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Monday, 06 December 2010


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The Gitzo "pop" (I assume you're talking about the air cushioning) is the SECOND MOST ANNOYING thing I've ever put up when dealing with a tripod. First is the way you have to properly unlock and lock the twist locks before there was anti-leg rotation. Both just slow down tripod deployment and packing up that makes me less likely to use them.

My favourite legs are still the Manfrotto Carbon One series (441 and 440) for the combination of lightness and sturdiness, as well as the nice flip locks they used; no getting any part of your hands pinched there. A close favourite are the Velbon El Carmagne series, with their flip locks, which won't pinch your hands or fingers as well.

"The Gitzo "pop" (I assume you're talking about the air cushioning)..."

Nope, just talking about the way the leg-locks come undone.


I recently dragged out my big carbon-fiber tripod for its annual workout: taking remotely triggered pictures of my family for our Christmas card. After hundreds of frames, much wriggling around, lots of tears, bribes, threats, rivers of sweat, absurd faces, misplaced hands and more wriggling around, we finally got it! (We decided to use an older picture of us all on the beach.)

"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."

The tripod went back into the closet.


A well-made mechanical thing is a pleasure to use, no need to apologize.

Gitzo tripods are great. I splashed out on a G1028 some years ago and it served its time admirably. I only ended up recently replacing it with a Benro C-169M8 because I needed something which packed shorter, but set-up higher.

One little annoying thing about the old Gitzo tripods was the rotating legs which meant that you had to make sure the upper leg sections were locked before un/tightening the lower sections. It took a bit of practice to get the whole unlock from the bottom, lock from the top rigmarole down pat, especially in rushed situations.

It you wanted a bit of light amusement, handing it to someone unfamiliar with these leg-locks would do the trick :-). The newer Gitzo tripods luckily have non-rotating legs now so that small bugbear has been squashed.

If your budget doesn't extend to Gitzo, then Benro is a brand to look at. The Benro Travel Angel series may look very familiar to the Gitzo Traveller. This design fold down very compactly for its height. The C-169M8 5-section leg-set is reasonably stable for light to medium camera setups. Though not as exquisitely crafted as a Gitzo, I've found Benro to be quite serviceable, though it hasn't elicited the same level of fondness that the Gitzo G1028 did.

I have to say right now I've owned two Gitzos and I broke them both within 30 days or purchase. #1 was a $1500 Ocean Traveler. I managed to pull one of the feet out completely while setting it up, and one of the legs began to screech terribly when I unfolded it. All that within the first week. In short, it was subpar. I do admit that it felt good--REAL good--to set up and break down...at least until it started falling apart. I only got to take it out into the field once!

The second was a Gitzo Basalt somethingorother (about $600, I recall). I also managed to pull its feet out during setup, but this time, the final leg section fell back into the ones above it, meaning I had to fish around for five or ten minutes to get it to come back out again. That's unacceptable. Again, though, it felt very good to set up and break down. Shame it fell apart.

Both tripods were bought from B&H, and they accepted the return of both, no questions asked. I recommend B&H highly.

I'm saving up my pennies for an RRS tripod now. Hopefully that'll hold up.

Having worked my way through a Manfrotto 190, a Velbon Sherpa Pro 5300 and a Slik which I can't remember the model number of, I now use a Gitzo 1541 and it is quite simply the best all round tripod I can imagine. This is the 4-section version of the 1531 you tried Mike, and is NOT the tiny Traveller version.

