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Tripod Overview

by Philip Greenspun, 1996

The Legset

Sequoia National Park, California This is the least important decision you have to make. Don't let anyone tell you that you are a girlie-man if you buy Bogen instead of Gitzo. The fact of the matter is that if you were really serious, you'd be using a Ries wooden tripod. "Wood absorbs vibration and metal transmits/reflects it," is how the view camera perfectionists put it. However, the user interface and flexibility of wood tripods is so poor that only a few diehards are able to resist the charms of metal legsets.

Make sure that whatever you get, it is tall enough that you can use it comfortably without extending the center column. Think about it: if you raise the center column, your camera is flapping around in the breeze supported by only one tube. If you push it down, you get your camera supported by three legs as advertised.

Two companies make the vast majority of legsets used by professionals, Gitzo and Bogen (Manfrotto outside the U.S.). Gitzo is made in France and reflects Continental Rationalism. If you don't carefully adhere to the correct method of loosening and tightening the leg locks, it will take you an annoying minute or two to sort everything back out. Bogen is made in Italy by Manfrotto and reflects Mediterranean chaos. The leg locks are marvelous little spring-loaded flick levers (or wing-type screws on some of the smallest ones) and you can lock or unlock them in any order. Both brands offer adjustable leg angle, which is nice for uneven ground, slopes, and resting a leg on an overlook barrier. Both also offer reversible center columns, for hanging the camera inches from the ground.

Canyonlands National Park from Dead Horse Point (Moab, Utah) Gitzo is more expensive but has the advantage that there are no little parts to lose or wear out. The legs are made of heavyweight aluminum or carbon fiber. I fell in love with Gitzo's wonderfully light (weighs 3 lbs, supports 15) carbon fiber Mountaineer tripod ($500) during five weeks in Italy. It is dead, dead, dead. Dead. I'm six feet tall and expected that the lack of height (52 inches or 61 with the center column up) would be annoying, but somehow I hardly noticed bending down a bit. [An Inter-Pro Studex version is coming out in September 1996 that will be about 30% lighter than the aluminum alloy counterpart, but will rise to the same height (61 inches or 76 inches with center column; should weigh about 4.2 lbs and sell for about $750).]

Yosemite National Park The standard Bogen legset is the 3021 ($85), which comes with the spring-loaded flip locks. It weighs about 6 lbs, rises up to a comfortable working height for tall people (with no center column extension), and will support everything from heavy 35mm through lightweight 4x5. If you go into the wilderness, plan to carry the supplied plastic wrench for adjusting the leg locks should they loosen up. Kirk Enterprises (107 Lange Lane, Angola, IN 46703, (800) 626-5074) will modify the 3021 somehow so that one can get even closer to the ground, but I haven't tried this. A lot of folks prefer using a Bogen Superclamp attached to a tripod leg, with a small ballhead at the end of the clamp.

[If you get a Bogen, make sure you get the nifty strap that screws into the top and wraps around the legs. You might also consider paying the extra $13 to get the black anodized finish; the bright silver legs can turn into annoying reflections if you are doing close-ups of shiny objects.]

I've always liked the idea of the floppy Benbo tripods but have never been able to lock them down enough to get rigidity at a low camera angle. I think the Gitzos and Bogens have enough flexibility that Benbo need not be investigated. If you really want to do something weird, you might be better off with a Bogen Magic Arm.

The Head

Sheep with curly horns at a tourist farm in Rotorua, North Island, New Zealand.

If you are doing architecture, you want a three-way panhead in which each axis is separately controlled. Otherwise, you'll probably find a ballhead vastly more convenient.

With a really good ballhead, you can smoothly follow an animal with a 300/2.8 lens and take your hands off the lens without having it flop towards the ground.

Of the ballheads that I've personally used, my favorite for feel and function is the ARCA Swiss B1. This is the head that almost every serious photographer seems to end up with and my only source of sorrow is that I blew about $330 on a FOBA Superball before I found out about it. The ARCA is half the weight of the FOBA, able to support more weight, and has a very interesting patented feature: progressive resistance. That means when you've adjusted the tension for a 300/2.8 that is approximately level, the ARCA automatically increases the tensions as the lens is pointed down a bit (so that the lens doesn't flop down catastrophically). Whatever you get, if you spend $400 for a head, make sure you protect it from knocks. I wasn't super careful with my FOBA and it became useless. Sinar Bron does not stand behind the product and I would have been out of luck except that Jeff Hirsch at Fotocare in NY (see where to buy) bailed me out.

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. California's White Mountains. If you really want to save money and yet not get something that is complete junk, try the Bogen 3038 ($150 at B&H) which comes with an integral hex plate Q/R. In fact, the quick release has a really nice locking feature that I've not seen on other Bogen products. If you intend to leave your camera on the tripod and carry the assemblage around for awhile, this would tend to inspire confidence. In any case, the 3038 is about the same size and weight as the FOBA and is strong enough to take a 4x5 or supertele. It is hard to describe why the overall experience with the 3038 isn't as good as with the FOBA but it clearly isn't. I think it comes down to smoothness and the use of a lubricant on the 3038, which I've played with but never used extensively.

An interesting design that I haven't tried is the NPC pseudo-ballhead. This has an innovative design that locks the center of the ball rather than standard method of pushing the ball into the socket (this changes your composition slightly, somewhat irritating with a big lens especially). The head is reasonably priced ($225) and apparently well made, but allegedly is a pan/tilt head that is not really a suitable substitute for a traditional ballhead design (this is a paraphrase of some vitriolic comments by ex-users).

If you aren't planning to use a medium format camera, a super-tele, or a 4x5, you might want to investigate smaller ballheads. Even if you can afford the aforementioned heads, you won't enjoy carrying the weight. The FOBA mini super ball ($200) looks great, but I've never owned one and Sinar Bron's attitude is discouraging. I've tried the really cheap Bogen 3262QR ($40) and it works OK but the lack of tension means that you risk "dumping" the camera/lens combination. Plus, the unit seems to depend on grease for smoothness and your hands get kind of filthy if you aren't careful about where you touch your gear. I wasn't sorry when it was stolen.

Quick Release

Chili Peppers in Chimayo, New Mexico

All I know is that I have to have a quick release. I have to be able to mate and unmate my camera quickly or the whole tripod is too much of a hassle to use and carry.

The gold standard in quick release is the "ARCA Swiss-style". Bryan Geyer, the owner of Really Right Stuff ( http://www.reallyrightstuff.com; P.O. Box 6531, Los Osos, CA 93412, (805) 528-6321), makes the biggest selection of plates (137 in June 1995) in this style so I asked him to articulate his devotion to it. "The problem with the Sachtler, Bogen, and Linhof releases is that they have a fixed cavity size. You should be able to use a big plate for a big item like a 600/4 lens and a small plate for a small item like a body. Our plates range in size from 1.4 inches to 7.3 inches long.

Sunset. Chaco Canyon, New Mexico Another thing that is wrong with the Sachtler, Bogen, and Linhof approach is that their plates are all flat-topped and therefore free to twist or pivot on whatever equipment they are attached to. Even if your lens lets you rotate the body without tilting the tripod head, you still might want to shoulder the tripod and not have the plate twist. Each of our plates has a flange of channel that keeps the lens or body from twisting.

"A final consideration is that it is really ugly to have a big plate poking out from under your camera. ARCA Swiss-style plates conform to the size and shape of the equipment."

I used to be a Bogen hex plate user but Bryan Geyer persuaded me with his reasoning and his superbly machined products. I leave his plates on my cameras all the time and they never get in the way. I miss the positive "snap-in" that I got with the Bogen system, but not as much as I thought I would. If you want to get into the ARCA Swiss-style system you have to either buy a ballhead that comes with it or get a whole setup from Bryan.

If you want something cheap that works, Bogen sells a range of Q/R systems, the biggest of which is their old hex plate system. It is big enough to carry a 4x5 view camera with ease ($30 plus $12 for extra plates). There are a bunch of more expensive ($70-130) systems out there that look potentially better than the Bogen, but I'm not yet convinced that any are. The Linhof one looks nice. When I was looking for something lightweight, I've tried cheap systems such as the Cullman, but they are inadequately rigid.


The Really Right Stuff catalog (available from P.O. Box 6531, Los Osos, CA 93412, (805) 528-6321) contains a fairly comprehensive comparative test of ballheads. The short story is that the ARCA Swiss B1 crushes the competition.

Article created 1996

Readers' Comments

Add a comment

mel dorin , December 17, 1996; 02:37 P.M.

I wrote to you once before to tell you that the head, camera and tripod should be tested as a complete unit before a purchasing decision is made. It has been my experience that this is the only way to prove the utility of the tripod and head with the actual camera being used. I think you would be surprised that some systems that you think are "solid" with one camera system, are wobbly with another. It is only my experience talking, but I've tested many combinations over the last 8 years with no real bulletproof way to predict the optimum results in advance.

Glen Johnson , January 15, 1997; 03:03 P.M.

Regarding the quick release plates - if you go with an Arca Swiss style quick release and you are shooting with a Canon set up, don't waste your money on the Arca Swiss quick release plates. Buy your quick release plates from Really Right Stuff. The RRS plates are far superior to the Arca Swiss plates in terms of their ease of use and lack of wiggle when properly installed.

The only reason to buy the Arca plates is "instant gratification." If you absolutely have to have a plate on the same day as the ball head arrives, and if you don't mind wasting $60, go ahead and get the Arca plate.

You have to wait to get your plates from RRS because they won't take an order over the phone, and they won't take credit cards. Aside from this aggravation, their plates really do function better than the manufacturer's official plates. One other thing about RRS plates. You have to have a 5/32" allen wrench to install and remove them. You can order a special tool from RRS, or you can just buy the standard 5/32" allen wrench from the hardware store for around $.40.

The Arca Swiss B1 is definitely a wonderful piece of gear, and the RRS mounting plates allow it to reach its full potential.

Brian P. Bower's CamraScapes , February 16, 1997; 11:47 A.M.

Subject: WIMBERLEY TRIPOD HEAD for long lenses. I appreciate your comments and recommendations on tripods and heads. I was happy with my gitzo 320 while using it with my studioball and a nikon 200~400, but found the setup inadequate for a 600 f4. I purchased a gitzo 410 which helped tremendously,but after using a new head designed especially for long lenses, I will never use a ball head again for my telephoto work. This new head is called the Wimberley Tripod Head, and because of its radical design, true balance can be achieved. It will never flop over on you and you can leave all of the adjustments loose so panning along with your subject is effortless. The price of the head and shipping seems a bit steep at $402 but after using it with my 600 F4, I could never do without it. Wimberley Design can be contacted at 974 Baker Lane, Winchester, Va. 22603. Tel. (540) 665-2744. They are a small family operated business and I know they will do well.

Tom Holton , March 04, 1997; 03:38 A.M.

I recently discovered that you can make an excellent tripod head for 35mm and medium format photography by attaching the Bogen #3229 QR Swivel Head (http://www.manfrotto.com/en/products/monopods.html), which was designed for monopods, to the #3160 XL Fluid Head (http://www.manfrotto.com/en/products/videoheads.html), which was designed for video, by means of a #3157A QR plate. The resulting combination has the pan-and-tilt smoothness of a video head but also allows the photographer to turn the camera 90 degrees for portrait or landscape (actually -90 to +45 degrees). This combination head stands 15 cm (= 6 in) high, weighs 0.9 kg (= 2 lbs), and costs about $90.- (B&H or CWO). I find it to be a real pleasure to use: very stable and much easier to adjust than three-axis heads which are specifically designed for still photography (e.g Bogen 3025, 3028, 3029, 3030, 3047), especially when it comes to the fine pan-and-tilt operations that most photographers (or at least I) constantly need to do to frame an image. I also prefer it to any ball head I have ever used. No more fooling around with levers or knobs which clamp the ball in place while changing the position of the frame from what you intended. In any event, "good" ball heads seem to come in three flavors: expensive, ridiculously expensive and obscenely expensive (e.g. Arca).

The #3229 is rated to support 2.5 kg (= 5.6 lb) and comes with a relatively long (6.3 cm=2.5") QR plate which works fine for me. If you have a heavy zoom or fixed focal-length lens with a rotating collar you can remove the whole #3229 in a matter of seconds and attach your lens directly to the #3160 video head with a QR plate for the total zen tripod experience. You'll find yourself gratuitously panning and tilting just for the pleasure of being able to position that heavy lens to exactly the right microdegree. The #3160 is rated to support 4.5 kg (= 10 lb).

Conclusion: for the price of one and a half QR plates for an Arca, you can put together a fine -- I would say superior -- tripod head for still and video photography.

Harry Stadman , March 14, 1997; 04:19 P.M.

I use a very heavy ballhead from linhof (profi ballhead 3)! rock solid! Just as good as arca (maybe better?!)!But it hasn't a quick release so a searched for a good professional quick release system! I found the novoflex miniconnect!It's small, fast (much faster than arca(need to screw it) ! and rock,rock,rock solid! It works with a round metal plate that you can CLICK in the groundplate.that's it!super fast!And it can support all major big lenses!easely 600mm!It is quit new! and i don't know if it is available in america! But if so, it is worth testing and to try it out! I use all heavy stuff and it is just excellent!!!i don't understand the fuss about that arca stuff!It is very slow in comparison with the mini conect! You can easely use it with mid format or larger camara's! You can operate it with one!!!!hand and has a big release handle!It is just super!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! People who work with novoflex equipment are aware of the very good quility!

Don Atzberger , March 29, 1997; 12:51 A.M.

