3.23.2015

There's nothing wrong with a tripod addiction as long as it serves the work. At least that's my rationalization...


Last week I got rid of four tripods. One got donated to a younger photographer and the other three sacrificed themselves in a trade deal. But that certainly didn't impoverish the inventory at the Visual Science Lab. Don't worry, we still have one set of sticks for nearly every day of the year. And we use them. When we only shot still images life was easy and breezy. Using a big, fat camera and a huge lens? Grab the huge Gitzo with the five pound, dual axis head on it. 

Shooting a pixie camera? Grab one of the smaller tripods with some sort of sexy ball head on the top and get after it. Shooting with an Olympus OMD EM5/2? Just leave the tripod in the cage. (Had to get that in...). But what tripod do you take with you when your lovely clients hires you to shoot some great video (smooth panning, smooth tilting) along with some great stills? What if a fair number of those stills are verticals? It's an important question because nearly every video fluid head on the market works only in the horizontal configuration. Not vertical. 

Two things came up recently in the business. One was a client who wanted to shoot video in a vertical format to present on 50 inch, vertical screens. The second was a shoot the required a mix of still images (including vertical portraits) along with conventional video. I did my research about shooting vertical video and was about to buy an L-bracket when (fortunately) my client changed their mind about the virtues of verticality. But the second shoot continued on in it's bi-directional reality. I brought along two tripods. One with a ball adjustable, conventional video fluid head and one with a conventional, still photography ball head. What a pain in the butt. The mix of verticals and horizontals was throwing a monkey wrench into the whole idea of "hybrid" content creation, or what K5600 Lighting refers to as: "Light once, shoot twice."

Once I had the post production from that shoot out of the way I went out looking for a convertible head solution to the two tripod tragedy. I found one that I think will work well in the form of the Manfrotto MH055M8-Q5 head. It's a fully functional fluid head with very smooth, variable pan drag and lovely tilt controls along with firm one handed locks and even a spring balancing option. There is switch that allows you to go from the video/conventional horizontal setting to a photo setting that lets you move the bullhead in all directions, just like any other bullhead. The cost of the head is around $365 and can be used with a conventional tripod connection (flat platform) or with a ball attachment on a video tripod. The way I bought it is with the flat bottom. I already have a ball rig for a different head that fits just right. But for now I am using it on a big, Berlebach, wooden tripod that has a built-ion leveling ball as part of its design.

I've practiced with the video movements using a Nikon D810 and a 80-200mm f2.8 lens and have found it to be very well behaved over the range of all its controls. A full evaluation takes time but I thought I'd let you know that this is out there in case you are in the same boat and trying to juggle two sets of requirements for camera stabilization on one location shoot. This is one that works well.  So far nothing negative to report. 

The head has three tripod levels and the tripod has one of its own. Talk about 
"level headed." 

The pan arm is removable and can be switched to the opposite side for all of those right handed people out in the world. 

The KPSI (knobs per square inch) on this head is high and should appeal to people who like a wider range of control and the visual appeal of....knobs. 

6 comments:

Michael Matthews said...

Take it back. Your Amazon link offers the same unit for $249. No-cost, two-day shipping for Amazon Prime customers.

Tom Williams said...

Is there a reason you passed on an L-plate?

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi Michael, I'm not sure how long they will be available at that price but that is what I ended up paying. I think it's a great deal.

Hey Tom, The L-plate doesn't allow for intermediate angles with a still camera. You essentially get one or the other of 90 degree offsets. With this head in the photo setting I can swivel it in all directions. Nice.

Paul said...

I've been looking at this head for a while now as traveling with two tripods is getting rather irksome but what has put me off was the price, here in Oz it's $450 and I had drummed into me as a young fella the old maxim "Jack of all trades master of none". So I'm interested in what you have to say about it.

Kirk Tuck said...

Paul, It's $245 right now at Amazon but I guess that's not helpful if you live in Oz. So far I like the head really well as a camera tripod but we'll need to spend a few full days of shooting video before I can really speak to that. I will say that it seems designed around the idea of shooting with DSLRs for video so it's probably not stout enough to use with an Alexa or Sony F55 style camera.

Paul said...

Kirk Amazon won't ship to Oz. The heaviest it will hold is a EOS 5d.