It folds up relatively compactly, it very quick to set up and take down and when matched with a Markins Q3 head can hold a 5D2 and 70-200 perfectly steady in nearly all shooting conditions. I also have the larger 2541 but I actually find it too big and heavy to carry all day so it usually gets left behind. Julian

Seems you just rediscovered Thom Hogan's rule of tripods:


We must live in a parallel universe as far as tripods are concerned. I sold my scarred, but tried and true aluminum Gitzo reporter for a slightly larger basalt Gitzo model that was more sturdy for my 4x5 and medium format gear. For traveling with an M8, I cheaped out for a Slik 614CF, which, at $250 is, as you say, better - meaning acceptably stable if there are no mitigating circumstances (wind, subway or tram vibrations, etc.)and I use a cable release (and hold my breath). With the ability to review the image on the lcd I can retake it several times if necessary and not worry that I'm burning film. But it works for me and having the lighter and more compact Slik is better than no tripod at all. I have traveled with the heavier Gitzo and it usually ends up left in the car or hotel. By the way, our old aluminum Gitzos were made in France - guess they were recently bought out by Manfrotto?

I plunked down my money last year for the Gitzo GT 1541T tripod along with a Markins Q3 Emile ball head so I've been extremely happy. Carrying a light weight tripod is a joy. It's compact and can easily be packed for traveling.

I've used cameras ranging from a Canon G10 to a Chamonix 45N view camera and the tripod (and ball head) have performed admirably.

The column of the 1541 can be reversed if needed and a weighted object can be suspended easily from the botton of the center column.

FWIW, I have larger heavier CF tripods but the 1541 is the one I reach for most.

Having just looked at your "Barndance Blur" and loved it; coupled with one of the photos I discovered in Davidson's Outside, Inside in which everything gladly suffers a bit of motion blur, I firmly believe that great photographic art can be made without the slightest adherence to technical competence.

However, I still take my tripod with me almost everywhere (a not insubstantial Slik 700dx with a not insubstantial Manfrotto ballhead). Because great photographic art can come with technical competence too.

I live in hope :)

Barry Thornton, in his book Edge of Darkness, has a very good comparison of different types (not brands) of tripods (including hand held for comparison) at different shutter speeds ranging from 1/125 to a full second. 28 pictures in all.

What I conclude from his test is: lighter tripods do not improve on handheld for times shorter and including 1/15th. Heavier tripods are always better than lighter tripods, and "mirror-lock-up" helped (the book is 10 years old) particularly at shorter(!) exposure times when heavy tripods are used.

I've been using a "Tiltall" tripod (not a "Leitz" branded example but one made by Uniphot in Woodside, NY) for more than 25 years, and it's now showing more bare metal than paint. Looking to replace it I decided on a basalt Gitzo which was somewhat less costly than carbon-fiber. However, at the time I could only spring for their monopod... but I guess one leg is better than none!

I absolutely agree on the Gitzo, having just bought one myself (finally after too many cheap alternatives - buy cheap, buy often...). I now look forward to the inevitable Part IV of your test - centre column (Mountaineer) or no centre column (Systematic). There's Gitzos and Gitzos you know :)

How you use a tripod determines which is the one for you. Lightness is great...up to a point. Compactness is fine...unless you sacrifice too much function to get it.
I mostly shoot landscapes, frequently on rough ground or hillsides, mostly using a heavy full-frame D-SLR with an equally heavy long zoom. Unless a tripod reaches at least 72" at the top of the legs, I'm forced to hunch over to look through the viewfinder, especially on a slope. That's a deal-breaker for me. (Anyone older than, say, 35 or so knows what I mean.) Any tripod that requires center column extension to reach my minimum 72" height is out because it's too unstable with my rig.
Even at $799, that primo Gitzo 3531 is too short for me. And any tripod with 4-section legs is out. I move and reposition dozens of times per shoot; unlocking, adjusting and relocking three more twist collars over and over again becomes insanely tedious.
But that's just me. I place function and stability above all other considerations. For other folks, compactness may trump everything else.

Good post on why its what at tripod is like to use that's important.
Used a Manfrotto (Bogen in US?) 441 for years but invested in a Gitzo 3541 last year - packs up small for travel and offers good capacity and stability for weight - many prefer lighter 2541 but I wanted something to hold 300+2x reasonably well!!
Pricey - yes but why save on something so critical to a good image when you'v just spent 4x + on the camera on top of it!

Every tripod its use and I certainly not regret the Gitzo traveller as my first tripod.

