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JohnGG
12th May 2008, 10:45 PM
I spent a few interesting but frustrating and character-building hours this weekend trying to do some high magnification macro work. I hesitate to blame my tools but I think my tripod was the main reason for my difficulties. I use a Benbo Trekker along with a Slik 8485T ball head but the ball head doesn't cope at all well with the weight of an E-3, OM 65-116mm extension tube, OM macro lens and a focussing rail. I would also like to experiment with adding an OM T-series macro flash but that would be like introducing a straw bale to the camel's back :)

An added difficulty is that the Trekker is getting rather elderly and arthritic, making adjustment of the legs and column rather jerky and imprecise. With that in mind I am researching what to replace it and the Slik with. I would like a sturdy tripod and head that have the ability to work close to the ground and cope with the considerable weight of a macro equipage.

The Manfrotto 055XPROB looks like it might fit the bill for a tripod with it's swing-to-horizontal centre column but I don't know if there are any ball heads that can cope with the weight and, particularly, the leverage exerted when you wind a heavy focussing rail out towards the subject. Perhaps I should consider a three-way or a geared head but the latter seem to be very expensive, although they might offer the finest control. I would be grateful for any advice on this that members can offer or experiences they can share. I am used to ball heads but is there a strong enough one out there to do the job, and am I perhaps barking up the wrong tree with the Manfrotto :confused:

Cheers,

JohnGG

David M
12th May 2008, 11:26 PM
There's plenty of ball heads capable of supporting the set up you describe. Some of the better ball heads are rated to support up to 90lbs and lock down without shifting but non of them are cheap.

I only use ball heads but I'd suggest you consider a three way pan/tilt head for your application.

glenachulish
13th May 2008, 05:53 AM
I'm just in the process of replacing my tripod and ballhead. In my research it seems that most professional macro / landscape photographers use ball heads, so I've stuck with that. One of the main problems with any setup is the mounting system used to connect the camera to the quick release plate of the tripod. Really Right Stuff (http://www.reallyrightstuff.com) , Acratech (http://acratech.net/)and Kirk are respected manufacturers. As for ball heads, I've gone with a RRS BH54, their top of the line. Expensive, but everyone who has one swears by it and I guess it all evens out over the life of the product. Elsewhere, I've read that when choosing support for your camera you start from the top and work your way down, meaning that the tripod legs aren't as important as the mounting plate and head. The Manfrotto 055 should be fine in this respect - enough mass to support the weight of your camera, macro setup and head.

The Acratech system is a fair bit cheaper and gets rave reviews too. Check out Thom Hogan (http://www.bythom.com/support.htm) for an informative overview of all this.

Main problem, apart from the cost, is the fact that the best heads (apart from Kirk) need to be ordered from the States.

Hope this helps!

j.baker
13th May 2008, 08:12 AM
I have found a non branded joystick grip tripod head.

When adjusted, with a small allen key, it supports a E510, with 3rd party grip, EC-20 and the Bigma. It will keep its position when when using it at strange angles.

I paid about 35 delivered for mine.

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/PS-4065-Pro-quality-Sports-Grip-Action-Ball-Head_W0QQitemZ300223817235QQihZ020QQcategoryZ3325Q QcmdZViewItemQQ_trksidZp1742.m153.l1262

It was the same tripod/head that I used at the recent Woburn event.

David M
13th May 2008, 08:45 AM
Main problem, apart from the cost, is the fact that the best heads (apart from Kirk) need to be ordered from the States.

Hope this helps!

Actually the Acratech is available in the UK;

http://www.bobrigby.com/

Bob Rigby used to sell the Arca Swiss Monoball heads which is what I use. Robert White stocks them now;

http://www.robertwhite.co.uk/products.asp?PT_ID=326&P=Arca--Swiss

Andrew Riddell
13th May 2008, 10:30 AM
Giottos have a new range (called MTL I think) of aluminium or carbon tripods with a 180 degree swivelling centre column. I saw them at the Birmingham show in February, and they seem to be hitting the shops now. They also have new ball heads.

Andrew

Ian
13th May 2008, 10:40 AM
I have found a non branded joystick grip tripod head.

When adjusted, with a small allen key, it supports a E510, with 3rd party grip, EC-20 and the Bigma. It will keep its position when when using it at strange angles.

