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Old July 16th, 2009, 11:59 PM   #1
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Which tripod for THIS camera, why why why

I posted the below in response to another thread, but thought perhaps it deserved its own thread for discussion. It seem that the same questions about the same thing keep cropping up and it always ends the same way. "I want a real cheap tripod/fluid head to do professional work", "Here is what you need", "I didn't budget for that, so I will get something cheaper because I can't see needing to spend that much" or "I can't afford that, I just spent $5000 on a camera, why do I need to spend $1500 on a tripod system?"

The thing one needs to remember is that a tripod and fluid head are chosen based on the level of quality you want to achieve. It almost doesn't matter what camera you attach. The steadiness of the lock down shot, smoothness of pan, lack of movement from wind and handling of camera controls, and the dampening of vibration are all directly attributable to the tripod and fluid head. None of these qualities are those of the camera yet they are all qualities of the image in the end.

So stop thinking about cost of tripod vs cost of camera because it is not applicable. It is all about the level of quality you want to achieve in the final product and deciding if shake and jerky pans are what you want in your video. If not, you have to spend the same amount of money no matter what the camera, except for consideration of weight of the camera. Even then, there is a lower limit on the price of a tripod system that will work well even with a 3/4 lb. camcorder. The tripod is part of the image, not a minimal player in just holding the camera above the ground.

In the past a Manfrotto 503 head was OK for SD footage. HD footage shows errant movement much more, so what was adequate in the past isn't quite so anymore.

So forget ever trying to find a cheaper tripod system cheaper than $1400 USD or so to do HD properly, DSLR, palmcorder, or whatever else. It isn't going to happen.

This advice can probably save you money in the long run. First you will buy the $400 system and not be quite happy at all. So you go out and get the next best thinking all it needs is a bit better. Another $700 down the tube as you keep having to fight with jerky pans and wobbly legs. So you go out and spend another $700 on a better head, but the legs still let you down and the head is hard to balance because of only one or two counterbalance settings. So you have spent $1800 and you still don't have what you want. It would have been better to just spend the $1400 + to get the right system that everyone who has been through this keep trying to tell you.

That's what these forums are for. Getting advice from people who know and are willing to share the information. If your budget doesn't allow for the right equipment then you should expect poorer results than you want. Ignoring the advice given will always cost you more in the long run.

Oh yes, my advice is free, so it is worth every penny you have spent on it. But if everyone is saying the same thing, there must be a good reason!
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Old July 17th, 2009, 02:44 AM   #2
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Les,

I agree 100% about saving money in the long run.

My trail of disappointment and misery (leaving aside the Velbon I bought 15+ years ago):

- Libec TH-950 (too flimsy)
- Libec LS-37 (OK, but no adjustable drag or counterbalance)
- Vinten Pro-6HDV, a re-badged503HDV head (OK, but counterbalance and drag adjustments not that good)
- Sachtler DV6-SB (almost perfect)*

I could've saved 1200 ($2000-ish) if I had went straight to the Sachtler and not kidded myself that each incremental upgrade was good. That 1200 would've gone some distance towards buying the Sachtler.

Funny thing was, at each stage in my tripod life I was happy, and thought it was the best tripod ever - until I tried to use it in anger.

Of course, it's not always possible to spend big bucks at the outset, so perhaps a dud purchase or two in tripods is inevitable for most people.

If the budget just isn't there, the alternative is hand held, and even a $300 cheap tripod is better than hand-held, at least for locked off shots.



*I say "almost"... it's a bit heavy when you carry it for miles across country, and I really want something more than a bit of cheap velcro to hold the legs together when you collapse it for transport. But those are minor complaints!
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Old July 17th, 2009, 05:16 AM   #3
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I use a 150$ tripod for my Ex1, and I am very happy.

As for all tools, the way you use it makes more that the tools itself.

Yes you can buy a $2000 tripod that will forget all your mistakes, but you can also purchase a $150 one and get the best of it by handling it properly.
For example, I see so often people fixing the camera on the head without proper balancing.

So they have to lock it tighter the prevent nose dive, and after all they complain that the head is sticky.

Or they simply forget that telescopique handle is made to be extended, but use the shortest length, just because it is the way it was then they get it out of the bag.

Or that spikes are great on soft ground, but you really need to unscrew the rubber pad when on solid ground.

