As a landscape and travel photographer, I heavily rely on tripods. After making a number of wrong purchasing decisions early on in my photography career, I realized that a solid tripod and tripod head are very important – sometimes even more important than choosing a camera or a lens. A poor tripod setup can create many headaches and really mess up images, and tripod heads play a big part of that. Many cheap tripod heads sag even after they are tightened. Some can barely hold gear and shake like crazy in wind or when they are touched. Others have poor plates and attachments, making them very frustrating to use in the field. Unfortunately, many of us go through a number of bad tripod heads before realizing that we should have gotten something solid to begin with. For the past seven years, I have been very happy with the Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead. In fact, after using the BH-55 for a few years, I ended up buying a few more ballheads from RRS for other needs such as travel. However, after attending a few trade shows and seeing other options from other companies, I wanted to see if there was something even better than the RRS ballheads that I have come to trust and love. I bumped into FLM at Photo Plus New York last year and after talking to the company, I decided to give their ballheads a try and see how they compare to RRS. Thanks to FLM Canada, I was able to obtain three ballheads to test, the CB-58 FTR, CB-48 FTR and CB-32 F. In this review, I will go over these three ballheads in detail and discuss their pros and cons.
You might have heard of a company called “FLM” before – it is based out of Germany and it is in the business of making pretty solid tripods and tripod heads, competing against such recognizable brand names as Manfrotto, Really Right Stuff, Kirk and Arca-Swiss. While at Photo Plus, we saw a few FLM ballheads on display and we decided to ask Markus Burklin, Director of Production at FLM to showcase their top ballheads for our readers.
Many photographers who want to upgrade their tripod are stuck choosing between high-end aluminum tripods and low-end carbon fiber models. These two types of tripod tend to be similar in price, which makes the decision even more difficult. I have been trying out the carbon fiber Oben CC-2461 tripod over the past few months, along with the accompanying BE-126T ballhead. This review covers my experiences and recommendations for photographers trying to decide on a tripod at this price point.
Buying photography equipment for the first time is a daunting task. Useful guides exist to help beginners choose a good camera, but few newcomers realize that the camera itself is only the first of many pieces of equipment necessary to create a full setup for photography. In this guide, I will suggest a complete kit — everything from lens cloths to computer monitors — that will provide a beginner with high quality images (and room to grow) for a price of around 2000 US dollars.
Every once in a while I like going back and taking a fresh look at the tools that I have been relying on for years. During my last trip to Death Valley and the California mountains, I met a few photographers who I spent some time with, talking about what photographers generally chat about – camera gear and our favorite photography spots. One photographer had a very similar setup as mine, using a Gitzo Systematic tripod and a Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead. His ballhead had a different quick release plate than mine, so we started chatting about the differences in the setup and what we both like and dislike about the BH-55. After this discussion, I realized that I have never written about the BH-55 at Photography Life, although I have continuously relied on it for years and take it with me everywhere I go. In a way, I have gotten emotionally attached to this remarkable ballhead and it has become an indispensable tool for my photography work.
When dealing with slow shutter speeds, a solid tripod is a must-have tool for eliminating camera shake and capturing sharp photographs. Although setting up a tripod and effectively utilizing it for photography needs at first sounds simple and self-explanatory, I often come across photographers that do not know how to properly use a tripod. Even though you could own the most expensive tripod on the market and know exactly what to do to yield razor sharp images, your images could still be suffering from poor framing choices. In this article, I want to explore the proper techniques for setting up, handling and using tripods.
Face it – tripods aren’t as sexy as lenses or camera bodies and shelling out a bunch of dough on a tripod just isn’t that satisfying. After selling my left kidney to pay for my Really Right Stuff tripod to support my super-telephoto wildlife lenses, I wasn’t real eager to cough up ~$900 to get a Gitzo Traveler for my landscape work. But I wanted a lightweight compact tripod I could take on hikes. A tripod that would fit inside my daypack, weighed under 4 pounds and had a working height that on level ground would let me (6’2”) work at eye level when I wanted. Enter the Oben CT-3481 4-section Carbon fiber Folding Tripod and BE-126T ball head. It’s a 3.9 pound, full-featured tripod that folds to 19 inches long and has a working height of 68 inches. As well, it has plenty of adjustments to allow you to work low to the ground or on uneven terrain.
When I first received the box with my Feisol Tournament Tripod and CB-50D head, it was unbelievably light. I almost wondered if they forgot something in the shipment. When I opened the box I found a very nice looking carbon fiber tripod and ballhead, but how would this super light combo perform in the field? In this review, I will be going over my personal experience with the Feisol system and compare it to my Manfrotto setup that I have been using for several years.
Years ago after I purchased my first larger lens, a 300 f/2.8, I used it on a tripod with a ball head but it didn’t take me long to realize that this set up was less than ideal. If you shoot frequently with longer telephoto lenses, a gimbal head belongs in your kit. Shooting with a gimbal mount allows more freedom and mobility with the camera/lens than a ball head and it gives your arms a rest from hefting the load. On the other hand, for the price of all the gear you have purchased, you do at least get a free upper body workout. When using a ball head to support a large lens/camera combo, the weight sets on a pedestal on top of the ball head lending itself to having the ball loosen a bit and the lens flopping over. A gimbal allows you to move the gear right to left and up and down all while balanced so as to require minimal effort to maneuver the system as you track your subject. Gimbals can be either side mount or low swing arm/cradle type systems. The side mount gimbals tend to minimize materials and thus size and weight, while the low swing arm/cradle system tends to be larger and heavier with the advantage of being a bit easier to mount and balance. There are also full gimbal heads which will pan both vertically and horizontally and there are gimbal attachments that only tilt in the vertical dimension while relying on a ball head for horizontal panning.
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.