Tripod advice - don't know where to start

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by BlueDevil, Dec 10, 2013.

  1. BlueDevil

    BlueDevil Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 8, 2013
    Firstly - I am using an E-PL5 at present with a view to getting an OMD in the near future.

    A relative wants to give me a tripod for Xmas which doesn't give me a lot of time for detailed research. Also means it may be too late for online purchases (may not ship to Australia in time) so will probably have to stick with mainstream brands like Manfrotto etc that would be in stock in my local camera shop..

    I am currently using a Slik tripod I bought approx 35 years ago and I am guessing things may have changed a bit since I bought it! I haven't looked into tripods since then so my knowledge is almost non existent.

    I gather that the tripod and the head are often sold separately? Also, I have never used a ball head - are they quicker to adjust and can they support as much weight?

    So what am I looking for? I realize the perfect tripod with all the features I may want may not exist and compromises may have to be made. Maybe down the track I will end up with two tripods (eg a sturdy one for home use and a compact lightweight one for travelling)

    Lightweight but sturdy

    Adequate height but still relatively compact (eg to hopefully fit in a backpack) (3 section legs preferred over 4 section for the stability factor if possible)

    Adjustable to low heights for macro shots

    Are there heads that allow for smooth controlled panning rates when shooting video? (Stills are my priority, but I do like to shoot video at times)

    Able to quickly to adjust head from landscape to portrait, and able to quickly level the camera when on uneven ground.

    I have had a look through this thread and found some useful info :

    If anyone knows of any good online resources that discuss the pros and cons of tripods that would be handy.

    Sorry about the rambling post - it is probably because I don't really know what I am looking for because I don't really know much about what is available.
  2. jeffg53

    jeffg53 Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 22, 2012
    Sydney, Australia
    Real Name:
    Jeff Grant
    You didn't mention budget.
  3. wjiang

    wjiang Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I have a Slik Sprint Mini II as well as an older full-sized 3-way panning head Slik. The Sprint Mini II would seem to tick all of your boxes. I still use the full-size tripod on occasion but for outings I generally just pack the Mini in a backpack. See my review of the Mini here:
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  4. Capt T

    Capt T Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 8, 2010
    Yes budget would help us to give suggestions.
  5. orfeo

    orfeo Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 27, 2013
    Go gitzo traveller carbon... stretch the budget!
    • Like Like x 1
  6. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    If you want a good quality tripod that has all the features you mention, be prepared for a little bit of sticker shock. Even the 'budget' options (like my carbon 4-section RedGed TSC-424, which I actually like a lot, and even with 4 sections is plenty stable for a system as small as MFT. It supported my Canon 5DII just fine as well) are not anywhere near cheap. Keep in mind that a flippy screen camera (like the E-M5, E-M1, etc.) means a tripod that's a little too low for staring through the viewfinder will probably work just fine, because you won't need to bend over to frame and adjust settings, just tilt the screen out.

    As for the head, it's sort of up to you. If you want to pan/do video, a tilt/pan head is probably the best bet. If you mostly shoot panos, you may want a panoramic head you can adjust the nodal point on (though these can be as expensive as a tripod on their own). A good ball head is by far the most compact and flexible solution for all-round use and definitely for hiking, and should allow fairly easy setting of a camera in any and all positions. I'm happy with my RedGed TSC-424 + RedGed RNB-3 (I think that's the model number) ball head; weighs 1.2 kg (roughly) with the head, and is about 40cm long, total. Other brands I considered in the budget range (i.e. not Gitzo) include Benro (Travel Angel series).
    • Like Like x 1
  7. biomed

    biomed Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 22, 2013
    Seattle area
    Real Name:
    This is what I am using.
    FEISOL CB-40D Ballhead

    FEISOL Traveler CT-3441T Rapid Tripod Legs

    Very sturdy, light weight and folds to a compact size. There are many more excellent tripods out there. I happened to pick the Feisol after using one for a day. I use my heavier aluminum Manfrotto tripod with a fluid head for video shooting.

