OT: Video tripod recommendation

dxdy wrote on 3/16/2014, 12:28 PM
I have finally learned my lesson, I need to buy a good video tripod for smooth pans when I am recording the high school's choral concerts. I can spend $300 - 400 US for a complete setup - sticks, ball head, etc. This doesn't have to be terribly lightweight, I don't trek through the woods with tripods. My cameras are handheld size (Canon HFS10 for example) although I add a shotgun mic to the rig. I also sometimes clamp a small monitor to one of the legs. I would like to be able to get the camera 5' 6" (or more) off the ground.

The local camera store is promoting a BENRO C2573FS4 VIDEO TRIPOD. I am not familiar with Benro, is anyone using Benros?




[r]Evolution wrote on 3/16/2014, 12:51 PM
That's a nice looking tripod. I would be curious to see what it does when you try to pan &/or tilt. Some lightweight tripods will physically move when panning/tilting. I'd say, if it's heavy enough to remain stationary and fluid enough to remain smooth... it's a good deal.

eBay has some Chinese made ones that are in the $100 - $150 range.
(Weifeng WF 717)
videoITguy wrote on 3/16/2014, 12:53 PM
Don't be a fool, good tripods cost money and you should order from a supply house like BHPhoto. A fair one with fluid head for very light camera weight - no less than $350 for sticks/head. Better and more preferred spend $550 for the combo and at $750 you get good.
TeetimeNC wrote on 3/16/2014, 1:17 PM
I get nice smooth pan and tilts using my relatively inexpensive Manfrotto 502HD Head mounted on an old (and heavy) Manfrotto 755B tripod. It's not the best for portability but works well once you are there.

JohnnyRoy wrote on 3/16/2014, 2:25 PM
If all you have is $300-$400 to spend then I would also recommend a Manfrotto. They are a good value for the price. I have the 501 head with 3021 pro sticks but they don't sell those anymore. This is the newer model of that setup:

Manfrotto 055XB Tripod Legs (Black) & 502HD Pro Video Head $349USD

John_Cline wrote on 3/16/2014, 2:28 PM
I had a chance to play with a Weifeng WF-717 that a friend of mine bought a few months ago, I was quite surprised at how good it was considering it can be had on Amazon for about $140. It seemed to be quite stable and the head moved smoothly. He said that he had to break in the head when he got it just by exercising it a bit, but he was happy enough with the purchase that he ordered five more. I'm not about to give up my Manfrotto 503 head and 351MVB2 sticks, but for a hobbyist or someone on a budget, the WF-717 can certainly achieve acceptable results.

larry-peter wrote on 3/16/2014, 2:44 PM
+1 for spending good money on support. The length of service you'll get from a quality head/sticks that matches the weight of gear you'll be supporting makes it one of the best investments you can make.

I'm out of touch with current models because the gear I have had lasted so long and works like new. Sachtler is hard to beat for lighter weight cameras, but it's not cheap. I have a DV2 II head/sticks combo purchased in 2002 for DVX 100. Using it now as primary support for an AF100 w/matte box, 7" monitor. Only replaced two bolts in the sticks in that time. You'll see this combo still pop up on eBay at affordable prices. If the head hasn't been overloaded, it will last a long time.

Check on refurbished gear from the major suppliers also.

Got a refurbished Bogen/Manfrotto 3066 Head w/350 MVB tripod from Adorama in 2006 for around $450. I use that for approx. 20 lb. load. - JVC HD110 with 35 mm adapter, mattebox, follow focus. Put a lighter camera on it and it's not pleasant to work with.
jim cowan wrote on 3/16/2014, 3:21 PM
Hi Fred,
I've bought my Manfrotto 3246 and 503 heads off ebay.
If the tripod is taken care of it should last a long time, and so
far with the 5 3246s I've gotten none have had any problems.
You just need to plan ahead if you're going to try and get one
for $150-175, or just BIN $200 or so.
The heads are $125-150 or BIN 175 to 200.
good luck

PS make sure you get the leg extenders, you'll notice the grey locking
pieces at the bottom of the legs, no on all 3246's.
These will unlock an extender for the leg and allow it to get quite
high if needed.
farss wrote on 3/16/2014, 3:47 PM
Have a look at the E-Image line. Engineered and made in China, excellent value for money. For what you can afford you should be able to get a head and legs from them that's solid and with the full range of adjustments i.e. counterbalance and pan and tilt drag. B&H sell at least some of their line. I should also mention they look pretty good as well.

Tech Diver wrote on 3/16/2014, 3:52 PM
I found that for tripods with fluid heads, you really do get what you pay for. Frankly, I doubt that you can find anything good in the $300-$400 range, particularly with Chinese-made products. Specifically, a good unit should be sturdy, be able to pan smoothly and not "spring back" even slightly at the end of the pan.

Rather than purchase a brand new lesser quality tripod, I opted to get a higher-end used one (Manfrotto 3181 with Gitzo G1380 head for $800). Unlike the high-risks associated with buying a used camera, getting a used tripod/head is low risk, as it is very hard to do any damage to a well made unit. You may want to consider the same approach. If you feel uncomfortable buying from someone over the Internet (e.g. eBay), sometimes shops have demo units that they will sell at a substantial discount.

