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The great tripod & head thread!

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
Now you just need a set of arms long enough to mount the camera...
I did consider ladder needs when I got a tall tripod. With the center column lowered, I can just reach the camera. As appealing as a Gitzo Giant or RRS 45L with center column would be, I can't see any way of using them in the wild. I suppose tripods could be made with rungs like an antenna on one leg... o_O
 
Both my Gitzo tripods stand about 8 feet tall fully extended. When I am hiking, there are times a photograph calls for the height and full extension.
My question is- does anyone have a technique for getting up high enough to see your camera viewfinder?
I have been trying to stand on a lightweight 3 leg fold-up camping stool, which gives me an extra two feet of height.
It tips over quite readily- sooner or later I am going to have a fall.
The only other option would be to carry some type of super-lightweight ladder?
 

Shashin

Well-known member
If you can get a remote app on your smart phone, you don't need the camera viewfinder. The next is a mirror to check the live image on thre LCD. In case of my Pentax, which does not have an option for either, I have an optical right-angle finder which helps a bit--it won't get me to eight feet, but does get the camera above my head. If the max extention is with the center column, I compose at as high as I can, then extend the camera from there. Baring that, platform shoes?
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
Since the Leica S is in the shop, I figured I'd look into the ancient Wood vs. Carbon Fibre debate. It's very hard to find an analysis that wasn't done by a manufacturer. And all opinion boils down to "I've used X for 30 years, and X is great!" The usual wood attribute is "vibration damping". Now that can mean a lot of things - vibration from the camera, vibration from wind, vibration from the ground, and no doubt a host of others. Wood tripods being relatively cheap, I ordered a pair of Ries tripods off eBay - the humorously named "Backpack" tripod (looks like a J600), and an old surveyor tripod (looks like a J100-2). Testing was with a seismometer and a 400mm lens with IBIS turned off on a Fuji X-H1. The big wooden tripod isn't here yet, but I can tell you how the little Ries did.

The other tripods were an RRS TFC-14 (2 lbs) and a Gitzo 3543XLS (5 lbs). Head was an RRS B-55. All pictures were 20 second exposures using a 10 stop filter. Pictures were with No disturbance, Tapping the leg with a pencil, and Tapping the lens with a pencil, and walking around. Only the walking disturbances were noticeable in each case.

Quick summary: Getting an undisturbed picture was easier with the big Gitzo. The RRS and Ries were more flexible, and so more pictures showed minor motion blur. BUT when walking around, the Ries did Better then the Gitzo, and MUCH better than the little RRS. Is it mass? wood? I dunno. Tests will continue.

Undisturbed (from Gitzo)


Ries disturbed:


Gitzo disturbed:


Tiny RRS disturbed:




And yes, the window couldn't get out of the way. I took short exposure baseline photos, and they were quite sharp. No doubt contrast suffered.

Disclaimer: I am not Jim Kasson!
 
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MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
Further tests show that adding 4 lbs of weight to the Gitzo didn't make any difference, but helped the Ries a lot.

And FURTHER tests show that I haven't shown anything except that 20 second exposures with a 400mm lens on a wooden floor of an apartment building over a subway line are probably a bad idea.

My suspicion, because it's true in so many other fields, is that photographers learn to get the best out of whatever they're using. If you take someone who has used system X for years and hand them system Y, they will probably find the results from X superior.

Sigh...

Oh, and the seismometer (iPhone app) showed that vibrations induced by hitting the tripod decayed more slowly and at lower frequency with the Ries than with the bigger Gitzo. Photos are the final arbiter, so I skipped this detail above.
 
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dj may

Well-known member
@MGrayson , I agree with your assessment that the result, the photo, is all that matters. Lab tests and specs may be interesting, however, they are not very useful for real-world application. I bought a new cello bow a few years ago. There is a lot written about how different materials should be better because of the speed with which vibrations are transferred, such as carbon fiber or pernambuco. I tested about 8 bows with my cello and one was noticeably better. It was pernambuco, just like the other three finalists. Incidentally, it cost far more than a big carbon fiber tripod.

As you know, I have been using a wood tripod for over 15 years. If I were to get another, it would probably be your Gitzo model. Thank you for the evaluation.
 
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MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
@MGrayson , I agree with your assessment that the result, the photo, is all that matters. Lab tests and specs may be interesting, however, they are not very useful for real-world application. I bought a new cello bow a few years ago. There is a lot written about how different materials should be better because of the speed with which vibrations are transferred, such as carbon fiber or pernambuco. I tested about 8 bows with my cello and one was noticeably better. It was pernambuco, just like the other three finalists. Incidentally, it cost far more than a big carbon fiber tripod.

