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My tripod has a stiff head
Hi all,.

When I got my first DSLR a few months ago I bought a cheap tripod (CAMlink TP-2800, about 20). It does the job, but the head is quite stiff on the horizontal plane even when the knob is loosened all the way so when I'm framing a shot I find myself jerking the head back and forth half a dozen times before I get it to stop in exactly the right place. I've tried to open the head to grease it up but it seems to be sealed shut, and greasing around the sealed edges has no effect..

My question is, is this the inevitable result of buying a really cheap tripod or have I just been unlucky? If the former, what do I need to spend to get a tripod with smooth movement for small adjustments? Any specific recommendations? If the latter, is there anything I can do to fix my tripod?.

-William..

Comments (12)

William Warby wrote:.

My question is, is this the inevitable result of buying a reallycheap tripod.

Yes. More to the point, a cheap head..

What do Ineed to spend to get a tripod with smooth movement for smalladjustments?.

Depends on the type of head you are looking for, how smooth, and how small adjustments? You can choose from macro rails (very small adjustments), gear head (small adjustments), pan/tilt heads, ball heads, etc. In general, the more you pay, the better constructed the head is..

There's no guarantee that you'll be able to take the original head off the tripod and attach a new head. So look for legs, too. In quality legs there are basically two styles, Manfrotto and Gitzo. There are also Chinese knock-offs of these (especially Manfrotto)..

Any specific recommendations?.

Go to a well-stocked store and try out all the types for yourself, to see what suits you..

Is there anything I can do to fix my tripod?.

If you tie a cable to the bottom of the center column it might make a decent boat anchor..

Seen in a fortune cookie:Fear is the darkroom where negatives are developed..

Comment #1

One more thing... read this article:.

Http://www.bythom.com/support.htm.

Make sure to read it to the end, even if you think the article is getting a little over-the-top. At the end the "low" cost recommendation is a set of knock-off Gitzo legs plus a very good ballhead that's on the low end of the good ballhead price range. You might find that you prefer a different head than a ballhead, or that you really don't need light legs, but as a general recommendation it is good..

And there are now less expensive decent options, such as this:.

Http://www.feisol.com/english/feisolen.htm.

Seen in a fortune cookie:Fear is the darkroom where negatives are developed..

Comment #2

Nickleback,.

Thanks for the advice. I did read through the article you referred me to which I found a little depressing because the recommendation is to spend far beyond my means. However, the article seems to be aimed at pro photographers with top grade lenses who are trying to skimp on the tripod. I'm a hobbyist photographer with a fairly light camera (Oly E-510) and compact budget range lenses and many of the issues raised aren't affecting me..

I'm not ready to fork out for what it evidently costs to get a decent tripod head, so I think for now I'll stick with my cheap and poorly constructed tripod until I have a better understanding of my needs and then revisit the issue again in a few months time..

Thanks again for taking the time to offer your advice..

-William..

Comment #3

William Warby wrote:.

Nickleback,.

Thanks for the advice. I did read through the article you referred meto which I found a little depressing because the recommendation is tospend far beyond my means. However, the article seems to be aimed atpro photographers with top grade lenses who are trying to skimp onthe tripod. I'm a hobbyist photographer with a fairly light camera(Oly E-510) and compact budget range lenses and many of the issuesraised aren't affecting me..

I'm not ready to fork out for what it evidently costs to get a decenttripod head, so I think for now I'll stick with my cheap and poorlyconstructed tripod until I have a better understanding of my needsand then revisit the issue again in a few months time..

Thanks again for taking the time to offer your advice..

-William.

Hi William, I have both a cheapo tripod from Sunpak and a good leg/ballhead combo that I use. But even in the cheap sunpak tripod, the pan works well - certainly not as smooth and firm as the Manfrotto ballhead, but it works well enough for a pinch. To me, it almost sounds as if the head was not meant to pan, but your panning it anyway just by way of the head not being tightened on the legs..

I don't know what your budget it, but the cheap Sunpak, I picked up for about $50 or $60 US I think... and for the Slik Pro legs and separate Manfrotto ballhead I think I spent just under $250 US..

Albert-OColoradoPlease visit me athttp://www.berto.zenfolio.com.

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Comment #4

There's a wide range of tripods out there and the Bythom article is really aimed at individuals who expect to be pushing the envelope in environmental conditions, gear weight, etc..

There is, as you've found, a floor below which the tripods just can't be expected to be both functional and reliable and may be neither..

When you hit the $80 and up ranges, you should be getting into a range that will be functionally satisfactory but there would still be compromises that should be considered. Below the $80 or so range, it's hard to find good combinations of size (tall enough w/o center post) and general material quality. They may well work OK in static environments, the infrequent use to hold the camera up for gropup pictures, incidental benign weather outdoor shooting, etc. But controls are sticky, vibration resistance is poor, etc..

Slik, Giottos, Velbon, Sunpak and others do have some tripods that are cross braced and not terribly expensive but if you really expect to use the tripod, you'll be happier moving up past the bottom offerings..

The other thing to be careful of is that the tripod is designed for use with the kind of camera you have. there are some "video" tripods/heads which won't accomodate the flip to portrait. There are "digital" tripods which are aimed at use with smaller, lighter digicams. Example, the Bogen 725b is a digicam tripod although rated at 7 lbs. It will handle a dslr and light lens but Bogen doesn't it tag it for that use. I use it for a carry around tripod where I expect to have nice weather and mid-range and wider lenses..

