« Blog Note: SNAFU | Main | Up With Squares! More on Square Sensor Cameras »

Thursday, 12 January 2012


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Okay, I'll be the first one to say it: You should have got the XXXXXXXXX.

Thom's right. I had a 2530 when I had a dSLR and it was a thing of beauty, lovely in form and function. The only other piece of equipment I miss is the Pentax 35/2.8.

I may be interested in an Averagemaster Average SystemAverage. The ProMaster might be too much for me.

One of my favorite writeups on tripods:

Just wish I had read it before I did the 'tripod dance' trying to find the best one for my needs...

I don't even know what number is on my carbon Gitzo but I also love it. I had a cheap clone that a friend kindly gave me and stupidly I left out in the tide flats, never to be seen again. I fear I'll do it again with the Gitzo, since I carry it more than use it.

I remember my tripod moment. I had just gotten my Horseman LX setup the way I wanted it. 4x5 monorail convertible to 5x7. I needed a real tripod. I read and read and was convinced that what I needed was a Reis. Ordered it and the matching head and then waited for it. It didn't take long for me to question my sanity. What was I thinking paying over $600 for a tripod!?

It was with a fair amount of treditptation that opened it up and put it together. After 15 minutes of use, I wondered where this had been all my life. It was a joy to use and did an amazing job. One of the best purchases I ever made.

"Okay, I'll be the first one to say it: You should have got the XXXXXXXXX."

And I'll say, when I broke my head trying to research this last year, I ended up getting the Gitzo 2531, and it was so good to be done with it.

It's a nice tripod, too.

I picked up a Gitzo 2541 (four section version of yours) and I have to say - love it! Best tripod I ever owned - light, quick to setup and taken down. Worth every penny!

I have been wanting to order a CF tripod but was conflicted over spending the money. As I have aged I have been leaving my heavy Bogen behind. This article just pushed me over the edge and I ordered the GT2531 from B&H (yes, I used your link). I'm looking forward to having a lighter weight tripod.

That is one heck of an impulse purchase worthy price. Maybe I'll get that instead of a Linhof Lightweight Pro.

Some great new products were announced in the last year or two, such as the carbon fiber tripods from Really Right Stuff, the Linhof 3D Micro, and the Arca Swiss D4 and D4m.

After 25 years with the same Manfrotto/Bogen 055 I switched to a Gitzo 2540LVL three years ago. The latest chinese copies are getting better and better. And the Gitzo/Manfrotto support has actually some hickups if you need to resolve a problem. You have always to call your reseller, because there is no worldwide Gitzo guarantee. That's why you can run into trouble if you are in another country with a broken part of a Gitzo tripod. Happened to a collegue and confirmed by Gitzo/Manfrotto in Bassano del Grappa, Italy.

Well congratulations on your decision. I'm too embarrassed to say how many tripods I've owned over the years, however in my most recent purchase of a Gitzo 1541, I think I finally reached tripod nirvana. It intersects that sweet spot in the weight vs. stability, and size vs. convenience continuum. I'm looking forward to a lifetime relationship.

"the ProMaster PRO SystemPRO [sic] T325P "

I'm guessing the 'P' in T325P stands for PRO.

Good for you! A tripod should be good, otherwise it doesn't get used.

Now wait for the hardcore tripod gang coming along and noting that you need a wooden tripod... :-)

I've had a nice CF tripod for a few years, Not a Gitzo, but nicely designed and made, for the type it is. I finally broke down and bought a CF tripod with flip locks instead of twist locks.

It is so much faster to set up, adjust for uneven ground and take down when wandering through country and woods. I'm a much happier and more frequent tripod user now.

As it happens, it has a center column that can go horizontal. I wouldn't buy a tripod for that, but it's been quite useful on occasion.

It's standing right here beside me, so I can get its name - Manfrotto 190CXPRO3.


I have a Gitzo Studex (aluminium version) that is like a rock but heavy enough that it only comes out about 3 times a year when I decide to go for a proper photo day, or if we have an interesting eclipse or full moon. For other uses I have a Benbo Traveller that straps onto the side of a day pack, and can get its' legs into all sorts of unusual angles, works on steps or uneven ground, and is "steady enough" for most daytime shooting. I also use it as a light stand and it can put a flashgun into any angle, direction or height up to 2 metres. Putting it up is like wrestling with a drunken octopus however.

There's a Manfrotto (Bogen in the US I think?) Superclamp and small ball head in my camera bag that probably sees more use than both of them.

I hope that post IV won't be the very last on the subject - I am looking forward to learning what in practice you use it for.

I was sorely tempted to order the Gitzo GT2531; my venerable Velbon/Hakuba tripod has seen better days. Especially a six foot fall onto rocks that required repair of a leg section (I was still holding it when we both landed; ouch.) Hasn't been quite as stable since. And I use a tripod basically all the time, shooting stitched panoramics.

