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Thread: Leveling Bases - Anyone using these instead of a head?

  1. #1
    Corran's Avatar
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    Leveling Bases - Anyone using these instead of a head?

    Just curious if anyone is using a leveling base or column instead of a head. I (finally!) bought a carbon fiber tripod that is really light and should hold most of my cameras just fine, but the more I look at it, it seems like a big heavy 3-way head (or heaven forbid a ball head) makes little to no sense - because I don't need much adjustment, especially with a LF camera that can switch easily between h/v.

    Most of these leveling bases have about 10-15 degrees of adjustment in any direction. I suppose that could be limiting if you wanted to get more angle than that, but a bit of finagling with the tripod legs should give you +/- 20-25 degrees at least. Needing more than that is uncommon, for me at least, and of course I wouldn't get rid of my 3-way heads anyway, for certain things.

    Opinions? From my calculations the tripod + leveling base + a panoramic clamp thingy I found for 360 degree adjustment laterally will weigh in at about 3-4 pounds, and from the specs easily support about 20 pounds - way overkill for a 4x5 Chamonix and typical field lens, or even some of my heavier cameras.

    Here is a link to some leveling bases at B&H. I've been looking at the Acratech for its light-weight build.
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  2. #2
    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
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    Re: Leveling Bases - Anyone using these instead of a head?

    One thing to watch out for when using view cameras with levelling heads is that the large camera often obscures the bubble level, rendering the levelling head a slightly less useful.
    While a levelling head would be impractical for some architecture shots and such, it could very well replace a 3-way head for many other situations.

  3. #3
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Leveling Bases - Anyone using these instead of a head?

    I thought about that, looking at the photos, but then I don't ever use an on-tripod level since the cameras mostly have levels built in. Though my Chamonix doesn't agree with itself between the two side levels.... But I don't find bulls-eye style bubble levels much help anyway.
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    Re: Leveling Bases - Anyone using these instead of a head?

    Bryan, I know some on here have mentioned that they enjoy using Berlebach tripods with built in leveling balls and not using heads. I got lucky and picked up a used Berlebach for dirt cheap and tried it with a 4x5 Tachihara. It was fine, I guess? I prefer pan/tilt heads and ended up buying a Ries with double tilt head and of course put up with the added weight.

  5. #5
    Analog Photographer Kimberly Anderson's Avatar
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    Re: Leveling Bases - Anyone using these instead of a head?

    I love using the leveling heads. Points made above need to be thought about, but I level the head before I mount the camera, so I'm able to avoid that. I've used the Gitzo, Berlebach and now have an O'Connor cine tripod that I use the 12x20 on. I especially like using the leveling heads for making multiple panorama images.

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    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Leveling Bases - Anyone using these instead of a head?

    I was looking at the Gitzo leveling tripod (I didn't realize Berlebach made one too) but I went with another tripod, for both cost and weight savings. Probably won't be quite as rigid/sturdy as the Gitzo. But I'm trying to make a really light-weight rig first and foremost right now. A behemoth tripod is something I don't need right now, though probably will in the future for some ULF stuff that I'm assembling. Can't have too many tripods anyway, right?!
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  7. #7

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    Re: Leveling Bases - Anyone using these instead of a head?

    Tried one (I believe it was an Acratech); but could not tighten it enough when extending the bellows/lens. Its similar to a ball head which I dislike for fine tuning a composition.

  8. #8
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Leveling Bases - Anyone using these instead of a head?

    Interesting, and not a good sign. Why exactly wouldn't it tighten down?
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  9. #9

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    Re: Leveling Bases - Anyone using these instead of a head?

    There's only one tightening screw for all directions. Had tried it with a couple of cameras. With the KMV and a 19" lens, the extension pressure/weight was too great so it tilted. With a 7X17 camera and short lens, it was OK for relatively level horizontal landscape views.
    I have Majestic heads for 3 tripods used with LF cameras, and a ball head/tripod for MF. The Majestics are bulky but reliable.

  10. #10
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Leveling Bases - Anyone using these instead of a head?

    Ah, I can see how an 8x10 and big / long lens would be too much for it. For 4x5 field work, do you think it'd be a problem?
    Bryan | Blog | YouTube | Instagram
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