Tripod and Head Recommendations : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I am purchasing a Canham 5x7 camera after the first of the year and am in need of some help. My problem is this:

I need a tripod and head that will allow me to take my new lightweight camera (6#) into the high country that is nearly impossible with my 8x10. Weight and size are the primary considerations. Cost is a third.

While I have dearly loved the Ries A100 and the double tilt head as a place of reverence for my 8x10, should I go with lightweight carbon fiber (at a high cost), a medium weight and lower cost Manfrotto/Bogen or go another direction. While I do not see it on their website, Ries lists a 21" folded length tripod in an C or H series that may work.

As far as a tripod head, my instincts tell me to stay away from the multiple long handled versions and get a slender ball head that is easy to strap with the tripod on my backpack. Are the quick release options truly reliable and do they save setup time?

Any combinations that you would recommend? Many thanks.

-- Michael (, December 26, 2000



I do a good amount of hiking albiet not entirely in the "high country". I have used both the Ries folding version with the double tilt head and a Gitzo 1349. Believe me, the Ries really does not fold, but rather the legs unscrew into 2 pieces. It packs up into a canvas carrying bag.

With that said, the Gitzo is my tripod of choice. I use it with the double tilt head and a B1 ballhead. The ball head is more compact, but I like the double tilt head much better. I carried this combination through the Canadian Rockies 2 years ago and through Italy for 10 days this past summer.

The QR of the Arca system is highly reliable, well machined, and very quick to set up. I don't think you would go wrong with a Gitzo 1300 series for the 5x7, however a 1200 series might be a wee too lightweight.

Good Luck


-- Michael J. Kravit (, December 26, 2000.


Michael's right on the money here. I can't imagine carrying a 7 or 8 pound set of wooden sticks out into the field when you can get a CF tripod that comes in in the range of 4 1/2 pounds (for the 1325). The Gitzo's are stronger, lighter, and don't have those silly leg locks at the top that the Ries tripods have.

Don't get me wrong, the Ries tripods are a sight to behold, but I would never want to be caught dead with one of those on my back, too heavy!

Michael also points out that the 1200 series tripods may be a bit too light for your 5x7, but they are rated for about the same loading as the C and H tripods you mention in in your query. The 1227 weighs 3 1/4 pounds, under half the weight of the Ries offerings, witha similar maximum weight rating.

One of the biggest problems with lightweight tripods is that the weight of the tripod is important to dampen vibrations... With a lightweight tripod, you have to add weight to the tripod to add stability. That is the reason the CF tripods have the hook on the underside of the center post. You need to get as much weight as possible down in the lower part of the tripod to keep the center of gravity down low, and to provide a dampening mass.

Now, I know that we LF shooters are not concerned about weight as much as we should be, (we'd all be using APS if we were terribly concerned about weight!), but I don't think there's any reason to carry a heavier tripod than is necessary to do the job. If you only shoot short lenses, the 1200 series may be big enough for you (with mass added below, of course), but I would suspect that the 1300 series will be a better approach for the 1 pound extra in weight.

You may want to check Robert White's website for pricing on Gitzo. It's much cheaper in England, and they will ship here for a good price. It'll end up saving you three hundred dollars over NY prices. Of course, the warranty will not be for the US...

I use Arca Swiss style plates from Kirk for my LF gear, and a Kirk ballhead. While I like the arrangement, I wish it were lighter. It's fine for normal dayhikes, etc. but for longer trips, I want to get a smaller, lighter head. One of these days, I'll get up to NYC and go through B&H checking out all their small ballheads. I use a DLC on it with absolutely no problems, and my Phillips 8x10 works very well also. The 7x17 I have (Canham) would probably be a little better served by a Ries-style head or a geared head of some fashion, but I have been able to make the ballhead work without problem even for a camera as large as that. I've used the Ries style heads, tilt-pan heads, and others, but I have gotten the most comfortable with a ballhead. It is one of those personal choices, though.

-- Michael Mutmansky (, December 26, 2000.

I agree completely with the Gitzo 1300 + B1 suggestions above. One caveat is that the camera you mention (and most other for that matter) will weigh more than the tripod & head. Therefore it becomes rather easy to over balance the camera and tip over the whole thing. I used to use a monster Bogan (about 14 lbs) and I could point the camera over a cliff and straight down without worry. Now I must remember to keep the camera very nearly over the tripod's center of gravity or over it goes, especially if it is windy and the dark cloth is hanging on it.

-- John Hennessy (, December 27, 2000.

For several years, I have used the Bogen 410 (Manfrotto 3275, I think) mini geared head with my LF cameras and I absolutely love it. I came from a Bogen pan/tilt head, and while I still have it, I virtually never use it. The geared head (rated to 11 pounds) lets me make small adjustments without having to worry about the looseness of a pan/tilt when you are moving the camera on it. The QR plate on it is sometimes a bit sticky to get released, but it has never been the least bit loose, which is a tradeoff I am quite willing to make.

-- Anthony J. Kohler (, December 28, 2000.

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