Just tried out the Bogen 3055 ball-head and was not terribly impressed. There are two variants of this head -- one has a black, plasticky looking ball and the other has a silver metal one. The plastic one bound up often when panning, and the lens would jerk from one position to the next. The metal one was much smoother.

There are two locking mechanisms on these heads -- one to tension the ball and the other to lock the horizontal panning pivot. The horizontal pivot lock works fine, but the ball tension adjustment was useless. When I rotated the front of the lens to my left, the tensioning handle would loosen and the head would dump the lens as soon as I let go of it.

I also tried the 3047 tilt-pan head. Despite the fact it isn't a ball-head, I found it much easier to use for tracking than the 3055 (take this in context because I've never used a "good" ball-head like the Arca). If you must have an inexpensive (less than $100), yet solid head, I'd recommend looking at the 3047 and avoiding the 3055.

Dave Herzstein , July 10, 1997; 03:57 P.M.

My legs are Bogen 3021 with a circular spirit level (< $5) glued over the center column axis. When I plan on panning, I take a few seconds to adjust the lens to keep the pan plane parallel to the horizon. With this platform, my Bogen 3047 (I don't use the left/right tilt or the built-in spirit levels) and a Bogen 3063 fluid video head always give me tracking ability and stay horizontal. I no longer own a 3055 ball-head as I found it too prone to vibration and not ergonomically freindly.

I have inproved my Bogen hex-plates in two ways:

* I have sawed off and smoothed the each of the 6 corners

* I have added a second screw to secure my lens' tripod collar to a flat (#3041) hex-plate.

Jeff Spirer , July 29, 1997; 12:49 P.M.

The "religion" around Arca ballheads is really not appropriate to the many of us that don't use very large cameras or long lenses. I rarely shoot, even in medium format, with anything over two pounds, so my issue isn't absolute stability of heavy equipment but rigidity during long exposures and the ability to very carefully compose. I have found that the Linhof Model 1, just as an example, is an excellent ballhead for my purposes and costs just slightly over $100. There are probably other ballheads in this price range that would meet the needs of a lot of us that are not into huge lenses or large format.

Also, regarding Benbo - there are some issues with how well the "bent bolt" works, but I have found times when it is indispensable. I recently went on a tour of a ghost town (photos will be at www.hyperreal.org/~jeffs/) by next week in which I wanted to work against a steep railroad embankment with mud down below. It was very easy to use the embankment for one leg with the other two just above the mud line. I happened to notice that other photographers had to work on the railroad tracks, getting a very different perspective.

One tip on buying a Bogen/Manfrotto: Mr. Greenspun suggested buying with the black anodized legs for $13, but I just used black cloth tape which cost around $2.

Jack Kennealy , August 06, 1997; 10:43 A.M.

When I bought my Bogen 3221, I also bought a Bogen 3262QR ball head. This was my first ball head, and I was delighted with it - plus the whole deal cost me only about $140. After a while I began to realize that the lack of smoothness in the 3262 head was annoying me more and more as I set up pictures. However, I really wasn't prepared to spend $400-600 for an Arca ball head and matching QR. A couple of places on the 'net (I really don't remember where), I found people recommending the Canon Professional Ball Head, a head one hardly ever hears about. Since it was only $60 (at Adorama), I bit, and for another $30 bought the Bogen hexagonal QR plate to go with it. Since I've never used an Arca head, I can't compare the Canon head with that, but I've found the Canon head to be just super for everything I've done with it. I have to assume that Arca heads are even better, but with the Canon head I feel that maybe I've reached the point of diminishing returns, with respect to quality versus cost. And, since I'm a Nikon camera user, this is high praise indeed for the Canon head!

Gerry Siegel (Honolulu) , September 09, 1997; 08:40 P.M.

Over the years I have tried a variety of tripods and heads, from cheapo to pricey kind. I traded cash for" experience," having sold most at a discount to other photographers. My recollections: - Bogen 3047- OK, but large and awkward to use, still a good value for the buck if you enjoy pan/ tilt style versus ball head. - Bogen 3055 ball head- not smooth enough in action or machining. Good price though and is usable. - Slik Ball heads ( from professional with triangular lever to small) OK, but no adjustment for tensioning. Good value. - Foba Superball, w/ quick release: Good ball head and fully adjustable, but large, heavy, and expensive. Still have it and use it. Bought for 175.00 at auction. Not my first choice or recommendation now that I have an Arca B-1 head. - Arca Swiss. Worth the money because of the precision. A unique product,- a lifetime investment. - Bogen Swivel Tilt Head- great for monopods, a bargain at under 20.00, for certain uses. - Bogen mini fluid head. Also a great bargain for video and maybe binocular astronomy - Really Right Stuff Plates. A value for their quality and individuality. - Really right stuff arca clamp adapters. An excellent compromise to retrofit other heads.

Jim Chow , October 16, 1997; 02:02 A.M.

I use the Gitzo 1228 mountaineer for the legset and a Lindhof profil 2 ballhead w/ Rollei quick release (my 6x6 is the only thing I use on this tripod). The Lindhof head is very solid and smooth, a perfect match for the series-2 gitzo. For the series 4, I'd go w/ the larger profil 3. The profil 2 is only about $215 in Tokyo. Just try not to think about the fact that the legset, head, and quickrelease cost nearly $1000. I also have a bogen 3021S (compact). I only use it for low-level macro shots since the legs open more than those of the gitzo. It's too heavy for me (4.75 lbs for the legs, whereas my gitzo carbon w/ Lindhof head is about 4.25 lbs complete and extends higher AND carries a heavier load).

Alec Pytlowany , November 17, 1997; 02:02 P.M.

Regarding tripods I've switched from Bogen & avoided Gitzo after trying many friends pods and helping those in workshops and had SLIK PRO tripods recommended to me by a friend and found them to be my best solution. Best features are: good price, superb craftmanship, solid, big leg collars, LEGS CANT ROTATE WHEN OPENING OR CLOSING, no binding or loosening in legs or collars. The Slik Pro 'Grand Master Sport Black' is direct competition in size and weight but better features than the small Gitzo Mountaineer and about 1/4 to 1/3 the price. Best of all the legs don't turn when opening or closing them in any order. This tripod is not sold in the USA but is availible in Canada. Call Jim at Camtech 403-244-0333 and he'll send it mail order. Before you buy another tripod or monopod, check out the SLIK PRO line, their amateur line is not great.

Michael Edelman , December 11, 1997; 01:56 P.M.

While I trust my Gitzo 300 and my huge Davis & Sanford above all else, I recently picked up a set of Culliman Titan legs, and I've been impressed with the combination of speed, lightness and stiffness; the legs seem to be as solid as a Bogen 3050, but the speed of setting leg length makes these really conveneient. I've been using these legs with a Bogen ball head for some nighttime train photography, and it's a very handy package. For $100 in mint condition it's worked out very well for me.

Max Grogan , January 16, 1998; 11:40 A.M.

After moving up thru Bogen's 3025,3055,3047,3038 & then the StudioBall (Arca QR), I found the Arca B1 and loved it 'til winter, & found my huge gloved hands could not grasp the knobs & I was fumbling a lot. Then I bought the Foba & remembered why I first liked the Bogen 3038 (not smooth at all): The big bi-directional handle!! It is so quick!

One problem I experienced: Sometimes in very cold weather it does not clamp firmly & feels "mushy". Any others have this problem? A solution would be appreciated.

Albert E. Anderson , January 25, 1998; 04:31 P.M.

I'm using the Bogen/Manfrotto 3221 tripod with the Bogen 3265 grip-action ball head. It is hefty, well made, and I like it. My only caution is that the grip action head is fairly tall, and the camera sits about six (6) inches above the ball. When you tilt your camera to the side for a vertical frame, the center of gravity moves 6 inches off center. This decreases the stability of the whole thing, forcing you to extend the legs on one side... depending on the weight of your camera and lens.

Michael Edelman , January 29, 1998; 02:23 P.M.

Despite the comments of some quoted above, I picked up an NPC "pseudo ballhead" when it was offered to me by a local shop for $75- with the Arca style quick release and two plates!

Yes, it doesn't use a ball, but it has the same degrees of freedom and the axis all share a common center, so functionally it acts just like a ballhead. It has a nice indexed rotating base, too. I just finished using it for a setup that took a couple of evenings to complete and it was a pleasure to use.

Harald Gaunitz , February 12, 1998; 04:52 A.M.

Maybe Gitzo, Manfrotto and Benbo are the most many-sided tripods but they are heavy e.g. at mountain walks. I have found out the LPL splits tripod is a very good all-round choice. The weight is 1850 grams and can carry a 35 mm- or a roll film camera. (I have used it for cameras up to 2000 grams.) The quality is high and this tripod is used by the Swedish army to carry IR-sights. The best with this tripod is its ability to do the splits, the low weight and the good carry handle. One can buy it at the Swedish Photax (http://www.photax.se) or other LPL sellers.

Mark A. Brown , March 08, 1998; 11:50 P.M.

As an alternative type of head for architecture, some people might want to consider the Manfrotto 410 three-axis geared head. As its name suggests, the main feature of this head is that it provides geared adjustments in the three axes. I find this particularly invaluable for applying fine "tweaks" in one axis without upsetting other axes (as can happen with a ball head), and also removes the possibility of movement while locking off on a pan-and-tilt head (although this shouldn't much happen unless you're using a particularly cheap head).

By rotating a lock ring around each knob, the gearing mechanism is disengaged providing for rapid alignment. Just be careful not to disengage the clutch around the wrong axis, or your entire ensemble could suddenly flop over!

The head comes with a spirit level and an integral quick-release plate operated by a large lever. The lever has a secondary safety catch to prevent inadvertant release.

As for supported weight, although Manfrotto suggest its use is mainly for 35mm or medium format kit, I've used this head sucessfully with a Horseman LX-C monorail 5x4" studio camera (over 7kg sans lens), and use it for outdoor photography with a Cambo SCN-II (over 4kg sans lens).

A few random disadvantages: - While the geared adjustments are very good, it is possible to back-drive them by applying too large a torque to the camera. This doesn't cause me problems when using my 35mm kit unless I'm particularly ham-fisted, but can cause unintentional movement if I don't handle my 5x4" kit carefully when inserting film holders (which I should do carefully anyway, but there you go), possibly due to the longer moment arm.

- adjustment in the pitch axis is -90/+30 degrees, which may not be enough if you want to point the camera upwards.

- the mechanism is lubricated with grease, which when the head is new can give some unpleasant surprises if you're not careful of where you touch it. These problems lessen with use as the grease is gradually worn off.

-it can take a while to get used to which knob controls which axis, particularly when composing looking through the camera and feeling for the controls.

Steve Bingham , March 30, 1998; 04:59 P.M.

Hi folks,

I use a Pentax 6 x 7. It is notorious for camera vibration at shutter speeds of 1/30 to 1/2 sec. I also have arthritis of the hands and back. And so I have been on a quest for a tripod/head that is lighter, stronger, and less vibration prone.

Solution: 1- Swiss Arca Monoball B-1. Nothing works as well. Period.

2- Velbon Carmagne 640 Carbon Fiber tripod. The tripod weighs in at 2.9 lbs. It is made of magnesium and carbon fiber and it is loaded with features. Best of all, it is rock solid - yes, even at 2.9 pounds. If it gets windy, the tripod comes with a "stone bag" which clips onto the three legs. Turn your 2 pound tripod into a 20 pounder right in the field! It works too. And it will fit into most back packs or airline bags. It is small and doesn't seem like it would work. My testing showed it to have less vibration than my Bogen 3021! Surprise! And it is almost 4 pounds lighter.

B&H sells the tripod for $440 and the head for $380. You will need a quick release. See above comments from others.


Greg Rothschild , April 04, 1998; 10:37 A.M.

i think that the days of the arca "crushing" it's competition are over. i have been using the kirk ballhead for about a year and it is a great head. one comment about really right stuff- i called to place an order and the person i spoke to was so rude and unhelpful i ended up buying somewhere else. i hope my experience was untypical. what a jerk!

Charles T. (Tom) Hoskinson -- , April 07, 1998; 11:10 A.M.

Regarding RRS, when I ask a supplier or manufacturer a product related technical question, I appreciate a straight, no BS, technical answer. When I ask the RRS people a technical question, this is exactly what I get, and I appreciate it.

Regarding the Kirk Model BH-1 ball head. The price is certainly lower than that of the Arca-Swiss B-1. The question is, does it work properly under field conditions and is it reliable? Regarding the current version of the Kirk product, in my opinion the jury is still out.


Joe Hewes , May 04, 1998; 05:30 P.M.

I'm a pan/tilt kind of guy right now, shooting mostly landscapes and macro work. I appreciate the fine degree of adjustment the Bogen 3275 (410) geared head gives me. My only regret is that us pan/tilt users are left out in the cold when it comes to quick-release plates.

Conversations with Bryan Geyer at RRS left me with nothing but frustration, until I accepted the fact that he is serving a highly specialized market niche, and that niche is NOT pan tilt heads. It's too bad that those of us who do not use Arca-style clamps cannot take advantage of RRS products, for all their advantages would work for us too. The non-twist feature of the RRS plates is highly desirable but unattainable for anyone but Arca-style devotees.

Arca and other ballheads are great. RRS is great. But there are other types of heads out there and this religion about heads is like any other- tolerance is required for the diverse group of users out there. No one size fits all, though I freely admit that there are some sizes that fit most.

Maybe someone more handy than myself will read this and figure out a way to machine a decent QR system for Bogen clamp heads to adapt the Arca-style clamp to these heads.

Paulo Bizarro , May 08, 1998; 07:18 A.M.

