Best tripod/ball head setup for under $400.
Looking for a good value tripod/ballhead setup for $400. I am working on a limited budget which pushes the gitzos and the arca-swiss's out of my price range.
I shoot weddings, and am looking at getting into shooting real estate as well as more business portraits etc.
I am not exactly sure if I need a super light carbon tripod as the reduced weighted I am worried will make it less stable.
If I had to spend more money somewhere should I spend it on a head, or legs.
The heaviest setup I currently have would be a D700 (possibly gripped) with 80-200 2.8 af-s and a sb-800. I am not a wildlife photographer so I can't envision myself buying anything crazy long in the future.
I am 6'2".
induro at213, feisol ct-3301 or ct-3401
vanguard sbh-250 (non-arca swiss), photo clam pc-36ns, benro b2, oben bb2.
Anything else awesome out there. I don't need top of the line. Just something that will give the best bang for the buck.
#1. "RE: Best tripod/ball head setup for under $400. " | In response to Reply # 0Mon 11-Jun-12 03:39 PM
Welcome to Nikonians!
You seem to have scoped out many of the likely suspects. The tripods may be a little short for your height but in that price range that is what you will generally find.
CF is sturdier than alloy even though it weighs less. It can have problems in a stiff wind, where there is no substitute for weight. In that case most shooters have plenty of weight in their camera bag to hang on the hook, and then it is just as good or better than alloy.
You will save money with alloy if you don't need a lightweight set of legs.
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#2. "RE: Best tripod/ball head setup for under $400. " | In response to Reply # 1Mon 11-Jun-12 03:46 PM | edited Mon 11-Jun-12 07:32 PM by johnnycrozier
I have a feeling if I don't bite the bullet with a CF set of legs I will regret it.
Other options for heads would be
Feisol CB-40d which at .93 lbs would be about the right weight. Is a 33 lb rating too low. Anyone with experience with this head.
The Benro B2 has a few good ratings. And it comes with a plate.
The photo clam heads look awesome, but I am not sure about which one to get.
I had a pistol grip manfrotto head before and hated it.
How high a tripod do I need for my height. I know you aren't supposed to have/use a center column for best performance, however with my portrait work I don't think it is a good option to go without.
Also, should I go with a 3 leg or 4 leg tripod.
Skimp on legs, or head? that is the question.
#3. "RE: Best tripod/ball head setup for under $400. " | In response to Reply # 2jacsr Registered since 08th Apr 2006Mon 11-Jun-12 08:29 PM
>Feisol CB-40d which at .93 lbs would be about the right
>weight. Is a 33 lb rating too low. Anyone with experience with
I would stay away from the Feisol head. I had the CB-50D and it was ok, however, as my skill improved I realized it was not nearly as smooth as I would like. Feisol makes a great tripod but heads, not so much.
>The photo clam heads look awesome, but I am not sure about
>which one to get.
I have used the PC-48NS which is a great head. IMO it was very very close in performance to my M20 now Q20. It has the same physical specifications as the M20. I found my copy to be very smooth had a nice sweet spot and locked down tight when needed. Camera/lens droop was not an issue when the head was tensioned correctly.
>How high a tripod do I need for my height.
I would guess to get to eye level with minimal stooping you will be looking at approximately 60" to the top plate.
>Also, should I go with a 3 leg or 4 leg tripod.
This depends on your specific needs and personal preference.
>Skimp on legs, or head? that is the question.
IMO I would put more towards the head especially if critical framing comes into play.
#5. "RE: Best tripod/ball head setup for under $400. " | In response to Reply # 3Tue 12-Jun-12 03:34 AM
Joe's 60" is right on target, within an inch of the number I would come up with (and an inch is meaningless considering the variables and personal preferences).
If you are shooting portraits then perspective from height may be meaningless- if your model is seated on a stool, for example, sized just to make things comfortable for both parties.
In that case I think it is well worthwhile to try to choose a tripod that will let you work in total comfort without neck and back strain. For me, an inch or two can make a big difference when I spend a lot of time with an eye glued to the viewfinder. A too short tripod will tend to make me lax in studying the details of the composition (or the subject's expression, etc).
Since the precise "perfect" height is truly based on small differences in the sizes of the gear, plus your personal most comfortable stance, I think it is better to err on the high side when possible but at 6'2" that is tough to find.
Center columns are not evil when they are used intelligently to fine tune height, but using one to make up for a too short mount height is not a good idea.
