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Monday, 14 June 2010


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I must be a tripod guy; I have 3, 4 at one time, and a monopod, and I only have 2 cameras. Of course I use one of the tripods as a woodworking support, but it sometimes sees use supporting a camera. And the monopod is mostly kept under the front seat of the car for use as a bludgeon. Sometimes camera support, but one never knows. 8-)


You might check with Gitzo to see if you can get the rubber knurling or knobs. In the past, they have been very willing to help me.
Best wishes, and keep up the good bogging.
Wess Gray
PS Kirk Tuck's recommendation on his blog sent me to yours.

The Gitzo in nice enough, sturdy and all that. I had one on long-term loan from a friend for a while, BUT the danger of clipping a gash of flesh out of yourself from the way those legs fit into the top is scary. I came close many times and gave it back happily to be out of danger. Maybe I'm just a klutz but that's because I don't use a tripod all that often either.

I'll be interested to see what you come up with that beats the old Leitz Tiltall that I bought in '76 or '77. I also bought a second one, a late '60s Marchioni model about 10 or 12 years ago because a friend was getting rid of it, and for $50, I couldn't pass it up...

Like you, I don't use it often - it sits in the back of the truck, but when I've needed it's always been rock-steady. It'll probably be the last tripod I ever buy, unless of course, I develop a fondness for very long lenses or stitched panos, but that's highly unlikely.

Clearly, you need something made from hand-chewed carbon fiber by dwarves in the Black Forest, costing more than your camera. Otherwise you're not a serious photographer.

Hi Mike, I am a portrait photographer and have used a tripod for over 30 year, I need it for the work i do. In a typical exec headshot that i do 500 times a year i set up the tripod and frame the shot with a little extra space around to allow cropping, lock focus and shoot a few frames maintaining eye contact with the subject, photos are always better when you interact with the subject. Then i might change the pose and repeat, I do not think you can work with a person in front of your camera with your head hidden behind it. I have a small Manfrotto carbon with a small RRS ball head that keeps falling apart but on the tripod it fits my case. Regards, Glenn Brown.

Mike, I agree with you regarding a good tripod. I bought two Tiltalls in 1968 and 70. I am still using them. I also bought, over the years, several lightweight units with plastic fittings because they were easier to carry. None of the light units lasted more than 5 years. Cost on the Tiltalls per year, about $2.00. Cost of the easy to carry units per year, $30 to $40.

I'm really looking forward to hearing more. I asked my local shop for recommendations and they recommended a very nice set-up. It's somewhat expensive, but I console myself that it should be the last one I buy.

It would be great to walk into the purchase with much more insight than I have currently.

"how could a tripod be hard to use?"

Ah, I guess you've never wrestled with a Benbo then? Marvelous tripods, if you have a task that needs that sort of flexibility, but can be a bit of a nightmare if you only have the traditional number of hands (three or four would be better). Definitely not the sort of thing to use under pressure in front of customers.


I used the same Bogen mid-size tripod with a low-end Bogen ball head for twenty years. Bought it when I was in college, and cost was the overriding factor -- but it was a decent tripod for the money.

I always hated using a tripod, too -- takes too long, can't get that fluid feeling when I shoot with one.

Then, a few years ago I had some money left over from a couple of freelance jobs, and decided to treat myself to a decent tripod. Spent months playing with different models, heads, etc. Ended up with a carbon fiber Gitzo (Series 3 Systematic) and a Really Right Stuff BH-55 head. We don't want to talk about the total cost of THAT outfit. The BH-55 in particular is worthy of being an object of fetish.

I still don't use a tripod all that often, but when I do, it's become a pleasant experience. Fun, even. Now I want to add a few gizmos to the head -- I have my eye on the panoramic head adapter from RRS so I can shoot stitched panoramics more easily. I just need to justify another several hundred bucks.

Good luck with your tripod hunt.

Just for the record, not all steel is magnetic. 300 series stainless steel isn't. I can't imagine a good reason for Gitzo to use 300 series stainless steel in your tripod, so the magnet test is probably a good indicator that it is indeed not steel, but just because it fails the magnet test, doesn't mean it's not steel.

Just sayin'.

BTW, not all steel will attract a magnet. Magnets don't even hesitate on our stainless steel refrigerator; drop straight to the floor. <http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=why-dont-magnets-work-on> That said, your tripod probably isn't stainless, so you're probably right that the legs are aluminum.

Given the photography you aspire to, evinced by the images you've posted here, I'm surprised you're even bothering. Who'd want to use a tripod if they didn't have to?

I also have a Studex but never use it, preferring the less capable Mountaineer instead. Gitzo makes the BEST tripods. Anybody who disagrees is clueless or just cheap ... probably both.

Kind of reminds me of my Bogen 3223 Variable-Weight tripod...the farther I have to carry it, the heavier it gets.

With best regards..


Some thoughts on tripods:
-Tripods are one of those necessary evils for slowing down the process, doing panoramas, setting off self timers, holding up 8x10 pounders etc.
-Now with the latest in unnecessary evils (HDR) they'll become more popular and, by extension, expensive.
-On the other hand, the appeal of micro four thirds and other smaller, lighter, image stabilized, high IQ, higher ISO, cameras argues against their use.
-A tripod for still photography should have a ball head and quick release.
-They also can be used as wading staffs, climbing/hiking/camping aids and even (if not carbon) holding cooking pots over camp fires. (These have become somewhat less important to me with passing years).
So what do you want to do with/to it Mike?
I look forward to what you've found.

