Another tripod question: Carbon fiber vs. aluminum

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Jon_Are, Oct 16, 2009.

  1. Jon_Are

    Jon_Are TPF Noob!

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    I did the search thang, but I'd like more input.

    I'm in the market for a new tripod. I've settled on the Manfrotto 410 geared head, but I'm waffling between aluminum and carbon fiber for the legs.

    95+% of its use will be architectural / interiors shooting. Most, but not all, of this will be indoors.

    I don't expect to have to be carrying it for any sort of distance - no hiking nor mountain climbing - so, in that regard, weight is not an issue.

    However...with the above in mind, I wonder if I should go for a slightly heavier (aluminum) choice in order to add stability.

    I like the thought of a carbon fiber tripod, seems like it might be more durable over the years.

    I guess my bottom line question is this: is a CF tripod that weighs, say, 3 lbs. as sturdy as an aluminum tripod that weighs 5 lbs.? Or is the CF - because of its lighter weight - shakier?

    Budget is around $300-$350, but I'll be happy to spend less.

    Thanks,

    Jon
     
  2. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I would go for the heavier tripod myself - more weight you have lower down the more stabilty you overall setup will have and the geared head is no lightweight either. Carbonfirbre is really aimed at people doing more walking and traveling longer distances without a car - so the lighter construction really pays off on their back, whilst any stabilty issues have to be solved via old methods like hanging the bag off the hook and such.
     
  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I agree that the main advantage of a CF tripod is the weight savings for when you have to lug it around. Cf might also be easier on the hands in cold weather...because those metal tripod legs feel really cold on the fingers...especially when you are in the mountains, waiting for the sun to come up and you can't find your gloves. ;)

    I've got a few Aluminum Manfrotto tripods...I didn't get any of them new and they looks like they have been used & abused for quite a while. The metal parts are very durable. It's the plastic parts that are more likely to break.
     
  4. Craig J

    Craig J TPF Noob!

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    I finally bought the Manfrotto 055XPROB with the 488RC2 ball head and it is a tank and I love it. When I set it up and tighten everything down, it does not move.

    When I carry it through the woods, I just tell myself that the work out it good for me.

    Craig
     
  5. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I'll echo the recommendation for aluminum in this case. CF is great if you need to save weight. I have a small CF Manfrotto that I use for hiking, but for everything else, it's one of the aluminum ones that I take.
     
  6. ErectedGryphon

    ErectedGryphon TPF Noob!

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    For your purpose/use as you describe, go with the aluminum, from a cost standpoint.

    More weight = More stability, I don't think so, if the tripod has sturdy legs and a decent leg span, then it has the same stability regardless of what it is made of.

    The only benefit of more weight would be if you plan on attaching something that will catch the wind and act as a sail. So unless your using it to set up umbrella lighting, or you need an extra mast on your boat, weight has no relevance.
     
  7. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    I think there's a third material you have not considered. One that's better at dampening vibrations than either carbon fiber or aluminum. It's the material of choice for surveyor's using laser survey alignment tools because it dampens out vibrations from even freeway traffic on interstate freeways. Hold on, wait for it....the material is called wood. You know the stuff they make out of chopped down trees. Ash trees specifically.

    Berlebach | 8023 Wood Tripod Legs with Center Column | BE8023
     
  8. ErectedGryphon

    ErectedGryphon TPF Noob!

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    What is this mystical material you are talking about? :) ?
     
  9. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    but more weight lower down does mean more stabilty. The more weight you can collect at the base of a setup the more stable it will be when you start putting things on top. Its the same as it is for shelving - you stack the heavy stuff at the base and the light at the top - do it the other way around and it won't matter what its made of, it will be more unstable.
     
  10. ErectedGryphon

    ErectedGryphon TPF Noob!

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    I'd love to debate you about center of gravity in relation to angular weight distribution, but to stay on topic...

    OP, either one will work fine for your purposes, as long as its rated for the weight you want to place on it, and it has a wide enough foot span. Some cheaper models decrease foot span to try to get you height, which makes them unstable (this is where the bottom heavy argument would actually make sense).

    Test it, if you have access before purchase, it should be strong enough to hold the combined weight of your equipment and the pressure you place on it during use (How sturdy is it). It should not easily lean when reasonable force is applied from a side angle (are the feet out wide enough). And don't attach your expensive gear to it at the same time you have a para-sail attached :).
     
  11. Jon_Are

    Jon_Are TPF Noob!

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    Thanks for the wood suggestion, Gryphon, but c'mon. That thing seems like a big bowl of inconvenience. Sure does look purty, though. If I had money to burn, I'd set a nice vintage camera atop that tripod and set it in the corner of the room and consider it a piece of furniture.

    And I have a real hard time accepting this statement at face value:

    Anyway, I've decided either material will suit me just fine, so I'm likely going with the cheaper, slightly heavier choice of aluminum.

    Thanks to all,

    Jon
     
  12. flea77

    flea77 TPF Noob!

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    Unfortunately that statement is absolutely correct. Stability without a side load (such as wind) is in this case strictly defined as leg span vs height (assuming a modicum of rigidity which aluminum has and CF excels at).

    One other thing that was hinted at is that CF will absorb vibrations whereas the aluminum can actually amplify them, making the camera shake more. Don't believe this one? Come on by and ride my aluminum bike over a nice fresh chip and seal road and then come back and ride the carbon one, then you tell me what does what :)

    Allan
     

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