It is light, it is compact and it fit perfectly for an APSC camera with a moderately heavy lens. I use it with a Pentax K20D and primes. This tripod allows for pixel peeping long exposures and I got countless keepers from it.

However I had to buy a heavy, sturdy, Manfrotto 028B for my recently acquired Pentax 6X7.

I still use more often the Gitzo that is simply a better tripod and fits in my camera bag.

I used to stress out about not being able to afford a decent tripod (had a $100 prosumerish tripod for a while that was not cutting it with large format cameras at all). Then someone suggested a used Tilt-all. Readily available on ebay, cheap and they just work. Heavy? Possibly, I have nothing to compare it to. For people who shoot portraits, landscapes near their car, or anything short of a wilderness hike I think it's just fine.

If I had $300 to spend photographically, it wouldn't be on a tripod.

Just sayin'.

Several years ago I bought one of the cheap Chinese CF tripods with a ballhead -- Benro brand. It looked, felt, and handled a lot like a Gitzo, but at a third of the price. When it was new, the only real fault it had was the ballhead did drift a bit when loaded with significant (e.g. 80-200 f/2.8; nothing super heavy) off-axis weight.

However, by the end of 2-3 years of moderate use (I used it often, but not for rugged hiking adventures or anything too rough), it accumulated serious wear and tear. The carbon fibers started peeling off the center post, a leg lock broke (I was able to glue it back together), and finally a leg section fell off (I was able to re-attach it, though only temporarily).

After that, I had enough and bought a Gitzo GT2541 Mountaineer with a Kirk ballhead. The Kirk head can be securely locked down with no problem, and after two years of similar usage, the legs have developed no problems. If this setup lasts me more than six years, it will also end up being cheaper than the Benro set.

Along these lines, see Thom Hogan's excellent "Tripod 101" article: http://bythom.com/support.htm

Sheesh... All this time I thought Gitzo was made in France...

ByThom argues for just what you've discovered. Basically, go quality or go home. Don't waste your time, money and photo opportunities on a cheap tripod: http://www.bythom.com/support.htm

However, I've been trying to justify a $600 tripod for years now and it ain't happened... yet.

Oddly enough, my 7 year old Gitzo had one of the basalt legs snap right off at the connection point from simply being opened up. While dealing with the hassle of repairs, I bought a Benro (Gitzo copy) carbon fiber... and the Gitzo still hasn't been repaired two years later.


I've got a GT3531 (iirc) and markins ball head and they are a great combination. Easy and pleasurable to use and - with a bag hung underneath - stable enough for anything I use.

I treat it as a buy and forget item.


"Plus, the CF tripods are more tippy. That's a function of their lightness. If you have a lot of weight to perch on top of one, I'd be a little leery of them. They might get top-heavy and be just a little too easy to topple."

I was worried about just this when I contemplated mounting a recently acquired Deardorff 5X7 view camera on my Gitzo carbon fiber tripod. If felt very tippy, until I suspended beneath it my bag containing a half dozen film holders and a couple of extra lenses--then it felt all but planted. It makes for a convenient place to keep the gear, too.

I think overall I throw my lot in with Paul. There are better things to spend your money on than tripods. It just depends on what you shoot. 90% of the stuff I've most enjoyed shooting just doesn't lend itself to shooting on tripods. Most of it would be up and gone before the tripod could get hauled out and set up. I would say that the only reason to use a tripod is if you're using a camera you can't handhold. But that's just me.


Tripoditus, a disease where by one leg of three is always shorter than the other two legs.
Often an afflication of those individuals who have a tendency to tilt their images, with or without a tripod while taking a photograph.
Not curable, only endurable.
Usually when advised the said photographer in question often no longer has a leg left to stand upon.

A few years ago I had "extra money" and bought the ultimate (in my eyes) Gitzo GT3541XLS - their #3-Carbon Fiber series that goes the tallest - 6'6" - holds an 8x10 - costs only $879. I mated it with a Linhof 3-way head, arguably the best of its class (and not part of the Arca-Swiss plate Mafia) to have a tripod system worth more than my car. It was glorious. There were a few cold Winter nights I, umm, found myself fondling it. (But nothing worse than how I might treat an old Leica.)