Mike...Since you live in Wisconsin you might take into account the usability of the new tripod in cold weather. I prefer levers over twisty knobs when I'm wearing mittens

Ken -- Bogen 3021 legs? I'm always in doubt about the number of the cheap ball head, but it had 168 in it somewhere?

Since the 1980s?

I upgraded the head of mine to an RH40 last year, and got an L-bracket for my camera. The ball made more difference than I thought, AND the L-bracket made as much difference as I hoped (for those not familiar with L-brackets, I can unclamp the head, switch the camera to the other orientation, and reclamp the head in rather few seconds, MUCH nicer than turning a ball head on its side).

Also a new clamp for the monopod, and a foot for the 70-200.

I think the upgrade cost 5 times what the tripod and old head cost new. And I'm still using the old legs (because I'm not a heavy tripod guy, and don't do much cross-country hiking).

Glenn: How do you get people to hold still enough that you can possibly shoot portraits without using the viewfinder? I'm guessing you're framing what I would consider VERY loosely, but maybe there's more to it.

Gitzos are really the gold standard of tripods. Their customer service is excellent and they really stand behind their products, if you need replacement knobs, they will be happy to send some to you.

I use a G1127 three-section carbon-fiber model with an Acratech ultimate ballhead (far better than Arca-Swiss' or RRS' IMO), and it is quite light, if bulky, but certainly much more compact than your Studex.

You might want to look at Gitzo's basalt tripods, which offer the weight savings of carbon fiber for a price closer to the aluminum ones.

Get the Really Right Stuff BH-55, a quick release lever plate, and an L plate that fits your main DLSR. Use the same tripod you have until you can replenish the bank. Then you turn the hard to use into the easy to use, at least most of the way.

You can put the camera on the tripod in ten seconds and take it off the tripod in two seconds. Landscape to portrait, you almost don't have to reframe.

One knob to loosen and tighten to adjust the framing. Much better than the three handled beast I used to contend with. You might not become a tripod guy but you might not dread the beast either.

If it turns out that you find yourself reaching for the tripod you can drop another grand and pick up a sweet set of legs.

In the mean time your 90% of the way to OZ.

What i was thinking was to rectify the majority of your problems all you need is a new head. Maybe something from RRS or something else. I wont try recommending which head in particular, but a nice head with a quick releace. Oh and maybe that new L bracket that came out which isn't camera specific (dont remember by who, but it was announced recently)

"[Linhof] makes the BEST tripods. Anybody who disagrees is clueless or just cheap ... probably both."

fixed. =P


I look forward to part two of this foray into current tripods. I spent a good deal of time wrestling with what to buy in Carbon Fiber to replace my Manfrotto 3021 Pro. Settled on the Feisol brand which I love warts and all. It is not perfect, but is amazingly good quality - used it in subzero Illinois and Wisconsin winters - up and down Lake Michigan, all the way to the very windy Badlands of South Dakota - with a RRS - BH55 Ballhead. With ballhead - at 3.5lbs its a real blessing for hikes into the canyons or through a few feet of snow.
I do think this thread will unleash the very thing discussed in your previous thread...so I volunteer to the be the happy , clueless, cheap photographer (to get the ball rolling), shooting along side friends using Gitzo, Manfrotto and others...all of us focused on the Art, not the gear.

Hi Mike

I'm not a tripod guy either, even though I own maybe 6 or 8 of them? I guess I've always been looking for one that I get along with - my favorite combo at the moment is a old Gitzo (slightly smaller version of yours, about the same age) fitter with a small Cambo ball head...

For large format work I prefer my old (well it must be at least 40 years old) Graflex tripod (it's very cool - you adjust the length of the legs with levers on the top of the legs - no bending over to adjust them!) fitted with a Manfrotto 3 way head....

For pinhole I use a little Slick tripod with a ball head (Velbon also sells the same one) - it has plastic legs, but the legs are strong, adn the head is one of the nicest ball heads I've ever used...and it will hold a 5D with a 28-70L when I'm travelling ...

But my favorite tripod? Thats a 30 year old Tamron table top tripod - you unscrew the legs from inside the body and screw them in reversed to the bottom of the tripod. It has a ball head, and will at a pinch hold a medium format camera. What I like about it is that it's ridgid, and is small enough to carry in the front pocket of my camera bag..

Because I've always got it with me it gets the most use.....

Call me clueless, and cheap, as I've found the Giottos line to be better than the expensive Gitzo. I sold my Gitzo, because the Giottos unlocked and locked easier, and the legs slide out smoother. I guess we're into the true fanatics now. See the earlier post. 8-)


"Anybody who disagrees is clueless or just cheap ... probably both."

Ties right in with the previous article.

I'm not much of a tripod guy any more. I have a tricked out Bogen that's enjoyable enough when I take the time to use it, but that's only for certain types of shooting that I do rarely any more. A friend & I just went down to B&H last week - me to look at EVILs & compacts (and to see the HCB exhibit) and my friend to find a tripod that (1) is short enough to strap onto a backpack when collapsed (2) is lightweight (3) is sturdy and (4) extends to let him shoot at eye level (he's 6'). He's willing to spend on carbon fiber but didn't find what he was looking for. The Gitzo 4-section leg models come close with the center column extended. Anyway, I'll be sure to point him to your part II for any tips.

Just two words:

Wooden tripods.

Tropditis is a disease often curable
by which the horizontal plane in photographs
is tilted.

Basically one leg or more of the camera support system is not at the same

I don't use a tripod except when doing photography at night. Even then my very tall height is no match for any tripod
of any height, they just don't make them to extend seven feet. Centre extensions
are the bane of the camera, too much vibration IMO

From my own experience I'm confident that the weight/size/convenience/ease-of-use issues will definitely affect your general appreciation and frequency of use. As I've gotten older the weight in particular has become most important. I highly recommend carbon fiber. It makes such a difference it's worth the cost. I much prefer levers to rings, which I found always very irritating to use.


