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Tripod center column


Einst_Stein

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There is a myth that the center colume is unstable. Some "experts" recommenf to take it out and throw away. Some tripods even offer to attached rge head directly to the tripod without the center column.  I believed that and never extended the center column. The tall tripods I have are much higher and heavier due to the unused center columns.  

Only recently I start to question this myth. All center columns of my tripods are pretty sturdy, If I try to shake the tripod fro the head, the major contribution is actually the tripod legs. 

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I guess the (reasonable) assumption is that a single tube is more likely to flex and vibrate than three tubes braced together. But the centre column on my Gitzo 0145 is thicker than the leg tubes and is inherently more rigid. Since that is a small tripod (bought for travel) I often use it with the column up for video, and haven't noticed problems. For large format I have a much taller FLM with no centre column, chosen partly for that reason.

I guess it partly depends on how the centre column is clamped. I had a cheap Velbon many years ago where I could flex the centre column by hand - it had a rack to raise and lower it with little clamping. I replaced it with a Benro and a centre column joint that allowed the centre tube to be angled horizontally for macro; although I could clamp it tight, that joint always seemed a weak spot to me, so I sold it.

Edited by LocalHero1953
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I often take long exposures with an exposure time of 120 seconds. And with a bit of wind, the tripod becomes much more unstable when the centre column is extended. For this reason, I also bought a very large, heavy tripod without a centre column last year.

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The center column usually is fixed at one point only. It is bound to oscillate, particularly when a heavy object is mounted on top.

Therefore, it can be handy to raise the camera by a few centimeters or inches. I would not use it extended with long focal lengths or long exposure times.

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2 hours ago, Einst_Stein said:

There is a myth that the center colume is unstable. Some "experts" recommenf to take it out and throw away. Some tripods even offer to attached rge head directly to the tripod without the center column.  I believed that and never extended the center column. The tall tripods I have are much higher and heavier due to the unused center columns.  

Only recently I start to question this myth. All center columns of my tripods are pretty sturdy, If I try to shake the tripod fro the head, the major contribution is actually the tripod legs. 

The best use of the centre column is to hang your camera bag from the hook at the bottom.

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Carbon tripods have the advantage of being much better at suppressing vibration, and are much nicer to carry in cold weather. I wonder if the ‘myth’ about the centre column was started before carbon was available and cheap? I’ve got two carbon tripods, a ‘heavy’ Manfrotto tripod suitable for 4x5 and a slimmer Gitzo for everything else, and windy days aside it usually the ground it’s on that makes one better than the other with more weight on the head helping in stability. Or in other words a heavier camera on a lighter carbon tripod is possibly much better than a heavier camera on a lighter aluminium tripod.

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3 hours ago, jdlaing said:

As with all else, the quality of the tripod and the style of the locking mechanism has a great deal to do with stability.

indeed. I have a Gitzo 1548 and can remove the centre column and replace it with a plate. i've had it for years and not noticed any difference using it with or without the centre colimn. But I have seen 'lesser' tripods on which the centre column would certainly flex. So as ever, it depends

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Here is a quantitative test of one of the Gitzo Mountaineer tripods with the centre column extended and lowered (though I can't comment on the methodology):

https://thecentercolumn.com/2018/02/07/stiffness-vs-center-column-height-for-gitzo-gt2542/

'Both the axial stiffness (horizontal camera movements) and radial stiffness (vertical camera movements) decline by about 55%, to less than half of their original values.  The camera will be twice as sensitive to vibrations, wind, hand pressure, etc. at the top of the center column as opposed to the bottom.  This decline in stiffness represents a fall from what is a very stiff tripod, to one that would be rated mediocre or poor.'

There is also a plot with data for intermediate positions - as you might expect, using just a couple of inches of the centre column has much less of a negative impact than extending it all the way.

Edited by Anbaric
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37 minutes ago, Anbaric said:

Here is a quantitative test of one of the Gitzo Mountaineer tripods with the centre column extended and lowered (though I can't comment on the methodology):

https://thecentercolumn.com/2018/02/07/stiffness-vs-center-column-height-for-gitzo-gt2542/

'Both the axial stiffness (horizontal camera movements) and radial stiffness (vertical camera movements) decline by about 55%, to less than half of their original values.  The camera will be twice as sensitive to vibrations, wind, hand pressure, etc. at the top of the center column as opposed to the bottom.  This decline in stiffness represents a fall from what is a very stiff tripod, to one that would be rated mediocre or poor.'

