View Full Version : wood or aluminum?

Tim Kimbler
7-May-1998, 18:02
I have a Tachhara 4X5 but may go to a Deardorf 4X5, or something made a little b etter. I want to keep a camera that is light so I can carry it around in a bag or pack with all the other equipment. My question is what tripod is best for me , wood or aluminum? I want to be sure it is strong and can support the camera b ut not so heavy I can't carry it for the day.


Britt Leckman
8-May-1998, 10:50
I own both wooden and metal tripods, but by far the tripods that get the most us e in the field are my wooden tripods. They are lighter than the metal ones, and will transmit less vibration to the head than metal. Example- I shoot a lot of streams, most of the time the tripod is in the water, moving water. The vibrat ion of the water moving against the legs of the tripod is much less noticible wi th the wood tripod. Metal legs seem to telegraph the vibration to the head, and the camera. This is very noticible with long exposures, rocks along the stream bed are not as sharp with the metal tripod. I am waiting, however, to try the Carbon Fiber "Mountaineer" tripods from Gitzo. They cost a lot, but are about 2/3 the weight of my favorite wood tripod of th e same size.


Sergio Ortega
21-May-1998, 13:36
Tim, I've been carrying a 4x5 wood field, and related equipment, into remote ar eas for some time. I have really come to appreciate the need for lightweight tr ipods. Over the years I've used several makes and models. Some observations:

Wood: I have used a Zone VI lightweight legset, with a Bogen 3047 for nearly 20 years. Wood tripod legs definitely transmit less vibration and movement than m etal ones, pound for pound. The Z VI is a bit on the expensive side, but it's extremely stable, rugged and durable. It will last you a lifetime. It is also too long and heavy to carry for any distance, particularly lashed to a pack.

Once I carried it down into Canyon de Chelly, the White House ruins trail, on a hot afternoon. On the way back up that evening, I almost chunked it over a cli ff. Definitely not a backpacking tripod. Anything this heavy and long, be it m etal or wood, is best used from or near a vehicle.

I've since had a chance to inspect and try out several Ries wood models, specifi cally the backpacker model. Beautiful workmanship and much lighter than my Z VI . When mine wears out, I'll probably get one. Del's Camera and The F-Stops Her e in Santa Barbara, Ca., sell them. They're a bit pricey, but they are gorgeous .

Calumet is also selling a new line of wood legsets, in several different weights and sizes. These look good, and not too expensive.

Metal: Over the years I've used several metal tripods, mostly Bogens. For real ly lightweight packing, I've gotten away with using a very lightweight 3001 legs et, with a 3047, or smaller ball head. With a 4x5 field, one or two lenses, met er, readyload/quickload film packs, and a minimum of accessories, this combinati on makes for a very light and packable load.

With its three leg sections fully extended, the 3001is not really stable enough for 4x5, particulary in the wind. I only use it with the two, thicker sections extended, and spread out in the intermediate position. If you don't mind workin g down low, it will save a lot of weight.

For hiking shorter distances, I generally use the Bogen 3021 with the 3047 head. It's quite stable for its weight, though not as stable as the wood legset. F or maximum stability, in wind and during long exposures, I also frequently only use the two, thicker leg sections and a wider leg spread/stance. For packing, t he 3021 series is a very reasonable compromise, and quite inexpensive.

I also use the Bogen spiked-feet attachments for both these models. They really bite into most surfaces, particulary rock, and add stability. A set of three c osts less than $15. and adds very little weight.

The Gitzo carbon legset looks like a real winner, but VERY expensive. But if yo u want the best and lightest, why not.

Overall, I'd say a good, short, light wood legset beats a metal one of equal wei ght.

Good luck, Sergio.