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09-02-2011, 02:55 PM   #1
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Help me buy a tripod and head

Hey everyone I could really use some input on this matter as the choices available for tripods/heads are a bit daunting I have yet to own one and it seems my head is running around in circles trying to pick one out. I'll describe what I more or less want and what I think I will be using it for, but in any case the time to get one is now.

Ok here is a small list of my criteria.

*I will say no more than $300 for both, but if less all the better
*Durability I would like to not have to get another one for a few years at least
*Sturdy so that I can use with my Tamron 70-200mm 2.8
*Availability of accessories such as extra quick release plates etc is good
*Not interested in pan and tilt type head
*Aluminum, alloy or carbon I am not that picky about that unless there is good reason to be
*Would like it to be travel friendly to some degree at least for those times I want to take it for wildlife or landscape photography while hiking
*Reversible or tilting center column so as to get low to ground
*Head that facilitates panoramic shooting

Well that's what comes to mind, if you have any suggestions or can just let me know what works for you that would be great. Thanks for your help

09-02-2011, 03:26 PM   #2
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Get the vanguard Alta pro and GH 100 pistol head....I have one and its great for the money.
09-02-2011, 03:42 PM - 1 Like   #3
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Good Afternoon,

I think you have a reasonable feature list, and it looks like you have done some research. However, let me focus in on one capability that you have listed - "Head that facilitates panoramic shooting".

There are not that many heads that fall in to that category, and the ones that do start out at around $300 to $400. The heads that facilitates panoramic shooting, have the panning capability sitting on top of the ballhead, rather than the ability integrated into its base. That is one of the major differences to look for in ballheads. This enables you to not have to perfectly level the tripod via the legs - something that always eluded me, however leveling the ballhead I find a lot quicker and simpler - however there is a price associated with it.There is also another approach and that is to supplement a standard ball head with a panning clamp, that sits between the head and the camera. This will allow you rotate the camera body level for panorama shots. There are several of these available.If you go the route of a panning clamp, you need to ensure that you are getting the particular type of quick release style you want. There is the Arca Swiss style (usually the standard), and then there are others like Manaffroto, etc. In fact just check all the mechanical interfaces to make sure that they will stack up as intended.

Also, you are going to need quick release plates for your camera (that you will need right away), and you should also check in to L brackets (which usually come in Arca Swiss comparable, that can always be acquired later - Kirk has good prices for these).

I really didn't answer your original question, but the panning information will give you sufficient detail to make almost any combination work.

09-02-2011, 04:03 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by sagiboy Quote
Get the vanguard Alta pro and GH 100 pistol head....I have one and its great for the money.
I was going to say the same... It's a rock solid set that is nice and light yet uncompromising.

Others will tell you that you really can't get a tripod without spending at least $700, but I came to the point where I needed a tripod but didn't think I'd use one enough to justify spending that much... So I settled for something less (I paid just over $200 for my Alta Pro and GH 100 head) and haven't even thought once since about getting something better. If that time ever comes, then I'll gladly upgrade, but in the mean time I'm getting my monies worth out of what I've got (and it's done everything I've ever needed, plus more).

09-02-2011, 04:12 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by interested_observer Quote

There is also another approach and that is to supplement a standard ball head with a panning clamp, that sits between the head and the camera. This will allow you rotate the camera body level for panorama shots. There are several of these available.If you go the route of a panning clamp, you need to ensure that you are getting the particular type of quick release style you want. There is the Arca Swiss style (usually the standard), and then there are others like Manaffroto, etc. In fact just check all the mechanical interfaces to make sure that they will stack up as intended.

Ok thanks for your input...you know it really makes sense to have the panning mechanism above the ball rather than where the head attaches to the tripod. I didn't realize that until you pointed it out, although honestly that was the one characteristic that I put the least thought and research into.

That being said I will go with the clamp method that way I can add it later and now I will just focus on the other criteria. So I guess the head will be a ball head and now ready for more suggestions for a decent combo.
09-02-2011, 04:14 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by sagiboy Quote
Get the vanguard Alta pro and GH 100 pistol head....I have one and its great for the money.
QuoteOriginally posted by Ubuntu_user Quote
I was going to say the same... It's a rock solid set that is nice and light yet uncompromising.

