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Tripod 3 section or 4 section

Natzdad 9 29 2 United Kingdom
13 Sep 2012 12:56PM
I am at the moment looking to purchase a decent tripod,the more I look the more questions I have.
The model I am looking at has the choice of 3 section legs or 4 section legs and at the same time a choice of geared centre section or none geared. I am at this moment in time swayed towards 3 section/geared. Does anyone have any advice that may help as this is not a cheap item and I wouldn't want to regret my purchase.

Cheers Mick.

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sherlob Plus
12 2.9k 129 United Kingdom
13 Sep 2012 1:16PM
In my opinion you need to start by thinking how you will use the tripod, and for what subjects. Then come to a must have feature list...

In my experience the 3 legged versions are sturdier, but have the limitation of increased size and weight. Sturdiness in all weathers take priority for me unless i am forced to travel light. In my photography I'm often shooting very close the ground and the last couple of years I have taken to using a shortened column to allow me get lower to the ground. This option for me is now essential. A geared column is never something I have needed, but very occasionally I do make use of being able to move the centre column on to a horizontal axis so I like to have this as a desirable feature.

Hope this helps...
Pete Plus
17 18.8k 97 England
13 Sep 2012 1:22PM
3 section is quicker to extend and sturdier but either shorter in max height or longer when collapsed (or both). I prefer none geared as it's far quicker to get from one height to another, but Adam has a good point about micro adjustments when using the column as a horizontal macro arm. Although you could add a focus rail which is even more precise. So adjust using the non geared column to roughly the correct point and then the focus rail for fine tuning.
icphoto Plus
17 2.5k England
13 Sep 2012 1:23PM
The less moving/sliding parts you have the sturdier it will be. I would go for 3 sections and no geared centre column. Also check the maximum weight it will hold, add a suitable head - again check what weight the head will carry, check the weight of your camera/lens combo - no use mounting a heavy pro spec DSLR fitted with a huge optic on a tripod that will only support say 4kg. Hope this helps.Wink
robthecamman 6 1.7k United Kingdom
13 Sep 2012 1:24PM
how tall are you?or you want to stand on a chair to use it maybeSmile
Natzdad 9 29 2 United Kingdom
13 Sep 2012 1:59PM
Hi everyone ,
Thank you all for your quick response and helpful advice. first thing I have done is check the heaviest weight I would be using on this tripod, and that amazingly came to 4-5kg,note taken,I am 6ft tall and I don't at the moment do any macro work,so strength and sturdiness in height, (3 leg section required.) the centre column,I think I will go for geared as when using my telephoto lens I think I would have better control over the column,once again thanks, I will mull all this information over again and hope to come out with a tripod to suit my individual needs.......Mick
mikehit 8 8.0k 13 United Kingdom
13 Sep 2012 4:42PM
If you are going to carry the strapped to a backpack, the 4-section pods generally collapse smaller so are more stable. The payback is that the bottom-most section is narrower so less stable.
As a general rule, try and avoid using the centre column because this turns the tripod into a monopod and is less stable in windy conditions. If you want to avoid bending over too much there are lesser-known brands (Induro is one) that are taller than most but you do pay for it! Interestingly the Velbon Ultra-RexiL is slightly taller than my Manfrotto 190XProB even though it collapses smaller (and is lighter).

Given the choice, I prefer geared centre columns but the Manfrotto does not have it and most times I donít really notice.
Sooty_1 8 1.5k 221 United Kingdom
13 Sep 2012 8:56PM
I have had both geared and non-geared. I can honestly say I have never used the gearing. I try not to use the centre column if I don't have to, though I use manfrotto tripods which don't have them. The worst thing is that when you extend a geared column, if you just pull it, you get the crank whiz zing round and getting caught!
Far more useful is the ability to reverse the centre column or use it as a mini boom arm (see new manfrottos for this).

Also, the stability is more important than the construction...try a dealer if you can, to see which suit best. I have a carbon one for long distances and a 3section heavy one for LF and short range. You can always use your bag to weight the tripod for more stability.

NEWDIGIT 7 401 United Kingdom
14 Sep 2012 1:38PM
Having had several tripods over the years I recently purchased a Vanguard Alto Pro 263 AT this combined with my Arca swiss ball head is the best I have had it takes the weight of my D800e with ease it has the option of a stone bag or hang your camera bag from the centre peg center column is reversible also can be swung horizontal its also reasonably light, to many of the really light weights simply are not sturdy enough and some of the carbon fibre ones are actually heavier.
At over 6ft I rarely need to extend the center column (more extension=less rigidity), absolutely hate geared columns, honestly cant see the point of them.
Lovely piece of kit highly recommended.
If you can wait try going to next years Focus exhibition where you will be able to try just about every tripod thats made, local shops rarely exhibit more than one or two makes and even then not a full range.
LenShepherd 10 3.6k United Kingdom
14 Sep 2012 9:15PM
On a detail, when comparing 3 and 4 section versions of the same grade the diameter of the fourth (lowest) section is always thinner and easier to flex than the lowest section of the three leg version.
Leg thickness does vary - the fourth section of my Gitzo series 5 CF is thicker than the lowest (third) section of my Gitzo series 3 CF.
One way to get an idea of a tripods stability is to fully extend it and determine how much twist there is in the legs when twisting the head. A way to compare several models, already suggested, is to visit Focus.
One option with superb stability is a second hand Benbo Mk 1. There is a knack to setting them up, they have two longer legs, swinging center column and they are heavy but even bought new nothing comes near for stability at the price point.
JJGEE 13 7.2k 18 England
14 Sep 2012 10:07PM

Quote:they have two longer legs

I got rid of my Benbo MK1 about 20 years ago but I do not recall one leg being shorter than the other two !
keith selmes 14 7.4k 1 United Kingdom
14 Sep 2012 10:55PM
I don't know what model my Benbo is, but it's legs are all the same length. Or they would be if I hadn't lost the feet from two of them! On the other hand it does have long two section legs.
I recently bought a lighter weight 4 section tripod, mainly for travelling and for carrying on public transport.
The Benbo is still preferred when possible, it's very adaptable and comparitively rugged.

I wouldn't want a geared column, I think I'd find it too slow and fussy.
Sooty_1 8 1.5k 221 United Kingdom
15 Sep 2012 8:13PM
The benbo is like a set of bagpipes!

Rigid, because of fewer and thicker leg sections, but I know several people who have had accidents with heavier cameras when holding the wrong bit when loosening the bolt, leading to catastrophic collapse!

Good as long as you know what you are doing.

keith selmes 14 7.4k 1 United Kingdom
15 Sep 2012 10:57PM
Before I had one, I remember advice on a forum, you should practice with a Benbo before going out in public with it, otherwise small boys will laugh at you Wink

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