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Cristiano Abreu
6-Mar-2008, 13:27
Hi all,
In order to reduce some of the weight I carry into the field (... age is starting to take is toll) from using an aluminum Gitzo serie 2 tripod, as well as to increase stability, I'm considering getting a Gitzo CF. I'll be using it for 4x5".
After the usual research, I'm inclined for the GT3540XLS (mainly because of the minimum and maximum height) in conjunction with a Manfrotto 160 heavy duty head. Yes, I know the head is somewhat heavy, but I've been using a Gitzo G1378M, which isn't light either. However, the base of the latter is too small and suffers from instabilities issues for LF work.
Anyone using the combo GT3540XLS + manfrotto 160?
Pros and Cons?
Thanks.

mrladewig
6-Mar-2008, 17:17
Is a ball head an acceptable solution for you? If so you can trim several pounds from that combination. You can get a ballhead capable of support 60 pounds at a weight of 1.2 pounds or so.

Also in that height range is a G2 series with extra long legs. That would save at least a pound. Not sure exactly how long you need though.

The only cons with what you have listed are weight.

Cristiano Abreu
7-Mar-2008, 01:45
Is a ball head an acceptable solution for you? If so you can trim several pounds from that combination. You can get a ballhead capable of support 60 pounds at a weight of 1.2 pounds or so.

Also in that height range is a G2 series with extra long legs. That would save at least a pound. Not sure exactly how long you need though.

The only cons with what you have listed are weight.

Hi mrladewig. Thanks for responding.
My present setup consists on a Gitzo G2220 Al tripod, which is relatively robust (with the center column retracted) but ain't particularly light (2,35 kg), and a G1378M ball head (1.1 kg). This ball head, even considering it's the biggest in Gitzo's series, has not convinced me fully for LF. It's square QR footprint is too small even for my Mamiya RB67 MF, but essentially what's bothering me most is that I've to tighten the friction and locking knobs considerably to prevent motion for my LF gear. And from what I've been reading, from general consensus, ball heads are not the best option for LF work. That's essentially why I want to change for a pan-tilt or geared head, for heavy duty.
Therefore, I'm considering the CF G3540XLS, w/ 1.97 kg (mainly for its max height without the necessity of extending a center column. I'm 1.80m. But also due to its min height of only 10 cm, since there's no center column) to slightly lower the weight of the ensemble, in order to use a heavy duty head.
For the head I've been considering the low profile G1570M (1.34 kg), which nonetheless doesn't provide QR, and the Manfrotto 160 (2 kg) which is heavier but has a QR system. True, this last setup is heavier (3.97 kg) than my present one (3.45 kg), but I prefer to let my back suffer a little more (I'm not that old...) than compromise on stability. I also foreseen to advance, in a not so distant future, to the larger 8x10''. Therefore, I need a tripod+head combination which will last for long and serve me well in present and future situations. It's a big investment. This is the main reason I want to change from the series 2 to 3, even at a loss in portability.

Aender Brepsom
7-Mar-2008, 02:03
Have you ever considered the Arca Swiss Monoball head? Sturdy as a ballhead can be and very smooth to operate. Mine is at least 7-8 years old and still an excellent tool.
The Really Right Stuff ballhead is probably equally good.

evan clarke
7-Mar-2008, 04:40
Using a ball head is like an octopus having sex with bagpipes. I use mainly an Arca cube on my 3540 (the best tripod ever) I use a 3 way head which is rigid (808RC4). i have one of the 160s but the thing has a long gooseneck which is flexible and does not support the camera as nicely and the 3 way. I have a Bogen universal adapter on the tripod and the universal plates on the heads I use, it can allow quick change between heads and is rigid. it also lets me carry my Cube in my pack...EC

timparkin
7-Mar-2008, 05:43
Using a ball head is like an octopus having sex with bagpipes. I use mainly an Arca cube on my 3540 (the best tripod ever) I use a 3 way head which is rigid (808RC4). i have one of the 160s but the thing has a long gooseneck which is flexible and does not support the camera as nicely and the 3 way. I have a Bogen universal adapter on the tripod and the universal plates on the heads I use, it can allow quick change between heads and is rigid. it also lets me carry my Cube in my pack...EC

Heh... I must like marine porn as I love using my RRS BH55 and 3540XLS (really nice tripod btw - amazing at full height - I've added the spikes which adds another 4 inches - I can't actually open it fully at home as it hits the ceiling...

If you get a ballhead with a tension control that works (and only a few do) then using a ball head is simple enough. I think a pan tilt head with micro adjustments would be nicer in some ways but I like the simplicity one control. I imagine some cameras where the centre of gravity is quite high or off centre could be problematical with a ballhead. My Ebony seems to be well centred and fairly low.. Even when using a long lens, the front and back standards at extension balance roughly (with a 360TED)

I'd like to try an Arca Cube though :-)

Tim

Cristiano Abreu
7-Mar-2008, 05:44
Have you ever considered the Arca Swiss Monoball head? Sturdy as a ballhead can be and very smooth to operate. Mine is at least 7-8 years old and still an excellent tool.
The Really Right Stuff ballhead is probably equally good.

