet in the field while on a trip and when I get back home they sent me a replacement set free of charge, so I wouldn't say their service is poor. I use two RRS ballheads with a permanent plate on my Olympus and love their machining. But they are pricey.
 

ralf-11

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the poor service comment is based on time to repair and time to get parts - crucial for a working photographer; annoying for amateurs

but almost all my tripods are Gitzo...
 
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ones used by pro landscape photographers for a long time.
Not to start a brand-related argument as there's no doubt about it that both Gitzo and RRS are very high quality but there are also quite a lot of pro landscape photographers who prefer Sirui/Benro (and other brands) for instance.
Quite a few spend there own money on tripod related gear and I also know a few who are brand ambassadors (which helps in the amount of money you have to fork over for your gear :blush:).
 

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