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Tripod and head. Oben? Manfrotto? Others?
Old 06-22-2015   #1
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Tripod and head. Oben? Manfrotto? Others?

I am currently shopping around for a new medium tripod and ball head. I have my eye on a Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 carbon fiber tripod but keep running into these Oben tripods and heads. Any experience out there with these guys? Their webpage doesn't even seem to say where they come from and I am curious to where their manufacture their stuff, their prices seem pretty decent though.

Some heads I am looking at are the Surui K30x (or 40x) but honestly I don't know if I want to throw in with another Chinese manufacturer after having huge problems with 3 Benro products. Oben BC-166 is interesting but I dont like mounting plates that use tools to attach to camera and my current plates wont work with their locking system I think.
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Old 06-22-2015   #2
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I'm using either Manfrotto CF190pro3 or Feisol CT3442 legs with either Markins Q3 Emilié or Arca-Swiss Monoball P0 (fitted with RRS Arca-Swiss QR clamp). Not heard of Oben before.

If I were to upgrade my legs, I'd likely go with the FLM CP26-L3S ... they're expensive but well worth it.

Stick with the Arca-Swiss type quick release clamps and plates. They're simple, extremely strong, and there are more vendors that make them than anything else.

G
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Old 06-22-2015   #3
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Tiltall 4602 made by Leitz. It's older than I am but incredibly solid and simple.
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Old 06-22-2015   #4
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I have chosen to go with a Gitzo carbon levelling tripod, as my main one, and an Acratech ballhead. Acratech stuff is outstanding for ease of use/size/weight/solidity experience. You can save a bit on the tripod if you are young and do not fear extra weight, but you should not save on the head.
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Old 06-22-2015   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mfogiel View Post
I have chosen to go with a Gitzo carbon levelling tripod, as my main one, and an Acratech ballhead. Acratech stuff is outstanding for ease of use/size/weight/solidity experience. You can save a bit on the tripod if you are young and do not fear extra weight, but you should not save on the head.
Agreed. I checked out Acratech but eventually went with the more compact Acra Swiss P0. I like to set up the legs first and pan the camera for composition, a job that the inverted P0 does very well.

I just bought a Gitzo 1542t to use with the P0. It's light, tall enough to work while standing straight, and very easy to set up. Gitzo is expensive, sure, but no more expensive than going through 2-3 cheaper legs.
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Old 06-22-2015   #6
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Gitzo (which one depends on intended load) and RRS ball head.
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Old 06-23-2015   #7
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I also think the Arca-Swiss type quick release clamp and plate systems are the way to go.

I can not stand ball heads.

The Manfrotto 410 Junior geared head is so much easier to accurately level the camera. With a bit of practice it is quick and easy to use. I imagine it weighs more than some ball heads. It was trivial and inexpensive to convert the 410 head to an Arca-Swiss mount.
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Old 06-23-2015   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willie_901 View Post
I also think the Arca-Swiss type quick release clamp and plate systems are the way to go.

I can not stand ball heads.

The Manfrotto 410 Junior geared head is so much easier to accurately level the camera. With a bit of practice it is quick and easy to use. I imagine it weighs more than some ball heads. It was trivial and inexpensive to convert the 410 head to an Arca-Swiss mount.
Geared heads are wonderful too! I've been meaning to acquire one for years for my tabletop and similar kinds of work where precise positioning is more important than weight and speed.

It just never seems to be top priority. Perhaps I'll remedy that this Summer; I've just about run out of cameras*and lenses that I'm interested in enough to purchase. :-)

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Old 06-23-2015   #9
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I am using Sirui K-20X on Gitzo.
I have sold RRS BH-40 after getting Sirui..
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Old 06-23-2015   #10
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I went with Induro CT214 legs and an Acratech head. Beautiful combo.
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Old 06-23-2015   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vobluda View Post
I am using Sirui K-20X on Gitzo.
I have sold RRS BH-40 after getting Sirui..
How long have you been using the Sirui under what kind of conditions and how would you say it feels now compared to when you first got it?
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Old 06-23-2015   #12
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what body cameras are you looking to use on this tripod?
i've heard raving reviews about the Sirui K-20x and K-30x, if I needed a new ball-head, those would be my top choice.