Thanks Aender.
I know that the Arca B1 are among the best, but a tad pricy for me. I'm also more inclined for the pan-tilt, for more precise adjustments.
Unfortunately, I can't seem to find a seller for RRS here in Europe. In the past, before buying the G1378M, I've seriously considered one of RRS's ball heads, but was unable to find a on-line seller this side of the pond. I've had a bad experience before with customs, so ordering from the States is almost out of question.

Cristiano Abreu
7-Mar-2008, 06:00
Using a ball head is like an octopus having sex with bagpipes. I use mainly an Arca cube on my 3540 (the best tripod ever) I use a 3 way head which is rigid (808RC4). i have one of the 160s but the thing has a long gooseneck which is flexible and does not support the camera as nicely and the 3 way. I have a Bogen universal adapter on the tripod and the universal plates on the heads I use, it can allow quick change between heads and is rigid. it also lets me carry my Cube in my pack...EC

Thanks for the input Evan.
Yea, the Arca Cube will be awesome. However, it's way beyond my price tag.
So you say that the 808RC4 will be a better option than the 160, because of the long goose neck. Nice to know about this, since the 808RC4 is cheaper than the 160 :)
What do you think of the low profile G1570M? is there a way to adapt a QR from Manfrotto for ex.?

Cristiano Abreu
7-Mar-2008, 06:22
Heh... I must like marine porn as I love using my RRS BH55 and 3540XLS (really nice tripod btw - amazing at full height - I've added the spikes which adds another 4 inches - I can't actually open it fully at home as it hits the ceiling...

If you get a ballhead with a tension control that works (and only a few do) then using a ball head is simple enough. I think a pan tilt head with micro adjustments would be nicer in some ways but I like the simplicity one control. I imagine some cameras where the centre of gravity is quite high or off centre could be problematical with a ballhead. My Ebony seems to be well centred and fairly low.. Even when using a long lens, the front and back standards at extension balance roughly (with a 360TED)

I'd like to try an Arca Cube though :-)

Tim

Thanks Tim.
I'm glad you like the 3540XLS, especially at full height. That's a strong point for me. You have hit the bull's eye here, since my major problem with the G1378M ball head is indeed the friction/tension control. I really need to tighten it strong for it to work reasonably. If I unscrew just a little, there goes the smoothness.
I'm using a Shen Hao TZ45-IIA (around 1.95 kg) by the way, with my heaviest lens being a 90/5.6 Super-Angulon XL (approx. 0.7 kg).

What about the low profile G1570M? Is there a way to adapt a QR from Manfrotto for ex. that would clear its large base?

Really Big Cameras
7-Mar-2008, 10:40
Cristiano,

Tripod and head selection are very personal matters. Everyone has their own likes and dislikes. Also, the LF community is a pretty diverse. We have folks here shooting everything from sub-3 lb. ultralight 4x5s up through a 50 lb. 20x24. It would probably help us answer your questions, complete with our own personal biases, if we knew where in this spectrum you fit. So, what format are you shooting? What camera are you using? Do you like to use really long lenses, or mostly wide angles to slightly longer than normal focal lengths? It's kind of hard to give any meaningful recommendations without knowing these specific details.

But, I'll try anyway... Concerning heads, geared heads are definitely a joy to use. Unfortunately, they are either very expensive (the ARCA-SWISS Cube), very heavy (Majestic, larger Manfrotto models) or not as rigid as a ballhead or panhead of comparable (or lesser) weight (Manfroto 410). In short, like most things they are a compromise. Since you stated you're trying to lower the weight you have to carry, and already said the ARCA-SWISS Cube is out of your price range, I don't really see a geared head in your future. I really like the ease-of-use of my Manfrotto 410, but it is both heavier and not as rigid as a decent ballhead. I use it close to the vehicle, just because it's such joy to use, but when I hit the trail, it's always with a ballhead.

I used to have a love/hate relationship with ballheads for large format use. Now, it's mostly love. My first ballhead was an ARCA-SWISS B1 - might as well start with the best, and 11 - 12 years ago when I got mine it was unquestionably the best ballhead available. Even with such a magnificent piece of gear, it still took me about a year of full time shooting to get used to using a ballhead with a large format camera. But, once I got over that learning curve (after using only 3-axis heads previously), I really started to appreciate the weight saving and rock solid rigidity of the ARCA-SWISS B1. While not as "user friendly" as a geared head, or even a good three-axis head, the tension preset and elliptical ball of the B1 makes it pretty easy to use with a large format camera (once you get used to it). Getting the tension preset properly adjusted is key. You want it tight enough that the camera doesn't flop about when you let go of if, but not so tight that it's hard to move the camera.

I've tried several other ballheads over the years, usually in search of something ultralight weight for backpacking. Many of these lacked features of the ARCA-SWISS B1 (tension preset, elliptical ball, separate panning base) and none were as smooth or as rigid. But they were all still usable. Just yesterday, I got a couple new ballheads from Markins (the Q3 and M10). They are definitely in the same class as the ARCA-SWISS. Quality and smoothness of operation are excellent. Unfortunately, they are also priced in the same range (http://www.markinsamerica.com/MA5/M10.php) as the current ARCA-SWISS Z1. I haven't tried the newer Z1, but it's purported to be a bit smaller, lighter and even stronger than the B1 it replaced - and it's less expensive (http://www.badgergraphic.com/store/cart.php?m=product_detail&p=2267), too.

