From Toffa Berg Photography

The tripod search

Originally posted 13 September 2011, but with some updates.
As I mainly shoot landscapes, a tripod is as essencial as the lens and filters, so I thought I should share a little my experience with the tripods I use.

For the past year I’ve been searching to find a tripod to become my main tripod. I’ve looked at many tripods as I want one that’s sturdy, lightweight, good quality and don’t cost you an arm or a foot in purchase since I’m on a budget. And yes, many of my heros use Gitzo. Moose Peterson uses Gitzo, Joe Cornish uses Gitzo, and the list goes on and on, but for me to buy a Gitzo carbonfiber tripod, would really break my bank.

In the summer 2010,  I purchased a Giottos MTL-9251b with a MH-5001 3 way head, and shortly after I bought it, took it with me on a 2 week long roadtrip in the southern part of Norway. First impression was good and I can’t say I was disapointed with the quality of the Giottos. It’s a sturdy tripod with a good build quailty. Along with the Giottos MH-5001 3 way head, I felt I had moved up the ladder from my old Manfrotto tripod.
My plusses for the Giottos MTL-9251b was build quailty, height, built in bubblelevel, and reversable center colum. Minus was lever locks on the legs, the weight, and a fixed length on the centercolum.

The Giottos MH-5001 is a sturdy and fluid head to use, with locks for each axis and a precise bubblelevel at the heads base for easy leveling for panoramas. Also the quick releaseplate makes attaching and detaching the camera a blast. It’s also easy to convert the head to a paninghead by connecting the two levers for the tilt and shift together, and moving the panlock-screw to shift posision and locking this down so only the tilt-movement is leveroperated. Also the buildquality is good on the head. Downside is that the head weigh in at almost 900g which makes it farly bulky.

Giottos with MH-5001 3-way head
As the year progressed I found that I felt the Giottos got a bit big for me when collapsed and tied to my Lowepro Flipside 400 AW. I then began searching around for other tripods that were either lighter or smaller. Also with the MH-5001 head, the tripod became top heavy. I then purchased a Vanguard Alta + 233 as this tripod was lighter and smaller compared to my Giottos MTL-9251b. The Alta + 233 soon proved too light and unsturdy with the typical blustery weather of my beloved Jæren. So I ended up packing both tripods in the car and choosing the tripod depending on the windforce at the location.
My plusses for the Vanguard Alta + 233 was lightweight, reversable center colum and retractable spikes in the feets. Minus was the lack of a built in bubblelevel in the tripod base and height.
Vanguard Alta + 233 with Vanguard PH-22 3-way head
Well many of you may think; what’s wrong with that. You have a car, so where’s the problem. The problem is that I’m not interested in bringing all my gear every time I’m going shooting, and with gear and dog along for most of the time, I want a setup that’s easier to bring along.  
Back to the Vanguard Alta + 233. It didn’t take long before I experinced my first mechanical failuar with this tripod. The locking mechanism for the legs broke around the end of January. I sent it back for repairs but the same lock broke only months later. When that happened I didn’t bother fixing it as I saw that this was the weakpoint of the Vanguard. Also my gear became to heavy to use on Vanguard.
Regarding the Vanguard PH-22 3-way head. Since I have used the Giottos MH-5001, I found the PH-22 to flimsy, and with the lack of seperate lock for the panorama-movment, very unuseable for my style of working.
I was then back to using the Giottos MTL-9251b, but to reduce weight, I changed the head from the Giottos MH-5001 to Redged RNB-1 ballhead. The RNB-1 proved to be what I was looking for in a head in terms of weight. It holds my gear firmly in place and locked to position with the freedom to operate the panorama-movment seperately. Also the head redused the weight of the Giottos MTL-9251b. But still my initial irritations with the tripodlegs was not resolved. Again I embarked on a search for a some legs to do the job at my budgetlevel.
Redged RNB-1 Ballhead
I then looked at the legs from Redged, as my main camerastore is the norwegian importer of these. First the Travler-series, but since that serie lacks bubblelevel built into the tripod base, I turned to the Steady-series. This was what I was looking for. It had all the plusses of the Giottos, but with twisting leglocks at a lower price to the Giottos, and also inclued a padded tripod bag, not just a pouch like the Vanguard and Manfrotto. Also it got lower weight to load-capacity than the Giottos as well. So with both those plusses I chose Redged RTA-428.
Since I don’t have used the Redged that much in field I haven’t found that many minus and pluss compared to the other two tripods, but my first impression is really good.
Redged Steady-series RTA-428
Photo from
I’ve now been using the Redged for over a years time and found that it suits me very good. Some of the minuses I’ve found is the lack of retractable spikes as found on some of travleseries, and the rubber grip on the twistlocks looses their grip on the lock if moisture or get exposed to the cold. The solution to the later problem have been to remove the rubber grips and using it with just bare metal. But as winter is on it’s way I will see if I’ll find some other solution. Also the lack of foamgrip on the last of the three legs is one thing that I’ll address with DIY-solution.
I’ve also seen that I lean toward the 3-way head as I find that the ballhead is not as precise, and don’t hold the weight from use (not the load of gear, but in use) as good. So I’ve opted to use the Giottos MH-5001 3 way head and the Redged RTA-428 legs as the combo that works for me. 

Toffa Berg, a dedicated landscape photographer hailing from the picturesque landscapes of Stavanger, Norway. Toffa's lens is a portal to the intimate and less-traveled corners of Norway's natural beauty. With a passion for solitude and an aversion to city life, Toffa's photography is a reflection of the quiet moments and serene vistas that capture the essence of the Norwegian wilderness. He runs both Toffa and Knotten and Toffa Berg Photography. Under this author profile he writes in the power of being a photographer and not a vanlifer.

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