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Tripod & Head Review: Velbon Ultra Maxi L & Arca-Swiss P0 Head

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by oris642, Apr 2, 2010.

  1. oris642

    oris642 Mu-43 Regular

    Looking for a tripod that holds my Panny G1 yet fits in my Think Tank Photo Shape Shifter backpack (https://www.mu-43.com/showthread.php?t=2036), I narrowed it down to three candidates:

    1) Slik Sprint Mini II: http://www.thkphoto.com/products/slik/slik-sprint-mini-2-a.html
    2) Manfrotto 785B: http://www.manfrotto.com/Jahia/site/manfrotto/pid/4006/lang/en
    3) Velbon Ultra Maxi L: http://www.velbon.co.uk/newvelbon/pages/ultramaxil.html

    While I have not tried the first two, I'm quite happy with the Velbon. I picked this particular model in the Velbon line because the weight (900 grams) gets a lot heavier for the next size up, the Ultra Luxi L (1320 grams). Also, the Ultra Maxi L is 152.5cm(60") high whereas the Ultra Maxi M is only 138.5cm(54") high - a bit short, and that's with the center column fully extended, not too stable that way!

    The Velbon comes with the usual pan/tilt head with a quick release clamp and plate. The plate is only 43mm x 31mm ( 1 11/16" x 1 1/4") so it clears the battery door of a Panasonic G1 nicely (see photos).

    The specs lists the tripod capacity at 2 kg, or 4.4 pounds. I've always felt that "real world capacity" for a tripod is half its rating, so it's perfect for a Panasonic G1 with a 45-200 lens being the heaviest-case scenario.
    • Like Like x 3
  2. oris642

    oris642 Mu-43 Regular

    The legs have a very nice and fast mechanism for extension. Just rotate to unlock all 5 sections. It's much faster than having to flip the levers on the Slik or the Manfrotto, and the smooth design means nothing to catch onto.

    The downside to a 5-section tripod, of course, are the legs get pretty skinny at the end. This Velbon starts at 21mm diameter and the last section is down to 8mm! Therefore, if I'm taking a low tripod shot, I do not use the last section and use only the top 4 sections (the next one up is 11mm diameter). Once again the fast extension and retraction mechanism makes adjusting the legs on this tripod a pleasure rather than a pain to use.
    • Like Like x 4
  3. BlairMacKay

    BlairMacKay Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 8, 2010
    Calgary, Alberta
    Thanks for these posts! I am looking for a lightwieght fullsize tripod, and these posts help a lot.
  4. oris642

    oris642 Mu-43 Regular

    However, I wanted to use a Arca-Swiss style clamping system. That means I first had to modify a Kirk Universal L-Plate to fit a G1, since none are commercially available. I documented that here: https://www.mu-43.com/showthread.php?t=1551

    Now I have to get rid of the pan/tilt head and find a new head that accepts an Arca-Swiss style clamp. Having had good experiences with Kerry Thalmann at www.reallybigcameras.com (I bought both my Chamonix 4x5 view camera and Feisol carbon fiber tripod from him), I emailed Kerry and bought a Photo Clam PC-45 clamp ($45).

    Kerry also sells the Photo Clam PC-30 ballhead (295 grams). However, I like panoramic shots, so I needed a head that can pan. Ideally, a head that not only pans, but can level the tripod as well.

    Research led me to Acratech: http://acratech.net/product.php?productid=69 : "The GP Ballhead is uniquely designed to function as a ballhead a Gimbal head and as a leveling base." Ok, perfect. Umm, $400, not so perfect.

    - Feisol sells a panning base: http://www.feisol.com/english/PB-70.htm $39, 180 grams
    - Really Right Stuff PCL-1 Panning Clamp: http://reallyrightstuff.com/pano/02.html $235, 14 ounces

    Acratech sells levelling bases: http://acratech.net/home.php?cat=2

    So everything was expensive, bulky, and too heavy, especially for micro 4/3rds. Until I found this: the Acra Swiss P0 ballhead: www.precisioncameraworks.com/Media/p0-eng-web.pdf

    Acra-Swiss, who started the whole quick-release clamping business, does not have a web site. No, I have no idea why. Hence the link is to a pdf from Precision Camera Works, who is an Arca-Swiss dealer.

    Anyways, the P0 is an upside-down ballhead, kinda like the Acratech GP. This means I can use it to level the tripod. It also has a built-in panning mechanism. Only 9.9 ounces (280 grams) and $229. I ordered one.

    I will be using it with the Acratech Nodal Rail: http://acratech.net/product.php?productid=62&cat=0&page=1

    It was then a simple matter of removing the existing Velbon pan/tilt head, screw on the P0, and then screw the PC-45 clamp on top (3/8" to 1/4" thread adapter required). I did encounter a problem with the lever of the P0 not clearing the knob of the PC45, but it can be done (the head of the P0 is 60mm in diameter). A better clamp would be one with a lever instead of a knob; the only one I can find is the Markins QL-48: http://www.markinsamerica.com/MA5/QS.php?req=QL48

    The Velbon Ultra Maxi L started off at 2 pounds (.9kg). Removing the PHD-31Q head (205 grams) and replacing it with the P0 and PC-45 clamp results in a new weight of just a tad over 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds). So for 4 ounces of weight gain I get a levelling base and a panning head!

