Happy New Year!
May it be a productive one 🙂
I wish I could claim that I’ve been very productive but hey, it was the holidays and holidays are for resting. I took hundreds of photos and in fact have generally been focussing more on stills than video in the last month or so. As a result, this blog has been fairly quiet. However, watch my Flickr side bar to your right, as I’ll be uploading some Christmas pics. The 60D is a terrific camera and I’m slowly learning how to take better photos with it. It’s quite amazing what these cameras are capable of…unthinkable only a few years ago really!
Anyways, the topic of this post is tripods. Anyone who has attempted to shoot hand-held video on a DSLR has probably been shocked at the sheer amount of camera shake that sneaks into our otherwise gorgeous footage. Tripods are probably the most underestimated piece of gear from a beginner’s point of view. They’re stationary, cumbersome and unexciting, plus there are millions of them! They start at $20 bucks or so and go up to the thousands really quite quickly. Very quickly! What’s the deal?
Gah! More hours of research!
Yep, hours. I started with the idea that I could find a hybrid tripod, one that I could use for both photography and video, as that’s what my DSLR can do. It also had to be light enough for me to take on my big Europe trip this year, strong and cheap. Then I woke up.
As far as I can tell, I’m dreaming. At least partly, as my dream tripod doesn’t exist. I was thinking that I could buy a photography tripod like a Manfrotto 055XPRO or the very cool Benro Travel Angel and whack a video head on top, done! Unfortunately, that won’t work as well as I’d hoped due to a problem people on cinema5d.com call helicoptering: when you pan with your fluid head in one direction you’re OK, but try the other side and you’re unscrewing your head (or something along those lines, I still don’t fully understand what helicoptering is or does, but apparently it’s a spanner in the works. Engineering solutions apparently exist but my engineering skills don’t so I was back to the drawing board.
I had to wake up to the reality that I will eventually have to buy two tripods, one for my photos and one for video. The problem is that I want both, now, and that I only have about $250 to spend. While it’s possible to go ultra-cheap, I think I’d ultimately be disappointed with flimsy gear that breaks if you look at it the wrong way.
Also, in Australia, we pay a heavy premium on pretty much everything, especially heavy bulky things like tripods. This leaves eBay and similar online offerings that peddle goods straight from China or go retail and pay through the nose.
I’ll split this post into two parts, nice light strong and cheap stills tripods and cheap-as-chips, heavy-duty video offerings.
Pretty early on, I decided that I wanted a carbon fibre tripod. They’re light and strong and particularly good at absorbing vibration while maintaining rigidity. The first brand that I found was a Chinese knock-off of the much more pricey Gitzo brand. The legend goes that Gitzo went to China to look for a place to manufacture tripods and soon after, Benro started pumping out cheap clones 😉
Anyway, the model range that I’m most interested in is called Travel Angel. The cool thing about them is that you can detach one of the legs and turn it into a monopod! Also, the reports/reviews around the web on Benro stuff has been very positive, with only a few negative points (not as strong as the much more expensive Gitzo, both the carbon fibre tubes and the magnesium plate that legs are attached to) Models to look out for in particular are the C-2681TB and the almost-identical C-2691TB.
The difference between the two models is that the 81 has four leg sections whereas the 91 has 5. The advantage of 4 sections is rigidity (the fewer sections, the stronger the tripod) but it’s longer when folded up and doesn’t extend as far the 5-sectioned 91 model. I’m sure both would be awesome either way. I’m leaning towards the cheaper, longer and more compact 2691 personally and it will probably the be the next thing on my gear list. Not bad at all at ~$350 delivered, compare with Gitzos that cost at least 2x as much!
This model comes with the B-1 ballhead which is rated for 12kg! Even if it only holds 4kg, it’s a strong enough for me…alas, ball heads are less than suitable for video and therefore this will have to be restricted to stills work or non-moving videos.
Since the Benros have come out, there have also been a few copies of the copies flooding the market. In particular, I’m referring to Triopo and Fotopro. Linkdelight.com has some of both on offer. People tend to praise them less and apparently parts just randomly fall off if you’re not careful! $100 cheaper but personally, I’d rather go with Benro.
Alright, tomorrow or so I’ll tackle video tripods. I know a lot less about them but I’ll give it a shot anyways.