Need a GOOD tripod

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by sovietdoc, Mar 19, 2012.

  1. sovietdoc

    sovietdoc No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I use a crappy aluminum/plastic tripod I got a few years ago for 40 bucks. It has done its job well, and above all else, it was also very light, so I could go hiking with it not really feeling the extra weight.

    Ever since I just got my 5D Mark III and 70-200 II on it, after mounting the camera onto the tripod I can already see a few problems:

    1. My current tripod is "too light", the angle between the legs isn't that wide so it can easily tip over when I have a heavy camera and a big lens mounted onto the tripod. (Yes, I am mounting the lens, not the camera, to the tripod)
    2. My cheap tripod has no scales of any kind so I can't see if it's straight or not, I can't see angle of how much I am rotating the camera by
    3. It squeaks, when recording movies, I move the camera horizontally and the legs squeak which just ruins all the audio recording
    4. It's very complicated to operate, there is like 6 or 7 different adjustments you need to make and it makes it difficult to quickly setup. My friend has a tripod with a ball handle and that makes adjustments super easy.

    So basically I want to get a better tripod. I looked online and found that higher-end tripods are pretty much built separately. You get legs and then you can buy a different top piece, so if you can please recommend tripod legs and the top that you think will be good for my needs.

    Here is a list of what I need it to do in the order of importance:

    Light (I really need something lightweight so I can carry it around with me)
    Small size (I don't want it to extend too much, as long as in it's maximum extended setting its at the eye sight, and while not extended it is small)
    Has a ball handle that is easily adjustable (perfect would be if it has an ability to lock horizontal movement for panoramic shots)
    Has some leveling info (so I know if it's straight or not) and hopefully angle dials so I know how much I am turning
    Is stable on the ground and won't tip over if on a hill, while 3-5kg of weight is mounted to it and camera is tilted in portrait mode.


    If you can't get a horizontal lock with a ball handle, then maybe someone can suggest an alternative top for the tripod, one that can lift up for portrait mode and can be separately locked over the x axis for panoramic shots.


    I am completely new to tripods so I really have no idea about anything (except of what I need it to do). I see that there are a lot of different prices out there, I am probably looking for $500 max BUT if it's absolutely perfect for what I want and especially VERY VERY light, I can go up to a grand for a tripod.

    Thanks for your suggestions in advance.


     
  2. Joey_Ricard

    Joey_Ricard TPF Noob!

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  3. Big Mike

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

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    Yes, once you get above the 'cheap' tripods, you will find that most come as separate 'legs' and you will buy a separate 'head'. This gives you many options.
    Since you want VERY VERY light, you will want legs made of Carbon Fiber.
    As for the head, it is largely a personal choice. Some prefer ball heads, while others prefer 3-way heads. Pan & Tilt heads are common for video, but I don't recommend them photography, as they typically don't have an option for shooting vertically. There are heads with pistol grips, there are heads specifically with macro in mind, or specifically for shooting multiple shots for panorama or 360 (virtual tour) photos.

    You will certainly want a head with a quick release system. You may want to get an extra/lens plate for the foot of your 70-200mm, so you can easily mount the camera or the lens onto the head, without switching the plate.

    Here is a good article to read, when you are looking for a good quality tripod. Tripods and Ball Heads by Thom Hogan
    Another one http://luminous-landscape.com/essays/tripods_&_heads.shtml

    There are other accessories that you may or may not want to consider like a Leveling base or and L bracket.
     
  4. Big Mike

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

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  5. sovietdoc

    sovietdoc No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I checked out some of those Tripods Mike, they're pretty heavy for what I want. I was looking at 1KG top for legs weight. Those are over 2kg.

    I am leaning towards a postol grip head but the problem is I can't find one that would hold 5D III and 70-200 in a portrait mode without slipping. Does anyone have any recommendations on some heavy duty pistol grips?
     
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2012
  6. Big Mike

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

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    From what I've heard/read, pistol grips aren't really 'top end' heads, made with supreme sharpness in mind...they are designed to be fast & easy. And yes, like practically all ball heads, they put the camera way off centre when you turn the camera into portrait orientation.

    That's where an L-bracket comes in. They give you two QR plate attachments, so that you can mount the camera horizontally or vertically, with the camera/lens centred over the tripod for maximum stability. This can be fairly important when you're taking multiple shots for a pano, especially if you have objects close to the camera. Of course, that is just more weight to carry around.

    If those are too heavy, check out this one, from that Tom Hogarty article Hakuba HG-503MX Carbon Fiber 3-Section Tripod HG-503MX B&H Photo. It's still 1.8kg and the head is probably pretty chinsey....so I'm not sure if that would suit your needs either.
     
