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07-12-2011, 06:54 AM   #1
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645D + Benro tripod and head

After purchasing a 645D and lenses, my piggybank is rather empty.

I have a Benro 8XCarbon fiber 268 tripod and a B-1 head.

For all general daylight photos it works fine, even with the 300 f4 A + 1.4X mounted on the 645D body.

When I try longish exposure 1/2 sec or longer especially with the longer lenses, I can't get sharp images.

In your valuable opinion, since right now I can only buy either new legs or a new head which way would you go?

Thanks to each one of you who will put its own 2 cents.

07-12-2011, 08:24 AM   #2
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I can personally recommend the BH-55 from Really Right Stuff - which is an absolute jewel of a ballhead, very well built and handles heavy loads with aplomb. Or if you prefer extra precision over speed a manfrotto 405 which I also own is definitely the ticket. There is the Arca swiss cube, but I do not really have much experience with it, so I can't recommend it.

I don't get the idea of using a ball head with medium format, Ballheads are designed for speed and manoeuvrability. IMO medium format requires precise positioning and carefully thought out compositions which is hard to get with the awkwardness of a ballhead, when you unlock a ball head suddenly the entire camera can move in pretty much any direction*, and with heavy cameras if you don't lock it down tight enough it can slip, and in some cases especially with long lenses I have seen users carelessly unlock their tripod head only to have their precious 70-200mm f/2.8 smack against one of the tripod legs - breaking the lens hood or worse, damaging the lens itself. Ballheads are best used for 35mm cameras but they aren't that great for MF or LF. ever since getting my Manfrotto 405 my BH-55 has never had anything bigger than a Canon 1DsMk III on it. the 405 with it's precision movements has become my favourite with my Hasselblad 6X6 and Ebony 4X5 and 8X10 cameras

*sure you can apply tension to the mechanism but that slows you down even further because you have to work against it to move the camera.

Last edited by Digitalis; 07-12-2011 at 06:57 PM.
07-12-2011, 11:26 AM   #3
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I would say the tripod is the weakest link in your chain. I would look at Manfrotto models. Keep to a three-section leg. And have the height you need with the leg extension, not with the column extension. (Some folks hang a bag on a lighter tripod to dampen the movement.)

BTW, I use ballheads with all my medium-format and large format cameras, including my 645D. I have the Manfrotto 405 geared head, but I don't like it as it is too slow and cumbersome.
07-14-2011, 03:31 PM   #4
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I'd recommend a carbon fiber or aluminum tripod from Manfrotto because they're nice and they cost a lot less than Gitzo. Aluminum isn't that bad, but carbon fiber will dampen more vibration. However, I don't think it's going to make a big difference unless you use a long lens or tilt the camera to the side (which you shouldn't have to do because there are two tripod sockets perpendicularly located on the camera). And, by all means, get one with a center column. Otherwise, you'll be regretting it quite soon.

Most of the time, just keep the column tighted down at it's lowest position, essentially creating one solid unit with no perceptual difference at all in image sharpness. And, when you need the column, it really comes in handy. Like when you have to make height adjustments quickly and precisely, the column is 20 times faster than adjusting 3 legs over and over again (3 seconds vs. 1 minute if you're lucky) The column also helps with macro work. To get down very low like I've been doing lately to photograph dragonflies resting 5 inches off the ground, first I extend each of the legs out about 8 inches from their minimum lengths. Then I spread them out a little wider and reverse the column so that the camera hangs upside-down. Operating the camera upside-down is not as hard as you may think. The other approach is to simply spread the legs out flat, but that doesn't get the camera nearly as low as you can get with reversing the column. With the column reversed, as long as can look through the viewfinder, you can go all the way to the ground (center of lens being only a few inches above the ground). Spreading the legs flat will result in a camera position that's higher due to the height of the tripod plus the height of the head> And, it only works well in situations where the ground is level because there's no actual "footing" for the legs when it's flat--potentially wobbly. Furthermore, you can't securely adjust the height of the tripod by simply spreading out the legs a little more because they tend to slide outwards unless you're in the detents.

When shooting wildlife with my Nikon and a long 500mm f/4 lens with Gitzo carbon fiber tripod and heavy Wimberley head, I will very occasionally use the center column to raise the height. For me, I'd rather get the shot than walk away just because I didn't have a center column.

I've once used my Pentax 645NII with the column fully extended as I stood on a log to see through the viewfinder above 7 foot tall woodland plants. They're perfectly sharp.

Bottom Line: If you use common sense and good technique, a center column is perfectly fine and you won't notice a bit of difference in the sharpness.


07-14-2011, 06:19 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by matesa Quote
I have a Benro 8XCarbon fiber 268 tripod and a B-1 head.
I think the head is the weakest link of those two, I'd replace it first.
07-14-2011, 06:31 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Yamanobori Quote
I have the Manfrotto 405 geared head, but I don't like it as it is too slow and cumbersome.
you should learn how to use it, In my usage I have found in certain situations to be slightly quicker than a ball head because you can precisely place the camera exactly where you want it, as opposed to most ball heads which suffer from drooping when you lock the ball down - which is very problematic when you are using long lenses and it's damn frustrating for macrophotography.

Last edited by Digitalis; 07-15-2011 at 06:29 PM.
07-15-2011, 09:05 AM   #7
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If you're doing studio work, that's one thing. But, outdoor photography requires a tripod without the supports between the legs so that they can spread out individually and you need a SLIDING column, not a geared on.

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