Later when I had less money, I sold it and bought a used Tiltall for $80 and haven't missed a beat.

"Plus, the CF tripods are more tippy. That's a function of their lightness. If you have a lot of weight to perch on top of one, I'd be a little leery of them. They might get top-heavy and be just a little too easy to topple."

You got that right, Mike! As you know, I recently watched a gust of wind blow over my Induro C413 tripod while my Contax/P30+ combo was still mounted on it as I was photographing Horseshoe Bend.

Fortunately, the wind blew from the canyon and not into it, or the outcome may have been worse than a broken battery grip and a few scuffs and battle scars.

FWIW, I've owned 4 Bogen (now Manfrotto) tripods over the years. Three of them needed to be re-assembled every time I dragged them out. Heads worked loose and fell off, leg-locks worked loose and could no longer be tightened, etc. And it took a few different tools to effect repairs (box wrench, Allen wrench, and screwdriver at the minimum). My latest one is of much higher quality, and I've so far experienced no problems with it.

My first Gitzo, which I still have after 30 years(!), is an old "300-series" Studex Rapide with 3 leg sections. For heavier loads (Pentax 6x7, 35mm with big glass, etc.) I use an old "500-series" Studex, also with 3 leg sections. It's a heavy beast, and it gets much taller than I am when needed, but if the wind is too high for that rig then it's too windy for me as well. Finally, I use an old "200-series" Reporter with 4 leg sections, mostly for macro or if I really need to travel light. All 3 are French-made aluminum units. They are nearly unbreakable, and in the rare event of a malfunction they can be field stripped quite easily, and usually just cleaned (i.e., cleared of offending sand particles), then re-assembled and put back into use. This is most often achievable without tools, but a 10-mm box wrench might be required in exceptional cases (only happened to me once in 30 years). The worst problem I've had with any of them is the fiber locking-collars getting wet and swelling. I replaced the old fiber ones with newer ones made of some kind of plastic, and that problem no longer occurs.

I'm old enough now, and have logged enough miles with these heavy tripods (and heavier cameras and lenses), that the allure of carbon fiber has begun to grow. Aside from the "tippiness" cited elsewhere, my only concern is vibration damping in the shutter-speed danger zone down near 1/2 sec to 1/30 sec. Any first-hand experiences out there between the aluminum and carbon-fiber models in this regard?

I got the middle-size RRS ball head, and quick-release clamps (lever) for it and my monopod, and an L bracket for my camera, and the quick-release plate foot for my 70-200 a while ago (to go on my old Bogen 3021 set of aluminum legs from the 1980s). Just a few little peripheral upgrades to the same old tripod :-).

And I have to tell you, after what that little upgrade cost, people squawking about spending $300 on an entire tripod make me laugh.

I've still got the old Bogen 3051, the monster two-section legs that release from the top (I've also still got the 4x5 I bought it for).

It was fun to see that picture again; we made jokes back then about Lester Bogen being apparently threaded 1/4-20.

Not to be overly picky, but in your reply to the Question from Rick in CO, you state:

"...Vitec Group bought out Bogen Photo [renamed Manfrotto] in 1993..." which is followed later by "Vitec Group, which by then already owned Manfrotto, purchased Gitzo in 1992..."

I didn't really care that much before, but now I'm curious. ;-)

That's correct. Bogen was just the distributor for Manfrotto in the U.S., and renamed the product with its own name as U.S. distributors often did in the mid-to-late 20th century. It was never the manufacturer.

Vitec Group bought Manfrotto in 1989, Gitzo in 1992, and Bogen in 1993. When it bought Bogen it began distributing its own tripods in the U.S. and that's when it changed the name back to match the international name (actually I think the name changeover happened just a little later, in '94 or '95).


