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10-04-2014, 04:28 PM   #1
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(Yet Another) tripod thread

Hi everyone!

I've acquired a K3, and unfortunately my el cheapo tripod doesn't quite cut it any more.

I'm looking for a fairly sturdy tripod (I'll mostly be using this for long exposures) and a ball head - ideally all for around $150.
Portability is definitely a plus - ideally the combination would be under two kilos and not ridiculously big.

I've found a few possible candidates - namely the Manfrotto 294/3, and the Benro Travel Angel.

Does anyone have any recommendation for either of these tripods? (or any other one for that matter).


10-04-2014, 05:20 PM   #2
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150 dollars may get you a decent tripod but not a ballhead AND tripod that is any good...
For 180 dollars you can this manfrotto that is pretty good: : Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 055 Aluminium 3-Section Tripod with Horizontal Column (Black) : Camera & Photo
A good ballhead will set you back the same: : Manfrotto 322RC2 Joystick Head Short : Tripod Heads : Camera & Photo

If you can afford it and dont mind the weight, these two will serve you well.

My personal experience is that a great tripod and a great ball head means you will really use them.
10-04-2014, 05:23 PM   #3
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Lens makes a difference as well, lots of choices if you are using the kit lens or primes. Fewer if you are using DA*60-230 or DA*300.

My opinion is double your budget and get something you can use for a long time, unless this is strictly a travel tripod. That said I just got a MeFoto Roadtrip to take on trips that I have to fly. I found it remarkably well made and adequate for k-3 + DA*16-50 as long as you do not extend all the way. I'm quite happy with it for the purpose intended. But I would not think of using it as my regular tripod, which is currently a Manfrotto 055cxpro3 with Acratech ball head.
10-04-2014, 07:35 PM   #4
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Save up a little longer and get a carbon fiber. I got mine two years ago on black friday and saved a couple hundred bucks, ended up costing the same as an aluminum tripod would've normally.

No tripod works very well if you leave it home. My carbon fiber 'pod is light enough it's always strapped to my lens bag.

10-04-2014, 08:03 PM   #5
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Out on the front page of the forum, there are a couple tripod reviews that can possibly be of help.I really don't have an opinion on either. The Sirui is a very well known and respected brand. There are a lot of very good tripods around. I tend to focus more on the head and less on the legs - but that is just me.

Here is a bit of personal experience - in story form....
  • About 8 years ago when I started in digital with my K100D (that I still have), I found a cheap tripod on ebay. I won the auction for 11 cents plus $7 shipping. It was a combination of aluminum and plastic construction. The K100 is very light along with the kit lens. It was not the best, but it was tremendous for learning what I liked and hated. It was suitable for the equipment I had and what I was using it for. I like flip locks on the legs - hate twist locks. I hate the 3D video head. It folded up very small and fit into my airline carry-on luggage. After a couple of years it fell apart.
  • About this time, I upgraded to a K20 and needed a new tripod. It had to fit into my carry-on luggage. I decided on the Benro Travel Angel. The ball head that came with it was useless (Benro has since gotten serious about their ball heads). I went shopping for ball heads on the internet. After several weeks of research, I decided on the Acratech GP. Now this little gem runs $400 - just for the ball head. Its lightweight, with an open architecture that does not collect dirt or grit - great for backpacking. I also do a lot of panoramas - and this specific model has the option of mounting inverted so that the turntable is ABOVE the ball head. Why is this important? Well, when you rotate during your pano from frame to frame, if the turntable is under the ball head you will not capture a level panorama unless your tripod is perfectly leveled via the legs (sometimes difficult to do)d (and to correct for it you will need to crop - thus making your pano that much more skinny). I choose to level the tripod via the ball head - and with the turntable above the ball, this is a quick 5 second operation. Now, is there a cheaper option to do this? Yes - now you can purchase a standalone turntable and put it between the ball head and camera plate. It took me several weeks of additional thinking about the Acratech GP - did I really want to spend the money? Finally, I just bought it - and have never regretted it. It is my single most used item. Upon its arrival - my wife told me that this had better be a jewel encrusted astronomical instrument. It looks so different - that I actually survived the purchase. Here are a couple of videos that explains the inversion and the level panning better.... Also, they show some various features that may not be apparent.
  • The Benro Travel Angle at the time only came with twist leg locks - which I have come to dislike (I think that you now have an option between twist and flip). But, for traveling and fitting in the luggage - it really works very well. The downside is its light weight. [On a side note here - there are two main tripod styles - 3 leg section and 4 leg sections. The more the leg sections the smaller it folds for traveling, but also the more shake that can be induced into the tripod system. Its a trade off.] So, I decided to supplement it with a heavier tripod, and move the GP ball head between the two. I wanted to keep this tripod in the truck for shooting. I also wanted to keep the cost down and decided that I should be able to find a used good "beater" (I really did not care what it looked like) tripod for around $100 +/-. After about 6 months of looking periodically on Craigslist, I found one locally - a Manfrotto/Bogen 3001BD. A older heavy tripod, large 3 section unit - flip leg locks for my price (and no shipping charges). It also came with a Manfrotto 486RC2 ball head. This is a single lever (no friction control) large heavy ball head. The single lever with out friction control is good for a spotting scope, but not for a camera. Also the RC2 plate system had a safety capture latch that I could only work with 3 hands - one holding the camera, one pulling the safety latch while the third hand was working the capture latch while the safety was pulled out. Not workable for me, so I sold it (the 486RC2 head) and reduced my overall cost (to almost 0 - free is good). The tripod works great - as expected. Its my main tripod, however - its too large to fit into my luggage (and too heavy for traveling), so I really have the best combination for what I do.
  • Lately, I have been doing some astrophotography. I will say the one drawback to a ball head - even the GP ball head, is that for fine positioning you loosen the knob and you have all 3 axis in play. So, to aim the camera at a particular place in the sky and have some fine positioning (one axis at a time) - while hating 3D video heads, I went back to craigslist looking for a geared head - a Manfrotto 410. It took almost a year but I found one about 8 weeks ago for less than a third of its new price. Even though Manfrotto calls the 410 a junior geared head, its massive, large and heavy. It works well, but something that I would not want to travel with. I use the 410 about 10-15% of the time and the GP the other 85% of the time. Again, this combination is working out for me - personal preference.
I see you are located in France. I am guessing that you have a Craigslist over there or something similar. To start out, I have found that lots of folks go out and buy tripods, use them once or twice, and then several years later, after cleaning out their closets - sell them. You might not find exactly what you are looking for (brand and model), but it could be good enough for the right price. The key is, understanding what you want and how you want to use it.