I've been using a Sirui T-025X with C-10X Ball Head for almost a year now and this combo is insanely small and light, less than 2 lbs, it's my travel tripod and I've shot TLRs with it with no problem.
only con is that it's fairly short if you remove the center column which I do.

Also have a Mefoto globetrotter, fairly compact and light (under 5lbs with ballhead) and can hold my 4x5 no problem.
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Old 06-25-2015   #13
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At first I will just be using my Fuji XE1 and yes its total overkill for this system, but I also use a Canon 5Dmk2 with Canon 15 fisheye on a heavy panoramic head so need all the extra support I can get. I may also use medium format and large format with it on occasion.

I am tempted and not tempted to get the Sirui head because it seems like a killer deal but I want to take a close look at acratech and see what they have to offer me.

As for legs the Gitzo's are neat but I have sworn off twist locks after having used two tripods where they failed. My wife has an aluminum Manfrotto tripod with flip locks and thats the way forward for me. Seems I might go with what I know and get the Manfroto 055.
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Old 06-25-2015   #14
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I've been using a Sirui K-20x for 2 years now, and am as pleased now as I was when it arrived. Utterly brilliant head, and one of the best accessories I've bought - extremely well designed with high-quality engineering and build. Easily as good as heads many times its cost. Amazon had the best price then...

Friends have bought Sirui heads after seeing mine, and they too are delighted - one describing their Manfrotto head as utter s**te in comparison!

A tripod is essential for me, as nearly all my photography requires one, whether in my studio or outside, so I'm really fussy. I use it with my two main cameras - a Nikon D800E and a Mamiya 645, neither light cameras.

My base requirements were ease of use; smooth, well-damped movement; and minimal droop when letting go of the camera after making an adjustment. The head had to meet these with no compromise - which it did, and still does. Because it's such a nice bit of kit, I actually enjoy using it - not something I ever expected to say about such a mundane object as a tripod head!

Sirui produces top-notch products - they bear no comparison with cheap low-end Chinese items that so often disappoint (I once bought such a head - truly horrible!).

PS: I have no connection with Sirui!

As for tripods, I think that's an easier choice, as above a certain price they're all pretty sturdy, and the choice boils down to personal preference and specific needs. For example, I prefer flip locks to twist locks as the former are faster to use; also for speed, I like tripods with few sections (i.e. two locks). It also has to be light enough and sensibly sized so I can carry it outdoors without hating it!

Carbon fibre is lighter than metal for the same level of performance and has better damping (give a sharp tap to your camera on decent carbon and metal tripods, and be astounded - there's a massive difference!): I took a deep breath because of the cost, and bought a carbon tripod, and am glad I did - it's lighter and works better than my old alloy one (the new carbon tripod has thinner lower leg sections so seems less sturdy, but isn't in practice - the better damping means my camera is actually less prone to vibration). I won't go back to a metal tripod.

Adjusting the position and framing of a tripod-mounted camera is a pain! So, my current tripod has a multi-adjustable centre column (i.e. it doesn't just go up and down): the price paid for this convenience is a slight loss in sturdiness. Although common advice is to ignore centre columns, in practice I've found they are very useful, and on a decent tripod and if not fully extended and waving around in the wind, I've not noticed had a shake in my photographs.

My current Tripod is a carbon fibre Giottos Silk Road. I wanted a sturdy but lightweight tripod that had the above features. It's OK and does its job, but it's not designed, engineered nor built to the same high standards as my Sirui head.

