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04-04-2016, 09:30 AM   #1
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What cheap old (too ugly to call vintage) tripod's great if all ya want is STURDY?

I've never done a lot of on-tripod photography, though I did design and sew together a shoulder bag for carrying the lightweight aluminum tripod I used for several decades, back when nobody was selling bags like that. Now, I have a Veblon VE-3, which is only slightly bigger, but much heavier and substantial than the old unrememberable-named one.

In my experience, the VE-3 is very solid under an SLR with up to a medium-length (200mm-ish) lens or under my Konica Rapid M medium format camera. At least if I don't crank the center post up very much. And of course I could hang some weight under it or even lay a bean bag over the lens if I want to add some mass or dampen vibration more under certain conditions.

However, I may be doing some photography with a much heavier lens than I'm used to, including some long exposures, and . . . . so . . . I've started to wonder, if I were to watch for another tripod with little regard for light weight, or portability, or special functions, or classic style and value, and wanted hardly anything more than sturdiness and minimal cost, what types, makes, or models should I watch for?

Maybe you used to have big clunky tripod, a bear to take anywhere, that you miss for how solid it was? Maybe you fished some ghastly tripod from a dumpster, that you'd throw away yourself except for this one saving grace? Maybe you've noticed a particularly solid tripod that seems to be vastly undervalued because of its other real failings? Maybe you made a tripod out of salvaged pieces of lawn furniture....that would be too ugly to take anywhere, except that it works? I'm open and interested in any recommendations, and the stories behind them.


Last edited by goatsNdonkey; 04-04-2016 at 09:36 AM.
04-04-2016, 09:45 AM   #2
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QuoteOriginally posted by goatsNdonkey Quote
I've never done a lot of on-tripod photography, though I did design and sew together a shoulder bag for carrying the lightweight aluminum tripod I used for several decades, back when nobody was selling bags like that. Now, I have a Veblon VE-3, which is only slightly bigger, but much heavier and substantial than the old unrememberable-named one.

In my experience, the VE-3 is very solid under an SLR with up to a medium-length (200mm-ish) lens or under my Konica Rapid M medium format camera. At least if I don't crank the center post up very much. And of course I could hang some weight under it or even lay a bean bag over the lens if I want to add some mass or dampen vibration more under certain conditions.

However, I may be doing some photography with a much heavier lens than I'm used to, including some long exposures, and . . . . so . . . I've started to wonder, if I were to watch for another tripod with little regard for light weight, or portability, or special functions, or classic style and value, and wanted hardly anything more than sturdiness and minimal cost, what types, makes, or models should I watch for?

Maybe you used to have big clunky tripod, a bear to take anywhere, that you miss for how solid it was? Maybe you fished some ghastly tripod from a dumpster, that you'd throw away yourself except for this one saving grace? Maybe you've noticed a particularly solid tripod that seems to be vastly undervalued because of its other real failings? Maybe you made a tripod out of salvaged pieces of lawn furniture....that would be too ugly to take anywhere, except that it works? I'm open and interested in any recommendations, and the stories behind them.
This will end up moved to the Accessories forum but you can just go for sheer mass, maybe off Ebay, (haven't been there in a while for photo things.) The rule about tripods is generally, "They come cheap, stable, light: choose two."

Things for old heavy VHS cameras might do, (likely you'll want a different head, though,) or just a real big knockoff model on Ebay won't get much competition.
04-04-2016, 09:50 AM   #3
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I have a very old metal tripod with a Majestic geared head. Cost $45 at my local pawn shop. It is h e double toothpicks for sturdy but not anything you want to pack around very far. Even putting it in the trunk of the car could cause a back injury.

Old wooden transit tripods are also great options.
04-04-2016, 09:59 AM   #4
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If you keep your eye out, you might be able to find an old Tiltall tripod at a good price. They were pretty heavy-duty. You can also sometimes find the large Gitzo tripods for a decent price. Digital, with it's ability to shift to higher ISOs, has changed the game regarding tripods so the old heavy ones often go pretty cheap.

04-04-2016, 11:53 AM   #5
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Another thing worth searching for is vintage video tripods. They're usually built to last, and have nice fluid dampened heads.
04-04-2016, 01:55 PM   #6
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Ratmagiclady & Nass -- I had wondered about considering a camcorder tripod, from the days when camcorders were quite big. I've seen some of the camcorders from that period at yard sales and thrift shops, but don't recall tripods being with them, but it's definitely worth watching for.

Pioneer -- that old backbreaker you describe sounds very much like what I would like to find, worth moving only if you want to leave it set up a while, but solid as a rock in that location. I wish I could run across something like that in a pawn shop, but on my last visit to a pretty big pawn shop there was no older photography equipment, just a few digital cameras, mostly little point'n'shoots, not dslrs. Do you know the make of that tripod, or was it Majestic like the head?

TaoMaas -- you've given me an idea. Maybe I should ask, at an old camera shop I know, whether they have any old heavy tripods that have been relegated to their basement storage room since they became surpassed or outmoded. Maybe a tripod the store's given up on selling would come pretty cheap.
04-04-2016, 07:26 PM   #7
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Try goodwill or salvation army. Flea markets are a good bet as well.
04-04-2016, 08:20 PM   #8
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Ebay is the place. I scored a classic Gitzo with ball head. Massive and sturdy and will no doubt last several more lifetimes. 50$ shipped.

04-04-2016, 09:44 PM   #9
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I have an old Velbon video tripod. It was built in the mid 1980's, and is super sturdy, even with the center column jacked up. It has a nice crank mechanism to raise/lower the column. The fluid head still works great after all these years. It works better than my Benro S4 head.

Because I grew up using this tripod, I tend to prefer video setups. They're obviously good for video use. But even for stills, when I do use a tripod, it is usually for a group of people or a landscape, and I find that I never need to shoot in portrait orientation from the tripod. I have a small ball head tripod but when the situation calls for something sturdy, I bring out the Velbon.

One problem with old tripods is that they have all different proprietary mounting plates. That is not so much of a problem these days because you can get Arca-Swiss compatible shoes and plates relatively cheaply.
04-04-2016, 09:51 PM   #10
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I still have a Slik SL67 prototype which I bought in the 80's. SOLID.
Postage to the U.S.A. might be prohibitive though
04-05-2016, 03:13 AM   #11
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I picked up a good used Manfrotto 3021 from another forum member here at PF for seriously cheap (shipping was as much as I paid for the legs) - post a wanted ad, scour the Marketplace, etc...
04-05-2016, 08:02 AM   #12
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Depending upon how much innovative modification you're comfortable with you might check the 'Bay and pawn shops for used surveyor's tripods. I've never seen a flimsy surveyor's 'pod since they're built for heavy instruments and serious work -- nor a light one for that matter.

Adapting the head from a photo 'pod has proven satisfactory since the weight (mass) of the tripod solves all but the means of mechanical attachment of the camera and mass is the answer to damping vibration.

I'd also note that the surveyor's ASSISTANT is normally the 'pack mule' carrying the 'pod though!
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