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Thread: Lightweight/Traveling Tripod

  1. #1
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    Lightweight/Traveling Tripod

    I have pretty much decided my next piece of gear will be anew tripod. I am currently using an oldaluminum Bogen/Manfrotto 3504B tripod. It has served its purpose, but adds more weight than I’d like whilehiking and adjusting the head can be cumbersome. The end result is I often leave it at home.
    In doing a little research, it seems that there are two maintypes of tripods that I will eventually want: a tall, incredibly strong tripod(such as a RRS TVC-34, etc) and a lightweight travel/backpack tripod. As I do a fair amount of travel and hikinginto waterfalls, I am planning on focusing on the lightweight travel/backpacktripod. I plan to use this mostly forlandscape/waterfalls (7D and the EFS 15-85), but will also use it at times withthe 7D and EF 100-400 L.
    I’ve put together a list of potential tripods and ballheadsthat I wanted to run by everyone to see if you had any thoughts orrecommendations (ranked in order I am leaning):
    Tripod:
    1. Gitzo 1542T (~$450, 2.2 lbs, packs to 16.7”, Maxheight 58.7”, min height 8.6”)
    2. Manfrotto 190CXPro4 ($210, 3 lbs, 19.7”, max57.5”, min 3.2”)
    3. Gitzo GT1541 (~$599, 2.5 lbs, 21.3”, max 62.6”,min 6.7”)
    4. RRS TQC-14 ($850, 2.7 lbs, 17.8”, max 59”, min3.2”)
    Ball heads:
    1. Gitzo GH1780QR (~$180, 0.8 lbs, 3.7”) orGH1781QR—same specs
    2. RRS BH-30 LR ($275, 0.7 lbs, 2.9 inches tall) + plate($55, 0.1 lbs)—total ~$330 and 0.8 lb (maybe upgrade to the BH-30 LR II)
    3. Gitzo GW2781TQR ($160, 0.9 lbs, 4.5”)
    4. Manfrotto 496RC2 ($65, 0.9 lbs, 3.9”)
    5. Manfrotto MH054M0-Q2 ($170, 1.3 lbs, 4.6 tall)
    Any thoughts? Pleasefeel free to propose new tripods or ball heads.

    Thanks,
    Brant
    Last edited by neuroanatomist; 12-28-2012 at 02:32 PM. Reason: Typo fix, by OP request

  2. #2
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    No first hand knowledge yet with those posted, but I have had that light Gitzo on my list for some time. Maybe you will get it and give us a report back.
    Last edited by HDNitehawk; 12-28-2012 at 05:20 PM.

  3. #3
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    I went through the same process earlier this year. The dilemma I found myself in again and again, was to get the stability of a mastodon at the weight of a feather.First I bought the Benro C-2691EX (I don´t think that exists anymore, but it is the speedlock version of the 2692, I think), with the Benro B-2 head. Carbon, light and compact, 5 section legs, speedlock and the option to use one of the legs as a monopod. And the price is competitive. If I was on a tight budget, I am sure I could live happily with this tripod. In your case it would probably work well except on the longer end of your 100-400.

    But I am used to the Gitzo GT3542LS/Wimerley Gimbal II for +400mm use and the Benro simply felt shaky. So a couple of months ago I bought the Gitzo GT2540F ($799) with a GH1780QR ball head ($220). It is not on your list, but it might be that you should add it. Yes, it is more expensive and yes, it is slightly bigger (just over an inch) and slightly heavier (like 4 AA batteries), than the Benro, but it is in a different league on everything else. I have carried it on longer hikes and also in planes. It is easy to set up, stability is excellent and it gives you that special will-last-forever-feeling. I have used it, with the ball head, on everything from 14mm to 400mm and it just feels right. I even mounted the Gimbal head with the Canon 1DX and a Canon 400mm f2.8L IS II, with the 2x III extender on it. And it worked so well that I will repeat that combo on most trips with long walks or high climbs in the future.

    The number of tripods out there are enormous and it is not easy to make the right choice.
    Good Luck!

  4. #4
    Member Poik's Avatar
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    I am in pretty much the same boat as you. I have a nice old Gitzo Reporter aluminum tripod that is very sturdy, bit it must weigh over 10 pounds, and is bulky, no way I would attempt to bring it on a hike. On top of that, I moved across the world, and that was one of the things I just didn't have room to take. I've been borrowing this crappy little tripod from a friend, and it's better than nothing, but I really need to invest in a nice lightweight tripod. I started looking at my options shortly before I left, comparing Gitzo and Manfrotto and a few others at the local camera store. From that I decided I wanted to spend the extra money to get the Gitzo.

