Feisol 3442 from Really Big Cameras - did I make a right choice?

Discussion in 'Medium Format Cameras and Accessories' started by silentworld, Jan 15, 2011.

  1. silentworld

    silentworld Member

    Messages:
    31
    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2009
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I was recently in the market for a light-weight full size tripod to be used with my Bronica 645 setup when I go hiking or backpacking. I have been using an old model 3401 Feisol tripod with Feisol 50H ballhead in the past and was generally happy with it. Now my wife is more seriously into photography and wants her own tripod, so I got a great opportunity to get something even better for myself. :cool:

    After quite a bit of research, I decided to go with Feisol 3442 (Non-RAL legs), a short center column setup and a Photo Clam Gold II ballhead based on glowing reviews and comments on various sites and recommendation by Kerry from Really Big Cameras (himself also highly recommended by many people on various forums). After receiving the tripod, I was quite impressed with the quality in general. The height is just perfect for me (especially with the short column on, which now makes me reluctant to take it off), The operation is quite smooth, the twist lock seems to improve quite a bit from my old 3401. However, after playing with it for a couple of days, I found a couple of minor concerns about the 3441:

    Leg spread: I did a comparison between my old 3401 and 3442. I found that actually 3442's legs are not much longer than 3401's. The reason why 3442 is taller is partly due to its slightly narrower leg spread compared to 3401. Given that 3442 is so light, I am wondering if the narrower leg spread would increase the chance that the tripod is blown over in the field and if I always should hang some weights in the field to increase the stability.

    Leg rigidity: I was in a camera store yesterday and saw a Gitzo GT2541 Mountaineer tripod. Out of curiosity, I set it up and tested it out. When I grab the middle of the Gitzo legs and move/twist it horizontally, I noticed that Gitzo legs seem more rigid than Feisol 3442 (less flex). Now I understand that with 3442 being taller and lighter, there may have to be some compromises made, which is a choice for photographers. However, I am wondering how big of an impact 3442's additional flex would have on image sharpness and, if there is a visible impact, any tip to mitigate the impact in the field (e.g. hang weight). Would Feisol 3342 perform better in this regard?

    I am also curious about what is happening at Really Big Cameras. Kerry was quite helpful when I was making the purchase decision, responding to my emails quickly and in detail. However, after receiving my tripod, I sent him a few emails over a two week period for some questions I have (including the two above) and got no response at all. I also tried to call the number on his business card a few times and again no one answer the phone and no voice mail either. I am not sure if he is away or if I should just give up trying to contact him.

    Thanks in advance for any comments!

    Charles
     
  2. jbbooks

    jbbooks Member

    Messages:
    173
    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Buyer's remorse is terrible, yes? I think the only thing you can do, now, is take it out and use it. If it works, fine. If it does not, sell it and try again.

    If it helps, I have the same tripod and a Gitzo 1228 MII that is very similar. I have not had time to do a lot with the Feisol, but I think it will perform almost as well as the other. However, I use the Gitzo with a lightweight 4x5 and a worse case combination, a large digital with its 100-400mm zoom held at right angles for vertical shots. I do not think the Feisol would hold up to those applications. On the other hand, the Feisol is extremely light and folds up to a minimum size that will allow it to be taken and used anywhere while extending to a height that makes it, normally, unnecessary to extend its center column. In any event, having it would certainly be better than having no tripod at all.
     
  3. tim k

    tim k Member

    Messages:
    237
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2008
    Location:
    Tucson
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Kerry was very good to me. Perhaps he's out of town?
     
  4. mikebarger

    mikebarger Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,935
    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2005
    Location:
    south centra
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Until I get old, I'm of a mindset that you carry the biggest, heaviest tripod you can muster for six or seven miles at a time.

    Mike
     
  5. silentworld

    silentworld Member

    Messages:
    31
    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2009
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Thanks for sharing your experience. Well, when I was typing my original post, the exactly same words "Buyer's remorse" came through my mind as well. :tongue:

    In reality, I guess I am aware of the compromise/trade-off I made here. While the Gitzo I tried is indeed a little more stable, it is shorter, heavier, having a center column that could cause some problems when I try to go low, and more than double the price. Therefore, if I have to choose all over again, I may still choose Feisol 3442, as long as I understand its limitations and find ways to minimize their impact on image quality. I have thought about hanging camera bag but was concerned that in strong wind the camera bag itself could generate vibration. Instead, I made a simple adjustable height loop using a thin tent cord and plan to hang the cord to tripod hood and just step on it (or put a rock on it) to lock the tripod to the ground. I am hoping that this can improve the tripod's stability enough with minimal weight increase.

    My gear will probably not put as much stress on the tripod as your kit. I uses Minolta manual focus cameras and Bronica 645 with lens up to 200mm only so they are definitely light compared to your digital set up.
     
  6. silentworld

    silentworld Member

    Messages:
    31
    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2009
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Thanks! I am hoping that is the case as I heard that Kerry was really good at customer service. I think I sent my first email to him on Jan 2 though but haven't heard anything from him up to now. I will keep an eye on my email inbox.
     
  7. silentworld

    silentworld Member

    Messages:
    31
    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2009
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Hi Mike, thanks for sharing your thoughts and I agree with you that the mass does matter. However, since I plan to use this tripod on some week long backpacking trips, I am really pushing my carrying weight even with a light-weight tripod. I was thinking about getting a lighter tripod when I was doing North Circle route at Glacier National Park last September. This trip was about 55 miles for 6 days with 10,000 feet elevation change and I did it with some really fast guys (they literally ran when going downhill). For trips like this, any weight reduction without sacrifice in functionality would be great for me.

    I may eventually get a more heavy duty tripod to be used in road trips or day hikes though. Got to start saving again. :smile:
     
  8. jbbooks

    jbbooks Member

    Messages:
    173
    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2005
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I do not think I am old, yet. However, I have to admit I do not attempt some things, today, that I thought nothing of 50 years ago.
     
  9. Brian Legge

    Brian Legge Member

    Messages:
    541
    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2010
    Location:
    Bothell, WA
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    I'm using a 3401 with a Tachihara 4x5 and lighter lenses.

    No issues yet, though the total weight of the system feels light when their is a bit of a breeze.