    • Like Like x 1
  8. speedandstyle

    speedandstyle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Manfrotto makes good stuff but they are not the best{although the "best" are often WAY! overpriced}.

    I have a Vanguard Alta Pro 263 and I like it. It is well built and not too heavy. It folds up small enough to carry attached to a backpack. It has great adjustably for low shots. I have a Vanguard SBH250 head attached but I don't like it as much but you can fit different heads. Ball heads are very strong if they are well made.

    If you want to do any video panning and want it smooth you really should use a fluid head. A ball head can be used but getting the stop and start of the pan to not jerk will be difficult.
    • Like Like x 1
  9. photo_owl

    photo_owl Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 8, 2013
    "Adequate height but still relatively compact (eg to hopefully fit in a backpack) (3 section legs preferred over 4 section for the stability factor if possible)"

    there is no reason that 3 section legs are inherently more stable, and some the other way in practice! It's all a matter of where you wish to make any compromises ie weight over size, or the other way round?

    a good 'rock bag' can weigh little and transform many tripods in use in the field

    you really do get what you pay for on many of these, but you should obvioulsy only pay for what you need.

    I still use a Slik88, looking at it now ;) but it's not as easy to set up and level as most of my others and is mainly used as an occassional softbox support now (but it is still in use all these years later!)
    • Like Like x 1
  10. Dogman

    Dogman Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 23, 2012
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  11. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 All-Pro

    Oct 1, 2010
    In some cases, the first thing you buy just teaches you what you really wanted. It happens to me all the time. So, while it is good to do the questioning and studying you are doing, don't turn it into an obsession. You're not getting married to the thing. The relationship may well be temporary and serve primarily as a learning experience.

    You should definitely read this: Although you may not choose the big bucks route he recommends, at least you will have been warned.
    • Like Like x 2
  12. Jeff1:1

    Jeff1:1 Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 2, 2013
    Your Slik of 35 years ago is fine. Other than plastic or carbon fiber, they haven't changed much - 3 legs & a head.
    There are 2 price ranges. (You get what you pay for)
    $30 to $90 are the plastic ones at Best Buy, Walmart. They work for basic dslr and kit lenses and usually have 3-way pan head, although a few have a pistol grip head.One advantage is less weight vs. your Slik which is probably aluminum. The maximum height is 60 inches with center column extended. Being very light they definitely sway in the wind and are easy to knock over.
    The $200 (aluminum) to $400+ (carbon fiber) tripods are the Manfrotto, Gitzo, etc. which allow separate heads (typically don't come with one) and are much sturdier than plastic ones. Also there are ones that extend higher (my Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 Q90 goes to 70" with center column extended and Slik AF2100 pistol grip head), and there are different heads available. The legs can either be twist-to-lock/open (Gitzo) or flip-lever type (Manfrotto).
    There are China/Korea branded carbon fiber ones around $200, but have fixed head and only go to 55 inches or so. Like any knock-off stuff, they work, but cost was cut somewhere (design, workers, thickness or quality of materials), so you are on your own for long term quality and recommendations with them.
    • Like Like x 1
  13. Faceinthecrowd

    Faceinthecrowd Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 29, 2011
    I have Sirui. Cost effective carbon fibre options. B&H have them. I'm shooting a GX7 and the k20x head is really nice when tensioned correctly. Have a 2204X.

    I would highly recommend you get arca Swiss type mounts as that's really the tripod universal adapter. That way you have lots if options and upgrade paths.

    If you have crazy money look at Really Right Stuff - tripods, heads, and custom brackets. Also some good articles on what makes a hood tripod.

    Martin Bailey has a podcast on what makes a good tripod.
    • Like Like x 1
  14. photo_owl

    photo_owl Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 8, 2013
    I had a spare hour in my favorite London photo store today, after reading this thread earlier.

    One stood out for me

    the link is irrelevant, just a means to present the product

    the managers comment when I said how much I liked the simple, but effective, head was that it was their current top seller.........not surprised!