Info on black and white digital printing at
I-Trak 2.1 http://www.cjcom.net/itrak.htm

Back in the the late '70s, bought me a black Tiltall for $100. It's been all the tripod I've ever needed since- but in NYC it was instant props to be seen strutting about with the by then discontinued chrome model.

Back in the day I fully well realized it would probably be the only Leitz product I'd ever be able to afford, and true enough- although a brand new one today will cost you... $100.

I bought a Giotto because I cannot afford a Gitzo..oh well..I'll just keep saving

Mike, to tripod or not to tripod... I would say that a good quality Arca Swiss-style ball head, a plate or two (dependng on your needs) and some nice carbon fibre legs might just find you using a tripod more - I know it worked for me. As an aside, I was recently able to photograph a couple of platypus in an overhung creek at dusk because I had my tripod with me and could use the ball head as a makeshift gimbal mount - not a perfect solution, but it rescued me that evening; I'm confident that a monopod would not have helped as much as the tripod did.

James re the Benbo... a friend of mine who has one has likened it to wrestling with an octopus - I've set one or two up, and I can but concur!

And for those of you who have a need for information on tripod selection, Thom Hogan's article on it is here:


Well worth the time it takes to read, IMNSHO.

Got a Gitzo Studex back in 1983/4 and haven't bothered with tripods since. It may be heavy, but I don't trek very far with it and I have a case which allows me to carry it like a rifle or quiver on my back should I feel the need to go traipsing overland. It holds the 4x5 I use well. A quickfix device attached to tripod and camera makes setting up a breeze. So: for a short sharp shot a tripod's the way to go.

Decades ago, I bought a Gitzo Reporter Mode which had the nice feature of having one leg detachable to use as a monopod. The couple times I needed parts (like the rubber ring yours is missing), Gitzo very graciously sent them to me for free(!) :-)

I *would* like a carbon-fiber one from them, except for the sticker shock. (And alas, as far as I've been able to research no current Gitzo model offers a monopod leg off the tripod as mine does.)

Several years ago, I bought RRS quick-releases and plates for everything I have that can fit them, top or bottom. They're terrific, especially for not slipping as cork or rubber surfaces on other brands can so easily do for vertical shots. I even have a tiny RRS bottom plate for my Canon S90. :-)

Don't understand the necessity to take the camera to eye level on the tripod. Always liked the framing on the old waist level TLRs and to me the tripod with a right angle finder gets me back there easy

Hi Mike,
I have become definetly a tripod guy since I met my Manfrotto NeoTec plus Manfrotto 322rc2 grip action ballhead. After few short juvenile stories with other tripods, I think this marriage will last forever. They simply changed my photographic life. BTW I shot dslr and film (both 35mm. and medium format).

I use 2 tripods, but not frequently. Main one is a Gitzo Studex with a bowl for levelling (I think that's meant for video cameras, but I have a SQAi Bronica so portrait/landscape is not an issue). Absolutely solid, but really heavy and I don't like the twist locks for the leg extensions.

Also got a Benbo Trekker I use with a DSLR, but not to hold the camera. I use it as the world's most flexible lightstand. You can position a light into all sorts of places a normal lightstand won't go. I usually clip or superclamp various reflectors to it.

i was going to point out that some stainless steel doesn't hold a magnet, but looks like that's been noted.

i have owned just two tripods. one was a cheap deal i got in japan (slick brand, if i recall) that seemed to work well enough in the store. i brought it trekking and it broke in several places within days; of course, not only did i have no working tripod, i then had to still haul the thing around for a week so as not to be leaving trash in remote places.

next thing i did was buy a small gitzo. still have it now, 20 years later, and it's been used and abused. but not so much used, really; now that i rarely use telephotos and don't do a whole lot of landscapes anymore, i just don't have much use for it... until i began to occasionally shoot video. now, i need a much bigger tripod and a whole new head. damn.

in general, i just dislike using tripods, even though the degree of control they afford over framing is a real advantage (when your subject is sitting still). i'd generally rather use a fence, or a tree, or a walking stick (really, resting--not attached--a camera on a monopod is darn near as good as a tripod for my purposes) or even step on a string and pull up against that to steady my camera. i'll do just about anything not to have to carry a tripod around, or set it up.

Oh I use tripods--I have probably a dozen if you county monopods and table-tops.

I seem to be different than most of the readers here. While I use Arca-Swiss releases on everything I can I don't like ball heads. Geared is the way to go, weight be damned.

Likewise with Gitzo. Hate, hate, hate those twisty leg lock things.


I'm with Dave; I still use my original Leitz Tiltall. It's rock solid, simple to use and durable. Who could want more from a piece of equipment!

I've had the same Tiltall for 35 years... still going strong... Pete Turner, Jay Maisel, Art Kane, and pretty much everybody used one, back then... I figured they couldn't all be wrong.

They're cheap, don't weigh a lot, and have all the controls.

I also have a Husky quick-set (a close second to the Tiltall... not quite as light, though. Ansel and Margaret Bourke-White liked 'em... have a hugeassed Bogen, that I acquired for spherical and cylindrical 360 VR work... 'way too heavy for general use.

The Tiltall wins, in every category, for me. I've used Carbon Fiber Gitzos, and they just aren't enough lighter (or sway resistant) to justify spending hundreds of dollars more than a Tiltall.


