New tripod set up for landscape photography

New tripod set up for landscape photography

The old tripod…

I had a Zomei branded Chinese tripod, it was fitted with their ball head. It was cheap and cheerful and worked OK at the best of times but was a pain in the arse at the worst of times. For example, the ball head was a pain to work with. Slight movements of the camera were nigh on impossible with this ball head. The head has a friction dial as well as a loosening dial, but I never really found a happy medium using both. I was having to fight the ball head to get my camera where I wanted it to be.

The ball head had some movement on the panning angle, even when the dials were tightened up fully, that was another little annoyance. Having said all that though, the tripod worked in providing me with a stable platform for my camera, so I put up with it, till now that is.

Choosing a tripod…

I’d been looking for a new tripod to replace the old one for a while now, the options out there are endless!! So I broke it down into what I wanted from a tripod. These are:

  1. Stability
    Pretty much a given, I need a stable platform from which I can take photographs. I do a fair amount of long exposures so minimising any movement is essential.
  2. Height
    I’m 6ft and I don’t like having to stoop to use my camera unless I’m taking shots that dictate that. So a tripod that allows me to use my camera at my height is what I wanted. There was a caveat to that though. I didn’t want a tripod that could reach my height but only by raising a centre column. Using centre columns can introduce movement or vibration to the camera.
  3. Weight
    I  rely on public transport to get me as near as I can to my photography locations, then I hike the rest of the way. This can sometimes mean travelling on foot on a 20 or 30 mile round trip. So weight is massively important for me. This lead me to choose a carbon fibre tripod, to save some weight.
  4. Reliability
    As I mentioned, my old tripod was a pain to work with, I want a set up that works well for me, that can stand up to the rigours of hiking and constant use etc. So I wanted a tripod that came from a reliable and regarded manufacturer.

So the choice was, a 2nd hand Gitzo G1227 mk2…

I decided to buy a second hand Gitzo G1227 mk2 off eBay. I’d been looking for ages for a new tripod, there were some likely candidates both new and used, but I saw this tripod and felt the price was right. So I put an offer in and the seller accepted.The tripod has carbon fibre legs, in three sections, with twist locks for each section. It’s an old model but the one I picked up was in great condition, I’ve stripped it down, cleaned and re-greased it.

However, the seller omitted to share the fact that the centre column was missing a few essential items. They listed the tripod as coming with a Markins TB20 tripod base, which it did. What it didn’t come with though was the original tightening bolt for the centre column or the sleeve that sits on the centre column in the housing on the tripod. So that all meant that using the centre column wouldn’t be possible.

I didn’t want the centre column though, so that wasn’t a problem, apart from if I ever decide to sell on the tripod, the buyer is going to have to want the same sort of config as me. Basically, the Markins TB 20 base allows you to use a centre column tripod without the centre column, which is why I picked this tripod to buy, it came supplied with one. I did have to sort it out though as the seller had made a mess of it. An extra 3/8″ nut sorted it all out!

Completing the set up, the Manfrotto xPRO ball head

So having a tripod is half the story, you also need a tripod head so you can attach the camera. Again, the options are endless here, I’d spent ages looking and trying to decide on a head. What I did know is that I wanted a ball head with arca type plate. I wanted one that would accomodate my D800 body and a long, heavy lens. So that cut down the options a little. Eventually, after reading masses of reviews and opinions on a shortlist of heads, I plumped for the Manfrotto xPRO magnesium ball head with locking top plate. I bought it new from Wex Photographic.

This ball head is a beast compared to the cheap Chinese one I’d been using, in every sense. I’ve used it since fitting and it’s great, no fighting with it to line up my shots and overall just a great ball head! With this ball head mounted to the Markins base and then the tripod, the camera sits at my eye level with the tripod legs fully extended. Happy days!!

Manfrotto xPro Ball Head

Some compromises though…

  • Weight
    The setup isn’t the lightest, but that for me isn’t an issue. More weight means more stability, especially in dicey weather. The tripod and head still weigh less that my old tripod though so it’s a win there.
  • Size
    The tripod when folded is large, it’s over 70cm so it’s longer than my old one. This is going to cause me some grief when I’m travelling I’m sure, but it’s worth the little bit of hassle every now and then.
  • 2nd hand
    Being second hand and also a discontinued product, I’ve no manufacturers guarantee to fall back on should the tripod go tits up. I do have equipment insurance though and parts are still available for the tripod so it’s not all bad.

So end result?

I’m really happy with the new tripod set up. I’ve used it locally in less than taxing environments but am looking forward to trying it out in some challenging conditions and environments, because that’s where the tripod will show itself. Although there are some compromises I had to make, the new tripod works well for me so far and that I’m happy with!

Over to you...