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#6. "RE: Best tripod/ball head setup for under $400. " | In response to Reply # 5Tue 12-Jun-12 03:57 AM
I am narrowing things down here.
Head. Photo clam pc-40ns or pc-36ns. $210 vs $240
Legs. Induro AT213 or AT313. 4.4 lbs and 56" vs 5.8 lbs and 62". $143 vs $170.
That puts me at 353-$410.
I still need plates though so add $40 for a photo clam D700 plate and another $15-20 for a generic plate for my 80-200 afs.
What would you guys recommend for me considering my heaviest setup is a D700 + 80-200 2.8 + SB-800. Do I need the pc-40 or can I go with the 36. Do I need that heavy tripod, or can I get away with the 213.
I geek out on this stuff way too much.
#7. "RE: Best tripod/ball head setup for under $400. " | In response to Reply # 6Tue 12-Jun-12 06:49 AM
Looks like you are making progress .
For 30 bucks, definitely go for the bigger head. I've used the Photoclam pc-44, which I thought performed slightly under the same sized Markins M10 (now Q10). I also have a Markins M20 (now Q20) and Q3 for comparison.
Using that as a gauge, I would recommend you go with at least the PC-44 (budget permitting).
My reasoning is that as a wedding shooter you probably already own, or some day may own, something like a 24-70/2.8, which is very nose heavy. If you are going to spend that much on a head, it should accommodate a reasonably possible/likely future lens like that even if you are not thinking about it right now. You haven't filled out your gear profile (hint hint ) so I'm doing some speculating here.
Just to say that 40mm is the middle ground between my more conservative performance approach and your price oriented approach.
These heads, especially heads like the Markins and Photoclam that like to be run in a sweet spot, do not like very nose heavy lenses. This also should apply to any f/2.8 mid-range zoom, 100mm range macro lenses, anything with a relatively heavy chunk of glass at the end. And definitely 14-24/2.8, and likely any other fast ultra-wide zoom.
From all that, you can see why I would suggest the PC-40 at a minimum. And, of course, when you get past the PC-40 the price escalates quickly, approaching the Markins level. So the PC-40 is probably the best cost/benefit solution in that line.
The AT213 is probably the minimum you would want for the 80-200, just based on leg diameter (I've never handled those Induro alloys). The AT313 would handle the lens with less sweat and should better handle it outdoors in windy conditions. This is a basic performance/weight trade-off that you particularly see with alloy since they are heavier than CF.
When people start looking at 32mm alloy legs, and the ~6LB weight that goes with it, then they often revisit CF .
I'm not trying to "push" CF (I won't get a commish in any event ), just trying to explain the thought process we all go through, and surely you are going through.
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#8. "RE: Best tripod/ball head setup for under $400. " | In response to Reply # 0
Hi John - another option you might want to consider is the Benro A3580 Classic tripod. It's comparable to Induro AT313 but with 4 legs.
Available through Adorama at $168.00 - 33# capacity, 4 legs, 62.8" with center column retracted - 69" extended, weighs 5.3 lbs.
Top it off with the Induro BHD2 for $197.00 and you have a very stable rig for $ 365.00.
It just recently purchased this very set up as a smaller tripod set up - and found it handles my D300(s) with grip and 150-500 sigma with no trouble. I also own an Induro AT413 tripod and BHD3 ball head as my heavy duty set-up. Like the Induro it comes with an identical case and tools.
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#9. "RE: Best tripod/ball head setup for under $400. " | In response to Reply # 0
<If I had to spend more money somewhere should I spend it on a head, or legs.
My recommendation - buy a quality head up-front, upgrade the legs later if needed. There are ways to stabilize what might not be the most stable tripod, as already discussed, but a head that creeps and/or cannot be locked down in the exact position you have placed it, requiring readjustment, is an exercise in frustration, and I don’t know there is anything that can be done about that. Also keep in mind that the head you get also will govern the shoe and plates you will be using for your camera(s) and lens(es). Try to stick with Arca-Swiss compatible, as, looking to the future, a number of companies offer well-designed and finished custom plates, brackets, and other accessories for a wide variety of camera bodies and lenses.
