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11-18-2014, 02:28 PM   #1
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Tripod + panorama & macro focusing rack

As somebody who is not so much into tripods, I'd ask for advices and reco's...


There's not any all-purpose lens, but is there a kind of all- or multiple-purpose tripod? I mean to have a single tripod to cover various different situations? Or let's say a system: tripod + panorama adapter, + macro focusing rack, + ...?


How should a good tripod look like (except being lightweight...)? Which features or elements are needed and when?


(and yeah, price–performance ratio is important for me (not necessarily the cheapest price, but let's say... reasonable))

11-18-2014, 02:41 PM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by zzeitg Quote
Or let's say a system: tripod + panorama adapter, + macro focusing rack, + ...?
All decent quality tripods are sold as legs only. Your choice of head influences what other accessories might be used. Focus rails and pano plates fall into that category. For those two in particular, a geared head works well...$$$.*


Steve

* Yes, $$$. Things get expensive very quickly in tripod land.
11-18-2014, 03:01 PM - 1 Like   #3
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OK, can-of-worms opening...

What tripod suits is largely a matter of personal taste and trade-offs.
there really isn't a "universal setup" that I'm aware of.

Lightweight (for carrying) vs heavy (for stability)
How high do you need it to go?
and then we get into the head to go with it.

I've set up for my most common use (landscapes) and make-do otherwise.
11-18-2014, 03:13 PM   #4
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Don't buy an all-in-one tripod, get a good set of legs and then you can swap out the head for different applications if you need to.

I use Manfrotto 055 CX-3 legs but there are many brands with good quality, just do not go cheap on the legs. Carbon fiber is lighter, but far more expensive, you need to decide whether cutting that last pound or so out is worth the extra money.

If you really want a head that does it all look at the Acratech GP. Not cheap and it does not do everything as well as multiple heads would but it can do most everything. The gimbal function is very useful, though not nearly as good as a dedicated gimbal head. It can be used as a leveling base for panos by flipping it upside down, but it is not as convenient as a dedicated pano head.

11-18-2014, 03:33 PM   #5
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what about this one?
11-18-2014, 03:45 PM   #6
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Not sure if all Acratech GP heads come with their quick release clamps or not. Mine has one and I can add a RRS macro focus rails to it. When I first looked at macro rails I was not impressed with cheap ones, some looked like it would be easy to bend them, others had flakey looking mechanisms to adjust the distance. The RRS rails are heavy but will hold up to anything, they are that well engineered. One thing I've figured out in photography, it is more expensive to buy cheap and have to replace it than it is to buy high quality the first time.

There's so much about tripod legs that is personal taste and needs. I'm tiny so weight is huge and height no big deal. For me carbon fiber was a must. A big guy or someone who isn't going to be hiking with it could save money by going aluminum. I personally don't like flip-locks, I prefer the twist kind because I kept pinching my thumb in it. Others feel the exact opposite. Both get the job done.
11-18-2014, 03:57 PM   #7
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I'd second Manfrotto.
If you feel like going a little lighter than the 055 series, I'd suggest the 190 series.
I bring it with me when I go trekking, so definitely portable (and I have the aluminium, three-segment model, if you go carbon and 4 segment you get lighter and more compact, also pricier...).

I like their new three way head very much, but as has been said before, choosing a head depends on what you intend to do with it.
I prefer three-way, but some could argue that ball heads are more fast to move, even though you risk shifting horizontal alignment when tilting the camera up and down... it's really all about tradeoffs...

