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What tripod
by J. Ramón Palacios

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Do I really need one?
What to look for
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Tripod Long Lens Technique


Both Manfrotto and Gitzo offer a series of interesting accessories.

Tripod "apron"
Manfrotto 166 tripod apron

The above shown 3-compartment apron is useful to temporarily place stuff while shooting in the field (filters, lenses, hoods, etc.). But I found them even more useful as a way to add stability to the tripod when loaded with rocks. Gitzo offers a similar product, the G088S small and G088L large canvas aprons. If you already have a hook under the tripod plate, hang from there your bag for added stability.

Manfrotto tripods come with rubber caps, but it offers a set of retractable spiked feet with Cat. No: 055SPK for most aluminum units.

Manfrotto spikes for aluminun tripods

But the most popular Gitzo carbon fiber tripods did not have OEM spikes option for a long time.

And that's why Markins designed these lifetime-durable Titanium spikes shown at right. They do include very nice thick rubber caps for use in interiors

Markins RS23 Titanium spikes
If you do have a Gitzo Mountainer CF Series 2 or Series 3 already, you may want to consider replacing the center column with a Markins TB anti-vibration base plate for vibration dampening, added sturdiness and reduced overall weight. A side effect is the ability to do gbround level shots, without the center column interfering. In the package you also get a Titanium bolt to attach your ball head to the tripod with added strength.
  Markins anti-vibration plate
A further refinement for added stability and vibration absorbtion are the new Markins TH-200 and TH-300 tripod hubs, for Series 2 and Series 3 CF Gitzo respectively. These replace both the OEM platform hub and the TB anti-vibration base plate in a single unit. The great news is that they can be fitted in both Mountaineer and Systematic, G and GT Gitzo tripods.
Leg protectors or wraps not only protect the legs from cuts and knicks and insulate your hands when using a tripod in cold or hot weather, but they also cushion it for comfortable carry over the shoulder.

Some have a zipper system so they can be easily fitted and will not slip down in use while offering good grip, others have velcro. At right the great looking Nikonians OP/TECH wraps.

Of course you could save with a practical solution: pipe insulation foam tubing, fastened with plastic ties or tape, but it is not very elegant.

  Nikonians tripod legs wraps
When traveling, tripods should peferably go inside luggage; in the field they usually go on the backpack, over the shoulder or in a sling strap. However, as soon as I had tripods longer than my suitcases I used tripod bags for travel, with the tripod inside hard carboard tubing for added protection. To avoid that we have now designed our very own protective tripod carry bag.
Tripod bags
Nikonians tripood bag

What about The Most Important Accessory?

All the money spent on a good tripod goes down the drain if you don't top it with a good head. You may choose a three-way pan-tilt or a ball head, but get the best you can and make it a pro one. Avoid the small or medium sized ball heads. My partner Bo Stahlbrandt, and award-winning Nikonians like Marsel van Oosten, Philippe Clement, Ernesto Santos, Bob Johnson, and thousands of Nikonians now, are happy Markins converts. By the time of the 6th Annual Nikonians Photo Adventure Tour, 21 Nikonians had Markins ball heads on their tripods, out of a total of 25 participants. The proportion has been larger in later ANPATs.
see also

Tripods, Heads & Camera Support Forum 
Markins Ball heads
Markins products
A vibration study report