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Selecting A Camera Support System

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Selecting A Camera Support System
copyright (c) 1991 Richard L. Hess (9/14/91)
copyright (c) 1992 Richard L. Hess (6/27/92)
copyright (c) 1994 Richard L. Hess (3/27/94)
        all rights reserved

INTRODUCTION to 1994 Version
This Third Edition of CAMSUP.TXT was prompted by a few new pieces of
equipment and the interesting news of the conglomeration of tripod
vendors.  The big news is that Vinten (English firm best known for TV
camera pedestals) has purchased Manfrotto (the Italian firm who makes
the tripods marketed under their name worldwide and under the Bogen
name in the US) and Bogen (The US marketing firm of Manfrotto and now
Gitzo tripods as well as other lines such as Metz and Gossen).

This document is a compendium of ideas and comments from CompuServe's
PhotoForum and my personal research and experience over the last years
concerning selecting and using tripods.  As many of you who have
talked with me on line know I end up heavily researching a topic, come
to conclusions, and then hopefully live with the decision (for better
or for worse) for a long period of time.  If something is not right I
will revisit the decision.

As with choosing any major (read expensive) item, one must analyze
one's needs and selection criteria and then see what products are the
best fit based on the selection criteria.  There are two areas which
causes differences of opinion: (1) different needs or selection
criteria and (2) different interpretation on how a given product fits
the selection criteria.

It has not been feasible for me to utilize scientific testing to
evaluate the camera support system components that I am about to
discuss. Side-by-side comparisons have been employed where possible
and personal aesthetic and functional judgments all influence the
selection process.  I will be mentioning brand names and will discuss
my personal reasons for selecting or not selecting a particular

You may be wondering why I chose the fancy title for this document--it
is because I believe that the entire support system needs to be
evaluated and it is not a simple question of what head or what set of
legs, but rather how to develop an integrated system which will meet a
wide variety of needs.

Your needs and selection criteria may vary from mine, so therefore
your results may be very different, and that is fine.  This is not
intended to be a blind shopping list for duplication, but rather a
rationale for the selections which I made.  In perusing my rationale,
hopefully it will help you in coming up with your rationale for
purchasing a system which will meet your needs.

There are three major elements to the camera support system:
        1.  Quick Release System
        2.  Head
        3.  Legs
Although these all have to work together, the decision as to the
appropriate components for each element are more or less independent.
There are details as to how the elements interface, but these are
relatively minor.  These will be discussed below.

At the end of this document you will find a listing of manufacturers
and distributors for most products.

One thing to keep in mind when buying tripods and accessories was
perhaps best summed up by a mechanical engineer from Velbon who joined
PhotoForum for a while a few years ago.  He was trying to understand
the American tripod market.  Perhaps his comments sum up part of the
problem with some tripods (as well as other accessories).

    I have looked at TRIPOD.THD,. It was very interesting for me.
    Thank you for your advice. I think Gitzo, Bogen are good tripod.
    But nowadays there is a lot of kind of tripod which have a plastic
    body. I think these aren't good tripod. But I have to draw a plan
    of such kind of tripod. American markets are demanding these
    tripod. I think these tripods aren't useful for photographers,
    these are useful for merchants.

In the Compuserve Photography Forum, Library 4, are several files
which might also be of interest.  All are ASCII files.  Most of the
salient points in these files (except LITPOD.TXT) have been summarized
in this document.

Filename   LIB Size Date      Description
---------- --- ---- --------- -------------------------------------------------
TELSTK.THD  4    9K 10-Mar-90 Telestocks vs Tripods & Monopods - A Forum Thread
TRIPOD.TXT  4   12K 08-Mar-90 Field Tripod Guidelines and Recommendations
                              This is the Text of the Hank Gans "Photomethods"
                              article, discussed below.
BCKPOD.THD  4    3K 15-Aug-89 Light Tripods for Backpacking - Forum Discussion
BSTPOD.THD  4   37K 18-May-89 The Best Tripod?  Thread With Velbon's Takeshi
TRIPOD.THD  4   16K 05-May-87 Tripods - Recommendations and a Discussion

Although TRIPOD.THD is seven years old, it appears little has changed!

I have not summarized LITPOD.TXT as it goes far below what I have ever
considered, and the entire file is good reading, in my opinion.  This
is a must for serious backpacking photographers.


Perhaps the most useful advice in TRIPOD.THD came from Mike Wilmer:

    Don't skimp on the tripod.

    A good tripod can last a lifetime.  Unlike cameras, changes in
    tripod design are infrequent.  In other words, if you make a wise
    tripod purchase, you won't be eyeing the next model that comes
    along.  I bought two or three cheap tripods when I first became
    interested in photography, but would have been better served by
    one good one.  The cheap ones were too wobbly and fell apart.

    Every piece of camera gear should be considered an investment, but
    a tripod is doubly so.

    One other suggestion I would make is to buy the heaviest tripod
    you can bear to carry around.  There's nothing that can beat bulk
    to provide additional dampening to camera movement.  Sooner or
    later, you'll likely have a second, lighter tripod for those
    occasions when the heavier one is too much trouble to take along.

Many photographers ask the question, "Why do I need to use a tripod, I
am great at hand holding."  Well, you may be but in general
photographers are not as good as they think they are, although
practice helps.

The October, 1991, Issue of Popular Photography (p 55) had an article
on how to check your steadiness which involves shooting at various
shutter speeds while photographing a page from a newspaper.  Although
the reproduced images were small and not easily studied, with a 50mm
lens, a 1/15 second exposure produced what they called "almost
acceptable" results.  It took, however, until 1/125 of a second to be
"adequately sharp," and to 1/250 to be "sharp!"

When this same test was repeated with a zoom lens at 210mm, 1/25 was
"almost acceptable," and 1/500 was "acceptable!"

This was a bit of a surprise because I thought that the 1/fl (fl =
focal length) rule was a pretty good one.  To reconfirm this, I was
told the following by a reliable source:

    In a controlled test at NASA using a trained professional
    photographer, an astronaut, and a tripod with an object moving at
    the same relative speed as the earth,  the photographer's images
    with a handheld MF camera with a 250mm lens showed a 20% loss in
    image resolution at 1/500.  The astronaut's pictures showed a 50%
    loss in resolution and the tripod mounted photos showed no loss,
    all at 1/500.  All pictures were taken with the same camera on the
    same roll of film.  This is an excellent reason why a tripod
    should be used more frequently!

If that is not convincing enough evidence to use a tripod, I cannot
think of anything more convincing.

Obviously, the basic need for a camera support system is to support a
camera with attached lenses in as stable a manner as possible.  Since
I shoot 35mm with long lenses, a very stable support is required if
the tiny 35mm original is to be able to be enlarged to a 16x20 image.
It has been said that the best support is a large ball head attached
to 500 pounds of concrete.  This certainly would work, but I am not
going to carry that around!

My major interest is wildlife and nature photography, but I also find
myself involved in some travel photography as a by-product of business
travel.  I find myself on photo expeditions as well as business trips.
I have determined that the two types of trips have totally conflicting
requirements or allowances for the weight and size of the camera
support system.

My personal system consists of a 500mm f/4 lens and a 2x converter on
the long side as well as a 300/4 lens which can also be used with the
2x converter.

The high-end portion of the system needs to support the 500/4 with the
converter in a mild breeze.  The medium and compact ends of the system
need to support at least the 300/4 and preferably with the 2x

A revision to my requirements came as a result of going to McNeil
River in August of 1992.  There one must hike 1-1/2 miles with all the
photo gear from the campsite to the bear viewing site.  I decided that
the high-end portion of my system would be too heavy, and that the
original medium-weight system that I had was inadequate for the 500/4.
So I have changed the criteria and added limited support of the 500/4
to the medium system.

First one may ask why a quick release (QR) system.  The answer is
simple. It is the only effective way to rapidly switch camera
configuration in the field.  For example, both my 500mm and 300mm
lenses have built-in tripod mounts, and that is the appropriate place
to mount the camera/lens on the tripod.  If I want to change from
500mm to 300mm the QR system allows me to do this in a few easy
seconds as opposed to struggling with a captive screw.

Another major reason to use a QR system is stability.  Although this
may seem backwards logic, when the custom-fitted QR plates are firmly
attached to lenses or cameras, and then firmly locked in the QR
holder, there is no play in the system.  My 500mm lens has two tripod
sockets, for example.  The mating QR plate has two screws and picks up
both sockets.  Furthermore, you can get out your heavy-duty tools and
really torque down the screws (within reason of course to avoid
damaging the equipment) which mount the QR plate to the lens or

PhotoForum member Joel Albert 76370,1043 provided yet another reason
why a quick release is so important:

    One of the biggest benefits of a good QR system is the ability to
    easily remove the camera from the tripod and move freely to
    compose an image. Once a really good composition appears,
    re-attach the camera to the tripod, set it up the same way and
    shoot. Too many people try to compose on a tripod, this is an
    exercise in frustration which will really hurt the creative

Finally, even if you only have one camera body right now, there is
nothing more frustrating than scraping your knuckles for a minute
trying to attach the camera to the tripod, only to have it slip!  With
a high-quality quick release system, the camera (or lens) and tripod
become one in about ten seconds, and can separate just as quickly.

There are many QR systems on the market.  There are only three which
appear to be in widespread use for still photography and a fourth
which should be at least mentioned.  There are other, non-compatible
systems from almost every tripod manufacturer as well as systems
hanging in blister packs on the pegboards of local photographic
emporia.  I would recommend not seriously considering a system which
may not be supported ten years from now.

One QR system which gets mentioned frequently is the one made by
Perfected Photo Products (PPP).  At first it appears to be compatible
with the Arca-Swiss system, but it is smaller.  It appears that only
one style plate is available for it.  It is less costly than the
Arca-Swiss, but the lack of specialized plates makes its application
with long, heavy lenses suspect. It costs almost as much to get into
that system as to buy a clamp with one plate from Really Right Stuff
(see below). The advantage of the PPP system is that additional plates
are only $9.90 each. This might make sense for lighting equipment or
something like that, but not for super long lens (300mm and up) camera

In alphabetical order the QR systems are known as: Arca-Swiss/Foba
        Bogen (Manfrotto)

The Bogen is perhaps the most-sold system but there are actually
several incompatible Bogen QR systems.  The next-to-heaviest-duty one
which offers the most options is the one which is used on the 3047 pan
head and the 3055 ball head.  This system works, but requires that a
fairly large hexagonal plate with sharp corners be affixed to each
camera or lens.  I have used this system for a while and found the
sharp corners quite annoying, especially on the camera where it would
protrude well beyond the rear of the camera.  A plus of the Bogen
system is that the registration is perfect with the same plate, but
there are no custom plates dedicated to specific lenses or cameras.
There is a new plate (3267) which has a lip which aligns with the rear
of the camera.  Unfortunately a point of the Hexagon still sticks out
behind this.  If you select this system, be sure to remove the cork
padding especially for mounting lenses and consider the semi-permanent
plates (3041) for lenses.  This system can also be very quick-release!
The spring tensions are set such that it is possible to inadvertently
release the plate!  This would not be my first choice as I believe it
is incompatible with hand-held shooting.

