Travel & Packing Tripods for Mirrorless

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by tradesmith45, Dec 15, 2012.

  1. tradesmith45

    tradesmith45 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 13, 2012
    Oregon
    This is an oft discussed topic. I just completed some tests that may be helpful to others facing this decision. I've just entered the digital world w/ an OM-D. Own some tripods that have worked well for film for years including a Gitzo Weekend Performance (44.4 oz & 62.5" max. w/ no head) & a Velbon Maxi 345E (28.5 oz & 60.5" max. w/ no head). I use the no longer made Velbon for backpacking & the Gitzo for everything else & these have worked fine even for my old Mamaiya 645.

    Having bought the MZD 75-300mm, I wondered if I needed to upgrade my tripod. So rounded up a couple mid-price carbon pods - Promaster C423W (41.5 oz) & C429W (58.9 oz) to compare to my svelte aluminum pods.

    These carbon pods are massively built in every way from top plate to foam grips to bag hook to huge leg locks.

    Long story short, all 4 pods had no problem holding the OM-D @ 300mm for a 1 sec. exposure even with fully extended center column! Of course, the lighter the tripod the longer it takes for the camera to stop shacking after changing the shutter speed. All tests were done w/ IS off & manually focused.

    So my conclusion is there is so little vibration in a mirrorless camera, you don't need much of a tripod for stability. Wind is another issue but there will always be a wind strong enough to upset even the biggest tripod. Hanging a bag on a light pod (w/ the center column down) will provide as much stability in a wind as a bigger pod so why carry the extra weight all the time?

    So I went looking for something to replace my Velbon since it does not allow very low shooting w/ splayed legs ore reversed column. My goals seem modest enough - 4' max leg height, 5' max height & 2 lbs weight w/o head. There seems to be only 1 pod out there that'll do that: the Slik Pro 634 CF. If you are willing to accept a few inches less height or a few more oz, there a half dozen more choices from Oben, Sirui, Redged, Indur & Gitzo. But still not many options. Love to hear if any of you have found a few others but for me the conclusion is the market has committed tripod over kill and mirrorless owners can easily get by with much less.

    Lets see if the market responds to our needs. Hope this helps ya!
     
  2. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    Benro Travel Angel
     
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  3. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    Yes.
    and there will almost always be a light wind, usually enough to upset a spindly little tripod. Tripping the shutter manually will also upset a spindly tripod and it is not always convenient or even possible to use the self timer.

    I would agree that eliminating mirror slap eliminates the need for stability/reduces vibration from that cause. But there are other significant, maybe more significant, causes.

    Life's a tradeoff. My current travel tripod tradeoff requires 30mm leg diameter and carbon. My home tripod is an old, rock-solid, Tiltall. YMMV.
     
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  4. tradesmith45

    tradesmith45 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 13, 2012
    Oregon
    FYI

    All my tests were conducted outdoors but under an awning on a rainy day w/ light winds & used a wired remote for the shutter.

    Yup oldracer I've got an old Tiltall too (5.66 lbs). & I've even traveled with it & a big PF-80ED Pentax spotting scope. At 65x the Tiltall was surprisingly shaky. I'll eventually get an adapter for the OM-D to go on the scope & am wondering if will be stable enough for decent photos. So clearly travel can mean a very wide range of photo activities. Sorry, I should have been clearer that my post was focused more on the hiking/packing end of the spectrum.

    & you're absolutely right about tradeoffs. Here's an example. I did not to get the Slik 634 because it does not have the retractable spike feet my old Velbon has. My Gitzo does not have them either. I've had lots of occasions on rocks where I couldn't get the Gitzo to stay placed cause a leg would slip every time I touched the camera. The spikes on the Velbon completely eliminated the problem & that's one reason I bought it. I just bought a bit heavier carbon Sirius to get the spiked feet + lo angle ability.

    oldracer, did you go for the bigger pod cause you are shooting action? At 300mm, the OM-D on the Velbon would take a couple sec. to settle down after changing the shutter speed. That wouldn't do for shooting race cars or fleeting animals.

    My post had 2 purposes: to demonstrate that camera vibration need no longer be a criteria for choosing a pod & to stimulate pod makers/buyer to get back into the light weight end of the market. I naively was expecting when I started this to be able to find a carbon version of my old Velbon that was 25% lighter but instead found no pods that are even as light as that AL pod & its no longer being made either. Quit a disappointment after the huge leap MFT has given us.
     
