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04-21-2015, 06:02 AM   #1
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Big lens birding tripod advice

Finished some outings with my newly-acquired SMC K 500/4.5. My Giotto Vitruvian is really at its absolute max with this 7.5 lb. monster, but I like the results, and will be using it also with a 1.4x A-L converter, so a tripod will be important. The ball head is extremely difficult to set, because the lens tip always ends up dipping a fraction of a degree after being set. I'm thinking this is because of the flex in the tripod system exacerbated by almost two feet of lens.

Birding sites all recommend the Wimberley head with various other leg choices. I'm really not inclined to buy a tripod head that costs more than my lens, unless it is the only viable choice. What kinds of recommendations do others here have for tripod heads, legs and systems for physically big lenses?

04-21-2015, 06:19 AM   #2
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There are some Wimberly knockoffs for around $100 bucks on ebay that will work OK to hold the weight but are not the smoothest in motion due to lack of bearings and cheaper build. Search for Beike bk-45

Tripod: If overall weight is an issue you will want look at beefy carbon legs from folks like Induro, Sirui or Benro which are less expensive than comparable Gitzo models. For best results look for ones with flat top plate vs column.

If you don't mind a little weight you can go with the Manfrotto 055 aluminum model. It is a beefy set of legs and is tall so you can keep the column down for most stability.
04-21-2015, 06:33 AM   #3
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Thanks. I was looking at a Manfrotto 393 so some Manfrotto legs might not be a bad idea. I probably will mind the weight, but for a light rig, I should stick to the DA*300 + TC and the Giotto.

I do wish Manfrotto used Arca mounts, because that is what my Giotto uses.
04-21-2015, 06:42 AM   #4
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My tamron 200-500mm 31A is similarly weighty. So far virtually all my pics have been with bean bags (I acquired a "pod" [Canada] with the lens and have also knocked some larger ones up on the sewing machine and filled with fine gravel) on eg walls, fence posts or the widow ledges/sills at the hides. There is no doubt that this is a reliable and effective way to go - never leave home without your bean bag with a lens like this.
I recently acquired an old slik SL67 thinking this beefy old thing would be the ticket. But my first trials with it have been disappointing. The problem is flex. Even though I am using a macro rail set up (see pic here) to balance the lens there is sufficient yield at the connections that the lens sways with a touch.
My impression form reading around is that carbon fibre legs tend to be more rigid.
Best advice is to seek the opportunity to try out tripod + head set ups before buying. That manfrotto 55 looks rather similar to a slik able dx300 I had, which was a bit better than the tripod in the pic (an old but very practical Diawa) but not majorly so so I sold it.

04-21-2015, 06:56 AM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by marcusBMG Quote
My tamron 200-500mm 31A is similarly weighty. So far virtually all my pics have been with bean bags (I acquired a "pod" [Canada] with the lens and have also knocked some larger ones up on the sewing machine and filled with fine gravel) on eg walls, fence posts or the widow ledges/sills at the hides. There is no doubt that this is a reliable and effective way to go - never leave home without your bean bag with a lens like this.
I recently acquired an old slik SL67 thinking this beefy old thing would be the ticket. But my first trials with it have been disappointing. The problem is flex. Even though I am using a macro rail set up (see pic here) to balance the lens there is sufficient yield at the connections that the lens sways with a touch.
My impression form reading around is that carbon fibre legs tend to be more rigid.
Best advice is to seek the opportunity to try out tripod + head set ups before buying. That manfrotto 55 looks rather similar to a slik able dx300 I had, which was a bit better than the tripod in the pic (an old but very practical Diawa) but not majorly so so I sold it.
That flex is the heart of my issue. I can't frame the photo. I have to frame above the photo I want.
04-21-2015, 06:58 AM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by GeneV Quote
Thanks. I was looking at a Manfrotto 393 so some Manfrotto legs might not be a bad idea. I probably will mind the weight, but for a light rig, I should stick to the DA*300 + TC and the Giotto.

I do wish Manfrotto used Arca mounts, because that is what my Giotto uses.
Manfrotto legs are good but I don't like the heads much.
I prefer to buy arca swiss type heads.
The Beike gimbal uses an Arca clamp.
Maybe a longer plate would help balance your lens better if it is drooping?
04-21-2015, 07:09 AM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by GeneV Quote
That flex is the heart of my issue. I can't frame the photo. I have to frame above the photo I want
That's not flex that's sag. Balancing the lens+camera will probably fix that.