These days, in my area, I see a lot of folks with high-end DSLRs sporting big, fast (heavy), expensive lenses...but...I rarely see a tripod (less than a handful of times in as many years).

Lately, I have drifted away from tripod use - in favour of one-camera/one-prime outings...and it shows.

I think I have just determined my 2011 New Years Resolution.

Cheers! Jay

"Plus, the CF tripods are more tippy. That's a function of their lightness."

Several people have commented on this above. I have a slightly different perspective.

It seems that the lighter-weight Gitzo tripods use a shallow leg angle to maximize height per gram. When I decided some years ago that the Gitzo Mountaineer 1228 I was using was a bit overgunned for hiking with a nearly vibration-free Mamiya 7, I sold it and bought a lighter weight 1127. The 1127 was indeed less stable, but not really because it was lighter than the 1228.

A bit of judicious filing of the leg stops opened up the 1127's footprint to cover the same ground as the beefier 1228, and the lighter tripod was then much less "tippy" despite remaining the same weight, although it was a few inches shorter. Fine for me. (It held my 170 pounds.) I don't know if that kind of fix is applicable with the newer Gitzo tripods, but it worked like a charm with the older versions.

I have so many tripods that this is actually an uncomfortable topic for me. I'll have to back away.

But before I do I must agree with YS's opinion in the first reply. I most often grab my Manfrotto Carbon One legs for 35mm-size needs. (Hey, it wasn't cheap either!) Light, user-friendly, versatile, compact easy to carry. I have three Gitzo legs. They're durable and they get the basic job done. But I just hate those damn twist-locks to death. Hate them, hate them, HATE THEM.

OK, my therapist says that now I have to go.

I had a Gitzo that I bought about 10 years ago and set up 3 times. So I sold it. Then I bought a smaller, cheaper Induro Chinese Carbon tripod. I've also set it up about 3 times. I also got the excellent RRS medium sized ballhead and L-plates ... which I have also used about 3 times.

My favorite tripod is still the Gitzo metal tripod. I used it a lot before I (apparently) gave up using tripods.

Ugh! The "high-end brand name" wins again (not that it had much competition). ;)

I guess it isn't surprising, as reputations are usually built on something, but still annoying for most of us "consumer-grade photographers" who will never put that Noctilux onto the M9 onto an Arca-Swiss onto a Gitzo. (At least the crowded middle-ground that most are "doomed to accept" keeps gear reviewers and bloggers in the gravy as they compare each to the above benchmark.) Thom Hogan might be "right" but he still isn't "most of us."

Just throwing my lot in with the Gitzo 3541. I've use it almost every day for 2 years and it works exactly as it did the day I got it. It still looks brand new too. Any little nicks and scratches on carbon fibre just seem to rub off over time. The four manfrottos (2x 055, 1x 190, 1x 475)I've had seemed to just fall apart after a few years work, and the painted (anodized?) aluminium gets scratched and just stays scratched.
I use the Manfrotto 410 geared head which is great. But it seems to wear like other manfrotto products - only good for a couple of years hard use. I've resigned myself to just replacing these every few years as there doesn't seem to be any alternative.

Don't forget, my default position is that photographers don't need tripods at all.



I have a used, aluminum 4 series Gitzo (still makes the "pop") and a new, very expensive GT2541 (never did make the "pop"), which is compact and easy to carry but doesn't hold a candle to the old, heavy Gitzo. But it's OK since there is nothing photogenic more than 100 yards from the car.


"Aside from the "tippiness" cited elsewhere, my only concern is vibration damping in the shutter-speed danger zone down near 1/2 sec to 1/30 sec. Any first-hand experiences out there between the aluminum and carbon-fiber models in this regard?"

As a landscape photographer, not only do I have too many tripods, I have too many carbon-fiber tripods as well. While I can't say that I've done any scientific testing, when I bought my first CF tripod, I set it up next to the aluminum legset I already had. I racked out a zoom lens to 300mm and flicked one leg. Aluminum: lots of vibration, long time to die down. Carbon fiber: one hiccup, quickly dying down to nothing. Alongside weight, vibration damping is one of the big benefits of carbon fiber.