DP Review has done a thorough review of larger ballheads, including the Sirui K-40x. Though I've not tried all the heads reviewed, their conclusions match mine for smaller heads: .
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Old 06-26-2015   #15
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RRS BH40 has one big design flaw in my opinion.
I don't have large hands, medium size I would say.
BH40 has knobs on the right side of the head too close to each other and it was painful to turn them.
Beside that knobs were fingers unfriendly, so not only that my fingers were smashed against the knobs but it turning them was not pleasant either.
Also one should know, that Arca Swiss type plates are not neceserraly compatibile between the heads when you use lever-release clamp.
Mine BH40 had lever-release clamp so mine camera RRS L-plate fitted perfectly.
However as I am using several cameras it was difficult (and expensive) to find plate that fits into RRS lever-release clamp.
I have tried several and they were loose.
Sirui has Screw-Knob clamp that accomodates perfectly both RRS L-plate and any other Arca Swiss plate.
Yes, I know that RRS has also Screw-Knob clamps.
Please notice that I find RRS L-plate one of the best camera accessories ever and I cant recommend it enough, it is so good.

I didn't yet use the head extensively, but my friend Viktor (http://www.verybiglobo.com/) has two of them for more than two years, have take them worldwide and is using them daily (yes!) as he is almost not taking photos without tripod.
Only issues he has is that the rubber around the knobs is loose but otherwise best price/performance ratio.


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How long have you been using the Sirui under what kind of conditions and how would you say it feels now compared to when you first got it?
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Old 06-26-2015   #16
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Another vote for Acratech, and for Arca-Swiss type QR plates. However, for my heaviest and most solid head, for such as the Hasselblad with prism and heavy lens, I use my Chinese-made head with brand name of "Fancier" (really). The model # is FT-6665H. I ought to post a picture of it when I have time.
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Old 06-26-2015   #17
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Quote:
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Gitzo (which one depends on intended load) and RRS ball head.
THIS , same here. In the rare occasions that I use a tripod, the Gitzo (? 3 segments, carbon) and RRS medium ball head are a joy to use. For a Leica M of course this is overkill but at the time I was contemplating getting a CM501 .
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Old 06-26-2015   #18
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... I've always found ball-heads frustrating ... I find it much easier to adjust one axis at a time, so I generally end up using this Manfrotto one which is much more accurate in use ... and it has a natty safety catch which has saved me a couple of times

20A_0430 by sparrow rf, on Flickr
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Old 06-26-2015   #19
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Quote:
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... I've always found ball-heads frustrating ...
I used to be the same, then I got a FLM head with tilt lock. Marvelous invention really, I highly recommend them.

It's stuck on my Feisol carbon legs and topped of with a Sunway arca clamp - a good mix of Chinese and German!

Sirui make top quality products. I have a small travel tripod that weighs next to nothing and can be stuffed in the carry on from Sirui.
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Old 06-26-2015   #20
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Forget the ball head - buy a decent two-way head with a camera plate to qick fix your camera. And don't extend the elevating column if you have one. It guarantees wobble when extended and even it's not.
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Old 06-26-2015   #21
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Avotius - If you've been posting more lately I've missed it. Good to see you back and posting here again anyway.

I'm with Sparrow on ball heads. I also generally prefer one adjustment at a time, but can more easily handle two with a long twist handle.

I purchased a Velbon tripod nearly 40 years ago, that had channel lock legs. I have found I can use it up to 4x5, although the latter is with great care. But believe it or not, of two channel lock Velbons, I feel comfortable using either one up to 4x5 as long as there is not a lot of wind. Even then, anything below gale force isn't bad.
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Old 06-26-2015   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Godfrey View Post
Geared heads are wonderful too! I've been meaning to acquire one for years for my tabletop and similar kinds of work where precise positioning is more important than weight and speed.

It just never seems to be top priority. Perhaps I'll remedy that this Summer; I've just about run out of cameras*and lenses that I'm interested in enough to purchase. :-)

G

I use a geared Monfrotto 3275, it is amazingly nice to use.

