Finding a Better Tripod

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by ericphelps, May 15, 2021.

  1. Thanks Conrad, I'm going to try to salvage this Slik first, but there are so many listed in Craigslist daily, if this doesn't work I need to research some more and choose one.

    Ironically, since there are no camera/equipment stores in the town nearby, China seems to be the only option. What a foolish and diminished state we've led ourselves into.
  2. A good tripod costs about the same as a good lens, and can make any camera or lens look better. Arca-type QR is far more secure and free of slippage or rotation than any proprietary brand, and does not depend on springs to hold the camera. Furthermore the plates are thin enough to stay on the camera they are designed for.

    Any tripod with a removable head can be fitted with an Arca-type ball head. Tripods come in all sizes, both aluminum and carbon fiber. If you need something small, light and sturdy, expect to pay as much or more than for a standard tripod.

    With image stabilization, I use a tripod less than before. However I always carry one to be readily available, even when traveling. A tripod is essential for quality video, with or without image stabilization.
    Last edited: May 18, 2021
    ericphelps likes this.
  3. I've used a tripod very little for the last few decades but lately I've been doing 2-60 second exposures for waterfalls and the like, so IS doesn't quite get me there. One other idea is to use a tabletop 'pod. I have a couple of those little $25 Manfrotto PIXIs with the ball head. All you need is a suitable rock, tree or hood of the car. Hint- search eBay using "vintage tripod".
    ericphelps likes this.
  4. My tripod use has evolved somewhat, recently. I'm shooting mostly video these days, and a tripod is an essential tool .I've found that a video fluid head is equally useful for use with long lenses and when shooting stitched panoramas. My head of choice is an RRS FH-350, which has an Arca clamp and only 50% larger than the BH-55 ball head. No need to carry both. The FH-350 is a pretty beefy piece of gear for still photography, but can balance a video camera up to about 8 pounds (Sony FS-5 + PZ 18-105/4 + Battery). The sticks are RRS #2 Long, with a leveling socket.

    If you want to try a video head, there are several light Manfrotto "fluid" heads for less than $200. Omit the handle, and they're like a ball head with drag that really works. The fluid part is teflon and grease rather than oil and the Reynolds principle, but it's good enough for this purpose.
  5. I have one of those "fluid" heads and it's nice for video, but it hasn't got a lock. Let go and it slowly fluids until the camera points at the ground! Or is there some trick I don't know about?
  6. Use a long camera plate so you can move the camera fore and aft until it is statically balanced when the head is level. If there is a counter balance spring, tighten it until you can tilt the camera about 30 degrees, and not move once you let go of the handle. If there is no counterbalance, tighten the friction until the angle mostly stays put.

    A video head should have tilt and pan locks. That said, entry level heads can get tighter or looser, but not lock solidly. The better heads have locks that hold tighly and are easily engaged, released, or modulated. In extreme cases, use a base plate with rods, and attach counterweights (available to fit standard 15 mm rods).

    I have a base plate for each tripod, with an Arca (RRS) clamp to hold the camera. The base plate has a plate to fit the head, and can be as long as necessary for balance, while the camera has it's own Arca plate which can still fit in the bag. I often have a large battery plate and battery attached to the back of the rails. Rather than take time to balance a static camera, I just tighten the lock. If it's a moving camera, I take time to balance it statically and dynamically. If you don't have a 2.5 lb battery on the back, it's usually easy to balance the camera on its base, or long lens on its foot.
  7. Yes it does. Revealing a 3/8" bolt and flat circular plate.
    You should be able to fit almost any head from Manfrotto or Gitzo to it. Probably from many other makes too.

    Just a 'heads up' (sorry, couldn't resist that). The worst tripod head I've ever owned was one of Manfrotto's vertical pistol-grip ball heads. Definitely not recommended!
    The minute that makers found photographers willing to pay that amount!

    Surveyor's tripods fetch about 1/4 the price for something just as substantial and rigid. They generally only come in bright yellow though.
    Last edited: May 22, 2021
  8. Yes, except that in my experience, if it's an older tripod and the head has never been off there's a good chance that the head is seized on to the legs - even if the screws are loosened. I've freed them up by spraying lubricant into the holes and leaving it overnight. Then replace the screws and successively tighten and loosen them again one at a time. I think this imparts a rocking motion which eventually frees up the seizure.
  9. My version of this can be "flipped." did you try it that way?

    I have the 322, but I mostly use my Manfrotto 222 on a monopod.

