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Saturday, 26 June 2010


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I have that tiny Manfrotto, but I never use it anymore after I got the Trek Tech T-Pod at the Photo Expo in NY last year for a discounted price of $40. I now bring the T-Pod instead of the Manfrotto during hiking trips and such to stand the camera when doing self portraits of me and my wife together. Like you noted, the Manfrotto model sits very low which is my main complaint about it. In comparison, the T-Pod has little more than a foot of ground clearance when the stem is extended. This feature is helpful when setting the camera/tripod up on ground littered with twigs and leaves, for example.

Often it's just the Digital Elph that's mounted on it, but sometimes its the 40D with the wide or medium tele "L" zoom lens which it has no problem supporting, just don't trust it to remain stock still and pay real close attention to the balance or the camera will topple over. It has a cleverly designed magnetic quick release system which in my laziness I often bypass as I simply screw the QR to the camera without detaching it from the tripod.

I just checked and discovered that it's now available on Amazon.com. (I'm not a paid endorser for this product or know the inventor. I just like it very much and I recommend it to everyone.)

"...but then again I'm obviously not all people.*"

*Legs identical to the Giottos/Manfrotto legs

It's no wonder you have little use for a tripod :)

I've been using a Novoflex Basicball for years, mainly for tabletop panoramas (where support is critical). A bit larger than some mini-tripods, but very stable and the height and tilt can be adjusted in increments.

No love for the gorillapod?

Ever been to a scenic site in Japan? I couldn't believe the number of grandma's carrying full sized dslrs and tripods. Like a press conference shoulder to shoulder. Puts most of us to shame on what we deem "too heavy."

As I commented in the prior column, these tripods can be particularly useful as a 'chestpod' for handholding during longer exposures, or just for greater stability.

In this case, one needs enough extension (from the tripod and/or head) to comfortably bring the viewfinder to one's eye level. The Leica pod and Manfrotto 482 head does the trick for me, although it gets infrequent use. I prefer using the camera strap, strategically wrapped, to gain somewhat similar stability without the extra gear.

Interesting blog. I can also recommend the Low Pod from Kirk Enterprises http://www.kirkphoto.com/Kirk_Low_Pod.html. Certainly bigger but very stable.

I recently mentioned the Manfrotto monster I've had for 20 years, I've also owned a bijou Minolta table-top tripod for about the same time. All metal, surprisingly rock-solid, with a ball head, the thing folds to a pistol-sized and -shaped convenience. Convenient, that is, if it didn't result in me becoming some custom official's bitch every time I put my camera bag through an airport x-ray machine.

I'm a little surprised that noone has mentioned the venerable gorillapod.

Here's mine in the south of Spain doing just fine holding an Olympus e-410 and 14-42mm on a serendipitously placed tree trunk.

(try that with the Manfrotto 209 legs pictured above)

This post brings up a pet peeve of mine: why are quick release plates (or tripod heads) that include a bubble level always significanlty more expensive than the simple ones? Surely is not that expensive to fit a little plastic bubble level?

The handiness with a small ballhead is amazing as owners of the Leica, neeLeitz, version can attest. It is not only a table tripod it is a sideways against a column, wall or tree trunk tripod. Or it is an against the chest tripod which is better than no support at all.

The "Leica Tabletop Tripod with Folding Legs" is vastly superior to the others because the it's legs *do not* fold. If you look around you can often find cheap no name clones of that design. I have one that was sold as a Polaroid branded accessory, and another that looks identical that Hama used to sell. Stick a medium sized head on it and they are fine for medium format.

This Vanguard VS-34 looks very similar in design for $19 .

Great little article Adam! The tabletop tripod seems like it would be a useful addition to the stay-at-home, beast-of-burden, three-longed monster, and the lighter field tripod. Off-hand I can think of many instances where this little brother tripod would have come in useful. This is a piece-of-equipment that I never considered, so thankyou for the heads up and the great ideas for implementing it.

