Carbon fibre tripods - comments please?

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by peter brown - www.peterbrownphotographer.com, Aug 23, 2001.

  1. Hi All,

    <p>

    I'm considering getting either one of the Manfrotto (Bogen) or Gitzo carbon
    tripods to use with an Ebony 45 S (2.1kg without lens).

    <p>

    I have looked at the archives and while I was initially going for the Manfrotto,
    I've used the metal versions for years and I'm very happy with them, I
    noticed a post from Kerry Thalmann in which he states;

    <p>

    " Many people (most who have never used one) dismiss the Gitzos due to the
    leg lock collars. However, I think this is probably one of their biggest
    advantages over the competition (in both carbon fiber and metal tripods).
    Personally, I think it is the "solidness" of these joints, much more so than the
    materials used, that is the limiting factor in tripod rigidity. . . ."

    <p>

    Kerry, I am one of those "who have never used one" and I've always liked
    the Manfrotto leg locks, but your comments make sense and I am now
    seriously considering the Gitzo. Could any users of either or both makes
    please comment on Kerry's theory?

    <p>

    Are the Gitzo's perhaps better because of the leg lock rigidity and lighter
    weight than the Manfrottos?

    <p>

    Also would anyone like to comment on what would be a good lightweight
    head for a CF tripod with the Ebony? I prefer 3-way heads but I'm open to
    suggestions - anyone have any experience with the magnesium heads?

    <p>

    Price is not a consideration and I'd be using this setup for field work (far from
    the vehicle) almost 90 per cent of the time.

    <p>

    Thanks for any help.

    <p>

    Kind regards

    <p>

    Peter Brown
     
  2. Just another question.

    <p>

    What are the differences between the magnesium centre ball heads and the
    off-set ball heads?

    <p>

    Thanks

    <p>

    Peter Brown
     
  3. I have used several Bogen and Gitzo tripods (both standard and carbon
    fiber). I agree with Kerry's comments. I was happy with my Bogen
    tripods until I tried Gitzo. I like the leg locks of the Gitzo better.
    They lock easily and are solid. The Gitzos also give you a better
    weight to rigidity ratio. The Gitzos hold more weight, while weighing
    less themselves. My favorite are the carbon fiber Gitzos, but I like
    their standard models too.<p>
    I think the G1325 or G1348 would be a great choice for you Ebony. I
    use the G1325 for my Wisner 8x10, and it holds it with no problems,
    but this tripod is only 4 1/2 lbs. I also use a G1570M head. I suggest
    the G1370M low-profile head for your Ebony,
     
  4. Try the archives and the static pages.
     
  5. <Are the Gitzo's perhaps better because of the leg lock rigidity and
    lighter weight than the Manfrottos?><p>
    Yes, after having tried Gitzo, I don't even consider the Bogens. I
    don't think they are in the same league.
     
  6. Heads first: I had the off center ball and sold it. It seems counter

    <p>

    to the laws of physics to use a cantilever arrangement if you don't

    <p>

    have to. More importantly, the center ball can be had with a Arca
    Swiss type slide-on plate rather than the cavity & plate arrangement.
    Safer and with some cameras it is easier to achieve front-to-back
    balance as you extend the bellows. (See the Really Right Stuff site
    and catolog.) But you might just as soon get a Arca Swiss B1 head
    anyhow.

    <p>

    Also used to have a Bogan tripod and the leg locks were always giving
    me grief. Either the bolts would work loose and the legs fail to
    tighten or I would over tighten the bolts and I couldn't loosen the
    legs. The Gitzo (which I admit is about one year old now as opposed to
    the Bogan which about 20 years old when I sold it) is easy to use and
    I believe as it wears I'll just have to tighten a little more. (Some
    have warned against over tightening a new Gitzo, by the way.)

    <p>

    You mention price is not important, but you can buy at Robert White
    and donate your $300-400 savings to the Home for Retired
    Photographers.
     
  7. I have one Gitzo (not carbon fiber) and two Bogens. The Gitzo sits in
    the closet most of the time. Can't stand the collars, don't think any
    possible gain in rigidity in high winds due to the collars as opposed
    to the Bogen clamps is worth the pain in the neck of using the
    collars, especially when the tripod has to be adjusted after first
    putting the camera on it. And in winds high enough to bring any
    possible extra rigidity of the collars into play, the bellows of the
    camera is likely to be flopping around so much that the tripod
    doesn't matter anyhow. Just my opinion of course.
     