No way I would use anything but Gitzo products, they are really nice, and above all, sturdy, user friendly, and reliable. I have a 1376 ball head, which is a beauty, and the QR works a charm and provides confidence, so that I never fear my gear might get unreleased all of a sudden and fall to the ground.

It is expensive, but a tripod and its head are an investment that will last you (almost) for life.

Brendan Johnston , May 17, 1998; 03:05 P.M.

I will just make a comment on the 3038 since Phillip Greenspun recomended it as a way to 'save money and not get complete junk'.

I just got one. It is very heavy, seems to leek grease out of every orifice, but worse still the ball is quite stiff which makes it difficult to make fine adjustments. This is in contast to its separate pan freedom which a very smooth. It seems to have more industrial strength than high quality.

Apart from these issues it is ok. Maybe it you want to save money you should get a pan and tilt head.

Ronald -- , July 12, 1998; 11:58 A.M.

Hi there, This is really a terrific site, took me all the way through a rainy weekend. I am left with a question about tripods though. At what shutter speed should I consider using one.

Steve Smith , July 19, 1998; 06:21 P.M.

A good, cheap tripod? I've been using a Slik 300DX for several months now & am very satisfied. I compared it to similarly sized Gitzo (?) & Bogen (3001) tripods, and it was the hands-down winner regarding ease of set-up (an important consideration for a follower of Zipf's principle of least effort). Gitzos, though well-machined, are mystifying, while Bogens seem a little stiff and (as someone mentioned above) to ooze grease. The release lever allowing the legs to open at a wider angle is much easier to operate on the Slik than on the either Gitzo or the Bogen. & the supplied pan-&-tilt head (which I prefer over ballheads, esp. for macro work) & quick release plates I find to be excellent, & much more compact than a Bogen 3047. Grain of salt: I use nothing longer than a 135mm lens (though I regularly use a bellows, & have stuck a Pentax 67 on it with good results). Overall, it's pretty close in size/weight to a Bogen 3001 w/ 3047, but much cheaper (esp. considering it's black finish) at $100.

David Gabbé , July 30, 1998; 12:48 P.M.

There are many comments about the Bogan & Gitzo leg sets, but none about the Ries tripod. So here are my counter experiences.

There are 2 things which will render a Gitzo or Bogan leg set inoperative. They are sand and salt water. Needless to say, my vacations always seem to wind up with them.

Of course where there's sand, there is wind. The fine grit just seems to find its way into the locking mechanisms and after a day or two, the locks stop securing the sections tightly. It's not just me, every workshop I taken, I've seen this happen over & over.

In contrast, the Ries has "no moving parts". Just bang the legs if you get hung up and off you go.

The wood is much nicer to handle in the summer heat and the winter cold, something I didn't appreciate until I had the tripod for a bit.

The Ries has 2 sections rather than 3 so it is not as compact when folded.

With respect to weight, heavier is better. I've seen and had happen to me, lighter tripods blown over in gusts. It's mandatory to hang your bag at the crown to provide more stability.

If I am going to clean anything in the field, it's going to be my 4x5 film holders, not my tripod.

Michael J. Kravit , August 13, 1998; 09:38 P.M.

Just got back from a trip to the Rocky Mountain National Park. After a week of lugging a Bogen 3221 w/Arca B1 on my shoulder, I am thoroughly convinced that a Gitzo Carbon Fiber Mountaineer is a must.

The Bogen was stable, I had it in streams, mud, steep slopes and deep grass. It handled my AF-S 300 2.8 with ease. No mechanical issues, but problem was the 6 mile 2,000 vert. ft. hikes at 6am with that bugger on my shoulder.

I will be ordering the Gitzo very shortly.

Albert E. Anderson , September 07, 1998; 09:31 P.M.

To: Tom Shapiro (above).

You asked at what shutter speed do you begin to use a tripod? The textbook answer is at about 1/focal length. So, for example, if you have a 50mm lens, you should use a tripod at shutter speeds of 1/50th and slower. However, that's just a guide.

I think everyone here will agree, you should use that tripod whenever you can, even at higher speeds. Not only will it prevent camera shake, but it will help slow you down to contemplate the setting and exposure.

Every time you release that shutter on your camera, it costs you 25 cents (a dollar if you use medium format film). I've paid for my Bogen by slowing down and taking fewer shots!

Ellis Vener , November 14, 1998; 12:09 P.M.

I have recently started working with an Arca Swiss B2 head, after using different "rational" or pan/tilt heads for the past 14 years. About half of what I shoot is architecture on 4x5 and 6x17 cameras and this is the best tripod head I have come across. It is not a freely rotating ball head the way the smaller B1 (which I also have used for a number of years) is, but is two enclosed joints, one inside the other.) from the outside the head appears to be a very large ball head. The outer joint controls pitch (forward and back angle) this joint has the Friction control that Phil mentions. The inner joint controls leveling from side to side and is controlled by a seperate knob. Panning is controlled at the base of the head.

In operation the head is very smooth, and tightens up with none of the dread "tripod head creep" I have experienced with virtually every other pan/tilt head I have used. The only drawback for field use is the size and weight of the thing. When my sometimes assistant looked at it for the first time he asked me where I got the bucket. I am of the impression if you are using 600mm f/4 or longer heavier lenses you will have no problems.; It certainly supports a 8x10 Sinar P2 nicely. Is any tripod head worth US$650.00? I cannot honestly answer that because I waited till I found a used one through the photo.net classifieds. Eventually I probably would have sprung for a new one. It is definitely the the ultimate tripod head as far as I am concerned.

Dennis Caspe , November 14, 1998; 01:36 P.M.

The Bogen 3205, the black anodised verson of the 3001 was everything I wanted in a traveling tripod on a recent trip to Italy. It weighs just over 3 1/2 lbs. and sets up quickly. I had the Arca B-1 head attached, and often carried my F5 on the tripod just over my shoulder so that when I saw something that caught my eye, all I had to do was let the legs down and spread them out. It was fast, convenient and absolutely solid and steady. My dusk to night photos were all tack sharp, as well as, of course, the daytime photos. The set up was so convenient that I don't think I took a handheld photo in over two weeks. I could not have carried my heavier Bogen, and after investing in the Arca B1, I could not see mounting it on my old traveling pod, a Slik U-112, nor spending $500+ on a carbon fiber. Light, rock solid (even with the 80-200 2.8), and only $75.00 is a hard combination to beat.

Gary Voth , November 25, 1998; 01:24 A.M.

I am aware that many people have "religion" about the Arca-Swiss quick release system. I like it too. But, my ballhead is not equiped with a standard Acra-Swiss clamp, so I recently went shopping for an add-on adapter plate. A funny thing happened on the way to the store: I found a very different solution that it turns out I like very much: the Hasselblad tripod quick coupling system. (Really.)

Why? Well, for one thing I own Hasselblads, and it turns out that recent Hasselblad camera bodies have a quick coupling plate built into the camera bottom. This plate is designed for the Hasselblad clamp, of course. But additional mounting plates are available for other equipment.

Since I use both Hasselblad and 35mm gear, I thought I should at least check this out. I found I really liked the design. The mounting plates are slim and streamlined, and very unobstrusive when mounted on my 35mm bodies and lenses. The QR clamp itself has dual lever mechanism: one that must be held down to permit the plate to slide onto the bed; when "at rest" it holds the plate loosely in place. A second lever locks the equipment down rigidly in place. This twin mechanism means that even when the clamp is opened accidentally in a vertical orientation the equipment cannot "fall through." Plus, the clamp has a built-in spirit level, a nice touch. All pieces seem to be fairly ruggedly designed and are very well machined.

Will it hold a 600mm lens? I dunno, but I don't have gear that heavy. So far, I really like it. Not sure if it's as attractive a solution if you don't own Hasselblad. But, if you're in the market for a QR system you might want to check it out. It sure beats the pants off of some of the others I've looked at.

JJ -- , January 08, 1999; 05:38 A.M.

The ballhead with quick release plates are innovative and very helpful. Before I read this Ad about ballheads and QR plates, I wanted one. So I contacted Kirk Enterpirses (1-800-626-5074) and order a catalog. A couple days later, while drooling over the catalog, I ended up calling them and ordering over the phone using my Visa card. I order the black anodized aluminum milled plates that fit perfect under each camera body with a recessed set screw (each plate comes with an allen wrench). The ballhead I ordered is an exact duplicate to the B1, but less cost. I ordered the Kaiser (Made in Germany) Studio ball and is it stout! Any size body you want to use... it'll hold them all. The price of the ballhead was $295 and the QR plates are $65 each. Once the plates are attached, you leave them on. They're so sleek, you don't think about them anymore until you mount them up on the ballhead. The ballhead operates smoothly and precisely, and locks down easily with a large tightening knob. Oh, one more word on the plates. Each one has a taped out screw hole if you want to use an accessory where the tripod usually mounts. I leave my QR plates on all camera bodies all the time. When I need to use a monopod, I just screw it in the accessory hole provided in the bottom of the plate (next to where in mounts into the bottom of the camera).

Colin Povey , January 21, 1999; 01:34 P.M.

One very nice thing about Gitzo tripods that is seldom mentioned is that they readily disassemble, without tools, for cleaning. If you end up with dirt/sand in the locks (and who doesn't), just fully unscrew the locks, wipe 'em clean, regrease them (Vaseline seems to work, but probably not the best), and reassemble.

David Julian , February 11, 1999; 12:25 A.M.

Carbon Gitzo? YE$! OK-- here's a good reason to splurge for a carbon fiber tripod. I weigh in at just 145 lbs and do not lift weights. After years of travelling with my trusty-rusty Bogen 3021 and a Linhof Ball head, I got sick of the fatique it gave me, and its sticky, vulnerable leg lever mechanisms. I stopped taking it on long treks whenever I could. I tried using the smaller 3001, but it really didn't come up to a comfortable height, and the leg knobs really take time, and hurt frozen fingers. I wanted to make more great shots futher and further away. I needed a revelation, not a porter.

What am I getting at? Well, after purchasing the Gitzo Carbon tripod, I started taking sharper images, was FAR less fatiqued after long climbs, and could justify carrying that fast glass that I normally left home. That's really it. It makes serious outdoor photography more FUN, and less of a pain in the shoulders. The only downside of the Carbon model, is that now that I am far less fatiqued, I have to lie to get those great backrubs back at camp...

David Fancher , March 28, 1999; 10:14 A.M.

I was considering using the grip style ball heads by bogen and Silk. After looking into it the Silk seems to have the advantage because the Ball is larger and feels smoother, and the design keeps the camera closer to the center of gravity than the Bogen. Cost is about the same.

Thomas Peachey , April 14, 1999; 10:49 P.M.

While I am not an expert in photography, I recently acquired a Celestron C-90 scope and have looked around and experimented with various heads. I tried a Wimberley gimbal-type head (www.tripodhead.com) and was amazed at its incredibly smooth function. The scope acts exactly like it's in a weightless environment. Rather than be distracted by an annoying head, the Wimberly design is a joy to use. It's a small family run business. They even will send you one to use in the field for several weeks. The $465 price might put you off a bit at first, but not after you try it. You won't be disappointed.

David Chang , May 05, 1999; 10:05 P.M.

I have used the Gitzo 1228 carbon tripod for about 6 months and have been to Antarctica and back and everywhere in between. It is a good tripod, even though the leg locks are a minor nuisance. However, one of the leg locks came off (unglued or something, maybe it was river silt, dune sand, or just frozen penguin guano expanding) and with horror and tripedation, I sent it to Bogen for repair. I sent it in on a Wednesday afternoon 2nd day air, it arrived in New Jersey on Friday and they sent me a new one (the improved version with a grooved center column)which ARRIVED Tuesday via second day air! Now this is service! I don't know what the support is on other brands, but I appreciate the service and attention Bogen showed me with a one day turnaround. If this is standard service for Bogen, I'm a customer for life.

Alex Hemsath , May 25, 1999; 03:24 P.M.

Most of the time I agree totally with what Phil has to say on photo.net, but this page's section on ballheads leaves me shaking my head. Phil says that unless you're planning on doing architecture, you'll find a ballhead more convienient. Fair enough. But then he goes on to say nothing kind, really, about any ballheads other than the Arca Swiss B1 or FOBA Superball. Certainly, no head under $200 gets a favorable review. What I take from that is that ballheads are the kind of technology that only work well at the very top of the range, and are very poor otherwise. From the cheaper ballheads I've played with in stores, this would seem to be the case. A very nice panhead, on the other hand, can be had for a lot less than the B1 ballhead. If you've got a lot of money, then, sure, get the Arca Swiss or FOBA ballhead. If you don't, you'd probably like to spend some of that $400 on/towards a nice lens. Get a panhead. If you get one that is smooth and has an long handle, you can follow animals or what have you quite smoothly.

There's my nickel's worth.

Ron Goodman , May 30, 1999; 10:03 A.M.

Someone a while back mentioned his frustration at not having a QR system to use with a pan-tilt head. I just finished photographing 200+ quilts at NYQuilts with a RRS clamp mounted to my Gitzo 3-way head and it works like a charm. I replaced the 1/4" thumb screw with the 3/8" version and replaced the knurled wheel with a 9/16" nut, so I could tighten it with a wrench. It's very solid, and as much as I like the Arca-Swiss B1, for some applications, the 3-way head just makes life easier.

Paul Rubin , June 01, 1999; 09:32 P.M.

If you want to shoot from low angles with a Bogen 3021 (or most other Bogens, I guess), just remove the cap/stopper from the end of the center post, pull out the center post and put it back in upside down, so the head is down underneath/between the legs. You can then get the top of the camera all the way down to ground level. For TLR's, you can get the taking lens even lower by swinging the head around so the camera is sideways.

