Tripod recommendation for medium format

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Equipment' started by dj_judas21, May 13, 2011.

  1. dj_judas21

    dj_judas21 Member

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    I'm looking for tripod recommendations. I mainly use a Mamiya RB67 which is about 4kg with accessories. I would also use the tripod with my 35mm SLRs, rangefinders and a DSLR (sorry) :wink:

    I currently have an extremely light and flimsy tripod for travelling (it folds up to about 35cm long and fits in a rucksack) which is OK for the rangefinders and DSLR but bends under the weight of the RB67.

    I also have a larger, stronger but still cheap tripod which has sturdy legs but a cheap, brittle plastic head with awkward knobs to adjust it. It's vaguely acceptable for shooting landscapes with the RB67 but is difficult to adjust and doesn't stand a chance of working satisfactorily with an 800mm lens on my 35mm SLR.

    So, I am after recommendations for a tripod that:
    • is strong enough for a 4kg RB67
    • is stable enough for an 800mm lens for astrophotography
    • is reasonably small and light, for hiking
    • has extra quick-release plates available so I can keep one permanently on each camera
    I can probably suss out most of these criteria, but I don't know if I should be looking at a pan/tilt head, or a ball head. What are the pros and cons of each?

    I hesitate to say this, but I don't really have a limit on my budget :eek: I understand that good kit doesn't come cheap, and the time has come to replace my £15 tripod with something that will help me take better pictures.

    Thanks!
    Jonathan
     
  2. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Induro AKB-2 or AKP-2. The AKB-2 is a ball head and will handle your RB 67 easily, and is still light enough not to wear you down packing it around. The AKP-2 is the pan head version of the same tripod. The price of these is very reasonable, under $200usd with shipping (here in the States).
     
  3. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    You won't regret spending money on a tripod and head. I use a Feisol four section CT3401 (the smallest one Kerry Thalmann sells) and and a Kirk BH3 head. I use it for both my Hasselblad and my 4x5 and it is great. The weight of your camera shouldn't be a problem on this tripod. I love this head and tripod. If money really isn't an object, you might also consider the equivalent Gitzo legset.
     
  4. heespharm

    heespharm Member

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    Good kits do come cheap... 100 usd tiltall tripod is more than enough... But if you want some strong legs a feisol 3441 is good enought
     
  5. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I geuss you could look up KEH.

    Jeff
     
  6. agw

    agw Member

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    I fear "stable enough for 800mm" and "reasonably light for hiking" is a contradiction. In general, 800mm or the likes will need the most sturdy legs and head you can get, and those never will be lightweight (even CF legs).

    You might look at http://www.gitzo.com/ to get an impression of which kind of legs you need for with focal length and weight.

    While Gitzo certainly is not cheap, they're among the best you can get, and will last a lifetime (I bought my Gitzo about 20 years ago, and it still works like new. Doesn't look so, though.). I'd not consider less than Gitzo legs and a RRS, Kirk or Markins head for serious use. If you're less serious, work your way down the price range on the legs first (lots of cheaper choices from far east recently), then on the head. There's nothing worse than putting a wobbly head on good legs (been there, done that) - I'd always go for overkill on the head, and if necessary compromise a bit on the legs.
     
  7. John R.

    John R. Member

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    I agree about the Tiltall. I bought one new many, many years ago. It has always held up extremely well. Mine is the original E. Leitz version. A couple years ago I decided to covert it's fixed pan tilt head to a standard center column w/platform design so I could interchange different heads. I had Adam at SK Grimes remove the pan tilt head and retool a platform with a 3/8" center stud and non skid mount surface. I also had them modify the original pan tilt head so it could be screwed on and off the center column. I mostly use the tripod with a Arca B1 and Wimberly baseplates. I regularly use the Tiltall / B1 combo with a Hasselblad 553ELX and 500mm. I use the tripod mount base on the 500mm to balance the rig by adding a Wimberly P10 plate to the the lens' tripod mount, I clamp the body and lens combo using that plate into the B1. Makes a very nice set up for medium format and could easily handle the RB and a 800. If you were to use a Tiltall with standard pan tilt head I would recommend swapping out the long handle that is standard with a short handle. Tiltalls can be highly modified and many parts are available without going the custom machining route. Highly reliable and highly configurable. A very nice tripod. New ones are not built the same as the originals. Learn about all versions.
     
  8. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Jonathan

    Being on a tight budget is tough, but since you live in the UK, it's easy: skip a few pints (or whatever else your vice may be), don't go out to dinner a couple of times, bring your lunch to work for a week and you're there.