11-18-2014, 04:45 PM   #8
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Only advice I can give you, don't waste your money on a cheap tripod! Get a quality one (some Manfrotto, read some reviews, just make sure it's GOOD). If you go for a very quick cheap one you'll end up getting a more expensive tripod anyway after a while.
11-18-2014, 06:47 PM - 7 Likes   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by LensBeginner Quote
I'd second Manfrotto.
Be aware that the Manfrotto name, just like the Gitzo name, does not mean that everything they make is appropriate for your purpose. I looked at Manfrotto and Induro and bought Giottos.* All three lines had great product, but Giottos had more of what I wanted. There are many other brands and the same applies. Here are a few bullet points:
  • Lightness, stability, moderate price...choose two and only two
  • Capacity, both for tripods and heads is usually overstated by at least 50%
  • If it feels flimsy, it is flimsy. There is nothing magical that will turn flimsy into anything else.
  • Multi-angle legs are a good thing
  • 4-segment legs tend to be more compact than the 3-segment type
  • Be aware of height at full extension with center column full down. Extending the center column decreases stability.
  • Be aware of height at minimum extension with legs fully splayed. Is there a short center column included to allow this? What is the weight capacity in this position?
  • How easy is it to level the base and/or camera platform? This is important for pano and stitched work.
  • Provision to hang extra weight is handy at times
  • Warranty
  • Foam sheathing on legs for insulation/padding is a good thing
  • Alloy vs. Carbon fiber. It is not simply a matter of better vs. best. There are advantages and disadvantages both ways. Cheap carbon may perform worse than quality alloy. Do your market research and actually compare in person before spending the extra money.
  • Vibration resistance is a component of stability
How about heads? There are basically four types: pan/tilt, ball, geared, and gimbal. Ball heads are the most commonly-used type for general still photography. Pan/Tilt may also be used. I have both and prefer the ball heads. A geared head allows ultra-fine control over camera position but are rather expensive. Gimbal heads are used with large lens where subject tracking is important (think birds in flight). The points below pertain to ball heads:
  • Cheap or good, choose one (not quite that bad, but close). A good head may cost as much or more than good legs**. Mine did.
  • Size the head to your kit. If it looks too small, chances are it is too small.
  • Consider the quick release (QR) type. Many are proprietary within brand. You will need one per camera. I prefer the Arca-Swiss type plates because they may be used with a wide range of heads and come in multiple sizes.
  • Smoothness is a virtue
  • QR size relative to camera/lens size should be appropriate. Tiny does not cut it when the angle is strange.
  • A larger ball is better than a smaller ball
  • Rotating base is a good thing
  • Separate controls for base lock, tension, and ball lock are all good things
  • Ability to accept alternative QR or other camera mount is desirable
  • Smooth is good (yes, I said that before)
  • Positive ball and base lock without sag or creep is your goal. Creep is unacceptable. Sag-free is harder to attain. Remember that there is a good chance that the head body will not always be in a vertical position.
  • Check how it works with the camera platform full over for vertical shooting. Do this regardless of whether you are anticipating using an L-bracket. Is the side groove deep enough? Are there side grooves on both sides? Is there interference between the plate or camera body and head controls in this position?
  • Can the controls be worked when your fingers are gloved?
You may have figured it out by this point that there is a real advantage in actually seeing the products and comparing them in person. I cannot emphasis this enough. This is the voice of experience speaking. I won't tell you the story of the head with the thumbnail-sized QR plate... That said, your local "real" camera store is your best friend***. Take your camera with intended lenses with you and try the stuff out. You will likely discover a few things about your gear and about your photography.

Look at the good (expensive) stuff and use it as a gauge against which to judge the models that are actually in your price range.
  • Does it feel heavy when fully folded? Is it compact enough for your needs?
  • Extend the legs fully and close them again. Is the feel one of quality?
  • Extend the legs fully on the floor and put your hand where the camera will be and exert some force on the head/leg combo in various directions. The setup should not flex, twist, or sag under forces the same as what you expect your gear to present
  • Mount the camera to the tripod. Put your finger on the camera top plate and flick one of the legs with a finger of your other hand. Feel the vibration?
  • With camera mounted, check the height. Is it tall enough? Are you sure?
  • Check how it works at minimum height as well. This is important if you do low angle and/or flowers.
  • Check out ALL of the features.

Finally, if you found a pairing that will do the job, ask the salesman for their best price and whether they will match Internet pricing. By this point, he/she has probably worked for your business and deserves the right to the sale. Remember, that store's very existence depends on customers.

More than you ever wanted to know, eh?


Steve

* Despite European-sounding names, most tripods are made in Taiwan or China

** Small heads acceptable for compact cameras start at about $50 USD. I paid $160 for the one I use with the K-3 and the price tends to go up from there.

*** Best Buy is not a real camera store. Neither is Costco.

(Giottos MT 9360 w/ Giottos MH 1301 for general use. For hiking and with my 35mm film cameras, I have a Slik Pro 330DX w/ Manfrotto 494. The 4x5 field camera is supported by the Giottos paired with a vintage Bogen 3028 "3-D" head.)

---------- Post added 11-18-14 at 06:05 PM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by mtngal Quote
Not sure if all Acratech GP heads...
...uhhhhhh, Acratech... (wipes drool from chin)


Steve

Last edited by stevebrot; 11-19-2014 at 09:30 AM.
11-19-2014, 01:47 AM   #10
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many thanks for your hints.


