Best tripod/ head for use with 500mm lens
Hi all, I'd like to buy a 500mm Nikon lens at some stage. Could someone please recommend the best tripod (make/model), gimbal type head (make/model/size) and any asociated plate required which would be stable enough yet light enough to suit the requirement?
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#1. "RE: Best tripod/ head for use with 500mm lens" | In response to Reply # 0nrothschild Registered since 25th Jul 2004Fri 04-May-12 07:13 AM
I shoot a 500/4 AFS (no VR) on a Gitzo GT3541LS and a Wimberly WH-200 gimbal.
I think a Series 4 or 5 would help, especially with my non-VR lens. I do most of my shooting around 1/250s, which is challenging at the 700 or 850mm focal lengths I typically shoot.
But that decision entails more weight and bulk, and a tripod that may be less suitable for general use (due to its weight and bulk). A lot depends on if you want a dedicated tripod for the long lens or one tripod for everything.
I also still own a Sidekick. If you want one do-everything tripod then a Sidekick has some merit because it eliminates the constant head swapping. A full Gimbal is better if you use flash (as I do).
The right decision depends on exactly what you want to shoot, how much walking you will do, and any other support you might use for other things.
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#2. "RE: Best tripod/ head for use with 500mm lens" | In response to Reply # 0Fri 04-May-12 02:02 PM
I shot a 500/4 AF-S on a GT-3541LS for a short period. I decided to move up to a GT5542LS (5 series) and a Jobu Pro-BWG Gimbal. While the 3541/42 is a great one tripod solution for most, IMO it is a bit under powered for the 500/4 AF-S.
I have done some quick testing which you can review here. As Neil mentioned there are a lot of things that come into consideration when picking a support system. One will be if you are going to dedicate a tripod to the big lens. There is a huge difference is size, bulk and weight between a Series 3 and 5, so keep that in mind if you decide to buy a tripod today that will be used to support big glass that may be purchased some months or years in the future.
#3. "RE: Best tripod/ head for use with 500mm lens" | In response to Reply # 2Hawfinch Nikonian since 26th Jun 2010Fri 04-May-12 04:15 PM
Thanks Joe, very useful info. I guess I'd have to look at them both and compare. The heavier version should obviously be better but if it weighs half a ton I may have to compromise. Do you need to buy a separate plate?
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#4. "RE: Best tripod/ head for use with 500mm lens" | In response to Reply # 3Fri 04-May-12 05:07 PM
The weight difference is a little over 2 pounds, but the difference in bulk is significant. IMO bulk is a bigger issue than weight when carrying a tripod in the field.
As for the plate. If you are talking about the plate for the lens, I suggest obtaining the plate recommended for the lens you purchase. I use Wimberley plates, however RRS and Kirk also make them. These plates are long so that you can properly balance the lens buy moving it forward and back in the gimbal (full or sidekick) to establish balance.
#5. "RE: Best tripod/ head for use with 500mm lens" | In response to Reply # 3nrothschild Registered since 25th Jul 2004Sat 05-May-12 05:54 AM
In addition to what Joe said, in particular the Series 5 mount is significantly wider than a Series 3, such that it can be very tough to carry over a shouldert, with or without the camera and lens attached. For me, my older Series 4 alloy didn't want to stay on my shoulder because my shoulder is not wide enough to support two legs.
If you can compare in a store, by all means do so, and try hefting the tripods over your shoulder.
There is now also the option of a Series 4 CF, which has the same size mount as a Series 3 and therefore should be less bulky in that way. I have not even seen one yet. My local shop does not usually stock Systematics.
Most 500's support a removable and replaceable foot, which is what I use. My used 500 came with an RRS foot, which worked well for me since I use an RRS lever clamp on one of my ball heads.
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#6. "RE: Best tripod/ head for use with 500mm lens" | In response to Reply # 3Sat 05-May-12 12:39 PM
Here are a couple of pictures showing the difference between the 3541LS and 5542LS. The 3541LS has the round top mount the current 3542LS has the triangular top mount.
Note: The third section of the 5542 is the same size as the first section of the 3541/42LS. The leg padding in these pictures kind of masks the difference in size between both tripods.
Attachment#1 (jpg file)
Attachment#2 (jpg file)
#7. "RE: Best tripod/ head for use with 500mm lens" | In response to Reply # 0
The problem with the 5 series Gitzo tripods is that they are significantly bigger than the 3 series. The 3 series is an all purpose tripod - it is borderline for heavy lenses like the 500 f/4 and heavier 600 f/4, but it does the job. More important for me is the practical side - you can fit the 3 series in a moderate sized suitcase or carry on. The 5 series is longer and only fits in a larger bag that must be checked. My inclination would be to use the 3 series unless you have a specific need otherwise - and then use two tripods.
I use a 3 series Gitzo - the 3540LS which is essentially the same as the current 3542LS. For long lenses I have a Sidekick but prefer the Really Right Stuff Gimbal Head. The RRS head is well designed and provides great support plus it doubles as a pano head.
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