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Old Wednesday 7th June 2006, 16:50   #1
Dune Lark
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Ultimate Tripod and Head for birding, birding, birding ... & digiscoping

As a very keen birder and an advanced amateur photographer I am looking to find the best possible combination, first and foremost for birding and secondly for reasonable digiscoping stability (digiscoping is something I have no experience with, but would like to try). Removing cost as a consideration the following factors need to be optimised: weight, stability, ease of use in the field. The scope I've chosen is the current Swarovski ATS 80 HD. I use Canon DSLR's and lenses (not much L class glass yet, but slowly upgrading). I am 1,75m tall.

I would be very appreciative of your thoughts on the following:

Is the Gitzo G1325/1329 too heavy for general birding use?
Is the Gitzo G2380 head the best trade-off between weight, stability and in-the-field birding use or are there better options?

Any other suggested combinations. Obviously birding comes first, but I don't want to regret my choice later if digiscoping becomes an enjoyable hobby. Stability may therefore weigh slightly heavier than the weight consideration.

The tripod would occasionally be used for a camera, but essentially it would be for the scope.

Keen to hear from those with experience.

Best regards,
Dune Lark
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Old Thursday 8th June 2006, 03:14   #2
Bill Atwood
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dune Lark
Is the Gitzo G1325/1329 too heavy for general birding use?
It depends; probably is for most people. How big a load do you want to carry and for how far, versus how stable a platform you desire? It's a great tripod; a fantastic one if you are not carrying it very far. I have the 1325/9 and a 1227. For birding I much prefer the lighter and much smaller 1227. It's the best scoping tripod there is, except perhaps compared to its replacement, the 1257. Right at the knee of the curve for (weight & size) to stability. I'm a pretty stern judge of tripods compared to most birders and this pod makes me happy.

HOWEVER...I haven't done any digiscoping and don't plan to. It seems like most folks are happy with the Bogen 3021. This surprises me a little. You probably should review the digiscoping forums.

The 1325 is used for photography with support a 500/4.5 lens. I just got a 30D and anticipate the 1227 will be good for it and a 400/4. This would be a great travel set up, with the ability to use the 1227 for birding and photography. Wish I could settle on a head for both.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Dune Lark
Is the Gitzo G2380 head the best trade-off between weight, stability and in-the-field birding use or are there better options?
I was not happy with the 2380, the drag adjustment didn't work. It may have been a poor sample though. You may want to consider the Bogen 501 too. Both are a little on the heavy side, but should provide a better platform than the usual Bogen 3130 or 70XRC2.
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Old Thursday 8th June 2006, 09:24   #3
Dune Lark
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Ultimate birding tripod/head

Thanks a lot for sharing your experience Bill.

I will probably not be walking miles with the tripod 85% of the time, but there are those odd occasions where the bird does not sit obligingly near a road and I do do some hiking. The legs will essentially need to hold the Swarovski ATS 80mm, but I will probably occasionally need to put the Canon EF 300mm L f/2.8 IS on them too.

Do you know if the Swarovski mount can be switched to something compatible with the improved Arca-swiss style quick-release plates that Really Right Stuff or Wimberley produce?

Thanks again . . .
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Old Thursday 8th June 2006, 13:25   #4
Dune Lark
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Atwood
HOWEVER...I haven't done any digiscoping and don't plan to. It seems like most folks are happy with the Bogen 3021. This surprises me a little.
It does seem strange. I would think even your lighter Gitzo would give more stability for digiscoping, but I may be wrong.

Talking about finding the ideal head for both your 30D 400mm/4 combo and your scope: are the Wimberley options too heavy? and is a high quality ball head from Arca Swiss/Kirk/Really Right Stuff completely out of the question for scoping?

I wonder if anyone has tried these options and what their views are. Would be great to scope an area and just use the quick release to switch to your camera/telephoto combo without having to lug around 2 tripods with heads.
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Old Thursday 8th June 2006, 15:38   #5
Neil
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I'm using a Benro Ballhead with my digiscoping setup and my Nikon D2x plus Nikon 300/2.8. I have plates on both and can switch between them very fast. The tripod can be lightweight if you don't extend too high. I have a couple of lightweight Sliks, including their smallest which I use sitting on the ground. I don't photograph standing up much so don't need a tall tripod. Neil
http://photopal.co.uk/index.php?cPath=32
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Old Friday 9th June 2006, 00:09   #6
Bill Atwood
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dune Lark
Do you know if the Swarovski mount can be switched to something compatible with the improved Arca-swiss style quick-release plates that Really Right Stuff or Wimberley produce?
RRS makes a general scope plate, I have one, I think its the B-6. It does seem to fit securely on my ATS80, although I've never used it in the field. The lip on the back of the B-6 it should keep it from twisting like the Bogen 3157s do. However I consider ANY movemennt between the plate and scope foot unacceptable.