    For architecture, landscape and studio photography, a decent camera support is essential. In most cases, any tripod is better than none, but one should always choose the best tripod your money can buy or one will spend it twice.

    Furthermore, the choice of tripod head is as important as the tripod itself, and the choice of materials contributes to the final performance and transportability. No tripod is less rigid than the one left at home, because it was too heavy. I have used many brand-name tripod models, in a variety of materials and styles, from traditional aluminum models to modern carbonfiber composite designs. Each model had its pros and cons. No design is optimal in every situation. Consider your photographic needs before you decide on a tripod, based on weight, size, working height, operation speed or rigidity.

    Then check the Gitzo site, mentioned above (www.gitzo.com), or go to he Manfrotto site (www.manfrotto.com), and look at their recommendations for your weight class.

    Good tripods cost little more than bad ones!
     
  9. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    Sorry, I missed the hiking and astrophotography. If they are separate activities, get an old massive tripod like the tilt-all and a lighter carbon tripod from Gitzo/Feisol/Induro. For astrophotography, you may want a geared head like the ones Manfrotto makes....it makes it easy to make small adjustments. Unfortunately, if you are looking for light, sturdy and inexpensive, you can only pick two of those attributes!

    Just remember, a tripod can be used across multiple cameras and don't get out dated. Buy the best if you can. I went through 2 Manfrotto tripods before I broke down and got a carbon Feisol/Kirk head. I wasted the money I spent on the first two!
     
  10. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I would suggest a tripod that does not gain weight with every step away from the car.

    Steve
     
  11. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Weight is important, because heavy tripods usually stay home. On the other hand, the heavier the tripod the more support it gives. One solution is to get a light tripod and add the weight when needed, as with a rubber foot strap or a hook for the water bottle.
     
  12. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Gitzo 3 Series (Studex) Wider footprint and more stable.
    Gitzo is a pain with their numbering. They change their system every ten years or so just to confuse me.
     
  13. herb

    herb Subscriber

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    Heavy is good, wood is really good at vibration damping. The tradeoff is the head (and its weight) and how far you plan on carrying it. A lot of the fiber tripods have a hook on the column that I use to hang the backpack on, thus acheiving the heavy part of the equation.

    See if a dealer will let you try one out in the field.
     
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  15. dj_judas21

    dj_judas21 Member

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    Thanks for your advice, everyone. I was initially hoping to get something a similar size and weight to my existing no-brand tripod but after I weighed it and found that it was just 1.35kg including the integrated head, I realised that any of the Manfrotto offerings (for example) were going to be at least twice that.

    Anyway, to cut a long story short I went to a local camera shop and played with a few of the tripods and eventually decided on a Manfrotto 055XPROB with a Manfrotto 496RC2 ball head.

    Some might say that that's still on the light side, but it is a whole order of magnitude sturdier and better-damped than my old tripod. I haven't had a chance to use it properly yet, but it seems perfect for a Mamiya RB67, or a 35mm SLR with lenses up to 800mm. With the 800mm lens, vibrations in the viewfinder die down very quickly after I stop adjusting the head.

    It also has a nifty feature where you can spread the legs wider if you need extra stability in high winds, etc. I think I'm going to get on very well with this tripod.
     
  16. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Something used. New tripods are outrageously expensive; and they lose about 75 percent of their value or more the second you walk out of the store with them.

    For medium and small format, I like the Bogen 3030 (the tripod, not the head; I always like the 3047 head best), which is no longer made. It is fast, light, and sturdy. I got mine in a thrift shop for five bucks, and, like a fool, sold it for $115 once I got a 3051 large format tripod. I miss it's quick operation, and I will replace it some day.

    It is similar in "model/price range" to the 3021, but much more solid, as it uses struts and a rigid center column tube below the head, and the legs and hinges are a bit heftier. It is basically a slightly mini 3036, but without individual leg locks (which is part of why it sets up so fast). The telescoping legs use quick-action flip locks, instead of the twisting clamps. It is a very fast tripod to set up. Right up there with the 3051 in that way.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 22, 2011
  17. Willie Jan

    Willie Jan Member

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    I too use a gitzo with the quick lock system.
    Before that I used a manfrotto with 'normal' lock handles. Because i do not hesitate to put it into ponds etc.. they started to rust and where not easily closed. Since i use the gitzo (carbon) it's a delite to jump into ponds....
     
  18. Discoman

    Discoman Member

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  19. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    So typical in APUG, after to OP has made a decision and purchase, everyone jumps in and tell the OP that the OP made a mistake. Come on folks the the OP a break! Tell the OP that the OP made a wise decision - like this would cost you something!

