While I do a fair amount of still photography, the majority of my client work is shooting video with my DSLR and mirrorless cameras. When buying tripods and heads I need to consider their functionality from both perspectives. As I recently added a camera jib to my video equipment arsenal, I started seriously considering a heavier capacity tripod and head. My current tripods, which are capacity rated to 17.6 lbs. (8.8 Kg), were falling a bit short in terms of providing the degree of stability that I need when shooting video. And, my existing fluid video head wasn’t quite able to provide the stability I needed when using my slider kit loaded with my D800 and a heavy FX lens. I also felt that a taller tripod would allow me to get the most out of my camera jib by capturing higher, more dramatic video scenes.
There are times when virtually every photographer or videographer could make use of a small, lightweight, easy-to-use table top tripod. Like that time you were on holidays and missed that spectacular sunset in fading light. Or, that unique angle shot that would have added a lot of production value to a client video, but your regular gear was too big and bulky to get into the tight spot needed to capture it.
In this review, I will talk about my experience and impressions with using perhaps the finest tripod head I have seen to date, the Arca-Swiss C1 Cube. Targeted specifically at macro, architecture and landscape photographers that need ultra high precision, with the ability to handle large and heavy cameras, the “Cube” is a very specialized, high-end tool. It has been on the market for a few years and went through several changes. The version I tested is the most current model and this particular review is for the Flip-Lock quick release type head – the one that had the most problems (more on this below). As of today, Arca-Swiss manufactures two types of the Cube: one with the the “Flip-Lock” clamp and one with a “Classic” screw-knob clamp, both of which are capable of securely attaching Arca-Swiss compatible plates, rails and other accessories.
This is an in-depth review of the Linhof 3D Micro Leveling Head with dovetail track, a high-end precision geared tripod head specifically designed for handling medium to large format cameras and other specialized rails for macro and architectural photography. Fitted with an Arca-Swiss compatible screw-knob clamp, this specific version is designed to fit any kind of Arca-Swiss plate or rail (there is also another version of the same head, but with a quick-release “Quickfix” adapter that can be mounted directly to a camera).
During the last few weeks, I have been trying to come up with a good solution for testing lenses that did not require constant movement when dealing with slightly de-centered lenses. The idea was to build a setup similar to macro rails, but one that is bigger in size and very stable at the same time. Stability is extremely important, because even a slight vibration can negatively affect lab results. Using an Arca-Swiss quick release setup was a no-brainer, because it allows moving the setup without having to deal with mounting and dismounting anything, while being rock solid when tightly secured. While my BH-55 Pro tripod head from Really Right Stuff has been serving me well for a while now, it was hard to use for minute adjustments that are often necessary when testing lenses. Therefore, I decided to replace it with a geared head that would allow very precise vertical and horizontal tilt adjustments, along with the ability to pan, when needed. My quick search revealed that unlike the army of pan/tilt heads and ballheads, which are made by a myriad of companies, there are only a few options available for geared heads today. One of them is the Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared head, which I am reviewing today.
Chris Hejnar from Hejnar Photo Store is kindly giving a special 10% off discount coupon code for Photography Life readers. So if you want to buy his products at even a better price, please use the coupon code below. As I have pointed out in my Hejnar Photo Accessory Review, their Arca-Swiss compatible products are top notch in terms of quality, easily comparable to Really Right Stuff, Kirk and other top brands in the industry. Plus, Chris makes products right here in the US, so by purchasing from him we are supporting a growing small business (and at PL, we do care about US businesses competing with cheap foreign labor).
To take advantage of this 10% offer, please use the 012ccfcfb1 discount coupon upon checkout. This coupon is good for a year and if we continue supporting Chris, he will be able to extend the offer even more going forward. Please note that Photography Life does not earn any revenue from this offer. We are purely doing this to support a local business.
About 3 weeks ago, I decided to make some changes to my tripod setup in my lens testing lab, in order to make it easier, more consistent and fluid to test lenses. My decision was based on the fact that I found myself moving the tripod a bit too much when testing lenses, especially the de-centered ones (those that do not have a straight optical axis due to a slight dislocation of one or more lens elements). I decided to replace shorter macro focusing rails for much longer and bigger rails, so that I could have more room for side to side movement and more focus bracketing options for testing telephoto lenses. As I was configuring the setup, I realized that I needed to spend close to $2K in a more versatile tripod head and lots of Arca-Swiss rails, clamps and other accessories. The first task was to replace the standard quick release plate of the heavy duty Manfrotto 405 Pro Geared Head (to be reviewed later) with an Arca-Swiss quick release clamp. As usual, I started researching for a proper solution on Google, which pointed me to Hejnar Photo Store on the first page of search, with exactly the product that I was looking for. I then spent another 30-45 minutes researching the solution and read a number of posts on different forums, where people were raving about Hejnar Photo’s products, including the adapter that I needed. This was very important for me, because I needed a setup that would be extremely reliable and stable, especially for handling heavy super telephoto lenses.