But the 2531 only goes to 63" fully extended, and that's a deal-breaker for me. Even allowing for the height of a heavy-duty ballhead and D-SLR, the viewfinder still ends up below my eye level. When focusing or composing, I'm bending over. If I'm shooting down a hillside, I'm bending way over. After an hour or two I need a chiropractor. Gitzo does make a bigger Mountaineer that goes to 71", but near as I can tell it only comes with 4 leg sections rather than 3, so it requires three more steps every time you set up and break down. Over and over, all day long.

Sigh. The search for tripod Nirvana continues.

All this carbon fibre tripod talk is making me envious. My tripod is a silver aluminum Manfrotto I picked up used from a local online site for the tidy sum of $25.-

I can remember reading about tripod legwarmers chuckling to myself about what a waste of money that would be. What a waste until I tried to carry and use this thing for the first time in the winter. That folks, is just COLD!

Concludes the saga?.... no,no,no, now you have to select a new head for your Gitzo Mike .... Markins - RRS - Gitzo..........

Count me among the ranks who passed through the Thom stages: cheap tripod, cheapest model of a name-brand tripod, finally an expensive tripod. And I have to say, the Gitzo Whose Model Number I Forget is a joy to use. Even years later, it feels great to extend the legs, bang bang bang, and set it down and get to work. Like all the best photo equipment, it simply disappears into my workflow.

I get how you're trying to turn me on to them Daddyo, but I just can't - like - get into tripods man. I bought a $3 one in beijing, which I grudgingly use if light drops below 1/30th. No doubt it will drop the Autocord onto the concrete someday. Until then, I'm in profit.

I'm still not convinced of the sturdiness of of carbon fiber tripods.

Yes, they maybe strong enough to hold a heavy view camera and keep it from falling to the ground but what about being able to dampen the vibrations in a strong breeze.

A good comparison of a carbon fiber tripod to a metal or wood one would be like comparing the mass of a concrete bridge to a suspension bridge that does have some flex to it.

Almost as beautiful as (and significantly less "fra-JEE-lay" than) the leg lamp in "The Christmas Story". Both, for sure, enduring classics.

My G1227 is easily my most-loved piece of photographic equipment...even if certainly not the most-used.

I've only ever had lousy tripods. I don't know how good a good one is. I feel so ignorant.

Way back when (in 2004) I read that article by Thom Hogan and realized my old aluminum Manfrotto was weighing me down, since "the best tripod is the one you don't dread trying to haul around and set up."

I tried my good friend's Gitzo and was amazed at how light and sturdy carbon-fiber could be. But, being short on funds, I bought the Taiwanese "knockoff" Feisol 3401 instead. Surprisingly, it served me well for the next 7 years of heavy use (shooting panoramas while hiking).

The memory of that Gitzo lingered in my mind, and when a rubber foot fell off the Feisol, I used it as an excuse to shop for my "really, definitely, this-time-I-mean-it, last tripod I'll ever buy." Big thanks to B&H for a deal on the Gitzo 3541, which ended up being only $80 more(!) than the comparable Feisol (3472).

Either quality knockoffs aren't quite so cheap, or the good stuff isn't quite as expensive as I once imagined. Ask me again in 7 years...

For those of you who use a tripod regularly, what do you use it for? Do you use a cable release? I don't have any particular need for a tripod, but it would interesting to hear about other photographers working styles and habits.

Smart purchase Mike. What's next, gushing about Speedlites? ;-)

Thom Hogan has updated his piece on tripods in view of lighter cameras:

Thom mentions monopods as a viable alternative for controlling the vertical component of the motion. As someone no longer physically capable of schlepping a tripod+head due to advancing disability, I have to rely on—and literally lean on—monopods. The circuit described by Mike (and by Thom in his classic) applies as well: good enough, and not inexpensive, vs. not good enough, and a waste.

Apart from the usual suspects (Gitzo monos are splendid!), I’d like to point out a niche product: the Monostat (in Europe: http://www.monostat.com/ in the US: http://www.monostat.us/). The brand name is unfortunate because of an anti-fungal drug by a similar moniker. The pricing, while a bargain for a Swiss-made handcrafted product, is unfortunate because of the exchange rate. But in all likelihood you’ll never need another one in your lifetime. Unless it gets stolen, as mine was, after 26 years of solid service. The discerning thief picked the battered Monostat, with its even more battered Leitz ballhead, against a shining new Manfrotto carbon lightweight my colleague had left next to it. Happily replaced, but only after trying out the obvious competitors. The unique foot cup sets it apart. There used to be a cottage industry in Germany: obtain a replacement foot cup from Monostat, have it fitted to a Gitzo with a specially machined connector. No longer now, as Monostat spares are only available to bona fide customers.

