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Guest plesbit

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And I don't mean the cheapo BBC sci fi from the 80's.

Ahead of Bruce's sunrise shoot I am looking to get myself a tripod. I need one anyway as the one I have is horrible indeed and at least once given, upended, and dropped my dSLR with attached 100-300mm APO onto a solid floor from a height of about 5ft. It nearly gave me heart failure at the time and I don't wish to see it happen again!

But a quick look on WE (whose showroom I will be visiting tomorrow :naughty: ) brings up a bewildering array of possibilities, some of which would need a mortgage to buy! I'd prefer not to have to pay that much. But the bit that confuses me most is that there is a separate section for tripod heads - so does that mean you buy the tripod and then you have to find a head to fit to it as well (at further cost)? With heads I don't even know where to start!

Tripods at WE: http://www.warehouseexpress.com/categor ... cat03=3037

Heads at WE: http://www.warehouseexpress.com/categor ... cat02=2008

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Big subject Simon.

As a starting point, have a look at this: http://www.outdooreyes.com/photo11.php3

The type of tripod and head you go for will depend on your intended type of photography - as well as how much money you want to spend. Most serious landscape photographers tend to use a relatively heavy carbon fibre tripod (usually Gitzo) and a three way geared head (often Manfrotto). Wildlife photographers often use ball heads - some experienced landscapers also prefer them, but the problem is that if you move it you lose the whole composition, whereas a 3 way head allows you to move in one plane at a time while staying locked in the other two planes.

My main head is a Manfrotto 410 3-way geared head - http://www.warehouseexpress.com/product/default.aspx?sku=10890. This is ideal for the type of photography I do, which involves very precise composition - the gearing makes it much easier to move in one plane at a time in small increments, or to release the geared knob for larger movements. A cheaper alternative without gearing is http://www.warehouseexpress.com/product/default.aspx?sku=10901, and if I were you I would try that one at WE.

If you prefer a ball head, I can recommend this one: http://www.warehouseexpress.com/product/default.aspx?sku=10912. I use this when I'm in a hurry to frame shots - e.g for weddings, where there's no time to mess about with 3 way pan and tilt. The trigger grip is superb, and also gives you more control over the ball head so that you can keep a tighter rein on the composition when you release it. An excellent all round choice.

Whatever head you buy, make sure it uses a quick release plate. Manfrotto heads use their own proprietary plates (beefier ones on bigger heads like the 410, smaller ones on most of their heads). The other main type is Arca Swiss.

I have a Gitzo Mountaineer carbon fibre tripod - the engineering of Gitzos is seriously excellent, but for most people the cost is not justified. I would suggest a Manfrotto. The classic metal legs are the 55 - http://www.warehouseexpress.com/product/default.aspx?sku=1019760. There are various carbon fibre alternatives, which are lighter but more expensive, such as this: http://www.warehouseexpress.com/product/default.aspx?sku=1026294

As you say, there are so many brands that it can be confusing. To avoid this I would stick with Manfrotto, because the engineering is excellent and the prices good. They have a big system, and you will find a tripod and head to suit you.

For anyone looking for a tripod:

1. Avoid anything flimsy - a waste of money. They flap around in the breeze and are prone to falling over.

2. Go for a separate tripod and head, so that you can find your ideal combination (the ones that come with built in heads are often - but not always - the useless flimsy ones)

3. Try them out before buying.

4. Don't worry about the specs of the centre column - they are best not used at all. You need legs that will take your camera up to eye height without extending the centre column, because the column just introduces instability when it's raised.

I hope that helps.


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Sound advice as ever Bruce particularly that relating to heads :clap

I have a Manfrotto 055 series and as a mid range model 'does what it says on the tin'

Take Bruce's advice Simon and you won't go far wrong.

I would also recommend you don't take your credit card to WE or I fear you may end up with an empty 'pot' ;)

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Many thanks. I had looked at the Manfrotto 055 you linked to but I was wondering whether or not that might be a bit serious for me at this stage? After all, my photography up until now has just consisted of a single entry level camera with a hyperzoom. Obviously in the past year I have added some additional lenses and increased my interest level but I don't know if I have yet stepped up to a level to justify that.

