wood or aluminum?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have a Tachhara 4X5 but may go to a Deardorf 4X5, or something made a little better. I want to keep a camera that is light so I can carry it around in a bag or pack with all the other equipment. My question is what tripod is best for me, wood or aluminum? I want to be sure it is strong and can support the camera but not so heavy I can't carry it for the day.


-- tim kimbler (starman2@gte.net), May 07, 1998


Response to Tripod

I own both wooden and metal tripods, but by far the tripods that get the most use in the field are my wooden tripods. They are lighter than the metal ones, and will transmit less vibration to the head than metal. Example- I shoot a lot of streams, most of the time the tripod is in the water, moving water. The vibration of the water moving against the legs of the tripod is much less noticible with the wood tripod. Metal legs seem to telegraph the vibration to the head, and the camera. This is very noticible with long exposures, rocks along the stream bed are not as sharp with the metal tripod. I am waiting, however, to try the Carbon Fiber "Mountaineer" tripods from Gitzo. They cost a lot, but are about 2/3 the weight of my favorite wood tripod of the same size.


-- Britt Leckman (bleckman@gmu.edu), May 08, 1998.

Tim, I've been carrying a 4x5 wood field, and related equipment, into remote areas for some time. I have really come to appreciate the need for lightweight tripods. Over the years I've used several makes and models. Some observations:

Wood: I have used a Zone VI lightweight legset, with a Bogen 3047 for nearly 20 years. Wood tripod legs definitely transmit less vibration and movement than metal ones, pound for pound. The Z VI is a bit on the expensive side, but it's extremely stable, rugged and durable. It will last you a lifetime. It is also too long and heavy to carry for any distance, particularly lashed to a pack.

Once I carried it down into Canyon de Chelly, the White House ruins trail, on a hot afternoon. On the way back up that evening, I almost chunked it over a cliff. Definitely not a backpacking tripod. Anything this heavy and long, be it metal or wood, is best used from or near a vehicle.

I've since had a chance to inspect and try out several Ries wood models, specifically the backpacker model. Beautiful workmanship and much lighter than my Z VI. When mine wears out, I'll probably get one. Del's Camera and The F-Stops Here in Santa Barbara, Ca., sell them. They're a bit pricey, but they are gorgeous.

Calumet is also selling a new line of wood legsets, in several different weights and sizes. These look good, and not too expensive.

Metal: Over the years I've used several metal tripods, mostly Bogens. For really lightweight packing, I've gotten away with using a very lightweight 3001 legset, with a 3047, or smaller ball head. With a 4x5 field, one or two lenses, meter, readyload/quickload film packs, and a minimum of accessories, this combination makes for a very light and packable load.

With its three leg sections fully extended, the 3001is not really stable enough for 4x5, particulary in the wind. I only use it with the two, thicker sections extended, and spread out in the intermediate position. If you don't mind working down low, it will save a lot of weight.

For hiking shorter distances, I generally use the Bogen 3021 with the 3047 head. It's quite stable for its weight, though not as stable as the wood legset. For maximum stability, in wind and during long exposures, I also frequently only use the two, thicker leg sections and a wider leg spread/stance. For packing, the 3021 series is a very reasonable compromise, and quite inexpensive.

I also use the Bogen spiked-feet attachments for both these models. They really bite into most surfaces, particulary rock, and add stability. A set of three costs less than $15. and adds very little weight.

The Gitzo carbon legset looks like a real winner, but VERY expensive. But if you want the best and lightest, why not.

Overall, I'd say a good, short, light wood legset beats a metal one of equal weight.

Good luck, Sergio.

-- Sergio Ortega (s.ortega@worldnet.att.net), May 21, 1998.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