    For a short while I was looking into getting the GT1542T, but from everything I read online it just didn't make sense to get since I plan to shoot at anything from 10 to 400mm. I started looking into the GT2541 and GT3541. From the countless reviews and forum posts I have read, it sounds like the GT2541 would probably do what I wanted, but be on the marginal side for the long exposure stuff I like to do. The GT3541 is 620g heavier (~1.36lbs), but packs up very slightly shorter, and extends 8cm higher. But then I read more, and many recommend the systematic version. I really like having the option of to use a column at times, and the column add-on for the systematic is over $200. I think I have finally decided on the GT3541L, which is the long version. With the center column removed it should be slightly shorter than the GT3541, and weigh a little less, and be usable without the column. Slight compromise on weight and packability, but at ~4lbs it should be easy to strap to my pack and take on hikes.
    - Eric
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  5. #5
    Senior Member conropl's Avatar
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    Brant:

    I went through all this last year. It is difficult swimming through all the different brands and options, and there does not seem to be any standards on load ratings which just makes it worse. Some of the cheaper ones have the same rating as the higher cost legs and heads, but in the end they just don't hold the wieght.

    For what it is worth, I have not read a lot of good reports on Gitzo heads (however, there seems to be a lot of bad reports). Although they make top of the line legs, but they do not have near as good a reputaion with their heads. For me, the choice of heads was between RRS and Arca Swiss. The RRS is a little shorter profil and has two slots to turn the camera 90 degrees (but you should use an "L" bracket anyway). Brian had a nice write-up on the Arca Swiss... that write-up and the lower cost pushed me towards the Arca Swiss, and I have never regreted it (what a solid mount). I can have my 7D, grip, two bateries, and 100-400mm mounted and throw the tri-pod over my shoulder with all the gear cantilevered out there, and it holds great. The Arca Swiss may be heavier though, and I do not think you can go wrong with a RSS either.

    As far as the tripod goes... I end up with something not on your list. I was looking for something stiffer and taller. Be careful with the spec's... the two Gitzo's you are looking at give the hieght with the column extended (not how you would ideally want to shot). Without the colmns extended, the hieghts are 45.87" and 52.4". That is going to be pretty short if you put your 100-400mm on it and have to point it up, or if you are on the side of a hill. If I was to chose from what you have listed, I would be looking at the gitzo 1541T since it has a smaller column (so you can get lower), and it is still taller w/o the column extended.

    I did not go with the Manfrotto because it had the flip locks on the legs. My previous tripod had those, and I came to hate them because I would find they needed to be tightened when I was in middle of setting up a shot... the legs would slip. It just got irritating. I did not look at RSS tripods to much because I could not justify the cost (when I looked, it was higher than Gitzo).

    Good luck with your choices.

    Pat
    5DS R, 1D X, 7D, Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6, 24mm f/1.4L II, 16-35mm f/4L IS, 24-105mm f/4L, 50mm f/1.8, 100mm Macro f/2.8L, 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II, 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L, 580EX-II
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  6. #6
    Senior Member neuroanatomist's Avatar
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    Lightweight/Traveling Tripod

    For a few years I used the Manfrotto 190CXPRO4 as my main tripod, first with a 488RC2 head (equivalent to the 498RC2, one step larger than the 496RC2 on your list), then with a 468MG head. Either setup is fine with a gripped body and 100-400 or 70-200/2.8. Pat, not sure if your bad flip-lock experience was with Manfrotto legs, but I've never had them slip on mine.

    As Pat states, load ratings aren't that useful. Different manufacturers have different standards, and they don't explicitly say what 'load capacity' means to them. A 10-lb capacity from one maker might mean 'supports at least 10-lbs rock-solid' and realistically does fine with a much heavier load, while from another it might mean 'a 10.1-lb load will make the ballhead flop over'. So, load ratings are a good guide within one manufacturers lines, but less useful comparing across manufacturers. I do appreciate that RRS lists some specific lens combos in their descriptions.

    I recently got a RRS TVC-33, BH-55, and PG-02 side gimbal - the quality of RRS gear is truly excellent. I've tried out Gitzo gear in shops, it's very good, but the RRS stuff is just slightly better built, IMO. But also costlier...

