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tripod advice please ???

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by f6cvalkyrie, Apr 1, 2010.

  1. f6cvalkyrie

    f6cvalkyrie Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 12, 2010
    Brussels, Belgium

    I have recently completed my range of lenses for my G1.
    Included are a 300/2.8 MF and 55 - 105- and 200mm MF macrolenses.

    I have 2 old and not very stable tripods, but I'm afraight they might adversely influence the IQ especially with the 300mm and the 200mm macro.

    So I am looking for a tripod that would ideally be not to heavy to take it for a walk (remember, I already have to carry the 300mm) and allow for low shoots for macro work.

    Do I choose aluminium or carbon ?
    Do I need a ballhead or a panohead ?
    Gitzo ? Manfrotto ? Other manufacturer ?

    Can you advice me a tripod type ?

    • Like Like x 1
  2. BBW

    BBW Super Moderator Emeritus

    Raf, I'm really glad you started this thread because I've been meaning to ask many of the same questions.

    I'd also throw in a question about a "ball head" and a "quick release" option too? Of course it all depends upon how much one wants to spend...

    Thanks again, Raf!
  3. LisaO

    LisaO Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 18, 2010
    New York Metro Area
    Tripods are an intriguing area of photography. You could spend $50 on one or $700 (or more) on another. Both will hold you camera steady but the workings of them size and weight can make a big difference. I like gitzo carbon fiber but they are expensive, however a tripod is something you buy once and have for years and years. Manfrotto is another brand and now Gitzo and Manfrotto are part of the same company.

    Heads are important as well, I like really right stuff heads for a small camera a BH 25 or BH 40 should be fine. You have a choice of screw mount or plate mount. L plates are good if you shoot often on a tripod as it makes it easy to slip on and off the tripod in horizontal or vertical mode. However the L plates also add cost and weight and one of the reason for going mu 4/3 is to have less gear to carry.

    Feisol, Enduro and Slik are some other good brands.
  4. deckitout

    deckitout Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 28, 2010
    Essex UK
  5. BBW

    BBW Super Moderator Emeritus

    Would someone care to elaborate more upon the types of heads and the reasons behind them?
  6. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    Pan/Tilt - Primarily designed for video cameras and to some extent for large format/medium format where sideways tilt isn't required. Wouldn't recommend any pan/tilt head for general photography.

    Ball Heads - Designed for all manner of cameras, but also provides the ability to turn camera 90 degrees sideways, or any angle or position for that matter. Ball heads come in all manner of design and method of operation, and price, so you need to determine what type of movement etc suits your needs.

    Geared Heads - Depending on type, designed either for large/medium format for precision movement, or nowadays for all formats but also with precision movement. Geared haeds do not suffer from ball head droop, where after locking the ball head, it invariably sags a fraction - nearly always enough to frustrate. See here: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/accessories/magic-box.shtml

    Note: with heads like legs, price is very often a determinant of quality.


  7. BBW

    BBW Super Moderator Emeritus

    Thanks Ray! More food for thought. I would like to believe that the ball head would be OK with a camera such as mine - the E-PL1.

    I appreciate your taking the time to outline these three options and for the link, too.
  8. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    A ball head would be absolutely fine for such a camera, but you should always get one that is a little larger than you think you need. In this instance, I wouldn't look at anything under 25mm diameter, preferably a little larger if possible. My itsy, bitsy Velbon tripod has a 30mm ball and my Novoflex is at least 50mm.

    If you intend to get a ball head, go and try out the operation of various models if you can. There is so much variation regarding how the ball locks, what tension adjustments are available, how many slots available for right angle tilting, pan head inclusion, materials and generally how it feels in use.

    If you're happy to spend a reasonable amount of money on a ball head, then picking any of the well know brands means that you won't go too far wrong. The other thing to consider with ball heads is the use of a quick release plate. A quick release plate is a combination of a clamp on the ball head and a plate on the camera/lens that mate together to provide a solid connection, but allows you to use multiple plates and one clamp.

    To this end, I'd steer away from Manfrotto ball heads, as they invariably require you to use their proprietry clamp and plate system, rather than the ubiquitous Arca Swiss system. Having used the Manfotto system for a while, I wasn't impressed - live and learn.


