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Old May 4th, 2011, 04:32 AM   #1
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Portable tripod with easy leveling?

I am in need of a portable, lightweight tripod which I can easily level, the way I do now with my Manfrotto 525P kit incl 75mm bowlhead, which is not portable.

I have a cheap little tripod but leveling by extending/retracting the legs is a pain. And I wouldn't mind just a little extra weight for stability.

Any suggestions for a nice (preferably budget-) kit?
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Old May 4th, 2011, 05:32 AM   #2
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Re: Portable tripod with easy leveling?

Do some searching here. Plenty of discussion about tripods.

What camera are you putting on this?

The smallest/lightest good bowl tripod with multiple drag settings that I could find is the Sachtler FSB-4 with the DA-75/2ENG legs. The older DV4-II is similar but with fewer drag settings.

Some manufacturers like Libec are not very forthcoming with the folded length and weight specs. Sometimes you have to dig around the manufacturer's site and find the user's guide to get it. Here's a handy specsheet on the Sachtlers that B&H made:
B&H Photo - Sachtler Tripod Comparison Chart

in the cheap category, there's the Matthews TH-M20 (seems there's other models of this same basic tripod from Libec and Varizoom) that's an odd 65mm bowl. That head has no drag settings and in my experience, a mushy head for anything other than a consumer cam. But if all you need is a locked down camera, it can be made to work but not a pleasant experience in my book and forget about professional pan/tilt moves.

You can't escape the physics. A decent performing tripod and head requires mass and engineering. The lower you go in terms of price/mass/engineering, the worse pan/tilt smoothness, more stiction, more windup, more drift/mush ....... and of course the weight you put on it is also a factor.
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Old May 4th, 2011, 06:28 AM   #3
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Re: Portable tripod with easy leveling?

How portable do you need? I use the 525 legs and while they aren't featherweight, they surely are portable. I've carried them from location to location all over the city of Chicago.
Now I haven't thrown them on my back and done a 10 mile hike with them but I don't think there are too many tripods worth having that you'd wnt to do that with anyway so could you be a little more specific about your needs as you might find the 525 legs or equivalent are just what you need
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Old May 4th, 2011, 07:21 AM   #4
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Re: Portable tripod with easy leveling?

Jeroen did say "budget", so I will avoid the Sachtlers and Vintens here. I also don't know what camera you have.

I use one of these:
Manfrotto MDeVe 745XB Video Tripod with 701HDV Head System B&H

Manfrotto product page for this range of legs: MDEVE Single Leg Video Tripods - Manfrotto Video Accessories

I'm not sure what availability is on these, it is showing as discontinued at B&H.

It's MUCH lighter than my Vinten, and not too bad in use with smaller cameras. You're never going to get Vinten performance from a system like that, but I find it very portable. The 50mm levelling ball system is also very useful. If you have an existing flat based Manfrotto head, you could re-use it (if it can be detached from its bowl). If not, a 501HDV head is fine for small cameras.
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Old May 4th, 2011, 07:52 AM   #5
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Re: Portable tripod with easy leveling?

That MDEVE leveling system is interesting and folded at 23" isn't bad. I'm trying to stay well under 24".

I think there's at least two travel scenarios I'm mindful of:
1) backpacking
2) Airline traveling to remote location

In the short and light category for scenario 2), there's the Gitzo Traveler and the Manfrotto 190cxpro4. The latter specs are 2.95lbs, folds to 19.7in (50cm) and holds 11lbs which needs to include the head weight too. That will at least fit headless into a medium suitcase.
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Old May 4th, 2011, 11:11 AM   #6
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Re: Portable tripod with easy leveling?

Thanks for the response, guys. I forgot to mention it's mostly for DSLR work. (so I won't be doing much panning and tilting anyway!) I've been biking around town with my Panasonic GH2 a lot lately and plan to do more so in the future. I need something that will set up and break down relatively easy.
The MDVE systems are not very high, I noticed. The tallest one is only 163 cm. I wanted something at least as tall as I am, around 184 cm, so I can use it for event videography as well. But there is no one-system-fits-all I'm afraid. That was my misconception.

It doesn't exist and never will, as you guys aptly pointed out...

Light and steady, portable yet high, cheap and durable: contradictions in termino.

I have one of those budget Fancier 717AH video heads (also known as Weifeng) that I bought for my slider. I'll get a pair of same brand (short) sticks to go with it.
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