Carbon Fiber Tripods - Water & Ice?

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by MurrayMinchin, Dec 13, 2010.

  1. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Hi there,

    I've never used a carbon fiber tripod before, and I'm wondering how they would do in watery and wintery conditions with my 4x5 gear.

    When it's been bucketing rain all day, does water get into the leg segments and make it hard to adjust them?

    If you set up in a stream, will the leg segments freeze together afterwards in below freezing conditions?

    I used to use a Tiltall with medium format gear decades ago and don't remember having any issues, but from what I've read so far the carbon fiber legs seem to have a really snug fit inside each other.

    Basically, does yours perform well no matter how wet, cold, mucky, or grimy the conditions get?

    Murray
     
  2. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Any thing will freeze if gotten wet then subjected to freezing temps without drying thoroughly.
     
  3. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Yeah but, with my wooden tripod all it takes is a whack or two to get it unstuck.

    I have a "lightweight" Zone VI, and the top of the tripod that's made of thick plywood delaminated on me and I had to replace it with an aluminum plate. Too many years strapped to the deck of a sea kayak and being dragged through the forest in the rain. I also had to ditch the plastic tightening knobs on the legs and replace them with metal wing nuts...if I forgot to loosen the legs they would sometimes soak up so much water from the rain that it was impossible to loosen them by hand, and had to pound the knobs with a rock to get them loose.

    Would a carbon fiber tripod be too 'finicky' for the kind of abuse I'd give it?

    Murray
     
  4. edp

    edp Member

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    It probably wouldn't swell up so much in the wet, but if you smash it with rocks you'll break it.
     
  5. Sim2

    Sim2 Subscriber

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    Tried to resist answering but like a moth to the flame.....

    Carbon fibre is very fragile. I belive that going with the weave it has a strength but againstthe weave it is as fragile as glass(ish) - it might be the other way around but the principle stands. The strength of a carbon fibre item is wholly related to how many layers of "cloth" are used and the complexity of overlaps of the "weave". Cheap carbon fibre will have few overlapping layers, expensive will have more and with more attention to the interplay of the weave overlap in relation to the expected stresses.

    Expected stresses is a key point. when working with windsurfers, who had carbon fibre masts, the masts would take tremendous stress from the wind/sail i.e. at right angles (roughly) to the mast but if they fell off the roof of the van and landed on the tip - they would crack down the lentgh of the mast. Stress from the end of the tube was not designed into the fibre structure, hence weakness.

    Carbon fibre tripods can be very strong but I would not hit it with a rock/hammer etc without being prepared to replace the component afterwards. Nor would I buy an inexpensive carbon fibre tripod for use in extreme situations.

    As has rightly been said earlier, irrespective of the material, anything that gets wet then exposed to cold temperatures will freeze. Water expands on freezing so expect jammed bolts, joints tubes etc.

    Gitzo do make a tripod designed to be used in the sea, not sure about freezing sea, and Benbo tripods by Paterson have the lower leg sealed against water ingress - might be a good start point to research further, but unless you can afford to use tripods as one-use disposables I would seriously not suggest hitting them with anything let alone a rock.

    Have fun
    Sim2.
     
  6. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    I use my Feisol in exactly those conditions and I haven't had a problem yet. I've had it about 4 years. Other than some scratches where I didn't clean off some sand on the legs, it is pretty much new.....and it is so nice picking up a tripod that is not metal...light and warm!
     
  7. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Thanks guys,

    (I wasn't really planning on beating on a carbon fibre tripod, just explaining what I had to resort to with my wooden one).

    If there's any chance the tripod would seize up on me, whether from salt, sand, dirt, water or ice, then it's just not worth it.

    Murray
     
  8. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    I have had my Gitzo CF tripod out in all kinds of weather: -15f, stuck knee deep into the snow, with its feet in the water, etc. It has never frozen up on me. The only problem that I have had is getting sand into the bottom section lock after using it in the dunes and not brushing the legs off. Soaking them in a bucket of water when I get home usually resolves things.
     