Kimberly wrote on 3/16/2014, 3:52 PM
I've seen Manfrotto tripods at Costco around the holidays. They may not be top of the line, but the box suggests the head can be upgraded to a better one. The legs looked sturdy.
John_Cline wrote on 3/16/2014, 4:16 PM
I don't believe the Manfrotto tripods at Costco had fluid or fluid-effect heads, they seemed to be for still cameras only.
Laurence wrote on 3/16/2014, 4:17 PM
It really depends upon your use. For subtle movements from a distance: yeah you need a really heavy tripod and fluid head with finesse. I do a lot of really fast shooting at relatively close quarters and prefer an ultra light tripod and fluid head, but for shooting a stage from a distance I would want something substantial.

Also be aware that Mercalli can smooth almost smooth tilt and pan movement, which I occasionally do because of the limitations of my ultra-light tripod and head.
ushere wrote on 3/16/2014, 6:04 PM
one name - SACHTLER.

even the cheapest model puts the others to shame.

it will outlast your camera purchases by a factor of at least 3 to 1. in my case 5 to 1*

*and that in reverse, ie, buying a cheaper model (for lighterweight camera).
Laurence wrote on 3/16/2014, 8:43 PM
Also, be aware that video tripods have some sort of leveling ball mechanism, but still photo cameras do not. You want to level the fluid head so that your pans are on a true horizontal axis. When I started out I ended up with a somewhat expensive still photo tripod with a fluid head on it. Leveling it for pans was horrible.
craftech wrote on 3/17/2014, 8:22 AM
Be careful about Manfrotto deceptive specifications.
I recently bought a Manfrotto MVH500AH head after reading several positive reviews. The specifications state that the head "supports" up to 11 lbs (5Kg). My Sony EX1 weighs 6-7 lbs (around 3 kg). When I received the head and read the instructions that came with the head to my surprise it states that the head will "support" 11 lbs, but it will only "balance" up to 5.3 lbs.

The end result was that the head balanced my VX2000 (3 lbs) just fine, but even after spending an additional $65 for a Plong Mounting Plate there was absolutely no way to balance my EX1 on that head. Fortunately it wasn't very expensive and I still use my VX2000 enough that it wasn't worth returning.

Mind you, I have been using a Manfrotto 501 head for many years and got really fed up with the "stiction" problem.

I think I am through with Manfrotto.

richard-amirault wrote on 3/17/2014, 8:50 AM
Also, be aware that video tripods have some sort of leveling ball mechanism, but still photo cameras do not. You want to level the fluid head so that your pans are on a true horizontal axis. When I started out I ended up with a somewhat expensive still photo tripod with a fluid head on it. Leveling it for pans was horrible.

Some have this feature ... some do not. If a tripod does have this feature then there will be no head extension. If you can extend the head up, then it will not have a leveling ball head (you will need to level by adjusting the individual legs of the tripod) Personally I've never had a tripod with a leveling ball head (I own 3 or 4 Manfroto units) I find the option of extra height when needed a better value.

At least that is my, limited, experience with tripods.
dxdy wrote on 3/17/2014, 10:18 AM
Thank you everyone for your insights. This really is the go-to place for information.

The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that a good tripod/head will outlive generations of cameras. I am going to save up some more and increase the quality I can afford to buy.

The one tradeoff I am struggling with is leveling with "ball and claw" versus height. Unfortunately I need 66" or better for my auditorium gigs, and these two features appear to be mutually exclusive.

I borrowed a Samigon 650 from a friend for a shoot - rock solid, decent pans, and it weighed a ton. It just wasn't high enough because it had the ball and claw adustment (which was very nice).
larry-peter wrote on 3/17/2014, 10:41 AM
Is 66" the lens height you're trying to accommodate? I can't imagine spending the $ for a decent tripod that didn't have a ball leveler. There are several Manfrottos that will go to 62". With most heads and baseplates added, that would get you to 66". And if your camera is light, risers are cheap or can even be DYI.

Edit: And there's always apple boxes.
videoITguy wrote on 3/17/2014, 10:51 AM
Even good tripods are not useful as their full extended height. Say the rated height is 60", then you should allow for a riser at least 8" high on each leg to actually achieve working use height of 60".
Apply appropriately - so if you need a working use of 75" - you want a good set of risers to be in place of at least 12" under leg supports.

By the way for lightweight travel on the road, the best riser I have ever used comes from a bedroom set of (4) risers normally used for building a bed platform.
corug7 wrote on 3/17/2014, 12:38 PM
If you don't need a counterbalance or a lot in the way of adjustments the Davis & Sanford Provista 7518 Tripod with FM18 Head is a great choice. The pans and tilts are smooth and the sticks are solid. If you need more the Sachtler Ace M is a good deal. The sticks are light but the head is (in my opinion) as good as the more expensive FS6. The biggest difference between the heads is build materials, with the Ace made of composite materials and the FS6 metal.