The first tripod I ever bought was a set of aluminum Velbon Sherpa flip lock legs with a PH-157Q two way head. It was wiggly and finicky but at least I learned a few things from using it.
- The height of your tripod should be proportional to your body height.
- Quick release plates are nice, but not the snap lock kind that fails on you and your camera smashes into the ground, breaking your newly purchased $550 lens!
- Plastic snap locks aren't the best option if you're going to lug your tripod around, they're simply too breakable.
Don't get me wrong, the Velbon is a decent tripod, but it just wasn't for me. For some reason, I struggled with it for five years, then I thought enough was enough and saved up for a Gitzo.
I was first introduced to Gitzo about ten years ago when I visited their booth at the Elmia Foto & Video expo in Jönköping. I was given a thorough walk through of their Systematic line and I was simply amazed. All I ever wanted in a tripod was right there in front of me.
So, in 2012 I did a lot of research on tripods and decided to go with this combo:
Note: the fourth leg section isn't extended in the picture. This thing gets huge!
Extra-long 4-section carbon fiber legs with quarter turn twist locks and exchangeable top plates. With a maximum height of almost 6'7" (keep in mind that the ballhead adds even more height) and a maximum weight capacity of 55 lbs. it is hard to beat. I wouldn't trade it for any other tripod (except maybe a Feisol equivalent with a rotating centre column).
Not a necessary accessory, but it protects the legs and makes them a bit more comfortable to handle and carry around.
Centre columns are wiggly? Well, not this one, it's rock solid. I don't really need the extra height, but I find the column travel really handy.
A maximum load capacity of 50 lbs to match the set of legs, panning base, drag adjustment knob, bubble level, Arca-Swiss style quick release. What more could you want in a ballhead? On a side note, I really like the design of the main knob.
So, what do I like / dislike about this setup? Well, for starters I love the fact that I can set it up for overhead shooting - and I'm 6'5''! I also like the fact that the leg angle has three different settings wich is really handy when you're in rough terrain or want to get low to the ground. All in all an outstanding combination in my opinion, on all counts except one: portability. All put together the Gitzo setup weighs about 10,5 lbs. and folded it measures 34". It's heavy, no doubt about it, and it takes up its fair share of space when traveling. For stationary use though, I find it hard to believe that a better alternative even exists for me personally.
On that note I'll end this post with a sneak peek of my latest tripod purchase, the MeFOTO RoadTrip C1350Q1. It's a little bit smaller. Just a little bit. Keep an eye out for the upcoming review!