Sachtler and other video companies make wedge-plate QR systems for TV
and Cine cameras.  Although some of these may be small, my review of
the Sachtler catalog showed plates which, in my opinion, are too large
for 35mm cameras.  This system offers perhaps the most stable mounting
of all as the plates are wedge-shaped and provide perfect
registration.  This is the most expensive system, with the QR adapter
"Quickfix" listing at $495.

Sachtler makes a still-camera system, which is distributed through
separate channels from the high-end video and cine products.

PhotoForum member Don Cooper 76357,1531 bought a Sachtler QR system
from Glazer's in Seattle in September, 1991, and described it as
follows.  The clamp and one plate was around $100.

    It is a high-impact, black plastic housing 1" x 2-1/4" x 3".  The
    plate is 3/16" x 1-1/4" x 1-3/4" with bevels on two ends.  The
    plate fits snugly into a recess, with plastic sides, a steel
    insert on one end and steel cam on the other end.  No country of
    origin is marked on it.

Stroboframe introduced a Quick Release system in late 1991 or 1992
which is reportedly of excellent quality.  It appears that it is close
to but not completely compatible with the Arca-Swiss system.  It also
currently lacks the broad range of custom plates that are available
for the Arca-Swiss, but it may be an excellent choice from what I have
heard.  Stan Schwartz 76314,3433 bought one in June of 1992 to try out
and compare with the Arca Swiss system and has been pleased at first
glance.  He indicated that the Stroboframe plate will fit the Kirk
clamp, but the Kirk plate needs to be modified slightly to fit the
Stroboframe clamp.  The Stroboframe appears to be a snap-in system
similar to the Linhof.

Linhof makes a popular quick-release system which also offers almost
perfect registration in all directions.  There is very slight play in
one direction. There are two sizes offered:  The original Quickfix and
the smaller Quickfix I.  I have looked closely at a sample of the
Quickfix I and although it is very well made I have several complaints
about it as part of a system. 1.  There is basically only one plate
available for mounting everything.  There are virtually no custom
plates for this system. 2.  The one plate is very large and sticks out
behind the camera a substantial amount, although alternate mountings
could be arranged more easily than on the Bogen. 3.  Both the plates
and the Quickfix adapter have very sharp corners which make the plates
exceptionally annoying on equipment which will be hand-held. 4.  The
Quick Release clamp has two 1/4-20 sockets for attachment to the
tripod head.  This might not be as sturdy as the 3/8 attachment used
by other systems.

With these negatives, if you need a system for registering in both the
X and Y directions as well as a system which can be attached almost
automatically then this system deserves careful consideration.  It is
relatively inexpensive.  $100 or so mail order buys the Quickfix
adapter with one plate, and additional plates are in the $30 range.
This pricing structure makes this perhaps the least expensive system
except for the Bogen, although the Arca-Swiss can come in close to
this price range as well. Although this system uses a lever release,
it appears far more secure and less prone to accidental release than
the Bogen.

The last QR system is the Arca-Swiss.  For a variety of reasons I have
selected that system.  One interesting thing is that although I have
chosen this system, none of the pieces I own were made by Arca-Swiss!
I have four clamps, three made by Really Right Stuff and one by Foba.
Four of my plates were made by Mike Kirk, and six were made by Really
Right Stuff.

This system basically consists of dovetail plates which are clamped in
the quick-release unit on the tripod head.  This is a semi-standard
system and there are several manufacturers which are making clamps
which are compatible with this system.  There are three tripod head
makers which can provide this clamp: Arca-Swiss, Foba (Sinar-Bron),
and Graf.  In addition, clamps are available from Really Right Stuff
and Mike Kirk.

One of the major plusses of this system is that there are two small
businesses, Kirk Enterprises in Indiana, and Really Right Stuff (RRS)
in California which are supplying custom-made accessories for this
system.  It is through these third-party suppliers that most of the
good custom plates are available, although Arca-Swiss and Foba should
not be totally ignored as a source of plates, especially for medium-
and large-format equipment. Arca-Swiss has plates customized for
Hasselblad, Mamiya RB-67, and Rollei.

There are too many custom plates to mention them all, but between Kirk
and RRS there are plates for almost all of the major Canon and Nikon
long lenses as well as many of other manufacturers.  RRS, especially,
is interested in custom-making a plate for your lens and will provide
a special measuring fixture on request (I have not needed to use this
service).  I originally bought mostly Kirk plates as I got into this
system before RRS was really active (or at least I had not heard of
RRS).  I currently have the following plates:

     F4s's - I leave the plates on my F4s's all the time.  I have two,
             one from Mike Kirk and the other from Really Right Stuff.
             Both are excellent.  The RRS one has a stop screw which I
             have removed for a variety of reasons.  The finish on the
             RRS plate is a little better and it is a little smaller
             than the Kirk plate.  On the other hand, RRS's insistence
             on precise plates means that should I ever want to use
             the MB-20 battery pack instead of the MB-21 I need a
             second plate.  With Kirk's plate, since there is a slot,
             it works in both configurations.  Since I have one Kirk
             plate and one MB-20, I am not complaining.

        FA - I bought the RRS custom plate for this which is

      FM2n - I use one of the RRS generic plates which come with the
             BJ-2 on it, although the bidirectional plate that I have
             on the FA would be preferable.

     300/4 - I originally had the Kirk plate for this lens, but Bryan
             insisted that I try his plate and I did.  It is smaller
             which is an advantage.  It also has a wider slot which at
             first was a bit of a problem until we realized that the
             Kirk plate's interference fit had actually compressed
             (removed some metal from?) the lens's foot for a few
             thousandths of an inch.

     500/4 - This is also a Kirk plate, as mentioned earlier, and has
             two tripod screws which pick up the two tripod sockets in
             that lens's foot.

     PN-11 - I use one of the generic plates which came from RRS with
             the BJ-2 clamp.

    Spares - I have a spare plate similar to the ones on the FM2N and
             the PN-11 as I have bought three RRS clamps.  I have a
             Mike Kirk plate which I don't use often.  It is the only
             plate with a rubber surface, but it, too, has a lip to
             prevent rotation. This is a thick plate which acts as a
             spacer to avoid interference.  SO far I have not used it
             although it was originally purchased for the PN-11.  I
             also still have the Mike Kirk 300/4 plate which is a
             spare as well.  I carry at least the RRS generic spare
             everywhere as I don't want to be the one to tell a friend
             that s/he cannot use my tripod for a shot.  I hand them
             the generic plate and tell them to put it on if they want
             to use my tripod.

Between Kirk and RRS there are probably close to fifty different
plates available, not to mention those available from Arca-Swiss,
Foba, and Graf. Both Bryan of RRS and Mike Kirk will be glad to help
you get the correct plate for your equipment.  I leave these plates on
all the time, and never have to take them off except for the FA/FM2N.
These cameras require removal of the plate to change the meter

There are two major drawbacks to this system.

(1) Since the plates slide into the clamp, they can also slide out.
Some of the plates have a screw which prevents this.  I always make
sure that my camera or lens strap is somewhat wrapped around the
tripod so if the clamp does get unlocked (has not yet happened to me)
the strap should arrest the fall.  In addition, I hold onto the
strap(s) when carrying the tripod-lens-camera assembly as a unit over
my shoulder.

(2) You must use both hands to attach the lens/camera to the tripod
head. One to hold the equipment and the other to tighten the clamp.

The cost of this system is hard to estimate.  The RRS BJ-2 clamp is
about $50 with the small plate, while most other plates are in the $50
price range. The cost of adding the QR clamp to the Arca-Swiss B1 or
the Foba Superball at the time of purchase is only about $30, although
the clamps bought later are substantially more (like $80-100).

Before getting involved in this system, contact RRS for their catalog.
It contains a substantial amount of application information.  Mike
Kirk also has a flyer on his available plates.

I now have four clamps and I can see that filling most of my needs for
the reasonable future.  The first (and biggest one) came with the Foba
Superball.  I bought three from RRS.  One has been attached to the
Linhof 3677 head with Loc Tite and should not come off.  The second is
a general-purpose clamp which I leave on a nondescript ball head I
have owned for years on my old Star-D/Tiltall legs which are kept in
my car.  This one could be removed if I need to fulfil both of the
requirements below.  The third clamp lives on my Linhof Profi II
ballhead and was also attached with Loc Tite.

I, along with many other outdoor photographers, have selected the
Arca-Swiss style quick release system.  This may not be the ideal
system for you so you should investigate the others, but the variety
of customized plates and its minimal interference with hand-held
operation make this system stand out above the others in my opinion.

Since wildlife photography is a major interest for me, I have decided
that a ball head is the best solution.  It may not be the best
solution for everyone as pan-tilt heads which allow individual
adjustment on each axis may be easier to use for architectural or
other types of photography where speed of movement is less important.
I will not discuss pan-tilt heads in detail as they have been excluded
from my analysis.  The Bogen 3047 is an example cost-effective
pan-tilt head that is widely used.  There is an upgraded version of
the 3047, the 3039, which also should be considered.  There are other
models and other manufacturers' units which should also be considered.
Foba makes a $600 three-axis head.   The new Slik line of Professional
tripods has a nice-looking three axis head which bears consideration.

I broke down since the first edition of this essay and purchased a
Bogen 3063 Mini Fluid Head from a forum member for a great price.  I
can understand why he sold it as I have not used it in the six months
that I have owned it.  It is a very smooth head, but bulky.  I needed
to buy a Bogen spacer (3154) plate to space the bottom up from the
Black Max tripod so the pan lock would not hit the tripod top.  I
connected that to the head with a RRS Threaded stainless steel stud.
Since I have not used this head in three years, I have sold it.