  7. sovietdoc

    sovietdoc No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    After some research I am liking Manfrotto 190CXPRO3 3-Section Carbon Fiber Tripod 190CXPRO3 B&H and Manfrotto 222 Joystick Head 222 B&H Photo Video

    The Manfrotto 222 pistol grip head isn't anywhere near the best, and because it's pretty long I can see potential problems of 5DIII with 70-200 tipping over when in portrait mode but it's one of the few heads that's very easy to use (without multiple knobs) and with 90 degrees panning ability.

    I am also considering Arca-Swiss Monoball Z1 sp with Quick Release 801104 B&H Photo head but it also needs a plate and together they go for $450 ish. Which is still within budget, but I just like pistol grip ergonomics better.


    I am trying to find more joystick/pistol grip ball heads that can do horizontal panning, can you point to some that you know can do that for a fact? Manfrotto 327RC2 grip is better than 222 as it can hold more and the center of mass is lower, but I can't horizontally pan with it, and it's a must for me.
     
  8. Josh220

    Josh220 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    If vertical is an absolute "must" I would look into getting a Really Right Stuff ball head with one of their L-Bracket quick releases. It will allow you to mount it vertically and keep the weight centered, rather than hanging out to the side like most mounts require.

    I have a Really Right Stuff BH-40 being delivered tomorrow. Gitzo legs should be here tomorrow or Wednesday. Can't wait!!!
     
  9. Big Mike

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

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    If horizontal panning is a must, you can get a separate panning base that goes between the tripod and the head. Many of them will come with marked degree increments & a level.

    I still think that you may be disappointed with a pistol grip type head. Besides the vertical issue, I've heard several people say that they tend to be less stable and usually have some 'creep' in them. In other words, they will droop a little bit even after you tighten them into place. I would really suggest trying one out, before committing to it.

    I agree with the suggestion for an L-bracket. It pretty much solves your vertical shooting issue, and I mentioned before, it's the ideal thing to do if you are going to be shooting images for stitching into pano. I've been shopping around for one lately. They are often custom designed for your specific camera, I'm not sure if I've seen any for the 5DmkIII yet though. And they aren't cheap. $140 is a common price, just for the L-bracket.

    I have seen that Manfrotto has the 340 Elbow and the 341 Junior Elbow. But late last year, they released a new universal L bracket that looks OK. Manfrotto announces the new L BRACKET It's not even listed on the B&H site yet though (not that I can see).

    Manfrotto is is pretty good brand. I have many stands and tripods that are Manfrotto and I can't complain about them. I always assumed that when I got my ideal tripod, it would be a Manfrotto...but that was before I had my eyes opened to the world of high end tripods & supports etc. That's why I provided those links to RRS, Kirk, Arcatech & Markins etc.

    Another thing to consider, especially if you're thinking about going with a Manfrotto head or L-bracket ext...is the style of the QR plate. Manfrotto has their own style of QR attachments, and they have several different sizes/styles. Most of the other high end brands use a style called 'Arca Swiss'. So you could essentially buy a head from Arcatech, with an Arca Swiss QR clamp, and then use Arca Swiss plates or L-brackets from RRS or Kirk etc. There may be some issues from one company to another, but with these top manufacturers, they will probably fit well.

    I've been told that the Arca Swill system is the better way to go, mainly because it's more universal. Although, I've been shopping around and going with a Manfrotto QR system will likely save you plenty of money.
     
  10. sovietdoc

    sovietdoc No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I researched tons of tripods over these days and settled for this one Manfrotto 190CXPRO3 3-Section Carbon Fiber Tripod 190CXPRO3 B&H as the price seemed alright while it being the absolute lightest and smallest tripod to carry around. Not too light or small however, based on reviews it can handle 70-200 without vibration in the wind, and that's the only thing I care about.

    After researching a lot on pistol grips I've decided that they're pretty tall or heavy and may not hold the equipment well enough (like the manfrotto 222) so I opted out for something else. The Arca-Swiss Z1 looked pretty good until I found this one Manfrotto 468MGRC2 Magnesium Hydrostatic Ballhead - 468MGRC2 B&H as it allowed for horizontal panning and at the same time was light, small and strong to handle any weight.

    Don't know if all the decisions were the right ones, but this is what I've picked up. I came into this tripod game without any understanding of anything what so ever and now I probably know enough to recommend things for my friends. Thank you for the help guys. It really helped.
     
  11. Big Mike

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

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    Looks like a pretty good kit at a decent price.

    My only concern with the 190 tripods ( I have two of them) is that they aren't very tall....and to get up to a comfortable position (for a standing photographer) you have to raise the centre column quite a bit. And any time you have to raise the column, you are compromising the stability of the camera.
     

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