Before making my purchase, I needed to be sure of my choice. Virtual shopping and reading other people’s blogs and reviews can only get you so far and I needed to confirm my findings by visiting a local camera store. This purchase had to pass the eyeball test because I was told by my wife that I was only getting one shot at this tripod purchase, so I had to get it right.
My visit was both miraculous and disastrous. First the disaster…the Manfrotto 190 was not for me. It was too short and unstable. It is a well-made unit and I bet it’s great for traveling and hiking, but for the long exposures I am interested in, there was too much room for camera shake and vibration atop a wind blow mountain. Fortunately for me, the salesmen at Bergen County Camera in Westwood, NJ was outstanding. He managed to salvage my hopes as he walked me through 5 or six different tripod and head combinations from the Manfrotto 055 and 190 series to a few Vanguard and Giottos models.
In the end, the Manfrotto 055xPROB with the 322 joystick style head was the right combination for me. It is slight heavier than I had wanted, but after hiking the entire Appalachian Trail with a 30+ pound backpack, what’s an extra pound or two in my camera kit. Figuring out which components to purchase was just half of the battle…the actual purchase could make or break the entire exercise.
The best prices I could find for new items was on Amazon.com, $285 for the legs and head with free shipping and no tax. Not too bad…but not in my price range, especially during the summer when money is tight at the Howard House. Off to Craigslist and eBay.
Read the conclusion of my tripod saga tomorrow.
This is the first of a three part description of how I choose my tripod and head. After reading my fair share of blogs and reviews, I thought I’d share my experience in the hopes that it helps the next poor soul looking for his/her perfect kit.
Back in October I thought picking out a tripod and head would be an easy task. I would use my birthday/Christmas/Hanukkah gift requests to get a great kit. Even on a restricted budget of around $200-250 I envisioned ordering the perfect kit from B&H and being done. My assumptions could not have been farther from reality.
Like many other photographers, I consider a tripod and head combination as a long term investment, so quality was of the utmost importance. First I narrowed down the brands I would consider. Across the board, the two brands that were consistently listed at the top of everyone’s list were Gitzo and Manfrotto/Bogen. Unfortunately a Gitzo was out of my price range.
Next I looked at functionality. Which models would meet at least 90% of my needs. But what are my needs? I am interested in landscape and nighttime photography, making camera stability essential. Of course I wanted my kit to also be inexpensive (insert chuckle here), light-weight and flexible enough to allow me to try macro and other photography genres.
I started reading reviews and comparing technical specifications. I read about the Manfrotto 055 series, the 190’s and even the 290’s. I compared carbon fiber with aluminum models and maximum extended heights until my head was spinning. I stared at the comparison table of the XB, XDB and XPROB until my eyes watered. I even got out a tape measure to compare what 70″ verses 51″ would feel like when shooting.
After weighing the functional needs of the units I had researched with the practical considerations (cost), I came to what I thought was my final decision. I would sacrifice minimum and maximum shooting heights for tripod weight and cost. I had decided that the Manfrotto 190 XB with a compact ball head, the 496 RC2, was the right choice for me. The two components were well reviewed and best of all, within my price range.
Read Part 2 on Tuesday to see what went wrong.