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The great tripod & head thread!

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop 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.
Ed,
My cube is ancient. It was Jack's *first* cube. OTOH, you probably use a tripod head more in a month than I will in my lifetime, so I can understand why your cube wore out. :cool:
Matt
(That FLM looks great. Too many heads already. Has it ever stopped me? .....)
 

Ed Hurst

Well-known member
It's not just the frequency of use - I subject my gear to hard use! Sand/salt in the gears, as I live by the coast. Hanging huge weights off the head. Making the rig rattle around in the back of the car with my young kids' bikes and various assorted other items. Oh, and I also need the gear to remain absolutely still for a couple of hours while I do star trails. So, in the end, I decided long-term robustness was more important than gears - though I do miss the ease of set-up with the Cube.
 

Abstraction

Active 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
I love that rug. It really ties the room together.
 

Shashin

Well-known member
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
Nothing wrong with having fun, even with something as serious as photography! ;)

I was just wondering where you would be going with this, if you actually had a destination. I have used such a variety of tripods and tripod heads in the field and I have gotten a variety of results out of them--both good and bad from the good and bad. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with them: love them when they hold my camera steady, hate carrying them. I am always erring on light and compact (which has varied so much as to what I think is light and compact (every tripod I have has met that criteria at one time until the criteria is updated)).

Still, what is the point of photography if what we bought was perfect from the get-go?
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
Nothing wrong with having fun, even with something as serious as photography! ;)

I was just wondering where you would be going with this, if you actually had a destination. I have used such a variety of tripods and tripod heads in the field and I have gotten a variety of results out of them--both good and bad from the good and bad. I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with them: love them when they hold my camera steady, hate carrying them. I am always erring on light and compact (which has varied so much as to what I think is light and compact (every tripod I have has met that criteria at one time until the criteria is updated)).

Still, what is the point of photography if what we bought was perfect from the get-go?
Oh yes. I go too light and too compact. And neither will work for MF and long lenses. Even the 180mm is hard to handle. Magnified focusing without IS is an adventure in frustration. I'm now getting a 300mm to go on the S and that will NEED a good set of sticks.

To answer your question - what's the goal - there are a few lenses whose look just makes me happy. The Leica S system has a lot of that. It's a smooth detail - I don't know how better to put it. I've seen that from a few other lenses, some on tech cameras. But the 350 Superachromat has caught my eye and won't let it go. But that's serious money for a completely manual lens (like Leica lenses aren't?), and I need to be sure that I'm willing to put up with the frustrations of using it with its proper equipment. The aforementioned Hasselblad 300 is the modern AF lens that is much cheaper on the used market, and is my trial balloon. Of course, if i like its look (and it *does* autofocus on the S), then I'm done.

The Cube always makes me think of a murder mystery. Those corners are *dangerous*. The solution will be that it was an accident, and that the tripod just fell over on the photog. :LOL:
 
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jng

Well-known member
Ed,
My cube is ancient. It was Jack's *first* cube. OTOH, you probably use a tripod head more in a month than I will in my lifetime, so I can understand why your cube wore out. :cool:
Matt
(That FLM looks great. Too many heads already. Has it ever stopped me? .....)
Hi Matt,

Thanks for repeating the tests. And apologies for sending you back down this rabbit hole (the seemingly bottomless rabbit hole I went down this afternoon was figuring out how to add my wife to the Nest account I had just set up to control our home's newfangled thermostat, but that's off topic...).

If I am reading your data correctly, it seems that once you've tightened things down the BH-55 and Cube show similar rates of decay (damping). True?