  8. Brian, the Gitzo collars tend to get stiff and hard to untighten with the time and it is necessary to sometimes
    undo them, clean the inner parts and put fresh grease on the threads. When well
    taken care of, they are a charm. I too found that the Gitzo legs absorb vibrations better than Bogen's.
     
  9. Peter, I took delivery of a Gitzo 1349 and 1370 low profile head (with
    the 1385 QR plate). This is the MK2 version and from what I gather the
    problems with stiff leg locks has been sorted. This is a breeze to
    use. My only regret is that I didn't get one years ago - I cant
    believe i struggled with the monster that I previously had!! I chose
    the 1349 because of its centre column allowing more height, but to be
    honest I use the flat plate that comes with the tripod as the legset
    is plenty big enough. When fitted with the head and QR it looks as if
    its going to weigh a ton, but the lack of weight is amazing. The head
    is the magnesium version. Superbly engineered too, I have always
    thought manfrotto/bogen to be well put together, but they are rough
    when compared to the Gitzo. I had a quick look at the manfrotto carbon
    tripods but they are too flimsy looking, probably work ok but I would
    be wary about putting ny LF on it (I know a regular contributor to
    this forum uses one with the Ebony SW, but I'm not that brave). I use
    an Ebony SW45 and this tripod/head combination is superb! Go for it!
    (BTW, Robert White offers fantastic deals)
     
  10. Peter, Forgot to mention that in the "instruction sheet" it states
    that to lock/loosen the collars you only need to use a 1/4 turn. This
    prevents the collars becoming slopp
     
  11. Maybe I'm mistaken, but it seems to me that the leg locks on Gitzo's
    CF tripods are superior to the leg locks on their older tripods. Like
    many others, I've grunted and struggled with the locks on older
    Gitzos--especially in damp or cold weather--but I've been very pleased
    with the leg locks on my Gitzo CF tripod.

    <p>

    Just pointing this out so that you don't judge today's Gitzos based on
    the shortcomings of their tripods 10 or 20 years ago.

    <p>

    .........
     
  12. P.S. I have a Mk. II

    <p>

    ....
     
  13. It's difficult for me to get specific information on them, but it
    seems to me that most of the carbon tripods weight about 3.5 pounds,
    without the head, which doesn't seem particularly light to me (the
    old Tiltall only weighs 4 pounds without the head). Isn't that an
    awful small weight loss for such a high cost? No flames please.
     
  14. Bill, I've been told the weight gain is around 30% for equivalent strength. Not that much of course, but 1 Kg
    counts at the end of a long hike. What worries me is how the carbon tube would withstand being sometimes
    mistreated, wedged between rocks for instance. Has someone suffered the loss of a leg that way?
     
  15. Peter,

    <p>

    Let me start by saying I agree with everything I wrote. Seriously,
    I'm not sure how old that quote is, but I still own my two Gitzo
    carbon fiber tripods (modified 1227 - center column removed, and 1325)
    and love them both. No piece of equipment is perfect for all users
    and all uses. We all have our own needs, budgets, etc., but for me
    personally, I consider the two Gitzos I have perect FOR MY NEEDS. The
    modified 1227 for backpacking and the 1325 for everything else.

    <p>

    I'm not shy about stating my opinions, both pro and con, on any piece
    of equipment I've paid for with my hard earned dollars. If I had
    anything bad to say about the Gitzos, I'd say it. I don't. So, I
    won't. Both of these tripods have seen heavy field use for over three
    years and still perform every bit as well as the day I bought them. I
    do disassemble the legs about once a year to clean out any accumulated
    crud (sand and salt from salt spray) and apply a thin layer of white
    moly-based grease to the collar threads. BTW, the disassembly and
    re-assembly requires no tools, so it can be performed anywhere,
    anytime you feel it's necessary.

    <p>

    I have compared the Gitzos side-by-side, either in the store or in the
    field, with the carbon fiber tripods from Velbon, Slik and
    Bogen/Manfotto. The Gitzo 1227 is taller than the all of these,
    sturdier, and it's lighter than the Bogen/Manfrottos as well. In
    fact, for an ultralight tripod for backpacking, the only thing I've
    found lighter than the 1227 that I would consider using is the new
    1127 (and it's really too short for me - so I'll stick with my
    modified 1227). None of these other manufacturers currently have
    anything that's even in the same league as, or intended to compete
    against, the Gitzo 1325.

