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Thread: Looking for a tripod/ballhead combo on a budget of $600

  1. #1
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    Looking for a tripod/ballhead combo on a budget of $600

    Currently I have a cheap Dolica tripod and ball head that I paid just under $100 for last year. It does what it needs to do, but I don't quite trust it to hold my new 5D MkIII. So, here I am asking you folks here at TDP, who are far more knowledgeable than I, to help me find a tripod that will work for me and is within my budget. Here are some key features that I would like.

    -Able to compact down to 24 inches or so, but preferably smaller than that, 18 would be ideal.

    -Weight. Weight is no big deal to me, so carbon fiber is not a must. I spent hours running around Afghanistan with 100+ lbs on my back, I am sure the few pounds a tripod will bring won't bother me none haha

    -Adaptable feet. This won't be a deal breaker, but one of my favorite features of my Dolica is the feet. They have rubber nubs on the end, but if you twist them, a spike is revealed for that extra stability on a softer surface.

    -Build quality. I am not rough with my equipment, but I like knowing that it's capable of taking a bit of a beating. Also, I need it to be able to hold a good amount of weight as well. I can't see myself having anything heavier than a gripped 5DMkIII w/100-400 anywhere in the near future though.

    Those are the only points that come immediately to mind. Any and all input is greatly appreciated, and I thank you all in advance. Furthermore, I would just like to mention how informative and helpful this community is, and I am glad to be a part of it.

  2. #2
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    I have owned more tripod/head combos than I like to think about. Slik, Manfrotto, Vanguard, Benro, Cullman and more. I always thought Gitzo was too expensive and probably not worth it. So I managed to tell myself that I did not need that much quality and went for the cheaper alternatives. It is also easy to say that you donīt care about some extra weight, but in the end you probably do. After a long life with lots of poor buys, I now only have Gitzo tripods (3) and monopods (2). It sounds like a series-2 would fit your requirements. They are great tripods. Light, very stable, easy to set up and they look great.

    But stay away from their ball heads. There are at least three reasons. 1: They are expensive, 2: They are not very functional and have a very annoying (and proprietary) locking mechanism and 3: They do not support Arca swiss plates.

    The remaining problem then is your budget. The best advice I can think of is to hang on to the one you have a little longer, eat bread and drink water for another month and wait until you can get the right stuff.

    There was a long and interesting thread about tripod/ballhead some time ago: http://community.the-digital-picture...ead.php?t=7067

    /Eldar

  3. #3
    Senior Member btaylor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by eldarhau View Post
    The best advice I can think of is to hang on to the one you have a little longer, eat bread and drink water for another month and wait until you can get the right stuff.

    /Eldar
    Or even the Really Right Stuff?

    Seriously, that's good advice. It's really important to have good support gear, we often don't give enough credit to our ancillary equipment. I bought into the Really Right Stuff system a while ago and it was a very good decision.

    Sorry I haven't answered your recommendation query but have a look on the RRS website. They have a great range.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ben_taylor_au/ www.methodicallymuddled.wordpress.com
    Canon 5D Mark III | Canon 5D Mark II | Samyang 14mm f/2.8 | Canon 35mm f/1.4L USM | Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM |Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II |Canon 2 x Teleconverter III | Canon 580 EX II Speedlite | Really Right Stuff TVC 34L | Really Right Stuff BH55 LR | Gorillapod Focus | Really Right Stuff BH 30

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    Quote Originally Posted by btaylor View Post
    Or even the Really Right Stuff?
    Indeed! I have just ordered a RRS MH-01 Pro monopod head, which will be my first monopod head ever, and a RRS BH-30 LR for my travel tripod, to replace the useless Gitzo GH1780TQR that came with the GT1551T in a tripod/head combo. The tripod is great though.

    I have no experience with the RRS tripods. They look good on paper and with their fairly stiff price tag, they should to be. It would be interesting to hear any experiences anyone may have to share.

    /Eldar

  5. #5
    Senior Member btaylor's Avatar
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    I reviewed my TVC-34L a while after getting it. Here's the link: http://community.the-digital-picture...ead.php?t=5705

    I use it with the BH-55 LR and it's really good gear. It's back in Australia while I'm overseas and I miss it often. For now the gorillapod focus +
    RRS BH30 ballhead works well.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/ben_taylor_au/ www.methodicallymuddled.wordpress.com
    Canon 5D Mark III | Canon 5D Mark II | Samyang 14mm f/2.8 | Canon 35mm f/1.4L USM | Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM |Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II |Canon 2 x Teleconverter III | Canon 580 EX II Speedlite | Really Right Stuff TVC 34L | Really Right Stuff BH55 LR | Gorillapod Focus | Really Right Stuff BH 30

  6. #6
    Senior Member neuroanatomist's Avatar
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    Based partly on Ben's review, I picked up an RRS TVC-33, PG-02 LLR gimbal for my 600 II, and a BH-55 LR for other lenses, along with an MC-34 monopod and MH-02 head. Awesome. I subsequently picked up their travel tripod setup (TQC-14 + BH-30 LR), awesome in a smaller package.

