Does a 'good' tripod need to be heavy? at

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Old May 27th, 2004, 02:19 PM   #1
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Does a 'good' tripod need to be heavy?

Hi All,

I live in the UK, and have a tripod that I bought for 30 (about $55), and have read in this forum that one of the many ways to improve your footage is to use a 'good' tripod.

I am wanting to use my XM2 (pal GL2) for landscape/nature type shooting, and I would say my 30 tripod is heavy enough to carry around, seen as I will be generally walking to the shooting locations. So will I need to upgrade to a better tripod, and can I get one that won't - 1. Break the bank, and 2. Weigh a lot.

Would getting a good monopod instead be a good compromise?

Thanks in advance for any replies,
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Old May 27th, 2004, 03:41 PM   #2
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That's a good question, Dave. The issue has less to do with "weight" than with "mass". This may seem like an academic distinction but mass is the real issue.

Aside from basic pan/tilt motion qualities, the tripod and head combination must be stable and rigid enough to resist deflection. Unlike still photo tripods/heads, video/film units must remain reasonably inert while the load is in motion. The mass of the head and the rigidity/capacity of the legs need to be in some degree of design harmony to accomplish this.

The XM2 is a relatively light camera so a variety of tripods and heads will serve it reasonably well in this regard. An important consideration for shooting wildlife is that you may often be shooting with that 20x lens pushed far out. The longer the telephoto shot the more stable the support must be to avoid shake. When zoomed as close as possible that lens will only have a few degrees of view. Lightweight, inexpensive tripods/heads will be susceptible to any tremor or force, such as a slight breeze.

Long-winded way to say that you should get the best support rig you can afford. There are several very good models designed particularly for outdoor nature work. None are cheap. Some have carbon fiber legs to reduce weight. Most collapse into compact, easy to carry lengths.

If economy is a major consideration I'd recommend first finding a model or two that seem best for your needs. Then see if you can find it in the used market. Big photo and video shops often carry used gear. Check our Classified section, too. Patience works to your advantage. The longer you can wait the more you can save toward the purchase and the greater the probability that you'll find a good bargain.

Good luck on this, Dave.

Per your specification of doing nature work, I can't really recommend a monopod. While they provide stability in the vertical axis they offer nothing for lateral stability. They may be handy for some event coverage but I'd be inclined to pick a good shoulder brace rather than a monopod for video work.
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Old May 28th, 2004, 02:09 AM   #3
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Many thanks for the reply Ken, any advice is appreciated.

How do you, or anyone else rate Manfrotto tripods? I have seen them for sale at some very good prices on Ebay, and I might consider this.

Thanks again,
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Old May 28th, 2004, 06:53 AM   #4
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Manfrotto makes the 3221WN "Wilderness" tripod that might suit your needs. In the US you can get it as a kit which includes the 501 head and a soft carrying case with shoulder strap for under $300. I also do landscape/nature photography and have found this model to be reasonably easy to carry around.

Now after a a couple years I became less enthusiastic about the 501 head because it really couldn't give me smooth motion at full telephoto so I upgraded to a more expensive Miller DS-5 which is great, although much heavier and more expensive ($800). But I still use the 3221 legs with a Manfrotto 3d head for nature photography with a still camera.

So I don't know how much it takes to "break your bank", but I think you'll find that you need to spend between $200-$300 to get any sort of decent video tripod and head. As Ken suggests, maybe you can pickup something used at a bargain price.
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Old May 28th, 2004, 07:30 AM   #5
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I have the Bogen/Manfrotto 3001 legs and 501 head, roughly $300-400 US. When I used it with the XL1, it was hard to keep the lens from slowly creeping down. Using the GL1, that is no longer an issue. Instead, I have problems with panning, as the tripod wants to twist with the cam on occasion. However, it is a compact, easy to tote, and usable tripod.

The best way to improve your footage, is to simply learn the basics and practice them. Decide for yourself if the tripod you have works. Does it hold your camera steady? Does it pan and tilt smoothly? You may find you don't need to spend more money at this point.
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Old May 30th, 2004, 02:37 AM   #6
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Hi Dave,
Here's my opinion. In general, yes, a good tripod
needs to be heavy. Now, I suppose, if you spend a
lot of cash, you can go Vinten/Sachtler et cetera,
with exotic materials such as carbon fiber. But
even there, for outdoor shoots where you may
be using telephoto lenses, your best bet is a
heavy tripod that stays planted. The minimum
you'd want to consider is the Bogen 3046/3246.
And this is not even a very heavy tripod.
With telephotos, the wind is gonna
be a factor. I'd look at a ball head,
which won't be affected by the wind the
way a tripod with a column will.
A monopod is not an option.
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Old June 1st, 2004, 07:08 PM   #7
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You are attaching a $1,000+ camera to a $50+ tripod.
Don't you think that the cam deserves a better fate, than the collapse of a less than adequate TP?
I do a substantial amount of my shooting on wild life. My equipment that I carry into the woods, weights in at @42 lbs. Of that weight, my Manfrotto ARTS TP and 516 head, are about 26 lbs.
I consider the stability that I achive with my equipment, to be well worth the expence, plus, the huff & puff, needed to get a decent shot.
Stability, in the out doors, is NOT a luxury! It is an absolute necessity.
Break the bank. Get the best TP and head that you can.
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Old June 1st, 2004, 07:11 PM   #8
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And make it heavy!
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Old June 2nd, 2004, 05:11 AM   #9
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Wow thanks guys! Some strong, or should I say 'heavy' opinions ; ) All very much appreciated though.

Its funny though, when I bought my first video camera a few years ago (a rubbish video 8), I got my $50 tripod and thought wow, this is great, I didn't know how much people would spend on tripods at the time - so I didn't know any different.

Well, I'm gonna probly try and pick up a manfrotto tripod off ebay, cause I've seen quite a few at good prices.

Anyways thanks again,
Dave C.
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Old June 6th, 2004, 03:39 PM   #10
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Just to concur with what has already been said, there is no substitute for a good, heavy tripod. However, whilst this is fine in the studio, for location work the trade off is between the stability that comes with weight and what you are prepared to carry for any length of time - and that, for me, is a key deciding factor. Not much point in having a great tripod that you never take with you.

I've always considered monopods to be slightly better than nothing, but no substitute for a tripod. Handy for keeping muggers away though.
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