There are three items - the tripod itself, the head (ball head, geared head, 3D video head), along with a quick release mechanism that allows you to mount and dismount the camera relatively quickly. This consists of a clamp on the head and a plate that attaches to the base of the camera. The plate fits into the clamp which then locks it into position. Yup there are a few "standard" clamp/plate systems in use. Manfrotto has one with the most popular being the ArcaSwiss system.

Anyway - that is my quick overview.

10-04-2014, 08:36 PM   #6
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I just purchased used Brian tripod with a blue head, light , small carrying case, extremely flexible and extends well over 2M
X1.1 Brian
Professional Tripod & Accessories Product Reviews
10-04-2014, 10:40 PM   #7
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It is possible to find good deals on new tripods and heads too. I've been using an Induro Tripod and head for nearly five years now. There's a store a couple hours away (MPEX) that carries a lot of tripods and heads. At the time I was having a lot of neck pain and I wanted something tall enough to not have to bend over to look through the viewfinder (live view was pretty worthless on the K20D). They had some Induro equipment on sale and I paid about $137 for the pod and head, both are rated at 17+ pounds and easily handle anything I have. It's not carbon fibre but the thick legs are very sturdy, even the center column is solid. I think mine weighs about 4.5 pounds. Mine has twist locks, I have found out that I prefer them over the lever type, I think the lever type have more of a chance to get "play" in them. With a well made tripod you shouldn't have problems with either, buy what you like. There are a lot of good tripods and heads out there, and even more bad ones. If you're in a store with tripods on display give them a little tap on the side to check vibrations and wobble. I agree with what interested_observer says, there are probably many many tripods sitting in closets after one or two uses, a lot of them are not what you want, but others are treasures. Funny thing is, usually the people with the ones that are junk think they are worth big money or that their stuff never depreciates. I've also seen many in garage sales and thrift stores, but they are usually cheap flimsy ones.

Some things to consider: Check the load rating - there are an awful lot of tripods that are not good for holding much more than a point and shoot camera. You can't make a short tripod taller, but you can collapse sections on a taller tripod and make it shorter. A bag for it will keep it from getting beat up as bad and make it easier to carry. If you have it in snow or water give it a little time to dry out before putting away (most won't rust, just keeps them nicer). You tripod may come with a tool kit, occasionally see if bolts or screws need tightened. Less leg sections equals more strength, but as mentioned above will not collapse as small.

Good luck!