I use mine with a Monfrotto 475B tripod, heavy but needed where I live, since there are trucks 50 feet outside my studio.

Sparrow -- I too find ball heads frustrating, they seem like an accident waiting to happen.
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Old 06-26-2015   #23
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I guess it comes down to personal preference... Most of my photography is studio still lifes, and you'll find me nudging the camera to adjust the framing by millimetres. So, you'd think geared heads would suit me - but I just get frustrated by their fiddlyness!

I find a ballhead more natural and intuitive. If you get a decent one, like a Sirui or RRS, and set the friction control properly, you don't need to lock the ballhead, nor is there any danger of the camera dropping violently; instead, you can move the camera freely in any direction with a gentle touch, and simply let go when the framing's right.
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Old 06-26-2015   #24
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Quote:
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... I've always found ball-heads frustrating ....
20A_0430 by sparrow rf, on Flickr
+1 on this sort of head. I really liked it as I could mount it to the bottom my the center leg, flip the arms around a bit and shot just above the ground with the camera facing the regular way. Mine was a bogen but that was years ago.

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Old 06-26-2015   #25
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I have several tripods available including some very nice Gitzo equipment that will hold up to just about anything. I use it whenever I am using some heavy cameras or very long telephoto lenses where the tripod and head are necessary to stabilize them.

But to be honest, my most used tripod is a simple Slik Pro 330DX magnesium unit with a nice little tilt/pan head. I have modified it slightly with a hook underneath where I can suspend some weight if needed for additional stability. It easily supports everything from my tiny little Pentax Q through my Canon 5Ds Mark 1 or Fuji GA645Zi.

I know it isn't what you are considering but I really like the Slik because it is small and light, but very sturdy. It was also inexpensive to purchase, less than $100 off Amazon. I use it not only to support my cameras, I have also used it to support myself when fording some fast moving mountain streams.
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Old 06-29-2015   #26
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Avotius - If you've been posting more lately I've missed it. Good to see you back and posting here again anyway.
I am lurking around a bit. Been pretty busy the last few years, had to give up a lot of my RF and street gear for commercial studio equipment so haven't been hanging around much.
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Old 07-03-2015   #27
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Ball heads do take some getting used to. I used a big, old Bogen 3-way head for probably 20+ years before I made the move to a Kirk BH-1 ball head. I used to regard ball heads as akin to trying to make a drunk man stand up straight, but now that I'm used to them I think they're great. Actually, I made the switch because I wanted to get L-brackets for my cameras and I did not see a way to do it while keeping my old 3-way.
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Old 07-03-2015   #28
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I have an older gitzo aluminum set of legs paired with an RRS levelling base and ballhead & AS clamp. Wonderful set-up, but heavy, with the friction dialed-in, very fast and stable and smooth in use. Have a ultra-light carbon gitzo with a sunwayfoto head & clamp. Bit hard to get the sunwayfoto head to behave, its friction controls go from full lock to free spin in just a few mm. I'd like to try a geared head for my GX680 and the Hassy kit I've recently inherited, though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by willie_901 View Post
I also think the Arca-Swiss type quick release clamp and plate systems are the way to go.

I can not stand ball heads.

The Manfrotto 410 Junior geared head is so much easier to accurately level the camera. With a bit of practice it is quick and easy to use. I imagine it weighs more than some ball heads. It was trivial and inexpensive to convert the 410 head to an Arca-Swiss mount.
Anyone have any experience with the Sunwayfoto GH-Pro geared head as an alt to the Manfrotto 410? GH-Pro comes with an AS-type clamp, priced new around $500, not bad for a geared head, although maybe too low a price ...

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I know it isn't what you are considering but I really like the Slik because it is small and light, but very sturdy. It was also inexpensive to purchase, less than $100 off Amazon. I use it not only to support my cameras, I have also used it to support myself when fording some fast moving mountain streams.
An excellent time to have brought the 'pod with you
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Old 07-16-2015   #29
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I have three Gitzo and one Sachter, and one Gitzo monopod.