Whatever the case, as with any precision instrument, these gizmos need periodic maintenance to keep them working optimally. I'm not too surprised that a beat up Cube might get a little sloppy in terms of holding steady and damping vibrations. A sandstorm in Monument Valley notwithstanding, my otherwise lightly used Cube is still in pretty good shape. I've done OK when using my Cambo/IQ4 150 + 350 Tele-Superachromat on exposures up to 1-2 minutes with automated frame averaging (and sometimes with the APO 1.4XE teleconverter => 490mm). But it takes some attention to detail and I'm not always successful. Whether I'd get good results more consistently with another head, I don't know. However I do know that using a geared head is absolutely essential for me to keep my sanity while framing the shot, so ballheads are simply not an option for me. And when the wind is really blowing even welding the rig to a nearby boulder may not be enough.

John
 

jng

Well-known member
Oh yes. I go too light and too compact. And neither will work for MF and long lenses. Even the 180mm is hard to handle. Magnified focusing without IS is an adventure in frustration. I'm now getting a 300mm to go on the S and that will NEED a good set of sticks.

To answer your question - what's the goal - there are a few lenses whose look just makes me happy. The Leica S system has a lot of that. It's a smooth detail - I don't know how better to put it. I've seen that from a few other lenses, some on tech cameras. But the 350 Superachromat has caught my eye and won't let it go. But that's serious money for a completely manual lens (like Leica lenses aren't?), and I need to be sure that I'm willing to put up with the frustrations of using it with its proper equipment. The aforementioned Hasselblad 300 is the modern AF lens that is much cheaper on the used market, and is my trial balloon. Of course, if i like its look (and it *does* autofocus on the S), then I'm done.

The Cube always makes me think of a murder mystery. Those corners are *dangerous*. The solution will be that it was an accident, and that the tripod just fell over on the photog. :LOL:
Matt, go for the 350 Tele-Superachromat. It rivals the 250 SA as my favorite lens in the kit. That and the SK 120ASPH. Dante will love you for it.
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
Hi Matt,

Thanks for repeating the tests. And apologies for sending you back down this rabbit hole (the seemingly bottomless rabbit hole I went down this afternoon was figuring out how to add my wife to the Nest account I had just set up to control our home's newfangled thermostat, but that's off topic...).

If I am reading your data correctly, it seems that once you've tightened things down the BH-55 and Cube show similar rates of decay (damping). True?

Whatever the case, as with any precision instrument, these gizmos need periodic maintenance to keep them working optimally. I'm not too surprised that a beat up Cube might get a little sloppy in terms of holding steady and damping vibrations. A sandstorm in Monument Valley notwithstanding, my otherwise lightly used Cube is still in pretty good shape. I've done OK when using my Cambo/IQ4 150 + 350 Tele-Superachromat on exposures up to 1-2 minutes with automated frame averaging (and sometimes with the APO 1.4XE teleconverter => 490mm). But it takes some attention to detail and I'm not always successful. Whether I'd get good results more consistently with another head, I don't know. However I do know that using a geared head is absolutely essential for me to keep my sanity while framing the shot, so ballheads are simply not an option for me. And when the wind is really blowing even welding the rig to a nearby boulder may not be enough.

John
John,

It's definitely your fault that I'm thinking 350/5.6. :eek:

Yes, I found similar damping on both heads, and not a *lot* of stiffness difference when everything was tightened down. Both heads need that, btw. I hear you on geared heads and composition - especially at longer focal lengths. When I get the S back and can go outside and do tests by taking actual pictures (gasp!), I'll see what's important.
 
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dj may

Well-known member
[/QUOTE]
Hi Matt,

And when the wind is really blowing even welding the rig to a nearby boulder may not be enough.

John
John,
As I have mentioned before, I have been using a wooden tripod for over 15 years, the last 5 with digital cameras. Also, I use a RRS ballhead. The tripod has an integral leveling ball. Even with Leica S with 180mm lens, I have not had problems with high winds. I photograph in the alps, Iceland, Ireland, etc. in conditions up to where I cannot stand, but have to sit.

I have considered geared head, however, Matt’s test results might delay that choice.

