Tripod help, please.
I am looking for a compact, lightweight tripod for casual, walk around use with a 35mm slr and 24 to 50mm lenses. I have a Manfrotto 3021/Kirk ball head and at 7 lbs, that is too much weight for comfort. I'm old and tired ! I am not looking for something in the Gitzo price range. I'm not really brand conscious, just don't want junk. Used is OK. Any first hand experience is appreciated.
Depending on your height, the Manfrotto 190 in either aluminum or carbon fibre might work at around 5lbs. I have the older Manfrotto CarbonOne 440 that's a bit lighter.
Originally Posted by Gerry M
If you really don't intend to use focal length greater than 50mm and heavier cameras than film 135, I think most anything would do. I sometime use a very light no-name no-quality-whatsoever tripod of a friend of mine that, at the end of the day, does its job adequately. Sometimes good enough is good enough. That's mainly for wide-angle nocturne photography. The "problem" is that once you begin going around with a tripod, taking time to find places etc. you end up using also some tele and making several shots, with different focal length, from the same location.
From my experience, when using a tripod in town the real problems are vibration induced by the buses and lorries, and maybe the underground. Those are frequent sources of "hidden" vibration that can affect image quality, with the blame later put on the tripod.
A very convenient thing Gitzo tripod have is the hook on the base of the central column. You can carry a light tripod but, when you hang the photographic bag to its hook, the tripod acquires a bigger mass and becomes much more solid. Useful in case of wind, and with tele lenses.
I understand you don't want a Gitzo, maybe some other make has this hook or maybe there might be a way to adapt one to your tripod.
I used to go around with my Manfrotto Triman #028, a beast of more than 5 kg with head #029, basically thought for studio work, now I do it only on some rare occasions. The idea behind this conduct was that I could use my 500mm or 300mm. Going around with heavy tripod and vast choice of lenses (from 24mm to 500mm) is something that I feel less and less inclined to do now. I decided my back is my friend and, after all, I did not use those lenses much. And so I discovered that most any light tripod is good enough for normal to wide-angle lenses.
Induro Carbon fibre tripods and the induro magnesium alloy ballheads. CT213 is what I have and I have the second biggest ballhead the BHD 2, for your uses the CT113 and the BHD 1 would easily hold the weight, or the CT114 which folds smaller. If your tall though the 213 series is the only way to go or bigger, im 6ft4 and anything shorter just means a lot of stooping for each shot.
When I was comparing costs, ended up around half the price of a similar gitzo set up, and they come with a great warranty (5 years I believe), not to mention They are build well, weigh nothing, and the ballheads have tension control and take a lot of weight.
If you want gitzo-like quality without the price, have a look at the Feisol ones (and they do have the hook underneath if you want that). However, they're still not cheap (they are carbon fibre and very light) and even their smallest is overkill for 50mm on a little 135.
You could buy nery nearly any tripod at all and it would be sufficient, especially if you use MLU. MLU on the shittiest crappiest tripod is better than no MLU on a very expensive tripod - as proven by all the nice sharp shots I got with an RZ67 (HUGE slap; the mirror is about 70cm^2) with a totally crappy little aluminium travel tripod that would literally bounce and nod (even at minimum extension!) when I released the mirror. But after about 6s, it was still enough to be razor sharp when I pressed the cable release.
So you can get a real nice light CF 'pod if you want, but if you want to be cheap, you can do that too (as long as it's not nasty-cheap where the legs jam). Just make sure you use good technique.
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Slik U-212 dlx. Yes, its an old model, but they were sturdy for a small 35mm SLR and longish lens. I've been packing around a Slik S-502 for the better part of 25 years now, no headaches. It could use a better pan head or swap to a ball head, but it carries my Mamiya C-330 or my Olympus OM's easily. It definitly sags under the weight of my Calumet cc-400, but I have different t-pod for that.
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A caveat: check the height of the tripod. You should have a setup such as the viewfinder is more or less near the line of your eyes. I know, you'll change point of view sometimes. But normally and for most work, you want your tripod to be comfortable. A tripod which compels you to stay curved to look inside the viewfinder is VERY tiring when in actual use in town (when you wait for minutes for the right moment to take the picture, i.e. when you wait for no cars, no pedestrian, a red light, etc you don't want to stay with your back bent). Even when using a normal focal length you should not raise the central column more than half. No central column is something to aim to. Before beginning raising the central column, do extend the legs to the utmost. Using the central column is something to be seen as a kind of "emergency" remedy. The tripod's legs alone should place the camera at the desired height or near there. A cheaper tripod used without raising the central column is typically better than a "better" tripod used raising the central column.
I totally agree regarding the importance of mirror lock-up. Especially when using shutter times between 1/15th and 1/4th with a normal focal length, MLU will make all the difference. For very long exposures (several seconds) it is less important but, generally speaking, for tripod work MLU should be considered a necessity.