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Tripod shopping...how much does height matter?

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by DeeJayK, Aug 1, 2012.

  1. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Keith
    I've been thinking about getting a tripod for some time, but the more I read on the subject, the more confused I get. I'm definitely suffering from paralysis by analysis. It seems like the consensus with tripods is to "buy it once, buy it right" and that cheap tripods are almost worse than no tripod at all. That said, I don't want to spend US$1000-1,500 for a Gitzo or Really Right Stuff carbon fiber job. My budget is around US$250 for the legs and a ball head. I intend to use the tripod to start shooting some HDR/landscapes as well as the occasional school performance.

    I'm really drawn toward the Benro Travel Angel (particularly the Transfunctional design where one leg can become a monopod), based on several recommendations that I've read on other threads. However, I'm noticing that the A0691 model that I'm considering seems fairly short (51.2"/130cm w/ the center column down and 60.6"/154 cm w/ the column extended). I realize the ball head will add another 2-3"/10cm but even with the head and the column fully extended (read: wobbly), my camera will still be just barely up to my eye level (I'm 6'/183cm tall).

    The other model I've long been considering is the Manfrotto 190XProB which is actually a bit shorter than the Benro. However, I recently discovered they make a taller version of the 190 series called the 190 More which is 2-3"/10cm taller than the Benro which would seem to make it a very usable height. I like the idea of the tilting center column on the Manfrotto and the fact that it's a 3-section (as opposed to the Benro's 5-section) design. The trade-off is more bulk and a less compact package when retracted.

    So, my big question, for those of you who have lots of tripod experience is how much does height matter when choosing a tripod? I realize that a tripod is going to be less stable when fully extended, so do you just set up your tripod lower and get used to crouching a bit to frame your shots?
     
  2. With_Eyes_Unclouded

    With_Eyes_Unclouded Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 17, 2012
    Vassilios
    First of, I don't agree with cheaper tripods being useless. It all depends on what you ask from the equipment. There are light travel tripods at the 40-60 euro range that would be more than fine for most shooting situations. Bear in mind that, using a :43: poses much less challenge to a tripod/head due to reduced total weight of body+lens.

    But I DO agree that you ought to get the best you can afford for your given needs.

    I am 6" and I can remember about 3 times I ever extended a tripod to about my height. This includes during the film days too. The only situation I can think of, is pointing the camera downwards to your subject in some cases. But, you know, there ARE places you can set your tripod in order to make it "taller" :wink:.

    For :43: having a camera with a swivel LCD (which can be angled up or down) helps with ultra low/high tripod hight settings. Get a remote shutter release anyway; very useful for tripod use.
     
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  3. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 5, 2011
    I have the Travel Angel, but don't remember for sure which model. I'm very pleased with it. It will never be as sturdy as a 15 lb tripod, of course. But it accomplish a lot more than my 15 lb tripod does sitting in my closet, because I never carry it with me.

    It does have a hook on the bottom that you can hand something heavy (like a camera bag) from for extra weight--just make sure whatever you put there isn't swinging around, making things even worse.

    As for height, I don't find it a big issue for most things. It's not hard to bend over a little bit to compose. In all honesty, most of us could improve our pictures by shooting at something other than eye-level anyway. I suppose there will be some situations where I will wish I had an 8 foot high tripod and a stool, but I think those will be few and far between.
     
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  4. TDP

    TDP Guest

    I've had a metal Manfrotto for over a decade and a carbon fiber one for about 5 years, not a single problem with either. The carbon one was my car/vacation tripod until I got an even smaller carbon Jusino for air travel.

    You really can't go wrong with Manfrotto and the model you are looking at has that trick feature where you use the center column in a horizontal fashion. If you shoot macros you will like that feature.

    As Eyes Unclouded mentioned, m43 camera weights are so low you can get away with a rather small and inexpensive tripod - as long as the head supports the weight of your kit and doesn't sag you are good to go.
     
  5. pxpaulx

    pxpaulx Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 19, 2010
    Midwest
    Paul
    Height is not as important if your camera is used with the rear screen rather than a viewfinder.

    How much weight do you intend to put onto your tripod/head?

    Personally I would recommend a combination of a Feisol tripod and Photoclam ballhead. I got both of mine from Really Big Cameras - the owner (Kerry) is pretty knowledgeable and answered a lot of questions for me. As far as I know he is the only seller that still has the older twist legs which are cheaper (starting around $219) - You can get the Photoclam ballheads on ebay for cheaper, but they'll be coming from South Korea most likely (Kerry is in the US). Entry level for these are going to run probably close to $450 after you add a plate or two though, so that might be out of your range.

    The photoclam ballhead in particular is great though, so if you went with those manfrotto legs I would definitely still put that at the top of my list. Just as good as those from RRS or Markins without the added cost, friction control (starting on the pc-33n size) was a revelation to me when I first got it, don't know how I got by without it!
     
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  6. With_Eyes_Unclouded

    With_Eyes_Unclouded Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 17, 2012
    Vassilios
    Cool (freeware :tongue:) idea:

    Fully extend the legs of the tripod but keep them closed, turning it to a monopod of shorts. Fit a wide angle or fisheye lens on the camera. Set the shutter timer release; then firmly hold the tripod (virtually, a long stick with a camera attached at the end, in that instance) as high upwards as you can, until shutter releases. Presto: interesting POV from 3+ meters high. :biggrin:
     
  7. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 5, 2011
    Nice thing about the Benro is you don't even need to lift all three legs. Take one leg off, attach the head, and you've got a nice, lightweight monopod.