Thanks @MGrayson
 
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MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
John,
As I have mentioned before, I have been using a wooden tripod for over 15 years, the last 5 with digital cameras. Also, I use a RRS ballhead. The tripod has an integral leveling ball. Even with Leica S with 180mm lens, I have not had problems with high winds. I photograph in the alps, Iceland, Ireland, etc. in conditions up to where I cannot stand, but have to sit.

I have considered geared head, however, Matt’s test results might delay that choice.

Thanks @MGrayson
Jesse,

The only takeaway from my tests (so far) is that HOW you set up and use your equipment is more important than WHAT equipment you have (to within obvious limits). My problems with ball heads has always been keeping the horizon level while adjusting. So I've used the Cube, L60, and L75 pretty exclusively. But now the FLM and the Acratech leveler/pan head combination both solve that problem. (Uniqball did it, too, but their fit and finish wasn't up to the RRS/Arca level). I'm not sure if the FLM needs to be leveled first itself, which means either a leveling base or careful tripod adjustment. (Leveling a tripod isn't that hard. Adjust one leg until the bubble is in line with another leg and then adjust that one. Done! Of course, with a lot of camera/lens on top, it's not as easy as turning a knob on a geared head.)

I was going to throw a large wooden tripod (I have a precursor to the Ries J600 - about as small as they get) into the mix, but it arrived too broken to use and I sent it back. I'm not sure whether I'll try for another one. They get to Gitzo 5 series prices. What model do you use?

Matt
 
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dj may

Well-known member
Jesse,

The only takeaway from my tests (so far) is that HOW you set up and use your equipment is more important than WHAT equipment you have (to within obvious limits). My problems with ball heads has always been keeping the horizon level while adjusting. So I've used the Cube, L60, and L75 pretty exclusively. But now the FLM and the Acratech leveler/pan head combination both solve that problem. (Uniqball did it, too, but their fit and finish wasn't up to the RRS/Arca level). I'm not sure if the FLM needs to be leveled first itself, which means either a leveling base or careful tripod adjustment. (Leveling a tripod isn't that hard. Adjust one leg until the bubble is in line with another leg and then adjust that one. Done! Of course, with a lot of camera/lens on top, it's not as easy as turning a knob on a geared head.)

I was going to throw a large wooden tripod (I have a precursor to the Ries J600 - about as small as they get) into the mix, but it arrived too broken to use and I sent it back. I'm not sure whether I'll try for another one. They get to Gitzo 5 series prices. What model do you use?

Matt
Matt, I use a discontinued Berlebach Report 8043. It is similar to the current Report 823.

I have the 50cm center column, however, it usually stays home.
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
One factor that gets well, not ignored, but not enough attention, is the intended application. Will asked me what mine was above. The uses for a tripod I can think of are 1) set up and wait for the light. 2) hold a heavy camera and shoot short exposure or wide angle. 3) shoot long exposure wide angle. 4) shoot very long focal length action. 4) shoot long focal length long exposure. There are no doubt others or finer distinctions. I'm fairly sure that the "best" equipment in each case is different. Not to say that there aren't combinations that would excel in each or all of them, but that if one's use case is only one of the above, then the best choice may be different than the generalist.

Matt "Overthinking as a way of life"
 

dchew

Well-known member
One factor that gets well, not ignored, but not enough attention, is the intended application. Will asked me what mine was above. The uses for a tripod I can think of are 1) set up and wait for the light. 2) hold a heavy camera and shoot short exposure or wide angle. 3) shoot long exposure wide angle. 4) shoot very long focal length action. 4) shoot long focal length long exposure. There are no doubt others or finer distinctions. I'm fairly sure that the "best" equipment in each case is different. Not to say that there aren't combinations that would excel in each or all of them, but that if one's use case is only one of the above, then the best choice may be different than the generalist.

Matt "Overthinking as a way of life"
Hi Matt,
I have been lurking with interest. Thank you for the efforts. I think of tripods as tools used to satisfy one of three needs we may have:
  1. To stabilize equipment in order to maximize detail / minimize blur in some part of the image
  2. To help support equipment / Take the Load Off Fanny
  3. Assist with precise framing
That third one is important because it gets to the heart of the primary advantage of geared heads. It is sort of reflected in your #1. Some don't want or need precise framing, some do.