@stevebrot: this is full-range info, thanks a lot for bringing all the aspects together!
11-19-2014, 01:54 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Here are a few bullet points:

*snip*

Steve
This should be stickied.
11-19-2014, 07:02 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
*** Best Buy is not a real camera store. Neither is Costco.
Funniest, and truest, thing I've read in a while!

Steve hit pretty much everything you need to know when it comes to buying a tripod. It gets confusing with all the brand names out there, and is particularly tough for those who are not near a brick-n-mortar camera store. I've reviewed quite a few tripods, and like anything else, they all compromise in different areas to meet the needs of different photographers. Sorry to say it, but there is no "one size fits all" at any price... so you will have to suck it up and read reviews and try different legs out (if you can).
11-19-2014, 08:31 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by mtngal Quote
Not sure if all Acratech GP heads come with their quick release clamps or not.
Just about all Arcatech heads come with clamps - plates are additional. One of the exceptions to this is the leveling head that can come either way (with or without a clamp).

QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Here are a few bullet points:
  • How easy is it to level the base and/or camera platform? This is important for pano and stitched work.
How about heads? ..... The points below pertain to ball heads:
  • Rotating base is a good thing
Steve - I absolutely agree with every point in every respect. However, I would like to tie two of the points together and add some observations that might not be apparent to everyone.

For Stitched Panoramas - Having a absolutely level tripod is essential, and having a head with a rotating base makes this work. Having said that, I find that it is nearly impossible for me to get my tripod level enough - and 15 minutes of futzing with the legs does not work for me. So, I plop the tripod down, and level with the ballhead. Works great - until, you go to rotate for your stitched shots for the panorama - and then everything falls apart because the subsequent shots are either going up or down hill. If you are shooting macro or just single frames - you should not have this problem.

So what is the problem - well with the base of the tripod not being level, then the base of the ballhead is not level. Then the rotating ballhead base is not level, and that is where you are rotating from. Even with the TOP of the ballhead being level, you are NOT going to rotate level. You don't want me to go into the Spherical Geometry of why....

The solution - in a couple of characters - $$$. The rotating base of the head is the problem. It is located in the wrong position. The rotation plate needs to be positioned above the ballhead. In this way, when you level at the ballhead, the rotational plane is leveled also, and provides a perpendicular axis around which the plate (and camera body) turns - resulting in a true level panorama (or a true vertical stitch).

Available Options - You can always crop your panoramas to remove the tilting or the run up/down hill - but that makes your already long skinny picture, even longer and skinner. Gear wise, the solutions run with - the Arcatech GP, Arca Swiss P0, another one - see the link below, and also you can buy a separate turntable to sit on top of the ballhead and act as a clamp. These options are all more expensive than just a standard ballhead with the rotating base.Anyway - I have to run to work right now.....

11-19-2014, 09:14 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by interested_observer Quote
Steve - I absolutely agree with every point in every respect. However, I would like to tie two of the points together and add some observations that might not be apparent to everyone.
Absolutely! I don't typically do panos or stitching and don't know the current state of things. Thanks for filling in the blanks with good stuff.


Steve

---------- Post added 11-19-14 at 08:18 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by interested_observer Quote
Available Options
I also remember a solution with the ball head mounted upside down on the legs and the QR clamp adapted to the base of the ball head. This could be done as a DIY project for someone with access to metal working tools. A rotating adapter to the QR clamp might be another solution, assuming they make such a thing.


Steve

---------- Post added 11-19-14 at 08:31 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by LensBeginner Quote
This should be stickied.
I will ask the mods if that can be done.


Steve

Last edited by stevebrot; 11-19-2014 at 09:21 AM.
11-19-2014, 11:13 AM - 1 Like   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by stevebrot Quote
Be aware that the Manfrotto name, just like the Gitzo name, does not mean that everything they make is appropriate for your purpose. I looked at Manfrotto and Induro and bought Giottos.* All three lines had great product, but Giottos had more of what I wanted. There are many other brands and the same applies. Here are a few bullet points:
Great post! I would love to have you blog about tripod on the homepage if you're interested

In order to keep the number of stickies to a minimum (we had 6, which clutters up the page), I've created this consolidated resource listing and added a direct link to your post:
https://www.pentaxforums.com/forums/22-pentax-camera-field-accessories/279593...resources.html

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