    For the head, I'd skip Gitzo - their legs are great,their heads don't have nearly as good a reputation. The other issue with both Gitzo and Manfrotto heads is they come with clamps that use their own, proprietary plate systems. I'd really recommend going with an Arca-Swiss system (I have a Wimberley C-12 clamp on my Manfrotto 468MG head for that reason). If you add a monopod, the full size tripod+head, etc., you can mix and match several brands. With the AS system, I use a mix of Wimberley and RRS body plates, lens plates, an L-bracket and a replacement lens foot with Wimberley, RRS, and Kirk clamps.

    I'm currently using the 190CXPRO4 as a travel tripod. It's light enough, but with the head on, it's too long to fit in carryon luggage, so I need to remove the head for air travel. For that reason, I'm actually considering the RRS TQC-14 with BH-30 LR.

    One downside to RRS gear is that there are no distributors - unless you visit their shop in CA, it's buy-then-try, and pay return shipping if you don't like. But if you go that route, I suspect you'll like.

  7. #7
    Senior Member EricPvpi's Avatar
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    I was overwhelmed by the choices especially when I have no where to really compare side to side. I ended up with the 3LT Brian CF tripod.
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...on_Carbon.html

    A new version is coming out, so the one I have is now $120 off, $340 for tripod and head. 3.8 lbs total, folds to 17". 80.3" Maximum Height.

    I am sure others are better, but I thought it was a good mix of features and price for my usage. You can also use it as a monopod. I hiked Zion with it and found the weight and setup great.

  8. #8
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    Brant

    Just got back in, and will share a few thoughts.

    I have the GT2541, it is the most versatile tripod I have seen at its size. It is sturdy and the leg and arm mechanism can be structured in many ways most tripods can't. It's flaw is that it weighs over 4 pounds. So it is one reason I have been thinking about the 1541T for backpacking. The build quality of Gitzo legs are excellent and I am a fan after owning two. I don't think you will go wrong with the Gitzo legs, although the 1541T will be the lightest and will be also the flimsiest that Gitzo makes. I think if you bought one of the light versions and it didn't work for you, no light version would and you would need a heavier tripod. I do not think I would want a light 1541T if I intended to use it for every day use, it would be for packing and traveling light only.

    Gitzo heads, the GT2541 came with a GH2750 off center head. The Gitzo heads noticeably creep when locked down. They are sturdy once set but not as good as Arca-Swiss or some other brands. As others have said stay away from the Gitzo head line.

    Good Luck

  9. #9
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    Brant,
    I'm facing the same question (see my thread here http://community.the-digital-picture...ead.php?t=7054)
    Sirui seems to be an interesting brand and gets good reviews. I'll probably go with the aluminum version M-3004 to save some money, I don't do too much hiking. The CF version is the M-3204
    You can check their distributor's website for local dealers if you want to check them out in a local store: http://www.sirui-photo.us/Sirui/Siru...A-(Sirui).html

    Here is a video were the tripods are tested (in German, but at least you can see how it handles): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETUTJvNAWrw
    Ballheads seem to test well, too. Even the smallest holds a 1D body with 300 f/2.8 in the vertical position.

    I might drive up to the city next week to see them in a store
    Arnt

  10. #10
    Senior Member conropl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by neuroanatomist View Post
    Pat, not sure if your bad flip-lock experience was with Manfrotto legs, but I've never had them slip on mine.
    Your right... mine was a Vangard. I have only tried the Manfrotto in the store and it seemed to work good, but was worried about past experiences. If it worked good for you, I am sure it is fine. In fact, from what I have read, most people who have had the Manfrotto 190CXPro4 have enjoyed them and had good things to say about them.

    I just made the same mistake a lot of new buyers seem to make when buying their first tripod... I trusted the ratings to much. I should have known better to. I am always telling design engineers that work for me not to believe all the spec's in catalogs or what sales people tell you. If it looks cheap, it probably is. Anyway, after the Vangard wore in a bit, I ended up with legs that slipped all the time and the ball never would hold position. The ball was also frustrating... I would pain stakingly line something up and then when I would tighten up the ball it would move it. However, that does not nessesarily mean that my experiences transfers to the Manfrotto flip locks.

    My current experience with an Induro CT414 twist locks is that they are rock solid. I really like my new tripod because it is tall, solidly built, and very stiff... but it is heavy.
    5DS R, 1D X, 7D, Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6, 24mm f/1.4L II, 16-35mm f/4L IS, 24-105mm f/4L, 50mm f/1.8, 100mm Macro f/2.8L, 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II, 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L, 580EX-II
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