I had been thinking about something more along the lines of this:

http://www.warehouseexpress.com/product ... ku=1023067

The drawbacks of this, as I see it, are that it is quite lightweight, doesn't extend to my height (so I'll have to stoop to use the viewfinder, cue back ache) and does not support heavy camera equipment. However for me the primary use of the tripod would be to point it at my bird feeders during the winter (as I did last year with the old aluminium one that my grandfather had). Full height doesn't matter as I can sit down at the camera and weight isn't an issue as my mid level zoom is only f4.5 and not built with rugged pro use in mind and ditto the camera body which is significantly lighter than the mid level bodies.

I think what I'll do is ask to have a play with both at WE later on and come back - I'll defer the actual buying to another day. If the MN718B feels cheap and nasty then I'll give it a miss. However, a nice backpack and a new wide angle zoom will doubtless be heading home with me today. :naughty:

I was also going to buy a nice flash unit but I might hold off on that until I've made a decision on the tripod - if the cheapo tripod is not appropriate then I can perhaps defer the flash unit to another time and use the cash saved by the better tripod. After all, I very rarely do any flash photography and certainly don't envisage any requirement any time soon whereas the tripod I will need for the dawn shoot.

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You are indeed right Perry - at the time you posted I was at WE. And, incidendally, had already bought the bag in your first link. :lol:

I also got the lightweight tripod I referred to in my previous message. I was not optimistic, I must admit, that it would turn out to be what I wanted and expected to have to shell out a good deal more for the tripod and head combination referred to by Bruce. But in fact I was absolutely stunned by how good the cheapo tripod was. Indeed I was not alone - the girl who was assisting me had not had the opportunity to play with that particular model (there wasn't even one on display, she had to retrieve one from the depths of the warehouse). By the time it was all setup she was off to buy one herself muttering things like "god it's so much better than mine!".

I dare say in a strong cross wind a reasonably heavy camera / lens combi would get blown over, but anything less than that and it should be fine. It was much more versatile than I expected, the head is excellent and despite the stats on the website I can raise the camera to above and beyond my eye level even with the camera healed over at a 90 degree angle. There are independent controls for rotation, tilt and angle which slide beautifully plus an excellent quick release for getting the camera on and off the tripod (takes about 1 sec). Obviously there are some compromises and strength is one of them - it isn't really designed with the a pro body and wide aperture tele lens combi in mind but then I don't own either so that's not relevant to me just now. But the upshot of the lack of frame strength is that it's also very lightweight.

My only dilemma now is lenses. I did some test shooting with three different lenses inside the store but unfortunately made a complete cockup of it so I'll probably go back and do it all again next Saturday. I was fairly set on the Tamron 17-50/2.8 to open up the wide end that my MAF 24-105/3.5-4.5 lacks and on test it is revealed to be a cracking lens - but the same tests appeared to show the SAL16-80Z/3.5-4.5 that I bang on about outperformed my MAF 24-105/3.5-4.5 by such a margin that it looked like it might be worth biting the bullet and getting that instead, thereby replacing the MAF and rendering the Tamron irrelevant. However on closer inspection I the AF had selected different focus points shifting the DOF to different locations for the different lenses making comparisons invalid. The main reason for that was that I was trying to stand in one spot to shoot but other customers kept on moving into the frame to look at exhibits (how selfish!) forcing me to re-frame constantly and adjusting lighting / contrast properties of the images.

I did suggest to the girl that it might be helpful if they set up a test shooting area with well lit test targets and a variety of fine textured surfaces so there are good options available to people testing lenses (which she acknowledged is happening almost constantly). Whether it will happen, of course, is something else.

Anyone wondering what the new shop looks like - here it is:


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A photographic equivalent of a Chandlery :naughty:

Worse - the chandlery was cheap by comparison! If you look in the picture you can see the Sigma display case in the foreground and something which looks like a shoulder mounted missile launcher in one section. I've seen cars (good ones too) with less numbers on the price tag. :shocked

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