As you know, I have been using a wood tripod for over 15 years. If I were to get another, it would probably be your Gitzo model. Thank you for the evaluation.
I know cello bows. 😱
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
Now about tripod heads (the Ries came with something large, industrial, and obviously meant for a 4x5 or larger) - I've never been a fan of ball heads. I value level. The Arca Cube has been my heavy-weight go to since forever. To my surprise, I find (thecentercolumn.com again) that ball heads are a good deal stiffer than the geared or pan/tilt heads. There is an outlier - the Acratech panoramic head, which is stiffer than anything else, but that's because it only tilts one way. It requires a leveling base to be a fully functional tripod head (or a lot of time leveling the tripod).

My question (not yet addressed by the above mentioned website) is: How much does a leveling base decrease stiffness? Does it matter if it's the "replace the top plate" kind (Gitzo, RRS) or the "sit on the top plate" kind like Acratech's own?
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
Tripod Head Tests

Disclaimer: I use the word "stiffness" when I should be talking about damping. A very stiff spring can vibrate forever. I'm measuring how fast the vibrations damp down.

Some interestin seismometer results. I mounted the Fuji X-H1 with 100-400 zoom for rotational inertia. The sturdiest support I had on hand was a Gitzo 3 series with no legs extended. To make sure I wasn't just measuring the tripod, I tried a BH-30, BH-55, and a Cube. If the two RRS heads measured the same, I'd know that THEY weren't the limiting factor. In each case, I recorded there wiggly line after hitting the lens, downloaded the data, computed RMS and fit the exponential decay. The decay rates were amazingly consistent for each head. When hitting from the side, the Cube and BH-55 both showed decay rates of 3.3 to 3.5, or about a damping factor of ~3000x per second. The BH-30 had a decay rate of 1.78, a reduction of less than 100x per second! So we're not just getting the tripod.

I'll spare you all the data, but this is a typical plot of Log(RMS) over time:

Untitled by Matthew Grayson, on Flickr

Here's the strange bit. The Cube was slightly stiffer. This puzzled me, as thecentercolumn showed the BH-55 as much stiffer than the Cube. Then I tried hitting the top of the lens. The gears in the cube control up and down motions, not rotational about the vertical axis. And indeed! The Cube came in at 2.25 and the BH-55 at over 4! (Thats 10,000x per second damping) So in the first "hit the lens on the side" test, I was seeing the best of the Cube and the worst of the BH-55 (rotation about the vertical post, I suppose). Vertically it was the other way, and the total score would put the BH-55 ahead of the Cube.

I'm still curious about what happens when the Acratech is mounted on a leveling base. Unlike the geared Arca L60 and L75, the Acratech leveling base is a ball design, and so "should" be better. We'll see!
 
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Shashin

Well-known member
Matt, that is really interesting. I guess my only question is how real-world hitting a tripod is? For example, wind is more like fluid dynamics than classic Newtonian physics. Wobbly floors would be creating momentum in the tripod as it shifts. But I am really enjoying your posts (no pun intended).
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
Will,
I agree about tripods. That's why I only judge them by images from mounted cameras. But measuring the properties of a tripod HEAD sounds like a candidate for lab equipment (i.e., an iPhone). Come to think of it I'm not really measuring stiffness, that would be the frequency of the vibrations, but the damping effect of any induced vibration. (Previous post edited). WHATEVER happens to the head, you want it to be thousands of times smaller very quickly. I dunno. I'm just messing around. I could, of course, look at the frequency of the oscillations. It's in the data. Another time.
 

jng

Well-known member
Tripod Head Tests

Disclaimer: I use the word "stiffness" when I should be talking about damping. A very stiff spring can vibrate forever. I'm measuring how fast the vibrations damp down.

Some interestin seismometer results. I mounted the Fuji X-H1 with 100-400 zoom for rotational inertia. The sturdiest support I had on hand was a Gitzo 3 series with no legs extended. To make sure I wasn't just measuring the tripod, I tried a BH-30, BH-55, and a Cube. If the two RRS heads measured the same, I'd know that THEY weren't the limiting factor. In each case, I recorded there wiggly line after hitting the lens, downloaded the data, computed RMS and fit the exponential decay. The decay rates were amazingly consistent for each head. When hitting from the side, the Cube and BH-55 both showed decay rates of 3.3 to 3.5, or about a damping factor of ~3000x per second. The BH-30 had a decay rate of 1.78, a reduction of less than 100x per second! So we're not just getting the tripod.

I'll spare you all the data, but this is a typical plot of Log(RMS) over time:

Untitled by Matthew Grayson, on Flickr

Here's the strange bit. The Cube was slightly stiffer. This puzzled me, as thecentercolumn showed the BH-55 as much stiffer than the Cube. Then I tried hitting the top of the lens. The gears in the cube control up and down motions, not rotational about the vertical axis. And indeed! The Cube came in at 2.25 and the BH-55 at over 4! (Thats 10,000x per second damping) So in the first "hit the lens on the side" test, I was seeing the best of the Cube and the worst of the BH-55 (rotation about the vertical post, I suppose). Vertically it was the other way, and the total score would put the BH-55 ahead of the Cube.