One advantage of a ballhead I rarely see mentioned is their compact size. I do a lot of hiking and backpacking with my LF gear. For hayhikes, I usually just carry my tripod in my hand. For backpacking, I usually strap it horizontally across the of of my pack. I hike in the Pacific NW, which has a lot of lush foliage, and in both case I found that with a three-axis head the long handles were constantly getting tangled in the branches and leaves of trailside vegetation. Absolutely not a problem with a sleek, compact ballhead. Also, might not be an issue of you hike in a desert area with parse vegetation.

I have used a number of three-axis heads, and I admit being able to tweak each axis independently is nice. However, this and lower cost are the only advantages they have over a good ballhead. They are heavy, bulky and usually have long levers sticking out all over the place (well, in three directions to be exact). I do have the Gitzo G1520 you asked about, and like my early experiences with the ARCA-SWISS B1, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it. It is neither as smooth, nor as rigid as I thought it would be. Perhaps I have become spoiled by the smoothness and rock solid rigidity of the ARCA-SWISS, but by comparison the G1520 leaves a lot to be desired. I bought it specifically for use with my 7x17 Franken-ARCA. I figured with the bigger, heavier camera I'd NEED a three axis head. What I found instead is that with the tension preset at maximum, it was actually easier to precisely position the camera with the B1 than the G1520. And, the B1 is definitely more rigid when locked down than the bigger, heavier G1520. I'm not saying the G1520 is a bad head, just that it's no ARCA-SWISS. Depending on the camera your using, the large platform of the G1520 might be nice (for a large flatbed field camera, for example). But, since I use only monorail based cameras (Toho FC-45X for backpacking, ARCA-SWISS for everything else from 4x5 to 7x17), the big top platform of the Gitzo doesn't provide any benefit for me. In fact, since I'm planning to move up to an even bigger, heavier camera (14x17), I bought a used ARCA-SWISS B2 to replace the G1520 as my dedicated ULF head. The B2 is really a three axis head dressed in ballhead clothing. It LOOKS like a ballhead, but works like a three-axis head. Like the B1, it's smooth and rock solid. It's also expensive and heavy and I believe it's been discontinued. Still, I consider it the ultimate head for MY ULF needs.

On quick releases, I used to use the Bogen hex plates, but switched to ARCA-SWISS style clamps and plates about 12 years ago and will never go back to ANY fixed cavity QR system. The ARCA-style clamps and plates are far, far, far, far superior in EVERY way (in my opinion). They are absolutely as solid as you can get and since they can be matched to the equipment being used, they are generally smaller and lighter than fixed cavity one-size-fits-all (not really) plates. This standard is well supported by multiple ballhead manufacturers and several plate makers (Really Right Stuff, Kirk, etc.). No matter what head you get, I highly, HIGHLY recommend an ARCA-style QR clamp. It's a defacto "standard" for a reason. I really is better than the alternatives. Lever lock clamps seem to be all the rage these days, but for my money, I'm sticking with the older style threaded locking knob.

In any case, that's a few general recommendations and comments based on my years of personal experience. Once I know what kind of gear you plan to put on top of your tripod, maybe I'll post some similar comments on tripod legs to consider.

Kerry Thalmann
Really Big Cameras
http://www.reallybigcameras.com

Cristiano Abreu
7-Mar-2008, 11:13
@ Kerry First of all, thanks a lot for such lenghty explanation. Lot's of useful info and experience.

For now I'm using a Shen Hao TZ-45IIA (approx. 1.9 kg), as I mentioned on the post previous to yours :) My heaviest lens is a 90/5.6 Super-Angulon XL, which weights around 700g. I understand your choice for Arca B1, but it's really out of my price tag.
After spending a while digesting the various posts and consulting again thoroughly Gitzo and Manfrotto sites, I'm almost settled for the 808RC4 (lighter) or the 160 (advertised as the perfect choice for LF, at least 4x5'', but heavier). However, I'm a bit concerned about the lower stiffness of the 160, as reported before.
If I had to choose this instant I would go the 808RC4 way... am I doing the right thing? any cons with this 3-way pan-tilt.

The geared 410 seems nice but I find 5 kg max. load a tad short, since later on I could purchase a longer heavier lens, like a 300 mm or more. The 405 would seem a better choice, but is expensive and starts to become heavy.

Eric Biggerstaff
7-Mar-2008, 11:27
Christiano,

I think Kerry has given great advice, and like you I work on a pretty limited budget.

I am a fan of the geared Manfrotto 410 head and for your set up it would be great. I use it with a heavy Zone VI 4X5 as well as my old Conley 5X7 and it is very solid and a joy to work with.

However, as Kerry mentions, all things come with exceptions and what is great for one person might be horrible for the next. So, you almost just have to bite the bullet and try one. The good thing is, if the one you choose isn't quite right for you, chances are good that you can sell it without taking much of a loss.

In terms of legs, I mount the head to Gitzo 1227 CF legs. It is a nice set up that works well for me, but if I were shopping for legs today I would seriously consider either the Giottos brand CF or Lava legs or even the Feisol leg sets. I did a review of the Giottos products recently and found them to be excellent quality with many more features than the Gitzo products. I really liked the lava series legs model MT-7371 which is from the Giottos classic series. The CF version of the classic series are also very nice.

