Neil & Ned, thanks for your input on the compact pods. I found a reasonably priced aluminum compact pod at a local Calumet Photo store. It included a 3-way head which I immediately exchanged with a heavier duty ball head from my taller carbon fiber pod. The pod is a Calumet brand and is built way better than the Manfrotto I was looking at. With my D5100/18-200 VR combo mounted, the pod setup is sturdy and solid.