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Tripod load capacity

Avishek Aiyar , Jan 07, 2011; 08:23 a.m.

Hello,

I am confused by some specs that manufacturers display on their sites.

they report a load capacity for the head alone and the legs alone, and they are obviously different.

So, my question then is, what is the load capacity of the combo?

Sorry if this is a somewhat stupid question.
Regards.
Avi

Responses


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William Kahn , Jan 07, 2011; 08:32 a.m.

You have to figure that the practical load limit is the lesser of the two ratings. A tripod head capacity of, say, 8 pounds is meaningless if the leg capacity is only 5 pounds.

You should determine the maximum weight you are likely to mount on a tripod (your heaviest camera/lens/flash/etc. combination), and buy a tripod and head, each with load ratings that exceed that maximum equipment weight...

Hector Javkin , Jan 07, 2011; 08:50 a.m.

It is not a stupid question. Think of it this way: the head has to support a camera, while the tripod legs have to support a camera and a head. In theory, therefore, the rating should be higher for the legs than for the head.

But it is a complicated issue. There are huge differences in how different manufacturers rate their heads and tripod legs. Some of the ratings are not reasonable. (I have a ball head that is rated at almost 60 kilograms, but I would never put that much weight on it.) Also, there are factors besides weight which affect the demands placed on camera supports. Long lenses, for example, are the equivalent of long levers which put extra strain on any supports. They also, of course, magnify the image, so that any vibration affects the image more.

So what do we do, on a practical level? (1) Never put more weight on a head or set of legs than the rated weight. This is a must, the least we have to do. (2) Learn, preferably from the experience of others, what a given head and set of tripod legs can support for vibration-free shooting.

John A , Jan 07, 2011; 09:00 a.m.

You definitely want to get a tripod that that will handle the weight of your head and camera/lenses and a head that will support the latter.

Once you get that, you should be fine and it is not something that you need to think much about anymore. Load ratings are generally conservative and take into account maximum torque on the equipment in practical use--they can be sued if it fails, I know, I worked for a camera support company at one time. Anyway, bottom line is to get a very good one, as they (both the head and tripod) can last you a lifetime if bought smart up-front.

Harry Joseph , Jan 07, 2011; 03:00 p.m.

I second what previous posters said concerning the tripod being able to hold the weight of both Head and Camera. A good idea is to make sure the Head is able to hold your camera and lens first, then get a tripod that can hold all three. When I first started out I made the mistake of purchasing Ball Heads that would virtually melt in the field. They could not hold both the camera and lens, so the entire shoot was ruined.

safdari cyrus , Jan 07, 2011; 04:28 p.m.

Naturally, you want a tripod/head that will support your camera and lens without collapsing under the weight. However note that getting a tripod/head that has the right weight-bearing ratings for your camera/lens is just step one.
A tripod/head is supposed to do more than simply hold the camera up. If you put a 5lbs camera on a tripod/head combo rated to support 6lbs or even 8lbs, the tripod/head will of course hold up the camera without collapsing (hopefully...assuming that the manufacturer ratings are accurate!) but it will still be a pretty "bouncy" set up and all the vibrations from the surrounding area or a breeze will be felt by the camera. A heavier tripod/head will prevent that. So the heavier the tripod/head, the better. How heavy? As heavy as you can carry. SHeer weight is good in not only minimizing vibrations but also in lowering the center of gravity.
Also the mechanism and construction quality of the tripod/head is important, aside from the weight bearing ratings. I wouldn't trust a ball head for a LF camera at all (regardless of the weight bearing ratings) because the torque can make it slip, but not so for a geared head. Also, the legs should be designed as to spread out as much as possible to lower the center of gravity.

Avishek Aiyar , Jan 07, 2011; 08:11 p.m.

Thanks all for the excellent information.
the combination of tripod weight vs stability provided vs cost is a near impossible riddle to solve I guess.
I am on the hunt of a tripod to carry to Alaska where I plan to shoot the northern lights and general wildlife in Denali.
I will be carrying a Nikon D200 and 2 lenses: the Nikkor 18-200 VR and maybe the Sigma 150-500mm.
I am hoping that I will be able to afford the Manfrotto 055XPROB. At 2.4 kgs (+0.7 kg for the 488RC2 head), it looks to be an ok setup, but I don't know of sub $200 tripods that get any lighter than that with an equivalent load rating.
There is also the Benro series of tripods which appear quite attractive, but I can't find too many reviews for them.

John A , Jan 07, 2011; 08:38 p.m.

The 055XPROB is actually a great tripod. I have owned one in that series (Bogen 3221's, 3021's) for about 30 years--I have two of them now. I use their gear head on it mostly, but have also used 3 different pan tilt heads on them. Most of the use has been for 4x5 shooting or heavy MF cameras. You should be in great shape with the 35mm dslr. My feeling is that this is probably the best tripod value out there and unless you need to go high ( I have a 9 foot tripod also), it goes about as high as most normal people can use one in normal use. Tripod height is one of the most over looked factors when people are looking for one. You don't always want to shoot standing up, but uneven terrain can render even a 9 foot tripod too short. Another great feature is the spread of the legs and the split--and reversible--column that can allow very low shooting.

Jim Momary , Jan 07, 2011; 08:58 p.m.

Avi -
One answer from a big guy (6'4"), strict amateur...
I use a D200 (among other film bodies, MF etc.) and my biggest lens is a 70-300.
I am happy with Manfrotto's 055XPROB legs - 15.4 lbs capacity and
Manfrotto's 410jr gear head - 11 lbs. capacity.
A gear head suited what I needed, but get whatever type you feel works.
That combo is rather steady and durable. While it's not carbon fiber, it's substantially cheaper.
In closing, I will advise that you get to a store if possible that has a large selection and see what feels good in your hands. I thought I knew what I wanted and when I went to a well equipped photo store in NJ, nope ... I liked somenthing else much better. It's a rather subjective thing and I found handling the stuff invaluable.

Jim

James (Jim) Johnson , Jan 07, 2011; 10:08 p.m.

Avishek,
I too have the Manfrotto 055XPROB legs and the 680B Monopod. Combined with the Manfrotto 804RC2 3-way Pan/Tilt head, The Light Duty Grip Ball head 327RC2 (usually on the monopod) and they make a very usable combination.

I've also been considering either the 496RC2 Ball Head or the 498RC2 Ball Head.
I'm leaning more along the lines of the 498RC2 because of the additional friction control, allowing micro adjustments without having to totally lock and unlock the ball head.
I like the Light Duty Grip Ball head 327RC2 with smaller/lighter lenses, and the 3-way Pan/Tilt head for the longer lenses. The 3-way Pan/Tilt is a little cumbersome in some situations, so I'm now looking at acquiring 498RC2 Ball Head to round out the total setup.
It's taken me a couple of years to get all this stuff, but it's been worth it, and the Manfrotto, Bogen stuff does the job well.
Now for that Gimbal Head, . . . .
Well, maybe next year!
By the way, . . . Adorama has some special pricing going on with the 498RC2, and Manfrotto has some rebates up to $50.00 on a tripod & head purchase until Jan 15th. I think the $50.00 rebate is for the Carbon Fibre tripod and there is a $25.00 rebate for the aluminium tripods.
Jim j.


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