  9. sandholm

    sandholm Subscriber

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    Hi

    I have a Gitzo tripod when i am in the Alps and in the Himalayas (I do mountaineering), the new fiber glass is much much more stronger then before (development), so dont worry, actually i would say that fiberglass today is much more superior then wood tripods because they are complete care free. Only problem is the weight, they are really light and for some shoots I have had to place some is-screws just to make sure it wont shake from the wind. I guess another problem can be the price, glassfiber is not really cheep ;(

    cheers
     
  10. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Hmmmm...then again...

    My problem is that it's a 500 mile drive to the nearest store that might sell a tripod my size, and it's 1000 miles to the nearest store that sells large format gear (in either Calgary or Vancouver) so getting a close hands on look at one is pretty much impossible. There's only one other LF photographer here in town, but he uses a wooden tripod. I'll have to ask some of the digi-snap folks and see if I can get a close look at their tripods.

    Thanks again for the good info.

    Murray
     
  11. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I have a Manfrotto carbon-fiber tripod which I have dragged across the planet with me underneath a variety of cameras ranging from a Hasselblad to my 5x12 (I think I even used it ONCE underneath my Calumet C-1, in an act of desperation). It has been used in snow, rain, running water, sub-zero temperatures. I'm more likely to have a problem with the section locks not opening/closing because they're lever-locks and my hands are too cold to get a good grip on the locks than anything else. Oh, and I've had this tripod for a decade give or take. I'm now contemplating a bigger tripod so I can have just one lightweight travel 'pod to fit all my cameras from the RB67 up to the Canham 14x17, and one that has twist-locks for the leg sections so it's easier to open/close.
     
  12. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    Murray,

    Try to contact Craig Richards. He is a "world class" mountain and for that matter landscape photographer. I believe he lives in Canmore and is associated with the Whyte Museum in Banff. He is a LF photographer whose printing is flawless. He stayed with us in Miami about fifteen years ago while giving a workshop. He is a nice guy and could probably give you good advice on the equipment you are seeking. If you reach him give him my regards.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  13. sandholm

    sandholm Subscriber

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    Get it from a online retailer that allows you to take a look at it, if you dont like it (and dont damage it) ship it back. Several (most common) the smaller once let you do this (or at least in europe)
     
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  15. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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  16. peeniwali

    peeniwali Member

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    A couple comments. Firstly, I would lean to a non-metallic material like wood, carbon fiber etc. I ice climb pretty much every weekend and the metallic bits I work with all freeze up in short order in cold, wet conditions. non-metallic stuff takes a lot longer to freeze. Basically metal is a great conductor of heat so if anything is going to ice up that will do it first. I suspect this was your problem with the aluminum tripod.
    Secondly I would call the folks at The Camera Store in Calgary. There prices are competitive and they are in an area that sees real winter, a condition very different from Vancouver.
    Oh, and a parting thought on the fragile nature of carbon fiber. some of the better ice axes out there have carbon fiber shafts. Made well the stuff is bomb-proof and we are renowned for punishing our tools.
     
  17. Sim2

    Sim2 Subscriber

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    Hallo,
    Perhaps my comments on the strength of carbon fibre might have been phrased better :laugh:
    Carbon fibre can be made bullet proof - see the "survival cells" of the monocoque chassis of a Formula One car, they are nearly indestructable and have saved many lives that would otherwise have been lost or seriously injured - so I do agree that if made well (and for specific purpose) carbon fibre is very strong. What I aslo know is that if the stress point is not designed into the cloth the finished fibre will have less/minimal strength in that area of stress.

    I would suggest that a tripod from a renowned manufacturer will be designed to take more stress etc than perhaps one built down to a price rather than up to a quality.

    The heat conductivity of carbon fibre is a good point well made - in our mini-cold spell here I replaced a steel monopod with a carbon one and did notice the difference in holding it, but it was only -8 here.

    The mountaineers from your neck of the woods are the ones to listen to I reckon, and good of them to chip in.

    Cheers,
    Sim2.
     
