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Carbon Fiber Tripod

The Gear... the Tripod

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The Gear... the Tripod

The Manfrotto 190CXPRO3 carbon fiber tripod and Pentax 645Z in action on top of Bubble Mountain

The Manfrotto 190CXPRO3 carbon fiber tripod and Pentax 645Z in action on top of Bubble Mountain

This is the second in a new series about the gear I use to make my images. I’m a firm believer in the idea that the photographer makes the image, not the camera, or lenses, or any other gear. It starts in the mind and it takes experience and knowledge to translate an image into a photograph.

But having said that, the gear I use is certainly an important aspect of my image making.

I bought my first tripod in the early 1980’s- a Slik Gazelle. It was a good, lightweight tripod that held my small Canon AE-1 Program and my little Super-8 movie camera, but it didn’t take long for the head to fall apart and it wasn’t able to handle my small telephoto lens very well, so I eventually bought a Bogen (Manfrotto) tripod, which could handle my heavier lenses. But being made of steel, it weighed a ton. I carried it around on trips road the world for almost twenty years, but I finally bought a carbon fiber tripod in 2008 and have never looked back.

Carbon fiber, if you’re not familiar with it, is very lightweight yet strong enough to hold some very heavy cameras and lenses. It’s the ideal landscape tripod if you’re going to be trekking in the wilds for hours and hours and are trying to minimize the weight you’re carrying.

I chose the Manfrotto CX190PRO3 because I liked its small size, but also its flexibility and ability to get my camera very low to the ground with its spreading legs. It also has a center column that extends parallel to the ground and allows me to shoot straight down without getting the legs in the picture… in this configuration, I learned early to use my camera bag as a counterweight after breaking an expensive lens when the whole rig tipped over one day. Lesson learned.

Center column extended out while photographing chains at Northeast Harbor, with camera bag as counterweight

Center column extended out while photographing chains at Northeast Harbor, with camera bag as counterweight

The tripod also has a built in bubble level which often comes in handy when I’m setting up to do panoramas and want to not only level the camera (with its electronic level), but level the tripod too. The Manfrotto CX190PRO3 has three leg sections and extends to about five feet- too low for some applications. I don’t like extending the center column for added height (the whole rig becomes too unstable), but I often need to. I’ve considered buying a taller tripod but then I’d have to deal with the additional weight, so I’m sticking with this one for now.

The tripod has a rated weight limit of about 15lbs but I’ve put far more weight on it without a problem. I’ve got an Arca Swiss monoball head which has a load capacity of 132lbs- I’ll never come near to testing its limits! But the tripod has handled my 400mm f/2.8 lens (about 15 lbs) with a 1DXM2 camera (another 4lbs) plus the 1.5lb ball head without a problem.

This is the only tripod I use in Acadia, but I also use it for all my commercial shoots, as well as many video shoots (with a video fluid head), so it gets a lot of use.

Canon 1DX Mark 2 with a 400mm f/2.8 super telephoto lens, photographing a solar eclipse

Canon 1DX Mark 2 with a 400mm f/2.8 super telephoto lens, photographing a solar eclipse

Manfrotto CX190PRO3 Carbon Fiber Tripod

Uses: Everything- I almost never take a photo with a tripod

My Rating: 8/10

Cost: this tripod is not sold anymore, but the newer CX190PRO4 is $350 without a head

P.S. Just to be clear, I’m not sponsored by Manfrotto or any other manufacturer- these are just my honest opinions, from a professional photographer who uses this gear, day in and day out.

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