Tripods – the great compromise

This is the top end of a set of Sachtler carbon fibre tripod legs.  In this case the picture is of my own set, which has a 100mm bowl.  For wildlife cameraman work this is too small, a 150mm bowl being essential.  The 100mm bowl cannot take a head large enough to handle long lens work, and the whole set up is inherently more prone to twist and other movement.

Top of Sachtler carbon fibre legs

Why this picture?  Well, a lot of the wildlife cameraman work that I do necessitates the use of long lenses, and for the past few weeks I’ve been using a Canon HJ 18 x 28.  Anything with a focal length this long is a challenge to keep steady, especially in field conditions.  Soft ground is one problem, but wind is the killer.  A substantial tripod head is essential, but when you’re hiking miles to the tops of mountains there is a point when the ‘tripod carrier’ says enough is enough.  We have been using a Sachtler 25 head, and in reality it is on the light side, but most of the time it is OK.

Often forgotten are the tripod legs.  I show this picture because I have come across a problem on the 150mm bowl set I have been using where the top of the legs meet the bowl on the Sachtler carbon fibre legs, and it’s not the first time I’ve encountered this.  There can be a certain amount of play in the joint where the allen key screws hold the legs onto the bowl.  It could be wear, but I doubt it, as this set is brand new.  More likely it is a bad component inside the fitting.  When I get a minute I’ll take it to bits and have a look (it will not tighten up any more).  The slackness manifests itself as a slight clunk when starting to pan, or most other tripod head movements, and it is particularly noticeable when the head is loaded with a heavy set up.  Maybe this is being picky, but wildlife camera people need all the help we can get!