On deciding to invest in improving my photography, after buying the camera, I knew the next purchase needed to be a tripod. As a casual snapper I never really understood why people would want to lug a tripod on a hike, but now I wanted to get sharper images, I started to understand.
Everyday Tripod - Gitzo GT3542 XLS
Having suffered from a few costly tripod malfunctions I wanted to invest in a beast. A tripod to withstand the windy conditions I often find myself shooting in. I know I only have a light micro 4/3rds camera, but never underestimate the difference stability can bring to your images. I knew the tripod brand I really wanted, Gitzo. For months I trawled auction sites and eventually managed to secure the beast for a ridiculously good price. The price may have been a reflection of it being described as poor condition with a fixed head.
When it arrived, the tripod did appear to have the Manfrotto MXPRO-3WG head well and truly stuck. However, with the tripod being a member of the Gitzo Systematic the top plate is removable and I was able to put the tripod head and top plate in the freezer to allow me to separate them. As well as the stuck head, the tripod was missing rubber caps from the feet and the top plate release spring was stuck. I was able to buy the parts I needed online, I was able to service the tripod myself and I'm delighted to have been able to afford such a piece of equipment. I know the GITZO GT3542 XLS is certainly overkill for my camera setup, however it has taken my images to a new level of sharpness.
The MTanfrotto MXPRO-3WG did not have an Arca-Swiss mounting plate, Itherefore I replaced it with my existing Giottos MH-1300 Pro head. The Giottos MH-1300 was a good companion head for this tripod and I used this combination until I had the opportunity to try a very different head.
Ebay has a lot to answer for, I'm always on the look out for bargains and secured a pre-owned Uniqball UBH35X. I was on the market for a leveling base (my photos were often off the level) when the Uniqball became available. It was well priced and worth a trial to see if it could help me straighten my horizons. My interest in photography was also starting to extend beyond landscapes as I ventured to taking more wildlife, this ballhead was cited to be a combination of ballhead with some gimbal action. Since putting it on my tripod, I haven't yet removed it, I'm liking its action, though it does take a bit of getting used to.
What I like about it
1. Bomb proof, will withstand all the elements I'm likely to be out in.
2. Easy to get parts for and easily serviced.
3. The ability to easily swap heads through a removable top plate.
4. The leg reach, I often find myself on steep gradients and the longer leg reach gives me the opportunity to find a level. Read Bruce Perry Blog to understand this better.
5. No middle column, allows very low perspective
What I would change about it.
1. Leg warmers, it can be cold to carry. Also to help protect my shoulder as I carry it.
2. A carry strap
Current Travel Tripod - Sirui T-1205x
Sirui K-10X Head
What I like about it.
1. Small enough to be able to put in a suit case.
2. Light enough that I could carry it all day whilst walking,
3. Sturdy enough to hold my camera with the heavier lens.
4. Carbon fibre with leg warmers, easier to handle on cold days.
6. ArcaSwiss Compatible Head that locks in place with no slip.
What I would change about it.
1. In strong winds it does wobble (though it is badged as a travel tripod).
2. The friction adjustment wheel is difficult to adjust.
3. Twist lock legs, made adjusting the tripod fiddly.
Other Tripods Tried
2nd Tripod Set Up
Having only a travel tripod I soon became aware of its limitations. Wanting to be out in all weathers, the travel tripod just couldn't stand up to the winds in the West of Ireland. Whilst camping at my favourite location, the tripod toppled twice due to the winds. The winds were so strong at times I just couldn't take pictures, the camera wouldn't withstand the conditions. For my second tripod my needs were different.
The tripod didn't need to be just as light as most of the time it would travel with me in my car or camper van.
Giottos MTL 8361B (Youtube Clip)
Giottos MTL 8361B
Giottos MH-1300 Pro
Wimberley C-12 Plate
I scanned ebay for my next tripod, first looking for a reasonably priced set of carbon fibre legs. The Giottos MTL 8361B came in at the right price. I thought pairing with a Giottos head would be the best approach, at least until I understood a bit more about tripods. The MH-1300 came at a great price, however the adapter plate was not arca swiss compatible. To solve this problem I purchased an alternative adapter plate. The Wimberley C12 came with full instructions and the adaption was easy.
What I liked about the set-up.
1. Clamps to adjust the legs. making minor adjustments easy.
2. It was sturdier than the travel tripod.
3. It didn't feel overly heavy.
4. The ability to change the adapter plate to an arca swiss plate.
5. It wasn't too big and it was easily carried over distances.
6. The leg warmers.
What I would change about the set-up
1. The head felt too heavy for the legs.
2. The tripod toppled twice, the first time writing off my primary lens. However this may well ave been due to user error. I've learned the importance of ensuring the tripod legs are all secure and extended properly.
3. It was still too light for some the conditions I find myself in.