The intent of having this head is to have better control over one axis
at a time as compared to a ball head.  If I ever do a major
stained-glass shooting project again like I did in Chartres in 1991, I
would seriously consider it until the weight and bulk issues made it
stay home.  I have used a metal hex plate and attached a BJ-2 clamp to

The Bogen 3047 reduces the overall system damping when used with the
500/4 and the Black Max Tripod as compared with any of the ball
heads--even the little Linhof 3677.  The 3039 appears better.  I am
somewhat interested in a 3-axis head for architectural photography as
it was very difficult to align stained-glass windows with long lenses
using the ball head.  Linhof and Gitzo also have a range of 3-axis
heads which should also be evaluated.  The 003669 Linhof appears
exceptionally interesting in that it also includes a leveling ball and
three axes of adjustment.  I suspect it is in the $500 and up range.

With the assumption that a ball head is the correct choice for me I
surveyed and researched a wide variety of units.  Criteria include
rigidity and freedom from vibration when locked, smooth operation,
fast locking, minimal offset or creep during locking, preferably
adjustable drag, and Arca-Swiss QR compatibility.

If you look at the prolific equipment-oriented columns in Outdoor
Photographer and you look through the catalogs from George Lepp (now
out of this business) and Len Rue as well as Lepp's Newsletter, "The
Natural Image," you see three ball heads being mentioned repeatedly.
Arca-Swiss B-1 (and its predecessor, the Monoball), the Foba
Superball, and the Linhof Profi II.   1994 pricing from B&H:  Foba
$380, Arca-Swiss $329, Linhof $241 plus $60 for the RRS BJ2 clamp

In CompuServe's PhotoForum I asked Charles Krebs, a noted wildlife and
nature photographer who gives workshops for his opinions on ball heads
in the lower price range.  His reply from June, 1991, follows:

    For a small ball head around $100 or less I would try to look at
    the following:

    Cullmann 905, Benbo Standard Cat# B3001 (Note: does not have
    revolving base), and Benbo Standard Cat# B3004 (Note: has a
    "panorama", or revolving base)

    Benbo also has a new head called the "Trekker 35" Cat# B3000. I
    have not seen it (other than a picture) so I can't really comment.
    The Benbo heads I have seen and used (I have one of their
    "Superballs") are very solid and excellent values.  It might be
    worth a look if you can find it.

    There are also the two Slik heads, the Standard and the Pro.
    Quite a few people like the Pro, although for some reason I did
    not care for it when I used it, perhaps because of the floppy
    triangular handle it uses. I actually like the Standard better,
    although it's probably getting borderline for an F4 with a 300mm.

    By the way, if you go with the Cullmann or Benbo you should be
    able to completely replace the platform with the RRS clamp.  It
    you decide to put the RRS clamp onto the platform I'd be sure to
    remove the rubber surface they use on their platforms.

I initially purchased a Foba head for a variety of reasons which will
be discussed below.  The size and weight of this led me to consider a
second smaller ball head.  For a variety of reasons, also discussed
below, I have chosen the new Linhof 3677 Universal Ball head I.

The Foba and the Linhof ball heads were all evaluated using my 500/4
lens on my F4s camera with a Kirk plate on the lens, the original Foba
clamp on the Foba and the RRS BJ-2 clamp connected via a RRS BJ101
screw to the Linhofs. All ball heads were mounted on the Black Max
tripod placed on concrete.

I have since also bought a Profi II to work with my Gitzo 340 (see
below for new part numbers) as the Foba was far too heavy for packing
the tripod.

The original Monoball from Arca-Swiss was the breakthrough that
outdoor photographers were looking for.  Within the last couple of
years, this has been replaced by the B-1 and B-2 Monoballs.  The B-2
is about $650 and is really not appropriate for outdoor work as it is
large and heavy.  There are many users who are using the B-1 and are
happy.  I did not choose it because after speaking with Mike Kirk, he
felt that the Foba was equal and perhaps a bit more rigid.  My only
hands-on experience with the Arca-Swiss B-1 has been for a few minutes
in a store and at some trade shows.  I have never used one with my
equipment.  I cannot comment on the creep during lockdown, but it is
certainly not a major factor. I am sure that it is excellent and that
you cannot go wrong with it.  There is a chance of something in the
tension locking up which, once you know how to release it, can be done
by the user.

The reason that I did not purchase an Arca-Swiss B-1 is because it had
a knob instead of the lever that the Foba has.  This lever introduces
a small amount of creep as you lock the head down, but the knob is
difficult to turn with gloves on and my selection criteria at the time
the head was purchased was aimed towards photographing Bald Eagles at
Haines, Alaska, in November.

This ball head with QR clamp weighs about two pounds or so.  The model
number of the B-1 with Quick Set Plate is A80-1001-2.  This is the
head that Bryan Geyer of RRS recommends without hesitation as being
the best ball head on the market today.  This might be the first
choice for long lenses when weight is a consideration since it weighs
about a third less than the Foba and is about equal in weight to the
Linhof Profi III.  Since the QR system is more securely mounted (I
believe) this would also favor this head over the Profi III.

In following up on the tensioning problem, Charles Krebs 71361,566
provided this description of how the Arca-Swiss tensioning works:

    The tensioning control on the B-1 works differently than the older
    Arca head. On the older head the "tensioning" knob gradually
    tightened the head in the same manner (but separately) as the main
    locking knob. On the B-1, the small inset tensioning dial does not
    actually tighten the head. When turned "in" (clockwise) it holds
    and makes the "released" tension the same as the amount of
    "tension" that was being provided by the main knob at the time the
    smaller inset knob was tightened. In other words, if you lock the
    head with the main knob and then turn in the tensioning screw, you
    will then be unable to loosen the head with the main knob, as you
    have just set the "released" tension to "very tight". If you back
    off the inset tensioning knob, then "loosen" the head with the
    main locking knob, and _then_ screw in the inset tensioning knob,
    you should be setting the "released" tension to "very loose."
    Theoretically, you can set it anywhere between these extremes.
    The problem seems to be that the smaller inset knob turns freely
    and it will occasionally loosen and then "creep" in on you when
    you tighten and loosen the head repeatedly, eventually resulting
    in an unacceptable degree of "tightness" even when the main
    locking knob is released as much as possible.  (The small numbered
    metal band at the base of the main locking knob has no mechanical
    function, and is only an index to be used when setting the desired

Geof Grieble 73113,134 reports that his Profi II became gritty, but he
got it repaired.  In the meantime he bought an Arca Swiss B-1 and is
very pleased.  Probably now that the locking problem on the B-1 has
been addressed it should be the first choice.

I have not personally reviewed the Benbo Heads.  I did consider the
Trekker 35 for a while, but in researching this I called Saunders and
they informed me that the tripod attachment thread was 1/4-20 and I
had standardized on 3/8-16.  Bogen makes an adapter (3054 or 3154 both
numbers are listed in their catalog in different places) that allows
1/4-20 heads to be placed on tripods with 3/8-16 threads.  This adds
another piece and a little weight to the overall system.  I decided to
avoid this.  The Trekker 35 is in the half-pound class (plus the RRS
QR plate at four ounces).  The whole range looks interesting, but
their weight is not published in the catalogs.  The larger heads
appear to receive 3/8-16 tripod attachment screws.  I could not easily
find a way of getting my hands on these so they were not evaluated.

Bogen imports a wide variety of heads, legs and accessories all made
by Manfrotto of Italy.  While many of their tripod legs are extremely
interesting, the heads tend to be less interesting to me.  I owned a
Bogen 3055 ball head and would not really recommend it.  There is too
much friction and large amounts of creep during the locking process.
It also has an integral hexagonal-plate Bogen quick release system
which adds bulk especially if you are planning on permanently mounting
a RRS clamp to the head.  I felt that this was a good starter head and
I did use it with a rented 500/4 lens, but it was only an intermediate
step which I would suggest eliminating.  The 3055 and associated Bogen
QR stuff got traded towards the Linhof 3677 ball head.

Bogen has just introduced another ball head apparently without a QR
system.  It is called the 3262 Ball Head and is positioned between the
models 3026 and 3055.

At the 1992 PMA, Bogen introduced an exciting professional level ball
head, the 3038.  This uses their familiar hexagonal quick release
plate.  It is at least as heavy as the Foba at about four pounds.
Also, like the Foba, it has a lever lock.  I don't know if it is
adjustable, but this product is one half the price of the Foba.  It
appears that John Shaw has switched to this head. It probably requires
some breaking in, as the finish is not quite on a par with the Swiss

Cliff Ober 76530,455 posted the following in PhotoForum in June, 1992:

     For those who have had some curiosity about the new Bogen Super
     Ball (3038) head, or have seen the short article in George Lepp's
     "The Natural Image", I'd like to share a few points.

     I purchased the Bogen Head about a month ago from Executive
     Camera in New York for 139.95 + Fedex Air. I'd had one on order
     from a local store for several weeks, but became impatient, and
     ordered it by phone.

     As Lepp states, the head is large and fairly heavy, and the hex
     plate platform is a real clunker. It does however have a
     reasonably good feel to the ball, and it does lock down very

     Within 30 minutes of unpacking it, I was looking for a way to
     remove the monster platform. I could care less about the levels
     built in, or the huge hex quick release plates. There is a
     flathead bolt underneath the quick release plate with a 6mm Allen
     type socket. The bolt passes through the stem and almost all the
     way through the ball itself. The torque required to unscrew the
     bolt is SUBSTANTIAL. The bolt is coated with locking compound,
     and I believe was torqued to a fairly high value. I could NOT
     release the bolt with a standard "L" type Allen wrench - the
     wrench twisted (I had the platform locked into a large vise, with
     padding). I finally resorted to a 3/8" ratchet and a 6mm bit to
     break the bolt loose, and my hex bit twisted about 30 degrees. A
     1/4" bit will not work here, although a close fit, it is slightly
     undersize and will twist the corners off the bit and/or damage
     the bolt.

     The platform/stem then came out of the ball with a quick rap from
     a rubber hammer. I haven't measured it, but I'd guess the
     platform/stem weighs 1/2 to 3/4 of a pound.

     A friend turned out a new aluminum platform and stem in about 10
     minutes on a lathe; he said it was a piece of cake to make. It
     weighs a couple of ounces.

     I called Bryan Geyer (Really Right Stuff) before asking my friend
     to make the new stem/platform, as I was interested in the
     possibility of using his quick release. I hoped he might already
     have a replacement for the Bogen platform, but he told me that he
     had tried to get the platform off one of the heads but couldn't
     do it. He hadn't tried the brute force approach with the ratchet
     though. Because of this, he doesn't have a replacement for the
     Bogen platform. I did call him back to let him know that it CAN
     be taken off, so maybe he'll try again.