Dave "Overthinking..."
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
Hi Dave,
The funny thing about precise framing is that, unless the subject is close or you're using a zoom lens, you're severely limited in your control of the edges. This, of course, is at odds with the necessity to "see the whole picture, not the things in it". And yet, when I used a tech camera, I almost never cropped. Now, I make slight perspective corrections in almost every shot - even if it's just trees, and not always to get verticals vertical. So framing becomes less relevant.

Matt "God, I need to get outside with a camera and stop typing!"
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
More interesting (or pointless, you decide!) results.

Heavy Duty Tripod Heads (I did not include the Large Format head that came with the Ries J600) - From back to front,
Arca Cube, RRS BH55, FLM CB-58 FT II, Acratech Paning Head, Acratech Leveling Base, and a special Guest Star, a Novoflex ... nothing.



Also visible is a Gitzo GT5533LS. We're going all in on stability here.

The question that most users ask is "how quickly and/or well can I frame my shot when the slightest movement of the camera causes the image to jump halfway across the screen?" So I chose a target image and timed how long it would take me to frame the shot with each setup. Now I am least familiar with the FLM head - it's complex. Very complex. But with no further excuses...

Head followed by seconds to frame:

Acratech Pan w/Level 28
Cube 31
BH55 40
Acratech Pan 44
FLM 49
Novy 107

So we have three clear ranges.

The Cube and Acratech Pan with Level Base are both fast to level, and, since my Cube doesn't have geared panning, both need panning manipulation by hand. The difference is in the vertical motion, and there the cube is slower, if more accurate. The Acratech moved smoothly enough that I did not have to overshoot many times to get the right height.

The next range has two ballheads and a panning base. The panning base, though, needs leveling, and that can only be done with the tripod legs. The head itself has a very sensitive bubble level, so that isn't very difficult - just time consuming. The ball heads have no separate leveling function, although the FLM has a way of locking tilt to a single axis. The problem is that this has to be the RIGHT axis, and setting that takes some time. That being said, the BH55 and FLM were the only heads to give noticeably non-vertical final images. Very close, but noticeable.

The Novy, of course, could only be done by picking up the tripod and adjusting its leg lengths. This took ... a while. Not recommended. OTOH, it is by far the lightest head in the group. And the stiffest. :p



What does it all mean? Well, until I get the heavier camera for long exposures, and some real-world tests, we have the Cube and the Acra Pan Lvl. The latter, unfortunately, is the least stiff of the group. Only real world tests will show if that matters (for me, anyway). See the following post for data on stiffness.

The Cube, of course, remains quick, accurate, and strong. The FLM might get faster if I practice getting its tilt axis level enough - did I mention that it's complicated?

Now for panoramas, leveling the base only has to be done once, so that may change the calculations significantly. My BH55, for instance, has a panning head, and once it is leveled, you can snap away merrily. The FLM and Acratech have panning bases, and the Cube has both a panning base and a panning head. To do multi row stitching, both the Cube and the Acratech need leveled bases, and that's one place where the Acratech combo excels.

Notably absent: Wimberly...

Until next time,

Matt
 
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Shashin

Well-known member
The FLM might get faster if I practice getting its tilt axis level enough...
I think that is going to be the secret sauce, no matter which head you go with. It is a matter of averages and variance, which both get better with practice. It is also anticipating the shot in order to give time for the process of framing.

I have just taken up target archery. I have a really nice bow. My scores, well, did I mention practice? But I also understand my scores reflect the average and variance of the system, only part of which is the bow.

