Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Tripod for full size dslr and big lens
Display Avatars Sort By:
Ultra Magnus
(Ultra_Magnus) - F
Tripod for full size dslr and big lens on 04/22/2011 12:57:29 MDT Print View

I did a bit of searching, but didn't see what I was looking for.

What's a good sturdy tripod for a fill size dslr (vertical grip)and a big lens (70-200 2.8), that's not a boat anchor, packs down small-ish to easily lash to the back of my pack, and doesn't cost a fortune? Whenever I get looking at tripods on B&H I get overwhelmed pretty quickly. The selection is enormous, and it's difficult to see why one is better than another.

I think I'd want to go with a ball head. Seems like it'd be easier to make sure the camera is level. Right now I only have a cheapie pan head tripod, and to get it level I have to play around with the legs individually, and readjust every time I go form landscape to portrait orientation.


Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Tripod for full size dslr and big lens on 04/22/2011 13:33:05 MDT Print View

Your question is a bit like asking what kind of automobile to purchase.

We don't know what kind of shooting you do. Some types of heads are appropriate for special purposes. Your question starts about tripods, yet your question about heads may be larger. Tripods and heads do not have to be purchased together as a unit.

I consider 200mm to be a short lens, although f2.8 makes it heavy.

I use carbon fiber legs for the tallest tripods that support the largest lenses. It is here that the weight savings (compared to metal) is most pronounced. I use a ball head only with my shortest and lightest lenses, and I use a gimbal head for the longest and heaviest lenses. With the longest lenses, I need the tallest tripod.

I have several inexpensive aluminum tripods that all use the same style of QR, so I have that style of QR on all of my camera bodies and short lenses. All of these have a pan/tilt head that will flop over 90 degrees, so there is no need to readjust legs individually every time the orientation changes.

If the tripod selection at B&H is too wide, then I suggest that you do not buy any. I suggest that you go to a local camera store and put your hands on some of the tripods in stock.


Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Tripod for full size dslr and big lens on 04/22/2011 16:33:00 MDT Print View

Check out Really Right Stuff,

Email/call them with your needs and they will guide you to the "right stuff".

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Re: Tripod for full size dslr and big lens on 04/22/2011 17:10:23 MDT Print View

Well, if you are not sure you need one, you probably do not. Under most circumstances, a full on 200x doesn't really require one. Just remember to tuck in your elbows, hold your breath and squeeze slowly. Mostly, you can get anything up to 350-400 with few problems with any sort of real light. It does take a bit of practice to get shadowy shots, or decent night pictures, though...even with a tripod. My wife really liked the Manfroto when we got ours a few years back. The ball head is near it's limit with the lenses we have. Graphite construction means the tripod is faily shock resistant. A sling with some rope helps some to hold things steady. Put your foot on it to hold it down, or, add weight bags...a dry bag turned inside out with some rocks and sand in it. I believe it is a Manfrotto 055M73, but we got it several years ago. Along with it we got a ball head, a Manfroto 3437 Magnesium. We got it locally at the Lab of Ornithology at Cornell. I think I would hold off on the tripod till I got a larger lens. There are other alternatives.

A simple staff, with a 1/4" bolt works well as a monopod. This helps to steady the camera. Also,
leaning against a tree helps a lot. A lot like shooting a rifle at a 500 yard target. I would suggest a 2x extender tube also. For most lenses now days, you won't notice much chromatic distortion unless you really blow up the picture, easily fixed in photoshop. Usually fine for for household pictures. Not real great for wall mounted portraits, though. The difference between weight for an additional, larger zoom, or the extender is worth it 90% of the time.

Anyway, my 2 cents...

Ultra Magnus
(Ultra_Magnus) - F
tripod on 04/24/2011 13:10:07 MDT Print View

Thanks for the replies. I would normally be shooting landscapes with a wide angle lens, but I don't want to get a tripod that just sturdy enough for the short lens, and then have it not be able to hold up a bigger one w/o tipping. That'd be a waste of money, imo.

I'm trying to keep my cost under $200, which really limits the selection. Right now I stuck this one in my B&H wish list - It's a bit hefty, at 4.1lbs, but collapses down pretty small... The legs are really adjustable for getting down low to ground, and still gets pretty tall fully extended. I weighed my camera, worst case scenario, long lens, flash, and battery grip, and it was about 6lbs, and that tripod can hold up to 13lbs, which leaves room in the case I get a bigger lens...


Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: tripod on 04/24/2011 14:07:22 MDT Print View

No free lunch. It really comes down to how much the photos mean to you. Hanging a $1000 camera on a $100 tripod doesn't add up, unless it does the job. Neither does hauling all that stuff to a remote point and having it deliver poorly or not at all.

The whole idea of a tripod is stability: it will hold the camera steady or not. There are some really nice carbon fiber rigs out there, but they aren't cheap. None have struck me as being light in a SUL way, just lighter than other tripods. Getting a light head that stays put is every much the challenge as getting a light and rigid leg set.

