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04-16-2013, 10:47 AM   #16
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QuoteOriginally posted by BobInGA Quote
My local B&M shop just had a "garage sale" and I lucked into a new Vanguard Alta Pro 283CT set of carbon fiber legs. These have the multi-angle center column. I paired this with a Sunwayfoto FB-36 ball head and L bracket. I only just got this but I have to say I'm very happy so far. I'd recommend looking into Sunwayfoto. Their products received very high reviews and their pricing is reasonable. I purchased from an Amazon reseller OEC Camera who quickly answered all of my questions.
Oeccamera also has an ebay shop where you can sometimes make lower offers on their stuff.
I've gotten a couple of really good deals that way.
http://bit.ly/YQjLM5

04-16-2013, 11:07 AM   #17
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QuoteOriginally posted by crewl1 Quote
Oeccamera also has an ebay shop where you can sometimes make lower offers on their stuff.
I've gotten a couple of really good deals that way.
http://bit.ly/YQjLM5
Yes, oeccamera is a very good seller, particularly of hard-to-find Marumi filters and such! However, it seems to me that the Sunwayfoto ballheads are overpriced wherever you buy them from, so it's good there's a "make an offer." In particular, compare that linked $189 "smaller ballhead" (a 36mm ball) to the previously mentioned Feisol with a 50mm ball for $169! That ball size makes a very big difference in stability and the ability to smoothly adjust under load. AFAIK, the Feisols have been around longer and have been reviewed positively many more times than Sunwayfoto.

One Sunwayfoto ballhead that has always perplexed me is this one at $400, which is a clear attempt to knockoff the RRS BH-55 at $415. Aren't knockoffs (particularly ugly ones) supposed to be significantly cheaper?
04-16-2013, 02:40 PM   #18
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QuoteOriginally posted by fliegenfischer Quote
I am looking to update my tank like (thus heavy) circa 1980's Bogen tripods and heads with modern carbon fiber legs and magnesium or similar ballheads.

Any feedback on field use of either Induro or Sirui carbon legs (mid to high end), and Induro or Sirui ballheads (mid to high end) would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance for any real world usage comments.

fliegenfischer
I think, it wouild be wise to add a few lines on how you want to use the tripod and what load it should carry safely and reliably. You may find better or worse products from almost any manufacturer and saying, that a certain brand is "good" and "better" than another one is taking a lot of chances. I have read a remarkable account of a German nature photographer who's very expensive Gitzo CF tripod proofed virtually unuseable in the Arctic and he had to switch to an even more expensive Sachtler for his big lenses. Also things like transportability are important.

I never used the brands you suggested, but have an accumulation of different tripods for different purposes:
  • lightweight travel: Velbon Sherpa Pro 540 CF with a Novoflex Ball 30 - very lightweight, but stable enough to carry a K20+grip + Sigma 70-200/2.8 or even the Pentax-A 400/5.6
  • studio work: UniLoc Major 2300 with an older Linhof ball head, serves me very well for table top and other work, because the tripod can be adjusted to basically any conceivable angle and camera position.
  • general photography: old Gitzo Studex with an Manfrotto hydrostatic ProBall ball head and a Feisol 3471 with an Arca Swiss ball head - both weight about the same, despite the Feisol is CF. Both also perform on the same level with long lenses and a heavy set-up
  • birding: an old Manfrotto 055 with a Manfrotto gimbal head which balances nicely with all my longer lenses and makes fluent movements with the camera easy enough.

What I have learned over roughly 30 years of photography is, that a good tripod is well worth any cent you may pay more, than for a mediocre modell. It will last longer, will offer reliable performance, is easier to use (no blocked locking collars for instance) and you can get spare parts or a manufacturer repair over long periods.
That is even more important in my experience with ball heads. I bought a couple of Chinese ball heads (from Benro and Fancier - an OEM manufacturer, which sells products to many brands) and disassembled them completely, as I did with the Arca Swiss. After I have seen, what is inside a Chinese ball head and how their "locking mechanism" works, I have binned them. Never will I trust my camera equipment to these contraptions. It is far better to buy a top-notch ball head as secondhand gear. It would perform better than the knock-offs and won't cost much more.

Ben
04-17-2013, 04:58 AM   #19
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ben_Edict Quote
That is even more important in my experience with ball heads. I bought a couple of Chinese ball heads (from Benro and Fancier - an OEM manufacturer, which sells products to many brands) and disassembled them completely, as I did with the Arca Swiss. After I have seen, what is inside a Chinese ball head and how their "locking mechanism" works, I have binned them. Never will I trust my camera equipment to these contraptions. It is far better to buy a top-notch ball head as secondhand gear. It would perform better than the knock-offs and won't cost much more.
The ball head is at the heart of your support system. You can always work with a stiff leg or add some weigth to the legs/hook but if a head doesn't stay in place, your pictures will not work out. That's especially true for macro but applicable to any situation.