Or they simply do not know there is a screw for locking head and another for making it harder/softer, so they use them for wrong purpose.
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Old July 17th, 2009, 05:49 AM   #4
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This reminds me of the $12.00 wrench.
You go to the hardware store and buy the $2.00 wrench because it's $2.00. Then you go to use it and it doesn't work because of cheap constructionand all you do is end up scraping your knuckles. So you go back to the store and buy the good wrench for $10.00. Now you've got $12.00 in a $10.00 wrench but in the end it does the job needed WITHOUT scraping your knuckles.
Moral of the story...You can spend a bit more and buy it once OR you can buy it twice and end up spending more. Your choice.
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Old July 17th, 2009, 11:45 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Don Bloom View Post
This reminds me of the $12.00 wrench.
If you can sell the $2.00 wrench on eBay, your $12.00 wrench becomes a $10.50 wrench. :)
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Old July 17th, 2009, 12:36 PM   #6
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Les,

You can apply the same to cameras, audio gear, etc. Some people will invariably ignore ALL advice to the contrary and just something "cheap". Now to be fair, sometimes folks really can't afford something better, so it helps to educate them what they are going to be trading away.

In my case with my tripod, I KNEW what I was going to be lacking, but my office offered "x" amount of dollars and that's what I had. Not a penny more. So I bought the best I could get. If you've got a $100 bill in your pocket, you can't get the $120 item, no matter HOW much better it would be for only another $20.
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Old July 17th, 2009, 12:51 PM   #7
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My paternal grandmother who came to this country as a refugee after the second world war had this advice:
-don't buy the cheap one. You waste your money. It breaks.
-don't buy the expensive one. You're not rich. You spend TOO much.
-buy the middle one. It works but it's not fancy. Why do you need fancy?

I pretty much live by this in EVERY purchase I make.

YMMV...
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Old July 17th, 2009, 12:56 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Perrone Ford View Post
In my case with my tripod, I KNEW what I was going to be lacking, but my office offered "x" amount of dollars and that's what I had. Not a penny more. So I bought the best I could get. If you've got a $100 bill in your pocket, you can't get the $120 item, no matter HOW much better it would be for only another $20.
Well of course there is the reality of money. But if you can correct more people on their belief that tripods and heads are just add ons and not part of the system then maybe the company wouldn't have had the view that the amount they budgeted was all that was needed. The common perception on tripod systems is that they aren't worth spending money on and that is why we have these same topics over and over and over.

Sometimes the answer should be to buy the least expensive tripod and head that will hold the camera up until the funds for the right system can be gathered. At least that way the money wasted on systems that are still inadequate will be saved.

What do you do when you have a fixed amount that you can or are only willing to spend no matter what advice is given? As long as you know you aren't going to get the results you want going in then at least you know!
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Old July 17th, 2009, 07:32 PM   #9
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The thing many don't get are that electronics even the last 10 years have gone drastic down in price, the value in todays camera market are very good. On the other hand, mechanics still are about the same, for cameras optics and grip equipment the price haven't changed that much. Quality glass and tripod heads still cost pretty much.

The camera vs. tripod cost ratio used only 5 years ago are useless today.

I went trough two tripods from Libec before I invested in a DV6SB setup, not perfect, but very good. My personal experience so far are with Sachtler, Vinten, Manfrotto and Libec, tested Panther at a dealer..but the real world often are a bit harsher with the gear than a nice studio. So far I haven't used any Libec og Manfrotto gear that I find good enough other than for extreme budget and hobby use.

Ofcourse it's easy to say buy the best, but if you're short on money try to find a good compromise, and that's NOT buying a 50$ tripod for your 4000$ camera.

Rental companies don't spend loads of money on Sachtler, O'Connor and Vinten Gear for fun. Gear that can take the abuse of pro use...and still deliver when you put a 40x zoom lens or 20kg setup on it almost every day all year long do cost a certain amount. A good tripod also will last way longer than any camera will. The pedestalls used at the college i went to where Vintens from 1976...and still worked like a charm, silky smooth moving of studio cameras. Not one piece of electronic equipment will even get close to lasting that long...or mayby some NASA gear will...but you get the point.
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Old July 17th, 2009, 08:05 PM   #10
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Is it worth getting a used tripod? Seems to me used tripods would be worthwhile, but not used cameras. I get too worried a used camera could have been dropped or something and just be a matter of time. A used tripod seems far less likely to have problems.. in that its usually legs, a head and such. I would love to find a good place to get used gear tho, so I can get started without breaking that bank. It looks like for a camera, some batteries, SD cards, etc I'll be in the 8K range minimum with a tripod. That's insanely expensive if you want to get in but dont have the money. Kind of puts it out of reach for those of us that don't have the money to get in. Renting gear is expensive too, and I'd hate to book clients and try to rent gear that may not be good or have problems. Plus, I still need to learn, so renting to learn would be very costly.
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Old July 17th, 2009, 09:09 PM   #11
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Well said.............

