tripod recommendation for 4x5

Discussion in 'Large Format' started by cheryl_malone, Sep 3, 2011.

  1. I have a Calumet Cadet 4x5 camera and plan on buying a Shen Hao 4x5 camera in the near future. I went to a reputable camera retailer and bought a tripod that was recommended (they knew I was using for large format). Used it for the first time at a workshop and found it too light to keep the camera from wobbling. Can anyone recommend a solid, not very expensive tripod to buy?
  2. You're not going to find an inexpensive heavy tripod.
    I prefer metal ones made by Majestic for my 8x10, and those or the Zone VI wooden one for the 4x5.
    You'll also find suitable metal offerings from Manfrotto and Gitzo, and wooden ones from Ries (very expensive).
    Obviously a good used one will be much less expensive than a new one.
    The Zone VI and the Ries are no longer being manufactured AFAIK.
    - Leigh
  3. I have used both field and monorail 4x5's with the Manfrotto/bpgen 3221 for over 30 years--even in pretty brisk wind without issue--and that includes for critical commercial work as well. That is an outdated model number, but you can google it and find the current equivalent. It is a good blend of not being too heavy and not too light, but giving a lot of flexibility for field work. It isn't cheap but no expensive either.
  4. If you're anywhere near a photography school, or a university with a good photography program, you can often find bargains from students who have taken a large format course and have decided that this kind of photography is not for them. Here in the Santa Barbara area, which has Brooks Institute, Craig's List often shows offers of LF appropriate tripods selling for very little. A while ago I bought a Manfrotto 3251 (legs only) in good condition for less than $70. It's an older model, but very heavy and solid.
  5. I have been using a Berlebach3-section wood tripod, with leveling ball, with monorail and and field 4x5 cameras. A tripod head is not necessary with the leveling ball, however, I have started using a ballhead with the field camera. The 3-section version also folds short enough for traveling. Price is not cheap but good value for strength and weight.
  6. I have been using a Berlebach3-section wood tripod, with leveling ball, with monorail and and field 4x5 cameras. A tripod head is not necessary with the leveling ball, however, I have started using a ballhead with the field camera. The 3-section version also folds short enough for traveling. Price is not cheap but good value for strength and weight.
  7. I'm partial to the old American made Tiltall tripod. They certainly can hold 4x5 cameras, and they last for decades. Ebay usually has a few of them for well under $100. The new imported Tiltalls may be less durable. Tripods vary widely in features: it's good to try one out before investing in something that should outlast most cameras.
  8. If weight is a concern for you, you should consider a carbon fiber tripod, although new ones are not cheap.
    I've been using a Manfrotto 443 3-section carbon fiber tripod for years and added a Feisol CT-3742 4 section carbon fiber tripod recently.
    I've been using both with either Shen-Hao and Ebony field cameras and found them to be rigid enough. However, the big Feisol is significantly more rigid than the smaller Manfrotto, which is not being made anymore.
    Don't forget to think about a solid tripod head and a rigid head/camera connection.
    I'm using two Photo Clam ballheads of appropriate sizes and I'm very happy with my tripod/head combinations.
    However, using a ballhead with 4x5 is not everyones taste, and it took me a while to get used to it.
    I'll add a picture of my Feisol tripod, Ebony camera and Photo Clam PC-48N ballhead. Not much details, just to give you an impression.
  9. I use a Manfrotto 144B with a Linhof Profi 3 head. I bought it 1995 for the Hasselblad + long, heavy lenses, and found that it works well the Linhof Technika 4x5. Although I'm considering a new head. Either a later Linhof or Novoflex Classic Ball 5. If money were no object, it would be either the Arca Swiss Cube or Linhof 3D Micro
    Fully extended with legs out it's roughly chin height with head. (I'm 5'11") and with the centre column all the way up it's roughly 2 meters without head.
    The 144B has long since been superseded with something similar, such as the outfit shown above.
  10. Of course Friedemann has shown us his Feisol Tripod. The Manfotto carbon fibre models are also very good. But again, when affordable, I'll go all the way with a Sachtler. Pricey but superb.
  11. If you want to keep costs down, then avoid ball-heads. You need to buy a comparatively expensive ballhead to get the same performance as a cheaper (and IMHO inherently more stable) 3way pan/tilt head. You'll also avoid the added cost of replacing a damaged lens or camera after a cheap ballhead has flopped over on you unexpectedly.
    Manfrotto tripods offer about the best price/performance ratio out there. I've had expensive Gitzo and Linhof tripods which are smoother in operation, but as far as stability is concerned the Manfrottos do the business with no frills. A used or discontinued Manfrotto model will almost definitely offer the best value for money.
  12. Regarding heads...
    I think you'll be a lot happier with a pan/tilt head than with a ball head.
    Most LF cameras have bubble levels to facilitate accurate alignment.
