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Let's talk about tripods


I have two tripods at present. One is an ultra small Sirui (T005) which is great, but the emphasis is all about size and weight. It's not ideal with longer lenses and even with smaller ones, it's not the most stable if there's any wind. The other is a cheapo "National Geographic" travel tripod. It's bigger than the Sirui but it's not particularly high quality. It's OK for the price (I paid £25 for it), but things are already failing - e.g. I can no longer fully tighten one of the leg hinges so the leg swings a little too easily, and one of the lower sections is now a little bent so it won't collapse without a bit of force and grinding noises.

So, I need a new one. I'm tempted to spend a little and get a decent one rather than another cheap thing. I've sort of narrowed it down to three:

- The Peak Design Travel Tripod. This looks really nicely designed, but I think it might be just a little too light for what I need. It's also quite expensive if you go for the carbon version.
- A Gitso Traveller of some sort. I'm thinking either the Series 1 with 5 sections, or the Series 2 with 4. These look really nice, but they are pricey.
- As a "budget" option, a Three Legged Thing "Punk Travis" (aluminum) or "Punk Billy" (carbon). They are still not mega cheap, but cheaper than the above two.

Any thoughts? Any others people can recommend?
I have an old 190B Manfrotto with a couple of different heads that still works just fine and I have always found it a stable platform for most of my kit but it's bulky to travel with so a couple of years ago I splurged on the Peak Design CF travel tripod. It deserves more use than it gets but then I'm a very lazy photographer/tripod user. I love the design and operation of it, so quick to set up and take down, my only complaint is it's a very tight fit in it's sleeve which I often leave at home. I did try a friend's Gitzo traveller but the PD design won for me, even I can do the one handed single movement opening all the clips when extending the legs, I spent some time watching the Peak Design You tube video on the operation before getting mine, it made my mind up for me.
First, I encourage you to spend the $$$. If you really intend to use the tripod - especially for longer exposures - you'll be glad you did.

Second, make sure you get one that gives a good stiffness/weight ratio, for whatever your target parameters (height, weight, cost) are.

Third, to get a better understanding of tripod stiffnesses, look here:

Finally, I bought a FLM CP30-S4 II - which occupies a very nice spot in the stiffness/weight ranking - and have been very happy with it. Multi-minute astro shots, etc. Backpackable.

In general, FLMs do a great job of delivering stiffness at a given weight, but, there are other good choices as well.
No experience with the PD, but I have a Gitzo 1228 that is over 25 years old and a 320 that is even older. Both are going strong. I would also encourage you not to go cheap, a good tripod will last a lifetime. Gitzo uses a twist system that is slower, can stick and takes a bit of practice, but is almost bombproof. The lever system of the PD, looks nice and easier/quicker to use.
You may have already seen this Paul, but there is a tripod and tripod head discussion going on over at DPRForum too.

One of my favorite youtubrts for cam gear compared this to the peakdesign and favoured it (i think - didnt watch till the end):
Peak design is just a gimmick. FLM ball heads are outstanding, Ive had one for many years. Pair it up with a Kirk or RRS clamp. FLM tripod legs have always been highly rated. Chinese ball heads that are copies of RSS and FLM are ok, but nothing great.

In terms of tripod legs, the less sections the more stable in general. Try to go for 3 section legs as ideal, 4 at the absolute most. Another super stable design is tripods without that extending center column, instead they have a flat base to attach your head too. If you are looking for inexpensive but very sturdy tripod legs, Chinese Carbon Fiber tripod legs made by Leophoto and INNOREL and sold on Amazon are fantastic. I would recommended you get 25mm (largest diameter section) and 18" as your travel tripod, and a larger 32mm or 28mm as your super sturdy tripod legs when you dont mind a heavier or bigger tripod (like when mainly travelling by car).

Round rotating leg locks are the best and if you are in adverse conditions some of the larger 32mm and 28mm tripods come with all metal leg locks with metal machined grips for twisting rather than the typical metal with rubber grips on top (the rubber grips can detach in extreme heat or cold). Spiked feet with rubber covers give you the most flexibility in terms of terrain - city or field shooting.

Finally Kirk makes a fantastic interchangable head system. That allows you to easily remove your head from the legs for compact transportation or to easily switch a head between different tripod legs. I use it on all my tripods now. Each tripod has a clamp and each of my heads has a plate screwed into the bottom. For anyone who has ever tried to unscrew a tripod head from legs knows it can sometimes be near impossible or risk damaging your head trying. This totally avoids it and maintains tripod stability. Kirk sells them for large and smaller heads and you can buy them direct from Kirk or through B&H. Here is the Kirk page that shows how it works: https://kirkphoto.com/tripod-monopo...arge-tripod-head-quick-disconnect-system.html

There you go, 30 years of experience buying all sorts of tripods brain dump!
I use a Feisol tripod for 10 years now, after seeing this tripod visiting a picture show from a nature photographer. He also presented his equipment and I never heard about this US company before this event.
Feisol only sells direct via internet (also in Europe), only very few store have these tripods on stock.

They offer a full range of different sizes of carbon tripods. I bought the Tournament 3342 directly after I saw this product and I‘m very satisfied for over 10 years now, never thought about buying something else…

This tripod only weighs 1,2kg (without head, I use a Novoflex Classic ball3). Before that I used Manfrotto tripods for 20 years: very good, but also heavy.
BTW : after I bought this tripod I showed it to members of my photography club: actually more then 10 members are working with Feisol!

The S1R with my Sigma 150-600 is no problem for my Feisol/Novoflex combination. But I also use a l-bracket, if I do larger tripod sessions (like lost places, architecture etc.) to switch the complete camera to vertical if needed. That is extremly helpful, if the lens offers not rotatable tripod collar.