    (and they stocked a lot of tripods!)
    • Like Like x 1
  15. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Real Name:
    I really like the Sirui T-025x for m4/3.

    I've used up to a D600 w/24-120mm on it so far so there's no problem using anything m4/3 can throw at it. It's carbon fiber so it's very light and packs down tiny for travel use. It comes with a decent ballhead that uses Arca-compatible plates, and I use mine with Capture plates so I can alternate between the Capture clip and tripod. It's extendable to tall enough for everything I typically use a tripod for like self timer shots, landscapes, etc. though that often does mean extending the center column which is tippier. I'm fine with that though for the size savings.

    About the only feature I could think of that it doesn't have is the detachable monopod/leg option that some of the other travel tripods are capable of. I do typically use my camera bag to weight it down, since as a super-light tripod it's affected by wind and such, but I've had little trouble even doing up to 30s exposures as long as I pay attention to making sure it's solid.

    If that's above budget, I'd consider the Benro MeFoto or similar series of tripods for travel. Very similar design to the Sirui but they're cheaper since it's aluminum instead of CF, and they offer some versions with a detachable monopod leg if that's something that matters to you.
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  16. RamblinR

    RamblinR Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 16, 2012
    Sunshine Coast, Qld Australia
    Real Name:
    I have a Manfotto with a ball head which I used with my Canon gear. It's a good sturdy tripod and the ball head makes it much easier to adjust. I also have a 'cheap' light tripod which I leave in the car for those 'just in case' moments.

    I have decided to keep working with the Manfrotto with my EM5 and EM1 and it has a good amount of weight which will help to keep it steady in a breeze seeing the camera is now much lighter weight than my canon gear. This is important when doing long exposures.

    I recently purchased an ultra pod that I can carry with my gear.

    Think this will be a handy tripod to have with me when I can't be bothered carrying the larger one or for travel.
    • Like Like x 1
  17. orfeo

    orfeo Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 27, 2013
    Another option is the Benro travel angel.
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  18. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    Real Name:
    I've got a Redged carbon fiber 4 section job that I got from Adorama for a steal. Love it. I'm not sure what they sell in Australia, but I'm sure a the Mefoto, benro, or sirui line of traveler tripods would be suitable, assuming we are talking mFT.
    • Like Like x 1
  19. BlueDevil

    BlueDevil Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 8, 2013
    Australia many replies! Thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughts and options.

    It will take a while to digest all the info and check out the links.

    Sorry I didn't mention budget in my original post but to be honest I wasn't quite sure what direction I was heading with this and what the current price ranges are for tripods. Also currency differences etc may make it difficult to compare products. In Australia we generally get ripped off on prices when compared to the same product overseas which is why online shopping from overseas has become very popular (for example I bought a scuba regulator for my daughter a few years which retailed at $920 in Australia but only cost me $400 with delivery by getting it from overseas).

    I guess I am probably looking in a range up to US$300, maybe $US400 if something looked really good. I have given it a bit more thought and I am thinking more along the lines of making this more or less a lightweight tripod for carrying around locally or when going for a wander through a forest or along a beach. So I guess I don't want to go too small and light but rather something more portable than my current old Slik tripod. I do have a little mini-pod with extendable legs that I can use for overseas travel (not ideal but because scuba gear takes up so much of my luggage allowance I probably can't afford to take anything bigger).

    I have seen a Manfrotto in a local store that may fit the bill if anyone is familiar with this model and can comment on it:
    And now I will check out all the links you guys have kindly provide and see what suits best.

    As someone pointed out previously a purchase like this may just be a stepping stone to something else down the track. There are many times I have made purchases which have in effect been a 'learning experience' and have ultimately led to a better option being purchased down the track. We don't always get it right the first time no matter how much research we do.

    Thanks again to everyone who has replied.
  20. Faceinthecrowd

    Faceinthecrowd Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 29, 2011
    I bought my Sirui gear from mainlinephoto Sydney. Prices are cheaper in Australian dollars than US equivalent. 5 year warranty.
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