    My final length is just under 16.5" long ( 420mm), just short enough to fit INSIDE my Think Tank Shape Shifter backpack: https://www.mu-43.com/showthread.php?t=2036

    For those who want to try their own heads on the Velbon Ultra Maxi L, it is 12 5/8 ( 320mm) long. Add the height of your ballhead, etc for total length.

    Please note I bought everything from B & H Photo through the link on this site to help the site financially. I urge you to do the same!
    • Like Like x 5
  5. oris642

    oris642 Mu-43 Regular

    Blair, it's lightweight, but not "fullsize". Do note the height of these tripods, or lack thereof. This is where the rotating LCD on the Panny G1 comes in handy :smile:
    • Like Like x 1
  6. Binny

    Binny New to Mu-43

    Apr 16, 2010
    Hi Eric, absolutely fantastic write up!

    I too have just got myself the arca swiss p0 head (on top of a Feisol CT-3442 tripod). This is my lightweight tramping setup attempt. Looked at RRS gear but as you mentioned it all adds weight, especially if you add the pano clamp (as I wish to have a simple nodal slide for pano's). I purchased the p0 without the new style quick release clamp as I have a RRS L-plate allready on my camera. I am just trying to find the right clamp and stumbled on this post, seems like someone else is doing a very similar thing (and took the time to do a really great write up - cheers).

    As such, I am after a RRS compatable quick release with a spirit level. I note the issue with the screw knob clamp you posted and see you mention the markins QL-48. Markins also make a QL-60 with the same width as the QL-48 only with a longer jaw. Also RRS make the B2 LR II, hard to figure out the width dimensions of the plate itself (i.e. not of the lever). The QL-48 would be the lightest (and cheapest), is there any merit in using or not using the 60mm long one instead of the 48mm long on the 60mm wide p0 head (stronger fit versus bulkier or won't fit properly on p0 etc)? I may wish to occasionaly use an omni-directional panorama pivot (like a nodal ninja or RRS omni-pivot) at some stage so am thinking 60mm might give a touch more support and stability if it comes to that.

    I would really appreciate your thoughts due to your experience on this one.

    Many Thanks,
  7. oris642

    oris642 Mu-43 Regular

    The 60 of course would be stronger but I think the 48 is enough. I had a 4" x 5" view camera previously clamped with a 45mm wide jaw. Of course, it helps that you're not tilting the head sideways by 90 degrees, but keeping the top of the clamp horizontal and clamping the L-bracket instead.

    I too looked at the Feisol but decided I really wanted a small and light tripod - hence this Velbon.

    I also got the Acratech Level Quick Release Plate, http://acratech.net/product.php?productid=15&cat=4&page=1 . I was using it this past weekend. Just clamp it in the jaws and level the head, then take it off after it's levelled. Works well. I did notice that I had to hold the safety pin release down in order to clamp it - I think Acratech did this on purpose so that you don't "accidentally" leave it it the clamp (i.e. if you opened the jaws, it would pop out due to the safety pin pushing on it).

    Below the first two pics shows the tripod being set up with the Acratech Level Quick Release Plate. The last two pics shows the G1 mounted. The stuff in front of the lens is a Lee RF-75 filter system, with the polarizer and behind it two ND filters (2+3 stops) plus a Fader ND variable ND filter (1-8 stops, http://lightcraftworkshop.com/site/page1000.html) behind that! I was shooting water with about 15 stops of light reduction : )
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Binny

    Binny New to Mu-43

    Apr 16, 2010
    Thanks for your reply.

    I am fairly happy with the Feisol to date, I haven't used it enough yet though. Ideally I would never go with a 4 leg section tripod but chose it over going with a lighter thiner leg model - I will no doubt be cursing this when climbing up a steep incline whilst batteling through dense scrub (I do a bit of bush bashing as we call it here). I'll keep my eye out for a velbon like yours to compare but options fairly limited for us in NZ. IMO any tripod will be a compromise between size, weight, stability and cost.. can't win them all and depends on your requirements.

    The Acratech plate looks quite good, the large size would really help with fast acuracy. The other option is a small level that fits in the camera hot shoe. I am trying to minimise any surplus weight.

    Yes, the beauty of the L plate is many. I also use it to secure a Wimberly bracket to hold a flash for handheld macro.

    I was worried that the Markins safety pins would be an issue with the RRS L plate. Could always remove them if they got in the way.

    Overall I think the p0 is a really good design for backpacking generalist work though. Thanks for your photo's, good to see other peoples setups.
  9. f6cvalkyrie

    f6cvalkyrie Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 12, 2010
    Brussels, Belgium
    Very interesting info, thank you very much !

    Have a nice weekend,
  10. oris642

    oris642 Mu-43 Regular

    Here the P0 head is on its side with the G1 doing a vertical panorama.
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