  18. Poisson Du Jour

    Poisson Du Jour Member

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    Reputable, long-established brands such as Manfrotto, Slik and Gitzo, among others, will have invested a lot of time, research, engineering and money into developing carbon fibre products that will easily shape up to the worst conditions of expected use, but in terms of what you put on them is one of prudent decision-making. With CF being light in weight you don't want to put any camera on top that exceeds the published weight limit (I plonk either 400gm pinhole camera or a 2.3kg SLR on either, but the smaller tripod is never used with the big camera with legs fully splayed). You've probably already noticed by now the huge price difference between CF tripods and aluminium. Apples and oranges. My slender Gitzo tripod doubled its usefulness recently as a handy second walking staff during a slippery descent!
     
  19. eclarke

    eclarke Member

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    Hi Murray,
    I use a Gitzo 3540XLS and have been ridiculed for the high price but it's the toughest, most rigid and unfailing mammer jammer going. I have used it in all situations, beaten it, abused it and it just keeps working flawlessly...Evan Clarke
     
  20. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    Thanks again for all your replies.

    I did meet Craig Richards and can vouch for his niceness. My wife and I were in the Mountain Equipment Co-op in Calgary where I noticed some greeting cards with pretty much the best B&W reproductions I'd ever seen. I tracked him down at the museum in Canmore and had a good long chat with him about his printing methods and where he got the cards made. I was mightily impressed with his work.

    I did ask about this sort of thing a long time ago in the advertisers forum, but got no response from Kerry.

    I'll be gazing at my navel for quite a while over this purchase...

    Murray
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 14, 2010
  21. pgomena

    pgomena Member

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    A few years ago I refinished my now 30-year-old Zone VI "lightweight" tripod because the original lacquer finish had mostly worn off. I live in Oregon, so rain and salt water are nothing new. I disassembled the tripod and gave the wood a light sanding, then coated the entire thing in oil-based polyurethane. It was a bit sticky at first because the poly tended to grab onto itself, but 9 years later it works like a champ in all weather conditions. I've had it out in freezing temps without a hitch.

    Don't know about the graphite 'pods. Can't afford one right now. I'd like one because I'm 30 years older than I was when I bought the Zone VI.

    Peter Gomena
     
  22. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    I also refinished my Zone VI's legs about a decade ago which stopped them sponging up so much water. I can't remember how much it's supposed to weigh, but with the aluminum plate on top and the galvanized bolts, washers, and wing nuts for the legs it weighs about 14 pounds.

    Sounds like we're in the same boat...I'm 50 now and don't feel like carrying that beast on day long wanderings through the bush anymore!

    Murray
     
  23. pgomena

    pgomena Member

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    Yes, I use it when I know I won't be hauling it too far from the car or the terrain is pretty flat, say a beach. It's been a good tripod, but it is a bit of a beast to drag around.

    Peter Gomena
     
  24. Aja B

    Aja B Member

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    I have two Gitzo CF tripods, one light/small for high-mileage backcountry use and another for close-to-car forays. Both have served well in a variety of conditions (sand, mud, rain, plenty of sub-freezing temps in snowy/icy terrain, streams, etc.). Yes, I treat them quite well. When dirt/sand gets into the leg-locks I disassemble and swoosh them around in the bathtub, let thoroughly dry before applying a dash of lube to threads and reassemble. No problems adjusting except when wet/frozen. Sure they freeze-up if they get wet below 0C. I re-submerge frozen legs into streams to temporarily thaw the locks to collapse legs. Because of steep/rocky terrain and potential to tumble, I attached plumber's foam insulation to the top-most leg section. Cheap insurance.
     
  25. Two23

    Two23 Member

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    I've been using a Gitzo 1325 for the past eight years in the toughest conditions the Dakotas can throw at it. I photo almost exclusively outdoors, and at night. I shoot in the rain, but really love shooting in blizzards! I've used the Gitzo CF in temps down to 38F below zero. Nothing seems to affect it.

    Kent in SD

    [​IMG][/url]
    tripod by duckgrabber, on Flickr][/IMG]
     
  26. tim k

    tim k Member

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    Add me to the Feisol camp. Kerry is great to deal with. I also wanted one tripod that I could use on everything. That plan worked like a charm.