Robert S.,
Well, I use mine for holding up my 6.5x8.5-inch view camera. Not something I can handhold.

Having a good tripod with a good head and a well-chosen quick release makes the camera much more pleasant to use. It's a bonus that with the legs fully extended and no extension of the center column, the camera ends up just about exactly as high as I need it to be.

I think that's pretty much it, but this particular camera wouldn't work without some sort of support.


I've also grown to love monopods of various weights and sizes, and the neatest thing is that until I get where I'm going, they really are great walking sticks.

I'm of average height; 5'10" for my part of the world, yet strangely most tripods and monopods are too short for me.

My old cheap tripod was too short. I would see a shot at eye level and find that the tripod wasn't tall enough to get the angle I wanted. The new one is taller with the column down than the old one is fully extended but weighs about the same. Yet I am more likely to carry the new one about because it is far more pleasant to use. The new one holds the camera far steadier.

An inch of centre column brings the viewfinder to the eye. A bit more column and I can point the camera at a high object and still work in comfort. It's a Manfrotto 055XPROB, with a three way 804RC2 head by the way.

By the way, is this tripod article the one you wrote and lost? Don't worry, these things happen, and we will still stand four square behind you. : )

No matter what shape pictures your camera takes ; )

Now that you have the tripod out of the way, can an Arca Cube head be far behind? (FYI, I love mine!)

I have a Gitzo CF tripod with a Gitzo three-way head. I like it and sometimes use it, but my favorite tripod is still a late 70s era Leitz Tiltall (I have two). Maybe I'm just used to the Tiltall, but I find it works well for all formats up to a 4x5 wooden field camera. I also have a later-model Tiltall (not Leitz), but it's not the same and doesn't hold settings properly.

I think I might like my Gitzo CF stand more if it had a better, simpler head. Maybe I need to look in to the Really Right Stuff heads.

@ Bryce Lee and Geoff Wittig
Guys, you don't need to strain your backs - just frame your shots with the back LCD screen (Live View), simple and effective :-)

Plus One for Bryce Lee...

...I'm not his height, but every time I check the specs on tripods, most barely come up to my eye with the column up, something which most long term tripod users try to shy away from...the idea that I would spend 500 bucks on a tripod that barely comes up to my eye with everything extended in silly.

I use an old Manfrotto/Bogen from the 80's, that with the column all the way down, and the legs all the way up, put the platform at least two feet or higher over my head. Now that's what I'm talkin' about...sure it's very big folded down and weighs a ton...

To Robert S.: I generally use the tripod at all times, and I shoot formalized portraits, so I try and use the camera on the tripod with an electronic cable release...if I'm in a room I can turn the lights off in, I just use the rear screen of the camera with facial recog...perfect...like an old studio 70mm roll film portrait camera. Even with a film camera, I always use a cable release...

One of the things I use the tripod for is to make a sharp photo in situations that are uncomfortable for me to hand hold....hence wanting a 'pod that goes up to about ten feet in the air, and almost down to the ground, yep they're out there, but muy expensive, especially if carbon fibre...

...no getting around it tho, if I had the cash, I would try and reproduce my big tripod in carbon fibre...I'm amazed at the weight savings...

Congratulations, job done. I'd be very interested to read your thoughts about heads - luckily you can have a selection of easily changeable heads and accessories compared with when I first started in this game.

Because tripods are essential in many photographic situations i'm always surprised these days how few camera bags have straps for them.

I've used Manfrotto CF tripods now for several years and really have no complaints, although I haven't been able to compare them with other CF makes. I like the small 4 piece 190MF4 because collapsed it will fit inside a rucksack or carry-on baggage. The 190 series are better when something more sturdy is required of course I also like the arrangement that allows the column to be mounted horizontally. Personally I prefer the clip locks to the twist ones - easier to see if the legs are locked or not.

As regards stability, although light, they are very rigid (CF) and can always be loaded with a bag or something suspended from the centre column.

Someone mentioned flip locks a while back. I have to have those. I know perfectly well which way is loose and which way is tight but I always confuse them in practice. I'll look into the Manfrotto 190CXPRO3.

Dear Robert S.,

I bought the cable release for my Olympus Pen, since I do a lot of long-exposure night photography. I find that I hardly ever use it; the Pen UI has 2 and 12-second delayed release options in its settings. I've gotten into the habit of switching to 2-second when I do slow-shutter-speed tripod photography. Works just as well as a cable release and less hassle to mess with.

pax / Ctein

Tripods that won't reach eye-level, or above, are a problem -- but so are tripods that will; they're heavy and expensive. And, mostly, I find pictures are better from lower than eyelevel anyway (Dyer-Bennet's dictum: most photos are best taken from a position that makes your knees hurt). So, I've never had a tripod that came all the way up to eye level. I also haven't measured what my eye level is; maybe 70" or 69"? I know the distance to the top of my head well enough.