Lastly, if anyone's looking for an unsolicited testimonial, check out Feisol. Their #3342 is nice and tall, nice and light, relatively inexpensive, and doesn't have the Achilles heel of a center column. Paired with an Acratech ultimate ballhead, it's a great combination for hiking and backpacking.

If you're into that sort of thing.

I dislike twist locks, and so several years ago I decided to replace my old Star-D tripod (a Tilt-All clone) with a popular Manfrotto model from National Camera. Once in the store, however, I decided first to test all the tripods they had on hand by setting each to to its maximum height and tapping and prodding it to see how much it moved. The winner was a carbon fiber Gitzo 1228 Mountaineer, the same model Thom Hogan says Galen Rowell used to carry. Since it was on close-out at about 1/3 off the normal price, I was unable to resist. So I spent a lot more than I intended on a tripod that still had twist lock legs. However, I have never regretted it. Beside stiffness, everything else pales.

I do have a Manfrotto monopod, however.

Too right Mike - you don't need to use a tripod at all!

And like you I own/have owned several tripods - a couple of old Gitzo's that are over 20 years old that I bought second hand years ago - they have metal legs and I still use them often - especially the smaller reporter tripod fitted with a Cambo (remember the 5X4 cameras? - same company) ball head.

I also have a couple of hefty Manfrotto's, a couple of Linhof tripods (yes - they made tripods - and they were like their cameras - craftsman made and expensive..), and a basic Slik with plastic legs and the nicest small ball head I've ever used...

I've also owned a couple of differnet Benbo tripods - a big one and a table top one. These are great as you can put the legs anywhere - and the tripod will still hold a 5X4 at the strangest angle. But they are something you need to come to terms with- something I never could manage..

So what do I use the most? An old Tamron table top tripod with a ball head. Why? Because its always in my bag so it's always there when I need one...

Stabilization is not the only purpose of a tripod. It's also essential when you're doing very careful composition, such as in macro work, where the depth of focus is extremely narrow. I use strobes, so vibration and movement aren't the problem. For this application, almost any tripod at all will work. The important part is the ball head, which can drive you nuts if it's not of high quality.


A lot of tripod problems could be solved, IMHO, if people were simply willing to lower their standards. Have a little shake in the photo? Get rid of it, I say. Plenty more where that came from.

But I found myself using a tripod to shoot some distant mountains last week with my new K-5, and guess what? It was a lot tougher than shooting with a Panasonic GH-1, because the Panasonic has a flexible LCD which is *huge* when you're using a tripod. Almost any piece of junk will work when you have that flexible LCD and a ball head.

I have a friend who refuses to go muskie fishing early in the morning or late in the evening because it's inconvenient and possibly even dangerous, and you could miss a meal; nor does he got out when it's windy or raining. He catches few muskies, but at least when he does catch one, there's plenty of light for photos, the water is smooth, etc. Photographers could learn a valuable lesson from him: go when the light is bright, shoot hand-held, f11 @ ISO1600 and 1/1000. No shake, no diffraction, no problem. (Fix the color in Lightroom -- just push the "clarity" and "vibrance" sliders all the way to right.) You read it here first. Maybe.

As well as being the home of Vitec, Kingston upon Thames's other photographic claim to fame is that it is the birth place of Eadwaerd Muybridge. His family ran a barge business on the banks of the river. He donated a large collection of his prints to the town museum on his death. They have just set up a special exhbition space for this collection. I hate using tripods. Gavin

When I use my GF1 in combination with the world smallest 300-1200 zoom (being an old battered 75-300 and a TC201) I use an even older Gitzo Gilux Reporter 3 (borrowed from my dad who bought it, but now hates lugging it around) with a Cinehead 1 for support. I have an extra degree of freedom due to the lens collar on the 75-300 and the cine head is lighter to carry and less hassle to set up. And weight wise I ride a bike and the Gitzo rests in a bike bag (with a nice non-menacing cow print on it) and since I weigh a hefty xx kg the x kg of the tripod don't really affect bike performance not even on steep uphills. The only problem I have with the Gitzo is the time it takes to set up the damned thing. So for 600/F 5.6 (same lens without the TC201) I chose my light carefully and shoot by hand (ISO 800 and shuttertimes below 1/1000 s and I'm fine).