By the way, I have no business relationship with Giottos in anyway, I was simply impressed by their products.

I also hear many nice things about the Feisol brand tripods and there are many happy users on this forum. Kerry can give you the details on these as he recently became the US distributor for them.

Just wanted to give you my two cents worth and let you know of additional options.

Good luck and let us know what you decide on and how you like it.

Really Big Cameras
7-Mar-2008, 12:01
@ Kerry First of all, thanks a lot for such lenghty explanation. Lot's of useful info and experience.

You're welcome. More to come...


For now I'm using a Shen Hao TZ-45IIA (approx. 1.9 kg), as I mentioned on the post previous to yours :) My heaviest lens is a 90/5.6 Super-Angulon XL, which weights around 700g. I understand your choice for Arca B1, but it's really out of my price tag.

Here's where I'm confused. The tripod you are considering, the Gitzo 3540XLS costs $750. Yet, you consider a $329 head out of your price range. Putting a lesser quality, inexpensive head on an expensive leg set seems like false economy to me. This doesn't make sense to me. Yes, a rigid set of legs is important, and you've said you want to save weight, but have you considered spending a little less on the legs and a little more on the head to get a better price/performance match between the two? The tripod head you choose will likely have just as much impact on the overall rigidity of your support system than the the tripod legs. And, the head will probably have a MUCH bigger impact on ease of use and the overall enjoyment of using the equipment. If I was in your situation, rather than spend $750 on a tripod and $125 - $200 on a head, I'd consider spending $500 on the legs and $350 on the head. That gets you in the same total price range (less actually), but would seem to give you a better match in terms of quality between the legs and tripod head.


After spending a while digesting the various posts and consulting again thoroughly Gitzo and Manfrotto sites, I'm almost settled for the 808RC4 (lighter) or the 160 (advertised as the perfect choice for LF, at least 4x5'', but heavier). However, I'm a bit concerned about the lower stiffness of the 160, as reported before.
If I had to choose this instant I would go the 808RC4 way... am I doing the right thing? any cons with this 3-way pan-tilt.

Again, I'm confused by what you said you wanted, and what you are considering buying. In your original post you said your goal was to reduce the weight of what you carry in the field. Yet, according to the specs on the Manfrotto web site the 808RC4 weighs over 3 lbs. (1.39kg) and the 160 nearly 4.5 lbs. (2.00kg). Those are some very heavy heads, especially for someone whose goal is to reduce the weight they are carrying in the field. I have no experience using either of those heads (but I did use a Bogen 3047 for years, replaced it with the ARCA-SWISS B1 due to the intolerable weight of nearly 4.5 lbs.), but one look at the weight specs and I would instantly rule them out for MY use. Again, it seems to be counter productive to spend a fortune on a carbon fiber tripod to save weight and then put a 3 - 4 lb. head on top.


The geared 410 seems nice but I find 5 kg max. load a tad short, since later on I could purchase a longer heavier lens, like a 300 mm or more. The 405 would seem a better choice, but is expensive and starts to become heavy.

The 410, while not lightweight, actually weighs less (1.22kg = ~2.7 lb.) than the two three-axis heads you mention above. Based on personal experience, if you're max. load is a 4x5 Shen-Hao with a 300mm lens, it will be more than adequate for the task (assuming you are considering an appropriate lightweight 300mm lens, like a 300mm Nikkor M or 300mmm Fujinon C to pair with your Shen-Hao.). It would not be my first choice for weight vs. strength (an ARCA-SWISS or Markins ballhead would), but I would certainly take it over the two heavier three-axis heads you are considering.

Kerry Thalmann
Really Big Cameras
http://www.reallybigcameras.com

Aender Brepsom
7-Mar-2008, 12:29
You are right, as there seems to be no RRS dealer in Europe. However, ordering from the US is very interesting at the moment, considering the dollar/euro rate. I have received a few items from RRS last week, and although I had to pay for local customs taxes, it was still a very good deal, and their stuff is really top notch.


Thanks Aender.
I know that the Arca B1 are among the best, but a tad pricy for me. I'm also more inclined for the pan-tilt, for more precise adjustments.
Unfortunately, I can't seem to find a seller for RRS here in Europe. In the past, before buying the G1378M, I've seriously considered one of RRS's ball heads, but was unable to find a on-line seller this side of the pond. I've had a bad experience before with customs, so ordering from the States is almost out of question.

Really Big Cameras
7-Mar-2008, 13:02
I do have the Gitzo G1520 you asked about, and like my early experiences with the ARCA-SWISS B1, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it. It is neither as smooth, nor as rigid as I thought it would be. Perhaps I have become spoiled by the smoothness and rock solid rigidity of the ARCA-SWISS, but by comparison the G1520 leaves a lot to be desired. I bought it specifically for use with my 7x17 Franken-ARCA. I figured with the bigger, heavier camera I'd NEED a three axis head. What I found instead is that with the tension preset at maximum, it was actually easier to precisely position the camera with the B1 than the G1520. And, the B1 is definitely more rigid when locked down than the bigger, heavier G1520. I'm not saying the G1520 is a bad head, just that it's no ARCA-SWISS. Depending on the camera your using, the large platform of the G1520 might be nice (for a large flatbed field camera, for example). But, since I use only monorail based cameras (Toho FC-45X for backpacking, ARCA-SWISS for everything else from 4x5 to 7x17), the big top platform of the Gitzo doesn't provide any benefit for me. In fact, since I'm planning to move up to an even bigger, heavier camera (14x17), I bought a used ARCA-SWISS B2 to replace the G1520 as my dedicated ULF head. The B2 is really a three axis head dressed in ballhead clothing. It LOOKS like a ballhead, but works like a three-axis head. Like the B1, it's smooth and rock solid. It's also expensive and heavy and I believe it's been discontinued. Still, I consider it the ultimate head for MY ULF needs.