    • Like Like x 2
  9. pxpaulx

    pxpaulx Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 19, 2010
    Definitely the one thing I would echo. I purchased a photoclam ballhead last year - it has the universal dovetail design, I use one of their plates, along with 2 generic plates and a kirk plate on my GF1. The universal dovetail is generally compatible with all the higher end brands - reallyrightstuff, markins, arca swiss, kirk, and generic plates sold on ebay or elsewhere will list compatibility with all those systems as well.

    On the subject, last year I bought a Gitzo basalt tripod which is very nice, alittle heavier than the CF ones but at half the price. Over at pentaxforums, several users are very happy with feisol as well.

    A good ballhead is a pleasure to use. (the one I purchased is relatively new to the market, but photoclam is essentially well made markins knockoff - markins at one time being a knockoff of arca swiss as well - not too much new tech in this area!) All of the higher end brands will usually have a friction release, which allows you to set a minimum tension on the ball so that the camera is held, but still moveable by hand without loosening the ball. The idea is that you set a higher tension if your camera is heavier, lower tension for a lighter setup. This way the camera wont move unless you move it - and it is easier to move since unlocking and re-locking the ball is not necessary. Now having a ballhead with this feature, I would never consider one without it, and dont know how I got by with my previous (admittedly cheap) tripod/head, both from amvona.
    • Like Like x 1
  10. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    I guess one thing I didn't address was the question about which, or what sort of tripod to get. Lots of answers here, but I'd recommend this old article as the first stage in making your choice: http://www.bythom.com/support.htm.

    Pick a budget and then look around at what fits into that budget. If your budget is only good for something cheap, reconsider buying until you have enough saved away for something good. A good tripod and head will outlast your camera gear and make your best lens even better. Don't skimp here.


    • Like Like x 1
  11. f6cvalkyrie

    f6cvalkyrie Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 12, 2010
    Brussels, Belgium

    after a weekend of walking and shooting with both a 200mm macrolens and a 300mm supertele, I have the feeling that the Mamiya 1505 tripod is probably good enough for the job. But, the panohead that I have on there certainly isn't, since the framing almost never gets right when I tilt the lens a little forward. The panohead slips a little further, and I find myself "shooting too low" :mad: 

    So, I think that my first step will be to get a good ballhead for this Mamiya tripod. I suppose the fixing screws (tripod to ballhead) are standard ?

    The heaviest combination I will use will be the G1 with the Nikkor 300/2.8 IF-ED combined with a TC-300 2x teleconvertor. This will also be the longest focal length I will use. A Reflex-Nikkor 500/8 will also go on there from time to time, but is much lighter and shorter focal length.

    Which brand would you recommend ? I read that I should stear clear of the Manfrotto ballhead. But, I have to choose from Markins, RRS, Arca-Swiss, ...
    And, how much load should I allow for, taking into consideration that the G1 with the 300/2.8 and the TC are the heaviest combo and bring in some 3.6 kg on the scale.
    Is a ballhead designed for a much higher load going to be worse than one designed for a bit more than the 3.6 kg load ?

    And, what about the QR-plates ? I read about "dovetail". Are they all compatible ?

    Do you have any advice on a good place to buy such ballhead cq QR plates ?

    TIA for your advice,
  12. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    All of the ball heads that you've mentioned are good, just make sure that you get a ball head that has at least a 50mm ball, the Nikon will definitely require that. The bigger the ball head, the better, but this needs to be balanced out with the weight and relative size of the ball head.

    A quick release plate is a very good idea and all provide for this. I'm not entirely certain, but I believe that the RRS plates are a tad smaller than the Arca Swiss standard, and if so, you're limiting flexibility somewhat. The great thing about the lens/camera plates, is that you can get them to precisely suit your camera/lens, rather than one size fits all, which is pretty much all that you get with the Manfrotto (steer clear).

    All ball heads should provide for the standard quarter inch or three-eigths tripod screw.

    I use a Novoflex ball head: http://www.novoflex.com/en/products/camera-support-systems/ball-heads/classic-ball-5/

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    and the Novoflex quick release plates: http://www.novoflex.com/en/products/camera-support-systems/quick-release-systems/qmount/

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    These reflect pretty much what you'll get with any good ball head system.