Thes tripods are not cheap, actually my Tournament is 430€ without head. But using it now for 10years and not thinking to replace it for the next years relates the price. But this is also valid for other premium products like Gitzo etc.

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Thank you all for responses - lots to think about there.
I'm no tripod expert, but I saw a video of Joe Cornish the other day, the famous English landscape photographer, and he uses the Gitzo GT 3543 XLS tripod which is fitted with an Arca Swiss Cube geared head.

I am really fascinated by that Arca Swiss Cube, apparently very good for landscape, architecture and still life photography, but it seems to be very expensive (€1,500 upwards):

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I shoot everything handheld, the prices I saw when investigating a ‘proper’ tripod and gimbal head for long heavy lenses meant I could not justify buying one. Although if I was going to, it would likely have been a Benro model.

I don’t mean to suggest expensive tripods are not worth the money, just that for me its not a “critical” tool, its more of a “nice to have” in certain scenarios. scenarios i don’t find myself in often enough to justify a £300+ accessory.
Benro, Fiesol, Siruii, etc. were the first wave of affordable Chinese copies of western tripods like Gitzo many years ago. Today Leophoto holds that title (and Innorel to a lesser extent) with their RRS copies. Which photographers have validated as being not bad at all compared to the RRS originals for a fraction of the cost.

But heads like FLM, RRS that have adopted the near universal Acra clamp, plate standard still rule. Even Manfrotto and Gitzo who stubbornly stuck to their own proprietary clamp and plates systems for so long are slowly coming around with some of their heads now using Acra plate/clamp standards.
Hybrid tripod shooting is different. I use two kinds of tripods, one to easily carry around for photo work and very light video. And a second for serious video. The small one is an old Benro carbon fiber with a simple iFotage video head. The second is a Sachter flowtech with a Sachter aktiv8 head. It is a real pleasure to shoot with, but a bear for traveling. I have a nice case and check it as baggage when I fly. I still use Monfroto 501 style mounting plates, because unmounted cameras sit stably on a flat surface, and because I'm addicted to holding the plate in my left hand when I'm shooting hand held video (or photos).
Tripod is like camera bag. I have got so many of them, big one, small one and it seems there is always a reason to buy just one more LOL
But yes definitely get a high quality one, or at the very least avoid very cheap one.
My main Manfrotto tripod is probably close to 20 years old now and still works like brand new (and I've used it at hundreds of weddings, used it at beach, and seaside..etc )
One of my favorite youtubrts for cam gear compared this to the peakdesign and favoured it (i think - didnt watch till the end):
Yes, I’ve seen a few positive reviews of that tripod. Hard to find local sellers though.
Well, the Leofoto tripods get good reviews and they are sold in the UK by London Camera Exchange, who have both physical stores across the country and a good online shop. My local store had only a couple of their models on display, neither being the ones I was considering, so I ordered two from the online store - the LN 284ct and the LX 225ct. Both are carbon fibre and both have centre sections. The 28 vs 22 represents the diameter of the top tube in mm, and the 4 vs 5 represents the number of sections. The 284 is overall notably bigger, being about 500mm collapsed compared to about 330mm on the 225, and its extended height is much higher.

Anyhow, they both arrived today and I must say they are beautiful things; very well made and light for their size. The LN 284ct is extremely stable and solid, and it’s a decent height even with the centre column retracted.

The 225 is very cute and very light and compact, but even with the centre column fully extended, it’s only barely high enough for comfortable use when standing (even using the rear screen tilted). At that extent, it’s also not too stable. This isn’t a complaint to its construction - it’s just obvious that it’s a compromise too far in size/weight vs stability trade-off. It’s really more of an oversized tabletop tripod. It’s not going to work well outdoors in a breeze. So, not for me.

The 284 though is a different proposition altogether - it’s extremely stable, even with the centre column extended. But extend all four legs and drop the column and it gets even better, while still being slightly taller than the 225 at max extent. The ball head is superb too - smooth and solid and with a dual pan operation where the plate directly under the camera rotates. It’s by far the best tripod I’ve used.

So, is the 284 a keeper? Maybe. It’s really a fantastic tripod, but it’s about 2kg with the fancy bag it comes in and it’s 500mm long. That’s really a bit bigger than I’d like. Decision, decisions…
My problem is that I am very tall (>2m). So when I use a tripod with center column fully extended, it gets really shaky. The more stable options would be very low and uncomfortable :(
My problem is that I am very tall (>2m). So when I use a tripod with center column fully extended, it gets really shaky. The more stable options would be very low and uncomfortable :(
I think everyone in the Netherlands is tall :)

I’m sure you get on well with the LN284 - with all legs extended and the centre column up, it sits above my head height. I‘d need to drop the centre column at least half to get a good working height, and perhaps all the way.
My newest tripods are without center columns as I want super stability over comfort or height. I'm tall too but with the tilting back screens on cameras these days it's not a big issue as it used to be. Yeah if it's mega bright and you can't see much on the screen then you will have to bend down, no big deal.

I have a big boy 32mm and it is quite huge (but super stable) I use it with my rifles and my camera when I know it's going be be mainly in the car and lugged only a short distance from the car if I need it. If I'm going to be carrying it a lot I use my lightweight 25mm and another older light tripod. Also have a small carbon fiber table tripod, worth getting one of those too, mine extends to about 12 to 14" high. I'm using a 32mm FLM ballhead between the lighter tripods and a big 55mm Chinese copy ball head on the big 32mm tripod.