Oops, correction to my original post. The model of Gitzo three-axis head I have is actually the G1570, not the G1520. I can't edit my original post. So, when you read the paragraph above be sure to mentally insert G1570 every place I incorrectly wrote G1520.

Kerry Thalmann
Really Big Cameras
http://www.reallybigcameras.com

Cristiano Abreu
8-Mar-2008, 01:18
Christiano,

I think Kerry has given great advice, and like you I work on a pretty limited budget.

I am a fan of the geared Manfrotto 410 head and for your set up it would be great. I use it with a heavy Zone VI 4X5 as well as my old Conley 5X7 and it is very solid and a joy to work with.

However, as Kerry mentions, all things come with exceptions and what is great for one person might be horrible for the next. So, you almost just have to bite the bullet and try one. The good thing is, if the one you choose isn't quite right for you, chances are good that you can sell it without taking much of a loss.

In terms of legs, I mount the head to Gitzo 1227 CF legs. It is a nice set up that works well for me, but if I were shopping for legs today I would seriously consider either the Giottos brand CF or Lava legs or even the Feisol leg sets. I did a review of the Giottos products recently and found them to be excellent quality with many more features than the Gitzo products. I really liked the lava series legs model MT-7371 which is from the Giottos classic series. The CF version of the classic series are also very nice.

By the way, I have no business relationship with Giottos in anyway, I was simply impressed by their products.

I also hear many nice things about the Feisol brand tripods and there are many happy users on this forum. Kerry can give you the details on these as he recently became the US distributor for them.

Just wanted to give you my two cents worth and let you know of additional options.

Good luck and let us know what you decide on and how you like it.

Thanks for the input Eric.
I've heard good things also on the 410 geared head and many swear by it, here on LFPF. It has been in my wish list from day one, but then I become somewhat concerned when I saw on the specs that the max. load was only 5 kg. But now I feel more reassured since you use it with more heavy gear and even 5x7''. I have seriously reconsidered it, since it costs only 20 Euros more or so than the Manfrotto 160. And it weights less than the other Manfrotto solutions, just 1.22 kg, and it's even more compact (13 cm). For the work I do I don't care excessively about the precision of adjustments (like in studio work), but I would like smooth 3-axis independent positioning.
Like you said, if I don't like it I can always resell it later. I can find the 410 for around 189 Euros, new. It's not a huge sum (contrary to the Gitzo legs) and, therefore, I can order it less worried on the investment.

With respect to the legs, I've heard good things also about the brands you mentioned. But my problem is that I live in a small country in Europe, Portugal. The 2 or 3 pro shops I can find nearby (at Porto), only sells the most renowned brands, i.e Gitzo and Manfrotto and the prices are very high. So, I can't check the brands you mentioned. For the Giottos, I think I know one or two sites here in Europe that sell them. For the Feisol or lava, if not mistaken, just in the States. It's not worth it, the Portuguese customs are very picky.
I'm going for Gitzo because I already have one (G2220) and like it very much. They are considered the best in their field and I agree (Please no flame war, it's just a personal opinion). Many report 20-25 years using them with top performance. I think I can't go wrong with Gitzo, just that. True I'll invest a lot initially, but I expect it to endure a lot also.

Cristiano Abreu
8-Mar-2008, 02:34
You're welcome. More to come...



Here's where I'm confused. The tripod you are considering, the Gitzo 3540XLS costs $750. Yet, you consider a $329 head out of your price range. Putting a lesser quality, inexpensive head on an expensive leg set seems like false economy to me. This doesn't make sense to me. Yes, a rigid set of legs is important, and you've said you want to save weight, but have you considered spending a little less on the legs and a little more on the head to get a better price/performance match between the two? The tripod head you choose will likely have just as much impact on the overall rigidity of your support system than the the tripod legs. And, the head will probably have a MUCH bigger impact on ease of use and the overall enjoyment of using the equipment. If I was in your situation, rather than spend $750 on a tripod and $125 - $200 on a head, I'd consider spending $500 on the legs and $350 on the head. That gets you in the same total price range (less actually), but would seem to give you a better match in terms of quality between the legs and tripod head.



Again, I'm confused by what you said you wanted, and what you are considering buying. In your original post you said your goal was to reduce the weight of what you carry in the field. Yet, according to the specs on the Manfrotto web site the 808RC4 weighs over 3 lbs. (1.39kg) and the 160 nearly 4.5 lbs. (2.00kg). Those are some very heavy heads, especially for someone whose goal is to reduce the weight they are carrying in the field. I have no experience using either of those heads (but I did use a Bogen 3047 for years, replaced it with the ARCA-SWISS B1 due to the intolerable weight of nearly 4.5 lbs.), but one look at the weight specs and I would instantly rule them out for MY use. Again, it seems to be counter productive to spend a fortune on a carbon fiber tripod to save weight and then put a 3 - 4 lb. head on top.