Huh; this is kind of weird. The "Three Legged Thing" X4 carbon fiber tripod weighs 3 pounds. Their X4a, with identical specs except for aluminum instead of carbon fiber, weighs 3.3 pounds. The aluminum version is $140 cheaper. Is all this fuss really about just .3 pounds? Hmmm; the Benro [AC]3580 is 5.3 lbs vs. 4.2, a bigger difference. But not huge. (Benro, however, likes flip locks, as do I).

"Having a good tripod with a good head and a well-chosen quick release makes the camera much more pleasant to use."

What head are you using?

Re Flip Locks...

...got a buddy who's a world traveler cinematographer, he hates flip locks...voted most likely to get hit and get screwed up by mis-handled baggage...he prefers the simple screw collar...I, on the other hand, don't care one way or the other, but I well remember huge piles of Gitzo tripods at photo studios I've worked in, sitting in the corner with screw collars not working anymore, and a lot of other friction fit things not locking anymore either...Gitzo? Not a fan...

I've had more carbon fiber tripods that I can remember including a Velbon, some Gitzo Studex models (very big and very tall) and some 3 series Gitzos. I leave them all at home now and only take my Berlebach three section, wooden tripod. Works well, doesn't absorb heat or cold, looks sexy, feels great in the hand and, according to my assistant it's not that heavy to carry around...

When I'm slumming it I take my Tiltall tripod.

Think of it as trading in a bunch of Porsches and BMW's to get a Honda Civic. And the prices match the analogy.

There. I fulfilled someone's prediction about the "wooden" camp.

When I bought my Manfrotto CF1, 10 years ago after trying out all those cheap options above, I could see that the Gitzo equivalent was quite a bit stiffer for the same weight. But, I could not get on with those twist locks at all, I actually spent an hour in a store trying hard to like them. The CF1 with its flip-locks did OK for 8 years, especially with its centre post removed - never use those things they're wobbly. I never really liked it though. On a workshop with Jack Dykinga, the first thing he said to me was "Get a better tripod".

Fortunately the CF1 was stolen and by that time Gitzo had their anti-rotation thingy. Faster than those flips locks easily. So I got the 3530, the taller one that doesn't even come with a centre post [lighter AND stiffer]. It is taller than me ready for those steep hillside locations, and I have just developed the habit of not fully extending all the legs.

I wish I'd had this 20 years ago, very light, very stiff, takes a big load and a joy to use. I used to hate tripods - no longer.


Bryce Lee: "Tripods—they're all too short in height, every last one of them!

You might want to look at a majestic tripod
they and their gear heads have been on my wish list for a long time.

Awesome. Now, what about that head?

Robert S.

A cable release is essential if you want to control the exact moment of exposure - or at least the point when exposure starts. For example to exclude/include moving objects like cars or people. Less important for long night exposures of course. In my own case I'm mostly using the tripod in daylight when I just need to avoid camera movement at slowish shutter speeds - rarely longer than 1/2 sec though,

...after I wrote the 'flip lock' entry above, I also remembered that Gitzo tripods in the studio setting were the only tripods I ever saw with people using them with vice grips clamped on the control arms, because people could no longer 'monkey-grip' enough to lock them! It was last night's 'nacht-mare'. Old Gitzo's remind me of another phrase, for some reason: "Exploding Balcar". Another night mare to follow this pm!

As luck would have it, I was about to consider starting to think about replacing my battered Tiltall, but dreading the research, when I read your post. Problem solved, I clicked through and bought the Gitzo.
Now you need to come up with a similar bargain on a ball-head.

It's 63 inches from the floor to my eye when I'm standing level, I'm looking at a page in a B&H catalog that has Gitzo carbon fiber tripods that only go 60 inches or less, and they're all over 700-800 dollars...you've got to be kidding me...man-up and lift weights, you'll live longer and save money.

...meanwhile Manfrotto has tripods in aluminum with similar specs in the 150 dollar range, at only about twice the weight...you really can't carry 3 more pounds to save 650 dollars? I guarantee that the people who leave their tripods home, would leave them home whether they weighed 3 or 6 pounds, they just don't want to take another thing.

Ok, ok! You finally convinced me to replace my old Gitzo G224! Just ordered it.

"Exploding Balcar"
Reminds me of the 3 foot long 2x2 piece of wood called "The Norman Stick"

Mind you that was for the old Normans that had stitch on the cap banks that would send 1200 joules through tha cap bank switch. The ones I bought in 1980 seems pretty safe.

Just received the Gitzo from B&H today. Took the head off the Bogen/Manfrotto and put it on the Gitzo. Even with the head the Gitzo weighs less than the Bogen/Manfrotto legs. I now have a tripod that puts the camera at eye level without extending the center post and is light enough to carry it with me most places.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007