View Full Version : Should I add a column to my tripod?

Eric Woodbury
2-Feb-2010, 11:49
Currently I have a Gitzo G1325 for my 5x7. No column. I was thinking that it might be nice to add a column both for extra height and for the convenience of being able to move it up and down without a bunch of leg adjustment. So is the convenience worth the extra weight? What is the extra weight? Any other factors to consider? Anybody done this?


Robert Hughes
2-Feb-2010, 12:02
A column has pluses and minuses - it makes vertical adjustment easier, but increases instability.

Steve Hamley
2-Feb-2010, 12:12

I can't tell you for sure in your case. At least part of the answer depends on if you use a geared or non-geared column, aluminum or CF. People also say that a column reduces rigidity, but in the case below I found that not to be true for any practical purpose.

I traded into a Gitzo 1548 with geared center column and used it as I got it and liked the convenience of the column. But the tripod was heavy so I removed it and realized the geared center column was an aluminum version and not CF. The gearbox must have come out of a jeep and the column seemed to weigh as much as a small CF tripod!

Here's the weights, sizes, and materials:


So now I'm using without a column.

Cheers, Steve

2-Feb-2010, 12:38
I have owned several tripods with columns (none geared) and currently have the 2 out on loan. I was never pleased with the stability of them. I Now use a Gitzo without a column and other than having to repeatedly glue the legs, it has never disappointed. with it. For me LF is not about convenience it is about quality so anything that distracts form the quality is not for me.

Eric Woodbury
2-Feb-2010, 12:55
Steve, if I did it, it would be CF and looks like about a pound.

Memorris, right you are. Maybe convenience is the wrong word. I have several other tripods and some are column'd and some are not. I tend to use the ones with columns. Sometimes the column makes the difference between making the image and not. Also, if it is faster with no loss of quality, then I can make another image. I do like the slow pace of LF, but sometimes I have to work fast to catch the opportunity.

Eric Brody
2-Feb-2010, 15:13
I bought a column for my 3530S, but rarely use it. It is CF but does add some weight. When I travel I'll often bring it because a couple of inches often makes a difference when perched on a hillside, but that's also when physics and instability are most likely to rear their ugly head. My feeling is that I'll keep the column, it will add to the resale should I ever decide to sell (unlikely since I have a few old aluminum Gitzos and lots of other gear I never use, but can't bring myself to sell). But use it only for minimal extension.


2-Feb-2010, 15:21
I have the 1325 w/o column and it's a great setup most of the time for a tall fella (i'm 6' 3"). I'm usually not set up on a flat surface so the extra height could come in handy quite often. If I didn't also shoot with a pentax 67 system, I'd have the column installed. That camera needs all the stability you can get.

2-Feb-2010, 15:42
I have studio columns (Linhof & Cambo) and the heaviest ever tripod column (Foba). They all tremble. It's visible in the enlargements.
When I put a long lens on 5x7 or 8x10, I use a plain columnless tripod. Columns are ok if you light with flash, of course.

Kirk Gittings
2-Feb-2010, 16:49
While center columns are not the stablest mount, sometimes they are absolutely necessary to get the shot. So I vote yes as long as you are aware of their shortcomings and use them carefully. All my tripods have them and I do use them occasionally when absolutely necessary. IME Newer tripods have much more stable center columns than older tripods, I suspect through better engineering and materials that do not promote vibration.

2-Feb-2010, 17:06
IME Newer tripods have much more stable center columns than older tripods, I suspect through better engineering and materials that do not promote vibration.

My old Majestic would disagree with you.
Then again, if anyone is using a carbon fiber tripod, they wouldn't even be thinking of a Majestic. Mine makes me agree with Brett Weston on not going too far from the car for the best photos.

Ed Richards
2-Feb-2010, 17:36
The GItzo columns are pretty stable on the new models, but if you are worried, they also let you pull the column very easily. So you could leave it in most of the time, but if you were using a long lens with some wind, and wanted every bit of stability, you could just pull the column and attach the head right to the tripod top.

Sometimes you really need the column - shooting overhead, I am too old and stiff to hunch down and focus looking up - with the column I can get the camera over my head. Since I only do that indoors, stablility is less of an issue, esp. with carbon fiber tripods.

2-Feb-2010, 18:16
I agree with Ed - I find the center column extremely handy (if not necessary) for some types of work. Assuming it isn't a huge pain to switch out, why not get the center column (if it's sturdy enough for you) and just keep it handy. That way you have the option of using it or not.

That's what I did and I like it that way - I usually have a pretty good idea when it will come in handy and worse case you could install/uninstall it pretty quick for certain situations.

2-Feb-2010, 23:36
This is another of those debates where there's a stance for the purest and then one for the pragmatist. I coincidentally had this question on my mind and did the glass-of water test this week with and without the column raised with a studex pro/8x10 combination There was no evidence of movement either way, at any shutter speed. Clearly, though, on my smaller tripods, movement gets introduced with extension of the column. But if a shot calls for hanging that sucker out there, I say give it a try and see what happens.

So, my experience is consistent with Kirk's; which is that there are times in close quarters or near fences, where a column saves the day. Its an option that should be used with knowledge of its limitations, and advantages.

Jeffrey Sipress
3-Feb-2010, 16:06

If your tripod utilizes the round top plate insert, then I have a 3 series center column you can try. It's new and I've been meaning to sell it. And it's in SB!

4-Feb-2010, 13:51
In a word no. If you need more extension I would look a taller set of legs or use a taller 3 way head like the Bogen Manfrotto 229. This adds about 16 CM/6.5 inches in height to your existing tripod.