Tripod upgrade question and recommendations?

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by stsadasdsad, Nov 9, 2020.

  1. I have a Promaster XC522 tripod (max load: ~11 lbs) that I love using and traveling with, since it’s light but sturdy and collapses really well.

    Every once in a while, the head sags a bit under the weight of my camera and lens, so I have been thinking of upgrading the ball head to one that supports more weight. I haven’t had any issues with the legs and weight so far—it always feels secure.

    Question #1: Is it accurate that upgrading just the ball head will help the occasional sage? (as opposed to necessarily having to upgrade the entire tripod body)

    That said, I’ve also been thinking of getting an iOptron Sky Tracker Pro for astrophotography, in which case I probably would need a new tripod with both a strong head and a strong base.

    Question #2: If I did get a second more heavy-duty tripod, would I be able to take the ball head off that and use on my Promaster for travel and more casual use as long as the second ball head is Arca-Swiss compatible? (my Promaster is Arca Swiss compatible)

    Finally, here’s the weight in play:

    Nikon D7500 w/ battery: 1.6 lbs
    Lens range 1.2 - 4.43 lbs
    iOptron Sky Tracker Pro Camera Mount with Polar Scope: 6.6 lbs
    iOptron Counterweight Package: 2.97 lbs
    16 lbs minimum

    Question #3: Any recommendations for a good, sturdy tripod around $100 or so that would cover at the very least 16 lbs but in reality would support more weight in case I were to upgrade to a full frame camera with full frame lenses?

    Thanks for your help!
  2. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Shop used. I looked online, found lots of triopds and heads for sale. I looked up the various models' features, got an excellent near mint Manfrotto and head for a fraction of retail price. Got a Manfrotto Monopod and head the same way, an even better deal. Either will handle my heaviest camera / lens combination with ease.
    charles_escott_new likes this.
  3. AJG


    $100 won't get you what you need in a new tripod, but +1 to Sandy's suggestion to look for a used tripod/head. The good thing about shopping for a used tripod is that problems are usually obvious with a casual inspection.
  4. Thanks for your help. If I just got an Arca Swiss ball head that supports 20+ lbs and put that on the Promaster (which is Arca Swiss), do you think it could hold the additional weight?
  5. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Sorry, I can't give you an answer other than that the internet is your friend. Look up the specifications of each component, step on the bathroom scale with camera and lens, subtract your weight and compare result with specs. Others here are much more into tripods and heads than I. I use mine exclusively for distant wildlife with my longest, heaviest lenses. Best of luck with it!
  6. The load capacity of a tripod is measured by the strength of its legs, more specifically, the strength of its joints. The capacity of a head usually refers to the head being absolutely level with a balanced load. Tilt it or unbalance the load, and all bets are off. The practical capacity of a head becomes obvious only in use.

    That said, an Arca B1 head will hold an 8 pound view camera (Sinar) pointing straight toward the ground, on the proper tripod. The XC522 ProMaster would probably collapse. Short of collapse, the XC522 would probably quiver in a light breeze enough to rule out using any lens with a focal length 200 mm or longer. A good head will hold without over tightening. The Arca will hold at any angle with light finger pressure, for example.

    The iOptron SkyTracker Pro is reasonably balanced, provided you don't go crazy with heavy lenses. For a camera/lens combination heavier than 2-3 pounds, you will need to use a counterbalance accessory for proper tracking, which unfortunately adds to the off-center load on the tripod. More expensive tracking heads are balanced on both the polar and right-ascension axes. I have use the iOptron tracker on an Arca B1 and RRS BH55 ball head on a Gitzo #2 or #3 tripod, but prefer to mount it directly on the tripod (or leveling platform).
    stsadasdsad likes this.
  7. That assumes the scale is linear. The difference between two large values is subject to the accuracy of those numbers, not the difference. It's better to put the objects under test directly on the scale. Better yet, use a postal scale with precision in ounces rather than pounds.

    * Precision is the resolution of the measurement and its reproducibility. Accuracy is how close that measurement agrees with recognized standards. The twain are only loosely related.
  8. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    :rolleyes: - Close enough for the task at hand. Bathroom scale method with my 2nd heaviest lens & camera combo, 7.5 lbs. Combined weights from Nikon specifications, 7.38 lbs. The difference irrelevant in respect to tripod load. Do you ever say what you have written out loud? You ought to try it.
    charles_escott_new likes this.
  9. What I said and how I said it is consistent with measurement science and language used by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (nee National Bureau of Standards). It may sound stilted, but that's how it is.
  10. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    :rolleyes::rolleyes::rolleyes: Yup, I guess on your planet!
  11. I worked with process instrumentation and control in the pharmaceutical industry for 30 years, including a two year stint in Corporate Metrology, which calibrated those instruments. The FDA preferred we be precise (and accurate) in our documentation.
  12. Can you even do that?
    That Promaster tripod comes supplied with a head - right?
    So is the head detachable and if so, does it have a standard fixing? Usually a 3/8" threaded stud.

    System tripods have a plate and stud on top of the column that allow a variety of different heads to be fitted to the legs. If the Promaster doesn't have that, then you won't be able to swap out the head.

    In any case, a multi-section (5!) leg design like that Promaster isn't going to be able to take a lot of weight. Most heavy-duty tripods only have 3 leg sections, and often have bracing between the legs. While purpose-made astro tripods usually only have two section legs and almost always have leg bracing.

    Light weight and compactness are pretty much mutually exclusive to stability and weight-carrying ability. Especially in a budget tripod.

    As others have said, sadly you won't get a decent tripod for $100 these days unless you shop used. However, tripods don't tend to hold much value on the used market and you can often pick up something for about 1/4 of what it cost new.
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2020
    stsadasdsad likes this.
  13. Here's a photo of how it detaches. I was assuming this meant I could screw on a different ball head w/ a 3/8" stud, but, based on what's pictured here, is that accurate?
  14. AJG


    Yes, it looks like you have the standard 3/8" mounting screw, so you should be able to mount another head. I'm not familiar with your tripod, but I share Rodeo Joe's skepticism about its ability to carry as much weight as you need. Many years ago I had a cheap tripod whose legs would start to collapse under the weight of a Bolex 16 mm movie camera--about 6 1/2 pounds as I recall. I have been skeptical of most manufacturer's claims of carrying capacity ever since.
    stsadasdsad likes this.
  15. As a few others have noted, the Promaster is not a very stable tripod, and a heavier rated ball head isn't the solution. The 11.5 pound rated capacity is overly optimistic, and when the center column is extended, it's even less stable.

    A better alternative would be a Manfrotto 055 aluminum model, which has 3-section legs, and will support a lot more weight. It has a 3/8" stud, so you could use most any heavy duty ball head, if you want one. I prefer an older 3047 head (3-axis) with mine, and it will safely support 20 lbs. My D750 and 200-500mm f/5.6 zoom weigh in at around 8 pounds, and I never worry about weight or vibration.

    I've always used far more heavy duty tripods than the job needed. I still have Bogen/Manfrotto 3033, 3035, 3046, 3251, and 475B models. Yes, they're heavy, but that's why wheeled carts were invented.
    stsadasdsad and AJG like this.
  16. Suggest upgrade to Linhof Profil II ball head. Very sturdy, well made, reasonably priced.

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