    For really heavy duty I like the U-form 393 on my "iron-boy", heavy and steady tripod.
    Last edited: May 22, 2021
  10. Not sure what you mean by flipped.
    If you mean using the scalloped finger-grip toward the palm of your hand, then yes, I tried it that way as well. It didn't make the ball movement any less jerky, nor the design any less ridiculously unbalanced.

    It came with a used tripod, so no real loss - just annoying that its designer should ever think it was a 'good idea'. And yet another piece of total junk to sell on!
  11. AJG


    I also owned one of these briefly and never liked it since it didn't lock down reliably in the position that I wanted it to. In theory it might be a useful idea but in practice this head wasn't ready for prime time.
  12. in my notes somewhere:
  13. Hello Eric,

    The mini 'Artcise' ball head you ordered has a maximum weight limit of what it can hold, but if your camera/lens rig is less than 8-9 lbs the ball head should be adequate. I assume that you have a metal 'Arca-Swiss' style metal plate screwed into the bottom of your camera boldy. You will be much happier if you attach the plate to the ball head using a metal 'Quick Release' clamp. The clamps have knob that closes a front and rear jaw that hold the plate. Most (not all) clamps have a threaded centrally located hole that twists on to the threaded bolt sticking up from the top of your mini ball head which itself is attached to the threaded bolt on the top of your tripod. If you use the rig that I described, you can release the camera from the clamp by turning the clamp knob. You can then carry your camera separately rather than always on the tripod. I use a thread locking liquid ( clear nail polish will also work, but less well) on the threads of the tripod and clamp central bolt to prevent them from getting loose. You can get a clamp from China on the internet for $12-150. Make sure that the clamp you order has threaded hole to attach it to the tripod.
    My own tripods, ball heads, clamps etc are much more costly than yours, but I need that level of performance .

    An experienced, knowledgeable camera store sales clerk cold have told you all of the above, shown the products to you and made a profit. I assume that there is no one like that in your area.
    ericphelps likes this.
  14. Thanks Stanley, you're quite right, no camera stores available locally except a big box selling some new popular digital brands and SD cards.
    My simple non-elegant solution was to screw the Artcise directly to the Slik locking plate using blue Loc-Tite. I can now spin the assembly quickly onto the iShoot bottom plate on the Fuji. It's much quicker, no fiddling with a quarter to connect/dis the Slik lock plate to the camera, and it allows for some fine directional adjustments once in place.
    Here's what it looks like - Thanks again for your thoughts on this! IMG_0348.jpg
  15. A ball head is no stronger than the load it can hold 90 degrees from vertical. Secondly a ball head is most useful if it can apply tension to the ball and still move by hand without slip-stick action. Ball heads with this ability are generally 2" or so in diameter with gradual lockup tension. The price will be in the range of $300 to $450.

    The head in the previous illustration would be appropriate for a GoPro camera.
  16. Yeah, it makes perfect sense putting >300 bucks worth of ball head on a 50 dollar tripod that's only rated at 4.5lbs capacity. :cool:
  17. How much sense does it make to put a $$$ camera on a $50 tripod?
  18. It depends on the camera, and we don't know what Eric is using. Just that it's IR converted and therefore needs long shutter times.

    A lightweight MILC with kit lens or, say an adapted 50mm, is going to be perfectly safe on that Slik. And as long as the weather's calm and it's on firm ground, and it's not cranked up to full extension, it'll perform 'adequately'. Probably as well as some far more expensive CF abominations that I've looked at.

    I doubt that the OP is using a super-telephoto for IR shots.
    Last edited: May 29, 2021
  19. True that, I'm using a Fuji X100T, tiny really with a fixed 23mm lens. It weighs only 15.5oz, and thats with an iShoot metal base. One wag referred to it as 'Like a Leica'................
  20. In my experience there are 2 things that get photographers worked up into a lather: whether to use UV filters or not, and tripods for which there are 2 schools: 1. you should always buy the best (i.e most expensive) you can afford, or 2: get what you can afford and the differences between brands are not all that profound (it's not rocket science). The tripod population has two further subdivisions: a "real" photographer always tries to use a tripod, because they believe that any photo with a tripod is bound to be better than the same shot taken without one, and those who think this is a gross exaggeration and use them only rarely (if at all these days). If you belong to the "real photographer" category, then you probably will own a Gitzo or an RRS or something similar with a huge price tag. If you are in the latter category then an Asian knockoff is just fine.
    rodeo_joe|1 likes this.

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