Ninety-five percent of my photos are taken using a tripod. It's just the way I work. I take my time to compose the photo by tweaking the composition sometimes moving the camera just and inch or two in either direction.

It's not so much for the stabilization of the camera, I have IS on my Olympus E-30, but for the control of the composition of the photo. The vast majority of my photos are printed without cropping so I can utilize the full sensor area.

I have just sold my Velbon to replace it with a Manfrotto 190XB and a 322RC2 single grip ball head. So you can adjust the head with one (hand) grip and it has a level bubble to get it level if you need it. Chief reason for changing was to be able to use the quick-release plate which is compatible with the "Cotton-Carrier" vest system. Whole thing weighs 5.2lb or 2.36kg. So the quick release plate generally stays on the camera. Happy with it so far. It won't get to the height you mentioned though.

I also have a 'twenty-year' tripod - in my case a Manfrotto 144b with a 168 head (it still has a Canterbury Cathedral photography permit stuck to one of the legs, from 22 September 1991). Your article made me wonder why I don't use it more; so, two hours ago, I brought it out from where I carefully placed it 6 years ago, on the day I moved into this house.

As of 'this writing' (as they say), I'm still searching my lower midriff for a lost testicle, and now recall perfectly why the bloody thing's been hidden away all this time.

I'll bet you a dollar that you really aren't a "tripod guy". But of course, collecting on that bet will have to wait until the infatuation period after your new tripod purchase dissolves.

Until then, take a look at DigiLloyds article on tripods (I think it might even be included in a sharpness article but can't remember). There's some very interesting and counter-intuitive test results for various Gitzos.

For years I had an old Bell & Howell aluminium tripod that was heavy and hard to set up. Doing some research I came across Thom's article on tripods ("You can spend US$1700 to buy a good tripod and head, or you can spend US$1000 and do the same thing") - and bought a Gitzo 2258 carbon fibre with RRS BH-40, and an L-plate. Been happy ever since. I particularly like that you can pivot the Gitzo's centre column 90 degrees for macro work (enables the camera to point straight downwards), or for a very low viewpoint when the legs are fully splayed but non-extended.
Here's the link to Thom's article:

"Oh and maybe that new L bracket that came out which isn't camera specific (dont remember by who, but it was announced recently)"

I don't know about anything recent, but I've been using an RRS model MC-L L bracket for quite a few years.

Originally bought it for my Nikon F3 but it worked fine on several other film Nikons, as well as an Olympus OM1. It's also fits the D80 and, currently, I'm using it on a D300. Only thing with the DSLR's is that you have to remove it to access the USB port unless you use a card reader.

I have to agree with Jim Nelson. Upgrade your current legs with a RRS ball head and quick release clamp. Then get an L plate for your camera. You will immediately love your tripod more. Think of your tripod as a system, like your stereo. Upgrade it a piece at a time.

I've hardly used a tripod since about 2002. That was when I started using Leica rangefinders for the majority of my shooting. Something just didn't feel right to have a Leica attached to a bigass Gitzo. Then in 2007, I bought my first DSLR and I don't think I've used a tripod more than a couple of times since then.

I do have several tripods collecting dust, including a couple to which I have a sentimental, though not practical, attachment.. The Gitzo is a big, heavy model (no idea the model number). I also have a Bogen 3021 that is older than the Gitzo and lighter weight as well. It banged around the the toolbox of my truck for years playing backup to the Gitzo and it still works perfectly. I have a Bogen ballhead on the 3021 and a Gitzo ballhead on the Gitzo--both with Bogen hex plate quick release adapters. For the longest time all my cameras and long lenses had those flat hex plates attached to them. I had a huge Bogen studio tripod sometime back in the 1980s. I used it for 4x5. It was tall enough that I could put it on the ground, extend it fully and stand in the bed of my truck to compose a picture without bending over. It was too heavy to hand carry but the height and stability were outstanding.

I own the same model of Gitzo Studex as you do, with the same head. FWIW, you can lighten its weight considerably by replacing the extendable center column with a non-extendable short stub. If the legs on your tripod are able to extend wider, the short column will allow you to get closer to the ground, should you want to. Used center columns are relatively easy to find, but even new ones aren't expensive.

You can also replace the head with something smaller and lighter. In my case I opted for the Acratech Ultimate Ballhead with quick-release clamp.

Replacing the center column and head reduced the weight of my Studex from seven pounds to five. It's still large and relatively heavy, but five pounds beats seven any day.

As for the question of whether you will ever be a "tripod man" or not, I think it depends on what type of camera you use and your style of photography. Large cameras and lenses demand a tripod, if only to get the weight off your body and onto a steady support. Compositionally speaking, nothing beats a tripod for facilitating exact and repeatable framing. In either case, the easier a tripod is to carry, set up, adjust and take down, the happier you will be.

I have a carbon fiber tripod and a big expensive ballhead. Why? Because everyone insists you need both to be a real photographer. The tripod sits in a corner of my closet of a home office at home, in its original box. My advice to budding photographers is: unless you're into macro, night photography or landscape photography, don't fall for the hype! Wait until you run into a real and repeated need before blowing a ton of cash on something unlikely to get much use.

Now...on to more interesting subjects: how do you like the Bronica RF645? I remember your review over at the Luminous Landscape, and I'm impressed that you're still using it. How does it compare to the Mamiya 7? And, if you have used one, to the Fuji GA645 (which I believe Ctein used for many years)?

And finally, why use a Bronica RF645 on a tripod? It's a rangefinder, so framing won't be precise anyway, and it doesn't have mirror slap, so I would have thought it should be a pretty hand-holdable rig. Or was this just an excuse to bring out the RF645? ;-)


Bought a Tiltall in 1970. Still have it. Still use it on the few occasions when I use a tripod. Works fine.