04-17-2013, 01:26 PM   #20
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I'm going to throw in my 5 cents worth of info...

Vanguard.

Their AltaPro series is a fantastic value, slightly overweight, but filled with features and a lifetime warranty. You can buy the 263 as a kit to save some money. The ball it comes with is very, VERY solid.

Full Disclaimer: I just bought the kit for $170, regular $230 at my local store. I was going to sell the ball and upgrade to a higher Vanguard series... but man is it a nice head.
04-18-2013, 03:27 AM   #21
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I sold my manfrotto 190xprob and 486 ballhead that was my 1st choice and never regretted doing so.
The tripod was heavy, and frustratingly short, I had to rise the column too many times for my taste.
As far as it goes for manfrotto ballheads, I'm not willing to try if they have got better recently, but for my experience they're basically junk, they all suffer from creeping and the design of the plates works but leaves enough to be desired.

I wanted something lighter, higher, sturdier and that packed smaller.
Does such thing exist?

My current setup is made of Triopo gt3230x8c and markins q3 emille.
The tripod itself is incredibly light, it's ridgid and has bigger legs sections than my previous manfrotto, and it's so high I never get to extend it all, column and last section get rarely used if ever.
looking back I think the smaller brother gx3228x8c would do just as good.
Concerning ballheads, I wouldn't bet a cent on chinese rip-offs, considered it holds hundreds and even thousand dollars worth of gear you want a serious and reliable one.
In my opinion Markins are probably the best ballheads on the planet if you consider they're not overpriced or over engineered like other professional heads, they are stable, elegant, simple, smooth and work like a charm.

The whole setup weights less than 2 kg and packs shorter than 50cm, which makes it easy to attach to my slingshot and walk around without getting overloaded.
If I feel like I want even less weight I'll turn the thing in monopod mode, it only takes a few minutes.
Getting a tripod and leaving it home just because it's too bulky and heavy is a complete nonsense, don't even bother spending the money.

Last edited by Neo_; 04-18-2013 at 03:38 AM.
04-18-2013, 03:55 AM   #22
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I'm far from being an expert at tripod heads. All I want to say is I don't believe in generalizations. Frankly things can be designed and manufactured well in any country. Conversely things can also be designed and manufactured poorly in any country. The old axiom "you get what you pay for" generally holds true.

04-18-2013, 05:16 AM   #23
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QuoteOriginally posted by BobInGA Quote
I'm far from being an expert at tripod heads. All I want to say is I don't believe in generalizations. Frankly things can be designed and manufactured well in any country. Conversely things can also be designed and manufactured poorly in any country. The old axiom "you get what you pay for" generally holds true.
With ballheads I believe it's true, except for great sales prices of course.

When people complain about "poor chinese designs" they're not blaming the chinese per se, but most of the cheaply manufactured copycats do come from there.
04-18-2013, 12:00 PM   #24
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QuoteOriginally posted by bdery Quote
With ballheads I believe it's true, except for great sales prices of course.

When people complain about "poor chinese designs" they're not blaming the chinese per se, but most of the cheaply manufactured copycats do come from there.
That is exactly, what I wanted to point out. If you buy a quality Chinese product you pay accordingly. But even the quite famous Benro ball heads are a far cry from their obvious alter ego, the older Arca Swiss heads. I have heard good things about the Markins heads (South Korea), but since my Benro and Fancier experiences, I haven't had a go at a Chinese head. The Feisol legs are a different beast altogether, but they are also not really cheap.


Ben
04-18-2013, 02:12 PM   #25
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I am quite happy with my setup as mentioned. Tripod cost me about $180 and the ballhead about $200. I think they will stand up well. I also thought the same of the Cullman Ballhead (40200) that I purchased 4 years ago. THis year the fricton knob fell off - while not a real show stopper as far as a ball head goes I was quite disappointed.

My new Sirui tripod (T2004X) is aluminum , lighter than my previous Manfrotto 0x55b pro , holds more weight and has a short center column. Only couple of complaints I put in my other thread. The new Manfrotto ballhead (MH057M0-RC4 057) seem rock solid so far, but very limited field testing so far.

Weight is not really an issue for me. I don't trek into the mountains for 7 days at a time. I can usually carry all my gear (cameras, lenses , tripod) for a day without issue.

