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Old Tuesday 23rd July 2013, 10:44   #1
YuShan
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Tripod/ head advice for Swarovski ATS 80 HD

Hello fellow birders!

I have decided to finally buy myself a nice spottingscope and I'm exploring the different options. I'm already pretty much sold on the Swarovski ATS-80 HD + 25-50x eyepiece so no questions there. However, I'm not sure yet about tripod and head.

Regarding the tripod, options I'm looking at are Manfrotto 190CXPRO3 (1.29kg) and Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 (1.65kg) but of course there other options as well.

Obviously there is a trade-off here between weight and stability, but I am a guy who likes to walk around a lot so weight is important. Would a 190Cx Carbon be stable enough for such a scope or is it too light? (in that case perhaps I should go for 055 or something else more stable). I know that without a stable tripod there is no point buying a good spotting scope. Btw, I do intend to digiscope as well using a small compact camera (no DSLR).

I'm really interested to hear from people who have used these setups in practice and if they think it is too light/ unstable or just right.

Regarding the head, I'm looking at Manfrotto 128rc or perhaps 701HDV. What would be a better choice?

Any other suggestions are also very welcome since I've just started looking into this and there may be other/ better options available. Please keep in mind that for tripod+head I'm aiming at somewhere in the 400-ish range, which I hope will be adequate to buy something decent (if not I would also like to hear!).

Edit: perhaps the Swarovski CT 101?

Cheers!

Last edited by YuShan : Tuesday 23rd July 2013 at 14:33.
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Old Tuesday 23rd July 2013, 18:14   #2
pimpelmees
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Quote:
Originally Posted by YuShan View Post
Hello fellow birders!

I have decided to finally buy myself a nice spottingscope and I'm exploring the different options. I'm already pretty much sold on the Swarovski ATS-80 HD + 25-50x eyepiece so no questions there. However, I'm not sure yet about tripod and head.

Regarding the tripod, options I'm looking at are Manfrotto 190CXPRO3 (1.29kg) and Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 (1.65kg) but of course there other options as well.

Obviously there is a trade-off here between weight and stability, but I am a guy who likes to walk around a lot so weight is important. Would a 190Cx Carbon be stable enough for such a scope or is it too light? (in that case perhaps I should go for 055 or something else more stable). I know that without a stable tripod there is no point buying a good spotting scope. Btw, I do intend to digiscope as well using a small compact camera (no DSLR).

I'm really interested to hear from people who have used these setups in practice and if they think it is too light/ unstable or just right.

Regarding the head, I'm looking at Manfrotto 128rc or perhaps 701HDV. What would be a better choice?

Any other suggestions are also very welcome since I've just started looking into this and there may be other/ better options available. Please keep in mind that for tripod+head I'm aiming at somewhere in the 400-ish range, which I hope will be adequate to buy something decent (if not I would also like to hear!).

Edit: perhaps the Swarovski CT 101?

Cheers!
the 701hdv is best, you have a larger plate so you can balance the scope better and the head movement is smoother .
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Old Tuesday 23rd July 2013, 21:50   #3
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I never used the 701 hdv but if it is half as good as the 501 hd it is a winner.Even 1/8 as good :)

http://www.birdforum.net/attachment....2&d=1288573985
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Old Tuesday 23rd July 2013, 23:04   #4
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I normally use a Gitzo 2531 carbon fiber tripod with a Manfrotto 701HDV head with my Kowa. If I am not walking too far I use an old Gitzo (Carbon) 1329 Mk2 - bit of a monster but wonderfully stable.
I have owned both the Manfrotto 190 and 55 (also tried a Carbon 190) and they are great for photography with lenses of up to 200 or 300mm. However for spotting scopes I feel they are inadequate as, although they support the weight easily, they allow far too much vibration and flex.
I realise a lot of people will totally disagree with me, but remember I had both of the Manfrotto tripods mentioned - I don't have them any more! A few local birders have been gobsmacked when they put their scopes on my old Gitzo G1329 (wich I bought used for 100 quid) as they had not experienced that kind of stability before.
I consider a Gitzo carbon 2 series to be the minimum for a scope with high-ish magnification but a 3 series is better. Unfortunately they are hideously expensive new but I cannot see the point of spending 2K + on a scope and then skimping on support.
I have tried most makes of tripod out there and some are very good but I have not, yet, found anything to equal Gitzo - note I haven't had the chance to play with RRS tripods yet.
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Old Wednesday 24th July 2013, 08:28   #5
YuShan
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Originally Posted by johnf3f View Post
I normally use a Gitzo 2531 carbon fiber tripod with a Manfrotto 701HDV head with my Kowa. If I am not walking too far I use an old Gitzo (Carbon) 1329 Mk2 - bit of a monster but wonderfully stable.
I have owned both the Manfrotto 190 and 55 (also tried a Carbon 190) and they are great for photography with lenses of up to 200 or 300mm. However for spotting scopes I feel they are inadequate as, although they support the weight easily, they allow far too much vibration and flex.
I realise a lot of people will totally disagree with me, but remember I had both of the Manfrotto tripods mentioned - I don't have them any more! A few local birders have been gobsmacked when they put their scopes on my old Gitzo G1329 (wich I bought used for 100 quid) as they had not experienced that kind of stability before.
I consider a Gitzo carbon 2 series to be the minimum for a scope with high-ish magnification but a 3 series is better. Unfortunately they are hideously expensive new but I cannot see the point of spending 2K + on a scope and then skimping on support.
I have tried most makes of tripod out there and some are very good but I have not, yet, found anything to equal Gitzo - note I haven't had the chance to play with RRS tripods yet.
I assume your Kowa is an 883?