    Just be sure you don't drop the camera from that 3 meter height! :eek:
     
  8. TDP

    TDP Guest

    If you want really tall you could always get this:

    [​IMG]

    And yes one leg unscrews to attach to the center column for one insanely tall monopod.
     
  9. Djarum

    Djarum Super Moderator

    Dec 15, 2009
    Huntsville, AL, USA
    Jason
    Are we talking high heels?
     
  10. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 5, 2011
    What they're not telling you is that model is only 4'2" tall. :wink:
     
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  11. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Ken
    If you are on a budget, I would recommend the Manfrotto 055 series or the Feisol and PhotoClam combination. I am a strong believer in buy once/ cry once, but it took me a few years, and fortunatley not too many bad purchases, to get there. But then again, my tripod/balhead is mostly for my D300 and long lenses when I am birding.


    --Ken
     
  12. Tincam

    Tincam Mu-43 Regular

    65
    Apr 25, 2012
    Iowa
    Matt
    I third the Feisol recommendation. They also sell ball heads. My tripod is a little too short, but it has only bothered me once or twice. I prefer to compose with the LCD when I use the tripod. Sometimes, when I want to use the viewfinder and don't want to bend down, I spread my stance out kinda far to make myself a little shorter. Works great.
     
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  13. nueces snapper

    nueces snapper Mu-43 All-Pro

    +1 :thumbup:
     
  14. MikeR_GF1

    MikeR_GF1 Mu-43 Veteran

    If you plan to carry it around, go with carbon fiber. Yes, it doubles the price. But, a heavy tripod will dissuade you from using it but rarely - making it a more expensive purchase in terms of price paid versus value received.

    I had to grit my teeth at the price, to buy my Manfrotto 055CXPRO, but I'm glad I did.
     
  15. usayit

    usayit Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    On the flip side.. I've seen some cheaper carbon fibre tripods that are not all that much lighter than equivalent aluminum tripods. Rather than designing the all the components of the tripod for lightness, they simply replaced the aluminum tubes with carbon... even worse... low quality carbon tubing. Its easy to market too.... consumers are ooOOoo'd by the carbon legs.

    As for the original question...

    For my primary tripod, I opted for stability. Its an old Bogen 3021 pro with the height of the legs at eye level to me with the center column down. Head is a gimbal with a nodal slider. Sometimes its swapped out with a crappy Giottos ball head that has been modified to use Bogen/Manfrotto QR plates, a basic medium Bogen ball head, or a 3 way pan (also Bogen). The key is that you want the center column all the way down most of the time for stability. Of course, this usually means a larger tripod.

    For my travel tripod, I opted for compactness with a compromise even to stability. I currently have a Cullmann magic 2 which was a n early flat folder tripod. I am currently shopping around for a replacement. I've got my eye on the expensive Gitzo traveler but unexpected expenses keep me from saving enough. I'm considering a aluminum Sirui tripod instead..

    For "really light weight", I have a carbon fiber Gitzo monopod, small ball head, and a couple bongo ties. When I am on a hike, the combination of that monopod plus two sticks lashed together with the tie makes for a good tripod.
     
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  16. TDP

    TDP Guest

  17. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Keith
    What is it about the Photoclam head and Feisol legs that you feel make them superior to the other's you've used?
     
  18. pxpaulx

    pxpaulx Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 19, 2010
    Midwest
    Paul
    I had a set of gitzo basalt legs that were great (the basalt are similar to carbon fiber but heavier) - the build quality from feisol is on par with gitzo (or at least pretty darn close). Feisol legs run 30-50% cheaper (depending on whether you get traditional or rapid leg locks) than comparable gitzo legs - money in my pocket = winner.

    I have the CT-3471 legs - for $319 they are equivalent size to series 5 gitzo legs. For $319 they were a steal, very sturdy and just 5lbs. To give some perspective on size, the smallest 4th leg section on the ct-3471 is thicker than any of the largest legs on the half dozen tripods I've owned (most admittedly cheap, but easily thicker than the series 1 basalt legs that I had before - the series 1 leg could fit into the 4th leg on the larger series feisol).

    Photo Clam I would describe as a budget oriented brand but equivalent to markins or rrs heads. The build quality is extremely solid, and with these higher end heads you get friction control on the ball (though I guess they have a cheaper version without it now - which I would skip) - that means you can set a minimum tension where the ball is held with your camera, but can be moved with light hand movements without having to unlock the ball (so it won't flop on you). From everything I've read the photoclams have a better panning base than markins has (they lock better). Again basically it comes down to cost - you're getting a good value equivalent or pretty close to heads that cost twice as much or more.
     
  19. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Keith
    Just to sort of "close the loop" on my original question of tripod height, I've purchased a Benro Transfunctional Travel Angel (from the Marketplace on this forum) and as yet I've had no call for anything taller. In fact, I don't believe I've even had occasion to extend the Travel Angel to it's full height.

    For now, this seems like a great choice for me. Thanks to all who provided insight and opinions!
     
  20. Promit

    Promit Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 6, 2011
    Baltimore, MD
    Promit Roy