I hope this $400 ish setup works for many years, If not I'll eat my words and jump up to the next level.
04-18-2013, 11:31 PM   #26
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QuoteOriginally posted by Ben_Edict Quote
That is exactly, what I wanted to point out. If you buy a quality Chinese product you pay accordingly. But even the quite famous Benro ball heads are a far cry from their obvious alter ego, the older Arca Swiss heads. I have heard good things about the Markins heads (South Korea), but since my Benro and Fancier experiences, I haven't had a go at a Chinese head. The Feisol legs are a different beast altogether, but they are also not really cheap.


Ben
Markins are professional world class heads, nothing to do with the chinese, the q10 could be the last ballhead you buy
04-19-2013, 01:31 AM   #27
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I got this ball head Smith-Victor BH5 Metal Alloy Ball Head 700346 B&H Photo Video for my Induro CF tripod. It holds the K-20D with the Vivitar Series 1 70-210 without problem, its movements is smooth too. The ball diameter is 50mm so it is kind of heavy.
04-22-2013, 11:40 AM   #28
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Thanks and outcome

Thanks for all the input, folks. It is appreciated.

I guess all things are relative. Since in my forty plus years as a professional photographer I have spent the majority of my time shooting medium and large format (645, 6X6, 67, 6X17, and 4X5) in studio and on location, I am accustomed to truly large and heavy tripods and heads.

These would be Bogen heads like the 3038 ball head at 4.5 lbs. dry weight, or the even more massive Cambo Ball Head CBH-4, at 5 lbs., or the Bogen 3063 leveling fluid head at just under 5 lbs. These heads would typically be combined, depending on the assignment or project, with tripod leg sets like the Bogen 3221 at 6 lbs. (the lightweight), or Bogen 3236 legs at nearly 10 lbs, or the even heavier Bogen 3050 quick extension tripod legs (my studio tripod), this one usually combined with the Bogen three way pan/tilt 3047 head, for a combined weight of over 16 lbs.

Makes me think of the indelible Crocodile Dundee line about knives - "That's not a knife. THAT's a knife!" - as he pulls out a massive Bowie knife that looks the length of a machete.

My typical field hiking setup was a set of Bogen 3221 legs combined with the Bogen 3038 ball head for a total of 10.5 lbs. (before mounting medium format Pentax 645 or 67 camera and lens) to tote around the mountains. Sometimes for fluid panning on action, or video work, I'd mount the Bogen 3063 fluid head for a total of 11 lbs. For roadside shooting out of my 4WD pickup camper, I would use the head/leg combo of the massive Cambo CBH-4 ball head on my Bogen 3236 tripod legs (8 foot maximum height), totalling a svelte 14 lbs. 11 oz.. On occasion I would also use a formidable ZONE VI wooden tripod at 9 lbs. 3 oz, usually combined with either the 3063 fluid head or the Cambo CBH-4, for use with my Calumet 4X5 bellows camera body.

All really back breaking stuff.

So now that I'm no longer shooting with all the big gear, having gone all Pentax APS-C digital, I am, logically, downsizing my tripods and heads, thus my initial posting as I gathered data and intelligence on current tripod legs and heads.

Well, after determining exactly what my needs are - lightweight but seriously stable carbon fiber tripod that will easily reach my full stretch eye height without extending center column (I'm 6' 3" in hiking boots); Arca-Swiss style quick release plate compatibility (all my camera bodies and lenses with tripod mounts are equipped with semi-permanent Arca-Swiss style quick release plates); reasonably light, silky smooth, close tolerance CNC machined, non-creeping, maximally rigid, panning (increment marked), friction adjustable precision ball head - all at reasonable cost (Not asking too much, am I?), my search began in earnest, both online and physically in store.

So, after all the research (including hours of reading online reviews of actual users) and forum members input (thank you all) what have I settled on?

My local "go to" pro camera retail and repair store (Bozeman Camera & Repair - THE Yellowstone National Park shooters pro store (Bozeman Camera & Repair) is a dealer for Giottos, Sirui, Induro, Benro, Velbon and Slik tripods and heads, as well as carrying a vast amount of quality used camera gear, including Gitzo, Bogen, and Manfrotto tripods and tripod heads, so I was able to do quite a bit of hands on comparisons.

What I finally settled on was a used (in like new condition) Gitzo 3-section tripod, the G1326, with already installed cushioned OP/TECH leg sleeves (also like new); paired with a Sirui K-40X 54mm ballhead with Arca-Swiss compatible quick release. Total field weight: 7.25 lbs. Which is 3.25 lbs. less than my old field location unit. It goes up higher (no more stooping), is lighter, more rigid and dampens vibrations better than the old tripod (carbon fiber versus aluminum), and the ballhead is smaller, lighter, better machined, with better features (friction range adjustable), and at least as strong (70 lb. load rating), with a longer warranty (6 years). What's not to like?