The 410, while not lightweight, actually weighs less (1.22kg = ~2.7 lb.) than the two three-axis heads you mention above. Based on personal experience, if you're max. load is a 4x5 Shen-Hao with a 300mm lens, it will be more than adequate for the task (assuming you are considering an appropriate lightweight 300mm lens, like a 300mm Nikkor M or 300mmm Fujinon C to pair with your Shen-Hao.). It would not be my first choice for weight vs. strength (an ARCA-SWISS or Markins ballhead would), but I would certainly take it over the two heavier three-axis heads you are considering.

Kerry Thalmann
Really Big Cameras
http://www.reallybigcameras.com

Thanks again Kerry.
You are right and I give my excuses for it. I've poorly stated my case on the original post. True, I wanted to reduce overall weight but this assumption was mainly triggered by the problems I'm experiencing with the G1378M ball head. After reading the various posts here (which made me reconsider other options) and checking the specs more thoroughly, it's like you said, just the option GT-3540XLS+410 (3.19 kg) and GT-3540XLS+808RC4 (3.36 kg) will save me only minimal payload from my current setup G2220+G1378M (3.45 kg). The 160 will increase it instead (3.97 kg). For very long field trips every grams counts, true, but I'm still more concerned with sturdiness and ease/precision of adjustments. Therefore, I'll have to stay with the heavier and more robust heads.

You are right of course, the B1 will save me a few grams. But I'm almost certain that I'll prefer geared or 3-way pan-tilt heads for my LF work (The Arca cube C1 is totally out of my reach, unfortunately). 3 independent axis adjustments are just better IMO, slower to adjust but more precise.

With respect to the huge cost difference of the Gitzo legs and Manfrotto heads, I see it that way. Tripods essentially work all the same way. If ones read the specs and buy a renowned brand, famous for it's longevity and sturdiness, the odds that something goes wrong are very limited. Therefore, I can make the big investment with reassured confidence. I'm expecting to buy a strong and light CF tripod that will serve me for many, many years to come (reports of 20-25 years or more of abuse and still strong performance from Gitzo's owners are good news for me).
For the head, it's totally different. I can't test it beforehand and have to web order it. Imagine I buy an expensive Arca B1g and then find it doesn't suite my style, not because it lacks smoothness or sturdiness (which I'm certainly sure it won't), but because I think it has, intrinsically, the same limitations as the G1378M, i.e. less than adequate precision of positioning. 3 independent axis sounds better to me, just that.
Therefore, if I order the much less expensive Manfrotto alternatives, the chances that I don't like the way it works are minimized by the initial investment. You see, here in Portugal, the possibilities to resell at a good price are not as high as in the States. I expect to loose a considerable percentage of the original price or to wait for a long period before finding a buyer. So, If I make a moderate investment and don't like the product, losses will not be as high. I can buy another head almost as soon, and sell the other less concerned if it's taking too long to sell without a major loss.

Cristiano Abreu
8-Mar-2008, 02:54
You are right, as there seems to be no RRS dealer in Europe. However, ordering from the US is very interesting at the moment, considering the dollar/euro rate. I have received a few items from RRS last week, and although I had to pay for local customs taxes, it was still a very good deal, and their stuff is really top notch.

Thanks for the input Aender. I'll consider what you said for future purchases, when I want stuffs only available in the States. True, the Euro/Dollar is greatly favorable to us now, but for sure the Portuguese customs are more greedy than those of Luxembourg. If I'm not mistaken your VAT is something like 16% or lower. Here in Portugal it's 21% :mad: and the customs usually charge a lot for the paperwork.
As a former experience, I've ordered a few photography books (yes books!) from National Geographic directly from the States, and ended up paying more in customs surcharges + VAT + UPS paperwork than the total prices of the books. A thing that would cost me less than 50 Euros, ended up past 100 Euros. I don't even want to imagine how things could end with photo gear :(

Cristiano Abreu
8-Mar-2008, 06:12
...
Here's where I'm confused. The tripod you are considering, the Gitzo 3540XLS costs $750. Yet, you consider a $329 head out of your price range...
http://www.reallybigcameras.com

Sorry Kerry, I forgot to mention in my former post that the Arca-Swiss B1g runs at 347 GBP + VAT (around 583 Euros or more than 800 USD!) at Robert White, UK. It's a lot more than you said and also in relation to the Manfrotto ones... maybe because it's a new version I don't know? and I can't seem to find cheaper in Europe. It's also difficult to find on-line sellers that provide Arca material. A few UK and French pro studio/shops do but the prices are not a thing to jump about. Normally, the cheaper and more digitally oriented ones go only for the more popular Manfrotto and Gitzo pro stuff. For the "real" and not so popular pro stuff, normally there's only one alternative in Europe, the UK, and the GBP is not cheap... maybe I'm looking in the wrong places?
e-Bay could be an alternative, but I'm a bit suspicious in buying heads that could be heavily abused, without having the chance to test them beforehand. The Portuguese pro photo used gear market is very small (I could even say microscopic in relation to LF). It could pass months or years before I see some Arca, Linhof, Wista on auction, that I could drive 1 ou 2h just to check the gear. Far from the opportunities you get there in the States, where the used market is really big. For nothing you are more than 200 millions and we are just a tiny 10 millions :)

