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Camera Gear Advice

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Offline randell

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Camera Gear Advice
« on: December 07, 2007, 10:31:34 PM »
Ok photographic gods who frequent this board.  I just got my first SLR and I am looking for a tripod that I can carry on my camping/backpacking adventures. 

I'm not overly concerned about weight since I'll only be carrying my own stuff (as opposed to the times I backpack with the kids and have to carry gear for three people).  My research points towards Bogen-Manfrotto tripods as very good so I have a few I am looking at.  However, there seem to be a dizzying array of things that go into a tripod (what the heck is a JR Head anyway?)   

So I am soliciting recommendations from you, the resident camera experts (except you xception - you talk too much already [just kidding]  :eusa_angel:). 

I know you are all wanting to know what I got, so here it is:

:beer_chug:

Seriously though, tell me what you recommend.  I am horrible at making up my mind about equipment.
There's nothing like a good quest to get you intimate with a place. - Tom Clynes

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Offline homerboy2u

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Re: Camera Gear Advice
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2007, 11:07:17 PM »
Forget the tripod man...do something about the color...Woooahh !!! :eusa_hand:
Stay thirsty, my friends.

Re: Camera Gear Advice
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2007, 12:06:16 AM »
There are some backpacking tripods that are very lightweight and simple, and fairly inexpensive.   Some are for SLRs, and some are for point and shoot, so you would need to make sure you get the one suitable for your camera, and the weight of your lens. You can find them on BackpackingLight.co m.  There are not parts required other than the tripod.

There are also some that will attach to a trekking pole that may be suitable.

While they may not be as sophisticated as what you are seeking, and are pretty small, they can provide a secure fixed support for your camera.

I also can imagine that if you bought the SLR, and have some lenses, that the extra weight of the tripod may not be that much of an issue.

Caveat:  I am by no means a camera expert.  The tripod I have has worked well for me, but I have not gotten anywhere much beyond being a photographer wannabe.
"No, that did not happen to me.  You have me confused with someone else."

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Camera Gear Advice
« Reply #3 on: December 08, 2007, 12:13:36 AM »
For me, the trick is height. Most lightweight tripods do not provide a comfortable working height. You being taller than me will feel this even worse than I do. The two lightweight tripods I have (one was seriously bent on Casa Grande) put the camera about a foot beneath my eye level, which is workable but not optimal. The tradeoff typically occurs between height and flexibility (such as being able to set the tripod less than 20 inches from the ground to 66 inches above) AND weight and packability. My best tripod weights 4 pounds and packs into what looks like a rifle case. It's terrible on the trail. I've seen other photogs just carry their tripods over their shoulders with the camera attached.

This is the same brand and similar to my backpacking tripod of choice.

So, my advice pal is to go to a photography store and play with every tripod they have. Then select one based on what you see as the right combination of weight and flexibility. Then buy it online.  :icon_biggrin:
« Last Edit: December 08, 2007, 12:19:22 AM by jeffblaylock »
Jeff Blaylock
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Offline randell

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Re: Camera Gear Advice
« Reply #4 on: December 08, 2007, 12:20:36 AM »
So, my advice pal is to go to a photography store and play with every tripod they have. Then select one based on what you see as the right combination of weight and flexibility. Then buy it online.  :icon_biggrin:

I was going to try that next week.  I was just doing some research here this weekend to see what others on the board tote around on backpacking trips.
There's nothing like a good quest to get you intimate with a place. - Tom Clynes

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Offline Al

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Re: Camera Gear Advice
« Reply #5 on: December 08, 2007, 12:50:12 AM »
Velbon makes good stuff.  I have a Velbon I bought over 20 years ago, although not for hiking. 

I gave my light weight full size tripod I found at WalMart to a buddy who would use it more than me. 

Here's a good place to start. 

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00022UE8Y/ref=dp_cp_ob_title_3

But if you think about it you really don't need a full size tripod on the trail.  Set your shot up holding the camera and then mount the small tripod.  Will generally work unless brush is a problem, you really don't need a full size tripod although it is nice.

Al

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Offline presidio

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Re: Camera Gear Advice
« Reply #6 on: December 08, 2007, 09:11:55 AM »
(one was seriously bent on Casa Grande)

Yeah, but what was he doing while you were bending it on him?  :rolling:

Quote
The tradeoff typically occurs between height and flexibility

Oh, I have seen just the opposite in lightweight tripods....the higher they are the more flexible they become.  :eusa_doh:

Quote
My best tripod weights 4 pounds and packs into what looks like a rifle case.

So, how many times have you been stopped for a check of contents?

Quote
So, my advice pal is to go to a photography store and play with every tripod they have. Then buy it online.  :icon_biggrin:

We all do this with many things. However, spending a lot of time in a store testing equipment and likely relying on store employees for help and advice is different than cruising through and quickly checking prices for something you already know you want. A small distinction, perhaps, but one might consider actually doing business with the place since you have benefited from their not-inconsequential overhead costs to let you handle the merchandise. Also, consider the (often) higher store price as perhaps equivalent to you having to pay return shipping for equipment you receive that is not workable, something you have eliminated by using the item in the store.

