The classic tripod saga

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by wjiang, May 31, 2015.

  1. This week, I progressed to the next stage of the classic tripod saga:
    1. Need a tripod. A cheap 'big' tripod will do (buy a Slik U9000)
    2. Need a decent travel tripod, because the 'big' tripod is too annoying to carry (buy a Slik Sprint Mini II)
    3. Oh dear, still need a proper 'big' tripod sometimes... that actually works well
    The legs on the U9000 were okay, but the plastic head wobbled too much for long exposures - it was kind of a joke actually, the smaller Slik Sprint Mini II travel tripod was actually more stable overall. The travel tripod is great because it fits in a backpack, but unfortunately it's not great for super long exposures in soft ground due to it's tiny feet, short stature, and susceptibility to wind. My recent difficulties with Milky Way shots on a windy beach on soft sand made that pretty clear...

    As I'm not a very tall or strong person, light weight and small packed size (along with sturdiness of course) are pretty important, and that means paying quite a bit more. Full-sized tripods tend to be designed for DSLR weight, so to go light with m4/3, carbon fibre seems to be the only real option.

    At the store, I got to try out the usual Manfrottos, Sliks, Giottos, Gitzos, but Sirui really stood out. They're not a budget brand, but do provide the good quality and features of the big names at more reasonable prices, with a 6 year warranty. Their heads are also Arca-Swiss compatible, with a safety pin design that works with most types of L-plate. I'm a convert as I discovered that mounting a camera for portrait orientation using an Arca-Swiss L-plate is way more stable than tilting a ball head sideways, but there is the danger of the plate sliding out if the clamp is loosened without some sort of quick release safety pin.

    In the end, I shelled out on a carbon fibre Sirui EN-2204 with K-20X Arca-Swiss compatible ball head, to replace the U9000. It's lighter, smaller stowing, taller extended, much sturdier, more flexible (3 leg positions + reverse, centre column splits, converts to monopod), and has extendible spike feet as well as centre hook. I'm still not so sure about the K-20X it came with (it's a bit overkill for m4/3), but the legs look like they will last me for a very very long time. I guess I can always try a different head - is that the next stage of the tripod saga?

    Actually, maybe I'm there already... I also ordered a Sirui G-10X ball head, to replace the ball head on the Slik Sprint Mini II with one that has a separate panning lock and Arca-Swiss mount...

    Is that a pretty common story? How has m4/3 affected tripod choices for you?
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  2. jamespetts

    jamespetts Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 21, 2011
    London, England
    I think that it is rather wonderful that the classic tripod saga has exactly three stages.
    • Like Like x 2
    • Funny Funny x 1
  3. janneman

    janneman Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 6, 2012
    Jan (John) Kusters
    It is always a hard choice between stability, portability and price.
    I have opted for two tripods too; one big and heavy when I know I am going to need all the stability I can get (Slik Pro Classic), and a smaller lighter tripod for 'just in case' or long walking use. Of course there will be the occasional 'I wish I brought the big gun' moment, but over all it works rather well for me. I would like another light version. The one I have now is a very old Linhoff, quite good for its weight, but not very compact, and I would love a really compact one to strap to my camera bag and have with me at all times.
  4. Those are the three I've definitely hit. I'm sensing a fourth though, as I alluded to - mixing and matching heads...
  5. Lcrunyon

    Lcrunyon Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jun 4, 2014
    When I started photography, my father gave me an old and cheap plastic tripod and an equally old and cheap Benro aluminum monopod. I could probably get 20 bucks for both together on eBay. I still have them, and use the tripod as a backup or flash stand when I need it, but it was never going to cut it for my main kit.

    I researched, and went with Really Right Stuff right off the bat (I tend to go all-out on things). I bought a four-section, medium-sized carbon fiber tripod (TVC-24L) and BH44 Ball Head. Its very expensive, but it will last me a lifetime, and I don't regret it in the least. There's nothing bad I can say about this gear or the company.

