Headless Tripod?

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

I'm thinking of going headless for a while with my 8x10" Gowland monorail. The camera rail is cylindrical, so I can level the camera horizontally without a tripod head. Movements on this camera are fairly generous, so I think I can put up with the inconvenience of achieving the equivalent of vertical tripod head tilt with camera movements. Pan I guess I can achieve by rotating the whole tripod or slightly unscrewing the camera as Reis recommends with its non-panning heads.

The advantages should be: more stability, less weight to carry, no concern about damage to the tripod head if I have to check it on a plane (though there are obviously other ways of avoiding this concern).

My questions for the forum are: am I missing something? Has anyone tried this and found it terribly impractical or alternately, terrifically practical?

-- David Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), July 17, 2000


David, I went headless once!! Never again !! The weight of the head compared to the inconvenience of not having one went in favour of the extra few kilos. What head have you got that you consider too heavy ? Maybe a lighter head or ball head may be the answer ?? Regards Paul

-- paul owen (paulowen_2000@yahoo.com), July 17, 2000.


I have used a headless tripod for some time and did not find the adjustments grueling. I use a Reis tripod and found that by adjusting the length of the back legs I could level the camera rather quickly. Eventually I bought the simpler Reis head for tilt and found that helped some. My sole suggestion would be to add a quick on/off tripod release--I use the Linhof to speed up that action. Ron Wisnder suggested it to me years ago. Since I got the Reis a200 for next to nothing, I thought it worth a try before searching out heads. It works. Bob

-- Bob Moulton (bobmargaretm@home.com), July 17, 2000.

Oh my goodness I almost always leave my Ries A100 head at home unless I am literally shooting 20 feet from the car. If your style doesn't often require you to point the camera more than a few degrees up or down there just isn't much need other than convenience and it makes a big difference in weight on a big tripod like the Ries.

-- Erik Ryberg (ryberg@seanet.com), July 17, 2000.

David: I think a lot depends on what you are going to be photographing.If you shoot buildings and some scenics and keep the camera level a lot you will probably get by. I shoot scenics and nature for most of my work and I cannot do without tilt. I also don't want the horizon cutting through the center of my photographs. I usually either go for a high or low horizon. I also like to include the near foreground in many of my shots, so tilt is important. You undoubtedly have a reason for opting not to use a tripod head. For my photography, it is unthinkable. It is just complicating what is a simple setup process.

-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alanet.com), July 17, 2000.

I use a Graphic View 4X5 mounted to a Ries H series tripod - the big one with the 6" plate - and no head at all. This setup could survive a tornado! Since the Graphic View has the swings and tilts built into the camera support, there is no need for a head. I love this setup....it beats any newer 4X5 that I have tried hands down. Since shooting this way it has been very difficult for me to adjust to the much flimsier (?) Cambo that I have mounted to a Bogen 3046 with a 3063 fluid head. I really believe the main difference is in the camera support device though. The GV is just superior in that area to the Cambo.

-- Anthony Ragle (acragle@home.com), July 17, 2000.

Thanks for the initial responses. I'll keep checking in if there are any more.

To answer Paul's question: I'm more interested in stability than weight, though it wouldn't hurt to lose a couple of pounds. My current head is a Bogen 3030 (3-way pan/tilt head, the Gowland 8x10 only weighs about 6.5 lbs plus lens plus filmholder, so I can get away with a somewhat lighter than usual tripod for this format). The 3030 is okay if the lens isn't racked out more than 16 inches or so--more and vibration becomes a potential issue. I am thinking of switching to a video head or a Ries head to cut out one axis of rotation, but before I buy another head, I'm considering seeing how it goes without.

Doug's reason for keeping the head is a valid concern for me. I just set up the camera with a 10" lens--what I might normally use for a scenic with some important foreground detail--and determined that focused at about infinity I can get the equivalent of 15 degrees of downward tilt by dropping the lens all the way and compensating with front and rear tilts. I can get about half that much upward tilt. This is keeping the camera stage level. I could get more by adjusting the legs or even modifying the camera to get more front or rear fall, which would be fairly easy to do without impairing the structure of the camera in any obvious way.

-- David Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), July 18, 2000.

Note to Anthony: I thought I was the only one on the planet that used a Graphic View. I love that old camera. Mine is the Graphic View II with the center tilts. Using the camera base still amounts to using a tripod head though, it's just built in. I built a mount block which I use instead of the Graphic mount at times so I can mount the camera on top of a heavy, gear driven tripod head. Talk about stable! There is no right or wrong way to mount a camera on a tripod as long as it is stable and does what the photographer wants. It just seems easier to me to use a sturdy tripod head. After more than 150 years of photography, designers still haven't come up with the perfect tripod head or lens shade/filter holder. Good shooting.

-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alanet.com), July 18, 2000.

Go out this weekend and try it. Then you will know if it works for you.

You could "dry" shoot if you don't want to use film.

-- Charlie Strack (charlie_strack@sti.com), July 19, 2000.

A headless test shoot is definitely in my plans before I take off for a week in Finland at the end of the month (going for professional/non-photo reasons, but plan to have a bit of time to myself), but the opinions of those who have been doing it for some time have been helpful. It may be that I tend to keep the camera level much of the time because I live in New York City, and it's pretty hard not to take a picture of a building outdoors in New York.

-- David Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), July 19, 2000.

Would the use of a Linhof levelling base be of use in this situation?

-- Wayne DeWitt (wdewitt@snip.net), July 21, 2000.

Hi Headless,

Great Idea. I have been using the 4" bowl in a video tripod for ages. For all types of camera from 35mm to 4x5. Absolutly no problems. Faster and lighter. Just like a ball head to use with out the possibility of the outfit falling over. Much shorter to carry and stow. No knobs to catch on stuff and cars. Downside? Needs a fitting I have developed to enable 90o format shange for 35mm. Not your problem with sheet film or square format either for that matter. I also sugest the use of a quick release. I use the hex plate for its simplicity.

Good luck if you are still looking.

-- Greg Pratt (gregpam@ozemail.com.au), March 04, 2001.

I tried this just today with a Slik 700DX and 9lb Toyo 23G view camera ... worked like a charm! I simply replaced the head and center column with a 3/8" bolt and a pair of fender washers, which cost me less than 60 cents at the local hardware store. I not only made the tripod more stable but lightened it by 2.4 lbs in the process. And in the future, I can return it to its original form in less than five minutes using a 5/8" wrench and a pair of Channelocks.

Fortunately, the Toyo has a quick-release mount, and by aligning it so the rail is in line with the rear leg, I can quickly tilt it as needed by adjusting only one leg. There's enough play in the tripod mount to allow me to easily level the camera left-to-right as well. Straddling the rear leg to compose the image is a bit of a nuisance but since I'm on a fairly tight budget at the moment, I can live with it if it means not having to spend any money for a while.

-- Jeffrey Goggin (audidudi@mindspring.com), March 31, 2002.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