    <p>

    Other than the Gitzo locking collars, that some people don't like
    (personal preference - Hint: if you're turning them more than 1/2
    turn to loosen/tighten, you're making your life harder than need be),
    the biggest complaint is the cost. As others have suggested, check
    the prices at Robert White's web site. You'll be pleasantly surprised
    to find that you can get the Gitzo carbon fiber tripods from Robert
    White for LESS than most other brands in the US.

    <p>

    WRT weight. Believe me, for a metal tripod of comparable rigidity,
    the weight savings is closer to 1/2. In addition to being lighter,
    the carbon fiber tubing is also more rigid than aluminum. My 1227
    replaced my Bogen 3021. It was within 1/2" of the same height, less
    than 60% of the weight, and MORE rigid. By also using lightweight
    ballheads, the two Gitzo carbon fiber tripods I now use are less than
    1/2 the weight of the metal Bogens I used to carry, and they are
    taller and more rigid. Carbon fiber tripods may not be for everybody,
    and others may prefer other brands, but my carbon fiber Gitzos have
    truly made my life easier, and even though I bought them at US prices
    (before I learned of Robert White), I consider it money well spent and
    would not hesitate to buy them all over again (not that I'll have to,
    I expect they will outlast me).

    <p>

    WRT heads. About a year before I bought my carbon fiber Gitzos, I
    started using an Arca Swiss B1. After over a decade of using nothing
    but three axis heads with large format, it did take a while to get
    used to using a ballhead. I'm pretty comfortable with ballheads now,
    but to be honest, if I found a three axis head that was just as light,
    just as stong and just as compact as the B1, I'd probably switch. In
    terms of ease of use, I think being able to tweak each axis
    independently is a better match to the working style of large format.

    <p>

    But, for me, weight is always a concern, so for the last four years
    I've been using ballheads on both of my tripods. The B1 has been on
    my 1325 since the day I bought it, and it's a very good match for that
    leg set and easily handles anything I put on top of it. For the 1227
    for backpacking, I started with a Linhof Profi II. A decent enough
    head, but not in the same league as the Arca, and only a few ounces
    lighter. Until recently, I was using a modified (replaced the stock
    plastic top platform with a Kirk Arca style QR clamp) Slik Standard
    Ballhead II. Not even close to the same level of smoothness as the
    Arca or even the Linhof, but considerably ligher (and an amazing
    bargain for less than $50 - the Kirk QR clamp actually cost more than
    the Slik head). On my recent backpacking trips, I've gone about as
    light as I think I can go with a Velbon PH253MG magnesium ballhead.
    This one isn't even as smooth or sturdy as the Slik, but at less than
    6 oz., it's a real weight saver. Keep in mind, I only use this head
    with my Toho (2 lb. 12 1/2 oz.) and ultralight lenses (4 - 10 oz.
    each). This is pushing the hairy limits of "ultralight large format"
    (my own personal favorite oxymoron) and I would not dream of
    recommending this head for general purpose LF use.

    <p>

    Ergonomically, I REALLY like the Bogen/Manfotto mini geared head
    (don't remember the model number). It's an absolute joy to use, but
    almost a pound heavier, and less rigid than the Arca Swiss B1 (I still
    may get one for "road kills"). If you really want a three axis head,
    some of the new magnesium models from Gitzo look interesting (again,
    check the prices at Robert White).

    <p>

    Kerry
     
  16. Kerry,

    <p>

    Did you mount an Arca plate on the Velbon head, or do you use just
    the screw lock built in to it? I was impressed by this head in the
    store as compared to any others in the same class (Kaiser small,
    Giotto medium, etc...) but I have never seen the Slik you mention.
     
  17. Richard,

    <p>

    I'm just using the stock mounting platform on the Velbon head. I
    normally prefer an Arca style QR clamp on all my tripods, but in this
    case, it would increase the weight of the head by over 50%. The
    Velbon head comes with a captive screw mount that's almost as fast to
    use as an Arca style QR. It't not quite as secure. but then I never
    flop my camera on its side for verticals, so it's not really an issue.

    <p>

    I do think it would be fairly easy to replace the stock Velbon
    mounting platform with a Arca style clamp. but the reason I bought
    this head was to go as light as possible when backpacking. For that
    application, I think it makes since to keep the lighter stock
    platform.

