Investigating Tripods

This morning while filming at Good Harbor I was reminded once again that I need to upgrade my tripod (for myriad reasons). The first problem is that wildlife, especially ducks and geese, are fearful of my tripod’s shiny black metal because it so closely resembles the barrel of a gun. When I got back to my office I randomly googled camouflage tripod in hopes that there is such a thing. There are many options but the tripods that seem most appealing to me are the Berlebach models. Read the following from the B & H Photo Berlebach description about the superiority of wood over metal and carbon: “…despite wood’s impervious nature to temperature and its general asthetic appeal, the best reason to choose wood over any other material for a tripod is its incredible ability to absorb vibrations. Wood simply does not resonate vibrations such as other materials, instead it gobbles them up. A wooden tripod placed in a shallow stream may be vibrating quite a bit where the legs meet the water, but up at the column it is dead as a doornail.” WOW! Okay, I am sold!

The next thing to figure out is the difference between a leveling center column and a ball leveling system. I often struggle to get a smooth shot with my current tripod when filming, especially in sand and other unstable surfaces, and have to spend many precious minutes adjusting the legs to create a level platform, whereas a ball leveling system sounds ideal.  I am reading a great article from Videomaker,  “The Best Type of Lightweight Tripods for Cameras,” and am looking at lots of panning and tilting heads online, but would love to know of anyone’s positive experience with their tripods and tripod heads.

6 comments

  • Hi Kim: again I learn so much from your posts. Thanks and hope to see you soon.

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  • Thank you Donna.

    I hope so too, soon–so much work right now–a good thing.

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  • I think most photographers using a tripod won’t be in a stream or other tripod vibrating situation. I use a Leitz “Tilt All” tripod that I bought in my sophomore year in college (Syracuse) in 1969. It’s not a very reflective aluminum, unless you polish it. It’s the best tripod I’ve ever owned, precisely machined and made to last (43 years of pro use so far). Years later, for a specific job, I bought a black Leitz tripod, but it wasn’t as precise in it’s operation as the old one, because the Leitz company had been sold. Tilt All tripods have all the movements you need, which is left to right, and up and down. A tripod I use for larger cameras (up to 11×14) is the Gitzo “Studio Compact.” Expensive, but overkill for you. If you’d like to try out my tripods, let me know. Not for you, but advice I give to young aspiring photographers is: “Use a tripod. All of your photos will be as sharp as a tack, and just setting up the camera and tripod will slow you down. You’ll have time to think and consider the image in the viewfinder. You can evaluate the composition, framing, and distracting content (litter) that you may want to physically remove. This is why many college photo courses require their students to use 4×5 inch film cameras and tripods for their assignments. I’ve done a lot of work using tripods, and if you’d like me to help you, I’d be very happy to do so.

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  • Kim, I have done some research over the past several weeks as I am looking to invest in a tripod and ball head. I currently have a Manfratto pro series alum tripod with an extension that goes horizontal with a manfratto quick release and having issues It is time for something that really works After reading and trying out several different MFG tripods, If you’re using a DSLR and a 70-200mm lens a light weight tripod is not the best idea. I have had camera shake using a remote release and a locked up mirror. Giottos carbon fiber seems to be the best solution, it dampens vibration and it comes in around $500 for the tripod alone, as for a ball head, the Arca Swiss is the choice of most pros and I have found that a company called Really Right stuff makes one of the best ball heads around. All in is around $800.00. it’s a lot but when you compare it to buying some lees quality it always turn into be ing a second purchase. just my research!

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  • Wow again. You guys are great!!! Thank you for taking the time to write. I would love to try your tripod Fred and I will definitely check out your recommendations Thom. Again, THANK YOU!!!

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  • Manfrotto.us is what you want. i have use mine for 3 years in salt water, off the rocks ect and it has not failed me yet, also the color is not the problem.

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