I paid about 35 delivered for mine.

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/PS-4065-Pro-quality-Sports-Grip-Action-Ball-Head_W0QQitemZ300223817235QQihZ020QQcategoryZ3325Q QcmdZViewItemQQ_trksidZp1742.m153.l1262

It was the same tripod/head that I used at the recent Woburn event.

Yes, I played with John's set up at Carleon and Woburn and was most impressed. I may invest in one myself...

Ian

PS I'm currently working on a mid-price tripod and heads group test for DPNow.com. I'll post a list of what we're getting in later and I'll welcome any questions.

JohnGG
13th May 2008, 09:01 PM
Thank you, everyone, for the replies and all of the useful information therein :)

I had no idea there were so many different specialised manufacturers and I really hadn't paid any attention to the quick-release plate part of the equation. Thinking about it now, I realise that my current cheapo plate is also causing problems as the camera or rail has a tendency to gradually twist on it's (male) plate as does the female part attached to the Slik head, especially if I try a shot in portrait orientation. I can relate to the reference to loctite in the Thom Hogan overview ;)

The plate I have just relies on the friction between it and the camera for location but I suppose that what is really required is some form of mechanical location, both on the camera side and on the tripod/head side. Does that mean that plates have to be tailored for individual camera bodies in order to be effective?

Thanks again for all of the help *yes


JohnGG

j.baker
13th May 2008, 09:17 PM
Some of the good tripod heads have extra features that stop you from accidently releasing the quick release plate.

Some also have features that tighten up to restrict movement on the release plate (mine does both)

I am not aware for a specific release plate for a specific camera. Most are universal.

Do not rely on friction only plates as they may come loose. Do a search and you will find some horror stories.

David M
13th May 2008, 09:34 PM
Most of the good ball heads are available with an Arca Swiss compatible quick release clamp.

There's a lot of companies making camera and lens specific quick release plates to fit the A-S clamp.

http://reallyrightstuff.com/home.html

http://www.4gdphoto.com/catalog/

http://acratech.net/miva/merchant.mv?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=AOS&Category_Code=QRP

http://www.kirkphoto.com/

To list a few. I use a mix of RRS, Kirk and Acratech plates.

emirpprime
14th May 2008, 02:14 AM
I think people have covered the advice generally, but just for reference I am having great luck using a Manfrotto 486MG head with the RC4 Medium Format compatible quick release plate. The larger plate helps add stability I find, particularly with longer lenses.
At the moment it is paired with the Gitzo GT2931 legs which are strong and sturdy but still fairly light. I find the G-Locks solid as a rock and time savers in a hurry (not much of a concern for most macro work I guess!).

All the best,
Phil

Ellie
14th May 2008, 10:53 PM
If you like a ball head on your tripod you might like the Gitzo off centre head I've got, or the weightier version. It's expensive, but for I thought it was well worth the lengthy wait while I saved up the pennies and then negotiated a price with a local shop - much cheaper online. I know my camera won't fall off it.

Mine is the smallest, the 12776M, which easily supports the E400 and the 70-300 lens. They say its maximum load is 5kg. There's more about them here http://www.gitzo.com/Jahia/site/gitzo/pid/16876

The quick release plate is small enough to be able to change batteries without removing it. This is the only head I could lock in place and then lean on without it moving. The release plate lock is very well designed, there's no way it can be undone by mistake. The Manfrotto ones I looked at had a tiny locking pin that could get caught in a woolly jumper or a pair of gloves.

It's an incredibly versatile head, you probably wouldn't need the swivelling centre column, which has the risk of being unstable if you're using a heavy lens.

If you've got a good camera shop anywhere near you, why not take your camera and tripod in and ask to try out the various heads they've got? That's what I did, a couple of times, until I was sure I was making the right choice for me. It's also why I was willing to pay a bit more than the online price - because they'd given excellent service.

JohnGG
16th May 2008, 10:24 PM
Thank you David, Phil and Ellie for the further replies :)

I think I will take Ellie's advice and visit a few shops in my lunch breaks next week to have a closer look at some of the tripod contenders, although it doesn't sound like I will find the exotic heads locally. I've been looking at the links I've been given and some of the kit is amazing. The Really Right Stuff, Acratech and Arca Swiss heads are engineering works of art *yes

Cheers,

JohnGG