Greetings Ed.

It seems that commenters, including Mike J himself, are neglecting the difference between landscape photography (Thom Hogan's primary genre) and street photography (Mike's primary interest).

It seems to me (merely being a dabbler in street photography) that a tripod is more of a hindrance than a benefit in that genre. In landscape photography, on the other hand, a tripod makes it much easier to take crisp, carefully composed, low ISO (and thus low noise and high detail) photographs in the wide variety of light that brings landscapes to life.

While a tripod isn't even necessary for landscape photography, it certainly makes things a lot easier (it is, after all, just a portable, compact, quickly adjustable stable surface).

Think about it this way: how many famous landscape photos use grainy Tri-X or have motion blur tolerated in order to capture the "decisive moment" (as opposed to motion blur used for artistic effect as in moving water framed by crisp rocks). The needs of the genres drive the equipment -- photography is not a monolithic genre any more than painting or sculpture.

Personally, I've yet to outgrow my Gitzo 1541T with RRS ballheads (BH-40 and BH-25). This tripod serves my needs almost perfectly well, even with the hefty 70-200mm f2.8 VR attached to my D300s. (I say almost because it is a little short, but that disadvantage is linked to its portability advantage.) I was doing tests on its vibration damping (with BH-25) at 300mm the other day, and it takes less than 2 seconds for large hits to be damped.

My real enemy now is the ever-present haze in my new home, Hong Kong. Any ideas on how to get rid of that in photos?

I have a Manfrotto 190 that's experienced more than it was ever designed for. I was fussing around in the back of the car changing lens or film only to turn around to see my son swinging off it. He weighed about 18kg at the time and the legs were bowed but it's still working.

Mike - have you seen the article "A Sure Shot" by Kai Hamman that was published in LFI 1/2006? The article compared the results for a number of high-spec tripods tested for stability and vibration resistance, with the top marks going to a Berlebach wooden tripod. I can't find it on the 'net but I have a pdf copy of the report I can send if you'd like to see it.

Carbon Fibre (english translation)

Bought my first Tiltall (original made in his garage) back in 1960 lasted until 1980 something , then I left it at a job and some one ended up with a nice gift. Bought a knock off, piece of junk. Pick up a Manfrotto 3221W, love it. Drove over it with the RV. Received the parts to repair it in a few days and it's working fine ever since.
I never liked the twist locks on some tripods, the lever locks are faster and less troublesome.

After many years using a Bogen/Manfrotto 3001 with a 3-way head, I recently bought a Feisol Traveler with a Photo Clam ballhead. So far, it's working out quite well. It's not as sturdy as the Bogen, but for what I use it for - mostly wide angle, documentary photography of old houses - it's perfect. In comparison to the heavy Bogen, it's nimble - quick to set up and easy to adjust through a wide range of heights. It's also less liable to injure me - I've gotten nasty finger pinches from that Bogen tripod. The carbon fibre is also more comfortable to hold in cold weather.

I am a tripod kinda guy. I find a sense of freedom in being able to let go of the camera and use my hands for other things, like measuring the light with a hand held meter. It's good to fine-tune and fix the exact position of the camera during thoughtful study of the framing and levelling in the viewfinder or on the spirit levels.

The lack of a tripod is one of the factors that makes some people rush the picture taking process.

I second the recommendation of the Gitzo tripods. I've had mine for well over a decade, and the only sign of wear is the noticeable skewing of the rubber sleeves on the largest lock ring that perhaps I tend to over-tighten in the attempt to stop the inner leg from turning while I'm trying to loosen the lock on the leg below. But that's only an aesthetic matter - the function is unaffected. Newer models of the Gitzo are better in the way the inner sections of the legs won't rotate.