That does not mean I need a better bow... ;)
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
Resonant Frequency and Stiffness

My first set of numbers were bizarrely inconclusive. Then I realized that what I was measuring was the frequency of my iPhone vibrating on the apparatus. So I fastened it with a special shock absorber (a rubber band) and measured again. The vibrational frequency came from taking an FFT, and the stiffness is a (scaled) square of the frequency, as that's the way second order linear ODE's work. In short, stiffness tells you how much force is required to move the system some fixed amount. Simplifications galore, but these measurements agree pretty well with thecentercolumn's, so I'm not complaining. The Novy is just the Tripod itself, and a Gitzo 5 series with no legs extended is pretttty stiff. (50Hz is my Nyquist frequency, so I can't measure anything faster than that with my primitive equipment.) Now these are one, or at most two data points, so take them accordingly. Oh, the scale on stiffness is to make the numbers sort-of comparable to thecentercolumn's. The frequency is for the vibration of something with a lot more inertia than I think most systems would have. I'll measure with real world stuff later.

Frequency Stiffness
Novy >50 > 62750
FLM 18.4 8452
BH55 15.7 6143
Cube 15.6 6058
Acra Pan 11.2 3164
Acra Pan Lvl 10.1 2541
 
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MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
I think that is going to be the secret sauce, no matter which head you go with. It is a matter of averages and variance, which both get better with practice. It is also anticipating the shot in order to give time for the process of framing.

I have just taken up target archery. I have a really nice bow. My scores, well, did I mention practice? But I also understand my scores reflect the average and variance of the system, only part of which is the bow.

That does not mean I need a better bow... ;)
My first time with the FLM was twice my second time, so you are no doubt correct. I'm not sending it back!

I did target archery in the unlimited category. Compound bow, long stabilizer, telescopic sight, trigger release. Great fun. The people with simple wooden bows amaze me. I have one Robin Hood to my credit (arrow splitting arrow already in bullseye, for you civilians), but that's high tech for you. :cool:
 

Shashin

Well-known member
I did target archery in the unlimited category. Compound bow, long stabilizer, telescopic sight, trigger release. Great fun. The people with simple wooden bows amaze me. I have one Robin Hood to my credit (arrow splitting arrow already in bullseye, for you civilians), but that's high tech for you. :cool:
Compound bows are amazing. Every time I see a tournament in that category, it always comes down to someone making an error--like getting 599 out of 600! (For those not familiar with archery, the bulls eye is a ten and the 600 round is 60 arrows, meaning the archer shot one 9 and 59 tens. (both 9s and 10s are in the gold)

I am shooting (World Archery) barebow--basically a stripped down Olympic Recurve with no sight, stabilizers, or clicker. I got hooked after watching a few European field archery championships. The good news is I have a outdoor public range near where I live. The bad news is COVID, so I have been a bit cautious turning up to tournaments. Still, waiting a bit is probably a good idea--did I mention averages and variance?

Fortunately, I have not had my Robin Hood moment (although I have broken a nock on an arrow in a target). Arrows are expensive and Robin Hoods are just annoying in that regard.

But back to the regular programming...
 

MGrayson

Subscriber and Workshop Member
Compound bows are amazing. Every time I see a tournament in that category, it always comes down to someone making an error--like getting 599 out of 600! (For those not familiar with archery, the bulls eye is a ten and the 600 round is 60 arrows, meaning the archer shot one 9 and 59 tens. (both 9s and 10s are in the gold)

I am shooting (World Archery) barebow--basically a stripped down Olympic Recurve with no sight, stabilizers, or clicker. I got hooked after watching a few European field archery championships. The good news is I have a outdoor public range near where I live. The bad news is COVID, so I have been a bit cautious turning up to tournaments. Still, waiting a bit is probably a good idea--did I mention averages and variance?

Fortunately, I have not had my Robin Hood moment (although I have broken a nock on an arrow in a target). Arrows are expensive and Robin Hoods are just annoying in that regard.

But back to the regular programming...
It's also a lot easier with aluminum arrows. I don't know if it's even possible with carbon... Oh yes, OT indeed!
 
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