My measure of a light tripod: set it up and grab the camera mount and try to twist the legs. Cheap tripods will flex and bend. I find this a far better measure than the weight it can hold-- what criteria are used for weights anyway? There are no standards. Longer lenses need good locking properties in the head as they have more leverage. Likewise, a real test of a ball head is how much drift it has when tightened down-- you loosen it to aim the lens and it may drop a bit when you tighten it and let the full weight comes down on the mount. Of course longer lenses are going to show more camera movement too, which is magnified right along with the image. Having some sort of way to tie on a rock or water bag (or even your pack) can help lock down a light tripod. IMHO, if you aren't using a remote release, you wasted half the effort with the tripod. Get one and use it.

The best 35mm/DSLR tripod I know for the money is a Tiltall ST101. It is 6lbs, which I think is too much for general hiking, but it is stable, strong and simple. Note the head is integral and so included.

When you get down to it, the criteria are just like any other lightweight gear: simplicity, multi-use, performance design and materials.... and compromise.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Re: tripod on 04/24/2011 18:55:00 MDT Print View

"My measure of a light tripod: set it up and grab the camera mount and try to twist the legs. Cheap tripods will flex and bend. I find this a far better measure than the weight it can hold-- what criteria are used for weights anyway? There are no standards. Longer lenses need good locking properties in the head as they have more leverage. Likewise, a real test of a ball head is how much drift it has when tightened down-- you loosen it to aim the lens and it may drop a bit when you tighten it and let the full weight comes down on the mount. Of course longer lenses are going to show more camera movement too, which is magnified right along with the image."

Yeah, I agree with these comments. Even though the ball head is rated well beyond the camera/lens weight, the fine adjustments can get a bit tricky, which is why I say it is near the limit...not really the strength limit. Zoomed out to 600mm it drifts about a 1/8 frame. I feel the same about the remote release. Less than 400mm or so, you can do without. Above 500mm, you really want one. Some of the bigger lenses mount on the lens. This will releive a lot of drift, but as Dale says, drift is more a measure of firmness, not strength. Vibration from the shutter can cause some blurring with big lenses, but less than 750mm or so it isn't usually a problem.

carl becker
(carlbecker) - F

Locale: Northern Virginia
Re: Tripod for full size dslr and big lens on 04/25/2011 06:12:06 MDT Print View

I have purchased a few tripods, starting cheap and heavy, left at home because of that. You might want to read section on tripods. I did not before I started buying tripods. I currently own three. One for hiking, one for travel and one for big glass. All are carbon Gitzo, all purchased used and all with a ballhead. The lightest with ballhead is 20 ounces and short. I hate to add another 4 ounces but a L bracket for a DSLR is a great tool adding stability on a tripod. IMHO you will get what you pay for and a good tripod last a lifetime. A light one will go with you more often and a stable one will help with sharp images.

Ken Bennett
(ken_bennett) - F

Locale: southeastern usa
Re: Tripod for full size dslr and big lens on 04/25/2011 12:41:27 MDT Print View

Unfortunately, out of "sturdy, light and cheap," you can generally have only two. Sometimes only one....

In my personal humble opinion, the best bargain for a light travel tripod that will hold up a 200/2.8 is the Feisol traveler, available here:

The 3441-S weighs a kilo, folds to 43 cm, opens to 128 cm without the center column and 178 with, and costs $300. The 3441-T is 16cm taller without the center column raised, which is better for taller photographers. Either will fit in a carry-on bag on an airplane, and either should easily support a 200mm lens with the proper ball head.

The same company sells the Korean made Photo Clam ball heads. I have not tried one, but the reviews online are generally positive. I am planning to purchase the 33mm or 36mm ball head for my travel tripod. They run less than $200.

To solve the problem you are having with the horizontal-vertical transition, an L-plate for your camera is very useful. You can get one from Really Right Stuff. Also, if you are going to work on a tripod, you can safely remove the battery grip. It adds one more screw-connection that can flex, and it's not all that useful on a tripod anyway.

These prices are not all that bad for good photographic equipment. My main "work" tripod cost well north of $1500 with the head and the proper camera and lens plates, but then I use it every day and it was deductible. The article on the bythom website does a very good job of explaining the benefits of buying your last tripod first. (And I am a poster child for the long line of mediocre tripods and heads purchased over a twenty year period before finally buying a good tripod.)

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Gorillapod? on 04/25/2011 17:02:35 MDT Print View

FWIW, I have a GorillaPod SLR-zoom rated for 3kg that I have used with great success with a Nikon D300s and 150mm f2.8 macro and 135mm f2 lenses (~2.5kg total). Requires some outside-the-box thinking when setting up the shot. But if I am hiking into the mountains carrying a dslr, this is my tripod of choice. Their Focus model is rated for 5kg.

Edited by rmjapan on 04/25/2011 17:43:04 MDT.

Derek Kind
Horusbennu on 04/26/2011 13:01:33 MDT Print View

I'm in the same boat as you, looking for a sturdier tripod without a huge weight gain.