There is also a plot with data for intermediate positions - as you might expect, using just a couple of inches of the centre column has much less of a negative impact than extending it all the way.

I am using much cheaper tripods. I don’t see any disadvantages with center extended. Maybe the cheaper tripods work better?

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Hello Everybody,

The most stable place on a tripod is the point where the 3 legs of the tripod come together.

Any movement of a tripod column: Which is above the point where the 3 legs come together: Will increasingly magnify that movement more & more:  As the distance away from the point where the 3 legs come together: Increases.

Because the greater the distance from the point of rotation (Where the 3 legs come together.): The greater the amount of movement in millimeters: Even tho the angle of movement stays the same.

No matter how rigid/solid the tripod & tripod column are.

Altho, with a very stable system: This movement may be less, or virtually non-existent. 

Additionally:  

When I use a tripod: I tie a long cord to a place just under where the 3 legs of the tripod come together.

I then attach the cord to a camera bag, or a rock, etc.: Which is sitting on the ground, under the tripod.

I pull the cord tight & tie it with the bag/rock/etc. still sitting on the ground:

So that there is no opportunity for the bag, rock, etc. to swing/move & blur the photo.

Best Regards,

Michael

 

Edited by Michael Geschlecht
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3 hours ago, Michael Geschlecht said:

Altho, with a very stable system: This movement may be less, or virtually non-existent. 

There are only two sorts of tripod Michael, ones which hold the camera steady and those which don't. This varies depending on conditions. A centre column may tip the tripod into unsteadiness if conditions are poor, but if they are then the tripod is the wrong one regardless of centre column. At the end of the day stability is about weight and whilst carbon fibre may occasionally help, in my experience its all about using the correct tripod which usually means the heavier one! I currently have 3 all Gitzos (and a Gandolfi but that doesn't count) plus two out on loan to people who needed them.

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1 hour ago, 250swb said:

I don't know why we are discussing tripods anyway, it's well known Leica photographers can reliably hand hold the camera at 1/8th, or so the story goes...

Only those Leica users with three legs can do this ......

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6 hours ago, Einst_Stein said:

I am using much cheaper tripods. I don’t see any disadvantages with center extended. Maybe the cheaper tripods work better?

Who knows? You'd have to take some measurements to make comparisons, or find a test of your particular tripod. This guy has tested a range of tripods (without extending the centre columns), and found that Gitzo Systematics do best and cheap travel tripods do worst. High quality travel tripods like Gitzo and RRS do better than the cheaper equivalents. That was also my subjective impression when comparing Gitzo Travelers with some cheaper brands in a camera shop where they had them set up - the difference was really quite noticeable. If a tripod is already not the most stable, perhaps the difference with the column extended might be less obvious? The old maxim for tripods is of course: cheap, light, stable - pick any two, and I think there's some truth in this.

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43 minutes ago, pgk said:

Heavier tripod = greater inertia = more force required to induce motion.

There is more to it.  The weight of the object at the end of the tripod / column (even on top vs hanging a bag from the bottom) alters the fundamental vibration frequencies of the combined structure.  Even the tripod head matters.  Structural mode interactions change with the distribution of weight.  The characteristics of the lens also matter.  An 800mm f6.3 Telyt S is much harder to keep steady than an 800mm f5.6 Apo Telyt R Modular lens because of the comparative moments of inertia of the two lenses.  If you use a light camera, like a Leica M, extension of the column isn't going to matter.  If you use a Leica R with one of the big lenses, don't use the column.

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1 hour ago, zeitz said:

There is more to it.

Of course, but the basics remain the same. Heavier tripod = greater stability. You can modify but not get away from this. And practically it also depends on viability (how much weight you want to carry), the lenses used (long or short), the prevalent conditions (windy or still), etc., etc.. My Gitzo 1548 is heavy and now its equivalent is very expensive. But if I know that I need to use it I do. I do have lighter tripods for more benign applications. The real problem with lightweight tripods is assuming that they will work when they won't.

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