I just looked up the weight of the Gitzo GT2531 and I see it is 1,4kg. That is only slightly heavier than the 190 and lighter than 055. If it is really such a step up in stability I'm prepared to spend the extra money (it would increase the cost of the total telescope setup by about 10% but could be well worth it then).

My main concern is weight (I expect to walk quite a lot with the scope) so if I can optimize the stability/weight ratio by spending a little more money (within reasonable limits of course) I'm willing to do that.

Swaro ATS-80 HD + 25-50x eyepiece: 1675 grams
Gitzo GT2531 legs: 1400 grams
Manfrotto 701HDV head: 830 grams
-------------------------------------------------------
Total: 3905 grams

Any suggestions are welcome!
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Old Wednesday 24th July 2013, 10:13   #6
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The Gitzo GT2531 is quite a bit lighter than my Manfrotto 475B tripod that I have that Orion 100ED on, but is twice the price. There are a lot of positive reviews on B&H site with a negative about parts replacement. If I ever replaced my 475B I would look at this one for sure. I use the 475 off my back porch and with the 501 head and a spotter I wouldn't want to carry it very far. 9.5 lbs. 4.3 kg. wt. just for the tripod, 3.5 lbs. 1.6 kg for the 501 head
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Old Wednesday 24th July 2013, 10:54   #7
YuShan
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Originally Posted by mooreorless View Post
The Gitzo GT2531 is quite a bit lighter than my Manfrotto 475B tripod that I have that Orion 100ED on, but is twice the price. There are a lot of positive reviews on B&H site with a negative about parts replacement. If I ever replaced my 475B I would look at this one for sure. I use the 475 off my back porch and with the 501 head and a spotter I wouldn't want to carry it very far. 9.5 lbs. 4.3 kg. wt. just for the tripod, 3.5 lbs. 1.6 kg for the 501 head
That type of weight would be out of the question for me because as I said I expect to do quite a bit of walking with it. With a heavy rig I would then leave the spottingscope at home so often that it wouldn't be justified to spend so much money on it!

I've also been considering a smaller/ lighter scope (like a 65mm) but it seems the weight savings are not that significant. For example, a 65mm Swaro is only 270 grams lighter than an 80mm and I would still need a stable tripod + head! Even if I could get away with a somewhat lighter tripod I fail to see how I can save much more than ~0,5kg on the complete setup. We are then talking about 3,4kg vs 3,9kg which is significant but not spectacular in terms of weight savings. And in that case I'm afraid I can forget about digiscoping (with compactcamera) since a 65mm catches less light = longer exposure times so I would actually need a heavier tripod!
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Old Wednesday 24th July 2013, 17:20   #8
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I'm using 190 CX3 carbon legs and a 700RC2 video head with my Meopta 82mm S2. Measured weight of tripod and head 1864gm (Manfrotto states 1840gm). The scope fits the head without a mounting plate (your Swaro will too), but the 700RC2 set screw puts a ding in the tripod foot so I use the plate anyway. Lose the plate and you can save 40gm.

It's a nice combo, and nowhere near as pricey as a Gitzo. It's likely not as stable either, but I can live with it. I've carried it for a few miles at a time--much lighter than my 055XB and 128RC!