Aender Brepsom
8-Mar-2008, 06:44
Cristiano,

check out this website from a very reputable dealer in Munich/Germany, Isarfoto:

https://www.isarfoto.com/cms.php/_pid:26486,l:2622,pp:0,ps:az/de/0/Produkt.html

for the Arca Swiss Monoball Z1 sp (single pan) for 278 EUR

or here:

https://www.isarfoto.com/cms.php/_pid:26488,l:2622,pp:0,ps:az/de/0/Produkt.html

for the Arca Swiss Z1 dp (double pan) with QR clamp for 415 EUR.

They also have the Monoball B1e for 296 EUR.

I have been buying stuff from Isarfoto for many years now and couldn't be more satified with their service.

Really Big Cameras
8-Mar-2008, 09:32
Sorry Kerry, I forgot to mention in my former post that the Arca-Swiss B1g runs at 347 GBP + VAT (around 583 Euros or more than 800 USD!) at Robert White, UK. It's a lot more than you said and also in relation to the Manfrotto ones...

Cristiano,

The B1G is serious overkill for a 4x5 Shen-Hao and a lightweight, compact 300mm lens. The one I recommended and linked to is the Z1 SP with the knob style clamp. It is more than adequate for the equipment you have and are considering buying. And, as Aender pointed out, it's a lot less expensive, even in Europe, than the B1G.

Kerry Thalmann
Really Big Cameras
http://www.reallybigcameras.com

evan clarke
8-Mar-2008, 16:42
@ Kerry First of all, thanks a lot for such lenghty explanation. Lot's of useful info and experience.

For now I'm using a Shen Hao TZ-45IIA (approx. 1.9 kg), as I mentioned on the post previous to yours :) My heaviest lens is a 90/5.6 Super-Angulon XL, which weights around 700g. I understand your choice for Arca B1, but it's really out of my price tag.
After spending a while digesting the various posts and consulting again thoroughly Gitzo and Manfrotto sites, I'm almost settled for the 808RC4 (lighter) or the 160 (advertised as the perfect choice for LF, at least 4x5'', but heavier). However, I'm a bit concerned about the lower stiffness of the 160, as reported before.
If I had to choose this instant I would go the 808RC4 way... am I doing the right thing? any cons with this 3-way pan-tilt.

The geared 410 seems nice but I find 5 kg max. load a tad short, since later on I could purchase a longer heavier lens, like a 300 mm or more. The 405 would seem a better choice, but is expensive and starts to become heavy.

HI,
I have 3 of the 410 heads and used them with the following cameras, Arca 6x9, Arca 4x5, RZ67, Mamiya 645, ebony 45s, Walker Titan 4x5. These heads are spring tensioned and get progressively softer with use, they have the same gooseneck issue as the other Bogen head you asked about. I really liked the geared aspect but they just flex too much. They would never handle my 5x7 or 8x10. The 3 way head is rigid and straightforward to adjust whereas when you adjust one axis of a ballhead, you can easily skew another. Many may like the relaxed pace of tinkering with the setup but I want to get set up quickly, depend on the solidity of the equipment and make the exposure. With my Arca and the cube setup I am faster than most people with a 35mm, it drops together and levels at light speed. If I could have had this 3540 tripod and my Cube, I never would have needed to buy the other 25 or so tripods and heads I have stashed in the basement.
Check the Bogen universal plate setup, it is rigid and allows you to adapt anything to anything else. As I said before, I have the female holder on the tripod and the male plate on each of my tripod heads, I can just snap any setup on the tripod..Hope this helps..Evan

Cristiano Abreu
8-Mar-2008, 23:32
Cristiano,

check out this website from a very reputable dealer in Munich/Germany, Isarfoto:

https://www.isarfoto.com/cms.php/_pid:26486,l:2622,pp:0,ps:az/de/0/Produkt.html

for the Arca Swiss Monoball Z1 sp (single pan) for 278 EUR



Thanks a lot Aender. Great site with a lot of brands. The prices for Arca-Swiss gear are indeed more inviting, and I know now where to buy B+W and Heliopan filters at better prices.

For the 410 geared head, manfrotto and Gitzo gear in general just give a peak at this Spanish site (sorry just in spanish) FotoBoom (http://www.fotoboom.com/pagina2.php?id=6532&solotexto=0). Great prices and the shipping to Portugal is free, which is super. They only accept by wire transfer, I think, but I've order many things from them and they are highly professionals.

Cristiano Abreu
9-Mar-2008, 00:04
Cristiano,

The B1G is serious overkill for a 4x5 Shen-Hao and a lightweight, compact 300mm lens. The one I recommended and linked to is the Z1 SP with the knob style clamp. It is more than adequate for the equipment you have and are considering buying. And, as Aender pointed out, it's a lot less expensive, even in Europe, than the B1G.

