Ever since I got into landscapes and cityscapes photogrpahy, I got a Manfrotto 290 tripod because compact footprint with some sort of stability is what I'm looking for. But it became clear that it's not quite enough, so I sold it and got a Manfrotto 190 Aluminium tripod with their XPro heads for the greater stability and pan-lock function.
Back then, I'm very confidient this will be the last tripod that I'll ever need for the equipments I use...
I'm so wrong. It become evident that it's not enough after I've got the highest resolution DSLR on the market.
Canon 5Ds tend to amplify certain aspects of the lights it gathers. Mount a very sharp lens that requires super high resolution, it will amplify it. Give it a good lens that does well at the 20 megapixels range, it might not looks just as sharp with this camera. A tripod that serves well enough at 20 megapixels will look wobbly at 50 megapixels.
That expensive thing
After some research, Gitzo seems to fit the bill for that extra stability that I need for those long exposures. Gitzo is well known as a premium tirpod manufacturer, look at their price tag and you'll understand why. After testing it out at the retail, I'm quite convince the quality and stability is what I need.
All in the carbon
Carbon fiber is well known for it high strength to weight ratio, it's very light and very strong. That's why high performance car manufacturer use it for their super car if they need high power to weight ratio.
What many doesn't know that Carbon fiber is also very stiff, and Gitzo is the first tripod manufacturer to use this material for their tripods. The added stiffness is very important for long exposure photography as I've try to demostrate at the vido below:
My Canon 5Ds is mounted on to each tripod with 70-200 f/2.8L IS USM and video capture at the back LCD with live view on. Video starts at X6 magnification then X16 magnification, tapping is done on the thickest section of the legs with increasing strength.
It's a Non-Scientific test without any specific measurements or equipments used so do take this test as a reference only. But you can see Manfrotto definately exhibits more vibrations, expecially when I'm pressing the magnification button to switch the live view to a X16 view.
Even more stability
At the end of the center column, a hook is available if you need that extra weight to keep your tripod down, which is really useful. I wonder why manfrotto doesn't have this feature?
The built quality is top notch, the whole tripod feels very solid the moment I pick it up. Once everything is lock down, the whole tripod feel like it's made from one piece of material, very solid. It's something you need for that long exposures, guess you get what you paid for.
The ground level
If you need to get really low angle, you are just a few turn of the knobs away. The center column can be taken out by unlocking the ground level knob and this allows you to position the tripod really low as shown below.
Gitzo utilize their G-Lock Ultra system for unlocking and locking their legs, unlike Manfrotto which uses Power-Lock system. I really like how G-Lock Ultra system allow me to unlock all the sections at once with one hand easily, it's not really a big different in speed compare to Power-Lock system but good to have.
The important link
A tripod head is as important as the tripod itself, it's not hard to see why since it's the part that joins the camera to your tripod.
Besides having a funny name, Photo Clam are well known for their built quality and maximum load capacity which is by the way, 30Kg! On a head that is smaller than my Manfrotto head, it's quite impressive! Also, their finishing is top-notch, very sleek looking.
The ability to keep really still isn't as easy as you imagine, but it essential for your long exposures. To find out how well Photo Clam compare to my old tripod head, I did a test with unexpecting results.
For this test, my Canon 5Ds is mounted with 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM and tilted about 30° down, the focus is locked to some texts on a box. After the first photo is captured, the second photo is taken after 30 seconds, then the third at 6 minutes mark. The photos are place in layers to show the difference of the shifts and it's crop at the focus locked area at 100%.
First up, Manfrotto:
< First capture. >
< 30 seconds capture. Here you can see some shifting occurring already. >
< 6 minutes. I'm really not expecting the shift to be this much at 6 minutes! Imagine what this can do to the sharpness of your long exposure! >
Next up, Photo Clam:
< First capture. >
< 30 seconds capture. There are tiny shifts if you zoom in really close, but at 100% it's really not visible. >
< 6 minutes capture. Some shifts occured, but if you compare to Manfrotto, the difference is quite alot! >
If you intend to do long exposure photography with your Canon 5Ds or 5DsR, you need to invest in tripod with high stability, not just Canon high megapixels cameras, any high megapixels cameras require that extra stability because they tend to amplify flaws your equipments produce.
You really get what you pay for, so invest as far your budget can stretch for a good tripod as they are alot like lens, a long term investment, I realise this only when I got my third tripod.