  7. #7
    Senior Member EricPvpi's Avatar
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    I have limited experience relatively, but I started with a 3LT Brian and 3LT head. Carbon fiber, 3.8 lbs with head, folds to 16.5", extends to 80". For a travel tripod, it had some really nice features.

    I ended up getting a RRS camera plate and decided to try out the RRS BH-40 head. The RRS build quality was addicting. Very solid and easy to use. I liked the lever release and the knobs are just so intuitive and easy to operate. But, it didn't quite pair well with the 3LT with its fold over design. Based on how much I liked the RRS head, I decided to get the RRS TQC-14. I kept with a travel size tripod as it still more than meets my needs and for me, the easier it is to carry, the more likely I will take it.

    Had I not tried the RRS, perhaps I would have been happy enough with the 3LT and the price was certainly better. I would call the 3LT a good tripod, but I think the Brian model tries to do a bit much. It folds very small and extends very far, but to do that it has a 5 section leg and 3 section center post. If you need something that can double as a light stand when needed and it has a built in tripod and folds super small, I would consider it. But the RRS just seemed so much more focused as a tripod, which is really all I need. The RRS is just very solid.

    I need to take some pictures of the 3LT to sell it and will take some comparison shots against the RRS.

    Note that I went a little different and paired the BH-40 with the TQC-14 instead of the BH-30. Still pairs well and the weight difference wasn't that big. I already had the BH-40 and I thought I would like the larger ball since it is my only setup.
    Last edited by EricPvpi; 07-09-2013 at 03:59 PM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member conropl's Avatar
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    Seen this anouncement this morning (Gitzo rebates):

    http://www.the-digital-picture.com/N...aspx?News=7296

    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
    flickr

  9. #9
    Super Moderator Kayaker72's Avatar
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    A great write up (Thom's) on buying support is here.

    Similar to above, he advocates saving money in the long term by simply buying what you need, typically "the best," first instead of buying and selling different support as you upgrade.

    In general, I will agree with this. I do not think support has the same resale value as items such as lenses, but I could be wrong, so you may lose more money buying and upgrading with support compared to something like lenses. But I want to phrase this a little differently. Make sure you buy what you need first. Save money that way. The difference here is that you may not need Gitzo or RRS. Your needs may be met with something like manfrotto.

    So, if you plan to use your support a lot or for something critical if your support is going to be an important piece of equipment for your photography, you likely should save to get to the Gitzo/RRS level of gear. If not, then something else may be sufficient. Having a tripod is still better than no tripod. I actually got by for awhile with a gorillapod and old aluminum tripod (BTW, much happier with my new set up of Gitzo GT1542T and Markins Q3T ballhead). I think we tend to take our gear to extremes at times (I know I am guilty of it), but it isn't always necessary. So, think about how you will be using your gear and get what will work for you now and will also provide for growth. As a quick example, it makes no sense to me to spend $1,000 on a support system if you are only going to use it twice a year for family photos.

    But, if you have to stay under $600, one thought would be to go a little less expensive on either the legs or the ballhead now and buy what you want for the other. Also, remember, depending on what you buy for a ball head, you may need to include items such as arca-swiss plates, I'd be tempted by something like the following:
    • Legs:
      • Manfrotto Aluminum--Manfrotto 190XProb 3 ($170)...this would be upgraded in a couple of years.

    • Ballhead
      • Markins Q3T ($310)

    • RRS "L" Bracket (B5D3-LA) $140


    A total of $620 +shipping. You could get under $600 if you went with the RRS BH-30 ($275) or if you bought some items off of ebay (even "new" is cheaper, but often without the same warranty). Also, you may not decide you need this level of gear. People seemed to really like Sirui tripods and "photo clam" ballheads when I was doing my evaluation.

    Good luck.
    Last edited by Kayaker72; 07-10-2013 at 09:09 PM.

  10. #10
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    David,
    sounds like you are looking for a full size tripod rather than for a lightweight hiking/traveling tripod?
    Some of the research Brant has done probably still applies: Gitzo legs are great, heads are better from Markins, Arcatech and others. RRS is great all around. Ball diameter should be 38mm or more

    Carbon is said to dampen vibrations better than aluminum, so it is not only about the weight.

    What height are you looking for? RRS has a nice guide: http://reallyrightstuff.com/mmrrs/Im...ImageGrid.html
    Always look at the height with the center column not extended.
    I personally am happy with 58'' height, and I'm 6'2'' or 6'3''. I found Sirui (M3004 or M-3204 for carbon) to be a good alternative when on a budget - but I have to admit I cannot compare to any of the others, so I don't know how much I'm missing. It folds down to about 20''
    Arnt

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