Tripods For Field Work

Discussion in 'This or That? (MFT only)' started by retiredfromlife, Jul 8, 2016.

  1. retiredfromlife

    retiredfromlife Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2016
    Sydney, Australia
    Due to a current Manfrotto sale in Sydney stores at this time I purchased two new Manfrotto tripods. A Befree for my holidays this year where I need a light tripod to carry and a 055XPRO3.

    Considering the price I am very happy with the Befree, but not so happy with the 055XPRO3. Good for what I purchased it for around the house and car camping, but compared to my original 190 purchased over 30 years ago the new 055 would not stand up to field work that I used to subject the 190 too. I used to take my 190 on caving expeditions to places like New Guinea where it withstood the mud, grime and weather very well. It also stood up to being transports in rope packs which for me tested tripods very well. When stuffed in rope packs tripods were subjected to ropes tugging on all the attachments and would rip apart any poor tripods when the ropes were pulled from the packs.

    The main locking screw on the 055XPRO3 that lock the centre column is about half the diameter of the old 190, technically strong enough but would strip out very quickly if covered in mud etc. The leg locking over centre clips work fine but like the locking screws a bit flimsy. The plastic ball head that came with it “BHQ2” has larger diameter screws.

    I notice the safety locks on both the Befree and BHQ2 ball head are just plastic tabs that you flex to release. My older RC2 safety pins were brass toggles of much better quality.

    Not trying to bash Manfrotto here as I decided to purchase noticing these differences and anything better is at least twice the cost, but it seems some small details make the tripods not good for field use anymore. Well the type of field use that my old 190 was subject too, not normal by most people’s standards I realize.

    Little things like thread diameter etc make a big difference to durability and do not cost much more. I am probably being unfair with my comparisons, but these are just comparisons, nothing more.

    Any way I am happy with me purchases especially at the sale prices.

    What do people here use for rough field work? For the price point at least In Australia there does not seem to be anything better than Manfrotto. At least you can buy spares for Manfrotto.

  2. pellicle

    pellicle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 10, 2010
    Southport, OzTrailEYa
    I use a Manfrotto 190

    I have two: PRO-B and FA-23

    I won't go with anything lighter than these because if they won't hold a lens steady with a 300mm on it (which I use in the field for birds) then its not worth having.


    The FA-23 works with my 4x5 camera (which is actually lighter than my 300mm lens by its self) but needs to be rigid because using it with Wide Angle its still holding a 90mm focal length. Both get used a lot in all manner of environments and I like the adjustable legs


    So, yes, I like Manfrotto.

    BTW: my view on tripods is get the best one you like first ... it'll work out cheaper than buying the rubbish one (which doesn't work) then getting the middle one (which you're never quite happy with) and then getting the one you liked first.
  3. retiredfromlife

    retiredfromlife Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2016
    Sydney, Australia
    The 190 seems to be a good compromise tripod, but I am hopeing with my Pen EP-5 with a small zoom the Befree will be good enough for a travel tripod as on my next Trip I am limited to 15KG all up. Bit of a risk, but I wont be using any big lenses.

    I remember mounting a RB67 on my old 190. It has the head with tapers that locked up really tight. The 3 way junior head appears to be a cut down version of my head. I have a lot of fond memories using that old 190.
    The RB67 was used to try to get a hi res shot of a formation in a tourist cave, but the camera had so much metal it just fogged up in the high humidity of the cave.

    I guess if you can hold the "4x5" it must be pretty good.

  4. pellicle

    pellicle Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 10, 2010
    Southport, OzTrailEYa
    the ProB doesn't cut the mustard as its got that pull out and put it sideways pole and the part of the stem where the head attaches is plastic, so it flexes. My oldest 190 the FA has a solid alluminum tube and a cast head mount, its quite sufficient.

    Its not the actual metal 3 way head that's the problem for vibration in my testing.
    in my view ...: Faith restored
  5. faithblinded

    faithblinded Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 25, 2014
    Cleveland, OH
    I use a Series 3 Gitzo Systematic. I bought it to adequately support my 300/2.8 lens(7.25lbs). I now have the 300/4, and leave the big lens at home most days. I still take the gitzo, rather than my more lightweight Feisol tripod. The gitzo is just a rock solid beast. No wind can stir it, and no amount of mud, muck, or sand has ever slowed it down. No center column means it is always as absolutely stable as possible, and it can drop flat to the ground with no fiddling.

    It was a tough investment to make. Most of my lenses cost less than my tripod legs. But going on two years, I feel like it's already reaching a point where the investment is proving it's worth. I abuse it, toss it in my jeep with no concern, and just generally treat it like the hard working tool it is. It still feels as tight and stable as the day I bought it. I suspect it will still be much the same in a decade. It came with replacements for all the consumable parts that will wear out eventually(the slides), and Gitzo sells any other part I might break or wear out while mistreating it.

    I've had a lot of tripods since I started shooting, ranging from cheapo bundled tripods, to decent chinese knockoffs of gitzo(i.e. benro before they got a big head), to both middle of the range and high end units(the feisol and gitzo, respectively). The cheap ones always disappoint in one way or another, even when they work fine. For me an issue is always getting a tripod that's tall enough(I'm 6'3"). With most sub $300 tripods, the only way to get tall enough is with a center column, or by going aluminum. Even then many come up short for me. Gitzo and RRS are the only ones that offered a no center column tripod tall enough for me(feisol comes close, in a much more attractive price bracket, but it's just a little too short, and with narrower diameter legs). I opted for Gitzo, since I found a better deal on their version of what I wanted. It was probably one of the best photographic purchases I've ever made. It's an extra little bit of weight I don't mind carrying, even with a full load. The ease of use and no compromises durability in the field are worth an extra pound or two, versus a compact tripod that's easier to transport and stow.
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