     I've used the lightened head for about a month now, and I'm
     extremely pleased with it, especially when I consider that it
     cost less than half the price of the ARCA/FOBA/Linhof heads.
     That extra $175 will buy a lot of film, and I feel it's just as
     stable as the higher priced heads.

     The head is a little top heavy for hiking (mine's on a Gitzo
     320), but no worse than any large ball. It's not much extra
     burden when lugging 20 pounds of other gear.

     Al in all, the Bogen head is a very cost effective alternative to
     what's been an expensive piece of gear, and I have no regrets
     about my purchase.

PhotoForum member Don Cooper 76357,1531 reported the following in
September of 1991:

        For the sake of you ongoing analysis of camera support
        systems, I want to report that, so far, I am pleased with my
        Cullmann 905 Ball Head. Although quite light in weight, it is
        easily adjustable and it seems to be very strong.

I chose the Foba Superball after reading Rue's write-up in his catalog
(obviously biased as he is selling them), talking with Mike Kirk, and
talking with Rob Friedman 76702,417 of Foto Care in New York City.  It
was a real toss-up between this head and the B-1.  Mike Kirk thought
that the Foba was more solid in his experience which would be
important with lenses of 500 and 600mm.  As I stated above, a key
feature was the lever lock handle as opposed to the knob for locking.
This makes the locking operation easier, especially with gloves and
this head was purchased just before the Haines Bald Eagle trip.  There
is a small amount of creep as the head is locked with the lever, but
this can be minimized by setting the tension tighter and by watching
the direction you pull the handle for locking.  The handle, when
pulled away from the body is free to rotate, so that you can position
the handle wherever you want for ease of use.  As with most ball heads
this has a separate panorama base.  Although it is not the smoothest I
have ever felt, it has no noticeable play and little creep during
locking.  Another interesting feature of this head is that the QR
clamp is attached to the stalk of the head by two screws, so it is
removable, but securely attached. You can replace it with a flip-over
1/4-20 or 3/8-16 screw plate.

When I first started researching this, the name Foba did not mean much
to me.  This is the ball head which appears in the Sinar-Bron catalog,
so it seems to come from a well-respected heritage.  The model with
the QR plate is 33-0505. also called "BALLA."

The Graf Studioball, I have been told, is basically a copy of the old
Arca-Swiss Monoball.  For whatever reasons I never seriously evaluated
it. It represents a saving over the Foba or the Arca-Swiss B-1 and
appears to be available with the Arca-Swiss QR clamp.

Linhof makes a variety of ball heads.  If you count all of the
variations (which I won't attempt) there are eleven different models,
I am told. The ones with which I am concerned are of the Profi Series.
There are basically three heads which I have tried:

        Name                    Number          Weight          Cost
        -----------------       ---------       ---------       --------
        Universal Ball head I   003677          10 ozs          $120
        Profi II                003676          20 ozs          $241
        Profi III               003675          36 ozs          $340

For all intents and purposes, the Universal Ball head I could be a
Profi-I but they chose not to call it that.  Bob Salomon of HP
Marketing provided the following explanation:

    They feel that pros will buy the II and III and the internal
    construction is somewhat different in regard to the locks.  In the
    II and III the ball sits on a bed of ball bearings and the locking
    forces are applied to the bearings which applies an even force
    over a greater area of the ball. On the I the locks are applied
    more directly to the ball itself. This is why there is a little
    more drift to the image when a lock is applied.

All three units have a ball lock and a pan feature.  The two more
expensive ones have an adjustable drag which required a bit more
touchy adjustment than the Foba, but worked.  All have a 3/8-16 female
thread in the extension of the ball and a double sided round plastic
plate which screws into the ball. One side has a 3/8-16 camera thread
and the other has a 1/4-20 camera thread.  Recessed below the surface
of the plate below the 1/4-20 thread is a 3/8-16 thread which screws
into the ball.  This is a clever arrangement for direct attachment,
but means that the QR plate needs to be attached with only one screw
to the ball.  I suggest LocTite 242 to help this along.  I would also
suggest using RRS part number BJ101 stainless steel screw ($4) for
this attachment.  The Profi III's pan azimuth index is resettable.
The others are fixed.

All of the Linhof heads are not quite as smooth as the Foba, but to be
fair, I received the trade-show samples which may have been beaten up
more than a unit used personally.  I found more stick-slip in the
balls, especially with the drag tightened a bit.  They all locked
smoothly.  The Profi III exhibited less creep than the Foba, while the
Profi II exhibited more, although it might have taken a wallop on its
lock knob, so, again, this might not be a fair comparison.

Geof Grieble 73113,134 reports that his Profi II became gritty, but he
got it repaired.  In the meantime he bought an Arca Swiss B-1 and is
very pleased.  Probably now that the locking problem on the B-1 has
been addressed it should be the first choice.

I would suggest that the Profi III would certainly be a good choice,
right up there with the Arca-Swiss and the Foba. My only hesitation
would be the single screw attachment of the QR plate. George Lepp
really liked the Profi II and I would think it deserves investigation.
At a pound and a half, the Profi II could be a universal ball head.  I
personally prefer the bigger ball head with the bigger lens, but if
you were buying only one and weight and price were a concern the Profi
II deserves evaluation, although make sure you buy it at a place where
you can return it if the creep when locking down is unacceptable.
Since the Profi III ball head exhibited practically no creep, I think
the Profi II I tested was damaged.  In addition, the feel of the
locking screw was looser than the other two.

The Universal Ball head I is a very interesting device to me.  Since I
own the Foba and am looking for a ball head for hiking and
international business travel, I am very attracted to this.  I have
placed a RRS clamp on it and used it with my 500/4.  This is, of
course, an unfair test for such a small ball head, but it passes the
test reasonably well.  There is some creep and the long moment arm
will allow moving the ball even if it is quite well torqued down.
But, the head does surprisingly well for one its size in damping
oscillations when the lens is tapped.  This performed flawlessly with
the 300/4.  I am satisfied that this is an option for more portable
shooting when I am not bringing the 500/4.

After several years with the 3677, I find it is useless with the 500/4
(but that is no surprise) but I have used it successfully with the
3001 and even the 300/4 on a few trips.  Currently this lives on my
Bogen 3018 monopod which is carried inside a tent pole bag with my
Gitzo inside a Tamrac tripod bag.

NPC makes a unique head that is called a "ball" head but in many
regards is a re-engineered pan-tilt head.  It is very clever and some
people really like it.  To my way of thinking it is big and the long
moment arm reduces stability.  It appeared to "ring" at the PMA show
where I first saw it.

In September, 1992, Steve Echols 73007,503 provided the following
input concerning the NPC head.

    Just a report on the NPC head, I have used it for 2 weeks, and
    like it a lot. I do studio and location work. The npc head doesn't
    get in the way, the controls are easy to find, and everything
    stays put. I want to get either a quick release for the Sinar, or
    an adaptor of some sort because of the captive 1/4 screw on the
    npc head. Otherwise I think I will get another one. Anyone want to
    buy a couple gitzo heads??

The Slik Pro Ball Head (618-706) weighs 23 ozs.  The Standard Ball
Head II (618-709) weighs 14 ozs.

Marty Senterfit 71227,3650 had the following to say about the Slik Pro
Ballhead after attending a Lepp Seminar in November 1992:

     I was surprised that George recommended the Slik Pro Ballhead for
     a low cost ballhead.  I went and looked at it during break and
     it's nowhere near as good as the Linhof 3677 Richard hess
     recommended.  Of course, George himself uses the Arca Swiss.

In October of 1992, Geoffrey Orth 72647,1206 discovered this problem:

     Has anyone had any problems matching a Bogen 3221 tripod w/ a
     Slik ProBall ballhead? The female threads on the ProBall are
     inset 1/8", while the stud on the 3221 is only 1/4" high... they
     don't mate! Have talked w/ techs at both Bogen & Slik.  So far,
     they both say its the other guy's problem...

The Wimberley tripod head seems like an interesting choice.  To my way
of thinking it is too big and heavy, and the long arms from the tripod
spider would seem to invite instability.  In February, 1994,  Charles
Krebs 71361,566 had this to say:

    I had one for a while but sold it to a friend.  The best way to
    describe it is to envision the "yoke" that holds those binocular
    telescopes that you stick a quarter into at popular view-points.
    Take 1/2 of that "yoke" and attach a lens platform where the
    telescope would be and you've got it.  It was superb for action
    shots with big lenses.  An 800/5.6 would balance beautifully and
    pivoted smoothly up and down, left to right. (My friend that
    bought it photographs boat races with an 800mm).  I liked it, but
    it can't be your only tripod head... it's sort of a special
    purpose item. IMO it is overkill for a 300/4 or smaller lens. If
    you regularly use lenses from 300/2.8 and bigger on action
    subjects where the lens is in constant motion it's great.  But the
    long "moment arm" of the design makes it less stable than some
    other head designs if you try to lock it down tight. It's not
    practical to put a camera body on it.... it's designed for a big
    lens with a tripod collar.  It's rather large and bulky to pack.
    I sold mine a while back after I packed my bags for a trip, had no
    more room for it, and was already cringing at the anticipated
    excess baggage fees. (But my friend lives nearby.. so if I
    ever want to borrow it.......)

The selection of tripod legs is as complex as selecting a head. Again,
there are cost, size, and weight trade-offs.  I have found that there
is no single solution to the problem of the ideal set of legs. Just as
I have decided on two ball heads and a fluid head, I have decided on
three sets of tripod legs. Arranged together, this actually permits
four useful combinations.

The tripod legs which I have selected are:

     1. The Ampac Black Max for car and domestic air travel where I
        intend to do serious wildlife shooting with the 500mm lens.
        When I use this, I will always be using the Foba Superball.
        This is 40 inches closed and 67 inches extended and does not
        have a center column. This combination weighs about 14 pounds
        with the Foba ball head.  This tripod is best suited to the
        Foba ball, which now is a permanent fixture on this tripod.

     2. The Gitzo 341 Inter Pro Studex as a general purpose tripod.
        This tripod has an adjustable center column which can be
        replaced with a flat plate.  I am in the process of ordering
        the flat plate which is recommended by Joel Albert.  This
        replaces the Bogen 3221 in my system.  Although I still
        recommend that tripod, it just is not stable enough for the
        500/4 lens.  This tripod will go flat to the ground with the
        flat plate and extend to about 60 inches with the flat plate.
        If you keep the center column, it will go to 76 inches.  This
        tripod is a good match for the Foba ballhead, although that
        combination is quite heavy.  It seems a little silly to put
        the Linhof 3677 on this tripod.  The tripod weighs about 7
        pounds, although with the removal of the center column, some
        weight saving is expected.  With the Linhof Profi II which is
        now a permanent fixture on this tripod, it weighs in at a bit
        over 7 pounds.