Finally, a comment on Chinese and Korean made items. Ten years experience as a fly fishing tackle sales representative representing a variety of American and overseas based rod, reel and line companies, most with manufacturing based in China and South Korea, has taught me that quality, precision and value is where you find it. Currently some of the highest and lowest priced, but highest quality, best machined fly fishing rods and reels are being made in both China and South Korea. These are rods and reels priced from over a thousand dollars to under one hundred dollars, all having the highest or equal quality in their price classes compared to US or European made items. I have learned from this. Quality is where you find it, and higher cost does not always equal best performance, or best value (bang for the buck).

Interestingly, in regards to quality and features, in my opinion two of the best made, highest quality ballheads being manufactured today are out of South Korea (Markins), and it's clear facsimile clone, arguably of equal quality and features, but half the price, out of Guangdong province (the national manufacturing center, where most of the lower priced high quality fly fishing rods and reels are made) in China (Sirui).






.
04-25-2013, 01:10 PM   #29
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Update

While the Gitzo G1326 (1325 with fast column) tripod I bought used (like new) fulfilled my primary needs, at a reasonable cost (for a Gitzo) it did have one notable flaw - the inability to get the camera really close to the ground. At its lowest, the column jutted up 18" above the ground (to the base of the ball head). With the Sirui K-40X ball head mounted, the camera mount plate was at 22.5" above ground zero, which put my K-5 viewfinder center (with battery grip mounted) at 27" above ground level. Nearly mid-thigh level on me. Really too high for true low level (usually macro) shooting.

While I was researching various ball heads, I had noticed on the Markins site an interesting solution, utilizing the existing Gitzo tripod head mount plate (after removing the center column from its fitting), and the Markins tripod base TB-30 adapter. This turned out to be an elegant, simple and easy retrofit. The Markins TB-30 adapter was precision machined and beautifully finished. Impressive. It fit the Gitzo column threading as if made by Gitzo, screwing down over the column shaft with silky smoothness and tightening easily and firmly. With the Sirui ball head mounted on top, it looks like it is one solid unit, as if originally part of the Sirui head. Further, the Markins TB-30 tripod head base adapter retains the original Gitzo column bottom hook, which screws into it just like into the original column, so that a steadying weight (like a camera bag) can be hung beneath the head between the legs to further stabilize the tripod with the legs fully extended.

How much lower did it get me? A full foot (12 inches) lower. Now my K-5 viewfinder is at 15" above ground level. This turns out to be a comfortable height when lying prone on the ground, propped on my elbows, and a very useful height for shooting flowers and small critters, and such like. Now the only problem, once getting down there, is getting back up. No small thing anymore, at age 66.

A final plus of this setup, is that at full leg extension on the Gitzo, my viewfinder is still high enough to be at full stretch eye level, even with hiking boots on. So now I have the best of both worlds - comfortable ground level shooting, and full height no stoop shooting with just the legs extended for maximum stability. And all of it way lighter than my old all Bogen setup. The full assembly (Gitzo 1326 legs/Markins TB-30 tripod base/Sirui K-40X ball head) now weighs just 6 lbs.12 oz., fully 3 lbs.10 oz. lighter than my old medium format field tripod unit.

Interestingly, the Gitzo/Markins/Sirui unit would more than likely handle virtually any medium format camera/lens assembly I might want to put on it, even though I no longer shoot medium format. Certainly, I can't imagine any Pentax APS-C DSLR camera/lens combination I might be inclined to mount it couldn't handle.

I'm a happy camper.
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04-25-2013, 08:34 PM   #30
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I'm kind of in a similar boat here too, and I like the information provided already.

I have had a Induro AKB1 Adventure kit for the past year, and have loved it, a lot. I dropped it the other day for the hundreth time, and this time it landed right on a leg clasp...which broke. So I lost one length of the tripod, and that is the only reason I'm looking for a new tripod. This time, I'm going to invest in carbon I think. I'm doing a crap load of biking, so having something really light sounds great. I'm of the theory that I should spend the money now instead of upgrade again later.

Induro CT214
Sirui N2205

They are both around the same price, $400 Canadian. The sirui is a bit lighter, has the built in monopod (really cool), folds smaller, has a few inches more max height... but man does it feel flimsy compared to the Induro.

The Induro has a nicer feeling column lock, nicer leg locks, and feels of higher quality and would last longer.

For heads...

Vanguard BBH-200 is on the top of my list, it pricey sonva thingy but man is it cool and very stable. I love how easy it is to adjust and how its got a lock for the panorama section.

Sirui K10x is also on the list... its less than half the price of the Vanguard, but supports the same amount of weight. it still has a panorama section, but its a torque screw, not a switch lock like on the Vanguard, but not bad. The biggest difference here is build quality, the Vanguard feels better...even though feeling like its mostly plastic. I'll have to handle them a bit more to make a decision.
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