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What tripod for Leica SL {merged}

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I appreciate this may have been done before, but not (yet) for the SL.

 

I have an old, but rather good aluminium Manfrotto tripod, but it's large and heavy.  I'm looking for a smaller and lighter alternative.  I see that Manfrotto make a carbon travel tripod (BeFree).  Has anyone tried this?

 

Any comment on a good travel head for the tripod would be appreciated.  The Manfrotto BeFree comes with a ball head - I've never really gelled with ball heads ...

 

Any assistance really appreciated - if a tripod is too big and heavy to carry, there's no point in having it.

 

Cheers

John

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Hello John,

 

A small, solid table tripod with a large ball head & a cable release are what I usually carry when I am going somewhere with a camera.

 

I have found it so useful in so many situations that I have pretty much given up using a full sized tripod for many years.

 

If you think about it there are an almost endless number of places where you can use it. Your ingenuity is your limit.

 

Mine is a home made version of a Leitz/Leica tabletop (Less elegant, but only 11 NZ Dollars.). I use a medium size Leitz large ballhead. They came/come in many versions. As did/do their small ball heads.

 

I have a Linhof 25cm cable release which is like a Leitz/Leica cable release that has grown up to be bigger & stronger. Also a Kodak #1.

 

Best Regards,

 

Michael

Edited by Michael Geschlecht

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The SL is an expensive camera. You should get an expensive tripod.

 

 

Seriously though. I have gone from thousand dollar Gitzo legs to $200 Sirui legs and noticed no stability difference. What I still haven't found is a cheap tripod head that matches a good one. Personally I am thrilled with my Arca Swiss D4 geared head. Seriously expensive and worth any penny. There is a Chinese copy of it but I haven't ever tested one of those.

 

In total they come in at about a kilo. I can live with that. I also keep a larger heavier set of legs for when I'm working from the car.

 

Gordon

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The SL is an expensive camera. You should get an expensive tripod.

 

 

Seriously though. I have gone from thousand dollar Gitzo legs to $200 Sirui legs and noticed no stability difference. What I still haven't found is a cheap tripod head that matches a good one. Personally I am thrilled with my Arca Swiss D4 geared head. Seriously expensive and worth any penny. There is a Chinese copy of it but I haven't ever tested one of those.

 

In total they come in at about a kilo. I can live with that. I also keep a larger heavier set of legs for when I'm working from the car.

 

Gordon

 

 

Thanks Gordon,

 

I've looked at the Arca-Swiss D4 and I was unable to work out what the difference is between the "Classic Knob Quick Release", the "Monorail Quick Release" and the "Fliplock Level Quick Release".  Presumably, I would need to buy a plate for the SL as well.  Can you elaborate on this?

 

It would seem that the Manfrotto 055 carbon, 4 section would be a good complement for this - price is getting up there ...

 

Cheers

John 

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I appreciate this may have been done before, but not (yet) for the SL.

 

I have an old, but rather good aluminium Manfrotto tripod, but it's large and heavy.  I'm looking for a smaller and lighter alternative.  I see that Manfrotto make a carbon travel tripod (BeFree).  Has anyone tried this?

 

Any comment on a good travel head for the tripod would be appreciated.  The Manfrotto BeFree comes with a ball head - I've never really gelled with ball heads ...

 

 

IMO, none of the lightweight travel tripods is sturdy enough to handle a camera and lens as heavy as the SL + 24-90 nor a camera and lens as long and heavy as a 180/2.8. I have a Sirui travel tripod that I find useable with the SL and up to a 90mm prime lens in a pinch, but only if I also carry an L-bracket for the camera so that it will always be directly over the tripod's triple crown ... NO flopping the camera over to the side for a portrait oriented photo. 

 

Legs ... I recommend looking for legs that are rated to support a minimum of 12 lbs. In the Manfrotto line, the 190 series is the minimum, the 055 nets an extra level of stability and height. I have a set of Manfrotto 190CFpro3 which I am comfortable using with the SL plus 24-90 or any of my R prime lenses excepting the Super-Elmar-R 15mm, Elmarit-R 180/2.8 v1, or Telyt-R 250/4. These lenses combined with the SL body are simply heavier and require better stability than these legs can manage, even more so if I use a 2x doubler on the 180 or 250. Be that as it may, for the other lenses they're light, convenient, compact, and set up quickly for field use. All up weight of legs plus Arca-Swiss Monoball P0 head runs 3.2 lbs (1.45kg), and they pack down to a 3 by 22 inch (7x56 cm) bag. 