My only real complaint is the design element that allows for a painful injury to the careless operator. I've been careless twice, and have two scars to show for it. The hinge at the top of each leg makes for a perfect pair of pincers that pinch the skin of your hand or finger if you're careless enough to be holding that part while you swing a tripod leg out and away from the vertical axis to its usual position for use. You could probably use the pincer aspect of the Gitzo hinges to cut wire if you were lacking a proper pair of cutters.

I've seen a Giottos tripod that had a better design that prevents the possibility of a pinch injury. Mind you, the painful memories come back instantly when I start setting up my Gitzo, so it's unlikely that I'll make the same mistake a third time.

I have the big 2.6 meter, 6-section Gitzo Giant 5561 with a medium RRS ball-head. Love it when I'm going out to do a day or a week of nothing but landscape shooting. Too big for carry-on on the airlines, but it's very solid, and not brutal to carry around.

But I also love my cheap Velbon Victory steel tripod I bought in 1980 and which was used (with a Canon FTb on it) to dissuade a mugger who wanted my camera equipment in West Berlin when I was taking night photos of The Wall. Added a RRS ball-head to it two years ago, completely disassembled it, cleaned almost thirty years of grit out of it and re-lubed everything, and put on new rubber feet, and now it's my favorite "around town" tripod. Nice and solid.

My only complaint about the Velbon is that I have to hunch over to use it, whereas with the big Gitzo, I almost never fully extend all three legs, and never have to bend over to look through the viewfinder. Size matters.

You don't see one very often, but a Ries tripod (http://riestripod.com) is not only beautifully made, but also very stable. The upper leg locks are unique, and enable you to establish an extremely rigid support with different resonant frequencies compared with all-metal tripods. I believe Brett Weston used to use one.

I used to use mine with a 4x5 view camera, but now have it equipped with an Acratech ballhead for panoramic work in the Canadian Rockies. I'd call it luggable, as opposed to portable, and it's hard to beat when the wind's blowing.

I carry a lightweight Davis and Sanford Voyager Lite tripod. http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/667187-REG/Davis_Sanford_VOYAGERLTB_Voyager_Lite_with_BHQ8.html

The bulk of my shooting is in the Northwest rain forests for landscapes and some close-up photography. Even though the Voyager Lite is lightweight at 3 pounds, it still can support up to 8 pounds. I've had fellow photographers say it's too lightweight for my Pentax 645, but my experience says it is better to have this tripod than no tripod at all. All I really need is a steady platform, and this fills the need. My medium format images are just fine, and nice and sharp using this little well-built tripod. For MY shooting, I could not justify a large, complex, expensive tripod. When hiking, I don't use a tripod at all, just using available supports if really needed. Just sayin' it works for me!

Michael Reichmann on Luminous Landscape had a tip for a light tripod that I found useful: "attach a bungee cord to the tripod at the apex, below the head (Gitzo tripods have a hook there that serves the purpose) and then put your foot through the stretched cord and plant it on the ground. This is a better solution than hanging a camera bag from the hook, since the bag can swing, causing its own problems".

I found a bungee can be useful even if you tension it to a heavy inanimate object (eg, a bag), as long as you don't apply enough pull to lift it off the ground: it mitigates the risk of swinging. String or even dental floss could be an emergency substitute.

Mike, must congratulate you. For one who is not a "tripod person" you have managed to incite an amazingly diverse discussion about about tripods. Now how about getting your friend Ctein, who apparently is a tripod person, to write a column about what he uses, what he loves and hates about them and his recommendations.

As for me, I use a Manfrotto-Bogen 3021B Pro which is quite good except for occasionally getting my fingers pinched in the otherwise quick and easy to use lever locks on the legs. RRS BH40 ball head works great with both my D3 and M9.

Has anyone tried the RRS CF tripods? They make terrific ball heads, plates and other things, I'm curious how their tripods are in real use, and how they compare with other high quality makes, such as Gitzo.

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