     3. The Bogen 3001 (silver) was selected as my lightweight travel
        portable in 1991.  This fits parallel to the edge of many
        suitcases without being broken down. Closed it measures 21
        inches and extends to 55 inches with the center column fully
        extended.  Without the center column extension, the height is
        46.25 inches.  This would be coupled with the Linhof Universal
        Ball head I.  This combination weighs 4.5 pounds including the
        head.  This has proved to be a very satisfactory combination
        over the last year, although it has proven very marginal with
        the 300/4 plus 2x extender.  It is OK with the 300/4.  These,
        however, were extreme tests with a time exposure as opposed to
        merely an average daylight exposure.

     4. Bogen 3018 Monopod.  This is the generally permanent home for
        the Linhof 3677 ballhead and is packed with the Gitzo.  I use
        this often for bracing under the camera with a long-lens
        and converter combination.

Now that I have explained the tripod legs I selected, I will present the
decision by class, rather than strictly by manufacturer.  Before looking at
the contenders which I seriously considered, I would like to discuss the
vendors which I did not seriously consider and why.  My not considering
these vendors was due to a variety of reasons.  You may find your perfect
tripod among them.

There are a wide variety of Benbo tripods which some users find acceptable,
and some even love!  In general, the majority of reports come back that the
four pieces, all loose when the center bolt is loosened, are hard to
position.  There have also been reports of the need for great strength to
tighten and the chance of slippage in the center bolt.  A further
inconvenience is that the legs do not fold quite all the way in on some
models so they are difficult to carry around.  They are very stable and you
may wish to consider them.  Outside of reading about them and seeing them at
a few shows I have no further experience.

There are a lot of happy users, and some frustrated ones.  One of the
happy users, Will Tompkins 76011,667 had this to say in March, 1993.

    I have the Benbo Trekker 35 and have been very satisfied with its
    performance. It's light weight; easily transported; and very well
    made. Just remember, though, it is an atypical design that does
    take some getting used to, but once you do, it works very well for
    all situations--including those that place you in less ideal
    surroundings. As for the head, use the Benbo head that is made for
    it. The distributor indicates that the Trekker is designed for a
    maximum camera/lens weight of 7 lbs.; if you plan on using very
    heavy tele lenses, then move up to the Benbo 1 or 2.

In May of 1993, the following was reported by Michael Fanelli 72040,2460

    I used a Benbo Trekker for about 2.5 years and was very happy with
    it. Nothing beats the "bent bolt" design for those macros and
    "weird" shots. Just hold onto that camera when you loosen the

    Just one caveat: about 2 weeks ago, I wrote how my trusty Benbo
    Trekker collapsed into a loose broken mess after I used it a few
    days with a Pentax 67. It is definitely (and the specs say so!)
    for 35mm with no more than 5-7 pounds. By the way, I replaced the
    Trekker with the standard size Uni-Lock (same design as Benbo,
    produced by a new company formed by the original patent-holding
    engineers). It is much heavier (about 8 pounds vs Trekker 4.5) but
    I like it much better. I do intend, however, in my lifetime, to
    send the trekker back to Saunders for repairs.

Davis and Sanford
In August, 1993, Preston Ginsburg 70572,561 reported the following
concerning Davis and Sanford tripods for backpacking:

    Another good choice, at under 5 pounds is a Davis and Sanford
    'Compac' tripod. This tall thing has hollow rectangular legs in
    only 2 segments. It has a very wide, exceptionally rigid center
    post that is actually usable for about 6 or 8 inches of extension.
    These things can be had, used, for around $75 or less. I carry
    mine on backpacking trips, and use it to support a 6x9 Century
Linhof tripods cover a wide range and they appear to be of excellent
quality.  I have only had my hands on one, the Linhof 003319 Lightweight Pro
Tripod.  It is lightweight (4.4 pounds) but has some drawbacks.  First it is
physically larger than the Bogen 3221 collapsed.  Although it is about an
inch shorter, it is also almost an inch bigger in diameter.  It has two
section legs so it relies on the center column to make the tripod work at a
useable height.  In comparing this tripod to the two Bogens at this tripod's
maximum height without the center column extended, this was equal to the
Bogen 3221 and better than the Bogen 3001.  When this tripod matched the
full-extended height of either Bogen by using the center column on the
Linhof and only the legs on the Bogens, the 3221 was far superior and it was
a toss-up with the 3001.  Although this tripod did not excite me except in
its quality of materials and workmanship, there may be other tripods in the
Linhof line which should at least be checked out.  One other complaint was
the fact that the head attachment is a 3/8-16 female thread and the bearing
point is very tiny so you must use the supplied platform.  This adds more
weight and as often as not, when I attempted to take the ball head off the
platform, the platform unseated itself from the center column long before
the ball head unseated itself from the platform.  This is not surprising
considering the relative areas for friction to apply.

This is a newer company formed by some of the original Benbo
engineers, as I understand it.  In April of 1993, the following "The
Story of UNI-LOCK" was posted in PhotoForum by Michael Fanelli

    NOTE: UNI-LOCK is a series of tripods that use the same bent-bolt
    design as the Benbos. This message is being typed through a haze
    created by the flu and the medicines used to change the flu haze
    into a drug haze. It was either this rambling message or a
    description of the interesting dream I had... no, I guess not,
    Compuserve is not the place for interesting dreams!

    One person here, and a few by e-mail, asked me for more
    information about UNI-LOCK tripods. In all cases, I had to reply
    that my only info came from the rather long but uninformative
    article in the January 1993 issue of POP Photo. But as luck would
    have it, I tripped over (literally) a wayward copy of the April
    1992 issue of Shutterbug. And, hold on to your Karmas, it was open
    to a page in the back with a picture of a UNI-LOCK tripod! As
    usual, Shutterbug included the name and address of the US
    distributor: Argraph in Carlstadt, New Jersey. Guessing the area
    code wrong, I did finally get Information to provide the phone
    number for Argraph: 201-939-7722.

    But here is how I spent part of my morning. The receptionist
    sounded like a very bored teenager waiting for the weekend, but
    she efficiently switched me to a very helpful woman. I found out
    that UNI-LOCK tripods are guaranteed for one year and that repairs
    can be done in NJ (but will never be needed!). I also received the
    name of three semi-local North Carolina dealers, as well as two
    major mail order outfits: Adorama and B&H. Sounds great!

    Unfortunately, two of the local dealers never heard of it, and the
    third didn't carry it. OK. Mail order time. The Adorama salesman
    says "UNI-what?" while the B&H salesman said they didn't carry it.
    This is not good. I call Argraph back again. I say, "This is not
    good!" I'm no salesman, but shouldn't dealers have at least heard
    of the product's name? The friendly lady came up with another
    local name, and then, when she heard the resignation (and the
    lightly whispered word: Benbo) in my voice, she cheerfully
    transferred me to the Eastern sales rep.

    It is from the sales rep that I heard the amazing saga of
    UNI-LOCK. How the father and son inventors sold their company to
    the evil Paterson. Father and son battling for improvements,
    Paterson swatting away their ideas like so many mosquitos on a hot
    summer's night. Undeterred, taking their patents (not sold
    outright with the company) home to the garage. Slaving day and
    night, creating a new company, one filled with Goodness and Light.
    They made small but significant changes (and patented them as
    well). The tripod does not get stored "legs flat", threads replace
    tension, eliminating any slippage (a problem my 35mm/Trekker combo
    never exhibited), and other neat stuff. And since Argraph was the
    original US distributor for the Benbos, they got the UNI-LOCK
    distribution rights.

    The rep was surprised at the responses I got from the dealers. B&H
    he understood, as they are in the process of "coming on line." The
    stock is there but it may not have made the lists yet. As for
    Adorama, they are one of his most active dealers and even had the
    tripods listed in their ads for several months (I verified that).
    I don't like Adorama, but he did say "If you have any trouble with
    them, just let me know..." He also mentioned Abbey Camera in
    Philadelphia who advertise in Shutterbug. But he was also sure
    that Abbey was out of stock, but could have them by early next
    week. But this weekend is the wildflower festival here in the
    Smokies... OK, I'm desperate, I'm gullible, I'm really ill: I bit
    the bullet, called Adorama back (different salesman, "Sure we
    carry those!") and got a two-day air order in.

    After extensive use (and I will be out there this weekend NO
    MATTER WHAT!), I will report on it.

    P.S. I have been reminded (and hey! Where is my chicken soup?)
    that some people may need to be told that although the information
    provided by the Argraph people is correct as I understood it, they
    may not have stated it in exactly the way I described. But I know
    y'all realize that!

Velbon has shown some heavy, but high-quality appearing professional tripods
recently.  If you get a chance to look at them, take the time.  They may
offer a cost-effective alternative.

Wood Tripods
I have not looked at either Reis or Zone VI wood tripods as I have decided
that for a variety of maintenance reasons, wood would not be an acceptable
construction material.  I may have shortchanged myself as wood is very good
at damping vibration but I feared getting it wet and splintered.  It will be
interesting to see how the Black Max stands up.

In November of 1992, Steve Cleland 71270,1003 had this to say:

    You asked me to let you know of my decision on a tripod. For my
    shooting uses and tastes I ordered from my local dealer the Reis
    J100 with the J250 head.  If my use/needs change in the future
    then I will probably buy a Gitzo.

In February of 1994, the following two messages commending the Reis
were posted:

    From: STEVEN J. NUSSENBLATT 71234,104

    If you have the money I would recommend the Reis. I have worked
    with the Zone VI and owned the Bromwell Kadette. Both are good but
    neither are built to the quality of the Reis. I believe others
    here on the forum will back me up on this (I hope). The Zone
    VI, although very sturdy, can be very hard to work with and the
    Bromwell may not have the steadiness you need. By the way, what
    camera are you using? If it is not larger format you probably do
    not need the support that any of these wooden wonders will give.

    From: Jim Strain 76566,3416

    In response to your question re:  Ries v. Zone VI, I own both.
    Jeffrey's advice to you is right on the mark.  I ended up buying
    the Ries after considering a trip and concluding that the Zone VI
    lightweight was just more trouble than it was worth.  I bought the
    Ries Backpacker with the J250 head. The whole package is around 8
    lbs in its own carryable (is that a word?) bag. I carried it all
    over the UK last summer and was delighted with its operation. I
    used it for both a 4x5 and a lightweight 8x10 field camera.  The
    Zone VI is now relegated to "trunk" work.  The Ries is used all
    other times (which is most of the time). 