 

For the heavier and longer lenses, I have a set of Feisol Tournament CT3442 legs which are rated at 26 lbs. They are four section and quite tall even before column extension, and you have the option to use a flat plate instead of a column. Again fitted with the A-S P0 head and the column, they weigh in at just 4 lbs (1.8 kg) and pack down to a 5x19" (13x48 cm) case, due to the way the legs reverse fold over the head. The A-S P0 head isn't ideal for the heavier lenses either, for them I use an Acratech GP head which is slightly bulkier but can be used as a lightweight gimbal mount. It adds only a tiny bit to the total weight of the package. 

 

Heads ... Well, that's a huge question. You say you are not fond of ball heads, but there are so many designs of ball heads I wonder if you simply haven't found the right one yet. Ball heads are great for the field because of their speed and flexibility in setup, but you do have to put out some fairly serious money for a good one devoid of creep, etc. 3D and geared heads are more precisely positionable and adjustable, but tend to be larger and heavier, slower in use.

 

I recommend sticking with Arca-Swiss type plate and clamp quick release mechanisms. 

 

I have a few ball heads, accreted over the years from my experimentation to find the right stuff. The ones I use the most now are the Arca-Swiss Monoball P0 and Acratech GP. Both are light, are rated for a lot of weight relative to their size, and are reasonably priced. I also have the Acratech Ultimate Ball Head and Markins Emilie Q3. 

 

I also need/want a good geared head and here I'm willing to wait until I can afford the ultimate: an Arca-Swiss Cube. That will take me a couple more years to justify ... 

 

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Thanks Gordon,

 

I've looked at the Arca-Swiss D4 and I was unable to work out what the difference is between the "Classic Knob Quick Release", the "Monorail Quick Release" and the "Fliplock Level Quick Release".  Presumably, I would need to buy a plate for the SL as well.  Can you elaborate on this?

 

It would seem that the Manfrotto 055 carbon, 4 section would be a good complement for this - price is getting up there ...

 

Yes, Manfrotto 055 with the A-S D4 head would be a very good tripod. 

 

  • Classic Knob Quick Release - traditional screw type clamp locking knob. Works with all standard A-S type plates. 
  • Fliplock Quick Release - a flip lever clamp locking mechanism. Some plates from some vendors don't work very well with this, but it's speedy in use if your plates fit properly. 
  • MonoballFix Quick Release - uses the newer style plates designed for the Monoball P0 and P1 heads. They work well, but there aren't very many of them. 

 

I prefer the Classic Knob Quick Release and standard type A-S type plates.

 

The plate I use for the SL is the ReallyRightStuff BP-CS "Multi-camera conventional plate". It fits the camera beautifully and also provides an anchor point for a hand strap if you are so inclined. Their B6 Bidirectional plate is also a good choice if the hand-strap anchor points are not important to you. 

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Thanks for the recommendations.

 

Looks like the Acra-Swiss D4 geared head and perhaps the Really Right Stuff TQC-14 would be a good combination.

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Hi John,

 

Travel tripods mostly save weight but rarely save much length.  I wanted a tripod that would fit into an ultra small pack that would hold my camera, tripod, jacket and a few other items.  

Carbon fiber saves weight but more importantly reduce vibration.  I ultimately purchased the MeFoto C135, it folds backwards for travel and saves some space.  The ballhead is marginal at

best, the adjustments are not smooth but once locked down it's fine.

 

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=mefoto+c1350&N=0&InitialSearch=yes&sts=ma&Top+Nav-Search=

 

It holds everything I threw at it, the tipping point was a 300/2.8 (Mamiya 645) lens with the Leica S2.    It's definitely compromised for weight and size reasons, so good technique is required and no wind hopefully.     

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For easy travel and hiking, the RRS tripod fits perfectly on the Gura Gear Bataflae 26L backpack (on side or back).....the pack is small enough for plane carry-on (or seat of car), and it's light and durable with simple access...

 

https://luminous-landscape.com/gura-bataflae-review/

 

The 32L is basically the same, but 3 inches taller.

 

Jeff

Edited by Jeff S

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The Arca Swiss D4 is a fabulous head.....possibly overkill for the small tripod.  I use the RRS BH-55 head on the somewhat larger, but still relatively light and compact TVC-24L tripod (no center column).  The BH-55 also comes in dual pan option, similar to the Arca, and is a gorgeous head for roughly half the price, and will handle a monster load...

 

http://www.reallyrightstuff.com/BH-55-PCLR-Full-sized-ballhead-with-PC-LR-clamp

 

http://www.reallyrightstuff.com/TVC-24L-Versa-series-2-4-sections-leg-long

 

Even if you think you don't like ballheads, you might be surprised with the BH-55, especially if you put an L-plate on the camera (a dedicated SL version is sure to come, but others work) to make switching from portrait to landscape mode a joy (without changing camera or tripod position).  It has similar locking controls to the Arca so that camera positioning is well controlled, yet quick.  