Not a judgment here, just an observation; I also buy most of my things online after looking locally.
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Offline Casa Grande

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Re: Camera Gear Advice
« Reply #7 on: December 08, 2007, 09:39:14 AM »
Here's my opinion:

I had a carbon fiber tripod I used to carry around the high country....it was fairly sturdy, but too bulky for what I wanted....so, during a photo trade show I found a new tripod Slik was carrying.  It was very light aluminum tripod, very small (which I love) and had a built in ball head, essential for my needs. Plus, it was only about 80 bucks.  Slik isn't the best but they are resonably priced and you get a pretty good bang for your buck.  The one I purchased is called a "Sprint Pro."  It also has the ability to spread the legs so wide open you can get close to the ground and it has the option of flipping the head to the bottom.  Very verstile, cheap. The real problem with it, which I can deal with, is the flemsyness of it.  It can be pretty unsturdy at higher extensions, therefore, I just don't expand it so high.  This shouldn't be a problem with a lighter weight camera. (keep in mind, I have a heavier than normal set up).

When collapsed, it is only about 18 inches in length...I love it!

« Last Edit: December 08, 2007, 09:45:29 AM by Casa Grande »

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Offline badknees

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Re: Camera Gear Advice
« Reply #8 on: December 08, 2007, 09:59:48 AM »
Here's my opinion:

I had a carbon fiber tripod I used to carry around the high country....it was fairly sturdy, but too bulky for what I wanted....so, during a photo trade show I found a new tripod Slik was carrying.  It was very light aluminum tripod, very small (which I love) and had a built in ball head, essential for my needs. Plus, it was only about 80 bucks.  Slik isn't the best but they are resonably priced and you get a pretty good bang for your buck.  The one I purchased is called a "Sprint Pro."  It also has the ability to spread the legs so wide open you can get close to the ground and it has the option of flipping the head to the bottom.  Very verstile, cheap. The real problem with it, which I can deal with, is the flemsyness of it.  It can be pretty unsturdy at higher extensions, therefore, I just don't expand it so high.  This shouldn't be a problem with a lighter weight camera. (keep in mind, I have a heavier than normal set up).

When collapsed, it is only about 18 inches in length...I love it!



Do you know how much it weighs?
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Offline Casa Grande

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Re: Camera Gear Advice
« Reply #9 on: December 08, 2007, 11:06:03 AM »
Do you know how much it weighs?

not exactly, but it is the lightest weight, most functional, most compact tripod I have ever used...i hardly know i have it hanging from my waist belt.

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Offline Roy

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Re: Camera Gear Advice
« Reply #10 on: December 08, 2007, 01:00:41 PM »
Several things to consider.
1.  How much does your lens/camera combo weigh.  Make sure you've go enough support.
2.  How tall is it with just the legs extended?  You don't want to extend the center column to gain height unless you absolutely have to;  this is where you you'll get major instability.
3.  You can buy legs and heads separately, so consider what else you might want to use it for.  If you might want to use it with a video cam, then a fluid filled head might be nice;  they're excellent for panning with video.  The ball head CG is talking about is not as nice for panning, but is far more flexible, and less bulky, than the standard 2 or 3 handle system.  You've got one knob that controls tension, then the head rotates around a ball and socket joint.  There are also ball heads made with a pistol grip action;  you grip/release the handle to tighten/loosen the whole head at once.  I've got one of these and I think it's a lot easier to use than the standard ball head
4.  I got a mid-sized Bogen and it's a pretty good tripod;  they're kind of the "Ford" of tripods.  Not a Cadillac, but definitely not a "Yugo", either.
5.  Wouldn't worry about the material;  both aluminum and carbon fiber are plenty tough enough.
6.  Maybe a  different solution, the ErgoRest.  You can't use it for height by itself, but I've seen it used as a chest mount, set on the ground for low angle shots like a flower,  or a convenient rock if there's one around, or hang it on your car window or anything else that the arm will grab. And it's small and easy to carrry.http://ergodirect.net/browseproducts/ergorest-multi-tripod-stand.html

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Offline tjavery

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Re: Camera Gear Advice
« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2007, 10:14:01 PM »
I agree with Roy's advice. It's well said.

But of all camera gear talk, tripods are probably my favorite subject :grin: So, here's some of my brain-droppings based on my experience:

There are a lot of features to look at and consider. Some of them may not seem important now, but when you're out in the field you don't want to be fussing with some blasted leg locks or center column that just won't work like you need it to.

Brand

I've had experience with Bogen/Manfrotto, Gitzo, and Giottos. All of those are brands seem to be quite good.

