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Old May 19th, 2004, 09:28 PM   #1
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TriPod Weight Ratings

I desperately need some help with support!

What is meant when a tripod or head is rated to handle "up to" a specified weight? I know, it's probably a totally stupid question... Obviously, they will "handle" more than the rated specs --- but how much? Why???

I presently have a Bogen 3130 'fluid' head (not really fluid) atop a set of Bogen 3251 legs and the head is rated to handle "up to" 8.8 pounds...

"Up To"... (Two of the most misused words in the English language???)

I have just swapped my Canon GL1 for a new XL1S which weighs considerably more than 8.8 pounds, with its many accessories. My heavy XL1S is now sitting astride the aforementioned wimpy Bogen head/tripod and hasn't toppled over for "more than" 4-hours now...

Having failed miserably at getting my degree in Rocket Scientry and/or Brain Surgery --- I can't help but wonder what these weight ratings really mean.

After reading a lot of other forum messages regarding support, I'm seriously considering upgrading my inadequate support by buying a heftier, Bogen 516 head with a Bogen 3502 leveling head adapter to put on top of my existing Bogen 3251 legs.

Would that be advisable? They would apparently handle "up to" a maximum equipment weight of 22 pounds???

Will this head/adapter work properly with my flat-headed Bogen 3251 legs (rated at "up to" 26 pounds)? Or do they require a different tripod?

Many thanks for all your helpful suggestions and information !

Ed Baatz
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Old May 19th, 2004, 10:00 PM   #2
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This is actually a very good question, Ed. One that most of us have faced or will face.

There are generally two weight limits that you may encounter; one for a set of legs and one for a head.

Leg limits are, by obvious necessity, higher. A sturdy set of legs (that we might buy for small cams) might easily carry 30-50 lbs. That's reassuring but not always relevant.

Head weight limits generally indicate the load that the head's tilt mechanism can safely balance and lock. Higher-end heads feature a tilt counterbalance mechanism (generally a spring) that that's capable of exerting a certain amount of counterforce. (Vintens are a bit unique in that models such as the Vision 3 feature interchangeable springs for different load ranges.) Ratings for friction heads, which have no counterweight spring, are based on what the head's plates can safely deal with.

Buying an under-capacitied head for your rig will mean that you'll often find your camera with a forlorn look, staring down at the floor.

Buying too beefy of a head will mean that you'll find yourself fighting with the counterforce spring more that you should.

The XL1S is a bit of an oddball, weight-wise. Unlike Handycam-style designs and pro cameras, the XL1S' center of gravity is in front of its head mount, making it generally nose-heavy. Being able to slide the mounting plate back a bit on the head (a common feature) helps a bit but will generally not completely solve this problem. With this in mind, you'll want to get a head that's just a -bit- beefier than a simple weight match might prescribe.

Sorry, I can't speak to the Bogen heads you reference. Hopefully others will.
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Old May 19th, 2004, 10:10 PM   #3
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Awk, I just realized that I actually have a Bogen 516 head! It's a significant piece of metal (22lbs), designed for a much heavier cam than the XL1S.
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Old May 20th, 2004, 08:38 AM   #4
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Ken,

That is precisely one of the things that I don't understand...

The Bogen 516 head (friction plate) actually weighs 4.4 pounds and has a maximum load capacity of 22 pounds. My XL1S with the MA-200 & two batteries and a LCD monitor now weighs in at just over a whopping 12 pounds...

The lighter weight Bogen 503 head which weighs 3.52 pounds has a maximum load capacity of 13.2 pounds.

Adding a matte box with rods would probably push the camera's weight past the 503's capacity of 13.2 pounds?

Would it be ridiculous to use the 516 head with my XL1S? For that matter, does it hurt anything if the maximum weight rating for a head is exceeded slightly? I'm currently using a Bogen 3130 head that is rated to handle a maximum of 8.8 pounds, exceeding its capacity by almost 50%... Which is why I'm asking so many questions...

Maybe there is a Bogen "fluid" head that can handle more weight than the 503 but less than the 516?

Thanks!
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Old May 20th, 2004, 08:59 AM   #5
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When you exceed the recommend weight ratings the head doesn't fall apart, nor do you risk damage to the camera. The internal parts of the head are not built for that weight and load and you will be causing abnormal wear to the internal components of the head. this will effect the performance of the head and over time could cause excessive damage to the head.

The immediate concern however would be the inability to provide adequate control and performance measures during operation. In other words, the pans and tilts might be sloppy. If your budget permits I would purchase a tripod with performance characteristics that better match your intended use and equipment.
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Old May 20th, 2004, 10:59 AM   #6
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Ed,
The 516 will work but it's a bit of overkill.

You'd have to really work to get your XL1S to 13-14lbs. Matte boxes and rods (ex: Chrosziel's) are feather-light. My XL1S with a (heavy) FU-1000 viewfinder and 16x Manual Servo lens and a CH-910 dual battery holder hovers around 9lbs.

In the Bogen line, the 503 is the most popular for the XL1S.
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Old May 20th, 2004, 07:10 PM   #7
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If you're going to pay attention to ratings then I'd err on the side of overkill. In my limited video experience, any time something seems like overkill it ends up pleasantly surprising me over and over...

I went with Gitzo's version of the Bogen 505... Manfrotto is the parent company for several lines so you'll notice some products which are borderline identical... except for finish and minor details.

CLICK HERE to see the Bogen 505 head!

Now I realize this may be pushing your budget and perhaps you should spend some time on the B&H fluid head pages to see just what your options are in your price-range.

If you decide to adapt your flat-plate legs to a leveling head you may find that it's preferable to put that old pod on ebay and get some new legs complete with a bowl... OR you could save your old pod 'cause you'll need it when you start doing two cams... I sold a perfect pod that I'm going to replace with nearly the same setup!

Counter-balancing heads are GREAT to use... but if there's too much spring then your cam will want to return to center rather then drop... Get it balanced JUST right and it's amazing... the cam seems to escape all the nasty physics you've become accustomed to.

If you're on a pretty tight budget then I'd recommend you follow Ken's suggestion of the 503... and you'll still need to pay attention to the angles of the camera when you're tilting.

The 516 will result in the opposite dilemma... your cam will want to pull QUICKLY to center when you tilt high... 'cause you'll have gravity AND a spring wanting to drop the camera... and your cam will want to SLOWLY pull to center when you tilt low 'cause the spring will try to lift your cam close to center.

Sooo... as you might imagine, having your cam "under-sprung" will result in a nicer version of the tripod control you're trying to master... less work is better... BUT, NO WORK is best... So if you can AFFORD the 516 why don't you throw down just a bit more and get a guaranteed balanced rig?
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Old May 20th, 2004, 07:23 PM   #8
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Hey I forgot to add that higher weight ratings in legs is ALWAYS better for stability... Sure it's a pain in the arse to tote extra weight, but when it REALLY matters heavier legs (or thicker/more rigid ones) will result in a more stable pod.

When considering just the "leg aspect" of a new pod purchase you need to balance outright stability with what you'll bother toting on those shoots where you're 50/50 about needing a pod.

On most of the occasions that I was 50/50 about bringing the pod... and left it... I wished I hadn't... The heavy legs are just my little cross to bear for now.

Which is why I said you may want to keep your old pod anyway... any time you're thinking you won't need a pod, but you'd like to bring one for piece of mind, you'll have a nice compromise.

Trust me on that point. I'm just about to replace the 3021pro legs with 3130 head that I sold a couple years ago!
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