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Old June 11th, 2005, 10:32 PM   #1
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Do I really need an expensive tripod?

I've read the posts about expensive fluid head tripods and I was wondering...

What type of shooting is being done that requires such a smooth movement?

I will be recording narrative independent film type of work. Most of the shots I come up with fall into the following categories:
  • Static tripod with very minimal movement/tracking
  • Dolly shots on a makeshift tripod dolly (these may require some movement/tracking of the tripod head as the camera moves on the dolly)
  • Shots that do not require a tripod

How much difference will I see with a fluid head over an el-cheapo tripod with this minimal amount of movement?

For those who swear by the fluid head models, what kind of shooting are you doing?

These answers might make me understand more as I go to purchase my first tripod.

Thanks,

Kelly
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Old June 11th, 2005, 11:51 PM   #2
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hey

...How much difference will I see with a fluid head over an el-cheapo tripod with this minimal amount of movement?...


You will see the difference, yap, and it may trouble you so much,
you may wish to do it again,... there will not be again.
Hope it helps
Albert Rudnicki
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Old June 12th, 2005, 12:08 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Albert Rudnicki
You will see the difference, yap, and it may trouble you so much,
you may wish to do it again,... there will not be again.
Hope it helps
Albert Rudnicki
What is the difference that I will see? Stuttered movement? Jerkiness?

And when would I expect to see these differences? During any movement at all? Only during long extended pans? Only during long extended tracking shots?

And right now I've got an XL2 setup that will probably weigh in at around 12 pounds. With this weight, would that minimize the problems with a cheaper tripod.

Just to add clarity, I'll probably take my XL2 into a camera shop tomorrow and actually try some shots on cheaper tripods.

Thanks,

Kelly
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Old June 12th, 2005, 12:10 AM   #4
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The fluid-head tripods help you make smooth camera movements (typically pans). With cheaper tripods, they typically have a lot of "sticktion" (unscientific term). When you start your camera move, there will be more friction than when the tripod head is already moving (static friction > kinetic friction). This causes a jarring start to your camera moves.

I've also found that on old friction-head tripods, the head gets loose and there's jiggle in the head too (the tripod head isn't connected to the legs well). That also screws up camera moves. I'm not sure if it happens to fluid-head tripods too.

2- Live events: Definitely get a fluid-head or good tripod.

If there is a shop in your area with various tripods, maybe check them out and bring your camera along (more expensive heads support more weight).
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Old June 12th, 2005, 05:46 AM   #5
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Glenn is right about live event shooting. I shoot our performances with a single camera, much of the time from the rear of the theatre which is over 100 feet away. So quite a bit of the time I'm zoomed in to the max, which is the equivalent of a 500mm lens in 35mm terms. I also use a 2x teleconverter sometimes which is like a 1000mm lens. At this level of magnification every little glitch in the movement is very noticeable. I used a Manfrotto 501 head for a couple years, but found I really couldn't do acceptably smooth moves under these conditions.

Like Glenn says, there's a slight jerk when you start a pan or tilt, and this becomes more of a problem at greater zoom levels. I'm using a Miller DS-5 now, and it's much better but still not perfect. My Manfrotto 3221/501 cost about $250, the Miller DS-5 was something like $800. You get what you pay for....

For the type of shooting you describe you may not need as good of a head, but you'll still want a sturdy tripod to mount the camera on.
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Old June 12th, 2005, 08:50 AM   #6
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I will second Boyd's comments... I spent about $250, and got a Bogen 501 and 2001 legs. I thought I did good. But then, when I try to pan, the head sticks and the legs twist. Talk about messing up a smooth pan! I have learned to compensate for this, but I have to have one hand holding the neck with a deathgrip.That means, I get a smoother pan, but no longer able to adjust the camera.
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Old June 12th, 2005, 09:08 AM   #7
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Kelly, remember that a good tripod and (fluid)head will easily survive the next couple of camcorders you will own in the future. So get the heaviest, sturdiest, simply spoken the best tripod/head combo you can afford. After some time of usage you still might want a heavier, sturdier, better one. I know that from experience. It's always expensive to buy some el cheapo stuff and then realizing it was not what you really needed.

Keep your cam steady and...
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Old June 12th, 2005, 10:22 AM   #8
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this is how i test for performance of a fluid head. always test with a camera. understand the features on the head as this would help you balance the camera better on the tripod. try doing pan and tilt at the maximum zoom, on table top objects. you will notice how jerky the low end head is compare to more expensive one.
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Old June 12th, 2005, 11:40 AM   #9
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i have to break with the orthodoxy on this one. the tripod you need should be suited to the shooting you do. i had my XL2 mounted on a 3030 head and 300Pro legs, which some videographers would consider too un-fluid, too un-sturdy. but i love its 3-way pan tilt action, find it plenty strong and plenty smooth and plenty sturdy. and its sub-$200 price tag wasn't bad either! with the weight of the XL2, i could not carry much more tripod into the wilderness.

if you are shooting in a studio, the biggest beefiest fluidest tripod may be best, but if mobility is an issue, you take what you can carry.

so pick a tripod that accomplishes what you need. most expensive is not always a sign of what is best.
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Old June 12th, 2005, 06:57 PM   #10
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Thanks to everyone for their responses. I went to a local camera shop and tried out their tripods today. This is what I found.

First, I immediately discounted the very cheap tripods (<$50) because they were obviously too flimsy to put my $4000 camera on. I tried out tripods from about $75-$140, the two most expensive ones being the Manfrotto 3001 and 3021. I quickly learned that you can't extend the center pole without significantly decreasing the stability. So I tried everything with the pole all the way down. Therefore, the greatest height of the legs became important. The quick release legs were also going to be important. All of them seemed to have the same basic stability.

Next I tried several heads. I didn't immediately see the fluid heads, so I tried several non-fluid heads, up to $80 or so. I found that even small tracking shots were going to be way too jerky and impossible if I used longer lenses. Still, I started to think I may be able to get by with them, but it would be very difficult.

Then, I found a Manfrotto 3130 fluid head. I tried it and I was amazed at the difference. It was $79.99 and could only support 4 kg (far less than what my end setup will weigh), but I was sold on fluid heads.

My end setup will weigh about 20 lbs, so I went to BHphoto too see what tripods/heads could handle this. I've found some surprises and I've started a new discussion in the appropriate forum. Please feel free to pick up things there at http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...928#post322928

Sorry, I didn't see the appropriate forum to originally put this in.

Thanks everyone.

Kelly
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Old June 13th, 2005, 04:00 PM   #11
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Kelly,

A feature I find very useful is a leveling bubble on a ball-and-socket mounted pan head. It seems that NO terrain is perfectly level, and this is MUCH easier than playing with leg lengths. Ever start a pan perfectly level, and find ypou're going uphill (or downhill) at the end?
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Old June 13th, 2005, 04:42 PM   #12
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A good workaround (do all of these) to having an awesome tripod is to take apart the head of your el cheapo, remove all the grease from all of the parts that contact each other (takes a while) and lubricate those pieces with a quality oil or lubricant (DON'T use WD40). Also, you'll need to experiment, but try removing the rubber bushing that most non-fluid tripods have (see if it's better with or without). Finally, add more weight above the head. Weight adds resistance which is good for solid and repeatable movement as well as good starts and stops - but it doesn't add that bad friction that will hamper your pans.

After that, practice.

High quality and $$$ gear does make things easier and require less work, but never discount what good technique and practice will add to the mix and that's all you can afford :).
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