Large, Heavy-Duty Tripods
For a large, heavy-duty tripod, weight is still a factor.  But there are
many other factors including ease of use and suitability to the environment.
I looked at offerings from Ampac, Bogen, and Gitzo at the time I made my
selection.  Now, Slik also offers a respectable-looking (from the data
sheets) pro tripod which I have not evaluated at all.

Ampac (Black Max)
Ampac (the Horseman Camera Importer) had contracted with the Dutch
Hill Corporation to make a fiber-epoxy based heavy duty tripod.  Dutch
Hill Corporation is apparently well known in the surveying field, and
the Black Max is basically a surveying tripod with a large yellow top
plate that holds the 3/8-16 head attachment screw.  This is a
dual-section twin-rod leg design.  It closes to 40 inches and extends
to 67 inches.  The tripod weighs 11 pounds.  Like most survey tripods
there are no leg angle adjustment locks although a three-section
clunky chain is provided which I do not use.  The drawback to this is
that there are 3/8-inch diameter spikes on the legs with relatively
sharp points. This is not the tripod to use on Aunt Martha's 18th
century oak plank flooring!  A solution to this appears to be the
Bogen 3155 Tripod Spreader which should do a nice job of keeping the
tripod legs at the right angle and keeping the spikes off of the
floor.  I have not tested this for compatibility with The Black Max.

As stated before, this tripod is of the twin-rod design, with leg
locks at the top of the bottom section.  The fiber-epoxy construction
coupled with the stainless steel hardware make this practically
impervious to any environment.  In fact, one article stated that this
tripod was being used underwater in the ocean.  When I called Ampac to
enquire as to this tripod's sensitivity to extreme cold, I was told
that its surveying ancestor was used on the Alaska Pipeline.  Well,
mine went near the Alaska Pipeline and was used at 40 degrees below
zero with no ill effects.  By the way, the polyethylene feet on my
Samsonite Piggyback suitcase shattered in the cold. This tripod is in
the $380 price range.

When I looked at Bogen, their photographic offerings in the
heavyweight side were just that, heavyweights.  The 3051 weighed 12.65
pounds and the 3058 weighed about 18 pounds.  Since the 3058 went
higher than I needed and was very heavy, it was eliminated.  There had
been reports of the automatic feature of the 3051 tripod jamming and I
did not want to test that under field conditions.

Bogen also sells a 3191 cine tripod which is of interest.  The
Video/Cine Bogen catalog shows the 3191 with what appears to be a
3/8-16 screw on a levelling ball.  When I looked at this tripod, I was
very impressed with its rigidity, but the rep was less than helpful
and kept telling me it was overkill for still work and I should
consider the 3058, it was more cost effective.  This tripod is 36
inches closed and extends to 54.5 inches and weighs 11 pounds.  Both
upper and lower leg sections are twin-tube aluminum. The hardware is
stainless steel.  The leg locks are at the top of the lower leg
sections and it does offer leg locking at one or more angles.  The
legs have combination rubber feet and spring-loaded spikes. This would
certainly be a tripod to consider.  The list price is over $500, but
it appears to  be available for under $350.

Gitzo, Manfrotto (the maker of Bogen tripods) and Bogen are now all
owned by Vinten.  The new Gitzo catalogs are far less comprehensive
than the older Karl Heitz ones, but the major tripods are still
available, although there has been subtle changes in model numbers.
Old numbers are in [brackets].

It seems that the standard of the outdoor photography industry is the
Gitzo [410R] 411.  John Shaw and others had these at Haines.  This
tripod folds to 32 inches and extends to 80 inches and weighs 9-3/4
pounds.  The Gitzo 5-series is also used for long lenses.  I have
never been a fan of the Gitzos due to what I felt is the fussy nature
of their collet-type leg and center column locks.  However, having had
a [341]340 now for two years, I have really warmed to them.  I realize
that Gitzos are well respected, but for some reason I was not enamored
of them when I had originally tried them.  Although the Black Max is
not inexpensive, the Gitzos appear to cost even more.  The Gitzo
warranty (originally lifetime plus reincarnations, but apparently
reduced to lifetime only by Bogen) is excellent, but I hear of
damaged Gitzo pieces from time to time.  The collet-type leg locks are
susceptible to grit and water.  Gitzo made some of their smaller
tripods in a reversed leg arrangement so that the bottom section is
the largest while being sealed to keep out water.  It appears that
this reversed-column "Safari" series is one of the Vinten/Bogen
casualties.  It is not in the current catalog.  You need to consider
the Gitzo and eliminate it for your own reasons or go with it.  This
is a personal decision.

One of my own personal beliefs is that I believe the twin-tube/rod
design is superior to a single tube.  My impressions are that the
Black Max and the Bogen 3191 are both more stable than equal weight
(or slightly heavier) single-tube designs.  There seems to always be a
tendency to twist on single-tube designs.  In discussing this issue
with Bogen's Lorenzo Gasperini at the 1994 NAB show, he suggested that
the 5-series Gitzos were a better choice than the 3191 series Bogens
due to the solidity and thickness of material.  In going by the Bogen
booth (yes there were separate Bogen, Gitzo, and Vinten booths,
although this is probably the last year of that) and looking at the
3191 again, I was less impressed.  I was more impressed by the
5-series Gitzos, however.

The 5-series Gitzos that would be of interest for outdoor photography
are the 500 (3 sections with no center column) and 501 (3 sections
with rapid center column).  This represents Bogen's marketing strategy
of making the tripods available without the center column.  The 500
weighs 9.5 pounds and extends to 61-7/8 inches, while the 501 weighs
10-3/4 pounds and extends to 77-3/4 inches.  These collapse to 26-3/8
and 28-3/8 inches, respectively.  If you can stand some reduction in
stability, there are 4-section tripods available that collapse about 3
inches smaller while extending to only three inches less.  These are
the 505 and 506 and weigh about a half pound less.  Personally, I
would opt for the three sections over the four for the added
stability.  The non-center column units are rated up to 33 pounds
while the units with center columns are rated to 22 pounds, the same
as the 34x series and the 41x series with the center columns.  The 41x
series without the center columns are rated to 26 pounds.  Personally,
I would buy the 500 over the 410.  It is only 3/4 pound heavier, but
two inches shorter fully extended and does not have a center post.

Linhof has been making twin leg designs for over 50 years. They have
the Expert which costs a bit more than the Ampac or the Bogen and
weighs 7 lbs. and the HD Pro which weighs 15 lbs without a center
column (which is an accessory).  HP Marketing claims that the HD Pro
is the most expensive tripod on todays market at almost 2000.00!  The
Expert (003317) has a twin upper, but a single lower section.  I have
not seen any literature on the HD Pro.

I ruled out the Sachtler Cine/Video tripods on cost.  The composite
Sachtlers start at three times the price of the Black Max.  Actually,
there appear to be no tripod vendors who show up at the National
Association of Broadcasters Convention (NAB) who have much if anything
to show under $1,000 for the legs alone.  Of course, there you refer
to them as "sticks."

Until very recently, Slik did not have a professional line.  They now
have one.  It comes with an excellent worm-gear post (without the
option for a slip post).  These look excellent and sturdy, but are
perhaps a bit on the heavy side for field use.  These are not
inexpensive but may sell for less than the equivalent Gitzo.  The Slik
Professional tripods weigh in at a bit over 13 pounds which keeps them
in the running.  They have just been announced and I have not seen

Vinten makes a range of video tripods which have two- and
three-section twin-tube legs.  I have not investigated these, but
Vinten has always been a well-respected name in video camera supports.
One of the very interesting things about the Vinten range is that
there are 5.5 pound leg sets.

Medium Weight Tripods
This is the category which can still support the 500/4 and be used
with the Foba head.  It may not be as ideal as the Black Max from a
stability standpoint, but I was looking for something that was more
reasonable in size and portability than the Black Max and also more
suitable for air travel.

Actually, the initial tripod in this class (Bogen 3221) was chosen
prior to the Black Max, and the Black Max was obtained when I realized
that this tripod would not meet the needs of the (then rented) 500/4.
I had used this tripod in Florida shooting wading birds with a rented
500/4.  It worked ok in the bright Florida light, but I had fears
about using 1/60 with a 500 mm lens plus extenders in Haines.

What I originally selected in this category was the Bogen 3221
(black--3021 is the clear finish).  This was based on much reading and
research.  It seems that this is the default tripod for many outdoor
photographers.  I compared it to my old Star-D imitation Tilt-All and
found it to be noticeably steadier.

The 1992 trip to McNeil caused me to reevaluate this selection as I
decided that the 1-1/2 mile hike with The Black Max was out of the
question. Since the Gitzo [341] 340 is only about a pound heavier and
three inches longer when collapsed as the Bogen 3221, I purchased the
Gitzo 341 and sold the Bogen.

The Bogen 3221 (black, the silver is 3021) extends to 70.5 inches with
the center column extended.  Without the center column extended it
extends to 54 inches.  The legs-only weight is 5.75 pounds.  This
tripod has a two-section center column which separates (not telescopes
like the Gitzos) to allow you to lower the head closer to the ground.
The leg splay angle is adjustable. The legs are made of three sections
with quarter-turn lever locks and is very fast to set up.  This is an
excellent tripod for lenses up to 300mm, and some use it with longer
lenses.  I found too little rigidity in rotation (a complaint truly
only completely solved by the twin-leg designs) with this tripod which
is why I replaced it with the Gitzo 341.  However, this is a lot of
tripod for under $100.

Bogen also makes a twin-tube-upper and single tube lower tripod with
spreader, the model 3046 (silver, black is 3246).  It weighs 8.15
pounds without head and collapsed is 31.25 inches.  It extends to 68.5
inches with the geared center column fully extended.  Without center
column extension it extends to 48.75.  I found this system to not be
well damped and it would continue to vibrate more than the 3221.  I do
not think it is worth the additional weight and cost.

In April 1981, Hank Gans 71061,404, wrote an article for Photomethods
on field tripods and his selection was the Bogen 3021.  Bogen is still
handing out reprints of that article.