    <p>

    You should be able to find info (specs and picture)and unmodified Slik
    Standard Ballhead II online. If not at the Slik site, then try the
    B&H site. In this case, the stock platform is a joke (both to use and
    in terms of rigidity), so replacing it with a Arca style clamp was a
    no-brainer. For a picture and weight info on my modified Slik
    Standard Ballhead II, see:

    <p>

    http://www.thalmann.com/largeformat/heads.htm

    <p>

    Again, I do not recommend these ultralight heads (especially the
    Velbon PH253-MG) for general purpose large format use. But, for
    backpacking with an ultralight camera (like my Toho), they do the job
    and save a lot of weight. Not the right tool for every job, but a
    very good tool for this one specific application.

    <p>

    Kerry
     
  18. Peter,

    <p>

    I moved from Manfrotto to a Gitzo CF early this year and I couldn't
    be happier. The Gitzo is definitely more stable than the Manfrotto,
    though I can't really say whether or not the leg locks have anything
    to do with it. I went with the 1329, though I don't use the center
    column (which effectively turns it into a 1325). Even without the
    center column, I can set the tripod up at a much more comfortable
    shooting height than I could my Manfrotto 3011 and 3021. I don't like
    to extend the center column and reduce stability, so I was always
    slightly hunched over with the Manfrotto. It's not something I even
    realized until I got the Gitzo.

    <p>

    Mechanically, the Gitzo leg locks have been trouble free, though I
    still occasionally fumble around with the Gitzo "spinning leg"
    problem (if one leg lock isn't tightened down well enough, trying to
    operate the next leg lock results in the section just spinning inside
    the other). This is operator error of course, and I have no
    mechanical complaints about the Gitzo locks. I had a number of
    problems with the Manfrotto lever-style leg locks, so I was never a
    fan of them. Ultimately, I switched back to the wing-knob style locks
    which were much more trouble free for me. I'd say the Gitzo leg locks
    are easier to use than the Manfrotto wing-knobs, but not enough so to
    make a difference.

    <p>

    As for the mini-geared head that Kerry mentions: The model 410 (or
    3275) geared head is every bit the joy to use that Kerry says. The
    gearing allows for very fine adjustment along each of the 3 axes, but
    there is also a large spring loaded knob that disengages the gearing
    to allow large movements quickly and easily. I originally bought one
    of these for my CF, but the larger mounting plate on the Gitzo caused
    restricted forward and backward movement (the knobs on the head bump
    against the edge of the plate). It might not be a problem for you,
    but it's something to be aware of. If you're using a Gitzo with a
    center column, you can remove the top plate and mount the head
    directly to the column (this seemed very sturdy to me, though it's
    possible that there might be a slight affect on stability). I don't
    usually use the center column and the restricted movement bugged me
    enough that I ultimately (reluctantly) went with an Arca B1.

    <p>

    I have no complaints about the B1; it's strong, light, very well
    designed and works as claimed (though I did have a problem with the
    pan knob not clamping tightly. I had to disassemble, clean, and
    adjust it right out of the box. Grease used on the panning mechanism
    had slopped over onto the clamping surface). Like you, I was used to
    3 way heads and wasn't really hot to change. I was pretty unsure of
    how well a ballhead would work with large format. It definitely took
    some getting used to, but I'm happy with it now and I'm not sure I'd
    go back to 3 way in the field (unless I could get the Manfrotto 410
    to work better with a columnless Gitzo).
     
  19. Just saw the two new carbon fiber Hakuba tripods at my local camera
    store. They seem to be very well made and offer good value. Has anyone
    had any experiences with Hakuba's carbon fiber tripod?
     
  20. I'll give a vote for the G1325 and AS B-1. I use this setup for 35mm
    w/300 2.8 to 4x5 w/ big 90XL. The G1325 was an upgrade from the G1227
    legs. I also had the G1377 Mg vertical head but ditched it for the
    B-1.
     
  21. Thank you to all who have contributed to my questions.
    I am overwhelmed with the responses - that's what makes this forum so
    good.

    <p>

    I'm now convinced to go with the Gitzo and once I have one in my hot little
    hands and have been able to play with it for a while I'll post my experiences
    and comments.

    <p>

    Once again thanks everyone for your help.

    <p>

    Kind regards

    <p>

    Peter Brown
     
  22. Kerry-- One last comment--With such a lightview camera that you
    have, you might try the lightweight 1228 Gitzo tripod and my
    favorite Gitzo head which is the 1270M-- a low profile 3 way head.
    If you have any trouble in the wind just hook your camera bag to
    the center column. Most of the time you'll be delighted with the
    lightness!
    David
     
  23. David,

    <p>

    Thanks for the advice on the 1270M. I've actually been considering
    this head for a while. At a little over 20oz., it's certainly one of
    the lightest three axis heads around. Still, it's over 3x the weight
    of my little Velbon PH-253MG (a hair under 6 oz.). So, I think I'll
    stick with the lighter Velbon magnesium ballhead for backpacking.

