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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...

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Old June 16th, 2015, 07:19 PM   #1
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Tripod for weddings shot with DSLrs


I'm trying to find good tripod sticks to use for shooting weddings with a DSLR. I'm more used to traditional videocameras and those tripods.

Anyhow recently I tried out a set of Manfrotto sticks, I believe it was this model.

Manfrotto MK190X3-BH Aluminum Tripod with 496RC2 MK190X3-BH B&H

Maybe I just have to get used to it but I did not like them, spreading the three legs was kind of awkward I think due to a lack of a spreader. It seemed more difficult to get into sturdy positions quickly when changing angles.

I'm curious to hear others thoughts on this style of tripod as well as which one you recommend.
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Old June 16th, 2015, 07:49 PM   #2
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Re: Tripod for weddings shot with DSLrs

Have you looked into the Sachtler Ace? What's your price range? I have the Sachtler FSB-6, great sticks, but even with carbon fiber legs, it's sometimes a bit too bulky for run&gun. Setup is fast though, and the head is very nice.
My other go-to setup is Sirui's N1205X along with a Manfrotto MVH500AH head. Pro's are it's extremely light weight, taller than the Sachtler, converts to a monopod, and packs smaller. But the head is not as versatile, the setup time is longer, and it's harder to level without resorting to a Manfrotto 438 leveler (or more fiddling with the legs).
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Old June 16th, 2015, 08:04 PM   #3
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Re: Tripod for weddings shot with DSLrs

I had the same idea ie small light tripod, fold up acts like mono pod for procession, fold out legs for ceremony. Making transition seamless. I have an ultra light carbon tripod but I encountered the same problem without a spreader you can't easily fold/unfold the legs. Every time you pickup the tripod to reposition even to move it a foot the legs move on you.

I've thought about the Sachtler Ace but I think it's over priced and light duty and the head is sub par for Sachtler.
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Old June 16th, 2015, 08:31 PM   #4
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Re: Tripod for weddings shot with DSLrs

Hey Joe, I guess one way to look at this is what's on your wishlist for the ideal wedding DSLR tripod, and how does it differ for you from a traditional tripod?


-- I'm a big fan of anything light (usually meaning carbon fibre, which also reduces shake). I guess this is the main difference between DSLR/traditional tripod and the number one important quality -- something that only has to carry around 8lb (for lens plus body), or maybe 10-12lb (if you add slider).

-- Ability to level used to be high on my list, but Oren's recommendation of the Manfrotto 438 plate is a brilliant one.

-- I much prefer lever locks on legs to screw locks. They're a lot faster. As for spreaders, personally I don't like them, particularly ground-level spreaders (what if you're doing an outdoors wedding on a hillside)? Mid-level spreaders don't do it for me either, after I've broken a few of them.

-- Height is important. Ideally want it to reach above a standing crowd at a ceremony, but also get low enough to shoot rings on a coffee table during groom prep. The centre column design has the advantage of occupying a small floor space (and once you've shot enough crowded weddings in small rooms, you'll know what I mean). Chris Harding came up with an ingenious solution to extending the height of the tripod by replacing the centre column... I'll see if I can find the link to the thread later, or maybe Chris can chime in.

-- The smoothness of the head to be honest doesn't bother me that much, nor the ability to adjust resistance. nice to have, but I know plenty of people who've shot great work on dodgy photography tripods.

-- Ability to fold up small is a huge plus for air travel. Benro I think have a new range of travel tripods for this sort of purpose.

-- In terms of compatibility, you'd want to be able to whack your camera on a tripod or slider or monopod without changing baseplate. Speed is important at weddings. This means a lot of people use Manfrotto tripods, or Manfrotto quick release plates or heads, or Manfrotto and Benro (which is compatible with Manfrotto).
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Old June 17th, 2015, 12:48 AM   #5
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Re: Tripod for weddings shot with DSLrs

I would say my max budget is $500 and that would need to include some sort of fluid head as well (most likely Manfrotto, so it could quickly swap out and fit into other gear slider, etc...which would be purchased down the line).

It must have lever locks, so it looks like the Sachtler Ace is out. I don't want a ground spreader, but perhaps a mid level one. Pete details the issues with that Manfrotto MK190X3 type of tripod perfectly. However, maybe I just need to get used to it.