Since the ATS foot is shaped like the Bogen 3157 plate I still use the 3130. The fewer parts between the scope and the ground, the better. I was really interested on the newer and lighter 701RC2 until I found out the plate mount was turned 90 deg. Bastards.

RRS makes plates for almost anytihing under the sun. Wimberley's selection is much more modest. Both companies are excellent to deal with. Kirk Enterprises also manufactures heads and plates.
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Old Friday 9th June 2006, 00:26   #7
Bill Atwood
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dune Lark
It does seem strange. I would think even your lighter Gitzo would give more stability for digiscoping, but I may be wrong.
The 1227 is much better, but also 4x the price of the 3021.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Dune Lark
Talking about finding the ideal head for both your 30D 400mm/4 combo and your scope: are the Wimberley options too heavy? and is a high quality ball head from Arca Swiss/Kirk/Really Right Stuff completely out of the question for scoping?
I've thought about the Wimberley option for the 500/4.5. However I switched to a less stressful, and unfortunately, less lucrative job a couple years ago and don't have the moola to throw at toys like I once did. I'm currently using an AS B-1 for photography, it was considered the best ball head at the time I bought it. Markins, RRS, and Acratech have all come out with suitable competitors since then. As has Wimberly with their gimbals. For photography I'm stickin with the B-1 for now.

The big failing of the the aforementioned ballheads for scoping is no pan handle. You have to grab the scope itself to move it. I've put up with this on some trips, but would despise doing it all the time.
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Old Friday 9th June 2006, 09:22   #8
Dune Lark
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Atwood
The big failing of the the aforementioned ballheads for scoping is no pan handle. You have to grab the scope itself to move it. I've put up with this on some trips, but would despise doing it all the time.
Yeah I figured as much. The Wimberley might be ok becuase it is so well balanced but you would want a panhandle for scoping I guess. I am also quite fussy about vibration/movement and many of the video heads I've used seem to have this problem to some degree. Stability = quality of view/picture. Period. But then there is always the cost and weight issue as you say.

Neil's idea of sitting on the ground is a good one and I often also do this for photography, but it is not always feasible depending on where you are. The ground can be very cold, damp and uncomfortable :-) Perhaps I'm just a bit of a girl's blouse.
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Old Friday 9th June 2006, 09:24   #9
Dune Lark
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Neil
I'm using a Benro Ballhead with my digiscoping setup and my Nikon D2x plus Nikon 300/2.8. I have plates on both and can switch between them very fast. The tripod can be lightweight if you don't extend too high. I have a couple of lightweight Sliks, including their smallest which I use sitting on the ground. I don't photograph standing up much so don't need a tall tripod. Neil
http://photopal.co.uk/index.php?cPath=32

I presume no panhandle on the Benro? But was wondering which plates you put on your scope and camera.
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Old Friday 9th June 2006, 23:51   #10
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Sitting on the ground is uncomfortable. I carry a plastic pancho to sit on if the ground is wet and also have a backpack/stool combo which I use sometimes. Otherwise I look for a comfortable rock/log. 60% of the time I'm photographing from a seat in a hide. I use a Manfrotto Micro Positioning Plate 454
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...lance&n=502394
to balance the scope and camera (I have the optional battery pack on the Olympus 7070wz which is quite heavy ). I can grip this plate to track the bird and focus at the same time (this is an advantage of the focusing method of the Swarovski ) and when I release the Benro Ballhead keeps the scope firm and damps vibrations by the time I squeeze the remote. Neil.
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Old Friday 21st July 2006, 18:40   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Neil
Sitting on the ground is uncomfortable. I carry a plastic pancho to sit on if the ground is wet and also have a backpack/stool combo which I use sometimes. Otherwise I look for a comfortable rock/log. 60% of the time I'm photographing from a seat in a hide. I use a Manfrotto Micro Positioning Plate 454
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...lance&n=502394
to balance the scope and camera (I have the optional battery pack on the Olympus 7070wz which is quite heavy ). I can grip this plate to track the bird and focus at the same time (this is an advantage of the focusing method of the Swarovski ) and when I release the Benro Ballhead keeps the scope firm and damps vibrations by the time I squeeze the remote. Neil.
I am considering Benro KS-0 ball head. I should like to know, if this ball head is good, above or sub standard? Do you have to use a remote for satisfactory usage of this ball head?
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Old Saturday 22nd July 2006, 00:41   #12
Neil
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I'm testing the Fuji F30 digicam on the Benro head and as it doesn't have a Remote I'm pressing the shutter most of the time and using the Self-timer sometimes (2 and 10 seconds ). One of the big advantages of the F30 is the low noise sensor and almost no vignetting at wide zoom (see report in Andy Bright's Digiscoping Section ) which gives fast shutter speeds. No problem in gently pressing the shutter and using Continuous Mode ( I usually throwout the first frame in the series without even looking at it ) and the Benro allows small adjustments by just touching the camera and/or scope to re-align as I never lock it down tight. It is a good idea to string some elastic from the front of the scope to the tripod leg to damp down any vibration that could occur. Neil.
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