James Horne , June 07, 1999; 10:27 A.M.

A thought for those who are looking for recommendations for a reasonably priced tripod legset. The Manfrotto/Bogen 055Nat/3221G is a good deal, particularly if you are into nature photography. For less than the price of the individual pieces, you get a legset with hand warmer grips, spikes with retractable rubber feet to cover them and a shoulder strap which is very useful when carrying it into the field.

The size and weight is a practical compromise between ultimate stability and still being able to get it there without a pack mule.

Sal Trutta , June 21, 1999; 01:06 P.M.

Regarding ball heads and in particular the NPC product. First of all, the manufacturer says it's not a ball head, as if there's something inherently wrong with the concept of ball heads. If you study the product, it appears to begin life as a ball and the material (delrin?) is sliced up and then reassembled. Unlike ballheads, which tend to add or subtract pressure at one point ( via a locking knob or handle ), the NPC "ballhead" offers a more even distribution of clamping or locking force. If the NPC mechanism were better designed, their system would work better, but there is no mechanism in their handle to govern the "loosening" process. Thus, if you have a long lens or heavy camera and you're not careful, the whole thing can nosedive forward or sideways with very little warning. Looks are deceiving with this product. At arm's length, it's pretty, in a retro sort of way. The "engineering" of it reminds me of many items produced in the old Soviet Union, in a word- PRIMATIVE ! Just look at the other things this company makes and you'll see what I mean. I owned one of their Probacks for 35mm cameras. At $700, it's one of the most overpriced and poorly made photo items I've ever owned. The fibreoptic lens is mounted in place by a mechanism that looks like it was designed by Rube Goldberg. 'Nuf said on that topic. A final word on tripods and ball heads. It amazes me that people are willing to spend in the neighborhood of $1000 for a tripod and a head, for their little 35mm & medium format cameras and lenses. For that kind of money you could buy something really useful: a used gyro ! Once you work with one, you'll never go back to using three sticks with a bag of bolts mounted on top.

Peter Balentine , June 22, 1999; 07:16 A.M.

I was interested in a moderately priced tripod/ballhead set up with quick release and after much research went with the Stroboframe FL-2 ($69 at B&H) with its QRC Quick Release set-up ($56) and anti-twist plate ($11). I believe this offers a much cheaper alternative for the 35mm photographer who doesn't require the weight capacity of the Arca Swiss category of ball-heads. The FL-2 is lightweight, has a friction knob, and its quick release is very well made. For legs, I bought the Bogen 3021 ..its height vs. weight ratio worked best for me (I'm 6'1").

Carlos Esguerra , June 22, 1999; 11:41 P.M.

I have tried several ballheads: Gitzo, Linhof, Giotto, Arca Swiss B1. I settled on the Arca Swiss because all the others loosen up from the center screw whenever I pan counter clockwise. Somehow, the pan head mechanism of the other ballheads are too tight to move freely.

jeff guzman , June 26, 1999; 12:06 P.M.

We have been using the StudioBall QR ball head on a Bogen 3021 tripod. It is an Arca-Swiss style head with arca style quick release and lock. It is the greatest thing since slice bread. Before purchasing this, we evaluated all of the ball heads, including FOBA, Arca Swiss, Kirk, Bogen, stroboframe. Why did we choose this head? It was the most accurate, free and easy gliding, one touch locking, and had a nice rotating axis that glides smoothly, with out releasing alot of friction on the ball (this makes locking quicker). It does not jitter or stick, it does not require any lube (unlike the bogen where when sand or dust gets kicked up, it begins to build and the head sticks). When using a heavy lens (300 f/2.8 and above)it is a sweet. when you have the lens center weighted, and pan horizontaly, it is right on the money. The ownly 2 downfalls to this lens is that it is a bit heavy (about 3.5 pounds) and it cost about $345.00. Put compare that price to a Foba, I have no where to complain. All of the other heads that we tested, performed well (with the exception of the Bogen ball heads). However, the did not have the ergonomics that fit our style, and their ball sensativity was not as nice as the Studioball. Regarding the Bogen heads, I think that the 3047 Pan head is an excellent head, however, bogen has a long way from building a rugged and accurate ball head. Never the less, my recomendation to all is to try out various heads, you'll find that the functionality are all about 80% similar, you want to make sure you are comfortable with it and that your camera, lens and your head feel like one. One note: When shooting in extreme cold temperature with this head or any other steel ballhead, make sure you were gloves when you handle it, other wise your hands will freeze up and joints will not funciton well. Ouch!!!


James Hicks , June 26, 1999; 02:54 P.M.

I'd like to second Jack Kennealy's comments about the Canon Professional ballhead. For the money ($55), it can't be beat. Combined with the Bogen 3401b, it's one heck of a ballhead/tripod combination.

Bobby Tan , July 05, 1999; 10:53 P.M.

I recently bought a Gitzo G80 Limited Edition tripod. It's now out of production but you can still find this model in some shops, including B+H (I believe) for about $390 including the G1275M ballhead, which is terrific value. The G80 is practically identical to the G1228 mountaineer specifications - same folded size, same maximum height without center column extension, etc. The main difference is in the weight and price. The G80 weighs 1 lb more, but is less than half the price of the G1228 i.e. it cost approx $260 if you discount the price of the G1275M ballhead.So if you like a G1228 but can't afford the $500+ price tag, look no further than the G80. But you had better hurry as it will disappear from all stores before too long, since this is a limited edition production to commemorate Gitzo's 80th anniversary.I sold off the G1275M head as soon as I bought the G80 as I am using this legset with a FOBA Mini Superball with quick release, and I think this is a GREAT combination for outdoor photography. The FOBA Mini Superball does not come with a panning base, but I don't need it with the G80 as the tripod center column wing lock sits just below the platform, so the tripod platform serves as a panning base!

Brian Hinther , July 06, 1999; 04:03 P.M.

The more I use a tripod and hang around this forum, the more I understand Phil's introductory remarks about real photographers. I settled on the ubiquitous Bogen 3021 legs and have found that raising the center column even halfway defeats the purpose if there's any wind at all, just like he said.

I wonder if preferences for and against ball or pan/tilt heads don't depend more on the way our individual minds work than anything else. I personally like being able to adjust only one aspect of a composition while having the others nailed down. When I typically compose a landscape (on relatively level ground), for example, I start by panning to get the horizontal framing I want. Then I adjust vertically to get the right amount of foreground vs. sky. Finally, with those two locked, I adjust the horizon line if necessary.

I work best using that very disciplined, structured approach. To me, adjusting everything at once with a ball head seems rather helter-skelter by comparison (although I will freely admit to never having spent $400 for a good ball head). And I can also see how my approach might seem awfully rigid and confining to someone who wants to get everything adjusted and get on their way.

Anyway, for those reasons I went with the Bogen 3030 head, the one with a small rectangular release plate and shorter handles than the 3047 (to get caught on fewer things). It's rated the same load capacity as the 3021 and holds my 'Blad with a 250 or my Nikon with 400 mm lens rock steady. At around $40 from B&H, I think it's an incredible buy; it operates smoothly and locks down tightly. Plus it's currently available as part of the Wilderness kit with 3021, spiked feet, leg protectors, and carrying strap at a bargain price. My only regret is buying before Bogen started offering that kit!

To each his own, at any rate. Thanks to everyone for your comments.

John Fracisco , July 06, 1999; 05:28 P.M.

I rented a Bogen 3021 leg set with a Bogen 3047 pan/tilt head this weekend to make an attempt at photographing fireworks. I was surprised by how heavy the tripod was, and I was glad that I was only carrying it 6 blocks to the park. It was long overall, from foot to the top of the pan head. I previously had tried a 3011 leg set with a 3030 pan/tilt head, and I think that I will end up with a 3001 leg set with a long center column, and the 3030 head to try to get a lighter tripod set (if there was a plain 3D head with a quick-release I would be interested in that too). I cannot consider the carbon-fiber tripods, or expensive ball-heads.

If you are thinking of doing some hiking or walking with your tripod, you need to take this into account, especially since you will also have your camera bag, your lunch, etc., with you, too. If you are going to drive everywhere and setup next to your car or the bus stop, never mind my comments.

kenny watson , August 05, 1999; 10:31 A.M.

Gitzo, Manfrotto, Slik...all very nice but some of us live at the lower end of the market. Only the most basic Manfrotto was available to me at that price range (the 190B with either a 141RC pan & tilt or a basic ballhead - I forget its model number). The 190B did not impress too much. Nice that there are 3 leg spread angles and a reversible centre column but the overall build felt "cheap", the wingnut leg locks didn't look durable. Of course Gitzo don't offer anything at all for my meagre budget, and Slik pretty much followed the manfrotto pattern. I checked out a Benbo Trekker and it seemed a bit too slimline, then I came across Uni-Loc. I don't know if Uni-Loc are Benbo copyists but their pods follow the same idea, except that for the price of a flimsy Benbo Trekker, UniLoc do something more akin to the Benbo MkI (which is double my budget). Not much comment on these pages about the Benbo concept, other than Phil's "lacks rigidity at low camera angles". I think the Benbo/UniLoc idea is wonderful. My tripod is going to travel, I will often be in odd locations that will require that level of flexibility, and to me, the weight seems ideal - light enough to carry, heavy enough to feel stable. Legs have only two sections, locks are easy to operate and well sealed (designed so lower legs can be submerged) and the price is right...(90 pounds sterling, plus 40 for a manfrotto ball head or 50 for the 141RC - i think I'll go for the ballhead)

However, I've not bought one yet, as I was hoping that MAYBE someone here can point out a downside to these things. The "lack of rigitiy at low camera angles"...well, I didn't quite understand the meaning of that - anyone care to elaborate? Currently my equipment is fairly lightweight - Heaviest combo would be a Minolta X700 with autowinder and Sigma 70-210 f4.5 (yep, i am living at the lower end of the market) and it seemed to be solid enough (better than the Manfrotto 190B) when I had a play in the shop. SO - anyone wanna point me in the direction of a comparably priced superior?

Thanks Kenny

PS don't take my "you're all richer than me" comments as being sourgrapes - i think this site is great and it's interesting to follow all your comments - i just really can't afford a Gitzo mountaineer!

PPS my college photographic society has a rock solid big Manfrotto in the studio, so I do have access to a heavy whopper when needed.

Pook LaRoux , August 09, 1999; 10:48 A.M.

Old Broomstick handles. That's all I have to say. I am the hand me down owner of several relatively well functioning older tripods, each with a unique problem or two. My favorite appliance is a "monopod" made of an old broomstick that was cut and drilled to hold screw type mount. Extremely low tech, but affordable.

Doug Tankersley , August 15, 1999; 12:16 P.M.

I just purchased Bogen's3401 tripod with the 3030 head, my first "real" tripod. Up to this point I had been using a phony lightweight video tripod that I purchased at a local department store. It was great for surveillance of my driveway while I was asleep at night, and a whole lot better than trying to hand hold closeup shots. But, I was missing so many shots because I just couldn't get the right position that I felt it was time to get a real tripod.

I read in this forum that the ball head is preferable to the pan tilt and then read that John Shaw likes a pan tilt for his closeup macro stuff. With what I am doing I think I like the pan tilt better. The 3041's biggest drawbacks IMO are 1)It is a litle heavy at almost 6 lbs, but then I have been using a Solidex tin foil tripod up till now. and 2) With the legs at their steepest angle and the centerpost in the horizantal position and extended 2/3 to full, it can get tippy enough to actually cause the camera to tip over lens first. This is easily solved by rotating a leg directly underneath the post.

Bear in mind as of this writing I have only had one opportunity to use it, but for what I am doing it seems like it was built specifically with me in mind. There is a nearby botanical garden that I like to go to to shoot and I am often confronted with the options of either skipping a picture or tearing up the landscape to get my shot. Of course when confronted with these options I choose to skip it. With this tripod, I am able to get many of those shots I would have otherwise missed. And the fact that the center post comes out and can be placed in a horizantal position greatly improves the versatility. It comes with two center posts, one of which is a short, probably 6" post and a standard longer one. One nice advantage of the horizantal position of the center post is that it can be used similarly to a macro rail of sorts. While I am sure a macro rail would be far easier to use than this, the camera lens can be set within a certain range, say minimum focus distance and the post slid into position for near perfect focus. I would still do any of the fine focus with the lens though.

The only problem I see with the 3030 head is that it seems to be not REAL smooth when trying to fine tune and compose the picture. It kind of sticks and then breaks loose, so that you may go back and forth a couple of times before you get what you want. But like John Shaw said in one of his books, "you can move a few degrees in one direction without affecting the rest". I imagine that in time it will get broken in and that jumpiness won't be a problem.

In spite of some minor little annoyances, I love this tripod! This is making life much easier for me.

Jeff Wiseman , September 21, 1999; 11:42 P.M.

After looking at tripods both on paper and in various shops for about a year, I finally settled on one that met both my need and price range. It is the Slik Pro 700DX.

I had four criteria that any tripod had to meet.

1. The total price of the tripod, head, and quick-release had to be under $200. 2. The tripod had to be about 68" tall WITHOUT extending the center column. 3. The tripod had to be stable with a 35mm camera/heavy 300mm lens attached. 4. The quick release had to be easy to operate and additional plates reasonable priced.

The Slik met all of these conditions. I was even able to get two additional QR plates and stay in my budget. The tripod does come with a pan/tilt head but since I prefer this to a ballhead I don't consider this a liability.

Anyone on a budget might take a serious look at this tripod. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

Tom Vu , October 20, 1999; 02:58 P.M.