    <p>

    As I mentioned, I use a modified (no center column) 1227 as my tripod
    for backpacking. According to the Gitzo web site, the 1227 and 1228
    have the same weight (1.5kg), but the 1227 is about 2" taller
    (important to me at 6' 4"). My unmodified 1227 weighed 3 lb. 6 oz.
    out of the box (a little over 1 oz. above the 1.5kg spec). With the
    center column removed (which I think improves rigidity, as well as
    reduces the weight), with the Velbon PH-253MG head, the total weight
    of tripod and head is 3 lb. 4 3/4oz.

    <p>

    For the REALLY weight consious, my friend Roy Harrington uses a
    modifed Slik 804 (again, removed center column) with the same Velbon
    PH-253MG head. His tripod/head has a total weight of 2 lb. 11.5 oz.
    But, it's about 5" shorter than my modified 1227 (but then, Roy is 6"
    shorter than me).

    <p>

    BTW, for a REALLY light, but sturdy tripod, I tried combining the
    bottom leg sections of my 1325 along with the top sections of my 1227
    (total of two leg section). In this combination (without the center
    column), the legs weigh only 2 lb. 5 oz. and are INCREDIBLY rigid
    (and only three leg collars to fiddle with), but unfortunately also
    quite short (about 14" shorter than my 1227 with the standard three
    leg sections, but no center column).

    <p>

    Again we are quite nuts, proudly admit it, know we're pushing the
    limts, know this won't work for everybody, but works for us, so we're
    happy. YMMV.

    <p>

    Kerry
     
  24. Hi Peter

    <p>

    I have the Gitzo 1228 with the Mamiya tree axis magnesiun head 590g,
    its a wonderfull combination for my Horseman 4x5 and Arca F-Line 4x5.
    Good luck.
     
  25. With all the really lightweight carbon fibre tripods coming out isn't
    there a problem with just plain old 'not enough mass' to hold a 5x7
    or larger camera steady in the field or a light breeze?
     
  26. Dan,

    <p>

    It's easy enough to add mass on the spot without having to schlep it all over the backcountry. In fact, the camera itself adds significant mass. The heavier the camera, the more mass it adds, pushing right straight down (good old gravity). The two Gitzo carbon fiber tripods I use are incredibly rigid and capable of supporting much heavier cameras than I'm currently using.

    <p>

    I, generally like to carry ultralight cameras to match my ultralight tripods, (with the exception of a Linhof Technikardan TK45S that I use within a few miles of the parking lot and use with my Gitzo 1325). In that case, I can always add more weight if needed. Either something I was carrying anyway (camera bag, water bottles, etc.) or something found on the spot. Many of these tripods now come with a hook for just such a purpose. And for those that don't, it's easy enough to add one. It's then a simple matter of hanging additional weight from the hook. The little North Face Yavapai daypack I use for carrying my ultralight kit (mostly used for backpacking), has a "hoist strap" on the top, perfect for hanging from the tripod hook (also keeps my gear up off the wet, muddy, or sandy ground. The other option is one of those plastic grocery sacks (would you like paper or plastic?). They weigh almost nothing, are pretty strong, are reusable over and over again, and can hold a surprising amount of rocks. In this case, I can often double, or triple the weight of my ultralight tripod by carrying around a plastic bag that weighs almost nothing and takes up nearly zero space in my camera bag.

    <p>

    Another trick that works well is "grounding" the tripod by looping a length of cord over the tripod hook, pulling it down tight and standing on the end of the cord.

    <p>

    So, I never have to carry more weight than necessary and can easily add weight when needed. Although it's needed much less than you might think. If there is vegetation in the picture, the slightest breeze often makes shooting impossible no matter how sturdy your tripod. The added weight does come in handy when shooting more stable subjects (rocks, roots and mountains). I'd much rather carry an ultralight, but rigid carbon fiber tripod and a plastic grocery bag over miles of trail than go back to being a human pack mule with a heavy wooden or metal tripod. I'm sure others will disagee (and they'll probably be right - based on their needs and working methods). Just sharing what works for me.

    <p>

    Kerry
     
  27. Kerry,<p>
    How do you add weight to the G1325 tripod. You describe it as having a
    hook. Only the ones with center columns have hooks, as far as I know.
    Did you modify the G1325 by adding a hook? Or are you using it with a
    center column?
     

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