 

A separate leveling base is also available that allows one to level the head without moving the tripod legs....it should also work with the Arca....http://www.reallyrightstuff.com/TA-2-LB-Series-2-Leveling-Base-with-Platform

 

Jeff

Edited by Jeff S

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The only tripod disaster I ever had was with a flip-lock lever release plate. It felt like it was locking down nice and tight. But, at an extreme angle, the camera, with flash on the hotshoe, managed to squirm its way out of the quick release.

Luckily, the flash hit the concrete ground first and absorbed most the impact. The Metz flash shattered into a thousand little bits, scattered over several square meters. The camera and lens, a Hasselblad, survived without a scratch, and continued to work perfectly.

But, I'd never trust a flip-lock lever system again...

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A good tripod for the SL?  I suppose that depends on what you need.  How high does it need to get?  What's the heaviest, most awkward lens you're going to put on it?  How long is your longest focal length?  Does it need to fit in a carry on bag?  What about a backpack?  There is no "right" answer to this question.  And that's without even getting to the question of the head.  

 

Personally, I have had good luck so far with a Gitzo GT1555T Traveller tripod.  It's rated for 22 pounds, I believe--10 kg.  The ball head that is usually paired with it, at least if you stick with Gitzo, is too small in my opinion.  It can hold an SL with the vario zoom, but it can't adjust smoothly while doing so.  I'd recommend the second size up head for this particular Gitzo, the GH1382QD.  It's still compact enough that you can fold the legs up over it, but can handle more weight than the TQD model that is usually paired with the series 1 tripod legs.  Obviously, everyone has their own preferences on ball heads, so by all means look around.  This one works well with the tripod since it's more compact than many of its weight class, but that doesn't mean it will suit any given photographer.

 

The tripod I'm recommending is really aimed at traveling.  It is very light weight for its capacity, folds into a very compact size, and is stable enough to handle the SL and the Vario at any shutter speed, but it doesn't extend high enough to be truly eye level for most photographers, and I'm not certain it could handle the SL in much more than a slight breeze if you don't weight it down.  Oh, yeah, and unlike many other Gitzo models it doesn't have a hook you can add weights to, so that could be an issue.  Still, for a travel tripod I think it's the best thing going right now.

 

- Jared

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I have a gitzo traveller ..... gt1541t ..... with a Markins ball-head ...... overall weight about 1kg, height up to 1.4m, takes 8kg and there is a hook on the bottom for weighing down for extra stability.

 

Never had any problems with Leica gear ...... fully extended the 4th extension is a bit spindly and you would need to add weight to stabilise if windy etc. Carbon fibre so not cheap, and no clear idea what Gitzos current replacement is .... looks very like Jared's mentioned above.... there have been lots of variations of these but all appear to be quite similar.

 

Weight/stability/compactness/price are all trade-offs and this was the best I could find. Personally I hate tripods and avoid them unless absolutely necessary ..... this is about as big and heavy as I would ever be willing to cart about .....

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no clear idea what Gitzos current replacement is .... looks very like Jared's mentioned above....

 

 

Looks like GT1541T is currently GT1542T (weight 1 kg vs 0.98 kg for GT1541T). 

 

I hardly use tripods any more. But when in use, I am typically in the winter mountains, and then I find the leg "warmers" on some of the Manrfotto tripods comfortable. The one I currently use is Manfrotto/Bogen 3221WN, with a weight of 2.8 kg. So this one is on the heavy side. Perhaps time to have a look at Gitzo GT1542T or similar tripods... Leg warmers can - of course - be added on any tripod (homemade or a little more elaborated).

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First of all, I have no experience with either lens or camera.

 

I use the Gitzo GT2542 with an Arca-Swiss P0 ball-head. Great tripod, to get around with, sturdy enough for using it with a SL with moderate size lenses. I leave the center column out, only use the hook for extra weight when there is a bit of wind.

To use only this Gitzo with the 24-90 is at the limit, I think. Not so much because of the weight, but more because of the balance of lens/camera (the extended length of the SL-lens is almost 200 mm. and there is no tripod mount on the lens.

 

I use an extra Manfrotto 359 support if I want absolute stability for long lenses in combination with a Hejnar long lens support.

Pictured is the Gitzo-tripod with the manfrotto 593-support, together with the Leica T and a Minolta Rokkor-R 800mm./f8 and adapter M-R/M-T. This combination is about the same same size as the extended 24-90 SL lens (190 mm.), although the diameter of the lenses differ (88 mm. for the SL and 121 for the Minolta)  The Minolta weighs 1,8 kg. but this is no problem whatsoever for the Gitzo, it is even better.

 

I think just the Hejnar support could be enough for the SL-lens, because it has only a FL of 90 mm. See second picture with the MR-telyt 500mm/f8. and APO-extender. This combination has the same length and girth as the SL-length half extended, 165 mm. (but weighs less). The SL-camera can be mounted on the Hejnar support. The center of gravity of the camera/lens combination should be above the ballhead.