Manfrotto had a $65 rebate on the combo for a net cost of $270. Can't beat that either.

Mark
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Old Wednesday 24th July 2013, 18:41   #9
YuShan
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I'm using 190 CX3 carbon legs and a 700RC2 video head with my Meopta 82mm S2. Measured weight of tripod and head 1864gm (Manfrotto states 1840gm). The scope fits the head without a mounting plate (your Swaro will too), but the 700RC2 set screw puts a ding in the tripod foot so I use the plate anyway. Lose the plate and you can save 40gm.

It's a nice combo, and nowhere near as pricey as a Gitzo. It's likely not as stable either, but I can live with it. I've carried it for a few miles at a time--much lighter than my 055XB and 128RC!

Manfrotto had a $65 rebate on the combo for a net cost of $270. Can't beat that either.

Mark
That's pretty light and a good price! I see a big part of the weight saving is in the head: that 700RC2 head weights 520 grams vs 830 grams for the 701HDV. But I guess that comes at a sacrifice to stability?

It's all subjective of course. What is acceptable for somebody may not be acceptable to someone else. Still, I find it very helpful to read other people's experiences because it helps me to narrow down the range of choices.

I also think there has to be some kind of balance in the legs-head combination. A weak head will partly undo the advantage of very stable/ stiff legs and vice versa.

Last edited by YuShan : Wednesday 24th July 2013 at 18:46.
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Old Wednesday 24th July 2013, 23:16   #10
johnf3f
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I assume your Kowa is an 883?

I just looked up the weight of the Gitzo GT2531 and I see it is 1,4kg. That is only slightly heavier than the 190 and lighter than 055. If it is really such a step up in stability I'm prepared to spend the extra money (it would increase the cost of the total telescope setup by about 10% but could be well worth it then).

My main concern is weight (I expect to walk quite a lot with the scope) so if I can optimize the stability/weight ratio by spending a little more money (within reasonable limits of course) I'm willing to do that.

Swaro ATS-80 HD + 25-50x eyepiece: 1675 grams
Gitzo GT2531 legs: 1400 grams
Manfrotto 701HDV head: 830 grams
-------------------------------------------------------
Total: 3905 grams

Any suggestions are welcome!
Unfortunately my Kowa is a TSN4 with an Opticron SDL V2 eyepiece it's a very good combination - but not in the 883 class!
My main interest is photography so this tripod is normally used for lenses up to my 300 F2.8 (around 4 kilos including camera). Don't get hung up on Gitzo weight ratings as this tripod is rated to 12 Kilo but (due to my dodgy knees) I use mine to help my 105 Kilo weight up off the ground when kneeling for a shot, which it copes with without any stress.
The chief advantage I have found with all my Gitzo tripods is that they damp vibration better than other brands. My longest lens is a Canon 800mm F5.6 but even this is easier to steady than a scope due to the lower magnification involved.
Whether the extra stability is worth the extra cost is something only you can tell, to me the 2531 is the minimum tripod I use for scope use - a 3 series systematic is noticeably better, but 400 grams heavier. I would suggest you try before you buy to see if it's worth it to you.
I wish my photography setup was as light as your proposed scope setup - I often cart 20 kilos on my back - ah the joys of photography!
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Old Thursday 25th July 2013, 21:50   #11
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In the German Foto Magazin test I mentioned in my thread below (Better than Gitzo?) the Sirui M-3204 offered better stability than a Gitzo 2531 Explorer.

The levelling feature of the Explorer is not necessary for scope use and probably costs stability compared to the 2531 Mountaineer, but I believe the Sirui would still be better and at a lower price. It does weigh 300 g more though.

Sirui use an 8x lay-up as opposed to Gitzo's 6x and, although there are different grades of CF, I doubt that Sirui would use an inferior quality in a more complex lay-up.

Here, btw, is the video I mentioned:- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ujp1oETCCY. I don't understand a word, but it's interesting after about 1 min.

John
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Old Thursday 25th July 2013, 23:32   #12
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I am not surprised it was "more stable" than the Gitzo Explorer - but it is designed for rather different uses. The Sirui has considerably thicker legs as well as a center column that does not pivot so it should be more stable. I have some Sirui products and rate them highly however their CF tubing is not as rigid (for a given diameter) as Gitzo and they do not damp vibration quite as well - at their price though they are rather good.
The minimum tripod I was recommending was the Gitzo GT2531 - the mountaineer type.
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