I also would like to recommend the Canon professional ball head. It is smoother than any of the bogens I've tried and it only cost 56 bucks from Adorama. I don't make any money taking pictures so I can't justify spending $400 on a ball head. Especially when there are Canon L lenses and a poloroid sprintscan 4000 film scanner to be had. Oh yeah, that new HP 1100 photo printer looks pretty good (gotta get one). Yes, I'm a gear head, but even gear heads have to have their priorities. I'm sure the $400 heads are worth every penny you spend on them. I just can't justify it with the wife.

Until I'm rich and my wife let's me spend crazy money on anything I want, I have to make do and just enjoy taking pictures.

John Clark , October 22, 1999; 07:52 A.M.

Kenny asked about the UniLoc tripods. I have one and think it's great; it's a Major System, extends to around 2m, can get into all sorts of weird angles, but can be a bugger to set up and adjust - for this reason, I've also bought a Manfrotto 055NAT (like the standard 055 but in a kind of khaki with 'warm' grips and a matching strap. I'm planning to keep the UniLoc as there will be occasions where the inflexibility of a regular tripod will discount the 055NAT. The UniLoc is a stable and versatile beast, but you should also consider that it doesn't pack down as neatly as a conventional tripod and so I'll do most of my travelling with the 055NAT. I think that, if you do go for the UniLoc as your main tripod, you should also consider getting a regular one for those occasions where you might wish to set up quickly and/or pack down quickly and neatly.

I haven't received my 055NAT yet (probably Monday) but I have tried a friends' regular 055 and I like it. Will post again once I've got both to do side-by-side comparisons. John

John Clark , October 22, 1999; 07:54 A.M.

Oh, and Kenny, the UniLoc tripods are a real pain with regular pan & tilt heads - make sure you get a decent ballhead - UniLoc do a few if you want to keep the costs down - from #30 to #60 or so, IIRC.

John Baker , October 29, 1999; 01:46 A.M.

I'd just like to throw in my two cents and say that no matter what you might hear or read, it isn't necessary to spend a small fortune to get a decent, serviceable tripod. When I was finally allowed to make the investment (you married guys know what I mean) I went out and bought the Bogen/Manfrotto 3001 leg set and the 3030 pan-tilt head. Since I'm not very tall, it fits me quite well, although I do have to extend the center column more often than I'd like. The 3030 head isn't the ultimate in smoothness, but it isn't bad at all, and given it's low price, some minor flaws can be forgiven. In short, it's a good, solid support that didn't cost a ton of money.

Nicholas Barry , October 31, 1999; 08:09 P.M.

After reading the advice on this page (like a lot of the rest of you) I finally got a decent, low-ish cost tripod setup: Bogen 3021S and 3030 pan head. I've got a couple of comments to add to the others here. First off, the 3021S was a bit of a mistake on my part. When I placed the order with B&H I was looking for a compact-ish tripod and so I requested the 3021S. While this is a fine tripod, especially for it's rather small size, don't get it confused with the actual 3021, which is almost twice as tall. I find that I don't always get the shots I want because the thing is too damn short. Overall though, it's been easy to lug around on the T here in Boston for taking some decent night shots as well as landscapes in low light. I find that for portraits it's not very good though (due to the height, again). My next purchase from B&H will be for the 3021.

As for the 3030, I have to concur with the comments made above that it isn't very smooth. It does tend to bind - even after owning and using it for a couple of months now the grease hasn't smoothed things out. However, it is a very good low-cost head (~US$50) and I do actually like it. Right now I'm not into trying to get fleeting shots with a tripod that a ball head might afford (i.e., sports photography and nature shots). However, I may start looking into good ball heads for the flexibility. But I refuse to pay the US$380 for an Arca-Swiss B1 - that's just highway robbery as far as I'm concerned. The Super Ball Head (3038) might be more my speed. I guess we'll have to see.

Overall, I'm very happy with my setup right now and I'm glad I made the choices that I did (despite one of them being a bit erroneous).

Tony Zipple , November 11, 1999; 12:38 P.M.

After reading all of the comments on this page, I made that leap and bought a used Arca Swiss B1, Bogen 3221 legs and a handful of RRS and other goodies. Even used, everything that has been said about Arca Swiss quality is an understatement! The extra $$$ will be soon forgotten, but the smooth and precise operation will be a pleasure for years to come. The combo is rock solid and will be fine for any of my 35 mm needs.

Dr. Steven Bein , November 13, 1999; 04:01 A.M.

with a good Quick release ball head and a long and large telephoto lens, , consider the Wemberly side kick. You just leave the pan control slightly loose, insert the SIDEKICK into the QR head, adjust so it is vertical and you have a lightweight version of the large Wemberly and at a $200 more or less discount. The sidekick is small and unobtrusive when just using the ball head. It is worth evaluating. I found out just how good it is on a recent trip to Kenya. It surprised me pleasantly.

David Lewiston , December 04, 1999; 04:42 A.M.

Hum. Yes. Well..... Just back from another trip to the W Himalaya.

Over the past two years I've tried two different duopods with the same small ball head to support a Canon a2 with the 70-200 2.8.

Well, it worked, sort of. But not to my satisfaction.

When I'm shooting at my favourite Tibetan monastery the principal situation where I use the zoom is to shoot the sacred dances, using K25 or E200 as the spirit moves me. With the duopod it worked but felt clumsy. Not the easiest thing to use since I'm also making sound recordings of the proceedings. Had to find a chair to lay the assembled camera and duopod onto while I attended to the recorder etc.

For the past quarter century I've kept a heavy old Bogen tripod (3020 with pan/tilt head 3028)in India, stored with friends until needed for mountain trips. Its weight isn't a problem, since I don't carry it myself. Stowed in a canvas bag with lightweight light stands (which I use for microphone supports) its bulk and relatively heavy weight aren't problems, since everything travels with me either in a taxi, or a plane as excess baggage (not too costly in India). At the monastery I've used it basically for static shots, either of thangkas (religious paintings) or of temple interiors.

This Autumn I used it to shoot the sacred dances, and found it by far the easiest combination to date. Since I had been considering the purchase of a lightweight Gitzo, ball head and quick release system, it was a relief to realize that a much simpler rig worked perfectly for my kind of shooting. No need to lay out $500-$600 for a new set of legs and an equal sum for ball head & quick release.

The rotatable collar on the Canon zoom made it possible to get accurate horizontal and vertical alignment quickly, and I didn't have the bother of trying to support a duopod. I could leave the tripod and camera combination unattended whenever I needed to attend to the recording gear.

For next Spring's trip, most probably W Himalayas again, then Kathmandu & (maybe) Lhasa, I'll probably try the Velbon carbon fiber tripod. The ancient Bogen rig is way too heavy for this kind of travel. The light weight of the Velbon tripod is attractive, and the comments of a user given above make it sound appealing. Again, a lightweight pan & tilt head should meet my needs, so the Velbon magnesium assembly sounds right.

Paul Rubin , December 23, 1999; 04:31 A.M.

Bogen makes those clever straps that screw into its tripods (I have a 3021) but also some nylon bags that are not that much more expensive.

The bag looks to me like it doesn't add much weight, does a better job protecting the tripod and keeping it from snagging on things as you carry it, and maybe can hold some accessories (I have the 3059 side arm). So at least from looking at the CWO website picture, the bag looks like a better choice.

Has anyone used both? Is there a reason to get the strap instead? Does the bag have a shoulder strap of its own? If you use the 3021 bag, is there enough space inside for an accessory like the sidearm (think of it as a spare centerpost with a bulge in the middle)? Thanks.

Michael Rivera , December 23, 1999; 10:39 A.M.

The bags Bogen makes for thier model 3021 (and 3221) comes with a shoulder strap and a zippered pocket on the exterior. Inside the bag along with the tripod you can easily fit a sidearm and other items.

The bag protects well from scratches and such, but is not padded like my Gitzo padded bag so I don't expect much protection in a drop onto a hard surface. I use the Bogen bag to protect the tripod during travel by car trunk, etc., but use only the screw-in strap once I'm at a location and need the tripod ready-for-action.

If your walking through the woods though, the bag would definitely help to keep the legs from snagging on bush.

Marika Buchberger , January 02, 2000; 07:03 P.M.

I purchased a Velbon CX-687 which comes with the "Vel-flo 9" PH-368, pan head. The pan head has a built in "quick release level" making mounting and dismounting of the camera a breeze. It was very inexpensive, works with still and video cameras, stable even in the wind, easy to use and adjust, comes with a leveling bubble built into the framework, and has served me well for nearly three years now. With the soft carrying case it weighs 4 lbs.

It comes with a three-way pan head which holds position regardless of angle. The Pan head is viscous damped and does not seem to be effected by heat or cold. There are angle markings on the pan head so one can get a "general idea" of what they are doing. It must be a fairly rugged unit, as I've throw it into the back seat of my old Chevy numerous times with no sign of damage. It has two, quick lock/unlock levers on all three legs, making adjustments a snap. The feet have spikes built-in which can be extended or retracted by simply turning the feet.

Negative comment? Don't grab this unit on a freezing Christmas morning with your bare hands. It won't let go of you. (Aluminum legs)

Other than that, it's inexpensive, a good work horse, and durable so it's a good unit for photographers like me (financially poor). It works well, and has lasted thus far. I can't complain about it.

Thomas Munch , January 07, 2000; 05:24 P.M.

After reading comments on this page, I decided to purchase my first 'real' tripod. I went with a Bogen 3221, w/ 3030 head (Sorry, i'm not into ball heads).

1) Ubiquitous? Who cares? Build your own if you want to be 'unique'.

2) Heavy? Not really. I got tack sharp, long exposure shots first time out, standing in the middle of a hilly, muddy wheat field with HEAVY wind gusts; I was happy to have the weight. Furthermore, I actually love carrying this thing around, but I'm not carrying it for more than a few miles at a time (check back in a few years to see if i still like the weight).

3) Well made? A quick (true) story: I fold the tripod up, and lean it against a wall in my basement. Oops, poor judgement. The tripod starts to slide and I'm too late. BANG. The Bogen hits the hard cement floor, with quite an impact. Wow, a gigantic chip comes out of it, and it's ALL scratched up. Oh, I'm talking about the cement FLOOR -- the tripod was unscathed: no bangs, chips, nothing. No loss, although now I have to patch and repaint the floor.

4) Costly (for those on a limited budget)? Shop around! I got a great after-Christmas deal at cameraworld.com (Cameraworld of Oregon) -- 15% off, no shipping charges and no tax. Deals can be had if you're patient.

In sum: I do not hesitate to recommend this tripod, and thank previous posters for their helpful advice. --tom

alan hoelzle , January 16, 2000; 04:23 A.M.

For those agonizing over spending money on a tripod and head, this is for you. There is little glamor associated with camera support, but it is a major factor in the quality of your final image. I've been through a lot of lousy tripods because I was too concerned with getting that sexy new lens which will gaurantee great results...well, the best lens in the world will produce soft images unless it is FIRMLY attatched to a SOLID tripod. The hard fact is your tripod is an essential component of your gear and I highly advise you cough up the money for a good one! Don't get sucked into thinking a $75 wobbly pan and tilt head will suffice, if you are a serious photographer then grit your teeth and buy the Arca Swiss B1, put it on a substantial tripod, lock down the camera, lock up the mirror, and shoot only under these conditions! Sure the Arca is expensive, but it is a lifetime investment, a joy to work with, and far superior to any pan head. I know this because I have tried to scrimp and ended up paying the price in terms of image quality and performance. PS get a plate from Really Right Stuff-essential. I welcome comments.

Andy Watts , February 11, 2000; 06:47 P.M.

I've been using the Kirk Ballhead on a Manfrotto 3221 for a couple of years now. I also have a big Foba Ballo on a Gitzo 320. I ordered the Kirk with a separate quick release clamp. (I prefer the flexibility.) It has worked flawlessly in all sorts of conditions. It is strong enough for my Canon system including a 100-400 with a 2x extender. I've also used it with a Pentax 645 up to the 300mm + 1.4x. This lens has no collar and exerts considerable force on the tripod & head. I don't own the really big prime telephoto lenses. It's not as strong as the Foba, but it weighs about half as much. It is more than adequate for these combinations and perhaps even a bit heavier. It's a pleasure to use, smooth even tension, locks down and releases easily. As with the other Kirk products I have used, it seems nearly perfect. I enjoy dealing with Kirk & company. They are pleasant and responsive and seem to genuinely want to meet my needs.

Jan Senko , February 13, 2000; 09:25 A.M.

Hello there !! I've been using Gitzo 345,226 and Velbon 640 with Arca Swiss B1 and medium (screw in type)Kaiser ball heads..Although the Arca is an excellent ball head(and you expext that),I personaly preffer The Kaiser medium ball head which is excellent for the 35mm equipment as well as for the 21/4 medium format with shorter lenses.....Precision, smooth operation and reliability are the main characteristics that anybody can expect from the Kaiser ball heads... Sincerely,Jan

Dan Westland , March 06, 2000; 02:21 P.M.

JTL Studio Systems has a line of tripods that are built to exact specifications as Bogen. I recently bought one and am quite happy. They cost about 25% less than Bogen and come with a head(ball or pan/tilt),strap,tool to tighten the leg locks, and carrying bag. The alumunum seems to be a little stronger and the leg locks are much better than those of the Bogens.JTL can be reached at jtlcorp.com.

Marco Anglesio , March 13, 2000; 01:44 A.M.

I hike quite a bit, and am a tall man. For what it's worth, the Manfrotto 190QC (mini-pro) tripod is quite adequate for my needs. I have it with the 352RC (midi) ballhead, which is inferior to the Slik 800 ballhead (which I tried out, but didn't buy, recently) but quite adequate.