    The tripod extends above my head, which is useful for uneven terrain, but also gets really low to the ground, and collapses to airplane travel size and is still very lightweight (which was why I went with 4 sections). I could have gone with a lighter one for :mu43:, but wanted the versatility for bigger lenses an a spotting scope. It's solid and stable as a mountain, and the ball head is as smooth as can be. It's an absolute joy to use. I don't think I can speak higher praise for a tripod than to say I actualy want to carry it with me so I can use it.

    RRS uses Arca Swiss. One of the projects I was rather pleased with was my carrying system for my cameras, which involved RRS L-plates designed for specific cameras (I have the E-M1 and E-M5 versions), and quick release clamps that attach (screwed and lok-tited in place) to my Black Rapid slings. This setup allows for seamless transition from tripod to shoulder-carrying. Perhaps more importantly, it offers much more confidence that the BR sling's attachment mechanism wont come unattached.

    I've bought a few more RRS accessories to date: A padded carrying case was useful. My most recent purchase was a macro focusing rail (still getting to the point where that will become useful). I also have a few other small plates, clamps and a rail for general pupose (such as mounting one of my cameras with the battery grip attached, bigger lenses or my spotting scope). I also bought a replacement lens foot for my Canon 100-400 mk II. It's a very complete system.
    • Agree Agree x 2
  6. MarkoPolo

    MarkoPolo Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 25, 2014
    Greeley, CO
    Mark Brown
    Since moving to m4/3, I was able to downsize from the RRS BH-55 ball head to the BH-40 for my big rig, ie; car travel. I did pick up a MeFOTO road trip carbon fibre for travel. Very impressive little tripod.
    • Agree Agree x 2
    • Informative Informative x 1
  7. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    • Agree Agree x 1
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  8. Klorenzo

    Klorenzo Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 10, 2014
    I'm at step 2 and I'm considering step 3 :)

    But first I'm going to buy a flash hotshoe adapter for the tripod so that I can use that for simple light setup experiments.

    Also have a travel monopod and a ultrapod II :|
  9. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    Its almost as bad as multi-bag disorder (MBD).
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  10. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    It never ends. Evolving kits and photographic tastes, means evolving needs on the tripod front. And there is no magic bullet tripod that is perfect in every situation, sadly.

    Having recently added the 7lb 300/2.8 to my kit, I opted to upgrade to some really tall (I'm tall too) Gitzo carbon fiber legs. They are too damn big and heavy much of the time, and won't fit in carry on unless someone is feeling generous. But they are everything I want, in use, most of the time.

    My monopod is sirui and it's great, but has become a little bit overwhelmed by my new lens/gimbal combo(it flexes like a bow if I whip the rig about by the monopod). I'm looking for something taller and more robust, perhaps the next one up from sirui.

    After I upgrade my monopod, I will turn back to looking for a travel tripod that can manage my big rig, without bouncing, or making me lean over too much to use it. Tradeoffs I don't like, but I'm just too tall to get to have it both ways with a travel tripod.

    Start doing video and you may find yourself looking for tripods yet again. I made sure when I bought my gitzo, that it is capable of taking a video head with a spherical mount, so I don't immediately need to buy another tripod when I finally start doing more video. Of course if I get too serious, the gitzo won't be enough, and I'll be looking for a robust made for video tripod. Arrrrghh it never ends.
    • Appreciate Appreciate x 1
  11. Rum Maximus

    Rum Maximus Mu-43 Regular

    May 11, 2013
    LV, NV
    I wish I had been able to read all that way back when I was making the big bucks and wasting it on bad gear decisions.
  12. Holoholo55

    Holoholo55 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 13, 2014
    Honolulu, HI
    My first good tripod was a Bogen 3025, a rebranded Manfrotto. It was solid, but quite large and heavy. I replaced it with a Slik Pro 330EZ, which was lighter and stiff. Wish I'd kept it. I replaced it with a MeFoto Roadtrip when I switched to Olympus MFT. That's when I finally figured out that one tripod cannot do all things. Ironically, I acquired another Bogen 3025 when my friend sold me his Celestron telescope. I replaced the 3-way head with a Manfrotto video head. Now I have two tripods and have sorta circled back to the beginning. :)
  13. Speedliner