The Gitzo equivalent to the Bogen 3021/3221 is the 320 series.  It is
important to select the "Performance" series of Gitzo tripods as these
allow leg angle adjustment. The non-Performance Gitzos only have a
single leg splay angle.  The Gitzo 320 folds to 27 inches and extends
(with double extension center column) to 89 inches.  It also weighs 7
pounds (1.25 more than the Bogen) and is about three times the price.
Also at 7 pounds and even more stable is the Inter Pro Studex 341.
This does have the variable leg spreading even though "Performance"
does not appear in the name.  This has a completely removable center
clamp section which can be replaced by a flat plate.  This is what I
am planning on doing.  The 341 has T-type locking levers on the upper
columns which makes adjustments even easier with gloves.  Under a
percentage of circumstances, the lowest sections do not need to be
extended on this tripod.

I did compare the Bogen to a Gitzo 226 and the Bogen 3221 won out at
the same height, but the Gitzo was smaller and lighter (folds to 17
inches and weighs 4.25 pounds).

The 320 series was available in the Safari models, including the S320
which has the reversed legs to seal out moisture.  It appears that
Vinten/Bogen is not supporting this line.

These are excellent tripods, although I do not like the rotating
collars. With practice, these collars can be locked and unlocked in a
quarter turn, I am told, but I found that the lower sections sometimes
jammed and you had to pull them out before pushing them in.

My opinion of Gitzos is that they are overpriced but do offer some
additional quality for the price.  It appears that some of the prices
have been lowered under the Vinten regime.  Unfortunately, if you want
something more rigid than the Bogen 3021/3221 in the same weight
range, it appears that Gitzo may be the only choice.  Most owners
swear by them instead of at them.

Gitzo offers three series of tripods that are clustered in
approximately the same group.  The 31x/32x Studex series, the 34x
Inter Pro Studex, and the 41x Pro Studex series.

The 31x/32x series are rated at 19-3/4 pounds.  The 34x series are
rated at 22 pounds and the 41x series are rated at 22 pounds for the
sliding center column and 26 pounds for the geared or no center

The 320, 322, and 326 have 2-section center columns which appear as a
pain to me, and the 320 has three section legs while the other two
have four section legs.  The 322 is a Monotripod where one leg
detaches to be a monopod.  This weighs 6-1/4 pounds and is an
interesting combination.

My preference runs to the 340 tripod.  This has no center column and
weighs only 6 pounds and has three section legs.  When I bought mine,
I actually bought a 341 and then replaced the center column with a
flat plate [440I] 349.  In my opinion, this is the most stable 6 pound
set of legs available.  One plus to the 34x over the 32x series is
that it has T-nuts on the top sections as opposed to rubber knobs. The
lower sections are still rubber knobs.  The T-nuts are faster and more
secure than the knobs.  The center column also has a T-nut.

The Slik units I have seen have not been as stable as the above
mentioned tripods, although I am sure some of their pro lines are.
The Slik pro units, however, appear heavier.

Light weight travel tripods
After my 1991 summer trip to Europe, the Bogen 3221 with the Foba ball
head became a real headache to carry around and to pack.  There are
severe weight and size and quantity of baggage limitations on some
international flights. Since the 3221 does not fit in a suitcase
parallel to a side, but only diagonally (at least in my large-size
Samsonite Piggyback) this makes packing the rest of my stuff,
especially business papers, very difficult.

After much discussion and testing, I decided that the best compromise
was the Bogen 3001.

Although I have not seriously considered Benbo, the Trekker 35 is
being promoted for this application.  It weighs, however, 4.5 pounds
and has only two section legs, requiring more use of the center column
which on most other tripods decreases stability.

The Bogen 3001 (silver, the black is 3205) extends to 55 inches with
the center column fully extended.  The tripod legs weigh 3.5 pounds.
Without the center column extension, the height is 46.25 inches.  This
tripod collapses to 21 inches.  This tripod has a single-section
center column. The leg splay angle is adjustable.  The legs are made
of three sections with T-handle screw locks and is a bit slower to set
up than the 3221.

Cullmann makes a variety of interesting-looking travel tripods.  Some
of these are heavily advertised.  I am not sure which market these are
aimed at but they certainly were useless with an F4 and a 300mm f/4
lens mounted on them.  The 2101 seemed to be far less steady than
hand-holding, although the store which showed it to me said that it is
sold widely to backpackers. This tripod is in the $45 range.

The Magic II relies on its center column to make a reasonable height
and the pivoting center spider (the tripod folds flat for storage) is
not very stable.  All in all at $150 with a tiny ball head and no QR
this is a disappointment.

I ran some evaluations between the Gitzo 126 and the Bogen 3001.  The
Gitzo weighs 3 pounds and is not as tall.  The Bogen was a bit
sturdier, but also longer.  The Gitzo's folded length is 15 inches.  I
also compared the Gitzo 226 which is heavier and would be about equal.
See my comments above concerning things I do not like about Gitzo.
One item, again, was cost.

I have looked at Slik tripods from time to time in stores and have
never considered them to be exceptionally sturdy.  One unit which
seems to stand out is the 444 sport tripod.  It weighs in at 3.75
pounds complete with a pan tilt head.  It uses a proprietary QR system
so adding a RRS clamp would increase the weight a bit.  The
descriptive literature and photo I have is not clear as to whether it
has a third-axis tilt for shooting verticals. This is probably
important enough to check if you are seriously considering this

For information on even lighter tripods see LITPOD.TXT.


One procedure which I have undertaken when shipping the tripods is to
place a 3/8-16 acorn-style nut on the tripod head-mounting threads
(using a washer if necessary) to protect the threads from damage.
These should be available from a local hardware store.  The
acorn-style is not a necessity, but it provides a smooth surface to
protect the interior of my suitcase.

The Black Max fits in a 3281 Bogen padded tripod case.  I use an old
towel at the bottom to receive the spiked feet and place another towel
on top of the head-mounting platform to wedge everything in tight.  I
then check this through as its own separate piece of luggage.

The Gitzo 341 is longer than the Bogen 3221 so it will probably not
fit in many suitcases, except diagonally.  It looks like it will fit
in my Samsonite Piggyback (Silhouette 4) with the flat plate only.  I
bought an unpadded Tamrac 326 tripod case which just holds the 341
with the Foba ballhead attached.  I may pad the tripod and head by
wrapping it in a towel--especially if it is to be checked through.  In
that case, I'd probably pack the head inside my luggage and leave only
the legs in the Tamrac.  Since using the Linhof head on this tripod,
I've added a Coleman stove padded stuff sack over the head to protect
it.  In addition, I am using a tent pole sack with a Velcro closure on
the Bogen 3018 monopod with Linhof 3677 head attached and stuffing
that inside the Gitzo 341 within the Tamrac bag.

The Bogen 3221 (now sold) fits diagonally (without head) in many
common suitcases.  It will fit parallel to an edge only in the longest
suitcases. This is an inconvenience and was one of the main reasons
that I also own a 3001.  I also have a no-name bag for this tripod
which has two straps so it can be worn as a backpack.  This is not a
padded bag and probably should not be checked through.  The Bogen 3280
bag should be considered.

The Bogen 3001 fits parallel to an edge in many of my suitcases and is
packed that way.  It also comfortably fits the tripod straps on my
Tamrac 706 convertible shoulder/hip-belt camera bag.

I suggest always removing and wrapping the ball heads and carefully
packing them to avoid shipping damage.

Packing lightweight tools, especially the larger Leatherman tool, for
adjusting tripod bolts and the like is essential.  Make sure that you
can adjust all the fasteners on the tripod with the tools you have
available on a trip.  This may seem like excessive trouble, but you
never know when you will need the tools.

If the tripod gets wet in salt water, immediately flush it with fresh
water to avoid corrosion.  This is where the Black Max excels!

Bogen 3047 Maintenance
By David Garth 76176,762 of CompuServe's PhotoForum

I just discovered something about my Bogen 3047 tripod head which may
be of some help to someone else.

The tripod had developed a lot of play even though I had tightened
every visible set screw. I was ready to trash it.

Then I discovered that six more set screws are lurking underneath the
"tilt compass" plastic piece (with degree markings)  and the compass
piece indicating pan degrees. Actually, mine had already broken off,
leaving little black plastic pieces which covered the set screws. I
dug those plastic pieces out with an ice pick.  Adjusting the set
screws made it possible to adjust the tilt and pan mechanism for zero
play. Make sure you have metric Allen wrenches or you are likely to
"round" the set screws.

Tripod Leg Lube
We have also discussed cleaning and lubing tripod legs.  PhotoForum's
Scott Hughes 76217,473 suggested a Teflon spray called Tri-Flo instead
of the more traditional silicone sprays.  This was the product he
used, but any generic Teflon spray lubricant is expected to work as
well.  Scott was amazed at how nicely his tripod worked after cleaning
and an application of this.

Using Tripods in Snow
Many people wonder how to use a tripod in the snow.  It has been my
experience that you jam the thing down until it hits ground or it
wedges into the snow.  Outdoor photographer/writer Lou Dawson
73710,1513 from Colorado summed it up best perhaps when he said:

    I saw one guy last winter, during a photography workshop, who had
    snow-feet for his tripod. Fact is, I know a _bunch_ of snow
    shooters, and not one I know uses tripod snow-feet. It seems that
    if you just stamp out your location (a little work to warm you up)
    then simply jam the legs down into the snow, it works fine. It
    helps to start with the legs a few inches closer together, they
    reach maximum spread as you push down. You get a pretty stable
    tripod this way, even stabler than one with snow-feet -- albeit it
    will be a few inches lower than you're used to.

Lou is also the author of a great file on tips for winter photography
called WINTER.TXT in the PhotoForum libraries.  Also, you may be
interested in my file BATTIN.ARC (compressed) or BATTIN.TXT (ASCII)
which discusses batteries and their application with emphasis on cold

Camera Attachment Problems (without QR)
If the camera tends to unscrew its mounting screw (this will not
happen with a properly-selected QR system), Rochester-based free-lance
writer and photographer Jerry O'Neill 76702,545 had the following

    I've had [the] problem [of the camera mounting screw loosening]
    with long (heavy) lenses myself.  But there's a simple trick that
    helps a lot: attach the camera so the weight of the camera/lens
    makes the tripod screw get TIGHTER rather than looser.  This may
    make for an odd configuration, like having the locking handle
    sticking out in front (same direction as the lens) rather than in
    its normal position toward the back, but it DOES work!

Cleaning an Arca-Swiss B-1 Ball head
Joel Albert 76370,1043 of PhotoForum got some grit in his Arca-Swiss
B-1 and called the Los Angeles Tekno office.  Prior to this phone call
someone had suggested rinsing it out with water.  This is Joel's
report on Tekno's reply and his cleaning results.

    First ... It does not like to be immersed in water!!! So cleaning
    it out using running water will not work because there is no where
    for the water to go.