  5. snkenai

    snkenai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    523
    Sep 5, 2010
    I'm using a Slick 500G, with the center column removed, and Bogen head. I rarely extend the legs more than a couple joints. I don't use it for heavy lenses or in much wind. For my use it is light, stable and very portable. I need to get a modest size ball head, which will make it nearly perfect for my use. I do mostly outdoor close nature/closeup. For the higher or awkward angle, the collapsed tripod, held against the body, or up against something, really gives a lot of versatility.

    I use 2 second delay, for most of my work, even freehand. My old hands can't trip the shutter, without shaking/jerking the camera.

    For the occasional long lens use, I use "props".
     
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  6. tradesmith45

    tradesmith45 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 13, 2012
    Oregon
    Well, I've had too much coffee this morning & have a 3rd reason for the post - my frustration w/ magazine & user tripod reviews. When you compare these to the highly technical lens reviews we all love you can see there is not just a market failure but an information failure as well. What really does a 3-4-5 star rating for stability mean?

    I've never seen even something as simple as my dumb 300mm for 1 sec. test or spiked feet are good on rocks in a review. We often pay $$ for these info sources & should demand more objective & specific info from them on this topic. Especially now that tripods can cost high 3 figures.
     
  7. snkenai

    snkenai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    523
    Sep 5, 2010
    I gave $5.00 for the Slick, and less than $30.00 for the head. Not everyone will find such bargains, but just to show what can be used.
     
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  8. tradesmith45

    tradesmith45 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 13, 2012
    Oregon
    Yes, snkenai, I still have my old 500g & loved it. Now there's a light pod even though it won't get to 5 ' & the plastic bits on mine are starting to crack. Have you found anything like it available new today?
     
  9. tm3

    tm3 Mu-43 Regular

    134
    Apr 17, 2011
    What head do you use with your velbon maxi? Do you use an arca Swiss QR?
     
  10. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    Good discussion.

    Gitzo sells a convertible spike/rubber kit at a very reasonable price (for them). Gitzo Spiked Feet Adapter Set (but use Amin's link to buy) I bought a set for my Benro, which has the same screw thread on the leg ends. The Benro came with a set of rubber feet and a separate set of spikes, not convertible.

    No. It was more along the philosophy of "There is no such thing as too rich." i.e., "There is no such thing as a tripod that is too stiff." Adding 16% to the diameter adds 80% to the stiffness. The size and weight increase is on the order of the 16%, too. Maybe less.

    Yeah. That leads to discussion of natural vibration frequencies and damping, which really don't get talked about much. But I think (not possessing any actual facts) that carbon has better damping than aluminum. Wood would be much better but it's pretty hard to make telescoping legs. Bigger diameter would lower the natural vibration frequency. I'm not sure if that is good or bad.

    Actually, I think holding onto the camera while shooting short exposures off a tripod probably helps minimize vibration of the camera and increases damping. For long exposures it's probably not a good idea but for those the short vibration pulse is probably not a major factor anyway.
     
  11. snkenai

    snkenai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    523
    Sep 5, 2010
    No. Although, I haven't looked much.
     
  12. tradesmith45

    tradesmith45 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 13, 2012
    Oregon
    About the head, sorry I forgot. I used the same medium size noname ball head that's pretty stout + a Swiss QR clamp on all the tests.
     
  13. tradesmith45

    tradesmith45 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 13, 2012
    Oregon
    Hey oldracer, thanks for the link to the spiked feet adapters. I didn't find anything like this when I did a Bing search a couple weeks ago.

    Unfortunately, my of AL gitzo has solid AL rods for the last leg section.

    The question of carbon vs. AL is interesting & I don't know what to say about advantages/disadvantages. I've owned steel, Al & carbon bikes. Al frames are very much stiffer than the others but you're right carbon dampens vibration better. I don't know what that means for a tripod. I do know that both my AL Gitzo & Velbon pods were torsionally stiffer than the Promaster 423. I grabbed that all at the top of the legs & tried to twist that part of the pods.

