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Reader Question: Low-Height Tripod for Macro Photography

See also Really Right Stuff articles and Really Right Stuff Panorama and Gimbal Heads, Plus New “Shorty” Tripod.

Roy P writes:

Any thoughts on this SLIK tripod? It looks pretty decent:

Load capacity of 15 lbs, 4.2” folded diameter, weighs only 1.8 lb in spite of being Aluminum, and costs only $70. Also, it has a max height of 16.3”, so if I don’t extend the third leg segment, its stability and load capacity should be significantly higher.

Really Right Stuff PG-01 Compact Pano-Gimbal Head,
Hasselblad X1D clamped in place with Really Right Stuff BX1D-L

OTOH, the gold standard is the RRS ground tripod, which is really superb. It has a 73kg load capacity, 5.6” folded diameter, 2 lb weight, max height of 14”, and a hefty $500 price tag. But the load capacity is an overkill even for a PhaseOne + heavy lens, and the 5.6” diameter makes it quite bulky and cumbersome to travel with, especially since I’m also likely to be bringing a full-sized tripod.

There is really no comparison in the quality and overall stability between the two tripods.

But the RRS is a big investment. The SLIK is currently not in stock, but I’ve ordered one anyway. I do want to take ground level landscapes, and splaying out a full sized tripod isn’t always practical. I’m wondering if I should just go for the RRS, or if the SLIK is good enough for use with a P1 + IQ4. Any thoughts?

DIGLLOYD: in my experience, compromises with key gear always turn out to be a mistake. I can see a compromise for infrequent usage, but I won’t like it, which will make me use it even less. If it’s a real need, then buy the quality stuff, if not, stick to one main tripod.

I keep finding that I can only take one tripod on hikes, so my Really Right Stuff 'shorty' rarely goes along. But when I do use it, it’s great. So the argument in my view is that serious need warrants quality, and infrequent need argues for not buying at all.

Roy P continues:

Changed my mind on the SLIK ground tripod I ordered a couple of weeks ago and ordered this RRS ground tripod below instead. The RRS site says this Aluminum tripod is good enough to support a 600mm lens, which is exceptional. More than just the raw weight, that focal length, even at a ground level, is tough to support and requires exceptional stability. So $400 is not cheap, but seems like a worthwhile investment.

The SLIK is not bad and you certainly can’t beat the $70 price tag. Problem is, the manual says the load capacity is only 11 lbs (vs. 15 lbs described on the web site). My ARCA cube + P1 XF + a heavy lens like a 35mm or 40-80 is already at 15+ lbs. If I position the lens to point over one of the legs, it seems pretty stable, but I’d rather get a tripod that is rated at 3x whatever max weight I’m likely to put on it.

I really like the RRS “fat boy” tripods, the series 3 for $500 and the series 4 for $765. They fold to only 10”, which is 2” shorter length than the Aluminum tripod. Problem is, they are extremely bulky (diameter of 5.6” to 6.5”), and quite a bit more expensive. The Aluminum tripod is far sleeker, and at 1 kilo, about 10-20% lighter. It also comes with reversible legs that have rubber feet at one end and spikes at the other end.

Will let you know how this one works out. It’s on backorder at B&H but RRS has them in stock, so I will probably get one in the next 2-3 weeks.

DIGLLOYD: I really like the RRS ground tripod also.

Really Right Stuff TVC-34L tripod with Arca Swiss Cube vs new shorty TFC-13S model with PG-01 Compact Pano-Gimbal Head,
Hasselblad X1D clamped in place with Really Right Stuff BX1D-L
f1.8 @ 1/2000 sec, ISO 25; 2017-03-23 12:14:55
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back dual camera 3.99mm f/1.8 @ 28mm equiv (4mm)

[low-res image for bot]

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