My oldest Gitzo (heavy!) are 35 years old that I bought to support my Leica R4 and 600mm Novoflex lens. The tripod and ball head work just like the day I bought it -- unlike many other tripos that I bought over the years that failed sooner than later.
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Old 07-16-2015   #30
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After much research and price comparing I went for the Induro AT114 with a Hähnel BH-40 ball head. €140 total on Amazon.

The ball head is fine for my needs, but nothing impressive. Build quality good, and locking strength is ample for holding a Mamiya 7 with a 150mm lens, which is my heaviest setup.

The Induro tripod is very high quality, has a beautiful finish, and is easy to use and rock solid when extended. Recommended.
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Old 07-20-2015   #31
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Quote:
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Some heads I am looking at are the Surui K30x (or 40x) but honestly I don't know if I want to throw in with another Chinese manufacturer after having huge problems with 3 Benro products.
Sorry to hear you've had problems with Benro, it makes me wonder if they make one product for the mainland and another for export like the Soviet Union used to.

I have Acratech, RRS and Arca-Swiss ballheads & Benro and Gitzo tripods. I use three Acratech heads and they are excellent particularly in extreme conditions such as on the beach, rain, snow, dust & wind, below freezing temps. etc. Their open designs mean that they require virtually no maintenance except perhaps running under a faucet if they get too mucky. For heavier equipment I use a RRS BH-55 and an Arca-Swiss Z1, both excellent heads but the RRS is likely the more durable product.

Benro/Induro tripods are Gitzo copies and I use Benro parts on my Gitzo and vice versa. I've had no problems with my Benros in over 5 years of use - they have been excellent. I would not recommend buying a Gitzo now that you're back in the US. The tripods are great but the customer service is abysmal, in Gitzo's case it's Manfrotto Distribution that's the culprit. They are just pathetic as you absolutely and positively can't get spare parts out of them. I'll probably never buy another Gitzo, I really like my 3-series systematic but I have basically a whole set of parts for it that I've built up over the past three years or so. Don't buy a Gitzo. If you want to buy at the top end of the market get a RRS tripod.

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How long have you been using the Sirui under what kind of conditions and how would you say it feels now compared to when you first got it?
Good question. I've been in the big B&H store in NYC where they have every conceivable product on display. They had three of the K-**X series ballheads there, the K-20X, K-30X & K-40X and all of them had clearly got a lot of use as they were distinctly used looking. They were great, worked well and very smooth and even though they looked terrible they're clearly durable. I'm less impressed with the smaller Sirui tripods as they were flimsy, I've not seen or handled their larger tripods though so I can't comment on those.

If you're on a budget I would recommend a Sirui K-**X head and not any other Sirui head. For a tripod Induro is a good choice. They are gussied up Benros made for the US and European markets and they are well made and very durable. They share some components with regular Benros like carbon fiber and aluminum tubing but they are finished better than regular Benros.

If you have a decent budget get an Acratech or RRS head and a RRS tripod. Not cheap but you only have to buy once. And the customer service at Acratech and RRS is excellent.

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Old 07-20-2015   #32
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I've got a Benbo 1 with a Kaiser ball head.
Benbos are i.m.o. most versatile as you can mount your camera from eye level all the way to ground level and they're dead easy to set up with just one lever to lock everything.

They are waterproof up to about 50cm in water.
It's a bit heavy to take on a hike, but they have a smaller model.
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Old 07-20-2015   #33
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@Avotius what did you end up with?

I have some oben legs (bought used for $250). The price for the Gitzo would have been at least double.

They are light and nice. The only problem I see is that the rubber grip rings around the locking mechanism on the legs aren't secured strongly enough to the legs. So when you try and lock the legs, if you don't grip the rubber hard enough, it will just spin without actuating the lock. A poor design. But one that could be remedied with some super glue.
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