Friday, June 21, 2013

Too Many Undurable Tripods

I have been taking photographs with a variety of cameras for decades including a Pentax K1000 (35mm), a Canon A-1 (35mm), a Toshiba point and shoot digital camera (I can't remember the model), a Nikon D80 (digital), a Canon 1D Mark III (digital), a Canon 5D Mark II (digital), and a Canon 1D Mark IV (digital).

The Gitzo tripods (with the tripod at left missing a leg) above were photographed in June 2013.

These cameras have all offered a degree of enjoyment while the transition to digital has been especially rewarding with the ability to ditch the expense of 35mm film. There was only one instance countless images ago where I did not spool the film correctly with the Pentax camera losing the documentation of whatever I was photographing. I don't remember the occasion so it was fortunately not important.

More recently a planned event of documenting wildlife was scuttled as I had forgotten to replace the camera's memory card. On another occasion I had forgotten to put the camera's battery back in it after a re-charge. Both of these devices have been routinely removed from the digital cameras I have owned while I've been sure not to leave home without them for over a year now. I would prefer to leave the memory card in the 1D Mark IV (my primary camera at the time of this writing) when transferring images to the computer, but I need to install an unknown program to allow that to happen.

This is irritating as I hadn't had this problem with previous digital cameras, and I prefer and recommend leaving weather resistant areas of the camera undisturbed as much as possible. I have read that some like to insert the memory card into their computer to transfer their images to conserve battery life. I'm not sure if this extends the expected life of the battery which seems unlikely. Without doubt my experience with digital camera batteries is that they have all performed unexpectedly well with as many as 1800 images taken between recharges (exceeding manufacturer specifications).

Well, enough of those thoughts off topic from the title of this article. What I've really wanted to discuss is the value and utility of tripods. I've had as many tripods in use as I've had cameras. I don't recall the brand and model of the first tripod acquired as it was so long ago, but I recall it met my expectations at the time. It was an easy task then as the gear it supported was lightweight and I wasn't near a beach routinely.

A workhorse tripod I wish I had gotten more utility from, and am keeping for posterity I guess is a Bogen 3021. It's missing at least one critical component lost years ago. I was in Tampa at the time when the lever that controls the center column, and screw that mounts the camera were lost. Poor construction was my thought of it at the time.

When I had a need for another tripod to manage the load of heavier gear, I chose the Gitzo 5541LS. This is a very high quality tripod that I would expect to last a lifetime. Its inundation in saltwater, however, caused an irreparable failure in November 2011. As I don't remember the tripod's purchase date, I will guess that it was less than two years old. I continued to use the tripod for four more months making good use of it with Duck Tape before replacing the tripod with another 5541LS.

I suppose I thought I would give the new tripod a little more care as I really like the 5541LS when it works properly. My second Gitzo 5541LS failed about 14 months later with the exact same symptom. The images presented by a cell phone note the failure point.

I have replaced the Gitzo brand with an Induro AT-413 at a fraction of its price. I've been in the field on a few occasions (including a concluded trip to the Florida Keys today) with the Induro and am very pleased. I will stick with this brand indefinitely while expecting to have a replacement necessary every 24 months based on my experience with the higher priced brand.

The Gitzo tripods with a duplication of failure above were photographed in June 2013.

My July 2013 issue of Popular Photography has an advertisement for a Gitzo "Ocean Traveler" tripod described as the only tripod in the world developed for photographers who work in the most extreme environments. I nonetheless highly recommend the Induro brand which you may replace ten plus times for the same cost of one Ocean Traveler. It's very unlikely I will be using the Gitzo brand again.


  1. 9 months in, are you still sold on the Induro?

    1. Thank you for your question, Michael. Has it been nine months already? Well, I'm still sold on the Induro.

      Not too long ago, however, one of the upper twist locks froze up on me. I attribute this to overtightening which was done as a nervous reaction when the tripod was laden in a couple of feet of water, and began to list more quickly than sinking in mud. The lower locks still work fine even after their repeated exposure to salt water.

      One must be advised of the "hook" attached to the tripod head which should never be allowed to come in contact with your shoulder when slinging the tripod around.

      The hollow legs of the Induro AT413 do not allow water intrusion anywhere near as much as the Gitzo 5541LS tripods used.

      The Induro AT413 angle adjustable locks work flawlessly unlike that of the Gitzo's which froze up quickly.

      I am using the center column much more than I anticipated. When extended, it requires a strong tightening with heavy weight on it, of course. The use of the center column has made the extension of the lower legs unnecessary. Raising the center column must be a consideration or not when taking images using very slow shutter speeds when not using a remote shutter release as you may have unwanted blurring of focus.

      Keep in mind as well that I have never broken down a tripod for a wash after its exposure to salt water as is recommended.

      The Induro AT413 is a very well designed tripod that I would not hesitate to purchase again. When I have a need to replace it, I expect there to be an improved version of this alloy model offering improved load capacity.