I'm still curious about what happens when the Acratech is mounted on a leveling base. Unlike the geared Arca L60 and L75, the Acratech leveling base is a ball design, and so "should" be better. We'll see!
Hi Matt,

Thanks for sharing the results of your analysis. Quick question: in the vertical test on the Cube, did you find the decay to be dependent on how tight or loose the friction was set on the adjustment wheels?

John
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
Hi Matt,

Thanks for sharing the results of your analysis. Quick question: in the vertical test on the Cube, did you find the decay to be dependent on how tight or loose the friction was set on the adjustment wheels?

John
John,
That is an excellent question, and no I did not. It has been so long since I adjusted those that I forgot they existed! I'll do the test now.

Well! Keep repeating experiments and who knows what you'll get? I set everything up again. Here's the BH55. Everything is computed with 1/8 second windows or 10 data points. The plateaus in the Log RMS are because those windows contain the big kick. Once past that, we see the real decay. Slopes of the decay are then computed and plotted below. Because of noise and windowing, the real decay rates

Untitled by Matthew Grayson, on Flickr

Here's the Cube with the tension knobs all the way loose:

Untitled by Matthew Grayson, on Flickr

What's going on? The maximum decay rates are fine, but there's a bounce. That occurs around the tripod's decay rate (computed off-screen).

Compare that with the tension set as tight as I could force it.

by Matthew Grayson, on Flickr

Now we see that no weirdness, and the RMS decays smoothly to its floor. The peaks (well, troughs, since the slope is negative) are also bigger.

So what happened to the BH55 vs. Cube? I suspect that it really matters how much you tighten all the little panning knobs and how hard you screw the head onto the tripod. And the lens to foot ring and.... Sigh. I'll have to do this several times to get good error bars.

Yep. I tightened the various knobs on the BH55 (which was still on the tripod with camera and lens in the same position, so ALL that changed was knob tightening. The tripod damping rate and the noise floor itself are both evident (I'mm guessing that's the flattening and eventually bottoming out of the Log RMS curve and the resulting lessening of the decay rate. The peaks, though, are much better.

Untitled by Matthew Grayson, on Flickr

Which begs the question (yes, I know that's not what begging the question "really" means, but I'm a descriptivist, so I'm using it the way everyone does) What did thecentercolumn guys do when they tested head stiffness (I'll check their website), and how much did they crank on the knobs? It appears to matter!

The answer is that they measure frequency (actual stiffness) and not damping rate. Why am I focusing on damping rate? I have a piano where a note will sound for a VERY long time. I don't want a system where small vibrations may oscillate quickly (and are therefore smaller in the first place), but which don't go away. In a long exposure, which is more important? I dunno. I'll go look at my frequencies, but not in THIS post. It's long enough.

:eek:

Matt
 
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Shashin

Well-known member
Why am I focusing on damping rate? I have a piano where a note will sound for a VERY long time. I don't want a system where small vibrations may oscillate quickly (and are therefore smaller in the first place), but which don't go away. In a long exposure, which is more important? I dunno. I'll go look at my frequencies...
What is your target criteria? A 400mm lens on a APS-C camera is very different from a 30mm on an MFD one. Vibration is easy to measure, but how are you going to corelate that to image sharpness? Just curious how you would model that.
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
In order to measure frequencies, I needed more moment of inertia. Behold!

Untitled by Matthew Grayson, on Flickr

Yes, that's a BH-40 on one end and a L60 on the other - comparable weights.

This gave oscillations slow enough that I could measure their frequencies. Yes, the BH55 is stiffer than the Cube, and there is a minor difference between tight and loose knobs on the Cube. when I used no head, the frequency was too high to measure (stiff tripod with no leg extensions FTW!), so I attribute everything to the heads themselves.

I still think damping is important and under appreciated. 👿

Matt
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
What is your target criteria? A 400mm lens on a APS-C camera is very different from a 30mm on an MFD one. Vibration is easy to measure, but how are you going to corelate that to image sharpness? Just curious how you would model that.
Oh, I make no claims as to what matters in the field. Photography is a mechanical art as well as an aesthetic one. (See, e.g., musical instruments). This is like measuring the decay of piano strings. Interesting, but what matters is how the pianist uses them. I mean, we can calculate the expected blur size, but I'd look at what good photographers actually DO. Those who use wooden tripods have obviously learned how to use them! John, unless I am much mistaken, uses long lenses, long exposures, and a cube to stunning effect.

I'm just having fun!

Matt
 
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Ed Hurst

Well-known member
After using a Cube for many years, during which time its performance radically diminished, I have recently replaced it with a FLM CB-58FTRii ballhead. Obviously I lose the convenience of gears but it's just soooooooooooo steady in my not very scientific experience.
 
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