    Speedliner Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Mar 2, 2015
    Southern NJ, USA
    I tested my vanguard today after reading bythom's article. The legs seem very solid. The bh-100 ball head, not bad but not up to his standard. Here's why. I put my biggest lens on the e-m1, the 50-200 with EC-14 and mounted it. I lined it up with the corner of door across the house and when I tightened it up, it moved. Just a little, but it was impossible to line up a shot and keep it exactly while tightening. The second test was better...I left it there for two hours. It did not move at all in that time. So mostly good, but the tightening thing would be the kind of fiddly that makes me nuts.

    I have a Siriu 40x I haven't used yet. It seemed overkill for m43, but if it doesn't move when tightening I'll keep it.
  14. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    Yeah. I have a Benro B1 head that has the same problem. It came with my carbon TravelFlat legs, which are very nice. So I am in cheapskate-analysis-paralysis trying to decide how much I am willing to spend to cure this problem, considering that I rarely use the tripod and continuing to work around this defect is not a show-stopper issue.
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    • Agree Agree x 1
  15. DoofClenas

    DoofClenas Who needs a Mirror! Subscribing Member

    Nov 9, 2012
    Traverse City, MI
    I originally (back in my dslr days) bought a tiltall tripod/ballhead kit for $100...after it wore out (about a year later), I splurged. I went for a Manfrotto 190CXPro3 carbon fiber tripod with an Acratech GPS Ballhead. It's total overkill for what I have right now, but I know it will hold anything that I can throw at it.
  16. MAubrey

    MAubrey Photographer

    Jul 9, 2012
    Bellingham, WA
    Mike Aubrey
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  17. mannukiddo

    mannukiddo Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 28, 2013
    Fortunately my tripod journey so far has been very logical with no wasteful buys and they have all been good solid buys. The first one was a feisol 3301 with a CB50 ball head. This was enough for everything upto a Nikon 300 F4 and a DSLR body. This was a 3 section tripod so never really folded small and carrying it every where was a little over whelming. The CB50 has now been replaced with Markins Q20i.

    Then came the big gitzo 5541LS with a Jobu pro gimbal head for my 600 F4. This is the big daddy of all photo tripods and I don't really know anything that comes close to its abilities. Not only is it great with heavy loads but absolutely rock steady in heavy windy conditions with anything mounted on it.

    Then came the tiny Joby slr zoom gorilla pod. I did not have too many expectations with this one but it was great for all my travels across Europe with my m43 kit.

    Then lastly I got a Sirui 1204x CF travel tripod with a Tiltall BH-07. Haven't used this much but it is intended to be my solid travel tripod when the gorilla pod will be inadequate. So far I am loving it's folded length and the Tiltall ball head is absolutely amazing for its size.
  18. budeny

    budeny Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 4, 2014
    Boulder, CO
    My saga started with small tabletop Manfrotto tripod, then it was Slik Sprint Mini too - excellent hiking tripod that I never worry to throw around sand and water. Though I changed head to Manfrotto 482 (from that tabletop).
    Then, after couple years I picked full height FLM CP26-L3S fiber tripod - it reaches my eye level even without center column and weights under 2.5 lbs.
  19. tradesmith45

    tradesmith45 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 13, 2012
    This is an out standing thread about tripod selection. I'll add 1 additional factor. The small size of m43 gear is very misleading when it comes to tripod/head selection. The very high forces produced by the need to close before opening the shutter means much larger pods/heads are needed for mirrorless gear IMHO.

    I haven't gotten around to posting the results of my testing yet but my E-M5 when attached to a 300mm+ lens w/ a tripod foot on the lens will shake even a 5 lb. pod at 1/25" & yield blurry results. The shutter in my E-M1 seems softer but haven done the same testing yet.

    I like pods that can go high or very low quickly. To do that you need either a 2 piece center column or a tall center columnless pod. Only Slik CT series * Oben pods have 2 piece columns. The RRS TVC-24L is the only sub 4 lb, tall center columnless tripos currently being made.
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