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Thursday, 24 June 2010


I've still got my 3051; it's part of the 4x5 kit. But yeah, it's a bear.

Huh; the 058B replaces the 3251, which presumably replaced the 3051. Still has the auto leg release. The 058B is 6.1 kilos. You know it's old when a tripod is two versions out of date!

My most-used support is probably a beanbag I carry around. I've used it for 5-second exposures in cathedrals, pressing the camera on it sideways against stone pillars. (No cathedral permit stickers on my tripods.) It has also worked well for 200mm supported on the curved back of a hotel conference room chair. And it's small and light enough to live in my bag.

The other carry-around I've found useful is a variant on the mini-tripod; fixed legs, but these are all right-angle cross-section, and there's a velcro strap. So in addition to being a short tripod, this can also be attached to pipes or anything up to about 8 inches around that you can get the strap around (the silly "head" does struggle with even a D700 in any position except directly atop the legs). Some of the positions I've used this in lead me to want a portable monitor to plug into the camera for remote aiming! (or at least a tilt/swivel LCD).

Ctein,the photo of the top of the Empire State is very nice.

Here is an argument for carrying a more stout tripod:

Two weeks ago I was about three miles out in Dolly Sods, one of our WV wilderness areas, when the trail I was on slid out causing me to hit the ground pretty hard and wrenching one of my already limited 60 year old knees. I ended up using my Gitzo 1325 as a sometimes cane and sometimes crutch to get back to the car. My knee hasn't recovered (and probably never will completely) but my tripod is fine. I'll have to get a quick release crutch pad to carry in the future!

For the same reason, I've grown attached to my Joby Gorillapod-SLR w/ball head on my Olympus E-PL1. It can sit on the roof of my car, wrapped around a fencepost, tree stump, pretty much anywhere. If I need height, I use it as an impromptu chest-pod, that with the built in stabilization, gives me pretty good results - even if I have to bump the ISO a stop. Better than no picture at all.

I can't seem to get away from my Sliks. Both are going strong (modulo the odd mangled crank-handle I never use anyway), 15 and 4 years and counting, later, respectively.

The parents gave me the D3 to use with a small telescope 15 years ago.

I spent 1.5hr in a shop trying to persuade myself I wanted a manfrotto-this or gitzo-that, but there was none combining the right head, the right sturdiness, the right ability to invert the centre-column, etc. And so I acquired the Pro500DX.

As well as longevity, usefulness and price, another measure of how good a choice a tripod is whether you buy it toys. Three quick-release plates to keep attached to various cameras just in case is promising.

I have since acquired that little Manfrotto folding ultra-portable tabletop toy, but it's been unused for 9 months and will go when I finally part with the G9.

I sometimes wish the arms/legs were made of light metal instead of plastic (to reduce flexing). I soon found it necessary to replace the rather sketchy supplied strap with a better kind of Velcro - the sort that locks fully onto itself when wrapped round something. But I've found the Ultrapod II (from Pedco) both versatile, and no-excuses carryable. The ability to firmly bind it onto a post, branch or rail gives it surprising solidity considering its extremely low weight - but you can use it as a simple minitripod instead. And the tiny nylon ballhead is an exemplar of "just-sufficient" engineering.

When folded up, your Vanguard mini tripod, like the Leica table-top tripod and its even better clone by Minolta, they all look suspiciously like a pistol when X-rayed in your airplane baggage. Let the fun begin!

Hmm. I'd expected something more techno-scientific, having to do with an analysis of the transmission of vibration caused by the wind, with suggestion of which kind of non-traditional tripod-like structure would most likely give the best wind resistance. Then one of our engineers could put the gizmo together, and we have a patent...

But...I wonder if it would be possible to put together a backpacker's tent-like structure (the kind built of flexible lightweight wands and nylon, and that are also used in foldable light reflectors) to build, say, a small cylinder with flaps for a lens, that would isolate a light, shaky tripod from the wind. When not in use, perhaps the cylinder could be used as a tripod bag...


There is simply not enough room on the Observation Deck for tripods. Can you imagine the fights photographers would have with non-photographers because the best views would be blocked? If you need to be up high and need to use a tripod, go to the Top of the Rock, where tripods are still allowed (and a combo ticket lets you go back for the sunset...).

I used a Manfrotto monopod with the three little feet and was able to use it with a gigapan robotic tripod head, as long as I was able to give it some stability with both hands.

But you are absolutely right: the tripod you don't have with you because it is too heavy is useless.

