Over the past few weeks I’ve been slowly buying the last pieces of the photographers jigsaw puzzle. After much searching and reading of reviews I settled on a Manfrotto tripod a couple weeks ago, that while not as compact or light as some of their models (but by no means the worst performer) would more than suit my needs now and into the future, eliminating potential future upgrades. The model is the MT294A3, taller than me fully extended, sturdy aluminium legs and able to hold 5kg of camera.
This was only the start though, as the next part took a lot more head scratching. There are many tripod head systems, that will affect how you can pan and tilt the camera, but also bulkiness when packed up. It’s an important consideration. There’s also a few different systems for connecting the camera to the head… gone are the days where you’d screw it in each time you wanted to use the tripod, instead you now keep a plate permanently attached to the base of the camera that enables quick release.
I already use a Joby sling that connects through the base of the camera to keep my camera snug and easy to access on my body, so any system I chose had to be able to work with that, as it’s a very nice system.
Ultimately, I chose to head down the Arca-Swiss quick release system, as it’s used by many professional products, and if it works for them, it should for me too. First up this meant choosing a plate for the base of my camera, and that lead to me splurging on an L-plate. A piece of metal that forms the shape of the letter “L” around the camera, allowing me to attach the camera in portrait or landscape, forget even bothering with tilting the head to switch orientation. Really Right Stuff have good reviews, so I went with them and had something shipped from the US. It adds a little extra bulk, but weight practically nothing.
Next was the bit in the middle. I chose a ballhead because they’re recommended, and did want to buy a Really Right Stuff model, but I’d have needed to sell a kidney. As luck would have it, a Vanguard BBH-200 popped up on eBay for a good price right as I read a good review on it, and it seemed to fit that I should get it from there. The BBH-200 can hold camera equipment up to 20kg.