Just splash out and get a CF tripod. They are so much lighter than any Aluminium.
I'm using a Manfrotto 055cxpro3 which is pretty awesome. The heaviest setup I've used on it is an EOS1N + 70-200 2.8 IS II. The head is a 488 RC2 which is also very sturdy but I've subsequently discovered the RC4 heads are more highly regarded among many, in the know.
The whole setup is lighter than my old 190 Aluminium tripod with a 3 way head. It is quite large though so I am currently in the market for something that is more compact for traveling and when not using such heavy gear.
just get one anyone of the ones mentioned are great ripods!you cannot go much wrong with a random pick off your list.
It's claimed that CF damps vibration better than metal. On the other hand, metal has more mass. I don't think it's a major difference, at any rate.
If you don't really need CF, get metal. CF is lighter, but that also makes any setup more top-heavy. I use my Feisol when its lightness is a benefit (also its size, as it's the same size class as a Manfrotto 055). My metal tripod is a Giottos 9371, a larger size. The hot/cold issue is minimized by its foam leg covers. I use it whenever its weight and bulk are not too much of an issue, as it is much less top-heavy with medium format equipment, and it has a tilt column which is excellent for macro. The tilt column is only useful in larger tripods, as weight off center quickly destabilizes smaller, less massive ones. I love the size of the Giottos for any work where the camera is tilted up, as I don't have to stoop and crane my neck to see through the viewfinder. If you are using a waist-level finder that will obviously not be an issue, and your tripod need only be tall enough for you to see the screen clearly. That's a big plus, allowing you to use a shorter (thus lighter and less bulky) tripod, or shorten a larger one for greater stability. When I'm having to walk a distance, I use my Feisol and a waist-level finder. Working out of the car or at home, it's the Giottos.
Like Fabrizio, I prefer a 3-way head to a ball, but the problem is the arms sticking out of most of them. I use a Bogen/Manfrotto 3028, which is not made anymore, but easy to find inexpensively ($40 for mine from KEH). The replacement is the 3D Magnesium, reasonably priced, and also without any arms sticking out. It's light and compact-very nice. If you get a ball head, spend the money to get a good one! I have not found a cheap one yet that I thought was worth the savings.
It really comes down to the conditions under which you are using the tripod. A friend of mine wanted to purchase a tripod that was better than the crappy overpriced aluminum legs/plastic hardware one she got sold to her with her Canon 10D. I recommended she look at the Slik tripods, because their quality is very good and they are lower priced than most other name brands, and a very good value for the money. She was going to be using it indoors, both at home with her little kids around, and at work with colleagues milling around. I explained that the extra weight of the Slik compared to some others was a benefit in that situation, as the setup was less likely to be knocked over. So for her, the least expensive quality tripod is also the best.
I sympathize with your analysis paralysis dilemma. I went through that. If you can check out any in person it will be of great benefit in your selection process. I was able to compare and quickly eliminate several heads and tripods just by testing them in the store.
Just pick one. You will soon become the number one promoter/supporter of any gear you have. Just like any true APUGer.:laugh:
All of the legs referred to are good.
If you are going to obsess, I'd recommend putting all your efforts into the decision about the tripod head(s) :whistling:
I have no experience with Carbon Fiber tripods, but I do know that adjusting the aluminum legs at 8:00 AM on a -20C canadian morning with a slight wind, in 2 to 3 foot of snow will drain much of your energy...Does Carbon Fiber become brittle or fragile at these temperatures ? If you do use a Hasselblad, get the 'blad quick tripod coupling, it helps a lot.
I've had a Gitzo CF for about 5 years. If I hadn't been offered a great deal on it, I would have bought the Feisol, which I had a chance to try, too. I thought it offered great price/performance. The drop in weight was important to me, as my knees had a hard time carrying my old, heavy Bogen. For me, the CF decision was easy- there were times I didn't shoot because carrying the extra weight was painful.
Feisol .... for a bit more than $200 you can get their Traditional version with 28mm legs...I use one of these a lot and they are great. I also have a Kirk BH2 head which is nice also. I use this combo for my hassy with up to a 250mm lens with no trouble.
I just got a set of Feisol 3301 the basic 3 portions carbon legs $270 (only two locks to turn on each leg) with no bloody center column. Put my Markins Q3 on top.
Light and sweet on the packpack. Easy to set-up and take my field 4x5 without any problem I could see for now.
I have a nice Berlebach 3020 that is even easier to set-up but I just never take it with me due to weight and bulk.
I moved to a carbon fibre Manfrotto 055 3 section about 18 months ago with no regrets at all. It seems stable and solid and the fairly thick legs resonate less than you might think . I did consider Gitzo too, but both my researches and questions on Photo.net could not unearth any credible information to the extent that the big extra cost would make any difference to image quality. Besides which I don't like Gitzo leg locks and much prefer flip locks, and if thats an issue for you choose your brand carefully. Otherwise people tended to suggest what they had ( which I guess is better than suggesting brands they haven't ) so the support tends to mimic brand share.