This combination is also quite reasonably priced: 150$CDN (or about 100$US), plus $20 extra for the Manfrotto shoulder strap. I would consider this combination a strong one for hikers and other photographers for whom weight (and price) is a consideration, or those choosing a first tripod. Or both, for that matter.

Peter Wright , March 21, 2000; 07:43 A.M.

I personally opted for a Velbon 630 with the medium Giotto head from Kirk Enterprises for my light weight setup. It is a true delight to use. This combination is extremely light (just over 4 pounds), but will easily support my Pentax 645 solidly. The legs are strong enough to support my Wisner 4x5, but the head is a bit light.

I have a Arca B-1 on order to hold the 4x5 camera and my 8x10 on my Zone VI (a beast of a tripod). I am seriously considering a Gitzo to replace the Zone VI, which is kind of on the heavy side.

David Lewiston , March 23, 2000; 05:01 A.M.

A followup to my earlier post about the Velbon carbon fibre / mag tripod etc: I picked up a 630 from B&H with the magnesium pan/tilt head, and QRA 635 lightweight magnesium quick release assemblies --two tripod interfaces and three camera / lens interfaces. When one of these is attached to the rotating collar of the Canon 70-200 zoom, it isn't perfectly mated since the collar's tripod mount is only 1 1/2" approx in diameter. But it gives enough stability for my kind of shooting. I'm really impressed with the part of the quick release assembly which attaches to either lens or camera body: It has a hard rubber plate with a raised edge which keeps the camera body from rotating. This hard rubber plate can also be reversed so that the raised edge is out of the way. I paid under $40 for a complete assembly, and another $24 or so for an extra camera plate. Light weight & compactness *really* matter to me, so this rig looks about right for the next Himalayan trip, beginning in a couple of weeks.

Reid Thaler , March 25, 2000; 03:14 P.M.

I've found what I think is the BEST tripod, and I've been looking for several years. I say, forget Gitzo, they are overpriced and slow to use. (Try simply raising the center column...). Forget Manfrotto (Bogen), the "quick release" is slow and awkward on any of their tripod.

I bought a SLIK 500 DX. (If you want a taller tripod, try the Slik 700 DX.) I got mine on sale for $109 at Wolf Camera. I think the only other place you can get it is B&H for $129. It has everything I could want in a tripod: 1) it is tall enough so you don't have to crouch down to look through it without raising the center column (tried not to extend the center column on any tripod if possible: it essentially turns your tripod into a monopod), 2) it is professional quality and the tripod can be serviced with hex wrenches, 3) the legs adjust individually so it can be used on uneven surfaces, or low to the ground for macro work, (order an extra center column and cut it down. It's cheaper than buying the short center column) 4) the legs are foam covered, so if you want foam covered legs, you don't have to buy additional leg pads, and these fit better because they are built in, not added on. Foam is more comfortable for shooting in cold weather, or just carrying and setting up. 5) it has quick release legs which work really well and FAST!

It comes with a decent pan-tilt head with a quick release, but I replaced it with a Bogen 3413QR ballhead which is better than the 3262QR. These heads are a compromise. There doesn't seem to be much inbetween ballheads that are good at holding 4 lbs and 20 lbs. The Arca-Swiss types are nice, but too heavy for most 35mm work.

Donald Tsusaki , March 30, 2000; 12:46 A.M.

On average, how high are people's cameras off the ground when using a tripod? In most cases probably at eye level, sometimes minus a foot or two, rarely higher. The camera is perched atop of the apex formed by the tripod legs. As I started doing more close-up work in the field, I found that I had need to go lower, often to within inches of the ground.

The basic paradigm of the tripod makes it difficult to go low. I've tried using tripods with inverting center columns (e.g., the 3021), but found it was a hassle turning things over, especially with a camera attached. I tried using a Super Clamp with a ballhead attached to a tripod leg (an idea I got out of a George Lepp book). The problem with that arrangement is that there is always a little play in the Super Clamp because of the rubber pads lining the jaws. Also, making fine adjustments in position is a hassle since up/down travel follows the angle of the tripod leg, and lateral motion means swinging the Super Clamp assembly in a circle or moving the entire tripod/Clamp assembly sideways.

The solution I have been using to get those low down macro shots is a Benbo 2 with a ballhead. It allows me to quickly get down to snake-belly levels. Using the Benbo is a bit different than a standard tripod. When you loosen the legs, everything goes floppy. This is a bit disconcerting initially if you think in the tripod paradigm. (The first time you loosen a Benbo you'll quickly learn you need to hang onto the tripod head, particularly if you've got a camera attached.) This floppiness is actually an advantage when you need to position a camera quickly. Loosen the ballhead (friction on for some control). Loosen the legs, then ignore them (best you can) as you position the camera for the best composition. Tighten the bent bolt and ballhead; your camera is exactly where you need it. (In contrast, with a standard tripod I have sometimes found myself picking compositions based on how convenient the tripod setup is. Laziness.)

There are some downsides to the Benbo. With the ballhead it weighs about 9 pounds. It's a bit too long to strap to a backpack. On hard surfaces there are two problems: 1) the rubber feet are a bit too bouncy; 2) the Benbo is actually fairly stiff, so vibrations need to have time to damp out. The solution to both is to simply hang your camera bag on the bent bolt handle. The "center column" is about three feet long. Extending the column at normal heights creates two problems: 1) it's very easy to move the center of gravity to a precarious spot; 2) hanging three pounds of camera on the end of a three foot stick makes for an unstable setup. I do find the long column useful in low down situations where I can use my camera bag like a bean bag to support the column.

Quirky as this beast is, I have found the Benbo to be liberating.

Jeff Spirer , May 06, 2000; 10:03 A.M.

The basic paradigm of the tripod makes it difficult to go low...

There is one manufacturer that solved this problem. Linhof tripods have a thread at the bottom of one of the legs on which the platform can be mounted. This does exactly what the clamp would do, without any looseness. It makes it very easy to shoot from a low angle, very easy to vary how low (by raising the leg), and it doesn't require carrying anything extra.

In addition to that, one gets an incredibly sturdy tripod (I replaced Gitzos with Linhof tripods in part for that reason), flip locks instead of twist locks (the other reason), and the easiest leg cleaning on any metal tripod. The only downside is the wildly high price and the on-off availability.

Dan Michael , May 11, 2000; 01:41 A.M.

With due respect to the "vitriolic ex-users" of NPC, I recently had the occasion to purchase the NPC Prohead ($50.00) to which I have added a Bogen Quick Release system. (Can't get enough of that rock solid locked in feelin.) I find the head to be solid and smooth. I have experienced absolutely no slippage when loaded with my F100/300mm. I have also used it with a focusing rail, extension tubes + a 200mm with fantastic results. The panning is smooth and easy and though the function is not identical to a tradtional ball it is definitely not pan/tilt. When you lock it down......its rock solid! The handles are big and easy to use. This is a quality unit and a great alternative to the outrageous prices charged by some of its competitors. Its cool looking too!

Arjun Selvakumar , May 15, 2000; 06:32 P.M.

I decided to spend about $150 or so on a decent tripod and head combination. After looking at a few Bogens and other manufacturers, I settled on the SLIK 700DX Pro. I have not been disappointed with it since. The tripod comes with its own pan-head which is very robustly built. It has a neat circular quick-release plate. Can get extras from most camera stores by placing a special order. You can also special order a shorter version of the removable center column for getting really low to the ground. Ofcourse, you can remove the center column and invert it. I have never really done this but once for doing some copy work as the inverting the center column feature that most decent tripods offer is too much hassle. The legs are very sturdy with a twist proof D grooved leg. It is quite a heavy duty tripod and you have to be prepared to lug it around 7~8lb but is well worth it. I have since replaced the head with a bogen 309 Pro ball head which suits me better. And it is tall enough for me (6'3"). You can remove all the components for maintenance, very easily with a suitable allen key. Strongly recommend one of these professional SLIK versions rather than their cheaper, flimsier models. It would be worth checking out one of these before buying a Bogen or a Gitzo.

Patrick Wong , May 17, 2000; 10:36 A.M.

Does anyone know what the current problem is with Arca Swiss? I order one of their B1 QR head from Broadway Camera in Toronto on March 20,2000, and was told the head was back order. It is now May 18,2000, and I still have not recieve the head. My saleman at Broadway can not get any answer from Amplis Foto the Canadain Distrubtor when the head going to be in or how much longer. The sales said if I can get the head some where else to get it and he will cancel my order. Since that time I have call B&H twice with no luck, they don't even have the head in stock. The second time I call the saleman explain that Arca Swiss was moving their factory and he would have no idea when the head will come in. If anyone know what the hell is going on with Acrca Swiss please let me know. I would love to have the B1 QR now that spring is here, Manfrotto head just sucks. If they know a honest mail order Store in Canada or USA that has one in stock please let me know?

Scott Mann , May 30, 2000; 11:07 P.M.

I confess: I tried to save money and did not take Philip Greenspun's advice some time ago when I purchased a tripod/ballhead combo -- THE FIRST TIME. Big mistake. I purchased a cheaper ballhead and lugged around a heavier tripod. In the final analysis I saved nothing and am now the proud (though poor) owner of an Arca B1 and Gitzo carbon fiber tripod. I would add one detail: protect that expensive ballhead with a "ball cap" from http://www.vestedinterest.com/. Inexpensive insurance for a piece of precision machinery.

As for the pricey Really Right Stuff accessories, I submit that you can learn enough about taking sharp photos from Bryan and Kathy Geyer's informative catalog and supplemental inserts to justify their high price. And if you have a question about tripod use that is not covered just ask Bruce and he will write a thorough answer. They, like Philip Greenspun, are some of the stellar citizens of the photographic community.

Mat Nikon , June 03, 2000; 11:36 A.M.

I have the Uniloc system 1700 with the Uniloc ballhead and quick release. The problem with the system is that is does not stand up to much abuse. This is due to the knobs that lock the legs. Somehow the connection of the plastic knobs to the metal screws are weak and if you twist the knobs a bit hard, it will slip. Same thing goes for the ball head locking levers also. (They should have used an all metal knob or designed a better plastic to screw connection.) Because of this I'm hesitant to tighten reallly hard since I dont want to damage the knobs. Unfortunately this has cost me dearly. One fine day as I was mounting my Nikon with 70-200 2.8 AF zoom, the center column twisted since it was not fully tightened, and whack, my lens came crashing down to the floor. Booo hooo hooo sniff sob... (how come those guys who trash their 300mm,600mm on their big balls dont cry?)

I am not a pro and I dont take the tripod to far off places, so for those of you who do, maybe you want to consider other brands. But still, I will say that the Uniloc System 1700 is an interesting piece of equipment since it can be set up like no ordinary tripod.

About the Arca-Swiss B1 ball head, I will plonk down the money by taking a second morgage on the house and buy it through mail order from B&H. I will have my head examined after that. (Why of why dont RRS have email and more pics on their web page.)

toan Nguyen , July 13, 2000; 12:38 P.M.

Recently I just replaced my 3265 ballhead with the Bogen 3435QR. After couple months of usage, I must say this is the ballhead that I should have bought long ago. Don't get me wrong, I loved the 3265 for its quickness and easy to operate. But as my equipment got heavier, the limitation of 3265 started to show. The 3265 can only handle up to 5lbs. When I position my camera in the vertical position, the 3265 would twist and turn. On the other hand, the 3435QR is a whole different ballhead. The Teflon coating makes it so smooth and easy to operate and rotate. The head is rock solid whether my camera (EOS A2 w/ 28-70L or 8-200L lens) is in vertical or horizontal position. It weighs about the same as the 3265 but can handle up to a massive 22lbs. The head can be operated with just a twist of the knob. It also has a tensioner adjustment ring so you can adjust the friction of the ballhead IAW your equipment. I used this ballhead in combination with the 3205 tripod on a recent hiking trip at Yellowstone. It was a joy because the combo is so lite and compact. For $195 at B&H, 1/2 the cost of other "professional" ballheads, I think this is the head to beat. Highly recommended for anyone looking for a professional, rock solid ballhead but without the $$$!!!!

melvin bramley , July 17, 2000; 10:04 P.M.

I have the Manfrotto 055. I Bought it so I that I would have a tripod that would be at eye level without the centre column extended. it wobbles!! It shakes ; Most dissapointing. With a 500 mm mirror lens I have difficulty obtaining good results because of shake in the legs even with mirror lock up. It would seem that if I hang a weight to the bottom of the centre column it will help reduce vibration but who wants to carry around a 055 plus 20lb of balast? I also have the Benbo ball head, the larger one ,not sure of the number. I like it a lot except for the QR plate. I plan to modify it to a regular screw mount ,if possible, I feel QR plates are more gimick than functional. Hope this helps... Melvin

Yuriy Vilin , July 18, 2000; 04:03 A.M.

Well, I am another happy user of Canon professional ballhead #1. I followed advises posted here and recently purchased it. It's well engineered and very sturdily built piece of equipment. Someone here said it was best $60 spent in his life and I join this opinion. Playing a lot with different ballheads I found Canon's baby smoother and sturdier than any ballhead for this much of money (no, don't tell me about Arca-Swiss, I can afford it but I don't need it). The minor thing - there is no built-in quick release, but Bogen QR adapters fit this head very well. So if you need it, it's only $25-30. Summarizing, I strongly recommend Canon's pro ballhead to everyone. Place to buy? Adorama and B&H.

Patrick Wong , July 18, 2000; 09:26 P.M.