Others will tell you that you really can't get a tripod without spending at least $700, but I came to the point where I needed a tripod but didn't think I'd use one enough to justify spending that much... So I settled for something less (I paid just over $200 for my Alta Pro and GH 100 head) and haven't even thought once since about getting something better. If that time ever comes, then I'll gladly upgrade, but in the mean time I'm getting my monies worth out of what I've got (and it's done everything I've ever needed, plus more).
This was one of the first setups I seriously began to consider. What is your impressions on using a pistol head and how well does this setup work for mobility? Also how would you use this for panoramics given what was discussed previously with regard to panoramic motion above the ballhead for leveling purposes?

Last edited by gda13; 09-02-2011 at 04:17 PM. Reason: Add question
09-02-2011, 04:18 PM   #7
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If you read a bit about the pistol grip, it does have a panning ability. It says 72 clicks, so I don't know if it is able to do a full 360 or 180 or ??. One of the users will need to provide a bit more information on that aspect, if they could. It does appear to provide a lot of capability for a pretty reasonable price.

09-02-2011, 05:20 PM   #8
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Yes, right up under the quick release plate holder the whole top spins completely around. So, yes you can do 360s, or 720s, or whatever for that matter. What it means by 72 clicks is that it has small clicks all the way around; it's not fluid, which is actually nice.

Does that make sense?

09-02-2011, 05:36 PM   #9
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Yes it does....found this video clip.


So now...what about the mobility factor, any experience in this department.
09-04-2011, 08:26 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by gda13 Quote
*I will say no more than $300 for both, but if less all the better
*Durability I would like to not have to get another one for a few years at least
*Sturdy so that I can use with my Tamron 70-200mm 2.8
*Availability of accessories such as extra quick release plates etc is good
*Not interested in pan and tilt type head
*Aluminum, alloy or carbon I am not that picky about that unless there is good reason to be
*Would like it to be travel friendly to some degree at least for those times I want to take it for wildlife or landscape photography while hiking
*Reversible or tilting center column so as to get low to ground
*Head that facilitates panoramic shooting
I reviewed the Sirui N-2204 that comes close to what you want... except for price. 400-500$. It comes with two columns, one regular and one short for low to the ground shooting. Has a removable leg for using as a monopod. And the included ballhead is excellent. The legs can be reversed for transport and fit in a small (included) bag. Very light and transportable. If this is important, only CF will do IMHO.
09-04-2011, 11:21 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by ManuH Quote
I reviewed the Sirui N-2204 that comes close to what you want... except for price. 400-500$. It comes with two columns, one regular and one short for low to the ground shooting. Has a removable leg for using as a monopod. And the included ballhead is excellent. The legs can be reversed for transport and fit in a small (included) bag. Very light and transportable. If this is important, only CF will do IMHO.

Nice review and setup. Yikes...did a search and this setup would cost about $440, I would have to think about it a bit and decide if any advantages are worth another $140 or so for someone like me. In the mean time anyone have any thoughts/opinions on the following tripods.

MT8340 Giottos MT-8340, 4 Section Carbon Series, Universal Tripod Legs, Supports up to 3 Kg, Maximum Height 55.1", Black

Manfrotto 190CX3 Carbon Fiber Tripod Legs (Black) 190CX3 B&H

Horusbennu C-3540V Carbon Fiber DSLR Tripod (65") NEW | eBay

Horusbennu FX-7439TT Carbon Fiber Camera Tripod Monopod | eBay
09-04-2011, 02:16 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by gda13 Quote
Yes it does....found this video clip.

VANGUARD GH-100 Pistol Grip Ball Head.f4v - YouTube

So now...what about the mobility factor, any experience in this department.
I've recently purchased a GH-100 Pistol Grip and haven't really taken it out for a test drive yet. Here are my observations from playing around in my family room.

1) If you mount the camera body to the grip with a short lens, the grip will hit you in the chest if you have it orientated like in the video where they show it mounted to a long lens collar mount.

2) Which side you move the grip handle to when mounting directly to your camera will depend on if you think you will want your camera to be able to tilt up or down with the most range of adjustment. The head clamp has 2 long slots at 90 degrees to each other for tilting the camera up or down, depending on orientation.

3) When the camera is in portrait orientation, your up and down tilt adjustment is strictly by the 360 pano adjustment collar.

