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Old October 19th, 2004, 10:50 PM   #1
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Trying to choose a tripod is driving me crazy!

I swear, the only experience that compares is attempting to select a wide angle lens, and that doesn't come anywhere near being as difficult.

I'm on the verge of insanity here.

I've got a VX-2000, loaded up with the Bracket 1 wireless mic holder, and the Sennheiser Evo 100 wireless bodypack transmitter (clipped on the bracket). I'd like to eventually add a wide angle lens, my Beachtek DXA-4 (if I ever get it repaired/replaced) and perhaps--someday--a matte box/filter holder (is there a difference between those terms?). Not sure how much all this crap weighs.

So far, I've gotten by with two garage sale tripods, an old Velbon that's missing parts and some cheap piece of garbage from Vantage. Done all right in most circumstances, but now that I'm starting to do work, and the ever-present sway and wobble is making itself extra noticeable, I'd like to upgrade to something decent.

I start researching the subject, and am quickly overwhelmed with choices. The most common recommendation seemed to be the Miller DS-10, at first, then I see just as many posts extolling the virtues of the Vinten Vision 3 (out of my $1500 budget anyway), along with people giving good marks to various packages from Sachtler.

Some say those tripods are great for cameras in my weight/price range, others say the cameras aren't heavy enough; that argument is then subdivided into two groups: either "Your camera's too light for the tripod to even work", others say "The thing'll work, but your camera's too light for the price to be justifiable".

Digging deeper, we get into comments for and against products from Bogen and Manfrotto, many of which are exactly the same, with model number 2947857285038/834-DQe23 from Bogen being the same as SQD--34/67?095! from Manfrotto. And then it's either "This stuff is all you need with a camera like this" or "Your camera cost a lot, it deserves better than a $500 setup".

I then remember that when speaking about higher end equipment, "tripod" just refers to the legs. I read further, and discover still other people recommend combining heads and legs. Now it's "Vision 3 head with DV-10 carbon fiber legs", and other such things.

I had pretty much settled on one of the DV-10 bundles, but then read this review, which seemed to go against everything I'd read here. I hate to let ONE little article, written by someone I can't trust (only because I don't know what his experience level is), dissuade me from buying, but I felt his comments were worth mentioning.

Then there's discussion of different ball sizes (yeah, yeah, shut up), "half ball" (is there "full ball"?), fluid, fluid-action, friction (I was under the impression that full fluid was the only way to go, but now find out that many popular heads are only partially fluid?), along with rather pedestrian questions about all these different combinations. Will a DV-10 head keep my camera setup in position, wherever I put it, if I let go of the pan bar? Can you even achieve that in a less-than-$1500-total tripod system?

I've thought about just TRYING the damn things, but don't know where to go in my area. Does B&H--the store--let you try out different tripods? It's a great place, and everything, but I always feel rushed; like I'm taking up too much space, and they can't be bothered to help me since I'm neither an experienced, seasoned professional, nor a completely clueless first timer.

I trust you see why I'm having such a horrible time, and why simply searching the countless existing discussions has only made me MORE confused and apprehensive?

In the end, however, I come back around to wondering if my talent/experience level really warrants anything above the five hundred dollar mark.

Is there anything I can do, short of buying every tripod model in existence?
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Old October 19th, 2004, 11:32 PM   #2
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Dear Robert,

Lovely post.

Don't be offended by what I said. I think that you listen too much. 8 )

Regards
Leigh
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Old October 19th, 2004, 11:37 PM   #3
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...

Um, perhaps you could be a bit more particular? I don't believe I know what you mean, and wasn't trying to refer to any one individual in there. Honestly, I wasn't paying much attention to names when doing my research.
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Old October 20th, 2004, 02:15 AM   #4
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<<<-- Originally posted by Robert Martens : ...

Um, perhaps you could be a bit more particular? I don't believe I know what you mean, and wasn't trying to refer to any one individual in there. Honestly, I wasn't paying much attention to names when doing my research. -->>>

It is you who behind the video camera matters, not your rig.

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Old October 20th, 2004, 06:56 AM   #5
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Don't be overwhelmed. Choosing a tripod is actually really simple... especially considering your budget.

1) Don't get a pod with a center column... extending a center column may be convenient for easy height changes, but as soon as you get to anything max telephoto you'll be pissed at the vibration.

This means you want a pod where 3 legs meet at the head and THAT is the top of the pod. I have Gitzo legs which cost me $370... but there are a lot of choices. The Miller legs are very nice and they're about $570. If your budget allows, which it does... you'd be happy with those legs. One other option would be Manfrotto (which is the parent company of Bogen... the USA sees "Bogen" where the rest of the planet sees "Manfrotto"... hence the duplicate info). Manfrotto has several models such as 525 which are very nice. A pod designed with multiple tubes composing each of the 3 main legs is probably the most rigid, but anything in the $350-$750 range on legs is going to make you happy. It will come down to personal preferrence... There's fewer then 6 good choices in this price range.