#10. "RE: Best tripod/ball head setup for under $400. " | In response to Reply # 9Peterg15 Registered since 06th Jun 2012Thu 14-Jun-12 04:44 AM
I have recently purchased a Giottos MTL8361B carbon tripod, I attended a Masterclass with Tom Mackie who was using the same tripod and I was very impressed
I am very interested in macro photography and this tripod has the feature of being able to rotate the centre column from a horizontal position downwards through 180 degrees as well as rotate it through 360 degrees
The tripod is extremely light and is ideal for field trips
It costs £189 and I have paired it with a Manfrotto 496RC2
#11. "RE: Best tripod/ball head setup for under $400. " | In response to Reply # 10MS Photog Nikonian since 29th Nov 2011Wed 20-Jun-12 03:42 PM
I faced the same decision a few months ago. I did like you are doing by researching Nikonians, visiting several stores, researching other sites, etc.
My specs were similar to yours. I do not need a lite-weight rig but wanted a good sturdy tripod/head combination under $400.
I bought: A Manfrotto 055XPROB tripod legs and a Sirui K40x ballhead. I am very satisified with this setup. It is very sturdy and the head may not be as good as a Markins but it has no drawbacks for my usage. The K40x head is a little larger diameter than the tripod top. The K30x fits it exactly. However, the slight overhang allows me to do a vertical with the camera without interference. The heads come with a mounting plate. An L-plate would work better for verticals but I have not bought one.
I bought both from Amazon for a total of about $330.
#12. "RE: Best tripod/ball head setup for under $400. " | In response to Reply # 11Wed 20-Jun-12 03:55 PM
I ended up going with the following setup.
Legs. Induro AT213. $143 on Amazon. Wanted the best legs for the least amount of money. these seem to fit the bill. Plus they are pretty light. I am sure one day I will upgrade, but I needed to cut a corner on the legs since I wanted to purchase the head I wanted.
Head: Photo clam PC-44ns. $268 on Ebay with free shipping. Upon recommendations I decided to go as big as possible on the ball head. The $60 extra over the PC-36ns I spent will hopefully equate to smooth performance with my D700 with 24-70 2.8 attached.
Photoclam D700 plate $43 on amazon
Fotopro PL85 lens plate $20 on amazon.
As you can see I went a bit over my budget, but only by $75 or so. For me that is pretty good. Like I said I ended up skimping a bit on the legs so that I could purchase at least 1 item that I wouldn't want to upgrade eventually.
I will let you guys know how the set holds up. It will be arriving sometime soon.
#15. "RE: Best tripod/ball head setup for under $400. " | In response to Reply # 14Mon 02-Jul-12 04:24 PM
Both my pc-44ns and at213 got here last week. I had my first chance to use them at a wedding on Saturday. They performed great.
The legs. Induro at213. These are great. They feel like such high quality. I am coming off of using a manfrotto 190xb. They legs trump those by far. These are very sturdy and tall legs. They are tall enough that they bring the camera to about 1" below eye level when fully extend. I am 6'2". The leg locks are great. With 1 hand I can do a half turn of both legs and they slide nicely out. One thing I like is the finish on the legs. It is matted and smooth and slightly grey. I love it. The legs slide out almost with an air cushion effect. this is much different to me then the clinking rattling legs from the 190xb. This tripod had not problem at all with my 80-200 - D700 - Sb-800. I would reccomend this tripod to everyone. A videographer had a manfrotto 055 at the wedding on Saturday. I would take this tripod over that one any day. I have not used CF, but for the money I think this is probably the best value out there.
Head. Photoclam PC-44ns. Awesome head. Once I figured out the tension control. The tension control thumb screw doesn't, as I thought, adjust the tension applied to the ball. Instead it acts more as a bottom end limiter for the main dial. Once you twist that thumb screw in you won't be able to loosen it past that point. That makes it easy to find that sweet spot and have it be your loosest tension setting. Once you tighten this thing down there is no lens droop. I was using it with my d700 w/ 24-70 attached. No droop when you tighten it. I even through my d700 with 80-200 2.8 af-s attached. My tripod collar with in my bag so I just attached it on the camera. this is a big lens and I expected it to cause some drooping because of the awkward torque. No drooping. It is smooth. and I like it, and that is all that matters to me. I can actually see myself using a tripod more.
The photoclam plate is nice. $40. Instead of a one directional mount, it has a square mount on the bottom. This lets you slide the camera in from any side you want. It doesn't rotate when in portrait position.
The fotopro pl85 was a nice surprise at only $20 on amazon. It fits great on my 80-200 tripod collar. The flanges on the end are great for anti-rotation. The 1/4-20 screw slides back and forth to let you fit multiple different lenses. This thing feels and looks like quality.
Over all I would say this is a very very good all around package for $470 including 2 plates. For what I need it for I am very happy. Thanks for the help.