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04-08-2012, 05:14 PM   #1
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Question about tripod leg sections

I'm in the market for a new tripod, and am just about ready to pull the trigger, but I am still wondering about the effect of having four or five leg sections. The model I'm looking at is available with four or five sections, others specs are the same. Five sections seem great for a very foldable tripod, very suitable for travel, but the diameter of the fifth section (this is carbon fibre) is a concern. They just look so skinny and I'm not sure that they will be as rigid as I'd like them to be. My current tripod has three sections, so I'll get a shorter folder length, whichever one I buy, but I'm putting this question here to users of carbon fibre tripods that do have five sections.

From your experience, are you happy to have picked a five-section model over one with four sections (or even three), are you really satisfied with the rigidity, the extra twist needed to open and close the tripod, and any other set-up issues that you may have run into that I'm not thinking of right now? I'd appreciate hearing from other forum members. If there are members who have had experience with both types, other factors mostly being the same, that may be especially informative.

04-08-2012, 05:38 PM   #2
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it would be helpful to know the model you are considering. 4 or 5 section tripods can be worthless if it is not strong to start, but if made well, it could be a great asset in the field!

regards,
04-08-2012, 06:26 PM   #3
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BigDave - I'm deliberately trying to keep brands out of this, as I don't want any discussion to become a comparison between Brands X, Y and Z. Let's take it as a given that the brand I'm looking at definitely uses quality materials, and the tripods and heads are really well-machined and made, based on a fair number of reviews I've read. I went down the cheaper route once before and I have no desire to repeat that experience. It's not a Gitzo - can't justify that kind of outlay for a mere hobby. So if you can assume that yes, they are well made, what's the real-world difference between tripod legs that use four or five sections, esp. as far as rigidity is concerned? I know the rigidity of the legs ultimately provide the required base for the entire platform. My heaviest lens is a Sigma 120-400 (not counting my Novoflex), so about 3kg with the body and battery grip, so nothing exceptional.
04-08-2012, 06:42 PM   #4
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Except for shorter overall length (which seems nice but is less important in the scheme of things) in my experience fewer legs sections (and thus longer) is much better--as the smallest diameter leg section determines the tripod stiffness. I have a short tripod that is almost unusable when the smallest leg section is extended (not a cheapo--a Gitzo).

04-08-2012, 06:42 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by demondata Quote
I'm deliberately trying to keep brands out of this
That makes it impossible for anyone to really help, as all they could do would be to speak in generalizations. If you name the model of it, perhaps someone here that has one can chime in with their experiences.

Speaking of generalizations, more joints and thinner leg sections generally mean less stability, but there are exceptions to this. Not much help, eh.
04-08-2012, 07:01 PM   #6
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I'm already getting a sense from the above two fairly general comments that thinner fifth sections are not necessarily that great to have. This is exactly what I'm concerned about - that the travel advantages of a shorter folder length, maybe six or seven inches, will be outweighed by decreased stability, which is, after all, the raison d'etre for tripods. I was just hoping that a better brand like Manfrotto or Vanguard or Benro or Giottos or any of the other "good" ones may have found a way to construct those fifth sections so that rigidity and stability are not compromised (too much or at all).
04-08-2012, 07:04 PM   #7
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Also depends on the focal length and weight of the lens / camera combination you intend to use.

I have a very solid 3 section aluminum tripod, but when I mount my binoculars on it, you can notice tiny vibrations that you don't notice through the camera. Basically the binoculars with very small field of view make microscopic movement of the tripod noticeable - would be the same with a 500mm lens or so...
04-08-2012, 07:19 PM   #8
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You say 3kg for the camera and lens 400mm max, what kind of weight rating does the tripod have, that can give you a clue about stability.
Gitzo do their weight rating a bit differently but it isn't Gitzo so that helps.

ps. don't forget the weight of the head as well, that's also attach to the tripod.

04-08-2012, 07:49 PM   #9
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The tripod and ball head are rated at 12kg each, so nicely matched and well above my needs, but I like the headroom. You never know, maybe one day I'll own a DA* 560! Independent testing indicates an even higher weight limit, which is why I set my sights on a tripod and ball head one rating below what I was initially looking at. There's headroom, and then there's overkill!
04-08-2012, 09:12 PM   #10
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I really don't think it will matter one way or the other. Carbon Fiber is a strong light weight materal. If you find yourself second guessing if this is the way to go, find out what the return policy of the store is, buy it and try it out. When you get it home, put your camera and lens on it and try it in different positions and see how stable it is.

If you get the 5-section and you don't like it, take it back and get the 4-section.
04-08-2012, 10:01 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by demondata Quote
The tripod and ball head are rated at 12kg each, so nicely matched and well above my needs, but I like the headroom. You never know, maybe one day I'll own a DA* 560! Independent testing indicates an even higher weight limit, which is why I set my sights on a tripod and ball head one rating below what I was initially looking at. There's headroom, and then there's overkill!
More then enough head room indeed, just pick the one which is more convient for you.
Is there an actual height difference between the two, that might be something to look at as well.
04-08-2012, 10:07 PM   #12
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I have a 4 section travel tripod (twist locks) that I like very much. Almost 2 years ago now, I acquired an old 3 section (flip lock) tripod - that is heaver and sturdier. The 4 section does have some shake in wind, as the 3 section does not. Also, after a half day of heavy use, the twist locks just did my hands in and I switch to the flip locks for the afternoon. Moral of the story for me - and for what its worth, fewer sections - although a larger heavier tripod works better for me (other than traveling and fitting it in my carry-on luggage). Also, the flip locks work much better for my hands.

YMMV.....
04-09-2012, 05:03 AM   #13
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Here are a few generalizations about tripods; from about the hundred dollar range or so - on up to well over 1k.

That if it were ossible for a tripod to have the same specs for handling weight load; such as say twenty pounds capacity on both the legs and the tripod head; that... The less amount of sections generally tends to be more stable in the traditional tripod settings - at or near eye level. But naturally the more sections a tripod has would make it much more compact (possibly more lightweight), but may take more time to set up those sections.

For even a casual pic taker that would spend about 1k on a camera - I would also suggest spending as much of your budget would allow on a tripod. Nothing quite like seeing an over burdened tripod at or near the point of breaking. Try to find the largest size that one can practically deal with but also is of a good size and weight to carry around for a while. Also try to get a tripod and tripod head that will support at least double (preferably tripple) of ones existing camera set-up.

My personal favorite tripods are the extreme of what most casual shooters would use. I'd rather have a heavy and sturdy tripod.
04-09-2012, 08:06 AM   #14
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Hi,
I'd say don't get cheap.
Tripod is a purely mechanical device. So, unlike body or lens or flash it'll never get old, incompatible. If you're planning to keep this hobby of taking pictures, especially with with big, heavy lenses - get a good, sturdy tripod of high quality. It'll serve you for many many years.
Good luck with whatever tripod you get.
04-09-2012, 09:12 AM   #15
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Trying it out in a store is the ideal, I realize, but this is probably another reason why I'm asking about the number of leg section here: There are no stores near me that I know of that carry this tripod, it's all been internet-based research, so I can't try it out and returning it for reasons other than manufacturing defects is not an option either. The tripods I'm looking at are the Benro C series Transfunctional Travel Angel models with five or four sections, with a B1 ball head. I'm still considering the fold flat models as well. They are all carbon fiber, twist lock tripods, but the C2692, for example, has that worrisome extra section, while one or two of the slightly older models that are still available have four sections.
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