    It's much easier to adjust each axis separately rather than trying to watch two levels simultaneously.
    - Leigh
  13. A Tiltall was never appropiate for a view camera. Might be OK with a press camera but not with big, long cameras or especially with heavier large format lenses.
  14. I agree with Bob.
    I have a Tiltall, and use it sometimes with the 35mm cameras, but I don't consider it sturdy enough even for the Hasselblad, and certainly not for the LF cameras.
    - Leigh
  15. I think it depends on the Tiltall model. They make one that is extremely heavy, and the legs will support a 4x5 field camera without worry. The heads though ... not as much.
    If you're using it in-studio, I'd recommend the Manfrottos. Weight isn't so much of an issue in the studio, and you won't be opening and closing it as much as you would out in the field. Monorail cameras generally weigh more, so you'd need more support. Ditto for long exposures. I have a Technika that I use in-studio with strobes, and my Promaster carbon-fiber tripod is plenty. I forget the model, but the legs sell for $240 new. If I were doing long exposures or used a monorail camera though, I don't think the legs would be quite sturdy enough.
    I also second the 3-way head choice. Again, not as much as an issue for the (somewhat) lighter field cameras, but I wouldn't recommend a ball head for a monorail. If you were comfortable buying a ball head that was sturdy enough for long exposures with a monorail camera, then I honestly don't know why you wouldn't spend the extra money for a geared 3-way head. You'd be most of the way there anyway.
  16. When my first tripod, a tiltall, went missing it was a blessing in disguise. Because it was then that I bought the Manfotto shown in the image above, allowing me to attach the Linhof Profi head I'd purchased some years before. I actually took the Linhof head to the camera shop and chose the tripod to suit. Getting used to the manipulation of the ball head took all of 30 seconds, and I haven't looked back. Then having only the Hasselblad (Technika 4x5acquired last year) I attached the Hasselblad Quick Coupling adaptor, then the camera, .. in seconds, and I was away.
    The ability to adjust for all 3 axis at once was for me a joy. It's all about technique. To begin with, I have the ball only lightly tightened to move the camera freely to approximately where I want it, the tighten the ball a bit more so that movement it is less free, once final adjustment is achieved, tighten the ball to hold the camera firmly in position. As Rodeo rightly warns, yes a cheap ball head, or indeed an undersized one, can cause grief, but no more so than an inappropriate tiltall.
    As the years move on, I am glad of the investments I've made in the better quality purchases. As for the Linhof Technika III, which was an inherited item, I will buy a much later Technika when possible. Hands on experience in addition to advice, from our own Linhof expert Bob Salomon here and others elsewhere, it's clear why Linhof have continued to develop this brilliant design, and why others have continued to copy it.
    However, tripods - Here is a lively discussion from 2009. Some very interesting points debated.
    Aluminium vs Carbon Fibre Tripods
  17. Your choice of tripod can contribute as much to a sharp image as your choice of lens. Don't be cheap here. My 4x5
    tripod is an old Gitzo - ugly as sin and solid as a rock. It's a 5 series but a 3 series should work well for your cameras.
    I also agree on the three-way head. Cheaper and easier to start with. Most people end trading up to the right tripod.
    Cheaper and better to start with heavy, good quality from the outset.
  18. Without having read ALL of the responses, I'm still offering something that may already have been mentioned. If so, it bares repeating for emphasis. Solid and inexpensive are not necessarily synonomous.
    One of these things is not like the other. Your main concern is having enough support under the heaviest camera you will be using. LF isn't cheap to start with, so don't think your going to get away with it @ this point. I went thru the same situation with 35mm and a cheap tripod that you described in your question, and trust me, it doesn't pay to go "cheap".
    I started LF with a Calumet 45N w/21 inch rail, on a Bogen tripod and bogen head (tripod and head cost $350) and used to carry it on a strap like a golf bag. Tooo old for that now, I use a Nagaoka field with a lighter tripod, everything fitting in a backpack (BACKPACK COST @300). Still use the "rail" and heavy set up for studio work.
    Point being, your in the bigs now and there is a price to pay for it. You may find used equipment and save money if you have the time to wait for a good deal. Other than that, you'll have to bight the bullet and fork out real money for the necessities.
    Don't be discouraged tho, it will be money well spent.
  19. I guess you'd be hard pushed to better a Manfrotto tripod for price and quality of build...unless you can get your hands on an old Linhof.
    I'd avoid ball heads altogether, they are a PITA when using a heavy camera. The Manfrotto 405 geared head is an absolute joy to use.
    Carbon fiber tripods are expensive, and although light to carry, result in a very high center of gravity. The complete apparatus becomes quite top heavy and may fall over in a sudden gust of wind. The tripod's first and only role should be one of stability.

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