Tripod failure : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

After 40 years of shooting pictures with all sizes of cameras with the exception of 11x14 and larger, I had my first tripod failure this morning. After about six sheets of film, I set up again and began to tighten everything down before making another shot. When I tightened the tilt lock on the tripod, it snugged up and then spun freely in the hole. The threads were stripped. I guess the many times of being tightened (and overtightened) finally took their toll. There was no way to keep the camera in position, so I packed up and drove the 30 miles back home. The one thing I have never carried is a spare tripod, simply because I always felt the heavier tripods are indestructable. I recall the story Saint Ansel told about a pack mule dancing on his tripod, but there was no pack mule around this morning. Just goes to show that anything connected with photography will break given enough time and use. Darn!

-- Doug Paramore (, June 13, 2000


Don't mean to be rude, but what is the life expectancy of a heavier tripod? Anyone have an answer?

-- Wil Hinds (, June 13, 2000.

Occassionally you can find Akeley tripods on Ebay. They were made in the silent film days - i.e. pre- 1927. They are still good users. My Ries dates from before 1953 and it works like a champ. I had a Majestic at one point that dated to just after WWII - 1946, according to the date code.

-- Sean yates (, June 13, 2000.

Seeing the mention of the Majestic tripods, I thought I would inform anyone who doesnt already know that Calumet Photographic now stocks the original Majestic tripod and gear head. Apparently the Bencher company has purchased the old patterns and are continuing production. I recently purchased one of the gear heads with a 3/8 tapped mounting hole (they also have the original 1 1/2" post type and others) It is currently mounted on my Berlebach tripod. The head is identical to the one I had twenty years ago, and handles the Deardorff 8x10 without a whimper. Also takes my heavy telescope. I will probably go ahead and get a set of the Majestic legs too, just for old times' sake.

-- Tony Brent (, June 14, 2000.

Seems like you had tripod head failure, not tripod failure. In any case, carrying a spare head with you when on the road is not a bad idea. I usually carry two tripods when I'm in the car (one heavy-duty for close to the car work and one lightweight for extended hiking) and it has paid off at least once (when a tripod was inadvertently left behind!). In your case one can also sometimes remove the offending tripod head and fix the camera directly to the legs. Tilt is taken care of by adjusting the front leg or using camera movements. Regards, ;^D)

-- Doremus Scudder (, June 14, 2000.

All may not be lost Doug. You can get things called "Helicoils" which are like little heavy duty springs with a thread profile inside and out. You bore out and tap the original hole and screw in the correct size Helicoil, securing it with some Loctite. This procedure renews the thread back to the right size, and can actually be stronger than the original. If the stripped hole is easily get-at-able the whole job should only take about 15 mins, so even paying someone to do it, it shouldn't be too expensive.

-- Pete Andrews (, June 14, 2000.

My tripod head is the type that has the large hole on the bottom and fits over the center post of the center bolt in the post. Thanks for the tip about the helicoil. It was just unusual (for me at least) to have a tripod (head) failure.

-- Doug Paramore (, June 14, 2000.


I recently had a similar experience. I lugged all my gear to a large waterfall, and had everything set up on the edge of a precipice (with a protective railing). I noticed that one of the tripod legs was at a most peculiar angle, but managed to hold the camera before it made any attempt to fall. It was a Manfrotto (Bogen) tripod, and the clamp holding one of the leg sections had sheared.

So, like you, I had to drive home without a photo. My mother, who was with me, asked, 'Can't you just hold it?' - not so easy with a monorail.

-- David Nash (, June 14, 2000.

Doug I too came to grief some years back with a Velbon tripod. I was on a cliff top about to take a rather nice seascape with dramatic sky when setting-up the tripod I released one of the leg locks when the complete leg section came off. I did manage to fit it back again but by this time the shot had long gone. When I've been away for more then a days shoot I have packed two tripods in the car. Regards, Trevor.

-- Trevor Crone (, June 14, 2000.

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