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horizontal tripod?? Please help!!!

Park Trot , Mar 12, 2009; 06:52 p.m.

I need to photograph a collection of old documents that cannot be run through a copy machine. The documents are standard letter size and will be on a flat table. I need to get a tripod that has a column that will extend over the table parallel to the ground/table top. I have a Canon EOS30D. I have checked out the X series from manfrotto, the explorer series from Gitzo, and the Induro alloyflex. I have also looked at the Benbo trekker. I need to be able to hold the camera as far as possible over the table. Any ideas???


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William Kahn , Mar 12, 2009; 07:07 p.m.

Have you considered a flatbed scanner for this?

Steven P , Mar 12, 2009; 07:12 p.m.

An old enlarger makes an excellent copy stand.

Zack Lau , Mar 12, 2009; 08:15 p.m.

Manfrotto makes a copy stand that may suit your needs. I was lucky and got a Kaiser RS1 in NH for $20 at a Ham Radio flea market many years ago. I used it to take pictures of ham radio construction projects for publication--even had a few cover photos. The right tool for the job really helps simplify photography.

Ellis Vener , Mar 12, 2009; 08:19 p.m.

I'd get a flatbed scanner. I like the Canon Canoscan 5600F -- it makes high quality scans , is fast, and is not expensive.

Jim Momary , Mar 12, 2009; 09:29 p.m.

Park -
They can't be copied ...? ... because of being separated from a book or because of exposure to bright light?
Wouldn't the scanner exposure pre-suppose such archival light damage? Can you expand on this?


Glen Berry , Mar 12, 2009; 11:27 p.m.

Park - can you somehow position the documents against a vertical surface like a wall then use your tripod in the usual manner?

Matthew Currie , Mar 13, 2009; 12:01 a.m.

I would second the scanner idea if the documents are a size that fits.

For camera copying, you do not necessarily have to make the tripod horizontal. All you need is a tripod that allows for a little independent leg spread, and a table (or floor) with enough real estate for the leg footprint. Here, for example, is a plain old Slik 400DX set up to give approximately a full frame shot of a magazine cover using a 50 mm. lens and a 35 mm. film camera.

The Slik in copy stand position

Scott M. Knowles , Mar 13, 2009; 08:03 a.m.

What you need is a lateral arm. It mounts on the tripod and is a horizontal column which extends from the tripod. You mount the head on the end of the lateral arm like you would on the tripod. One catch here, extending the camera out from the center of the tripod requires either or both a suspended weight below the center of the tripod (the hook on the bottom of the column) and a counterbalance weight on the end of lateral arm. I use those wrap over studio weight on the tripod and lateral.

Edward Ingold , Mar 13, 2009; 09:01 a.m.

What size are the documents? If they are 16x20 inches or less, then a copy stand is the best solution. Once you get everything setup and parallel, you are good to go. There are fixtures to mount lights, and you don't have to change much between shots.

The next best thing is an horizontal arm for the tripod. Both Manfrotto and Gitzo have these items which can be used on any tripod. They are not as steady as a copy stand, and setup (getting things parallel) can be a PITA. Another alternative is to straddle the documents with a tripod. Gitzo makes one 8 feet tall which can straddle a Volkswagen. It makes a solid arrangement, but the legs get in the way of lighting.

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