Best carbon fiber tripod value for $200 or less

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by scott_murphy|5, Aug 16, 2015.

  1. I am considering getting a carbon fiber "field" tripod to replace my 30+ year old trusty Slik U212. I really do not need a head for it, as I have an excellent Manfrotto head on the Slik one right now. Sturdiness is the main consideration, more so than weight savings, because I could potentially be putting up to 20+ pounds of lens/camera/battery pack combination on it.
    There are so many of them out that that the choice is admittedly pretty daunting. Any suggestions?
  2. Carbon fiber tripod for under $200 that supports more than 20lbs - don't know of any. Even buying used, this might be too low a budget. I am happy with my Induro tripod and am considering adding a Feisol for travel.
  3. That's the thing about manufacturer specs Dieter. My 30+ year old Slik U212 is rated for only 5.9 pounds. But as you see it, D700, MB-D10, 600mm f/4 ED-IF AIS and TC-300, this rig tips the scales at 18.4 pounds. And if you replace the Manfroto head I have on it with my Movo gimbal head, you are now looking at right around 20 pounds. And yet with this rig I have been able to consistently shoot with this combination, effectively 1200mm f/8, at 1/30-1/60 sec and get razor sharp results.

    Now is aluminum sturdier pound for pound and able to bear more weight than carbon fiber? Perhaps. At this point I really don't know enough about them yet to know that I can put them through this kind of stress without breaking them.
  4. With that rig I think most wildlife photographers would spec a series 5 or at least a series 4 tripod. Carbon fiber is said to dampen vibrations better than aluminum. I bought my Induro aluminum AT413 on sale with rebate for a bit less than $200.
    You are not going to touch an adequate carbon fiber unit with that budget.
  5. You'll get much less sagging with a sturdier
    tripod. I have the Slik U212 and enjoy the
    versatility, especially for getting low at odd
    angles. It does most of what I'd want from the
    much heavier Benbo.

    But it flexes a lot under load because of all the
    nylon and rubber mating surfaces. Makes it
    frustrating to get accurate alignment.

    I didn't use mine with anything heavier than a
    Nikon FM2N and moderate telephoto, 300/4.5 AI or
    smaller. Nowadays I use it occasionally with my
    D2H for infrared, but only with the legs
    partially extended or at ground level using the
    center post as a fourth support.

    An older Bogen Manfrotto 3021 legset, or heavier,
    will have metal to metal joints and much less
    sagging under load. Might be a better value than
    a carbon fiber legset costing less than $200.
  6. Lex, alignment really does not become an issue with my 300mm f/2.8 and 600mm f/4 AIS lenses because on the Movo gimbal head and the tightening screw on the rotating tripod collar loose, you have very fluid 3 axis movement. I pretty much never use either of those lenses on a tripod without the gimbal head because it gives so much more flexibility, especially with that 14 pound 600mm f/ BEAST.
    Now if you want the ultimate in stability, I have my 25 pound Manfroto studio tripod beast but it is hardly something you would want to lug around in the field. It is very long even fully retracted and very heavy and does not adjust very low at all. Like I said, it is meant to work in a studio, not out in the field. If I can shoot close to the car I will use it with a long lens combo, but it is hardly something I will want to lug it around for very far, that is for sure!
  7. That's the thing about manufacturer specs Dieter. My 30+ year old Slik U212 is rated for only 5.9 pounds. But as you see it, D700, MB-D10, 600mm f/4 ED-IF AIS and TC-300, this rig tips the scales at 18.4 pounds.​
    You must have excellent tripod skills - otherwise I would not expect you to get any sharp images with that combo. Not necessarily because of loading a ton of stuff onto a quarter-ton truck - but because of the compromised vibration damping of using a tripod setup that's not meant to hold even a 300mm lens, much less a 600mm one.
    I expect manufacturer's load ratings to be somewhat conservative - and judging by the fact that quite a few long-lens photographers tend to test their tripod legs by hanging themselves from it - they indeed must be.
    Personally, I would follow the rule to use a tripod with a load capacity at least three times the actual load I intend to put on it - so in case of your 20 lbs rig, I'd be looking for one with at least a 60 lbs capacity.
    I owned a Gitzo G126 that was rated a 9 lbs - there's no way I would have used that one with the rig you have. In a pinch, I might trust it to my Induro AT-213, rated at 22 lbs (4.4 lbs weight). But I purchased the Induro CT-414 precisely for use with 500mm or longer focal length lenses - and that tripod is rated at 55 lbs (and weighs 6.3 lbs). Both those tripods replaced a Manfrotto 055XB rated at 15.4 lbs (and 5.1 lbs weight) that I considered inadequate - I just didn't want to haul my 40+-year old, 15.5lbs Schiansky Mod 131 into the field.
  8. Dieter, photos speak for themselves. The very first day of US Army Sniper School back in 1995 they taught us the sniper "Golden Rule"........BRASS.........Breathe, Release, Acquire, Squeeze, Shoot. The same principles hold true whether you are shooting a subject on a medium weight tripod with a very long lens/TC/camera combo or a man sized silhouette or a man sized target (I have done both) at 1000 meters with the .50 caliber Barrett M-107. Technique and a lot of practice can overcome a lot of equipment limitations.
    This last one shows the slightest amount of camera movement, but it was also shot using that lens/TC/camera combination on a monopod from inside a vehicle @ 1/250 sec
  9. Just to chime in, I have a 055CXPro3 which I found appreciable more stable than the aluminium version, and a 393 gimbal head. When I got a 500mm f/4 (AI-P), I found it had a lot of vibration, though it's fine with smaller loads or with shorter exposures. Hence my TVC-34L. A 600mm on a $200 tripod? Good luck unless you're able to use a reasonably fast shutter speed (people do hand-hold the 600mm...) I'd be thinking about a Really Right Stuff or Kirk long lens support (not the Manfrotto 293, which seems designed to break the lens mount!), and possibly the external clamp thing that Manfrotto do which attaches the body to one of the legs - if you don't want to recompose quickly. Or just use two tripods. But some scary stuff turns up used, and new tripods seem mostly very expensive, so I'm not going to say you won't get your hands on an old Sachtler going cheap...
  10. You may want to read this piece on low cost tripods. They can be had, but what is the cost in terms of service, reliability and ruggedness over the long haul. I have several tripods, one used one, and each has its purposes. Metal may be your best solution. CF costs more to construct. Add a hundred to your budget and you might be getting close to the market. I could be wrong. I had to pay three bills for my Induro CF, but it smacks of quality. I learned my lesson years ago when a machinist disassembled a nice looking Tiltall clone and showed me the cheap materials on the inside. Chacun a son gout or something.. You are married to one for a long time, nay? Also as writer sez, consider the used market for such as the Gitzo line.

    (20 pounds, holy smoke! Dropped on a toe would be a medical emergency and ruin one's day, spend the extra loot)..
  11. Scott, no offense, but if you can afford a Nikon 600mm and a 300mm f/2.8 why are we having this conversation? You should allready have a RRS or the best Gitzo made. The only way I could afford a lens like that would be if I won the lottery and I would not buy any tripod under $400.00.
  12. There is a Gitzo G 1228 MK2 Three Section Carbon Fiber Tripod on eBay right now for $249.

    It only holds 17.6 pounds but that pretty close to 20. It is used but you get a good tripod for price much less than buying new.
  13. Can you get a decent one for that money, I don't think so, I have just spent $346 on my second Gitzo, my cheapest Cf manfrotto is also $300+

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