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Old April 18th, 2008, 11:19 AM   #1
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Judging tripod legs?

Hi-

I've been considering a new tripod, and I have a very general question on tripod legs. Hope nobody minds.

I understand how tripod heads need to move smoothly in various directions, be durable, etc.

Other than not collapsing under the weight of the gear placed on them, what do tripod legs need to do? I keep eyeing the Kessler crane folks' 'k-pod'. Supports 500 lbs, which I think is plenty for me. The price seems very reasonable.

So... I'm thinking of getting the Kessler tripod, than something else for the head. But then again, I don't wanna pay less and get way less. The eternal dilemma.

So... any guidelines on how to make such decisions?
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Old April 18th, 2008, 11:49 AM   #2
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Hi Dennis...............

Suppose it depends on what, exactly, it is you want.

If you want a support for a crane, the K - pod looks the bees knees.

If you want something for "run N' gun" action shoots, @ 26 pounds that IS NOT what you want, unless you're an Olympic weight lifting champ on speed.

With a decent head on board you're looking at nearly 30 pounds dead weight.

I can't see anyone slinging that over their shoulder for a casual "walk and shoot" around town.


CS
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Old April 18th, 2008, 12:20 PM   #3
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Well, that's a good point.

I currently have a Davis and Sanford Provista 75, with FM 18 head.

I have a jvc hd100, and I'm renting a Letus 35mm adapter for a shoot in June. I went over to put the adapter, rails and lens on my camera to make sure it all fit together.

The owner of the adapter looked at my tripod and said 'You'll need a better tripod than that'. He reeled off some models, but I thought I would check around.

For the most part, I don't do much run and gun stuff. I thought I would keep my Davis and Sanford, which is pretty light and portable, and does the job most of the time.

I might just rent a bigger tripod for the feature in June. But then I still have to decide what makes sense to rent.
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Old April 18th, 2008, 12:29 PM   #4
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Er, Dennis..........

Was there actually a question in there somewhere?


CS
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Old April 18th, 2008, 12:38 PM   #5
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Yes, still looking for how to judge what are good tripod legs.

Pretty wide question, so I took your response to mean I should describe what kind of shooting I do. You gave an example that if I'm doing a lot of active, 'run-n-gun' shooting the heavy kessler tripod would not be a good choice.

My response is I'm looking for tripods that can support fairly heavy loads - even if I'm not putting a crane on the tripod, I might put a JVC HD100 with an Anton Bauer battery on the back, and a 35mm adapter on the front.
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Old April 18th, 2008, 01:04 PM   #6
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Well, depending on taste and depth of pocket.........

You could do a lot worse than a set of these:

http://www.dvinfo.net/articles/camsupport/fibertec1.php

As with anything, you get what you pay for.

CS
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Old April 18th, 2008, 03:37 PM   #7
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Yeah, I understand you get what you pay for.

My question is what am I getting for that much money?

I mean you can run out and just buy the expensive model of everything - the camera, the microphone, anything.

But if you understand what separates a good item from a bad one, you may find you didn't actually have to buy the most expensive item. The tripod in that review is a great tripod, I have no doubt. But is every tripod that's less expensive, a worse tripod? Is every car cheaper than a BMW a crappy car and not worth buying?

Also, I'm just sticking to tripod legs. What exactly do the tripod legs need to do except support whatever's attached to them? The legs have to be adjusted to different heights. Am I missing something? It takes, what, at least $2,000 dollars worth of metal and plastic to do that?
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Old April 18th, 2008, 04:18 PM   #8
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Well, if you read the preamble to that review......

it pretty well tells you everything you need to know about tripod behaviour.

Look at it this way.

Take the general teepee shape of a tripod, then make a copy out of solid concrete (sort of like a three sided pyramid).

Mount a decent video pan tilt head on the top.

Mount an HD camera with 20X zoom lens on the head.

Rack the lens out to 20X, apply max pan and tilt drag to keep things under control, run the camera and perform the following tests:

1. Grab the pan bar and pan to the left. Let go the pan bar. Grab it again and pan right, hard. Let go the bar at the end of the pan.

2. Grab the bar again and tilt the camera down. Let go. Grab and tilt up. Let go.

3. Place both hands on the head/ receiver and attempt to push the whole setup sideways (just like a strong wind would)

4. Give the concrete block a damn good kick.

Feed resultant video into 60" HD 1080 screen and watch.

Know what you'll see?

Rock solid video, smooth pans, smooth tilts, no sign of movement other than what you have induced.

No backlash/ wind up/ wind down. No head/ receiver warp. No shock from either the push or the kick (except maybe from a broken toe).

OK, now take a hammer and cold chisell and start chipping away at the concrete till you're back with three discrete legs. Keep performing the same tests along the way.

At some point the results won't be as they were, as the support will start to flex under the stress.

You now have an unsatisfactory, unusable tripod.

But hey, you're unsatisfactory & unusable won't match mine (probably).

Use a SD camera and you can chip away more concrete before you notice the difference.

Use a max. 10X zoom and you can chip away even more.

Use a 20" screen to view the results and you can have even more concrete away.

Sooner or later, you're going to say "enough!".

Now, is every camera support under $2000 useless? Nope. But if you want the support to do it's "block of concrete" thing whilst still being liftable, ah, now, there's where the money goes.

There are plenty of good supports under that $2000, but at the end of the day, you get what you pay for, and if you want to use HD cameras, 20 X zoom lenses, 60" 1080 screens etc etc etc, you just might find that block of concrete a trifle elusive for less.

I certainly did.

Does that make sense?


CS
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Old April 18th, 2008, 04:31 PM   #9
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Yes, thanks for your response. That review is also really good reading on tripods.

So when it comes to judging the criteria you mentioned - is it basically impossible based on an online description?

Looking around on ol' B&H, I see a Bogen/Manfrotto 3191. Costs $447.95, supports 44lbs, weights 10.9 lbs. Sounds ok, but will it warp or slide sideways? If it supports 44 lbs, that means it should be rock steady as long as 44 lbs or less are placed on it?
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Old April 18th, 2008, 04:51 PM   #10
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Well, as I said in that piece.......

no, you can't go on the description, as they are, invariably, incomplete.

The maximum declared support weight is really not much of a guide either as design, build quality, material choice and manufacturing tolerances mean that the tripod could waver all over the place with any or no load on board.

But let's go back to basics.

What sort of camera? SD? HD?

What type of lens? 10X? 20X? 60X? (don't laugh, there's bods here on DVinfo running these on HD cameras!).

What final output type? SD? HD?

What final screen viewing size? 24"? 46"? 20 feet?

What's the maximum load you'll want to put on the support? 10lbs? 30lbs? 150 lbs? (not hard with a fully rigged jib and counterbalance system).

What's your maximum pocket depth? $500? $1000? $1500? $2000? $5000?

Finally - what's your pain threshold when watching wonky video?

Tot that little lot up and then you've got a baseline for starting the selection process.


CS

Last edited by Chris Soucy; April 18th, 2008 at 05:25 PM. Reason: Grammer
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