How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Tripod
This is not a traditional product review; it is more a story of my journey from hating my tripod with a passion to falling in love with it, and the role of Feisol Tournament tripod in this journey.
For a long time I had a love / hate relationship with tripods. When I came to understand that I am mostly interested in landscape photography and travel photography I knew that I would need a tripod.
As is true for many new photographers, my second photography-related purchase after I bought my camera kit was a tripod. As a good student, I spent quite a lot of time researching the best model. Finally, I followed the advice of “professional photographers” from some photo magazine — probably Rangefinder — and got myself a big, heavy-like-hell, and expensive Manfrotto tripod. In my family it was given the nickname “THE MONSTER”.
But after a few months I realized that my “monster” mostly stayed in the closet or in the trunk of my car because I kept finding excuses not to use it. I taught myself how to take steady shots at a very slow shutter speed without a tripod, how to use different objects for camera support instead of a tripod, and later, taking bracketed shots for HDR handheld.
This photo I took in Las Vegas at night without a tripod, setting my camera on a garbage can.
This is when I realized that a light weight and compactness are more important to me than steadiness and stability. I also realized that I can deal with a less-stable tripod, but I cannot do anything if my tripod does not fit in my carry-on during my trips.
This is when I bought a very light and inexpensive tripod, the Slik Sprint Pro. It cost about $100, is compact, and weighs only 1.1 kg including the panhead. It is not the most stable model, but it worked for me, and I stuck with it for almost 3 years. Every six months or so I would do a quick search for a better carbon fiber tripod, but each time I was not ready to pay in excess of $1000 for the light weight and compactness I already had.
Everything changed for me in the fall of 2013. Originally, I had read a review on Improve Photography about the Feisol CT3442, with the bold statement that it was the best tripod ever made. After conducting my own research I was in agreement with that statement. Thanks, Jim Harmer. This is when I realized that the technology had finally gotten to the point where I can have a lightweight, compact, and very steady tripod at a very reasonable price.
On my last driving trip along California Route 1 from Los Angelse to San Francisco I was so comfortable with my new purchase that about 90% of my 3000 photos were taken with the tripod. By the end of Day 3 I had blisters on my hands because I had unfolded and folded the tripod so often.
If you would like the detailed technical specs you should check out the Feisol website. I am going to list all of the features of the tripod which really work for me as a travel photographer:
- Light (1kg)
- Compact. Folded it is only 19 inches (48cm). I can fit it in my backpack when I am hiking, or into carry-on when I travel light.
- Tall. I am almost 6 feet tall (181cm), and I do not need a center column (I hate them). It is that tall.
- Beautiful design.
- Steady and stable like a rock. When it is extremely windy and I need to take 5 or 7 bracketed shots for HDR, I just apply pressure with my weight from the top and it will not move at all.
- Since I am plotting the switch to the mirrorless realm, it will be perfect for any new system. Update: at the very end of 2014 I completely switched from Canon DSLR to Sony Mirrorless.
- Constructed out of aerospace-quality aluminum alloy and specialized carbon fiber.
I also complemented Tournament CT-3442 with Ballhead CB-40D from Feisol
Tournament CT-3442 in Action
Here are some examples of multi bracketed shots I took with FEISOL Tournament CT-3442 and later processed them for HDR (High Dynamic Range Photography).