Tripod

Lightweight Photography Limitation

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For long exposures in strong winds a sturdy tripod is essential. The size of the camera also matters.
For long exposures in strong winds a sturdy tripod is essential. The size of the camera also matters.

This last weekend was an interesting one as I was back in Northumberland photographing. I didn’t sleep much the night before which is often the case when making an early morning start, however this time it wasn’t the early start causing this; it was the howling wind. All night long the wind continued and well into the next day.

In the morning we sat in the car just before daybreak watching the huge wave’s role in, creating huge plumes of spray from the top of each wave. It was at this point that I realised my lightweight tripod just wasn’t going to support my Canon 5D with filters; at least not without showing signs of vibration. In the end I decided I had to use my old Manfrotto 055 tripod which is much heavier and was in the car as a backup.

Most of the results from the dawn shoot using the Manfrotto were vibration free and very crisp. Later in the day I switched back to my lightweight Velbon tripod which although still windy, t performed very well given I had a large DSLR mounted on it.

The following morning was pretty much a repeat of the day before except the winds were even stronger.  So strong in fact that I struggled to use the Manfrotto tripod with the 5D and ended up trying to shield the camera whilst holding down the tripod. I did manage a few wide angle shots with the smallest of my lenses but I wanted to use a long lens and in the strong wind I couldn’t.

My solution was to switch the 5D for a Panasonic GX1 with 45-200mm lens. This gave the equivalent of a 90-400mm lens on the 5D. Interestingly the smaller profile and weight of the camera allowed it to sit solidly on the Manfrotto tripod. So, although the Lightweight Velbon tripod suffered in the strong winds, so did the 5D and best of all, the lightweight GX1 solved the problem.

Excellent Lightweight Travel Tripod

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This image was taken on a 5D MKII. This is not a light weight camera but the Tripod was the lightest I have used. Read on to find out more.

My recent Light weight photography has been a little unusual in that it has required me to use a tripod. Ordinarily I can get away without a tripod as I can shoot with a wider aperture because of the GX1’s greater depth of field. In fact I recently mentioned that I had trouble slowing the GX1’s shutter speed to blur water motion and ended up buying a 4 stop Neutral Density filter.

Now I’m sure if you have been involved in photography for more than a few months you will have purchased a tripod. I will also push my luck and suggest that the tripod falls into one of two broad categories:

  1. The all in one tripod which is very lightweight, has a head attached that can’t be removed and tends to be cheap. These are the typical first tripods people tend to buy often because they can’t see the value in a more expensive make. They also tend to break easily but before they break they are incredibly frustrating to use. I will refer to these as amateur tripods purely to distinguish them from my description of the next category.
  2. The professional class of tripod will be quite different from the above. It will comprise a separate head and legs for which there are a number of different designs and manufacturers. The head will tend to have a quick release plate for fast attachment or removal of cameras. These tripods are far more sturdy and reliable as well as being easy to use. A good one will last years and will probably set you back quite a bit of money.

Any serious photographer will I’m sure gravitate towards the second professional class of tripod. The only problem is that these seem to be larger tripods that are HEAVY. Sure you can get carbon fibre tripods if you have deep pockets and by the time you have attached a head they are still HEAVY. Worst of all, if you want to travel with your tripod most are too large to fit in your case as well as being too HEAVY.

About a year back I came across a solution to the problems of size and weight that surprised me. The tripod legs were made by Velbon (it’s a Rexi L) and the head is made by Manfrotto (it’s a 3 way pan Magnesium alloy). Paired together these weigh less than most carbon fibre legs. More astonishing still is that the tripod legs are about 30cm when collapsed yet extend to be a full sized tripod – this is also my ideal travel tripod. And did I forget to tell you about the very reasonable price for this kit. I paid less for the legs and head on Amazon than I did for my full sized Manfrotto legs (which aren’t even carbon fibre).

What really surprised me however is that Velbon was the manufacturer. You see they tend to make a lot of tripod that fall in the amateur class but the Rexi L is completely different. This clever size trick is achieved by having multiple section legs which often makes tripods unstable. No so the Rexi L which is very steady and supports my 5D no problem. My friend who also has one of these uses it with his Medium Format kit.

Recently I had cause to use my Manfrotto 055 side by side with the Velbon Rexi and I was shocked to find the Velbon was steadier, easier to use and I preferred it. In the end I left the Manfrotto in the car and just used the Velbon. So if your current tripod is too large or just too heavy take a look at the Velbon Rexi L. The links to Amazon are shown below.
Velbon Ultra Rexi L Travel Tripod

Manfrotto 460MG 3-Way Magnesium Head