Your comment seems to echo this in one of the Nikonian PDF's on tripod heads: "Geared 3-way heads- only good if subject is inanimate, dead or heavily sedated". It appears they are more for still life, studio and macro when you need precision.
The articulated center column on the Manfrotto Pro models make them less stable than the non-Pro models. As stated above, Geared heads are less than ideal for moving subjects. Good Luck and Enjoy your Nikons!
Thu 19-Apr-12 06:12 AM | edited Thu 19-Apr-12 06:14 AM by nrothschild
Opinions will vary on this issue of stability.
Theoretically the offset column puts the entire camera slightly off center, all the time. I personally don't think that is a major issue.
I've seen even the far more expensive Gitzo Explorer series criticized as being generally less stable than the Mountaineer and Systematric versions. It may have something to do with the leg locks that offer any possible angle but never quite lock in. That is probably not applicable to the Manfrotto PRO tripods but not sure.
The big issue I have with the Explorer/PRO is that the center columns are not removable or replaceable and do not split in half into a smaller center column.
The result is that simply in order to get low you MUST articlate the arm.
Once you articulate the arm you place the camera even more off center. If you are doing this to get low to the ground that may not be a big issue because the legs are splayed out quite wide.
However, a good ballhead performs very smoothly when it is fairly level and upright. When you articulate the arm, the pan base/lock of the ballhead is now trying to act like the ball, and the ball is trying to act like the pan base. It's all backwards.
And interestingly, this "backwards" function of the ball and head probably more severely affects the better, more expensive ball heads because those ballheads are designed to work in a "sweet spot", which is impossible to even think about with the head tipped over.
What I am saying is that the articulated arm is a double edged sword. When you are not using the arm as it was intended (articulated ) it just gets in the way of going lower. So you have to decide how much you actually need an articulated arm.
A geared head can be very useful for very exacting compositions such as you need to do when shooting macro at or near 1:1, or maybe architecture where you need to get the perspective of a bunch of right angled straight lines absolutely perfect.
For birding you will likely not be happy with a geared head. Unless the bird is drugged, as the article wisely suggests .
Depending on your photo lens, birding may eventually take you to a gimbal of some sort. That is the ultimate in speedy framing with a long lens. I've even used my Questar scope as a spotting scope on a gimbal and it can work fairly well. The Questar is more problematic than a typical refracting spotting scope because its minimum power is about 40x, where refractors tend to go down to 10-20x or so. It needs a very excellent head.
You will need a good ball head to work a scope on it. Something better than an ~$100 Manfrotto midi-ball.
You will find it quite difficult to bird with 270mm. Most birders are shooting 400-500mm or more. Something to think about because a future lens may invalidate whatever you do now for that relatively easy to manage 270mm lens. But you may need to talk more about your birding. I'm a birder and I once even shot a Sawwhet Owl . But only once. Not exactly a backyard feeder bird around here
I have to admit, though, that Sawwhet was probably the easiest bird I ever shot. It was comatose. Finding it was the hard part. It's one of my treasured images and worthy of a user name
Thu 03-May-12 02:53 AM | edited Thu 03-May-12 02:54 AM by Scotty
Not strictly true - I have the 055 PROB tripod and use it all the time with the centre column removed. It came with a gadget that screws into the top of the legs allowing shooting at ground level without having to use the horizontal arm. However, if you do use the arm all you have to do is position it over a leg then the set up becomes stable again... Not always possible I know, but it can be done...
>> It came with a gadget that screws into the top of the legs allowing shooting at ground level without having to use the horizontal arm.
You might want to post an image with that "gadget" installed. It is not documented on the Manfrotto site nor do I see it in the spare parts diagram, although some of the parts are "ambiguous". And this is a fairly frequently asked question but that accessory part has never been mentioned.
How long have you owned your 055PROB? Might be a new feature??
Thu 03-May-12 11:56 AM | edited Thu 03-May-12 01:03 PM by Scotty
Or possibly an old one - I bought the tripod in 2002.
At the moment I don't have access to the tripod as I am living in Abu Dhabi and it was one of the things I had to leave behind until the summer.
However; it is triangular in shape and fits into the cup that holds the centre column. When you tighten the collar it holds the triangular piece firmly in place. On top of this piece is a screw thread that will take any head you choose.
Finally I don't think it would take a big lens - I have used it fine with a D200 + Grip + 80-200mm f2.8 AFD ED + SB-600 but it does work better with a smaller lens - 20-35mm f2.8 AFD or a 105mm macro for example. Having removed the centre column the tripod will go down to floor level (almost)
When I get back to the UK I will endevour to take some images...
As far as documentation is concerned you are spot on - I had no idea what it was when I bought the tripod and it took some trial and error to work out how to use it - I also struggled to find any reference to it on the NET - maybe it isn't what it's for but that is how I use it and it seems OK...
Just done a quick search - it's called the Manfrotto ground level adapter. Looks similar to mine...
I have a Manfrotto 3021N tripod that I bought at least 15 years ago, and it has the same adapter "gadget" that Scotty described. It's included at the bottom of the center column and can be removed and used in place of the center column. I posted on another link that I plan on using this adapter or a short center column that Manfrotto has (055XCCSB short center column) and get a Markins Q10 or Q20 ball head to use with my Nikon 300mm F/4 lens. The short center column is available from B&H or Adorama for $27.90.
I just bought the 410 and love it. It should be fine holding you D90 and 18-270. Can't say about the 055 though since I do not own one. When I say the 410 is great I mean it....BUT it depends on what you will use it for. I will use mine almost entirely for Macro. I tried it for birds and would not use a 410 for them. I use a ball head for bird shots. I need the flexibility/quick positioning of a ball head unless the birds are stationary...if they are hopping or jumping branches the way I think most birds do, the 410 won't be fast enough to set up for your needs. My opinion but I have tried it....like the past 2 days straight.
Dan (Nikon D800,V2,Sony HX400V,Lumix ZS40) "I don't read, I just look at pictures" - Andy Warhol
Thanks for all the replies. Holding off on a purchase. Thinking about migrating to mirrorless cameras and that will eat all of my cash I was thinking of using for a tripod. Anyone interested in a used D90