Bogen's 190 series and similar offerings from quality makers is usually the level at which you can expect good reliability and functionality...

Comment #5

William Warby wrote:.

Thanks for the advice. I did read through the article you referred meto which I found a little depressing because the recommendation is tospend far beyond my means..

I did mention decent Chinese knock-offs are available at lower cost. I doubt they were available at the time the article was written..

The point of the article is that if you buy a functional, good quality product, you only buy once. It costs a lot up-front, but saves you over time. I'm still using Gitzo legs that are over 30 years old..

Seen in a fortune cookie:Fear is the darkroom where negatives are developed..

Comment #6

Cosilver,.

Hi William, I have both a cheapo tripod from Sunpak and a goodleg/ballhead combo that I use. But even in the cheap sunpak tripod,the pan works well - certainly not as smooth and firm as theManfrotto ballhead, but it works well enough for a pinch. To me, italmost sounds as if the head was not meant to pan, but your panningit anyway just by way of the head not being tightened on the legs..

The head most definitely is meant to pan - it has a knob that you can turn to loosen/lock the pan function which works and if you move it forcefully to pan say 90 degrees it's pretty easy. It's when you want to pan 1 degree that's the problem becasuse it's jerky. It's friction that is easily overcome with big movements but it makes small movements very difficult to control..

I don't know what your budget it, but the cheap Sunpak, I picked upfor about $50 or $60 US I think... and for the Slik Pro legs andseparate Manfrotto ballhead I think I spent just under $250 US..

I've gotten a little carried away with spending on equipment lately but I suppose I'd want to be spending anything up to about $150 US to replace this tripod with something a better..

Cheers for the advice ..

Comment #7

Craig,.

When you hit the $80 and up ranges, you should be getting into arange that will be functionally satisfactory but there would still becompromises that should be considered. Below the $80 or so range,it's hard to find good combinations of size (tall enough w/o centerpost) and general material quality. They may well work OK in staticenvironments, the infrequent use to hold the camera up for gropuppictures, incidental benign weather outdoor shooting, etc. Butcontrols are sticky, vibration resistance is poor, etc..

That's reasonable. I don't expect brilliant performance without paying appropriately for it. I just want a tripod that is usable..

Bogen's 190 series and similar offerings from quality makers isusually the level at which you can expect good reliability andfunctionality..

I had a brief look at Bogen's 190 series and they seem a little outside of what I really want to spend (in the $150 range, perhaps up to about $200 if I thought the extra money made a big difference)..

The reason I posed the original question was to confirm my suspicions that if you buy cheap crud, it performs like cheap crud, and so I'll live with it for a while until I can afford to stump up the readies for a better model. I'll bear your advice in mind when doing so..

Cheers .

-William..

Comment #8

Nickleback,.

I did mention decent Chinese knock-offs are available at lower cost.I doubt they were available at the time the article was written..

Would you recommend them? My experience of Chinese knock-offs in other (non-photographic) contexts is that they are always badly lacking in quality which would kind of defeat the purpose in this case..

The point of the article is that if you buy a functional, goodquality product, you only buy once. It costs a lot up-front, butsaves you over time. I'm still using Gitzo legs that are over 30years old..

Sure, and I get the logic and everything, but you could say the same about lenses for example. If I bought the best top pro macro lens available I would never need to buy another one whereas if I buy the cheapo one first and keep upgrading as my interest in macro photography grows I'll end up spending more in the long run. But on the flip side, I am fairly new to photography and (although I very much hope this is not the case) I could find that in a couple of years my interest has faded or something else causes me not to use the equipment often enough to justify the expense. I think there is a good case for at least starting out with equipment that is cheap at least until you are experienced enough to know what you really want, and then perhaps there is a good case for going from that position straight to the top end and cutting out the intermediate steps..

-William..

Comment #9

Check this out. slik pro 330dx ($90) and manfrotto/bogen 486rc2 ballhead ($70). be sure to buy a reducer bushing (adapter) so you can screw the ballhead to the tripod. this combo is light but sturdy. I have them...

Comment #10

I'll second the recommendations for Slik. I own the Pro 500DX and have been quite pleased with it. It comes with a nice well made pan head that is replaceable if you so desire. It has a reversible center column, that also separates in the middle for a short column for close to the ground shots. When I purchased the Slik I had shopped for a couple of days and had looked at all the major brands, Bogen, Manfrotto, Gitzo, Giotto. As a matter of fact I had a Manfrotto leg and head picked out and was ready to make my pirchase and I stumbled literally on the Slik as I was walking to the register.

The Slik is a tripod that will last me the rest of my life...

Comment #11

I "third" the Slik recommendation. I have a Slik Pro 700DX which is built like a beast - it feels much more solid than anything else I've seen. There are lighter Slik models also as mentioned, and I will probably buy one of those when I'm ready to replace my cheapo light Sunpak; since I already had the light Sunpak tripod, I opted for something sturdier and of better quality..

Many people are very happy with their Slik tripods, I've read that some people have had theirs for many years (20-30 years), still use them and swear by them..

The 700DX also came with a nice handle style head which works very, very well and smooth, especially considering that it comes included with the legs. I think I paid somewhere around $120 US for it. I replaced it because I think the Manfrotto ball head is more convenient..

Albert-OColoradoPlease visit me athttp://www.berto.zenfolio.com.

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Comment #12

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This question was taken from a support group/message board and re-posted here so others can learn from it.

 

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