Although I have never heard of the company before, I decided to give it a try and purchased the Arca-Swiss adapter and clamp for the Manfrotto 405 tripod head, along with a bunch of other accessories for my custom setup. The pricing was very good, so I wanted to see how Hejnar Photo’s products would compare to the most popular brands like Really Right Stuff. My order was processed on the same day and the package was shipped to me right away without any delays. After a few days, I received everything I ordered and started modifying the Manfrotto 405. After going through the instructions on Hejnar Photos’s website (which are nicely laid out with images), I was able to modify the head in less than 5 minutes. Once everything was put together, I was pleasantly surprised by how solid the setup was. I slid one of the long rails on Hejnar Photo’s tripod clamp and once secured, it was rock solid. No vibrations of any sort – and that’s exactly what I need for testing lenses! Here is the image of one of the configurations:
Many of our readers frequently ask us questions about tripod heads and accessories to support heavy camera and lens combinations. Those that are especially new to super telephoto lenses quickly discover that tripod feet supplied by all manufacturers on modern lenses are simply not suitable to be mounted on regular tripod heads. Unfortunately, whether it is Nikon, Canon, Sony or a third party lens manufacturer like Sigma, they all supply non-standard tripod feet with their lenses. For new lens owners it can be a rather frustrating experience trying to figure out which tripod head would fit their large and heavy lenses, because nobody wants a lens worth thousands of dollars to end up crashing on the ground. And since most tripod plates are only equipped with a single mounting point, it can be extremely unstable and even potentially dangerous to mount anything heavier than a few pounds on them. The solution, which has become somewhat of a standard nowadays, was developed by a company called Arca-Swiss back in 1990s and since then has been popularized as “Arca-Swiss Quick Release System”. The idea behind this quick release system is quite simple, but very effective. Almost all professional photographers that use super telephoto lenses have adopted the Arca-Swiss quick release system and more photographers are converting even their regular cameras to this format for ease of use, stability and compatibility reasons.
1) Arca-Swiss Quick Release
The Arca-Swiss quick release system is based on a two piece mechanism. The first piece, generally referred to as a “plate”, is attached to a camera or a lens (or any other device). It comes in a standard, “arca-style” 35mm wide form with a 45° dovetail and can vary in length (a sample plate is illustrated above to the right of the tripod head). The second piece is the mounting base, generally referred to as a “clamp”, where the plate gets attached and secured. The clamp can be fully opened, allowing the plate to be dropped in and secured, or can be partially opened to allow the plate to be slid into the position. The biggest advantage of the Arca-Swiss quick release system is this ability to slide the plate without having to worry about mounting or dismounting anything. The 45° dovetail on the plate, as pictured below, allows equipment to be moved across the clamp and secured in a specific location using a side knob or a locking release.
This is a review of the Oben CT 2410 4-Section Carbon Fiber Tripod with BA-1 Ball Head. As photographers, a sharp photo usually means a steady camera. Regardless of what you photograph, I think every photographer will eventually need a tripod at some point. Personally, I don’t use a tripod for any of my portrait work, but I have found them to be useful when shooting wedding details inside of a dark reception hall. Additionally, I tend to use a tripod if I’m photographing any products or even occasionally when I’m shooting personal work around the city or in the mountains. Since I don’t use a tripod that often, I prefer a smaller, lighter tripod that’s easy to take with me and doesn’t take up much room. Sometimes the trade off for a small and light tripod is a lack of stability or durability. Would this tripod be able to deliver on both size and performance?
If you need help deciding how to purchase a tripod, consider reading How to Choose and Buy a Tripod.
1) Product Specifications
- 16.75 lb Load Capacity
- 63.9″ Maximum Height
- Extremely Lightweight at 3.2 lb
- Non-Rotating Twist-Lock Legs
- 6x Carbon Fiber Legs and Center Column
- Single-Lever Ball Head
- Dual Lock Mechanism for Quick Release
- Retractable Spikes in Feet
While tripods aren’t glamorous, are a hassle to carry and despite gains in vibration reduction/image stabilization, it is still almost essential to have one in every photographer’s tool bag. When looking to photograph landscapes or wildlife, many times the difference between a nice photo and a great photo can be whether a tripod was used or not. Long exposures and long lenses both benefit from camera stability. So if you haven’t got a tripod and you are looking to improve some of your photos I would suggest you consider adding one. A quick search for a tripod will reveal to you that there’s a wide range of styles and materials with equally wide ranging pricing. So if you are new to this and somewhat confused on what to buy, check out Nasim’s article, How to Choose and Buy a Tripod. With that said, here is a review of a good, affordable carbon fiber tripod and ball head, the Oben CT-2320 with BB-2 ball head kit which has been kindly provided by B&H Photo.
1) Product Specifications
1.1) CT-2320 Tripod:
Load Capacity: 26.4 lb (12Kg)
Maximum Height: 67.2” (170.1 cm)
Maximum Height w/o Column Extended: 57.7” (144.7 cm)
Minimum Height: 12.6” (30.4 cm)
Folded Length: 25.2” (63.5 cm)
Weight: 2.95 lb (1.330 kg)
Material: 6x carbon fiber
Head Attachment Fitting: ¼”–20 & 3/8”–16 (reversible screw)
Leg Stages/Sections: 2/3
Leg Lock Type: Twist lock
Independent Leg Spread: Yes
Spiked/Retractable Feet: Yes/Yes
Center Brace: No
Center Column Type: Rapid
Center Column Sections: 1
Bubble Level: Yes