    Second .. They said repairs are done in Switzerland, they would
    look at the head and see if they could clean it up but to really
    get it perfect it would have to go back to the factory, but the
    tech mgr said that under 5 heads had ever had to be sent back for

    Third ... After lots of work with the canned air and a damp rag I
    got the head working again (for now).

Subsequently, Tekno has replaced Joel's head with a new one with
captive tension screw and he has been very pleased.

There are other components which can be used for supporting cameras in
the field.  Although this is somewhat beyond the scope of this
document, I will touch on these here.

A common way to help steady a camera with a long lens in the field is
to use a TeleStock to hold the camera against your shoulder.  These
seem to come and go in the market and they are perhaps effective in a
few situations. The most useful situation is when you are shooting
from boats where vibration needs to be isolated.  This probably also
applies to aircraft, but it is generally not practical to even
consider as long a lens as you might try to use from a boat in an
aircraft.  Rue has what looks like a pretty silly one in his catalog,
but I have never tried it.  One of the more common ones is made by
Bush Hawk.  One word of advice came up when this item was discussed in
PhotoForum and that was to pick your place to use this device. A long
lens on a TeleStock could be mistaken for something a little more
deadly like a gun or small missile launcher.  I would strongly suggest
not using this type of device around a big city.  (The Staten Island
Ferry was one risky place suggested by Arthur Kramer).  I had no
desire to bring mine to Israel where there are many exposed submachine
guns anywhere you look. Additionally, if you are trying to shoot a
motorcade or something like that I would also suggest that this might
be a great risk.  One place where I would suggest using one is on any
cruise ship or ferry on the Alaska Inside Passage.

As an extension to or substitute for a TeleStock, a gyro stabilizer
can be attached to a camera to resist motion.  Fred Hirschmann's
excellent "Bush Pilots of Alaska" was shot with a gyro stabilizer as
his bush pilot friends did not want images of stalled propellers on
the planes--it made them too nervous.  If you were shooting at a fast
shutter speed there would be little or no blur of the propeller.  Fred
shot most of the images at 1/125 from the air with the gyro and they
are tack sharp.  The images are so good, in fact, that Mamiya has been
using them in promotion.  They are all 6x4.5 originals. Ken Lab is the
only known supplier of these devices and they run in the $2,000 range.

Monopods are used widely for sports and news work.  Although they do
provide additional stability, I have never been comfortable carrying
one instead of a tripod for nature/wildlife work.  The one time I did,
I wished I had carried the tripod as well.  If you need the
flexibility of the monopod, at least for the few times that I think I
would use it, you can always extend just one leg of your tripod and
then you have the other two legs should that become feasible.

If you must buy a monopod, perhaps the best ones are made by Gitzo,
but do not use the smaller ones as they are not very stable in my
opinion.  The 565 or [565L] are worth considering as they have a
built-in shoulder support as well.  The 566 and 567 have too many
sections to be truly stable in my opinion.  A less expensive monopod
is the Bogen 3016 which is basically one leg of a 3221 tripod.  Some
models seem to have a cushioned grip, but the catalog does not
indicate that.  I do not understand how legs added to a monopod can
help with stability.

I bought in 1993 the Bogen 3018 monopod which is slightly bigger than
a 3016 and quite stable as well as being lightweight.  The biggest use
I have for it is as a secondary support for the camera when the tripod
is supporting a long lens.

Bean Bags
I have never used them.  There are some people who think that these
are the only way to get sharp images.  The use of these requires a
stable support where you want to place the bean bag.  I just have not
found these necessary, although, on occasion, I will bunch up a
sweater and throw it between the lens and the car window sill (with
the engine off).

Table Top Tripods
I own a Leitz table top tripod with a ball head that is about three
inches long.  It is an interesting assembly which weighs at least 1.5
pounds.  I just never seem to find a need for it.  There are many
table top tripods which are far less sturdy which appear in photo
stores.  I am not sure what their value is.

Copy Stands
Copy stands are convenient for copy work, but be careful that you get
one which has a rigid camera cantilever.  Also make sure that the
attachment to the base is rigid.  I was looking at Bencher stands at
this years NAB show and was disappointed even in these very popular
stands for rigidity of the vertical column.  If you are not doing much
copying, you might be far better off reversing the center post of your
Medium Duty tripod.

Other items
There are many imaginative items sold to help support cameras.  Many
of them are gimmicks and are not even well made, but appeal to
gadgeteers.  Some may actually work for some people.  Beware of the
revolutionary devices that you see hanging on the pegboard of the
local photo shop.  They just might end up sitting in the closet along
with many other seemingly useful devices.

Following is information on how to contact various suppliers mentioned
in this document.

Ampac, Inc (Black Max tripods-possibly out of business)
        P.O. Box 4966
        Cleveland, TN 37320
    tel 615/478-1405
    fax 615/476-6372
        see Dutch Hill Corp.

Arca-Swiss                      Factory (Switzerland)...41 1 725 61 60
        Now being distributed by Calumet

Argraph (Uni-Lock tripods)
    tel 201-939-7722

Benbo Tripods (tripods and ball heads)
        Division of the Saunders Group
        21 Jet View Drive
        Rochester, NY  14624
    tel 716/328-7800
    fax 716/328-5078

Bogen Photo Corp (tripods, heads, QR)
        565 East Crescent Avenue
        P.O. Box 506
        Ramsey, NJ  07446-0506
    tel 201/818-9500
    fax 201/818-9177
service 201/818-0060 (service only)

Bush Hawk  (tele stocks)
        San Diego, CA

Cullmann   (tripods, heads)
        GMI Photographic
        1776 New Highway
        P.O. Drawer U
        Farmingdale, NY 11735
    tel 516/752-0066
    fax 516/752-0053

Dutch Hill Corp. (manufacturer of the Black Max)
        3318 Hill Avenue
        Everett, WA 98201
    tel 206/259-6340
        these are not stock items and are made to dealer orders only

Foba (Sinar-Bron) (ball heads, QR)     (dealer) Rob Friedman 76702,417
        17 Progress Street                      Foto Care
        Edison, NJ  08820-1102                  170 Fifth Avenue
 orders 800/456-0203                            New York, NY  10010
    tel 908/754-5800                            212/741-2990
    fax 908/754-5807                            212/741-3217

Gitzo (tripods, heads)
        see Bogen

Graf (Studio Ball head)
        J. P. Graf AG
        Lerzenstrasse 27
        Postfach 23
        CH-8953 Dietikon 2
        phone 01-740 55 44
        fax   01-741 47 09

Ken Lab Inc.  (gyro stabilizers)
        P.O. Box 128
        Old Lyme, CT  06371

Kirk Enterprises (QR plates and accessories)
        Michael E. Kirk, Jeffery M. Kirk
        R.R. 4, Box 158 (U.S. Highway 20 East)
        Angola, IN  46703
        800 626 5074

Linhof (HP Marketing) (tripods, heads, QR)
        Bob Salomon 76547,3530
        HP Marketing
        16 Chapin Road
        P.O. Box 715
        Pine Brook, NJ  07058

Perfected Photo Products (QR system)
        8420 Sylvia Ave
        Northridge, CA  91324

Really Right Stuff (QR plates, clamps, accessories)
        Bryan Geyer
        Really Right Stuff
        P.O. Box 6531
        Los Osos, CA  93412

L.L. Rue (tele stocks, Foba ball heads, Graf ball heads, Kirk plates,
          other outdoor stuff, and books - send for catalog)
        138 Millbrook Road
        Blairstown, NJ 07825
    tel 908/362-6616  (8 a.m. - 5 p.m., Eastern)
    fax 908/362-5808

Ries Tripods (wood tripods and heads)
        7865 NE Day Road
        Bainbridge Isle, WA  98110

Sachtler (tripods, QR system)
        3316 West Victory Blvd                55 North Main Street
        Burbank, CA 91504                     Freeport, NY  11520
        818/845-4446                          516/867-4900

Slik                                   (rep)  Dave Erickson 76100,3071
        Slik Corporation of America
        3 Westchester Plaza
        Elmsford, NY  10523
    tel 914/347-2223
    fax 914-347-5617

Velbon (tripods, heads)
        Velbon International Corporation
        2433 Moreton Street
        P.O. Box 2927
        Torrance, CA  90509-2927
    tel 213(310?)/530-5446
    fax 213(310?)/618-0166
        800/423-1623 (outside CA)

Vinten (twin-leg tripods)
          8115-B Clybourn Ave                 275-C Marcus Boulevard
          Sun Valley, CA  91352-4022          Hauppauge, NY  11788-2001
          818/767-0306                        516/273-9750

Bogen to Manfrotto Cross Reference      (c) 1992 Richard L. Hess

This file provides a basic cross-reference between the Bogen and Manfrotto part
numbers for the basic elements of this tripod system.  This information is
gleaned from comparing both Bogen and Manfrotto catalogs, the Manfrotto
catalogs courtesy of a cousin of Mary Beth's in Canada.  Where a Bogen number
is shown 3001/3205 this means the silver/black part number.  All Bogen part
numbers are the legs only.  Other part numbers describe a legs-head package
and are not cross-referenced.

        Bogen Part Number               Manfrotto Part Number
        3007                            209
        3001/3205                       190
        3011/3211                       144
        3021/3221                       055
        3033/3233                       074
        3046/3246                       028
        3036/3236                       075
        3051/3251                       117
        3058/3258                       161
        3191/3192                       250
        3068                            058
        3061                            132X
        3016/3216                       079
        3018/3218                       134
        3230/3231                       134SS
        3025                            056
        3028                            115
        3029                            141
        3047                            029
        3039                            229
        3057                            160
        3009                            210
        3055                            168
        3265                            222
        3066                            116MK2
        3063                            136
        3160                            128
        3130                            200
        3155 or 3138                    165
        3059                            131D
        3153                            131DD
        3054                            120
        3154                            120DF
        3292                            243
        3296                            225
        3041                            130-14
        3042                            130-38
        3048                            030-38
        3049                            030-14
        3297                            030L
        3266                            222PL
        3044                            102
        3295                            030AT
        3146                            166
        3290                            183

Some minor articles were not cross-referenced.  Richard L. Hess, The
Photography Forum, Compuserve, Bogen, nor Manfrotto make any claim as to the
accuracy of this data.  In using this data for any purpose whatsoever, the
user assumes all risk and liability in using this data.  There are no
guarantees expressed or implied as to the accuracy of this data nor to the
interchangeability of Bogen and Manfrotto components.

               +=+=+=+=+=+=+=+  End of File  +=+=+=+=+=+=+=+

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