Well After almost exactly four month of waiting my B1 head has finally arrive. That the good news, the bads news is I still can not use the dam thing because I have no plates for it. I should have been smarter and order all the proper plates for all my cameras and lens ahead of time either from Kirk or Really Right Stuff. That my own fault, but I had reasons to put of the purchase of the plates. The first reason of course is that the B-1 head was no where in sight, why tie up my money on the plates when I could spend it on other things. Another reason is having to order the plates from the United States which seem like such a big pain in the ass, especially since they don't take credit cards(Really Right Stuff which are the plates I want) so I keep putting it off. I put it off for so long that I have lost their Catalog. My final reason was that my saleman was told by the Acrca Swiss distributor that a plate was include with the head. I had to pick the B-1 Head in Toronto and though I could pick a plate at one of many camera stores. No such luck, none of the stores had a plate of any kind for a Arca Swiss quick release in stock. All the store claim it was a special item they had to order in. To make a long story short, at the end of the day I just decide to order a Acrca Swiss Plate right from B&H which had it in stock and pay extra($36 US) to have it shipped Fed Ex Priorty to Canada. By the time the Camera store in Toronoto get the plate from the distributor, which could take any where from days to months, then have the camera store ship to me, it could basically take forever. I am too busy to make multi trips to Toronto to pick up stuff and gas is not cheap. I will eventually get all the proper plates from Really Right Stuff, but why would Arca Swiss sell a Head with no plate at all? I know the arguement that different people use different cameras and lens on the Head, but it should come with a general purpose plate. My bigger question is how come all these Camera stores in Toronto and some of then are big maybe not New York big like B&H, have no plates in stock. I know there has not been an Acra Swiss Head in Canada for months, but I know one store has Forba Head that use the Arca Swiss quick release you system, you figure they would have some kind of plate to go with it. Maybe the saleperson at that store is to stupid to know that it is a similar system.

Joseph Albert , August 28, 2000; 01:18 A.M.

I have the following correction to the quote from Really Right Stuff that Philip included in his review. The Bogen hex plate system is not limited to flat plates. Bogen makes the 90-degree plates that have a lip to prevent camera rotation. For many applications, these work quite well, although they are a little bulky and heavier than the arca-swiss style plates. I think for supporting big loads, like a 600/4, the RRS plates will work better, but for normal loads, the hex plates are serviceable.

I prefer the Kirk Enterprises plates as their plates and clamps are lighter weight, but the small clamps from Kirk may not hold a plate for a 600/4.

Doug Mason , August 31, 2000; 06:54 P.M.

Maybe I have just used a lot of shoddy equipment in the past, but I bit the bullet and bought a Gitzo 1329 and 1228 recently, both are the carbon-fiber models.

Oh my gosh, I've never liked using a tripod so much. The 1229 holds up a Nikon F100 with 80-200 AF-S and the 1329 easily holds up a Nikon F5 with TC-20e teleconvert, 80-200 AF-S. I have the 1276M and 1376M (?) magnesium ball heads. I don't doubt that there might be better ball-heads out there, but surely not much better. The quick-release system seems very solid and secure.

I've found that once you pick up a good, light tripod (whatever make you decide upon) that you can easily bring with you everywhere you almost welcome the opportunity to use it.

The Gitzos were freakin' expensive for sure but after a few weekends of usage I would buy them again in a second.

For all the hype and gripes about the leg locks, I find that I really like them. It doesn't really add too much more time to setting up, they seem quite secure and don't require much torque to hold them tight. I've heard of damage that occurs from people really over-tightening them but they don't seem to require much at all to hold secure.


Mark Friedman , September 23, 2000; 08:01 P.M.

I've used the Bogen 3021 with Bogen's 3 way pan tilt and QR system, for many years. Its worked just fine for my Olympus OM system, but the OM cameras and lenses are smaller and lighter than most. The only problem I've had has been with the QR plates themselves. There is a cork surface which makes contact with the camera bottom and after a few years it somehow becomes smooth and begins to slip. This becomes an issue when shooting verticals with a long lens, which will twist against the plate and aim towards the ground. When this occurs, tightening does not help. Still, the plates are relatively inexpensive and are readily available, so this is a minor complaint.

I've recently upgraded (or at least changed, I'm not sure yet) to a different system, the Canon 1v. While I hope and trust that I'll find the glass to be better than what I have now, its certainly a quantum leap in weight and size. My initial reaction is that the 3021 is still adequate, but the pan-tilt head will never do. My longest lens is a 5.6 400mm, but lens flop is a major issue. I think I'll have to take a look at a ballhead, even though I'm really partial towards the pan-tilt head system.

As of a short while ago, the B&H online catalog still shows the B-1 as back ordered.

One last thought on carbon body tripods. In checking the Gitzo catalog I see that the carbon models are certainly lighter than the equivalent aluminum models, often by 30%. But, when the head is added the percentage weight savings drops dramatically. I might pay twice the price to save 30% of the weight, but I'm less likely to do so to save 15% of the weight.


Cian Perez , September 29, 2000; 12:19 P.M.

I own the Slik 700DX tripod and I love it. Prior, I had one of Ritz’s “top-of-the-line” Quandaray tripods (which is essentially one of Slik's larger consumer tripods but rebranded), and had to return it after a week - it couldn't hold straight my ElanIIe with booster and 28-70/2.8.

The Slik 700DX is a different beast altogether. Yes, the 700DX is large, and yes, it's heavy, but it's definitely rock solid, and that's why you buy this tripod. If you're carrying around pro glass or longer teles, that's where the "strength" of this tripod really shines. A comparable tripod that possesses the same capabilities and features from Bogen/Manfrotto would probably cost twice as much if not more. Within the same price bracket, I looked at the Bogen 3021 with appropriate quick-release pan-tilt-head and thought it was flimsy in comparison.

The 700DX has a professional finish with titanium colored legs and black anodized metal hardware. The legs are tubular with a slot on the underside to prevent twisting. Also, the leg locks are flip-type, which won’t snag on clothing or cables when in the locked position – unlike the butterfly twist levers found on other brands. It has two built-in bubble levels – nice touch. I’ve found the head so solid and stable that I’ve taken short hikes with the tripod slung on my shoulder like a heavy rifle, with the legs extended and an ElanIIe and 70-200/2.8 mounted on the head! I was able to walk around a small lake, and every 50’ to 100' or so, I'd put the setup down, unfold the legs, take a few shots, then simply pick it up and hike some more. Pretty convenient. (However, I’m not blindly recommending this method to anybody.)

Nonetheless, I do share some folk’s sentiments. It’s heavy – about 7 pounds. Just buy a lighter tripod for extended hiking purposes, and you'll have the 700DX available for location use or when you need its strength for your big glass or other applications. The quick release plate, however, can become unwieldly. In my opinion, it's large and a tad too heavy to carry mounted to your camera body or lenses at all times. At one point, I thought of getting extra quick release plates for multiple bodies and lenses, but I can’t imagine carrying all that additional weight on hiking trips. Luckily, the QR plate’s design and size is very easy to remove and install securely w/o any tools, so you can easily get by with just one.

I would recommend this tripod to action shooters as well - its horizontal and vertical panning capabilities are top shelf. I also think that medium format folks would heartily welcome its larger head and base platform. In addition, the center column can be reversed, so your camera/lens combo can be as close to the ground as you'd like - a must for macro aficionados or even copy work. My only wish is that Slik had included a shoulder strap and mounting points, but this can be overcome with an aftermarket tripod strap.

I haven't yet found a better value on the market! If you only got the titanium legs alone for the asking price, that itself would be worthwhile.

"A good photo may make the landscape look beautiful, but a good laugh makes the world look beautiful."

Wee Keng_Hor , November 09, 2000; 09:36 A.M.

Velbon 530 and its ball head PH-263 is almost the perfect lightweight tripod + head combo. The combo is extremely light, even lighter than the Gitzo 1227 alone without head. And the combo is also surprisingly sturdy! The PH-263 is also feather light and more than sufficient to support my EOS 3 with 70-200L! Breaking up the center column, you can go right down to the ground. And when raised, it is well above 6 feet! Without raising the center column its height is just nice for my 1.8m build. I've been pondering over the Gitzo and Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod for years. Though considered light by many, their weight still put me off. The Slik is light but not sturdy. The Velbon is really a beauty, especially if you combine with the ballhead. This combo is sturdy enough and the extra sturdiness of the Velbon 630 or Gitzo or Manfrotto is not going to give me extra benefit. But the saving in weight will greatly relieve my burden of carrying a tripod around. I understand that it is not currently available in US. But if u come across it, grab it! See here for more info.

Nigel Whitaker , November 23, 2000; 04:33 P.M.

I found some of the comments regarding Benbo tripods in the original text to be slightly negative. Sure, if you have an extremely heavy camera, or an extremely heavy lens, then you are already placing demands on your tripod that neccessitate specialist support. From my perspective, Benbos are great when using "normal" gear, (I 35mm and 6x4.5) in unusual situations. They're great for going from the general landscape view down to the floor without removing, reversing or changing anything. If the mood takes you, just unlock everything, and let the camera find it's natural position, then tighten the locks. It also allows medium format users to look down into the focussing screen, rather than lie on their backs to look up into an inverted column mounted Hasselblad or whatever. No macro rail? Just set the column horizontal, and slide it in or out to focus. Drawbacks? Well, I've got a multi-angle head by Benbo, and that's like having a four axis pan/tilt head without the levers, just little locking tabs for each axis. It's OK, but I think I might get a ball head soon for general use (the Benbo standard model with pan is fine), as the multi angle head takes a little too long to set up, although it's good for macro work.

James . , December 04, 2000; 10:39 P.M.

I just purchased a Bogen 3221 (black version of 3021) legset and a Bogen 3410 3-way compact pro headset. I was looking for a combination that would accomodate still photography w/ a 35 mm and video from a 3-CCD mini-DV camcorder (Canon GL-1). I am quite pleased with the performance in these applications. As far as quickness of the headset in being able to lock on and follow action, this head excels in the area. I really don't know why ballheads are a MUST in this respect- simply loosening the handles on the headset to the correct degree allows one to swing the camera in whichever direction one needs in a spherical manner. And the panning from this combo is probably better than from a ballhead also, something important when videotaping. The headset pans, tilts and levels in full ranges. All of this high level pro equipment for 235 bucks, beat that!!!

Steve Singleton , January 16, 2001; 04:32 P.M.

Bogen/Manfrotto hex QR systems can be vastly improved by the addition of a Kirk hex plate. The regular Bogen plates with rubber or cork facings will allow the camera to twist with a long lens in use. Bogen does make an anti-twist plate, but the lip is tall enough to block the back of a Nikon MF camera from opening. Also, the Bogen plates come with a thumbscrew attaching bolt that prevents you from setting the camera down flat. The Kirk hex plate solves all these problems. I have used it on an RB67 and Nikon FM/FE cameras with equal success. For $50 or so, a Kirk plate makes the hex release much more pleasant to use.

Nathaniel Stankard , March 02, 2001; 11:19 A.M.

I'd like to put in a good word for tripods made by JTL. Their construction is at least as solid as the low- to mid-end Bogens, both in the legs and in the pan-tilt heads. Moreover, a TH-11 legset and a TH-33 pan-tilt can be had from Adorama for $100, including carrying case. Unlike other cheap tripods, I don't think that you're losing quality with JTL. The quick-release plate is certainly not the best, but it's no worse than the basic one that comes with the Bogens. If you can't afford an Arca Swiss, consider JTL as a significantly cheaper, high-quality alternative to Bogen.

alan hoelzle , March 29, 2001; 05:22 A.M.

My Photo friends, Here is the bottom line on tripods. If you care about quality and want to make big prints, there is only one choice:buy the best, most solid tripod you can afford. Then add an arca-swiss or Kirk ballhead. Attatch it solidly by a dedicated plate. Stop quibbling about the money. How much did you spend on that gee-whiz lens? After a lot of time selling art prints, I can tell you this--your tripod is THE most important link. I don't know how many times I've come upon people out in the field who know all about the latest gizmo's and then cheap out on their tripods. It is a crime! I'm telling you all one last time: Shut up and get the best support system you can possibly afford. The results will pay off in the long term.

Vadim Makarov , April 23, 2001; 11:08 A.M.

Hopefully Arca-Swiss don't mind I post here a two-page .pdf manual on their B1 and B2 ballheads. Of course, the manual is also shipped with every new ballhead.

The manual was attached to their email reply sent me to facilitate repair of my ballhead after it fell down the rock - thanks, their guidance was helpful: I eventually unlocked and fixed it.

kurt heintzelman , August 31, 2001; 08:53 P.M.

I'm merely a dedicated amateur/hobbyist photographer, offering the following thoughts...

After many years of making-do with the shortcomings of the Bogen 3221 tripod, Bogen 3047 pan/tilt head, and Bogen's hexagonal QR plates, I recently purchased the Gitzo G1325 CF tripod (no center column; I plan to add a Gitzo leveling base in the near future); Arca-Swiss B1 ball head with QR mount; and numerous RRS mounting plates, as well as RRS's "LOC Knob" (a "clutch" type knob for the QR jaws) and their 3-piece tool set.

