When it comes to gear for photographing landscapes, nothing is more important than a tripod. There isn’t a single image of mine created without a tripod with the exception of my “Impressions” and “Water Colors”. The tripod is the true ticket to a tack sharp image. I currently use 3 different tripods depending on the photography location, the elements, and how much hiking is involved. In this blog post I will discuss each tripod.
First up is my newest member of the family, the Gitzo GT3541XLS. I was able to purchase it with winnings from naturscapes.net images of the year awards. It is the Ferrari of tripods ($879.90). Nothing can reach as tall (6.6 ft.) or stoop so low (3.9″). With the lack of a center column you get incredible stability, and the ability to get extremely low to the ground. It’s also a beast, holding up to 39.7 lbs. If I rent a 600mm or 800mm lens for a wildlife shoot, this tripod can handle the weight without blinking an eye. It does all this while only weighing 4.3 lbs due to its carbon fiber construction. The ballhead I use to accompany the tripod is the Acratech GV2 Ballhead.
The next member of the family is the Manfrotto 055XPROB. At only $145.36 this tripod is an absolute steal! Why it so cheap? Simple, it’s the aluminum. A tripod constructed of aluminum and not carbon fiber will save you a boat load of money. The trade-off is weight, lots of it. It weights 5.3 lbs and it’s not nearly as beefy as the Gitzo GT3541XLS. This is what I call my all-purpose beater tripod. It doesn’t matter how much money you spend, or the materials used in the construction of the tripod, all tripods hate salt water and sand. Do I really want to take my Ferrari into the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean? How about the wind-swept dunes of Death Valley? That’s when I let my Manfrotto step in and take one for the team. Not to mention it’s a fantastic tripod in its own right, featuring a center column that can be moved into a horizontal position for increased flexibility. I also use the Acratech GV2 ballhead to accompany this tripod.
The last member of the family is my backcountry tripod. When weight matters, I go with the Gitzo GT0531. $374.99 is a lot to pay for such a small tripod, but it’s really all about the weight. The carbon fiber allows this puppy to come in at an amazing 1.6 lbs! It can only hold 11 lbs, but in the backcountry you’re limited on the weight of your lenses as well. The most popular backcountry lens, the wide-angle lens, has no problems pairing with this tripod. With weight being the major factor in this scenario, the Acratech ballhead is too heavy. I go with the Manfrotto 486CR2 ballhead, a simple, cheap, lightweight alternative. It has been redesigned and is now called the 496RC2 ballhead.
There you have it! 3 tripods, each with a very distinct set of properties for a particular situation. What does your tripod family look like?