Adrian, I agree with most of your points. How long did it take you to get used to that type of tripod?

Alternatively, this is probably sacrilege but I used and found it much easier to work with.

I still haven't used either for a wedding yet, but used both in run and gun type scenarios. I certainly don't want to be struggling with the legs on the big day.
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Old June 17th, 2015, 01:31 AM   #6
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Re: Tripod for weddings shot with DSLrs

Well, the first tripod I used was an expensive Miller. Had a spreader, a beautiful fluid head, and carried a lot of weight. First tripod I owned was a $1000 Libec that also had a spreader. Fluid head was ok (better than Manfrotto heads), but I usually leave this tripod at home when I shoot a wedding -- it's heavier than it needs to be, and I've gone off spreaders for weddings. Pretty much every DSLR videographer I've seen uses a really light tripod.

I take it that Pete's point is that if you reposition a tripod that doesn't have a spreader, then very often the legs might shift slightly inwards, so you need to check that they're opened up fully, or your tripod won't be stable and will also be unlevel. That issue does still bug me! But I guess I don't use tripod for "run and gun" as such. So, to be honest, I'm not sure that spreader to non-spreader involved much getting used to anything, if that's what you're asking about.

Put it this way -- most of the day, I'm on a monopod. It's mainly the formalities, like ceremony and speeches, that I'm on tripod (and also room and detail shots), and these times of day usually don't involve moving the tripod very much. And that's kind of what I mean by how I've seen some videographers produce great work with photography tripods (which don't even have a fluid head). I certainly wouldn't recommend a photography tripod unless you're very short of cash, but if you're mostly going to use your tripod in a locked-off way, maybe you can get away with it.

That Magnus tripod does seem really interesting. I didn't read the specs too closely, but it seems quite a bargain. Not sure what the catch is.

By the way, check out these Benro tripods: Benro Launches the Aero 4 Travel Tripod and BV4/BV6 Aluminum Tripod Kit – NAB 2015 | RUNPLAYBACK

Edit: here's Chris Harding's solution for getting more height:

Or, if you have a lot of money, try the Spider Pod system:
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Old June 17th, 2015, 03:10 AM   #7
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Re: Tripod for weddings shot with DSLrs

I work very fast and light for weddings, and needed a tripod with quickly extending legs, quick release plate on a fluid head, centre column for grip when using as a pseudo steadycam and enabling me to wind higher or lower quickly. I also like to have a spread lock so that I can instantly kick the legs in to use as a monopod.

I used a Velbon DV700 for several years and when they brought out the the DV7000 about 4 years ago, I bought 3 of them so that my wife can use one as well.

All three of mine have been heavily used and abused and all still work perfectly which is more than I can say for various expensive pro tripods I have used in the past.

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Old June 17th, 2015, 04:55 AM   #8
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Re: Tripod for weddings shot with DSLrs

I'm still using Weifeng and my oldest is now 7 years of being thrown in and out of cars and is still perfect. They all have bowl heads so I never have to mess with adjusting feet and can level in seconds. Wouldn't change them for anything AND they cost was less than the swanky brands too!
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Old June 22nd, 2015, 03:20 AM   #9
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Re: Tripod for weddings shot with DSLrs

Well shot my first wedding on a DSLR, I've shot weddings before but it has been awhile. I ended up borrowing a Magnus from a friend.

Worked out fine, it certainly helped to have the spreader, to quickly kick out or fold the legs. There were plenty of times when the legs were a little off and just one adjustment to the center column, centering the bubble and boom, I get a leveled shot without much fuss.
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Old June 22nd, 2015, 08:55 AM   #10
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Re: Tripod for weddings shot with DSLrs

I use the Manfrotto 755XB with 701 HDV style heads. Super lightweight and super easy to get level because the adjustment is a ball on the center column. You just loosen it and actually rotate where the head is mounted on. Could not ask for a better system for a wedding situation IMO.

At the reception, I was just picking the whole thing up with my D750 and 70-200 F2.8 and carrying it around with one hand to wherever I needed to go.

We were outside and the ground was very uneven and sloped a bit.
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