I don't understand people who drop many hundreds of dollars on a tripod unless they are using a view camera or work largely within a studio.

For me, one Tiltall solved the "tripod problem" forever long ago.

Mike, excellent use of commas; you are a great punctuator!

I am a tripod guy when I have the tripod. I brought my HEAVY fullsize Amvona tripod on a trip to Quebec and took pictures throughout Vieux Quebec with it. Since the tripod was so big, people stepped out of my way whenever setting up for shots.

It's not convenient for quick and candid urban shots at all.

My best use of a tripod was when visiting a local arboretum.

There are ideal places and situations for a tripod...

I need a new tripod, but have problem to find any as fits my needs.

I am using l-braket head and with that one I am satisfied.

The problem is to find a sturdy tripod as weight less than a kg and still is sturdy. I does not need to be as high, but is is a strong plus if is short as folded.

I need it when I do one week nature walk and have to carry all I need on my back for the whole week, so low weight is important.

Cool Bronica RF 645. My current favourite.

I couldn't live without my tripod. It's feather light and easy to walk around with. Gitzo Carbon Fiber G1157 with an Acratech ballhead. If sharpness matters.

Thom Hogan really is right: http://www.bythom.com/support.htm

Since about 90% of my photography involves landscapes, and about half of that stitched pano's, a decent tripod is essential. Things were simpler when I started shooting 20 years ago; back then landscape/nature photographers had basically two choices: Bogen (i.e., Manfrotto) and Gitzo. You started with the Bogen 3021 aluminum legs (usually with Bogen's cheap and functional 3047 three-way pan head, 'till the first time you fell on it and one of the handles speared you in the ribs). When you had more money to burn, and finally realized that a good tripod would improve the quality of your photographs more than another lens, you went for a Gitzo. Gitzo's are still great today, but they're a little pricey.

There are two criteria for a good tripod I don't see discussed much, but they're deal-breakers for me. First is ease and convenience when setting up and breaking down. This is irrelevant if you're planting the tripod in one spot in a studio, but for nature/landscape photography it's critical. On a photo hike starting in pre-dawn light you'll be repeatedly opening and positioning the legs on uneven ground, then folding them up to hike to the next subject...lather, rinse, repeat. If the tripod legs are a major PIA to extend and collapse, you'll want to fling the whole thing off a cliff after a few hours of this. You really need lever locks or collar locks that are very easy to manipulate while wearing gloves. Three leg sections are also far easier than four when you're extending and collapsing them repeatedly, even if it means a longer tripod when collapsed.

The second feature is the height of the tripod head platform with the legs fully extended. (Any center-column extension grossly destabilizes the tripod, and should only be a last resort.) Many otherwise excellent tripods only extend to a little over five feet. Even adding 6 inches for the tripod head up to the viewfinder, this just isn't tall enough, if you're anything over about 5'10". Set up on a hillside, and you find yourself bending over or squatting to see through the viewfinder even with the legs fully extended. After an hour of this you'll be in desparate need of a chiropractor.

I ended up with a Velbon 830, which was about $200 cheaper than the nearest Gitzo equivalent. Unfortunately it's no longer available. The tripod head platform is taller than I am when the legs are fully extended, which is perfect. The collar locks have huge rubber ribs that are very easy to manipulate with gloved hands, and it's very easy to set up & break down. And when I broke one of the small leg sections falling on some rocks (don't ask), it was a piece of cake to disassemble and repair with a leg section Velbon sent me for next to nothing. The equivalent Gitzo tripods were all either too short, or had 4 section legs. Boo hiss.

Oh, so you were the one guy who purchased a Bronica RF645...

My recommendation is to mount your camera on top of a Ferrari 599 -- mobile, stable, and brimming with carbon fiber goodness.

What happened to the old rule (of thumb?) that a heavy camera is okay on a light-weight tripod, but a light-weight camera needs a heavy tripod, mass being the issue for good stability? It seems now that everyone favors the lightest possible construction.

Ahh, tripod stories. :-)

Like many here, I had a Leitz Tiltall that travelled the world on my backpack, surviving multiple airlines until one day in the Middle East (Jordan, I think, 1977) the flat plate took a hit that turned 1/3 down by around 30°. I took a pipe wrench, locked in on, and about 45 minutes later had it more or less back to normal, but could never get it really flat anymore. I gave it away when I gave away my OM-1 to an old friend who needed it more than I did.

Now using a Gitzo because they are indestructible. Had the huge Manfrotto ball head to handle a P67 with the 300 f4 lens + 2x extender, which it did with aplomb. After moving to digital, I got a smaller 3-way Manfrotto head and use that exclusively, largely for gigapans (robot panorama head). Travels extremely well and has yet to be anything but extremely solid.

Not that I haven't lusted for a Berlebach, but I prefer to spend my money on lenses rather than tripods. I know, I'm a heretic... :-)

The only tripod I loved was my Reis with the Reis head. It was quick, easy to set up, and rock solid. Oh, and beautiful too. I got it most ly for my 4x5, but I also used 5x7 on there as well. There were many days that I would attach my Hasselblad (with the Hassie QR) to it and put it over my shoulder and walk through the forest. Sigh, that was a piece of equipment worthy of the money I spent on it. I clearly remember telling myself "I can't believe I just spent that kind of money on a tripod" when I got it delivered. 15 minutes of using it made me realize that I had actually been needing this for my entire life.
I sold the Reis when I got rid of my LF stuff. I now have a fancy Gitzo basalt tripod and ball head, think I've used it twice, maybe three times. Can't complain about the functionality, but I really don't like using it. I may end up buying another Reis, even if I never get another LF camera...