  13. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    I have one of these


    not really had a chance to use it much - but like the idea of the flexibilty of use

    got it with a ball head, but have since added a fluid pan and tilt head for doing video


    and a geared head i hope to use for stop motion work


    the last two items aren't cheap - about 450 euros for the pair of them - but i reckon i now have most of my tripod requirements covered for a long time

    • Like Like x 1
  14. Alan Wolf

    Alan Wolf Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 20, 2010
    Berkeley, CA

    I've found both their website and their annual catalogs to be really informative. Besides the ball heads and various dedicated plates, the quantity (and quality) of all of the rails, swivels, and specialized attachments they make would be overwhelming, but they do a great job of explaining it all. So even if you're not looking to buy their equipment, it's worth a look.

    I use their BH40 head, which I think is overkill for m43, (unless you're mounting something like a 300 f4), but I have it, and it balances well with the legs (Gitzo 2 series CF) that I have it mounted on.

    I will absolutely second (or third, or ...) the notion of buying a good tripod. I still use one (heavy...) that I got over 40 years ago, and it's as solid as when I bought it.
  15. grum

    grum Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 2, 2010
    For anyone in the UK, Redsnapper are very good quality and amazing value imo.
  16. kanasgowatom

    kanasgowatom Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 11, 2011
    Alan, are you the physicist?
  17. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    I frequently use a monopod and, for that reason, strongly prefer the quick release systems where, as the plate is set into the base, the clamp is automatically triggered. I also like the systems where the clamp has a safety so that it cannot be bumped and release the camera. The Manfrotto 323 is an example. The Gitzo QR system on the G1276M and other similar heads is another example. Velbon has several as well.

    Most of the Arca Swiss systems I have seen require that the plate be slid into the dovetails of the base and then a screw clamp tightened. Some have a lever clamp, but the system seems far too fiddly to use with a monopod, where one of my hands is tied up holding the monopod and one the camera. The snap-in systems are fast.

    With a tripod, I could use the Arca Swiss standard systems but since cameras don't come with integral plates I don't see much advantage to standardization. I can put any type of plates on my cameras. I only have to be compatible with myself.
  18. Grant

    Grant Mu-43 Veteran


    I guess what one things is light weight when it comes to a tripod is relative. I have a Manfrotto 455 with the optional gun strap carrier and I find it very easy to tote around in the bush. I chose this one as it is very flexible in the way it can be configured.

    I suspect, if you were counting the number of angel on the head of a tripod, the carbon would win out but to me the price difference didn’t justify the return. As far as carbon being warmer on the hands in the frozen north I use cheap plumbers pipe insulators on my tripod, about a buck should get you all you need.

    I have both a ball and a pano head. A ball head is so convenient for straight still photography while the pano is a must if you are into video.

    I don’t think you will be disappointed with either a Gitzo or a Manfrotto as they are both stand up manufacturers. I chose the Manfrotto as the local camera store had a better supply of their products.
  19. Warren T.

    Warren T. Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 10, 2010
    San Francisco
    I personally do not normally use a tripod for my photography, but I just went through helping a friend of mine who uses a tripod frequently.

    After a few iterations, my friend finally settled on this combo:

    Manfrotto 190CX3 tripod ($250 on Amazon)
    Giotto MH1000-642 large ball head with MH652 quick release ($99 on Amazon, a real bargain, IMO).

    The primary camera that this setup is used for is a Nikon D90 DSLR with either a 18-105mm or 70-300mm zoom.

    Hope that helps narrow it down a bit...

  20. John M Flores

    John M Flores Super Moderator

    Jan 7, 2011
    A couple of things I've learned about tripods over the years, based on my style of shooting...

    1. The heavier and bigger it is, the less likely I'll want to bring it
    2. The more work it takes to set up and use, the less likely I am to use it. Little details like quick locking and unlocking of legs and simple quick release plates increase the chances of the tripod being used.
    3. Ballheads are small and convenient but can also be imprecise due to droop and creep
    4. Pistol grip ballheads are faster still but bulkier
    5. Fluid pan heads are absolutely required for video
    6. Tripods are a necessary evil

    Like Kevin, I'm using Vanguard tripods. The one he pointed out can do all sort of gymnastics to position the camera just where you want it. I've got a midsize and small one too, as well as a variety of heads.

    I still haven't found the perfect tripod or perfect head. They are all compromises of one sort or another. That's why I have a small closet full of them. On any given day, the one that gets the call is the one that best fits my need that day.
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