2) Getting the type of pod described above will almost guarantee the half-ball system. There will be a bowl at the top of the legs with a diameter or 75mm or 100mm... unless you get the Miller and then it will be an odd size just under 75mm. Within this bowl sits a half-ball which makes it easy to INSTANTLY level your rig. You loosen a grip that sticks out the bottom move the cam to level and then tighten it... This beats the HELL out of having to level a pod with EACH leg... It really is 10 times faster. You'll love it. Make sure the pod you choose is made for this system. The Gitzo, Miller, and many of the Manfrottos I'm referring to are.

3) Forget weight ratings. Any pod in this class will handle any cam you're ever going to buy. There's no such thing as a pod that's too heavy or big for the cam... only for the operator!

4) The half-ball will be part of the head or else be added to your head purchase... unless you get a complete legs/head package... then it's already in.

5) Choose a good head. I like the Gitzo that's around $800, but for a little more you could get the Vinten... I got a good deal on the Gitzo from a place that was closing them out (long ago, forget it) or else I'd have went with the classier Vinten head.

Finally... I don't think the legs are quite as important to "preview". What you see is pretty well what you get... but you may be happiest if you can check out the heads before you buy. If nothing else B&H is really cool about returns so if you don't like something you can always send it back.
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Old October 20th, 2004, 09:40 AM   #6
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Trying tripods at B&H

Yes, you can test out the tripods at B&H to your heart's content. I have done this with the tripods as well as in other depts and was never rushed by the sales staff, and even found the staff very helpful. It's a popular, busy store, so you may need to politely maneuver your way around other customers or wait your turn.
Handling the equipment makes a big difference from reading postings and reviews. As their commercials say, "go to B&H" with your tripod list and check them out. That should help you with your decision.
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Old October 20th, 2004, 07:03 PM   #7
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Allen is correct. There is no substitute for hands-on. Take your camera rig with you and try out the tripods with it mounted and while making the moves you would normally make in production.

You need to do this in a store as most shows won't allow you to bring your equipment inside.

A final test would be to rent the one or two finalist products and try them out for a day or two.
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Old October 20th, 2004, 09:47 PM   #8
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"It is you who behind the video camera matters, not your rig."

That I can understand; it's just that your initial reply proclaimed, "Don't be offended by what I said. I think that you listen too much." My question becomes, "What did you say that I might have been offended by?"

As far as B&H goes, I suppose in retrospect it was never the staff that bothered me so much as the overall atmosphere. Lots of people, lots of employees, lots of conveyor belts (sure love to stick a camera up there and watch the footage afterward)...can be intimidating. They're like the friggin' Keebler Elves in there. Between the big tree in the con/prosumer camera area, the constant milling about of workers, and the conveyors, I almost feel like they should be making cookies.

Guess I could give them a fairer shake, though, huh?

I certainly appreciate the advice (something I can always count on here), this should help ease the decision making process. I'll keep you updated, let you know what I end up with (not that it's a terribly enthralling subject, but for my own peace of mind I like to share these things with others).

Thanks!
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Old October 21st, 2004, 03:04 AM   #9
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That sounds "weird" Robert, guess I'd have to make sure I visit
B&H whenever I get to the states eh!
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Old October 23rd, 2004, 02:06 PM   #10
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Hello Robert,

Like Matt said the heads and legs will generally be more than strong enough (physically) to support any DV type setups. But the weight ratings on higher-end heads are important because they relate to the counterbalance feature. The counterbalance is a spring inside the head that allows the head to remain stationary at any tilt angle. So the tripod head manufacturers specify a range of weights and their distance from the top of the head to match to the counterbalance. If your camera weight and distance is outside this range, the tilt will either try to return to level when tilted (camera too light) or try to rotate down (camera too heavy).

In practical terms, if you were to put your setup on say a Sachtler DV 8 which is for an ENG camera, it would be too light so whenever you tilt down, you'll feel a strong pull preventing you from tilting down. It gets worst the more you tilt from level and the lighter your camera is compared to the counterbalance specs. Likewise, if you had no counterbalance at all (say a cheap head) and you had a very heavy camera, there would be this same pull but due to gravity and in the opposite direction. Either way, this "pull" is a bias in the head that ideally should be taken out so that you have neutral point from which to operate.

Also, I agree that generally "it's the photographer (or shooter) not the equipment." But I think camera support is an exception. A good operator will always be able to do a smoother move on better equipment. The question is how smooth do you really want it and are you willing to pay for it? Personally, I like mine smooooooth :)
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Old October 23rd, 2004, 05:47 PM   #11
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How about a little rig porn in this thread? (Large image)
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Old October 24th, 2004, 01:11 AM   #12
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What a great pic! Thanks, Ken!

Allen
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Old October 24th, 2004, 11:08 AM   #13
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Ken, you have *way* too much disposable income!!

Cheers
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Old October 24th, 2004, 12:17 PM   #14
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It's actually the title shot for an upcoming review of these rigs.
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Old October 24th, 2004, 12:55 PM   #15
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<<<-- Originally posted by Ken Tanaka : It's actually the title shot for an upcoming review of these rigs. -->>>

Where and when?

Thanks
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