@Amcananey: "Wait until you run into a real and repeated need before blowing a ton of cash on something unlikely to get much use."

This is what I say about buying lenses. Actually, this is my philosophy for buying anything.

@ Bryce Lee: "Tropditis is a disease often curable by which the horizontal plane in photographs is tilted."

I thought that was Isiaah's disease. Because one eye's 'igher than the other. : )

Oh yeh- I have a Manfrotto 055PROB with 804 RC2 three way head. About the same weight as but far better in every way than the piece of cheap tat I struggled with for years. Because it works well, I don't mind carrying it about. I resented carrying the old one.

My tripod is similarly agricultural, but I use it a lot, for architectural work and my current project. I will say that I found the most important thing was getting the right head, not the right tripod. Having a really good geared head was the revelation for me!

Tripods are sooo last year. What you need is a Quadropod!


(No, I can't see the point of it, either ;^) )

Agreed with Julian Love. The only tripod that's any good is the one that you have when you need it. My Bogen aluminum travel model with a standard ballhead fits nicely on my Lowe Photo Runner bag using the bag's own straps. Hiking or packing it for travel is a breeze. The last thing I want is a bigger or more expensive tripod that I leave at home because of the burden or theft/damage concerns.

Then again I choose cameras (FE2, E-P1) for the same reason. Maybe I'm just weird.

I'm still using a Tiltall I bought in 1969 - pre Leica, made by C.M. Marchioni, Rutherford, NJ. It's dented and scratched, but still works just fine. I'll be using it on a job this afternoon.

They still sell Tiltall's for $99 but if you really need to spend more take a look at the Calumet 7500/7061 combo for about $200.
I have put up to 4x5 field cameras on both and they work just fine.

It might be of interest that Bogen/Manfrotto's German distributor has a €40 cash-back on their small 190XPROB tripod right now!

Just google 190XPROB cash-back.


"Oh, so you were the one guy who purchased a Bronica RF645..."

I wanted to, when it was new, but it was too expensive for me. I got mine, in the boxes, in pristine, like-new condition, for $450. Couldn't pass it up. That was not long after Bronica went belly-up--I must have bought at the low point, because used ones have now crept up to 1.5-2x what I paid.

The RF645 is not popular chiefly because of its strange, wheezy, imprecise shutter sound. However, most of the odd noise is the shutter self-cocking--the actual shutter release occurs very early in the cycle of the noise, and shutter lag is actually very good even though it doesn't seem so. It's just that the noise doesn't inspire confidence. It really doesn't, either. It's very odd. And you don't really get used to it; at least, I haven't.

I love the controls on this camera, love the lens, love the focal length, love the viewfinder, love the native vertical orientation. Bronica (really Tamron, which owned Bronica at the time) did a lot right.

There are other drawbacks to the RF645 besides the shutter sound, not the least of which is that the company that made it is no longer making Bronica cameras--but then again, very few new film rangefinders will be coming down the pike in the future. So I'm glad to have this one, on balance, warts and all.


I recently updated my tripod from an aluminum Manfrotto 3011 to a Manfrotto CF. Also upgraded the ball head to a newer Manfrotto model.

The CF model is a bit lighter than the AL version, and I carry it more often because of the difference in weight. Having said that, every tripod setup is a compromise. Want rock solid? Then sacrifice light weight. Want cheap? It will be light, but not steady. Want flexibility (low to the ground to eye level range, for instance)? Sacrifice low price and light weight.

To paraphrase, the best tripod is the one that gets used.

Adorama sells their Flashpoint carbon fiber tripods at amazingly low prices, at least compared to other brands. They probably don't match similar Gitzo or Manfrotto models, but if it's something you use only occasionally, why not?

I have used a Gitzo 3-series tripod for many years. I believed all the hype about Gitzo being "the best." After cleaning out sand from the threads for the umpteenth time after use on the beach, on a hunch, and on the recommendations of some photographers, I bought a Ries. I now view, "Gitzo is best" comments as rather bizarre, at best. Yes, Ries tripods are heavy, and they do not fold down small but they have other advantages. "Heavy" is a relative term: I use an 8x10 view camera, the Ries is 8lbs and I weigh 105lbs. 200lbs+ Americans complaining about weight? You guys can carry me like the toothpick I am! Carbon fibre is not a panacea.

So, Mike, can you please give us the financial breakdown a la the George post (with a nod to Thom in passing) for tripods? What stage are you at?

I have to disagree, I shoot virtually all my personal work with a tripod.
There is nothing like a Gitzo and nothing better than carbon fiber. The use of a tripod goes beyond shooting, but it's uses are many and varied. It has saved my balance while climbing over treacherous terrain, allowed me to spread my way through deep prickly bushes, saved me from getting wet while setting up a shot, allowed me to keep my bag from getting wet, dirty and/ or full of poison ivy. Yes a tripod is my friend.
steve Mason

My life in tripods began sometime as a teenager with a $5 no-name from a garage sale. It lasted a couple of years until something got stripped and I replaced it with a Slik U212, which was incredibly versatile, though not really sturdy. It had a tripod mount on one of the legs for low angle work and was easily converted into a copy stand. It failed spectacularly many years later when I was taking a photograph that my wife and I eventually put on our wedding announcement, involving a Canon New F-1, a Stroboframe, Norman LH-2 strobe and 200B battery pack, 12x16" softbox, and a windy night on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade with the Manhattan skyline in the background. The camera and flash survived after the worn collar that supported the center column cracked under all that weight, and the column came crashing down. Still got the shot without the center column extended and tossed the tripod in a trash can on the way home.

