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Photography Forums => The General Photography Forum => Topic started by: emanresu on July 15, 2011, 12:41:57 PM

Title: need advice on tripod
Post by: emanresu on July 15, 2011, 12:41:57 PM
Hello.  I am trying to purchase a *carbon fiber* tripod.  After some looking around, it seems almost all pros recommend brands such as manfrotto or gitzo (there was a post here just a while back), but it would generally cost me at least $400 on one.  Meanwhile I have also seen a few other seldom mentioned brands such as sunpak, smith-victor, vanguard etc that cost generally under $200.  However these brands have very few reviews, and the ones that are there do mention a few issues (e.g. legs are made of CF, but other parts are just plastic; or the center column is not plumb).  Their ratings are around 4/5, and the general comments are "excellent for the price" which somewhat got me a little dubious because this kind of price is a dilemma.  sure I would like to purchase a CF tripod for as little as possible, but on the other hand, i am wondering if they are relatively cheaper because of some inherent issues that keep them from being a "professional" grade, and if that is the case, then i might as well go with a $20 tripod until i have save enough to afford a $400+ one.

so I am just wondering if any of you profs/experts here have any experiences with these brands?  some of the specific ones I have been looking at are: vanguard 224CP Carbon Fiber Tripod with PH-22 Panhead Sunpak PRO 523PX2 Carbon Fiber Tripod with Pistol Grip QR Ball Head Smith Victor CF-100 Carbon Fiber Tripod with CF3 Legs and BH-2 Ball Head Manfrotto 732CY M-Y (leg only, needs a head)

does any one stand out as a good choice? Or should I simply forget about them and go for something like manfrotto 190cxprob?

an added question is: are 3-way pan heads a passe?  some of these tripods do come with a pan head instead of a ball head, but my impression is that many pros use ball heads because the pan heads are too cumbersome. is this a correct impression?  thanks

Title: Re: need advice on tripod
Post by: KeithB on July 18, 2011, 07:37:35 AM
With the advent of video-shooting SLR's pan-heads should be looked at seriously.  A ball head is used for flexibility (a "not plumb" head is no problem for a ball-head!), but if you plan on shooting video, a sturdy pan head might come in handy.

Title: Re: need advice on tripod
Post by: Bob Atkins on July 18, 2011, 10:40:53 AM
There's always a cost/quality tradeoff with tripods (as with everything else). However some of the lower cost CF tripods are quite good, just maybe not quite as good or as durable as the premium models like the Gitzos.

The  Manfrotto 732CY M-Y  ( is a pretty good lightweight tripod at a reasonable price. If you're not shooting with long and heavy telephoto lenses, it's a good buy. Since it's small and light you're more likely to carry it and it would make an excellent travel tripod.

As for heads, ball heads are faster to operate. One control frees and locks movement ion all three axes. With a 3 way head you have at least 2, sometimes three controls to set and adjust. However as Keith commented, for some applications a 3 way head can be more convenient, such as when shooting video. Some ball heads have a seperate rotating base which makes them easier to use for multi-shot panoramics.

If you want a ball head, I'd look at somethink like the Giottos MH-1001  ( The price is reasonable and it seems to be a well built head and has a panormic base.

Title: Re: need advice on tripod
Post by: emanresu on July 18, 2011, 01:26:07 PM
Thanks Keith and Bob for the advice and suggestions.  I have another question regarding tripods/heads.  From a different BBS, someone brought it to my attention that a few of the "inexpensive" tripods I listed have a low max load capacity.  While it makes sense as a whole to me, I do notice that tripod legs and ball heads have their separate max load capacity ratings, but not sure how exactly these two numbers play out with each other.  If I go buy a leg and a ball head separately, should their max load capacity match?  Or can one be larger than the other?  If the latter, which one?

Title: Re: need advice on tripod
Post by: Bob Atkins on July 18, 2011, 10:48:34 PM
Depends on what you want to put on it. If you have a 7lb camera + lens you'd want both a tripod and head which are rated to hold 7lb or more.

There's no real point putting a shakey head on a sturdy tripod or a study head on a shakey tripod. The system stability is limited by its weakest link. If you have a 7lb load and a tripod rated for 7lbs, it wouldn't matter if you used a head rated for 20lbs, but it would be larger, heavier and more expensive than one with a lower (7lb) load rating and your system wouldn't be appreciably more stable.

If I had limited funds and had to make a choice, I'd probably go with a sturdier tripod rather than a sturdier head

Title: Re: need advice on tripod
Post by: emanresu on July 19, 2011, 06:26:17 AM
Got it! :-), and again thanks for the helpful information, Bob. 

Title: Re: need advice on tripod
Post by: klindup on February 11, 2012, 03:53:48 PM
I have no experience of the tripods you mention.  I thought about a carbon fibre tripod but eventually settled for the Manfrotto 055XPROB.  I could not justify the cost for the 190.  I have used a tripod with resin castings for several years and after one failed depositing my 40D with a 70-200 on the floor (fortunately no damage) I vowed that in future i would only buy tripods with metal castings.  I bought a ball and socket head but could not get on with it and I did try.  I eventually replaced it with a three way head and find that I have more control, particularly with heavier lenses.  My setup is heavier and bulkier but very rigid and I have confidence that it will not let me down and for me that is important.  Good luck with whatever you choose.