My Feisol CT-3441S Center Column mod
I was generally impressed with the stability of my new Feisol CT-3441S, particularly at about a third the price of the comparable Gitzo 2-series Traveler. The Gitzo castings and center column lock look more solid than the Feisol's, and the non-rotating legs of a Gitzo make for quicker setup and folding, but if the Feisol is 80% of a Gitzo at 33% the price, then it’s a lot of tripod for the money. I also have an excellent Linhof Universal Ballhead No. 1 that works perfectly with the Feisol, so that was an important factor for me in choosing the Feisol over the Gitzo Traveler, which comes with a ballhead that I don’t need.
The one thing I didn’t like in the Feisol was the telescoping center column, which I rarely have need for, but I do like to have a center column for slight adjustments without adding so much extension as to reduce stability. The extension joint in the center column places the camera higher above the tripod crown at minimum extension, and is itself a source of instability. With everything tightened, I found it fairly easy to rotate the camera on the extension column. One option is to flip the column around so that the extension column is underneath the crown, and the head sits on the opposite platform, which can otherwise be used to hang the camera upside down or to attach a hook to add weight to the tripod, but this leaves the extension column protruding when you want to fold the tripod for storage, so it won’t fit in the bag that way. Another alternative is the short column, but this column is the minimum length to allow the tripod to be lowered to minimum height with no room for column travel. What I wanted was a one-piece medium-length column like I have for my big 5-series Gitzo.
So I looked at my $299 tripod and reached for my jeweler’s saw. I cut the large tube of the center column down to 9-inches, leaving the screw-in platform normally on the bottom of the column attached. This works, but it leaves the bottom of the tube open with no way to use the hook for extra weight, and it can slide out accidentally when raising the column. So I sawed a stub off the extension column with a fixed platform, normally positioned at the top of the tripod. At the bottom of the extension column there are two holes, and there is a plastic shim with two nubs that fit in those holes, and this shim keeps the extension column centered in the main column. I punched the nubs out of the shim with an ordinary office hole punch, put some epoxy on the outside of the small column and the inside of the open end of the column I cut down, fit the two columns together with the shim in between and allowed the epoxy to cure. The result is a solid medium length column, 61g lighter than the original column, that can hold a hook on the bottom or can mount upside down. The one-piece column is much more solid than the telescoping column with its extra joint, and the epoxied platform is one less thing that can unscrew, if I forget to release the pan lock on the head before turning the camera.
Total weight comes to 1091 g (2 lb., 6.5 oz) without the head, 1420 g (3 lbs, 2 oz) with the Linhof Universal Ballhead I using a Kirk 1.5" QR platform.
I don’t know why Feisol doesn’t offer a solid medium length column as an option, but if it gives me something closer to 90% of a Gitzo at 33% of the price, I’d say it’s worth a half hour with a saw and some epoxy.