I had long deferred purchasing such ultra-expensive support gear because I reasoned that my limited discretionary funds would be better spent on more critical items, such as much needed lenses, camera bodies, etc. In the meantime, I relied on my humble Bogen gear to support my cameras and lenses. It's been said that necessity is the mother of invention, and similarly, I would opine that an absolute necessity should often be the prime reason for deciding to invest in the luxury of ultra-expensive camera/lens support gear. For myself, I finally decided to bite-the-bullet and invest in more sophisticated camera/lens support gear, because: 1) As the inventory of the gear in my LowePro Trekker has steadily increased, the weight of my Bogen support gear was becoming ever-more burdensome and oppressive; 2) The well-known tendency of Bogen's hexagonal QR (quick release) plates to twist out of alignment (when loaded with sufficient weight) had driven me crazy for too many years; 3) No matter how strongly I tightened-down the three screw handles on my Bogen 3047 head (in order to precisely lock the lens position and composition), this head would still allow the load to droop out of correct alignment and composition once tightened down, most especially when this head's position was tilted up or down, or when it was "flopped" over to the vertical format; 4) Bogen's hexagonal QR plates are not only heavy and prone to twisting, they are also bulky as a consequence of the large, sprawling dimensions of their hexagonal shape, as well as the ridiculously protuberant bulk of their large, knurled mounting screw, etc.

Simply put, I'm extremely happy with my decision to finally invest in the Gitzo G1325 CF tripod, Arca-Swiss B1 ball head, and RRS accessories, but damn, the price of admission to this realm is truly staggering. And, despite the high cost of the Gitzo 1325 CF legs, their twist-type leg locks can be a real pain-in-the-ass, but I'm getting used to this rather minor quirck.

For those who are just starting out in the world of photography, I would not recommend immediately buying an expensive carbon fiber tripod, nor would I recommend buying the most expensive head. The Bogen 3221 (aluminum) tripod is a good starting point, and if you want to spend some major initial cash on camera/lens support gear, you would do well to spend a minimum on the Bogen tripod, but spend more on a nice ball head and custom mounting plates. Unless you plan to hike long distances with your camera/lens support gear, you may never need a high-priced carbon fiber tripod, but a good-quality ball head and well-designed QR mounting plates may be a very wise early investment, IF you get seriously into photography.

Tom Shapiro , October 12, 2001; 08:25 A.M.

There is a new ball head? made by Arcatech, Inc. that I recently purchased. I like it's open design and the fact that it can't get locked and is easy to clean. Cost is about $270.00. Other features are: uses Arca Swiss QR plates, knobs can't fall off, one knob tightens the head. A review may be found in www.luminous-landscape.com

Jonathan Sacks , December 28, 2001; 10:32 A.M.

Having read many helpful reviews, I decided it was time to contribute my own thoughts. Here are a few thoughts on the Bogen 3021PRO and 3444/440 tripod legs.

I have used the 3021PRO for some time and it is a tank. Too heavy and too long for most purposes, which is why I am upgrading to carbon fiber shortly, probably the 3444.

That said, both the 3021PRO and 3444 have great features that are worth mentioning and that are not found on most other tripods. First, the clamp lock mechanism is the best. It is SO much easier, quicker, and more reliable than the twist locks on most non-Bogen tripods. Second, both models have a small level on the tripod head. I have found it extremely helpful almost every time I set up the tripod, and it definitely saves time. Third, the special top clamp enables you to take the center post out and reinsert it horizontally. While not the most stable position, it is EXTREMELY helpful for taking shots looking straight down on the ground (into a flower, for example). Finally, the Bogen system is conducive to carrying the tripods with a strap which is actually pretty comfortable.

Certainly height, weight, stability, and price are key considerations but I personally have valued these few features on the 3021PRO (and probably will also on the 3444).

Paul Rubin , December 31, 2001; 08:50 A.M.

Anyone tried the Burzynski head? Bjorn Rorslett's review makes it sound really great.

Hermann Graf , February 21, 2002; 11:00 A.M.

I have made good experiences with the following combination: 1) Manfrotto 441 carbon tripod (Bogen 3443 in the U.S.) with 3 faceted legs, overall length 62 cm when folded, weight 1.6 kg, max. load 6 kg. Removable center column, can be fixed horizontally; comes with carrying strap and levelling aid. 2) Ballhead Centerball 32 CB 32 F, weight 260 g, separated release screw and friction screw, made of aluminum. 3) Novoflex MiniConnect quick release system, weight around 200 g. Very good and quick handling, mounting plate relatively small. Highly recommendable provided lens plus camera is not too heavy (max. 2 kg in my opinion). Contrary to Manfrotto's tripods, their ballheads and Q/R systems are, IMO, not very satisfactory.

Dan Lindsay , December 13, 2002; 03:24 A.M.

Many good points have been brought up herein regarding the difficult choice of picking a tripod and head combination that will suit your needs. I certainly endorse the notion that a tripod can be a once in a lifetime investment for the serious amateur photographer and thus you have to keep that factor in mind when debating (1) cost and (2) capability. You clearly want something that can grow with you as your photographic skills change, and you must understand that the investment in a quality tripod will rarely be a mistake,--unless you opt for something cheap. I maintain that the tripod left at home is worthless, so if you are truly interested in the best possible photography, a tripod should be utilized to the maximum extent possible. If you are a world traveler, you need to factor in portability into the equation,--buying a tripod that will fit within your usual carryon or checked luggage. I selected a carbon-fiber model for portability and to encourage me to always take it along. I also went with a 4-section model because it closes up smaller than most 3-section models. Is it any less stable? I really haven't found it to be. Feel free to do some checks yourself at your nearby tripod shop. I leave you with two thoughts to consider,--TRY to take your tripod with you as much as possible and ensure that it's something that you won't feel burdened carrying around. Sometimes that costs a little more, but when you amortize that cost out over 20-30 years, it's a wash.

Jason Antman , February 23, 2003; 08:09 P.M.

Phillip, You write some great things and have helped my photography immensely. However, I must add one thing. Your only comment about Cullmann was their tiny tripods, which are not good. You didn't mention about their excellent full-size tripods. I have a Titan 200 which (with column extended) is taller than I am and immensely sturdy. It can hold a reputed 154 pounds! The leg locks are excellent and the legs are very good for field use (being well sealed). Also, I must say, that when locked, the center column is so sturdy that I would use it, even at the full extension.

Charles Mackay , May 15, 2003; 11:12 P.M.

Shooting all 3 formats (35/120/4x5), I have come to love the Gitzo 1228CF with the Acratech head because it is easy to travel with when space and weight are a consideration. It is extremely light and quick to work with and can fit in a standard carry-on with the head off. If you do not extend the legs all the way and hang a bag from the hook on the center column stability can be dramatically increased; I've used it this way for LF (flimsy but tolerable, the Acratech is very stiff despite its light weight). The Arca B1 is fantastic and for MF/4x5 or long lenses in 35mm cannot be beat; I use it with a Gitzo 1341 which is a very stable platform for those near the car moments, probably because the mass is so large, an advantage lost with the carbon tripods. Used Linhof twin shank tripods can sometimes be found cheaply; having tried one of these and also a G410 I feel there are declining marginal returns on the "bigger and heavier is better" theory of tripods unless perhaps you have an assistant.

The Bogen tripods are fantastic value and utility, especially the 3001 and 3221. Bogen has fixed the leg locks on the latter so that they are more reliable. (BTW I have never had any trouble with the Gitzo leg locks, I just open them from bottom to top and close from top to bottom; this way the different diameters of the locking sleeves make the top one the tightest if you use about the same force on all 3 locks and it works beautifully.)

Note that RRS is under new ownership and also has significantly upgraded its products, as well as being (so far) a bit more user friendly. Acratech is also now making plates, although not as wide a selection as the RRS range.

Yong Pong , January 08, 2004; 11:56 P.M.

There are professional ball heads made by a company called Markins... There is supposed to be one model, the M10 that has comparable stats to the Arca-Swiss B1, but for lower cost. Has anyone had any experience with these ball heads?




M. S. , May 03, 2004; 06:44 P.M.

Studio stands ain't that expensive. I bought a three meter high Plaubel ST10/6 studio stand from (I think) the seventies for 151€. Where? On ebay! Okay, it's not in a fancy and modern black, but at 60+ kilos and locking mechanisms for all available movements, it's a wonderful piece of equipment, easily surpassing anything else in stability and ease of use. If studio photography is your thing, that is. Forget about new, at 2k€ new they're beyond the scope of the very dedicated amateuer. But then, which amateur wouldn't rather spend that kind of money on a fancy lens? Why are they so cheap, used? Because of their weight and size. So If you have the ability to pick it up with your own car, you can get a wonderful "little" helper in obtaining better images. I can't count the times I had a hassle with my old Linhof tripod, getting a decent shot from somewhere above the subject, not talking about rapid changes in height or camera positioning.

One more thing, any tripod without a spreader is completely useless, especially those which allow you to put the legs at different angles. This tiny piece of equipment will increase the structural stability immensely, I can't understand why someone buys a tripod without one and then dares to complain. I personally like the spreaders which attach to the middle, some people prefer the variant, which is fixed to the feet of the tripod. Check out this link, maybe a picture makes it clearer:


Best regards,


P.S.: Tripods don't develop fungus, they really aren't intricate devices with their own quirks or have nicks on their surface that might limit their use, they're usually built to last and any problems there might be are usually obvious, so all this makes them the better buy than a lens - if you choose to limit the strain on your wallet by buing used.

Keith Bogut , April 20, 2007; 05:51 P.M.

You've all convinced me on the quality of the ARCA Swiss B1. But as I look around for a place to buy one it seems that they've changed the design and the B1 is no longer available.

The Z1 is the new model and I'm wondering if I should wait to hear if there are any "new-model" bugs to work out or just trust the company and go for it. I have heard some complaints about Arca-Swiss' customer service.

Has anyone tried the Z1 yet?

Patrick Henderson , May 16, 2007; 10:36 A.M.

Tripods, I have a few and sampled many popular brand names and have been disappointed with them all and the reason being is, No 1 They carry an inflated price tag because its designed for the photographic industry. No 2 The three major brand names do not necessarily hold the optical centreline movement free this fact is magnified by the poor heads wether its a ball or pan and tilt head. No 3 There is too much emphasis placed on the bells and whistles, weight and collapsible capabilities. It seams that there is too much romancing with ones toys (tripods and snot) than actually using them. I have all but eliminated the unwanted optical axis movement by using a choice of two collapsible survey instrument tripods, one being a Watts (wood and brass) which was purchased in new condition for $50 at a junk store and a CST Berger flat top (Aluminium) purchased new for $65. Both have been adapted to accept any head with a 3/8 UNC thread. I personally prefer an old Gitzo No 4 pan and tilt head purchased second hand in very good condition for $83. The cameras I use on these tripods are Pentax 6X7 with lenses from 55 to 300 + x2 converter and a 4x5 Cambo mono rail both with excellent results and so what if the tripod is a little bigger and 15% - 20% heavier, ITS THE END RESULT THAT MATTERS ! ! ! Come on guys its time to, stop romancing with your toys and get out there and get on with what it all about, taking photographs. Pat.

Michelle Maor , November 24, 2007; 02:13 P.M.

I recently purchased a ballhead BH55 from the Really Right Stuff with a quick release and it is to die for! It moves like silk and is so wonderful to work with. My first wedding that I shot I used a cheap ballhead and it made my experience miserable. I decided to spend the extra money and get something really nice. I think that in order to really enjoy taking photos also requires using good equipment.

Landrum Kelly , December 02, 2007; 06:45 A.M.

"Of the ballheads that I've personally used, my favorite for feel and function is the ARCA Swiss B1. This is the head that almost every serious photographer seems to end up with. . . ."

Well, the B series has been supplanted by the Z series of Arca-Swiss ballheads, but the essential point is still the same. Funny how tripods and heads keep proliferating over the years, and yet most points made in the original article still stand with only the need for minor revisions.


Angela Smith , August 16, 2008; 04:54 P.M.

I recently purchased the Gitzo on your advise and you were right worth the money for sure. I think too many people overlook the value of it being lightweight.

Michael Shelton , December 02, 2008; 03:36 P.M.

Kirk BH-3 ball head

I have had the Bogen 3205 legs with the 3208 head for several years and just recently purchased the Kirk BH-3 ball head. I do not plan on upgrading my tripod legs to carbon fiber, as I do not think it will be necessary for my type of photography. As for the Kirk BH-3, it mates to my Bogen 3205 perfectly and I am very impressed with the construction and finish of the Kirk. I will only have a Nikon D80 w/grip and the Nikkor AF 70-300 ED lens mounted on this combination and am very happy now that I have a good support system that has the Arca style quick release.

Gerald Wallace , February 22, 2009; 06:15 P.M.

Bill Wallace

I find myself having to replace a lost tripod (etc.) and I am considering purchasing one of the Gitzo carbon fiber models. (Due to my rather small stature I need to keep the weight as low as possible).My biggest/heaviest lens is my canon 500mm and I probably couldn't carry any thing heavier very far - all day. I'm interested in one of the Mountaineer series 3-leg tripods, perhaps the GT3530 or GT3531? I welcome your suggestions/recommendations on which of the Gitzo carbon fiber tripods I should consider purchasing. Thanks for your help.

Gerald Wallace , February 28, 2009; 10:21 P.M.

An update to my last post. I purchased the Gitzo GT3531S carbon fiber tripod. Now, I need to select a ball head that will support the weight of my largest lens the Canon 500mm. The biggest factor is weight. I'm considering the Markin M20 and the ball head I lost, the Arca-Swiss Z1. Any recommendations about a ball head able to support the weight of 500mm lens that weighs approximately 8.5 pounds?

Edward Wang , July 30, 2009; 08:43 P.M.

RRS BH-55 is a better choice. http://reallyrightstuff.com/ballheads/02.html

Robert Hall , July 13, 2014; 07:12 A.M.

Kirk ball heads, the BH-1 in particular, are a superior product, worth the money.  Almost everyone learns that the key piece of equipment on a tripod is the ball head, and they learn the hard way. 

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