 

Looks all like overkill, but it guarantees a picture without unwanted blur, whichever long lens you use on a camera/lens combination of moderate weight, even with a bit of wind. This is, in my experience a better solution than using a heavier tripod.

Edited by AndreasAM

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Thank you Andreas.  That is very helpful, and mirrors my expectation.

 

Weight/stability/compactness/price are all trade-offs and this was the best I could find. Personally I hate tripods and avoid them unless absolutely necessary ..... this is about as big and heavy as I would ever be willing to cart about .....

 

 

I hate tripods too.  I have a large Manfrotto tripod with thick aluminium legs and large inconvenient head.  It does the job well, but I never use it, unless it's in the car. So, in short, it is useless, even though it supports the camera well and the head isn't too bad.  I also have a desk top tripod which folds up nicely.  Useful, if I have it in the bag, but it is limited in its uses.

 

Like the aphorism about the best camera being the one you have with you, the same applies to tripods - it's not a case of endless questions about what you're going to use it for, on what camera, how high or how heavy - I'm going to put my SL on it, and probably with the zoom from time to time (though less likely).  This really isn't a case of having a variety of tripods, like lenses.  If you don't have the tripod with you, it isn't any use, and it has to support the cameras you have.

 

The SL is reasonably large and reasonably heavy.  I also have a Hasselblad SWC, so it will need to take a reasonable weight.  Most of the tripods seem to be adequately rated.  The point about using a tripod is not just taking selfies ... it's about providing a stable platform.  For that, I will want to use my sharpest lenses (most likely my M lenses, rather than the 24-90 zoom, but you never know - it may be the only lens I have with me).  The height of the tripod is less relevant for me - I generally don't take pictures at eye level, preferring to crouch or get to an elevated position to change the perspective.  Stability is more important.

 

So, I'm more of the view that there is actually a better tripod than others - it isn't really user or camera dependent.  I want a stable platform, but it has to be a manageable size and weight.  Unless you're driving everywhere, you're not going to use the tripod if you can't carry it on your camera bag or strapped to the side of a backpack.

 

I had a look at the Manfrotto BeFree (and I think the 055 is similar), and while it is compact, it doesn't look as stable as the Really Right Stuff Steve linked above.  I agree that the next size up would probably be more stable, but it's getting into the size territory of the Manfrotto I already have.  The Series 1 tripod weighs 1.1kg without the centre column and the Arca-Swiss D4 740g bringing the total to just under 2kg - the Manfrotto 055 weighs 2.1kg without adding a head.  Closed (again with no head) the Manfrotto is 54cm to the Really Right Stuff's 45cm.

 

Granted, the Manfrotto is a little cheaper, but you gets what you pays for.  The Gitzos look really good - slightly lighter and slightly shorter when folded, and a little cheaper.

 

As for heads, the D4 gear head looks like the business with its quick and fine adjustment, the latter using the gears.  If you're using a tripod, it seems to me you're wasting your time if you can't see the entire frame, and ensure the camera is level - I wouldn't bother if I couldn't do accurate fine adjustment.  As a landscape photographer once said to me - there are two types of photograph, those taken with a tripod and those that should have been taken with a tripod.

 

I see sod all point in having a tripod if it isn't compact and light enough to carry (it's no use in the cupboard), stable and fitted with a good head.  Once you have that sorted, you want the best image - SL operated using the iPhone App, with anything from the APO-Elmarit-R 180/2.8 with APO-Extender 2x, 24-90 zoom through to 28 or 21 Summilux.

 

I think I'll go with the TQC-14 and D4 geared head (neither in stock, as it happens).

 

Thanks for your comments - I would have ended up in a completely different place without them.

 

Cheers

John

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In my opinion John, the Gitzo-Arca-Swiss combination would be perfect for you, and will last a lifetime. Never has there been a better tripod arrangement for people like us who hate tripods.

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John, 

 

The SL is probably next on my list to buy. I have an extended array of quality R-lenses screaming for a FF-solution, from the wide to the very long, see the pictures. They were sitting far too long in storage up until this opportunity. I will wait for the L-R adapter though (and look at the new M first)

 

I think the way you describe using a tripod for shooting landscape, is correct. In the beginning I cursed myself for not using a tripod for critical and stable focus, wasting sometimes a beautiful afternoon shooting.

 

A few precautions and good preparation prevented more of this. Use the right tools for the job, I learned the hard way.

I think using the IPhone or IPad with the SL (or the T as I am doing for the moment) is also a big step forward. Especially with the movable zoomfocus-point as the SL has. Using the self timer every time is a nuisance, because you have to set the self timer again and again.....

Edited by AndreasAM

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