    Clearly carbon has brought higher prices & some weight savings but much of the weight savings has been sacrificed for added features producing products that are heavier than we previously could get.

    The Silk 500g & 800g were very clever AL & plastic designs w/ a supporting web that were surprisingly solid & cheap: Slik 800g tripod - Bing Images
     
  14. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    USA
    Really? That's odd. It must be just for manufacturing economy, as the center portion of a round rod adds almost nothing to strength or stiffness.

    If you really want those feet, anyone with a metal lathe could drill and tap your legs in just a few minutes. Just take them off, find a small machine shop, and whimper convincingly. IIRC the feet are 5/16" coarse thread but buy them first. In fact, if you want to send the leg ends to me I will do it for you. It'll take 10 minutes. Fifteen tops.
     
  15. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    This is an illustration of the tube size more than the material. Aluminum has pretty low strength compared to just about any other material. For most aluminum alloys, the strength to weight is similar for steel. Among metals, titanium has the best strength to weight ratio, but also the lowest modulus - it tends to be very springy.

    Fiber reinforced composites really are the best material for a tripod - high strength to weight ratio, can have directional strength (good in a tripod where the loads are always one direction), vibration damping, and not thermally conductive. The downsides of fiber reinforced composites (scratches disrupting the matrix material, lack of ductility) aren't really problems with a tripod.
     
  16. 2mnycars

    2mnycars Mu-43 Veteran

    277
    Aug 26, 2012
    Toronto
    DaveL
    I had a Star D, bought new, and used it until I wore it out. The bushings wore badly.
    A good Tiltall, or Linhof would be fun. I have 1-1/2 Linhof monopods, and it's a great tool.
     
  17. tradesmith45

    tradesmith45 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 13, 2012
    Oregon
    Yes, I too am thinking about what I might do w/ those Gitzo spike feet on my existing pods. The last leg segment on the ol Weekend are 5/16" so I'd need to make a threaded sleeve for them rather than taping.

    But my old Slik 800g (24 oz w/o head) has 7/16 od lower tubes sooooo. The plastic head on the Slik is cracked so I'd also drill it for a 1/4" stud. Guessing the Gitzo spikes are 3 oz. I'd end up w/ a 27 oz pod. The Velbon w/ spikes is 28.5 oz & taller so the Slik conversion seems pointless.

    The Sirui N-1204 is 35 oz & can go low angle which none of my legacy pods will do.
     
  18. elavon

    elavon Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 1, 2012
    Tel Aviv Israel
    Ehud
    I have just finished a week trip to Rome with the Sprint Mini II Tripod.
    It was very comfortable to use and I hardly felt the weight of it.
    Opening and closing was a breeze.
     
  19. woof

    woof Mu-43 Top Veteran

    511
    Oct 18, 2011
    The present.
    I use one of the above, and I LOVE it.

    It is however massive compared with my SIRUI T-005. I see Benro has introduced what looks like either a knock off of the SIRUI T-005 or a copy thereof. Same height, same number of leg sections, same folding scheme, and comes in colors just like the Sirui. Called the Benro MeFoto Travel Tripod With Ballhead. Price is the same. Based on my experience with the travel Angel, I am tempted to get one as I have more recently taken to carrying two mu43 bodies for any serious tripod work.

    I will say this. I have been talking this tripod up for some time. Everyone always recommends the standard stuff. But I bought the Mu43 to get away from big. That includes tripods. The Sirui works just great for me and I have no qualms. Example photo. Five shot bracket, early morning, slow speeds, released with a remote. EP-3, RRS L-Plate, 7-14mm, Sirui. No apologies.

    p1216077148-5.
     
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  20. tradesmith45

    tradesmith45 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 13, 2012
    Oregon
    Great photo & terrific tripods. They are both well under 2 lbs but too short for me (I'm 5'11"). If the Sirui T series had slightly longer leg sections, it could get to 60" with little more weight especially the incredible T-025 carbon version which is only 21 oz (no head) & folded length under a foot! I'd give up a little folded length for more height.

    I do worry a bit about wear & tear on carbon legs. I sometime pack into slickrock lands & squeeze through slots. My aluminum pods have plenty of scars to show for it. Carbon tubes are vulnerable to notch failure. The N-1204 does not have foam grips for protection so I'll be doing something - like bike handlebar tape - to address that.