"The best camera is a camera you have with you." In a similar sense, the best tripod is the one you have with you as well.
I've got this cheap little sony tripod, but it is definitely used a lot. Put it on the ground, a wall or a garbage bin and you can get pretty good results. It's a lot more usefull than my larger (1.5m extended) Vanguard tripod.

I am looking at a larger, but still lightweight tripod for a bit more versatility. Something like the Gitzo GT1541T, which would be 1.5Kg with head, plate and carying case.
But maybe I will just get another one of those minitripods. Like your vanguard.

What a timely post!

I have been thinking about getting a tripod for my Nikon D70 and have been trying to decide what to buy. Your post confirms my suspicions - I need to spend about $200 for something fairly study as the cheaper tripods won't be stable enough for a DSLR.

It looks huge.
And keep in mind, Ctein is 7'5".

I did a tour of New Zealand with just the smallest Gitzo tabletop tripod and a Gitzo ball head. Largest setup was with Leicaflex SL + 180mm lens, and this combo worked very well. Finding something to put the legs on or against was sometimes an interesting puzzle, but the legendary rigidity of the Gitzo leg and ballhead design did the trick in all cases.

As anyone who truly believes in the tripod as a critically important part of their particular approach to photography, having more than one tripod is usually essential practice. For me the tripod suite also includes a monstrous Series 5 Gitzo with Bogen 3047 (8 feet tall, and who knows or cares what it weighs, as I have to have it to hold my 4x5 and tame the Wellington winds), and a Series 3 Benro copy of the Gitzo for my Pentax 67 work. It's got aluminum legs, and it can a bit of a chore to carry, even with padded leg covers, but I simply have to have confidence in the stability of my platform.

Ctein..."Setting it on floors, putting it on ledges, propping it against walls, I managed to get all the photographs I wanted with all my focal length lenses..."

And, using one as a 'chestpod' works wonders as well (with my small Leica tabletop tripod and Manfrotto 482 head, albeit at a vastly different price point).

Hmm. I always find myself attracted to the small tabletop tripods, but I have yet to find one that's (a) capable of handling even a small DLSR and (b) doesn't cost the moon if it does.

Every single one I've tried has the same problem - the ball joint at the top simply doesn't provide enough friction to support the camera at any angle other than perfectly horizontal (and sometimes not even then, if the lens is large). I'll get everything set up, go to press the timing button, and discover that the camera has begun a slow droop to the ground.

I find things like books and sandbags to be far less aggravating supports.

I feel slightly vindicated in having a Manfrotto 709BR (http://www.manfrotto.com/Jahia/709BR) as my only tripod…I'd like to acquire something more capable…but other expenditure outlets keep taking the higher priority slot..the latest of which was a move from my Nikon D60 to a (second-hand) D300…which the Manfrotto seems to cope quite happily with for the uses I have…meh.

And yeah, it goes most places with me...

While it may seem a little "gadget-y", I found myself reminded of my experience with the GorillaPod when reading about the mini tripod.
I used mine to great effect on a trip to Japan, when photographing the lit-up gardens of temples at night.
Due to the amount of foot traffic, most temples prohibit tripods and monopods, but the relatively subtle GorillaPod was no problem, especially when I set it up on fences or poles.

I also owned Manfrotto/Bogen's goliath 3051 tripod; in fact it's still gathering dust in my garage. I used it to carry the enormous Pentax 600 mm f:4 autofocus lens made for their PZ-1/MZ-S generation 35 mm film SLR's. The beast weighed at least 16 pounds all by itself. It was optically fabulous; you had to special order it, and they were reportedly hand-built by one guy in Japan. The heavyweight 3051 tripod with a gimbal head was ideal for airshows, but just too darned heavy to drag along for wildlife photography.

Yep, unlike Mike and like Ctein I find myself using tripods, and lots of different ones. I used my new 12" tall one a couple of days ago and my old standard 15' one just over a week ago (albeit set up to "only" about 11'-12')
Tabletops are great too, though they don't quite have the leg spread for a D700 on a pano-head, they are great with smaller cameras.
Ken Rockwell today says in his post that "tripods lull us into shooting from the same boring level". Nope, not a problem for me, for Ctein or many others.
I still want one of those "personal blimps" for cruising low and slow for the times when my 15' tripod or scissors lifts don't get me where I want the camera to be.

"keep in mind, Ctein is 7'5""

...In an alternate Universe, true.


Dear Bill,

Ummm, no. I've been carrying a minitripod in my carry-on luggage for at least ten years (over 100 security checks), and never, ever once did it raise an eyebrow at airport security. It doesn't look anything like a weapon of any kind.