Quote:
Originally Posted by Les Nagy View Post
It seem that the same questions about the same thing keep cropping up and it always ends the same way. "I want a real cheap tripod/fluid head to do professional work", "Here is what you need", "I didn't budget for that, so I will get something cheaper because I can't see needing to spend that much" or "I can't afford that, I just spent $5000 on a camera, why do I need to spend $1500 on a tripod system?"
I've been pondering this phenomena for a considerable period of time and have come to the following conclusions:

1. Unlike the camera's and other electronics based systems used in videography, support systems are the most abysmaly analysed and specified items in the videographers tool box.

Where are the "wind up coefficents", "rigidity quotients", "head pull back percentage", "receiver warp per ft/ lb", "lock play" etc etc etc?

If the manufacturers really wanted to make a difference to the support market they'd publish all this data and more.

How can any of our junior videographers possibly make an INFORMED choice with such a black hole of data - "smooth as butter" just doesn't cut it as a "specification".

2. This brings us to the "you asked the question, I told and all you can say is cheaper" situation.

I believe there is just one thing (apart from poverty) going on here. In the absence of data, you're left with either opinion or experience.

Now, with the best will in the world, my opinion isn't of much comfort when I'm asking a complete stranger across the other side of the planet to shell out $2k plus for something they have absolutely no knowledge of.

So, we're left with experience, or rather, the lack thereof. How many of the posters we're talking about have actually played with a cam sat on a full pro support system and seen what it can do?

My guess: practically none.

Ok, so lets get real here - there is zero chance the industry is going to start publishing decent figures for this gear, and my opinion remains just "my opinion" no matter how respected/ experienced/ decrepit I may be.

However, (this is, again, opinion, but I'd just about wager on it) if I spent half an hour with any of the non - poverty "cheapers" here on DVinfo, with their camera and my Vinten FiberTec's and V 3 AS head (or any other top of the line system) you'd find their parents/ grandparents/ wife/ house etc for sale on e - bay so fast your head would spin!

Just to make sure, I'd start 'em off on my "other system", so they could see how bad their first choice was going to be.

HD? Yes please, that really sorts the sheep from the goats in pretty short order.

So convinced am I that there is no other way of persuading an inexperienced videographer, and bearing in mind there are few of us within a bus ride of B&H or any other source for this kit "on the floor", I'm currently negotiating with a well known support manufacturer (sssh, it's a bit hush hush) to try and organise a "support shootout" between top end systems from all subsidiaries of the group (whoops!).

That's stage one.

Stage two is to then use that gear to host a "Support Roadshow" here in Dunedin and invite any videographer within range to attend with their camera and have a play, free, gratis and for nothing.

Stage three is to then pack it off to other DVinfo'ers across NZ and get them to host similar roadshows.

If I can pull it off (and it's a big if) they may well be persuaded to conduct similar events elsewhere (on the planet).

I suppose it does beg the question - how many of the "cheapers" would attend if there was such an event within 50 miles of home? 100? In the state/ provincial/ regional capital?

3. Cost. Yep, this is a hard one. As pointed out earlier, support systems currently are totally mechanical and require a great deal of expensive precission machining and metal bashing.

It is pretty obvious to me however that the camera manufacturers are fully aware of the limitations of the current situation and will, sometime soon, make that leap to integrate camera OIS systems with tripod and head electronics to negate the need for all that expensive metal bashing.

To explain: If the camera knows it's on a tripod and knows what the user is trying to do with the tripod (panning, tilting etc) and can sense what's actually happening as opposed to what the user is trying to do, the OIS/ sensor electronics can compensate for just about every support/ head horror known to man.

Make enough of 'em and make 'em cheap and that's the support cost issue done away with.

Don't hold your breath however, it isn't going to happen in the next 12 months at least (pure guess on my part, I do stress).

So, there we go, my 2 cents worth.


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Old July 17th, 2009, 09:43 PM   #12
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Chris,

You make a lot of good points, but even if we all got to spend time with great gear, that doesn't mean that we're all ready to write the big check for support.

Take me, for instance. I've been attending NAB since 1987 and have mucked around with top cameras on top studio tripods year after year. But I spent $300 on my used 516/3193 setup. The fixed spring is wrong, and I knew that going in, but I can live with it for now, work around it later, and some day I might sell it and upgrade. But not for a year or more down the road.

Is it poverty? No. It's that there are so many other things that I'd like/want as well: a computer upgrade, RAID, lenses, filters, dolly, jib, rails, follow focus, lights, microphones, wireless, sound libraries and on and on. If I made a living with this gear, it would be different. I'd get a loan, beef up, and hopefully get enough jobs to pay it off.

I think we, as users, need to consider what kind of video we want to make. We need to figure out what we need, and balance our budgets across the required gear. The key is to identify the weak link and put the next paycheck there.

Last weekend I shot at a racetrack with my used $300 tripod, and my pans and tilts were as smooth as I need them to be. Then again, this ain't no 501HDV. I'm now moving on to fix the next weak link in the chain...

