I did some research on the Internet. One of the sites that came up, DPS, recommended checking the best selling tripods on Amazon.com. That seemed like a good idea.
Well, the best selling tripod is this little $20 toy called the Gorillapod Flexible Tripod. Cute, maybe. But not what I need. Coming in at #5 was the Bogen-Manfrotto 3021BPRO. I’d heard of Bogen-Manfrotto before. They are on my short list for tripods manufactures. Gitzo is also on the list. Actually, Bogen and Manfrotto are two separate companies. Although Manfrotto owns both Bogen and Gitzo. It’s really all quite confusing.
I did some more digging. Mostly using Google’s blog search. I find this is a very useful tool because I find what real people are saying about something, good and bad. I actually specifically look for bad things (a topic I plan on writing about at some point, but not today).
After some searching and some reading, I came to the conclusion that the 3021B Pro is actually a very spiffy tripod. Three independent legs with flip lock levers. Each leg can be set to 26, 45, 75 or 90 degrees (yes, 90 degrees means that the legs are splayed completely horizontal from the body). The center column is reversible which means that I can take it out and put it in upside down to take photos from beneath the tripod (hopefully that makes some sense). The column can also tilt 90 degrees to the side to looking straight down or to take picture in places where the legs might not be able to fit. Max height is 156.2 cm without center column extension (which is generally a bad thing to use).
One of the interesting things about buying a pro tripod is that you purchase the legs separately from the head. So while I’ve been much setteled on the 3021 legs, I’m still up in the air about the head.
Going back to the Amazon.com most popular list, I found the Bogen-Manfrotto 322RC2 Horizontal Grip Action Ball Head as the most popular head. This is not like most tripod heads you might have seen as instead of having an independent panning, tilting, and rotating mechanisms, it’s more like a ball-and-socket joint. Just grip the lever and pull on the trigger to release the lock. Move it however you want and then release the lever and it locks back in place.
The other one I’m looking at is the Bogen-Manfrotto 3265. Despite the radically different name, it appears to be essentially the same as the 322RC2 except that instead of a horizontal grip, it has a vertical grip…joystick style.
There are some downsides to a grip action ball head. First off, I lose the independent axis control. This means that I can’t lock down two of the axis and move on the third, such as when tracking a moving object. However, I do like the one hand action and ability to set all axes at once. I plan on taking a field trip to a camera shop to set out the different heads and make a final decision.0