10-05-2014, 12:06 AM   #8
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I've got a Manfrotto 190 series, 3 segments, with their new three-way head, and I like it very much.
I was considering the 294 series too, but then opted for this one and didn't regret it one bit.
I also considered the 055 but it was overkill for me, too heavy.
There are some nifty features, like adjustable friction in the new head or the 90° center column - which is perfect for macro -, that are really nice to have.
10-05-2014, 02:16 AM   #9
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Thanks for all the replies!

I've been prowling around on ebay, and there are a couple Manrotto 190s that seem to be pretty good value for money.
Typically I mostly use my tripod in conjunction with some fast primes, so heavy lenses shouldn't be an issue.
10-05-2014, 08:45 AM   #10
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The MePhoto Road-Trip has served me well while traveling. I used it all over Manhattan with a 645 and a K-3 for three weeks.
A full-size, full-time tripod is going to cost a bit more than the budget you have described.
10-05-2014, 09:23 AM   #11
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I have the Manfrotto compact MKC3-101, pistol grip and think its the cats ass, and with its nifty locking device I keep my K3 on the stand when walking around. I lucked out big-time and got it for 50 bucks!! Its light, compact and versatile, pretty damn durable, and the pistol grip I think is a great option. I'm a outdoors guy and go wherever my eye leads me for the shot and think this stand is just the ticket. A consideration to this tripod is recommended. I use remote shutter option for the long exposure gigs...

---------- Post added 10-05-14 at 12:24 PM ----------

Last edited by swampcat; 10-05-2014 at 09:34 AM.
10-05-2014, 12:31 PM   #12
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+1 MeFoto Roadtrip. I got the carbon fibre version from B&H for $242, but the aluminum version can be had on Amazon for $189 (or $160 if you don't mind a weird colour scheme).

Its got a ball head and is sturdy, especially if you use the right feet and weigh it down with the centre column hook. The aluminum version is 1.6kg, so you're still good. It also has a 2+3 year warranty.
10-06-2014, 05:48 AM   #13
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The one thing I dislike about Manfrotto is that they generally don't use Arca-Swiss plates. Once you understand the immense advantage of a standard system, it's hard to look back. So for me Manfrotto is almost never on my list.

Also they are often more expensive than equivalent products from other brands.

I've owned quite a few tripods over the years, doing what people do : trying to buy cheap, thinking it would be good enough. I had read that people do that, and end up paying for the high quality anyway at some point. And paying more, because of that.

Now I got the Sirui T-025X mentionned above. I'm not saying you should get this particular tripod (as much as I love it) but do yourself a favor. List the things you really want the tripod to do, then look at the options that will actually do that, THEN look at the price.

For me weight and size were paramount. And there is no smaller or lighter tripod than the Sirui. Those were the things I wanted and it drove my decision. I also wanted sturdiness and the ability to do long exposures. A carbon fiber tripod has me covered there. And I still am impressed at how nice and efficient carbon fiber is to dampen vibrations. My 4 pounds, larger aluminum tripod with huge legs is much more flexible, much less stable than my 1,8 pounds travel tripod.

One other thing to consider is the head. Until I got the Sirui, I was using a Vanguard ballhead and I loved it. I still do, but it's much too large to be mounted on tie Sirui. Luckily, the Sirui head is good enough for me (only lacking friction control). But plan to spend a good amount on a good head, you'll never regret it.
10-06-2014, 06:43 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by lithedreamer Quote
+1 MeFoto Roadtrip. I got the carbon fibre version from B&H for $242, but the aluminum version can be had on Amazon for $189 (or $160 if you don't mind a weird colour scheme).
That cheaper, weird color combination is hilarious! Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité...

To the OP, I've reviewed a few tripods, and the MeFoto (and nearly identical Benro) are very good tripods for the price. Manfrottos are excellent if you want flip-locks, but their ball heads should be avoided.
10-06-2014, 07:59 AM   #15
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I made the rookie mistake of trying to go "cheap and light", because I hate lugging around heavy gear (bad back), and I ended up with several tripods that just don't do the job.

One tripod that has quite a fan base, but which didn't work at all for me, is the Sirui T-025x. I found it finicky to set up (because you extend it by unscrewing knows rather than flipping levers) and the plate frequently loosened when I had my K-3 on it. My hands are a bit stiff at the best of times, so the lever vs screw issue might not be a problem for some (but it won't be great for anyone photographing in cold weather). I also found it hard to position it for portrait shots and not very stable in that position. Finally, it felt a bit too light to use in windy weather.

I ended up getting a Manfrotto 055CX3 with 327RC2 joystick ball head and am really happy with that combo. (And Mr frogoutofwater carries it for me when we go out to photograph together ...)

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