Kerry Thalmann
Really Big Cameras
http://www.reallybigcameras.com

Thanks again Kerry. Yea, I thought so that the B1g would be too much. Even more expensive than the legs. So I will think about the Z1sp, instead. What I seem to like about Arca's ball heads (... I've never worked with one or seen it up-close), apart its build quality and Rock Solid support, is that contrary to the G1378M there exists adjustable positions for the tension (a scale with maybe click stops, no?). On the Gitzo we just tighten or loosen the friction knob, with no reference whatsoever, which is time consuming and far from precise to readjust when changing cameras. Not very user-friendly indeed.

Cristiano Abreu
9-Mar-2008, 00:39
HI,
I have 3 of the 410 heads and used them with the following cameras, Arca 6x9, Arca 4x5, RZ67, Mamiya 645, ebony 45s, Walker Titan 4x5. These heads are spring tensioned and get progressively softer with use, they have the same gooseneck issue as the other Bogen head you asked about. I really liked the geared aspect but they just flex too much. They would never handle my 5x7 or 8x10. The 3 way head is rigid and straightforward to adjust whereas when you adjust one axis of a ballhead, you can easily skew another. Many may like the relaxed pace of tinkering with the setup but I want to get set up quickly, depend on the solidity of the equipment and make the exposure. With my Arca and the cube setup I am faster than most people with a 35mm, it drops together and levels at light speed. If I could have had this 3540 tripod and my Cube, I never would have needed to buy the other 25 or so tripods and heads I have stashed in the basement.
Check the Bogen universal plate setup, it is rigid and allows you to adapt anything to anything else. As I said before, I have the female holder on the tripod and the male plate on each of my tripod heads, I can just snap any setup on the tripod..Hope this helps..Evan

Thanks a lot Evan for the very useful infos based on your experience.
Three 410s + 25 tripods/heads... that's what I call a "part dealer" :)
I'll check also the universal plate you refer. That way I could use the same head for the G2220 (that I will keep for 35mm) and the Gitzo CF, if I want to.
Crazy, that's why I value so much the infos you guys provide here. I was more inclined for the Manfrotto 160 (or G1570M) at the beginning, then swapped for the 808RC4, the 410 geared and now considering again the 808RC4 or even the Arca's Z1p. I know that each recommendation is somewhat biased by personal preferences or dislikes, but I find such infos very valuable. Thanks again to all.
I'll ponder on my choices and then let you know what I've decided.

evan clarke
9-Mar-2008, 09:03
Thanks a lot Evan for the very useful infos based on your experience.
Three 410s + 25 tripods/heads... that's what I call a "part dealer" :)
I'll check also the universal plate you refer. That way I could use the same head for the G2220 (that I will keep for 35mm) and the Gitzo CF, if I want to.
Crazy, that's why I value so much the infos you guys provide here. I was more inclined for the Manfrotto 160 (or G1570M) at the beginning, then swapped for the 808RC4, the 410 geared and now considering again the 808RC4 or even the Arca's Z1p. I know that each recommendation is somewhat biased by personal preferences or dislikes, but I find such infos very valuable. Thanks again to all.
I'll ponder on my choices and then let you know what I've decided.

Hi Cristiano,
I think that sounds good. There is no reason to have this spectacularly rigid tripod with a weak head. I use the 3 way with my 8x10 and it is dead solid..Good luck..Evan

mdd99
12-Apr-2008, 16:43
I recently picked up a Gitzo GT 2941 to go with my Arca-Swiss B1, and it saves several pounds over the Gitzo 320 I've used for years.

Cristiano Abreu
13-Apr-2008, 04:06
Hi to all,
I finally received the tripod and head in the middle of this week. Some problems related to the availability of the GT3540XLS, made the order to be delayed for more than 3 weeks. The waiting was rather long but worth it since the price was great... and what can I say about the tripod, just plain awesome! I didn't had time to test it on the field but a simple quick setup at home made me realize how rock steady this tripod is.
For the head, I went with the 808RC4. Operations are smooth and it locks efficiently. Now, I have to test this setup on the field and see the results. Meanwhile, I've also fall under the attractions of ebay and acquired a like mint Sinar F2 for some architectural work I pretend to do. A truly superb piece of equipment. Those swiss guys really know how to make things :) The Gitzo tripod and Manfrotto head came just at the right moment.
Just a final question, I'm thinking in getting the Tenba car case view camera (CCV45) , to put the sinar. Any final piece of advice regarding this bag. I'm not going to travel by plane with this gear, just the normal shooting nearby the car.
Thanks again,
Cristiano

Cristiano Abreu
13-Apr-2008, 13:22
I recently picked up a Gitzo GT 2941 to go with my Arca-Swiss B1, and it saves several pounds over the Gitzo 320 I've used for years.

Hi Mike,
I see that you must be very pleased with Gitzo's tripods to get another after using one for many years. How are you finding the basalt legs? the reduction in weight is great for sure.
I see also from your profile that you use a AS F-Line. Superb piece of equipment. I wish I can get one someday :) Together with the B1 you are really well set.

Maris Rusis
13-Apr-2008, 19:52
Have I found the lightest head for large format cameras: the Manfrotto 468MGRC4 hydrostatic ball head? I'm using it on a Velbon 740 Carmagne (CARbon + MAGNEsium) tripod and it holds my 5.5 Kg Tachihara 8x10 + lens + film holder rock steady at any angle. The 468MGRC4 head only weighs about 700 grammes and is rated for a 16Kg load!