I replaced that one with the smallest Bogen that had a geared center column--about a 10 lb. tripod. I didn't care for the older style Gitzo locking collars, and the cam locks on the Bogen were quick to operate. Then I think I had around two or three Leitz Tiltalls, which I think offer the most bang for the buck, a smaller Linhof pedestal style studio stand, a Majestic behemoth with leg extensions and a telescoping column for photographing from a very tall ladder, and a beautiful little Linhof Report with three legs that folded flat all in the same plane, so it fit nicely in checked baggage.

Then at PMA one year I tried a 5-series Gitzo 6x, and I was sold. It's a super heavy duty leg set, but the weight of a medium sized tripod (7 lbs for the legs only with a flat plate instead of a center column), and the new style leg collars and non-rotating legs are a major improvement over previous versions. I sold off all my other tripods except for the compact Linhof Report. If I want a light tripod, I put a 1 lb. Acratech ballhead on it, but if I need the ultimate in support, I've got an Arca-Swiss B2, which is a hybrid head that offers the strength of a ballhead and the control of a pan-tilt head, and I have two center columns when I need them.

Alas, my three-year-old sat on my little Linhof while it was folded and managed to bend the legs just enough that they don't move so easily. Fortunately it wasn't too expensive. I've replaced it with a Feisol CT-3441S, which is kind of like a Gitzo 2-series Traveler with reversible legs that fold very compactly.

The Gitzo GT5540LS/Arca-Swiss B2 combo will hold anything, but I still wonder every once in a while about a Ries. Now that's a tripod.

Thrilled to hear so many are still using their Tiltalls.I sold tons of them in the 70s when Uniphot had taken over the name and distribution.
Purchased mine for my Nikon FTN and always felt it was a bit of overkill when I switched to Olympus OM2s in 78.
I am glad I held on to it all these years because it has become a perfect match for my E-3 and kit,not to mention I rely on it more and more in my old age ;-)

The Tiltall is still being manufactured although ther have been some mods to the original design.
Official history,info,and replacement parts can be found here...


For what it's worth I bought a Feisol carbon fiber direct from Tawain, sent same day as ordered and 3 days to Australia..... it fits in my backpack, weighs less than a kilo and supports my hasselblad via RRS head that cost 3 times more than the tripod but will never let me down.

I bought the tripod without centre column to reduce weight but hey I have to look down into the viewing screen remember... so it suits my purpose. It's very well made, perfect for long treks and fits in overnight bag for transit ...... all I need to enjoy my photography.

Well worth a look at their web site for consideration.

Ps..... they come with hand warmers to, and it gets cold enough here to be glad of them a times!

Dear Des,

That old rule of thumb wasn't worth anything.Someone who didn't understand physics (or understood only just enough to be dangerous) made it up. Mass isn't what counts, damping is what counts. Using a tripod with poor damping with a heavy camera works even worse than using a light camera on said tripod.

pax / Ctein

Great tripod and sturdy stand. But be carefull, do not hang a plastic bag on the tripod in high wind since this can lead to a capsizing of the tripod (due to the three legged inherent instability) sending tripod and camera (in this case a freinds Nikon FA) to the rocks. Camera on the rocks is not a great idea.

The Nikon was dented but survived this by the way.

Greetings, Ed

The main disadvantage of aluminum tripods is the weight and on the older Gitzo models the adjustment of the tripod legs and locking system. On modern Gitzo tripods the locking system is much improved, requires almost no effort to lock or release the legs. If you do a lot of walking with a tripod and can afford it carbon fiber is the way to go.

I remember Arthur Kramer, writing on CompuServe many years go, saying that the sharpest lens in the world is a tripod.

'Nuff said.

In days of old, there was the belief that lighter cameras called for heavier tripods. In 1963, I saw a Kodak employee taking a picture of a rose outside the George Eastman House; he was using a Kodak Instamatic camera mounted on a Davis and Sanford tripod, which was most often used for large view cameras in the studio.

My own mainstay tripod is an old Majestic Twin-Leg Powerlift, with outriggers. Aluminum, it weighs 25 pounds and supports anything.

"Convenience" wasn't a term used with 'serious' photography; must have come into play with miniature cameras, automation, and digital.

Who needs a tripod?! Just throw it in the air.


I haven't been able to shake the feeling that I desperately "need" a medium format rangefinder despite the suspicion that I'd rarely (if ever) shoot it. I've been eying some of the Fuji models, but would love to hear how the Bronica stacks up against the Mamiya 7.

By the way, if anyone loves their tripod but finds it doesn't damp out vibrations, here's a quick-and-dirty fix.

Fill a gallon milk jug with sand or gravel and hang it with window sashcord from the tripod's center. Make the cord long enough that the jug is down near the ground.

That will lower the center of gravity, provide damping mass, and increase the weight pushing the tripod legs into the ground.

"I got mine, in the boxes, in pristine, like-new condition, for $450."

Man, I wish I had jumped on that! You're right: even on eBay they sell for 1.5x to 2x that. I never have tried a rangefinder and I always thought that vertical format would give my photos more interest than my lack of talent does. I haven't made it to the tripod decision yet. I'm still at the "I wonder what 50mm lens and camera combo will work best for me for the rest of my life" stage. That opinion changes about as much as the weather. One bright side is that I've about convinced myself I don't want to carry a tripod.

