Aluminium or Carbon Fiber?

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by joshuatdlr, Jan 7, 2017.

  1. joshuatdlr

    joshuatdlr TPF Noob!

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    I am in the market for a new travel tripod, I found one that I think is really good. It is compact and has a good load capacity. The problem for me is that there are two types, carbon fiber and aluminium. Naturally the aluminium is cheaper and heavier, but I am having a hard time finding a real difference between the two, other than weight. Which one is more durable? Is the Carbon fiber one lighter and more durable, or is it just lighter? Is the aluminium one more rugged? I would like to know the differences other than price and weight.


     
  2. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Cheap carbon fiber has sort of a rep for breaking. Cheap aluminum has been around for decades, and is typically, I think more durable, especially on the made in China type tripods. Again, cheap AND has a good load capacity? Sounds a bit unusual. Travel? By car? Boat?


    In questions like yours, specifics help. Maker/brand, model, web URL. Generic questions without specificity will gain you little in the way of definitive answers.
     
  3. 480sparky

    480sparky Chief Free Electron Relocator Supporting Member

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    When it comes to tripods, there's an age-old maxim: Quality, Light Weight, Low Cost...... Pick Two.
     
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  4. astroNikon

    astroNikon 'ya all Bananas I tell 'ya Supporting Member

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    To make Carbon Fiber cheaper they simply use less layers, and may not alternate the pattern for strength. This makes it much cheaper to make, and much more prone to easy breakage.

    So, it all depends upon the exact make, model, etc of tripods you are comparing.
     
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  5. fmw

    fmw No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Unless you want to spend several hundred dollars on your tripod, aluminum is the way to go.
     
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  6. snowbear

    snowbear TPF Noob! Supporting Member

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    And buying a low quality, cheap tripod will ultimately mean buying a second tripod (not so cheap) to replace the first one when it breaks / fails / disappoints.
     
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  7. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    And part of the decision should be how much you plan on using it. I just replaced one of my "cheap" aluminum tripods after only 20 years of occasional use!!! One of the leg clamps broke, but I liked the thing so much that a hose clamp repair and it still works for a reflector.
     
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  8. Designer

    Designer Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Aluminum will not last if you habitually set it up in salt water. Eventually aluminum will corrode under those conditions. That does not completely absolve carbon fiber from the same type of corrosion if there are any aluminum fittings on the tripod. The better makes may warrant their product for regular salt water use. Be prepared for sticker shock.
     
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  9. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    For salt water use the general advice is to get a good quality tripod that lets you dismantle it - you then take it apart and clean all the parts in fresh water (ideally distilled as that has no mineral content).

    As the others have said, carbon fibre has the bonus of being noticeably lighter; but only if its a quality make will it have the durability. There are also comments on vibrations (esp with regard to AF) and I can't recall, but either of the two material types carries vibrations a little better than the other; but this is very marginal territory in terms of image quality (unless you're shooting very slow speeds and can't use the mirror-lock-up between shots).

    Another aspect if what kind of gear you're going to use; some camera and lens combos are very heavy and thus demanding; whilst others are much lighter and you can get away with a cheaper tripod; sure its not as durable but it might be all you need.



    However weight is the most common reason people go for carbon fibre. More expensive but when a quality item is bought it performs very well and lets you have reduced weight to carry around.
     
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  10. unpopular

    unpopular Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Diamond encrusted gold!

    Do not buy a new tripod. They depreciate rapidly and this is one thing you're better off buying used.

    But no matter what, you ought to spend more on a tripod than you think you should. I personally use a heavy aluminum manfrotto, the weight does not bother me much, and I honestly kind of like having the bulk to help weigh things down. But I certainly can appreciate why people would prefer something lighter weight or corrosion resistance.

    One thing I do regret is not having a decent head.

    A good tripod should withstand being thrown off a cliff. Literally. When it's either you and your camera or your tripod, you're going to want the option of dropping your tripod first without thinking twice.
     
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  11. astroNikon

    astroNikon 'ya all Bananas I tell 'ya Supporting Member

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    FYI, my tripods are SLIK tripods of which the smallers ones have their A.M.T. - Aluminum, Magnesium & Titanium alloy that is supposedly lighter and stronger than a regular aluminum tripod system. I really have no idea if it is or isn't but it holds my heavy lenses just fine (700 & 500 series legs). I also don't know of their corrosive to salt water if used near an ocean. But it's another alternative to look into if that is a requirement.
     
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  12. Gary A.

    Gary A. Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    480Sparky and unpopular both delivered some very good advice. I have both, a very nice metal and a very nice carbon fiber, I use the carbon fiber more because of ease of transport.
     
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