Thanks for this post. That Manfrotto 234 monopod head is just the solution for an awkward problem I occasionally have. And only twenty four bucks.

I'm always recommending the manfrotto legs.
People assume they're for travellers but they've proved useful to me in many more situations. I've achieved shots with it that would otherwise never have eventuated - especially when 1/4sec-1sec shots have been required.
And strangely enough, when some places say you can't use tripod legs - they don't mean these little things, so I've been able to get much better images in certain locations than I could handheld!
Its low centre of gravity, with my dSLRs has proved itself very stable. I often use it propped up on walls, bins, powerpoles, tables, fences, windows etc.


Permanently Attached to the bottom of my NX10, it's about the size of a QR plate allows the camera to be tilted up and down and you don't even need a bag for it to sit at the bottom of.

I picked up a Leica table top tripod off Craig's List, and attached the Giottos 1302 ball head that I use on my regular tripod. I couldn't be happier with this compact, but super-stable combo. It is completely sufficient for my D90 plus 70-300mm. You could certainly go lighter for small cameras; for a bigger lens, you may need a little more than the 1302. This is probably the cheapest Leica-branded item you can buy!

I've found the table top format to be amazingly versatile. Lean it against a pillar or tree, set it on a fountain edge or the steps of a city square, or prop it on a railing at a wildlife blind. I even use it as a sort of shoulder-stock cradled in my arm against my body.

Consider the point of view an 8 inch tripod encourages you to work with. It gets you out of the normal eye-level pattern.

An afterthought to my post above: I believe (correct me someone if I'm wrong), that my Minolta babypod IS the Leica, rebranded. They both come from a period in which the two companies were very close. The B&H stock item seems identical to the Minolta (stripped of its ballhead). In any event, it's a great piece of equipment, particularly useful in increasingly tripod-sensitive historic buildings (I was given a doubtful look by a guard but allowed to proceed during a visit to the Mezquita, Cordoba, back in 1998)

I've been using a Slik Mini-Pro III with my 5d + battery grip + 24mm TS-E (super heavy) without any problems at all. Usually for street night shots. (cornershots.com)

I have the gorillapod and while in theory it is supposed to give you options it sucks big time for when you simply want it to just be a sturdy little tripod. It also takes lots of time adjusting the joints just to get it level no matter the surface. Oh well, I end up carrying with me most of time though and serves the dual purpose as a toy for my kids.

"The Giottos QU 500B Mini Tabletop Tripod* ($25) or the Manfrotto 209 Tabletop Tripod ($25) which supposedly support up to 11 lbs. "

I think the 209 only support 4.4 lb (2kg) according to BH.

The other one said to support 11 lb, which I might try my Pentax 67 with ... I did try once with a small one like this and the all metal mini tripod all collapse ... may be this one would be better.

+1 on the Gorillapod. I've got the big one with the metal parts and it really, really works. I've even put a gigapan head on it and wrapped the legs around a railing and it worked. Just barely, but it worked. Doesn't replace the Gitzo/Manfrott combo I usually use, but it is a great complement.

The downside? It can take a few minutes to unravel the twists on the legs after you've scrunched it down to make sure that it really holds onto something. Downside of the concept, really.

Don't forget the beanbag. It won't do everything a tripod can, but can do things a tripod won't. Adorama's store-branded one is inexpensive; or DIY.


For any mini-support, a hotshoe level can come in handy. B&H has many kinds.

Go beanbags!

Well, okay, they're not exactly a sports team I support, but I've had one living in my bag pretty much full-time since 1987. They're great for many things; nearly everything except supporting the camera well off the ground :-). I've used them on stone walls with a 500mm mirror lens in zoos. I've used them with a 24mm shift lens to do cathedral interiors (the beanbag fills in the gaps between the two shapes, so I could push the camera sideways into a stone pillar and take 5 second exposures).

I have also thrown them at friends who were being excessively silly :-). (On the other hand, a tripod is better as a club in a real fight, I'm sure.)

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