I notice that few people here ask the users what they want to accomplish with their tripods. Maybe some are better off buying a photo head for fixed shots and spending money on a steadicam or shoulder rig, depending on their goals. For instance, yesterday I shot a timelapse and it was windy. My boat anchor of a tripod worked great, and I had no need for pans and tilts.

So, yeah, for great pans and tilts with good features at new pricing, we need to be prepared to spend four figures. But that's not the best solution for our video needs in all cases.
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Last edited by Jon Fairhurst; July 17th, 2009 at 11:51 PM.
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Old July 17th, 2009, 10:10 PM   #13
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Yes, not everyone wants to have everything, they might just need a good stable lock down shot. For this all that is needed is anything that doesn't wobble. Someone might not need a lock down ever and wants to hand hold everything. I am sure there are valid reasons why someone would not want to or have to spend on a good general use tripod system.

The thread is aimed at those who are going for the cheap thrill and getting poor results. Or asking for advice on what good system to buy and then complaining that we say they need to spend $1400+ or even much more. To do what people expect in footage quality takes money.

As has been said, one good tripod will last through five cameras. (five is being rather conservative)

If you know what you are going to try to shoot and know what you need to do it, then just get that. A 4x4" wood pole with a wide base with angle bracing and a cheap video head will give incredibly steady lock down shots. This can be done for less than $100. If some thing like that works, then do it.

If you want to do do smooth pans, have low kickback, good head balance with no drifting, and need stability too then there isn't much other choice than to spend the money. A good used system is always an option for less money. Just make sure the used system isn't someone else's castoff from the lessons I am trying to pass on.
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Old July 17th, 2009, 11:27 PM   #14
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Definately good points............

from both of you.

I do tend to answer such questions coloured by the prism of my personal experience and requirements, which is quite possibly excessive for many "cheapers" here.

Though, and here's the kicker, having gone from my "other system" (also my first and fairly adequate for the tasks asked of it in SD) to my "new system" in one huge jump (absolutely never going to be a second chance, so I had to get it right, first and last time) would I, ever, go back to a lesser performing system, for any reason?

Not a chance.

If it ever gets to the point where I can't lift it, lug it or afford it, I'll pack it in rather than go back to "average".

I'm actually quite looking forward to using it with my new SuperHD 5400 X 9600 pixel (viewable, 6000 X 10,000 for Positrack) 100p matchbox camera with 50X f1.1 zoom/ macro lens and Positrack head sensing interface on a new Vinten Futura Positrack series head.

Will still be as stable as it is today.

Magic.


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Old July 18th, 2009, 02:12 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Soucy View Post
I've been pondering this phenomena for a considerable period of time and have come to the following conclusions:

So, we're left with experience, or rather, the lack thereof. How many of the posters we're talking about have actually played with a cam sat on a full pro support system and seen what it can do?

My guess: practically none.

Ok, so lets get real here - there is zero chance the industry is going to start publishing decent figures for this gear, and my opinion remains just "my opinion" no matter how respected/ experienced/ decrepit I may be.

However, (this is, again, opinion, but I'd just about wager on it) if I spent half an hour with any of the non - poverty "cheapers" here on DVinfo, with their camera and my Vinten FiberTec's and V 3 AS head (or any other top of the line system) you'd find their parents/ grandparents/ wife/ house etc for sale on e - bay so fast your head would spin!

Just to make sure, I'd start 'em off on my "other system", so they could see how bad their first choice was going to be.

HD? Yes please, that really sorts the sheep from the goats in pretty short order.
I own a Sachtler System 6 SB SL MCF & a Libec LS38 2a.
So I think it is fair for me to say that I have experience with the cheapers and the pro.
I agree that your Vinten Fibertec with V 3 AS head (or my Sachtler) is far superior to a Libec LS 38.
But I also expect that you agree with me that a RED One is far superior to a Sony Z1 in terms of HD.
Do you also expect anyone that is using a Z1 to trade that in for a RED?
I still think that you must look at what people tend to use it for and also bear in mind their budget.
For instance if we have someone who is doing weddings and has a budget of $1500 dollar for support.
I would advice this person to buy a Libec LS38 and a DVtec DVRigPro rather then spending it all on a Sachtler.
This because ALL of his or her work will be steady and pro looking instead of only the work shot from the tripod.
And also because the DVrigPro offers him more freedom to move around, instead of having to shoot everything from tripod.
Then when his business will progress I would advice him to go for the vinten or satchler, and use the libec for a second cam.
I honestly think that this advice is much more constructive, then to say if you wanna go pro you have to pay pro.
If then someone comes along and has also $1500 to spend for support and that person is going to shoot wildlife.
Then I would advice a Satchler or Vinten system.
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