Dear Jeff,

I never managed to master that chestpod thing, but maybe it's because I ain't got much of a chest (even if I am 7'5" tall).


Dear Rana,

I hate ball heads. Not how I work. My minipod has a tilt-pan head. In fact, I am slightly confused because the Amazon link that Mike provided shows a ballhead model, but a Google search on the tripod name:


turns up pan head models like mine. I suspect either the Amazon photo or model designation is wrong.

The Mini Tripod actually has a toothed locking nut on the tilt head, so once you've set the angle, it *can't* creep, no matter how much weight you put on it.

OTOH, it makes it a pain to get perfectly level photos on real-world surfaces, 'cause you can't lock the tilt in-between detents. I find myself shimming up a leg on occasion.

pax / Ctein

I still have a Bogen 3058 I bought 30 years ago for $50 at a camera store odd'n'ends sale. It made me realize the Bogen 3047 head has flex problems! I had to buy the largest Gitzo 3-way head around to eliminate that problem. But the set up is the closest thing to a portable rock I've ever had. Shooting with a Nikon 1200mm lens on a 4x5 camera, there's no substitute. (Well yes there is - TWO tripods are better than one).

Those little $10-$20 table-top tripods are useful for lots of things, to hold up off-camera flashes, hold microphones (once you find the adapters), etc. I have 4 or 5 of them, and picked them all up in garage sales or eBay clearances for $5 or so each. Plus, they're cute.

i still have that same manfrotto-monster you show from my large-format days, nicknamed "hercules". and others. but the one tripod (actually i have three) that is my constant companion for more than 15 years now is a Ultrapod II by pedco. undestructable little plastic bastard outlives all the cameras it carries. mounts to almost anything. packs a good load of a camera or a flash. which is great when you do off-camera lighting. most extremely highly recommended.

Haha! I have the same big Bogen, with the same head!

Carrying it around is about as much fun as oral surgery...

I had a friend who toted an RB67 on his Bogen 3051 (my RB sat on a 3020). Everytime I picked up his camera/tripod combo, I could feel my spine compress.

My go-to tripod tends to be a Velbon Victory tripod I bought for maybe $50 back in 1980. But I never liked the head on it, so a couple years back, I bought a medium Gitzo ball head and threw it on the old Velbon, and the tripod immediately became my favorite.

On the large end, there's the Gitzo Giant. Six sections of carbon fibery goodness, which goes out when I'm in "serious landscape photographer" mode or have a sore back and don't want to squat next to the Velbon.

I also have an assortment of small tripods which mostly stay home because they won't hold anything steady. Mostly they end up holding flashes when I want to feel all McNally-esque.

But the most useful one lately is an "American DJ O-Clamp" which clamps onto street sign posts or railings and is designed to support 40 lbs. Five Bucks, including tax, IIRC.

Can't praise the tiny tripods too much. I have a really small one by Optek that folds flat and fits in the pouch (lowepro Z-10) with my G10. The combo punches way way above it's weight and I don't even notice that the tripod is there when I don't need it.
I also have a Slik Pro with RRS ballhead that decorates my closet most of the time, and a monopod that goes with me almost any time I shoot my "real" cameras.
It's the camera/tripod that you have with you that brings home the image!

My favorite small tripod for a long time was a Linhof "Report" that folds flat and has no center column. The legs snapped out for very quick setup, but there were easy-to-reach collars on the top legs for leveling the tripod. It was great until my three-year-old sat on it and bent the legs just enough that they don't move terribly easily anymore. It's one of the more reasonably priced Linhof things--maybe around $65 on eBay.

I replaced it with a Feisol CT-3441S, which is a carbon fiber tripod with reversible legs like the Gitzo Travelers--very compact and light, but I don't care for the telescoping center column. I don't need such a long column, and the telescoping arrangement is a source of mushiness, though it's in general a very solid tripod for its size. There is a short column without the telescoping section, but it's so short that it only has about a half inch of travel. If it came with a non-telescoping column, maybe 8 inches or so, it would be perfect.

I use it with a Linhof Universal Ballhead I with a Kirk Arca-Swiss-style QR clamp on top.

Tripod Jihadist.

Hmm. I wonder if I could combine a tilt-pan head with a gorilla pod undercarriage...? *rubs chin thoughtfully*

"I suspect either the Amazon photo or model designation is wrong."

The photo is wrong. The VS-30 has a tilt-pan head, and the VS-34 has a ball head.

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