A tale of three tripods and some thoughts on heads
Over the years I have used two tripods for my outdoor nature photography. In the 80s my largest lens was a 300mm f4. My first tripod was a Manfrotto #144, aluminum, three leg section, with T handle leg adjust. The T handles were very easy to use even on cold hands but tended to catch in shrubbery and tall grass. The leg angle was not adjustable and this is a significant problem in the field, but no issue for indoor studio use. The head column height was adjustable, a feature I used quit often to adjust the height without having to adjust and reposition the three legs. After 30 years of hard use this tripod still works and looks like new. Nothing was ever replaced or repaired and it is still used indoors.
In 1998 when I purchased a 500mm lens I decided I needed to reduce the rig weight as much as possible. The recommended best tripod at the time was the carbon fiber Gitzo 1325. It weighed around .5 Lbs less than a comparable aluminum tripod, was very quiet to operate (aluminum tripods are often noisy) and was supposed to dampen vibration better than aluminum.
Gitzo worked fine until winter came then one day while setting it
up in crusty snow one of the legs became detached from the head.
This problem had been reported by others and an inspection of the
legs suggests that if you force the tripod down in crusty snow or
sand the slight bending of the leg cracks the glue line at the
socket. This probably could be prevented if a compression plug
had been added to the top inside of the leg to prevent the leg
from distorting and opening up the glue joint. I had the option
of sending it in for service and being without it for several
weeks or fixing it myself. Re gluing it was not an option as the
problem would likely occur again. I decided to tape the joint
and the other two legs with electrical tape. It has been several
years and I have not had the leg come loose. It seems the tape
does a better job than the glue as it has some give to it. About
a year later one of the aluminum sleeves on a leg came loose and
I re-glued it with Miller Stevens epoxy. I have not had any other
break downs with this tripod. The largest deficiency though is the
difficulty of adjusting the leg length. It is necessary to insure
that the leg above the one you are adjusting is very tight or the
leg will turn when you attempt to undo the leg collar. This is
annoying and time consuming. The newer Gitzos have anti rotating
legs which eliminates the problem. I used the Gitzo for several
years with an Arca Swiss ballhead, probably the best of ballheads
over the years and lighter than most of comparable load rating.
Arca worked well for over a year then it became sticky and had to be
sent in for service. Three friends had to send their B1s in at the same
time. The older B1 seldom gave trouble for years but a defective
component was substituted at some point and had to be replaced at our
expense. I then ordered a Really Right Stuff BH-55, as I could not be
without a ball head for a few weeks. This was quite an expensive
purchase and relatively new on the market but most of the reports seemed
favorable. After using it for awhile I found the position of the pan
adjust being opposite of the main ball adjust to be unacceptable. The
panning action was not smooth and after it locked up on me once I
gave up on it !
repaired Arca felt smooth and I used it occasionally with a Wimberley
side kick to give me a light weight pan tilt (gimbal) option for those
occasions when I was shooting flight from a level surface for extended
periods. Most of my flight shooting though is hand held as it
allows shooting in a wider arc - dancing around a tripod is awkward.
Two years back I replaced the Arca\Side kick combo with a full Wimberly Gimbal head. Gimball heads have the advantage of no flop over. If you let go of the camera with the tension backed off on a ball head the camera and lens will flop over violently often taking the rig to ground. Gimbal heads are balanced and this does not occur. This is useful when doing workshops when inexperienced users need to look through the viewfinder. The problem though is Gimbal heads need to be leveled and this can be time consuming. Ball heads can be panned with tension backed off the ball to quickly track unexpected action.
When setting up to shoot ducks from a rocky uneven shoreline while in an awkward position and needing to cover a large shooting angle the ball head is much easier to get level.
Removing the Wimberly and replacing it with a ball head every time I wish to switch shooting styles is time consuming so I decided to purchase another tripod. I did not want to spend a fortune and also wanted something tougher than Carbon fiber. The Induro line appears to have decent reputation among my peers though it is rather new. The price is much less than the Gitzo. I decided to take a chance on the AT-313. This is a 3 leg section, Aluminum, center column tripod of comparable height and strength to the Gitzo. It looked impressive and had the anti rotating legs and a similar leg angle adjuster as the Gitzo which I was used to. When it arrived I immediately used the supplied tool kits allen key to adjust the leg tension to my liking. It is important that the legs are not so loose that they close up and pinch your fingers when you throw the tripod on your shoulder and not so tight that they can not be closed up easily. The rubber feet are retained to the legs with a threaded rod and it seemed to me it was possible this could come loose with use so I removed a foot with the idea of adding locktite to the threads as a precaution. I noticed there was a sticky substance on the threads that may be there to prevent them coming loose or simply as an anti-corrosion agent. I decided not to remove this substance and rather than use locktite which requires clean threads I decided to use electrical tape to insure the feet stay put. It has long been my practice to tape the bottom few inches of the tripod lower legs anyway to prevent scuffs from laying the leg on rocks and such. In addition the tape will retain the foot and keep mud from accumulating around the foot edge. If the tape is kept in good shape and replaced when necessary it will also keep water from penetrating the leg and causing corrosion.
This is a typical manufactures response and ignores the need to provide equipment to suite the way we need to use the gear. Time will tell if the tripod is up to snuff.
Though the BHD-2 is rated for up to 40 lbs the BHD-3 is rated for 55 Lbs and is exactly the same size though it weighs .9 Lbs more suggesting it is built heavier. Time will tell how well the BHD-2 holds up to my load - 500mm, Teleconverter, Canon 7D and 580EXII flash and beamer weighing in at 14.5 Lbs.
The tripod comes with a cloth carrying bag, tripod strap and a tool pouch containing several tools. The Induro heads include a universal mounting plate which is basically a camera plate and works well.
Time will tell how well this equipment holds up, if you have had problems with the Induro line let me know.
Induro AT 313 tripod and BHD-2 ball head
Electrical tape on Induro AT-313 leg to protect and retain foot.
Images on this website are ©Ken Newcombe
Email: Ken Newcombe
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