I came across a Korean brand called Horusbennu that makes sub-$200 carbon tripods. I'm thinking of pulling the trigger on one. The only place you can get them seems to be from ebay, where there are a handful of Korean sellers. I'm looking at this one:

This is one combination, it comes in at about 3.5 lb. There's other options, both for the legs and the ballhead. The C-2540T is a slightly more compact version of the C-2540, doesn't convert into a monopod.

Normally I'd worry greatly about the quality of the brand, but if you google Horusbennu you'll see a few people who have taken the plunge and are very impressed with the quality of the tripods. It seems to be as cheap as a good carbon tripod can be found. You may or may not want to take the risk, I just thought I'd mention it. :)

Daniel Fosse
(magillagorilla) - F

Locale: Southwest Ohio
Technique on 04/27/2011 13:48:22 MDT Print View

I use some cheap tripods and I do a lot of improvising. I have done a lot of long exposures by running the camera remotely. If I think by handling the camera I will cause movement I'll use my IR remote shutter release. My camera also has a mirror up setting as to aviod mirror slap. I've done some long exposures trying to catch lightening with some ok results. I would do the same thing with a big 400mm+ lens and have done this with my 300mm. Leaning a monopod against trees/rocks and securing with rocks or cord is something I have done as well.

........ but what do I know, I'm kinda out of my league here............ if you need help with SQL or Excel I'm yer guy.

Derek Kind
IR Remotes on 04/27/2011 16:25:26 MDT Print View

That tip about IR Remotes for the camera can not be underestimated, for those who haven't considered it. You can get very cheap Chinese-made remotes for Pentax DSLRs on ebay or similar sources, and I'm sure it's the same for other brands. It's so much better than using the 10sec timer...

If you're in calm weather the stability of the tripod is obviously less important, but if you're planning a trip to somewhere windy, the game changes. On my trip to Iceland the combination of a lightweight tripod and lack of a remote were extremely unfortunate in hindsight.

Rakesh Malik

Locale: Cascadia
Re: IR Remotes on 04/30/2011 08:20:04 MDT Print View

I'd second the recommendation for Feisol. I've been using a Feisol traveller tripod for my 4x5 with considerable success.

Derek Kind
Horus Bennu on 05/02/2011 14:52:04 MDT Print View

I just want to supplement my previous post about the Korean brand Horus Bennu that is found on ebay. Mine arrived today (fast FedEx shipping). I hope the ball head I ordered from the same place arrives soon afterward.

My first impressions:

It's the C-2540T model, which compacts smaller than the C-2540 because the legs turn all the way upwards - when packed, the legs surround the head, so there's no extra length added by the head.

It's legit - it arrived and it's a real carbon fiber tripod, it seems to be very good quality.

The leg-extension locks are quick and easy to unlock/lock.

The tripod (not including the ball head) weighs 2.53 lbs / 1150g

The included carrying bag weighs 10.7oz / 304g.

Dimensions of the tripod when compacted: 17.5" x 4". The ball head will add a little bit of bulk to that, depending on how big it is.

Can't wait to try it out on the trail! :)

Ismail Faruqi
(ismailfaruqi) - F
Even lighter on 05/29/2011 20:42:31 MDT Print View

Both of Feisol CT-3441S and Horusbennu C-2540T mentioned above weigh 1kg...

I found a 200gr alternative, namely Benro 0681 M8... it weighs about 836gr, or perhaps about 780gr with short column...

same weight with them but I suspect legs are thinner (22mm).

Not a problem if you use small cameras or medium lenses but if a big gun is used say 400mm f4.5 you'll definitely want bigger legs of feisol...

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Tripod for full size dslr and big lens on 05/30/2011 07:58:02 MDT Print View

I found a DLC STX Pro 62 for $79 in a local camera store. It has a 65" maximum height, a ball head and weighs 3lb 1.6oz. I was impressed with the fit and finish. The STX Pro 52 has a 55" height with a handled head and is 2.5lbs. The street price was also $79.

Paul Bates
(pjbates3) - F

Locale: Southeast
Pedco Ultrapod II w/Joby Ballhead on 05/31/2011 06:22:21 MDT Print View

I've been using a Nikon D90 with an 18-200mm zoom lens so I don't know if you consider that a big lens but it's fairly large for me. Not sure if you've checked out these couple of things but I've been using them together and they're pretty light:

Pedco Ultrapod II

Joby Ballhead SLR-Zoom

Haven't weighed separate yet but weighed together the tripod, ballhead, and ballhead mount weigh 9.3 ounces. The tripod doesn't telescope but it's been pretty stable and they say you can attach it to trees but I haven't tried that one yet.

Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
tripod and level on 06/01/2011 09:38:56 MDT Print View

Here are some carbon fiber tripods that don't break the bank:

While at that site check out the hot shoe (Bubble Spirit) levels, or google "hot shoe camera levels". These are easy ways to help keep your camera level on a ball head.

Note: High end ball heads have two tightening knobs (not including the panning or swiveling knob) They make it easier for the ball to be moved while offering resistance. It keeps the ball from flopping around.