View Full Version : New article by Bill Kumpf: Surveyor Tripod Conversion

QT Luong
9-Sep-2009, 15:50
A new article by Bill Kumpf, Surveyor Tripod Conversion (http://www.largeformatphotography.info/surveyor-tripod-conversion/), has been posted. Please comment in this thread.

David Karp
9-Sep-2009, 15:51
This is awesome. It has been a long time since there has been a new contribution to the home page. Can't wait to read it. Thanks Bill.

9-Sep-2009, 16:20
I bought the same type of tripod from Home Depot. It was about $90.00. So, a bit more than the used one. I have not converted it yet to be used with my Shen Hao HZX45-IIA. This article will come in handy.


David Karp
9-Sep-2009, 19:20

Very helpful article. Clear and easy to follow. Again, thanks.

Dan Fromm
10-Sep-2009, 01:51
Interesting. The last time I replaced a tripod I played with many, including a wooden K&E surveyor's tripod I bought at a yard sale for $10, a small and a large Zone VI. Zone VI tripods are converted surveyor's tripods.

The K&E and small Zone VI were problematic on hard surfaces because their legs couldn't be locked down securely enough. They tended to sprawl.

The large Zone VI solved that problem. It had a little eyebolt screwed into each leg with a stout cord running through all three. No sprawl.

Bill uses his homebrew tripod on soft surfaces, so may not have had the problem. Or perhaps its legs can be locked in place. Which is it?

Bill Kumpf
11-Sep-2009, 06:55
This tripod depends on the feet being braced to lock it in place.

So far I have not had an issue with the legs. I had been in either dirt or the creek bed had had rocks to provide support. I do see the need to add a cord to brace the legs.

That is part of the fun, determining a need and finding a solution.

Hopefully more people will share their solutions and add the information base.


Drew Wiley
11-Sep-2009, 12:48
Basically you get what you pay for. A cheap made-in-China tripod carries the risk of
legs slipping, hardware rusting, etc. Lightweight aluminum amplifies wind vibrations and
is basically useless for survey heads, let alone a view camera. These things cost (at
wholesale) around fifteen dollars. A decent domestic wooden tripod will retail for 150 to
two hundred dollars, but you will still need to coat the hardware to keep it from rusting. But at least you can get a fiberglass cladding and not be constantly worried
about the legs slipping or whatever. The problem with the old unclad types like Zone VI
is that once the legs took on moisture they could literally freeze shut in cold weather
or swell shut in humid weather. This is much less likely to happen with a properly
designed camera tripod like a Ries, or a better quality survey tripod which is clad.
Other than this issue, a modern survey tripod can be very easily converted into a
functional view camera tripod. Older tripods can be problematical, because they
sometimes had proprietary methods for attaching instruments. And you always want
to make sure the tripod head is large and flat, and not domed. (PS - Home Depot MANDATES made in China lowest-bidder products, so if you have any respect for American jobs, let alone a quality ethic in mfg, you might give things a second thought).

11-Sep-2009, 13:30
How much weight can a tripod like this hold? Can it be used for one of the heavier (20+ lbs) 8x10 cameras?


Bruce Barlow
13-Sep-2009, 04:16
"The large Zone VI solved that problem. It had a little eyebolt screwed into each leg with a stout cord running through all three. No sprawl."

Another Richard Ritter innovation. It's a cheap fix for any wooden tripod, parts available from Home Depot.

And, when the cord is taut, there's no better place for hanging your dark cloth out of the wind, and lowering the overall center of gravity for the setup.

Bill's a gem. Thanks, Bill.

Ed Pierce
7-Oct-2009, 14:26
Nice job Bill. Very clear.

As a former surveyor I can testify that these tripods will withstand a lot of hard use. You can literally jump up and down on the feet to sink it in the ground.

There are a lot of other things made for surveyors which are useful outdoors with big cameras. You can get notebook paper for recording your exposures which works even when soaking wet. There are backpacks made for surveyors which are perfect for large format.