In general, price is directly related to quality (true with a lot of things, but not all :grin:). My philosophy is to spend a bit more and get a quality product that will perform better and last longer.

When I started this camera thing, I used an old tripod I inherited from my grandfather. I took it to Big Bend. It was terrible to use and I broke a few things.... bad experience!

Leg Splay

Get a tripod that has independent leg splay, i.e. the ability for each leg to rotate and lock at several angles between vertical and horizontal. Here's an example of one leg fully "splayed" out:



The leg splay is an awesome feature when setting your tripod up on uneven ground and/or in a tight place.

Go Shorter

You can get by with a shorter tripod (or using a weaker, i.e. lower capacity, tripod that's not fully extended) with a couple of accessories. An anglefinder (also called an angled viewfinder) will generally allow you to use your camera about a foot lower than eye level. An anglefinder will also make your life easier when you want the camera at a very low angle. Instead of laying on the ground to see through the viewfinder, you just squat down and lower your head to the anglefinder.



A L-bracket (used as part of a quick release system) also helps. Instead of rolling the camera over 90-degrees to go from horizontal to vertical shooting (which lowers the viewfinder considerably), you just rotate the camera body and re-clamp.



Center Column Lock

The center column locking mechanism can be a source of problems. I've had two tripods in the past that used a set screw (a screw perpendicular to the column) to "bite" down on the column. This design never seems to hold the column securely enough.

A better design is the rotating collar and collet system:




Ball Type

Should you choose a ballhead over a pan/tilt-type, I would advise you to get one with a metal ball. My first ballhead (a Bogen/Manfrotto 488RC2) had a phenolic ball. It worked fine when I used a short lens, but when I loaded it down with a heavy telephoto lens, the head would never lock well enough. Maybe it was something else, but I think a metal ball is better.



Leg Lock

There are generally two designs used for locking the leg sections: flip-levers or screw-down type clamps. I've used both and each type works well. The flip-lever style is probably the easiest to use, but with a little practice the screw-down type is nearly as easy to use.

Quick Release

An absolute necessity! Definitely get a QR system.

Each manufacturer seams to have their own proprietary system. But at the higher end of things, there's the Arca-Swiss system. This particular system is well designed and there are butt-loads of different camera and lens plates available. Brands like Kirk, Really Right Stuff, Markins, Acratech, Wimberley, and Arca-Swiss all make clamps and plates that are interchangeable.

Example 1

This is a Giottos 1140 set of legs with a Bogen/Manfrotto 488RC2 ballhead. I used this rig on my last overnight hike into the Chisos. It's very lightweight (about 3 pounds total).

The tripod legs are well suited for a small point-n-shoot type camera. My trick is that I don't extend the tripod all the way - only to about 3 feet at highest, and I use an anglefinder and L-bracket to make it work for me.



Example 2

This is a Bogen/Manfrotto 3021BPRO set of legs with a Kirk BH-1 ballhead. The tripod legs have been modifed - I removed the center column completely and all the crap that went with it. Like I stated previously, the locking device (a perpendicular set screw) didn't work worth a fart. But the legs are damn nice and well built.

This is a heavy set-up (nearly 8 pounds) and is complete overkill :grin: It's better suited for one of those giant lenses you see at sporting events, although I lack such a beast (just can't justify spending $5 - 7K for one lens :grin: ). But it's nice to have a rig that I could park a car on if I wanted. The wind won't knock this thing over and I can beat the bears off with it.




Example 3

This is a Gitzo GT1530 set of legs with a Really Right Stuff BH40 ballhead. The legs are carbon fiber and pretty light. The whole deal weighs about 3.5 pounds, and I will gladly haul it with me on my next overnight hike.




Anyway, good luck in choosing the right tripod + head. And Jeff's right, getting a bit of hands-on time is really a good thing when it comes to tripods and heads. Definitely go check them out!

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Offline randell

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Re: Camera Gear Advice
« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2007, 10:35:47 PM »
Man tj, this is like reading a research paper!  I like it!  It appears there is no limit to the amount of accessories you can purchase.

Thanks for all the advice.  Just what I needed!
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Offline xseption

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Re: Camera Gear Advice
« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2007, 12:47:47 AM »
Man tj, this is like reading a research paper!  I like it!  It appears there is no limit to the amount of accessories you can purchase.

Thanks for all the advice.  Just what I needed!

Since no one asked, I am just curious as to what you intend to shoot. Usually, I choose the best tool I can afford for the purpose intended. I would think you are considering landscapes, but I don't want to assume. Please share with us what you intend to shoot using the tripod.

Thanks!

~ edd
« Last Edit: December 10, 2007, 12:44:54 PM by xseption »
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Offline randell

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Re: Camera Gear Advice
« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2007, 07:15:02 AM »
Mountains, stars, roadrunners, cactus, whatever I see that I want a photo of.  Mainly landscapes, though.
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