About 98% or so of my work is hand held and often when the subject, I or both of us are moving. I never had a completely cheap tripod. My first was a Slik U212 which had surprisingly good legs and a junk head but for simple 35mm work it was a good starter.

Then a bit later when I used to drag a 4x5 around the woods I learned that a serious tripod is critical to getting sharp images when your exposures are 4 seconds long. That tripod was a Bogen 3021 with the dreaded pan head. That fell apart and was replaced with a Gitzo 320 which I still have and use but with a Graf StudioBall head and Arca plate system from Kirk. The 320 not only kept the 4x5 steady but does a great job of holding my 400mm f/2.8 and camera rig quite rigid.

I found that when I wasn't using the 4x5 the Gitzo 320 and Bogen 3021 were much more than I needed so I got a Bogen 3001 and ball head for hiking after reading how Galen Rowel believed that most landscape photos can easily be shot from waist level and thus a bigger tripod wasn't necessary.

He was right. When I got the Gitzo 320 I ditched the Bogen 3001 and got a Gitzo 126 which now has a Giottos ball head and it weighs 3 pounds and easily fits into a daypack. But for a lot of things the 320 is too much and the 126 isn't enough so I picked up just last year a mint Gitzo S220 "Safari" with the upside down legs that has an old Slik Proball head. I tend to keep that one in the car at all times.

This way I can grab the support that I need when I need it that will suit my equipment and mobility needs. And you may never realize how useful a tripod can be even in situations where you would never think to even bring one.

For example: yesterday I did a commercial shoot that was in the middle of the day and with strobes but I shot the whole thing on the Gitzo S220 because precise framing was necessary. I locked the camera into position and shot away allowing my subjects to move around my composition in relation to the product that had to be exactly in a particular place in the frame.

In long, I love my tripods. They make the impossible happen.

"I remember Arthur Kramer, writing on CompuServe many years go, saying that the sharpest lens in the world is a tripod. 'Nuff said."

I remember that too, Andrew. I don't quite agree--I always tested lenses for resolution using studio flash units. Usually a little sharper than tripods, because often the ground is moving just a little. At least in cities. Certainly on bridges!


"would love to hear how the Bronica stacks up against the Mamiya 7."

You're in luck, or maybe you are, because that's something I have planned for this summer. Now, plans with me don't *always* equal action, but planning is better than not planning....


Ken N: Cast aside your hex QR plates! Getting rid of those dratted things and going to the RRS (as I think of it; I believe it's ARCA-compatible) system has made me SO much happier a tripod user. Also much more frequent; especially with the L bracket, which lets me change from portrait to landscape format without laying the whole rig over on its side.

My main problem with tripods has always been the choice of head. I have tried many 3-ways and ball types and liked none: Until I discovered the new ARCA-SWISS P series models. I got the P0 model...one hand does it all!

Mike, do you have the rarer than hen's teeth 100mm for the Bronica RF645? I loved the portrait style viewfinder when I tried it in the store many years ago, but alas never bought one when I could afford one, but instead ended up with a used Plaubel-Makina 670.

Mike, I used to have a contraption like yours on top of my ancient Stanrite tripod, circa late '60s. With a tethered bolt on top to endlessly screw the camera onto, and off. It was so seductive at the moment of purchase with all of those levers, gears and knobs, but upon the first use the romance abruptly ended, and into the closet it went.

Who on God's little planet would ever be comfortable trying to use such a device as yours or mine? Not very many, I'll wager.

Have a Linhof aluminum pod, from the 70's, with levers on the legs, which is not that bad actually, and I had a Leitz Wetzlar mini ball head on top for years. OK for an Olympus OM or a point and shoot, but no way was it even safe, let alone stable, for a Nikon digital with heavy, automated glass on it. Substituting a Wimberley quick clamp and getting their universal camera plate did wonders for making that setup actually usable and pretty darn friendly for something like a D70s with small lens.

'Went the Velbon route too, thinking that newer, lightweight would be a decent travel pod. Nope. Proprietary mounting hardware is a bit odd too. Totally wasted money.

All of the foregoing are now occasional stands for off camera speedlights, when I can figure them out.

So, I am another vote for dumping a ton of money into a great tripod, once in one's life, that will solidly and safely mount your largest lens and weightiest body. The ball head used makes a huge difference. Again, it also must be capable of holding, smoothly, your longest lens and heaviest body. While I did pop for a Gitzo Series 6, four section leg beauty with no center post, others would do just as well. The carbon is less weighty to carry, as I march into geezerhood. There are lots of great ball heads out there that make adjustments as smooth as butter, without re-clamping and rescrewing after each movement of the camera. I NEVER understood sweet spots until a couple of years ago. Wow! Any good ball head should do this.


Interesting view on things, for me to think about too. I use the same Gitzo Studex tripod as you have, except with a larger head. It works great for 4x5", but in general, I'm really not a tripod person..

I have had a few tripods. The second last was a Gitzo. I was cinvinced by a friend to try his carbon fibre model. A revelation. I now use my tripod far more frequently and it travels with me most times. I just hadn't realized how much user friendly these light but sturdy carbon fibre models are. Mine is a chinese generic brand that works just fine. The screw latches are also much faster and more positive to adjust than on my previous pods.

I'm at a bit of a loss reading about $1000+ tripods. Assuming a camera no bigger than a Sony F828, and non professional durability requirements, I never even considered spending more than $50 or so. I do consider having one essential and have tabletops at home and a normal size one in the car trunk. When you need one, you need one, but as long as it holds the camera... I'm happy. Well, levers are nicer than twist collars, true. Leaving a quick release plate on my S90 would bug me no end though ;). It has such nice compact lines.

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