    Wise choice dj_judas21! Well done!

    Steve
     
  20. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Good choice! You'll be happy with that purchase. A flimsy tripod is worse than no tripod at all.
     
  21. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    An 055 is a good choice I've used a Manfrotto 055 aluminium tripod for about 25 years and it's fine and still used regularly and in good condition.
     
  22. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    Although it is after the fact since you were going to a camera store i would have lugged some of the equipment and tried the different tripods with your stuff. Also if buying a camera and / or lens ( esp. previously owned) I would go to the store, purchase a roll of the film you use most and expose it with that equipment and process or have it processed to see if it is functioning as represented. If buying used from out of town deal with parties that have a return option.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  23. dj_judas21

    dj_judas21 Member

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    Perhaps that's slightly overkill, but I did take my existing tripod to do a direct comparison of size, weight, sturdiness, etc. I stand by my choice :smile:
     
  24. BrianL

    BrianL Member

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    I found years ago a light tripod is not the way to go for me in the field. I ended up with a Maestro with a Maestro head. It is not a lightweight but, I carried mine for miles in the Everglades and in the hills for years for my MF and Polaroid kits. No fear of throwing it into the water and letting it get soaked. Never a fear that my camera would tip it. I also have some no name aluminum tripod with intregral head that is a workhorse but, again, not as light as a number of ones I've seen at the shops in the past years.

    While the Maestro is not generally considered a field tripod, I recommend it highly.

    You also may want to look at wood tripods as they have a lot of strength for their weight. These can be found used on the cheap.
     
  25. benjiboy

    benjiboy Subscriber

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    You want to do what one of my photographer friends did recently, he went to a shop with his wife to buy a new tripod to make sure she could carry it ! :laugh::confused:
     
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  26. Ralph Javins

    Ralph Javins Member

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    Something Has Been Forgotten


    Good morning, Jonathan;

    Have you forgotten something? In the second item on your list, you speak of "an 800mm lens for astrophotography."

    Now don't get worried about already having spent some money on your new tripod. That was not going to help anyway. By definition, astrophotography is a really different animal. A normal type tripod and head that you can buy in any camera store, regular or a "professional" level, is not going to be able to do the job for you in astrophotography that you will probably want to do. It does take a little more to get those kinds of photographs that you see in the astronomy magazines.

    For astrophotography, your exposure times may be measured in hours, not just seconds. For that kind of work, you need a tripod with what is called a GEM, or a German Equatorial Mount, not an Altitude/Azimuth (Alt/Az), Azimuth/Elevation (Az/El), or "fork" mount, or what we call a pan/tilt head. This does become important with longer exposures where an effect called "field rotation" becomes apparent with any other mount than an equatorial mount. With a suitable drive system for "right ascension" and a tracking system set onto a "guide star" viewed either through a separate tracking/aiming telescope or viewed through a small area just outside of the main image area of the main telescope, either you can watch the guide star with a crosshair reticle and manually adjust the mount to keep the guide star centered (workable up to about an hour, and a real trial beyond that), or you can set up that automatic tracking and aiming system to keep that guide star centered, and keep your camera accurately aimed at the star field you want to photograph while slowly accumulating photons either on your film or onto your CCD or CMOS light sensor. The Software Bisque Premier Mount may be the best example of this kind of a mount that that I can suggest for most of the things that we mere amateurs might want to try. Beyond that, you will probably need a dedicated observatory. However, there are many less expensive mounts that will also do the job, but with perhaps a lesser degree of precision. No, I do not have a Premier myself, but I do dream occasionally.

    For my own use, I find that 1600mm is just right for getting an image of the full moon that extends about 1/3 of the way across the 35mm film frame and gives me a nice image to work with from the negative. I can also use a 2000mm focal length telescope with an adapter to accept the camera, and it does have a fairly simple right ascension drive that I can put onto an equatorial wedge on a big heavy tripod for doing fairly long exposures. The setup time can be considerable, but worth the effort when you get a really nice photograph or image. For use with other normal photographic lenses such as your 800mm lens and wide field photography, there is also the Vixen GPDX EQ mount with drive motors and Arduino powered tracking system.

    For a good reference on getting started in astrophotography, I suggest the FireFly Books text of that title, ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY, by H. J. P. Arnold, published in 2003. It is no longer available from FireFly, but your library, a used book store, or Amazon Books may have it. One of the reasons why I still suggest that text is that it does still include information on film also. Most of the more recent books have shifted to digital cameras.
     
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