4) The gripping pad on the circular camera mount plate is not very grippy. It works much better with heavier lenses if you add a little of the rubberized shelf liner between the mounting plate and the camera. This is especially true when the camera is in the portrait orientation.

5) This thing is built like a tank (1.65 pounds) and the tightening feature for the pistol grip works as advertised.

I think this grip will work very nicely for me. Like any new piece of equipment, it will take a little while before the adjustment features become second nature.

Tim

Last edited by atupdate; 09-04-2011 at 02:38 PM.
09-04-2011, 07:04 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by gda13 Quote
Nice review and setup. Yikes...did a search and this setup would cost about $440, I would have to think about it a bit and decide if any advantages are worth another $140 or so for someone like me. In the mean time anyone have any thoughts/opinions on the following tripods.

MT8340 Giottos MT-8340, 4 Section Carbon Series, Universal Tripod Legs, Supports up to 3 Kg, Maximum Height 55.1", Black

Manfrotto 190CX3 Carbon Fiber Tripod Legs (Black) 190CX3 B&H

Horusbennu C-3540V Carbon Fiber DSLR Tripod (65") NEW | eBay

Horusbennu FX-7439TT Carbon Fiber Camera Tripod Monopod | eBay
Yes the Sirui is not cheap but quality rarely comes that cheap. I don't necessarily want to sell you on the Sirui, I'm not sure it's as available in the US than in Canada anyway. Feisol is another good quality brand to look for as an alternative for the Gitzos (the king).

But maybe I can help you on what to look for for a tripod. The specifications that I think are more or less important:

1) the tripod max support weight. For me the Giottos and Manfrotto don't look good at all at max 3 and max 5 kg respectively. That's very low and that tells me poor build and stability. The Horus Bennu look much better in that regard.

2) the max height *without* column extended. For me the Sirui at 55"/139cm is the absolute minimum that is comfortable. Never take in account the weight with column extended. Extending the column compromise the stability too much. Actually, a tripod without center column is even better (like the Feisol). Depending on your height (I'm 5'10) you don't want a tripod that you have to bend to use. I would exclude right away again the Giottos and Manfrotto and HB 7439. At around 46" they're much too small to be comfortable, requiring you to use the center column. Again the Horus Bennu 3540 seems better.

3) the legs max and min diameter. The more the better, the less the worse for stability. The 3540 is even better than the Sirui in this regard.

4) the number of sections. The less the better for stability, the more the better for folding height. Don't go above 4 if possible. 4 for traveling, 3 for max stability.

At 284$ the Horus Bennu seems the best choice among your list. But you don't have the head. Count at least 120$ for a good one and you're close to the Sirui's price.

For the ball head, honestly avoid the joysticks and the like. While they look fast to use, you can do all that with a good ball head that will be smaller, lighter and support more load and even easier to use actually. I'm inviting you to read about the Markins M10 and why the Nikonians switched to that ball head. Sirui and Photo Clams among other do make cheaper good copies of it. I used to have the Manfrotto 322RC2, a good joystick but you tell right away by the load capacity (5kg) that it's not as good. And I bet most joysticks are like that: poor weight/load ratio. The Vanguard Gh-100 is 750gr and supports up to 6Kg (ratio 8:1). The Sirui K20x is 400gr and supports 25Kg (ratio 62:1). And it's not just the weight most joysticks take a lot of space, I always hated my 322RC2 for that.

And about the price, there is this classic from Thom Hogan to read if you haven't yet.
09-04-2011, 07:16 PM   #14
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I have been very happy with my Giottos. Comes in a kit with ballhead mount, quick release plate, shoulder strap and carrying case. Very sturdy and won't break the bank!

Giottos MT9251 with MH1000 Ball Head/MH652 MT9251+MH1000-652 B&H
09-04-2011, 07:20 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by interested_observer Quote
I really didn't answer your original question, but the panning information will give you sufficient detail to make almost any combination work.
That's good information, thank you for that. But all these heads are unfortunately quite expensive.

For a really cheap solution that works OK for doing panorama, I'd recommend the Panosaurus. And a good software to do the stitching like Autopano or PtGui. There's also this intriguing kit on eBay but it's still more expensive than the Panosaurus.

Otherwise for simple panos a regular head with the panning base can be enough. Actually I'm doing some panos without the use of a tripod. Where it starts to be difficult is for multirow panos. And for that you really need a device like the Panosaurus or something similar.
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