Update just looking again at my slik 67. No sag - it's good for that. A lot of the flex is in the macro rail set up. i should look at subb'ing that for a beefier plate.

Last edited by marcusBMG; 04-21-2015 at 07:26 AM.
04-21-2015, 07:11 AM   #8
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I have a Gitzo basalt with 3 segments. It's very sturdy and rather cheap for its size. The extruded basalt seems also to have slighter better dampening compared to carbon, but maybe that's just my imagination.

04-21-2015, 07:18 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by GeneV Quote
I do wish Manfrotto used Arca mounts, because that is what my Giotto uses.
Manfrotto has started offering the AS mount - so now you have a choice.What I have also done is taken the Manfrotto plate and rather than screw in the base of the camera, screwed in a third party Arca Swiss clamp. That way, the camera with the AS plate/bracket just drops right in.

04-21-2015, 07:56 AM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by interested_observer Quote
Manfrotto has started offering the AS mount - so now you have a choice.What I have also done is taken the Manfrotto plate and rather than screw in the base of the camera, screwed in a third party Arca Swiss clamp. That way, the camera with the AS plate/bracket just drops right in.

Good idea.

---------- Post added 04-21-15 at 09:04 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by marcusBMG Quote
That's not flex that's sag. Balancing the lens+camera will probably fix that.

Update just looking again at my slik 67. No sag - it's good for that. A lot of the flex is in the macro rail set up. i should look at subb'ing that for a beefier plate.
Not sure what it is best called, Putting the K3 on the back causes the focus to be less smooth than mounting a lighter mirrorless body, and it is my sense that if anything, it is heavy to the back. Back heavy should make the framing higher after I let go of the lens and rest it on the tripod. If it is just a matter of balancing out the front element, then I would add the battery grip, but it seems to me like the whole lens is dropping. I may be wrong,but I would call that "flex" somewhere in the tripod.

The ball head is not helping, because loosening for elevation lets the whole assembly flop around in ways that make it hard to know exactly what is really happening.

Last edited by GeneV; 04-21-2015 at 08:21 AM.
04-21-2015, 08:28 AM   #11
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I really like the Manfrotto 327RC2 joystick ball head that I've got (on Manfrotto legs). I understand that some people don't like the Manfrotto plate, but this ball head is so easy to set and manoeuvre, I think it's worth a try.
04-21-2015, 08:50 AM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by GeneV Quote
Good idea.

---------- Post added 04-21-15 at 09:04 AM ----------



Not sure what it is best called, Putting the K3 on the back causes the focus to be less smooth than mounting a lighter mirrorless body, and it is my sense that if anything, it is heavy to the back. Back heavy should make the framing higher after I let go of the lens and rest it on the tripod. If it is just a matter of balancing out the front element, then I would add the battery grip, but it seems to me like the whole lens is dropping. I may be wrong,but I would call that "flex" somewhere in the tripod.

The ball head is not helping, because loosening for elevation lets the whole assembly flop around in ways that make it hard to know exactly what is really happening.
Yes sounds like you need legs with more weight capacity and a gimbal head. Hey, thats what you said in the OP!
04-21-2015, 09:45 AM   #13
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I may try one more option before spending another $400 on a head+legs, a Sunpack 7500 tripod given to me by a relative. Its weight limit is a little higher than the Giotto (11 lbs vs. 8.8 lbs) and it seems sturdier. I'm not that optimistic.
04-21-2015, 10:07 AM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by GeneV Quote
Thanks. I was looking at a Manfrotto 393 so some Manfrotto legs might not be a bad idea. I probably will mind the weight, but for a light rig, I should stick to the DA*300 + TC and the Giotto.

I do wish Manfrotto used Arca mounts, because that is what my Giotto uses.
You can use a Manfrotto and couple it to a ballhead with arca swiss!
04-21-2015, 10:08 AM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by GeneV Quote
I may try one more option before spending another $400 on a head+legs, a Sunpack 7500 tripod given to me by a relative. Its weight limit is a little higher than the Giotto (11 lbs vs. 8.8 lbs) and it seems sturdier. I'm not that optimistic.
For a lens that large I wouldn't try any tripod with a capacity of less than 20 lbs. I have Sirui T-1005X 5-Section Aluminum legs. 22 lbs capacity, about $112. Not quite sturdy enough for my 150-500 with the Q and my current ball head.

I've been thinking about one of the cheaper gimbals. The Movo GH700 is one I have been considering because it ships from California instead of China...

Movo GH700 Professional Gimbal Tripod Head with Arca Swiss Quick Release Plate | eBay
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