75mm ball socket for quick leveling of the tripod head.
Some people love camera bodies, some love lenses and others are hellbent on collecting small flashes and radio triggers. Me? I'm partial to tripods. And tripod heads. I've owned enough tripods to outfit an entire workshop full of handholding camera buffs with their own "sticks." But somehow there always seems to be one that I "need" for some specific photo or video adventure.
When I headed up to Canada to shoot video I bought a smaller set of Benro "legs" that would pack into one of my duffle cases. I wrapped a big Manfrotto head separately from the tripod, and I was impressed with my ability to pack so efficiently. I was less impressed when I actually got on site, put a camera, the heavy head and a weighty monitor on top of the new legs. When I panned the tripod you could see s little flex at the beginning and end of the move. You could also see that the top-heavy nature of the camera, combined with the seven inch monitor, created some vibrations when touching the camera that a heavier rig might have done a better job cancelling out. Next time, I vowed,I would bite the bullet and pay for a transportation assistant-2nd camera operator-production assistant to give me more luggage options and allow me to bring more, and bigger, tripods.
Once I got back home I realized that anytime there is a frisson or glitch with gear on shoot I reflexively begin a process of researching....new gear. Thank God the cameras performed flawlessly because I don't want to drop more cash on cameras right now. A tripod though is imminently do-able.
I looked mostly at tripods under $1,000 but at the same time I kept telling myself that my big Benro with the Manfrotto MH055M8-Q5 hybrid, video/photo head was all that I needed. But the opposing voice of (dis)reason in my head tossed in the Benro's lack of a ball socket (for quick leveling of the head) as reason enough for an upgrade. I fought back against the acquisition insanity by mentioning (strongly) that the Manfrotto video legs and 504 fluid head I also own has the 75mm ball socket and is quite heavy and stable. But again, the voice of chaos was facile and ready. "Oh yeah. Good tripod. Too bad it doesn't go tall enough...." And I/he would be correct; the tripod in question tops out at chin height and I've had a number of situations in which I wished I could get up a bit over my head with the camera on a stable platform. Onward, a chilly plunge into acquisition research resumed.
65+ inches without a camera mounted. Nice rubber feet for those hardwood floors at the law firms.
I finally came across a very inexpensive tripod and head combination from Ikan. The leg model is: GA752 and the head model is: GH05. The cost at the time was $303. The item seemed to check all the boxes the mischievous side of my brain could conjure up so I hit the "buy" button. The tripod arrived yesterday.
It was well packaged and came in its own padded tripod case that is as nice as the $175 Gitzo tripod case I bought twenty years ago. All the parts arrived without damage so I set it up and started going through, step by step, all of the things I needed to check out. Smooth pans? Check. Great, extensible pan handle? Check. One release point for both lower sections of each leg? Check. Seventeen pound camera load capacity? I'll take their word for it. The tripod, with camera mounted, is taller than I am; which is another thing I was looking for. Finally, since there is a quarter inch attachment point on either side of the head to allow for bi-dexterous use of the removable pan handle (I use only one) there is an anchor point to which I can attach my monitor instead of having it as a "vibration sail" sitting on top of my camera.
Since the entire package was less money spent than one of my smaller video lights I felt well satisfied with my new toy.
Big, metal knobs control the extension of both lower leg sections on each leg. Makes set up quicker and easier.
Mid-positioned spreader adds stability and allows variable angle leg spread.
Stout head with good action. We'll see how it "wears in."
A convenient connection point for a monitor arm.
Why the interest in multiple tripods? Why not just get one perfect one and be done with it? Well, nearly every shoot we've done recently has, at one point or another, benefited from having two cameras running concurrently. On future projects I'd like to always bid a second camera operator for interviews, etc. so we can have two points of view to mix together in our edits. It seems stingy and short sighted to have one good tripod and one less than perfect tripod to support the shooting strategy. I never know, in the rush to get things done I might be the person who ends up with the less perfect tripod solution. Getting two that I like working with equally solves at least that problem.
Someone will ask: "With all these video tripods what do you do when you need to shoot vertical still photographs? The heads aren't make for vertical orientations!!!" So true, but with the shooting camera in a cage it's easy enough just to mount a quick release plate to the cage in a vertical orientation. No law against having two quick release plates on your camera cage; one for V and one for H.
Finally, many pans later, no hesitation or jitter from the new candidate. Keeper.