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502an vs 500ah, and others

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Old Sunday 1st September 2019, 11:53   #1
tealboy1
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502an vs 500ah, and others

Do you all like the 502 head? The rating are outstanding and overall popularity high vs 500 based on volume of reviews but that doesnt mean it is better for scopes. I was warned of its bulkier size and added weight, appx 2.6lbs vs 3.7 lbs so for many of you weight sensitive, maybe this is a deal killer. I found a great deal on the 502, hence the interest.

Second, still giving consideration to the 128rc, great price point and review very favorable but noticed on bhphoto that there are a number of rebates on tripod head combos which include ball heads but I sense ball heads are not popular here. True?

Looking at aluminum 055 as legs based on taller frame and more sturdy construction. Current Nikon 55 is light at 37 oz but may add a 78/82 scope in future so I want enough head/legs to support.

Thoughts?
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Old Sunday 1st September 2019, 13:24   #2
Alexis Powell
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tealboy1 View Post
Do you all like the 502 head? The rating are outstanding and overall popularity high vs 500 based on volume of reviews but that doesn’t mean it is better for scopes. I was warned of its bulkier size and added weight, appx 2.6lbs vs 3.7 lbs so for many of you weight sensitive, maybe this is a deal killer. I found a great deal on the 502, hence the interest.

Second, still giving consideration to the 128rc, great price point and review very favorable but noticed on bhphoto that there are a number of rebates on tripod head combos which include ball heads but I sense ball heads are not popular here. True?

Looking at aluminum 055 as legs based on taller frame and more sturdy construction. Current Nikon 55 is light at 37 oz but may add a 78/82 scope in future so I want enough head/legs to support.

Thoughts?
To inspire more BirdForum members to chime in, I think it would be helpful for you to specify how much you are willing to and are willing to stretch to spend (i.e. a target cost and an absolute upper limit), how tall you need the tripod to be, and how much weight you are willing to carry.

I own and respect the 128RC but it doesn't take sliding plates (which have many advantages) without being custom modified.

One of my rigs, which I purchased for my graduate students to digiscope sightings of basking turtles in the course of our research, consists of an 86 mm scope with 20-60x eyepiece with a mated micro 4/3 camera with 40 mm lens, supported on the 502 head and Benro TMA37AL Long Series 3 Mach3 Aluminum Tripod. That's a head and tripod combo that quickly adjusts from under 12 inches to over 75 inches without any center column, that weighs 9 lbs total (3.73 lb head + 5.2 lb legs) and costs $335 (current BH photo prices $145 head + $190 legs). It's an unbelievably good value in my opinion for a very solid and very easy to use rig, but again, it is quite heavy (Not a problem for our purposes since we use it from roadsides not far from our vehicle). To shed significant mass, shed a bit of bulk, maybe gain some vibration damping, but keep the same height spec, I would have gone to the 500ah head (1.98 lb, $130) with Benro TMA38CL Long Series 3 Mach3 Carbon Fiber Tripod (4.3 lb, $426). Still a killer deal for a very solid and tall rig.

--AP

Last edited by Alexis Powell : Sunday 1st September 2019 at 14:05.
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Old Sunday 1st September 2019, 15:29   #3
tealboy1
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Thank you Alexis, part of the problem is, I don’t know exactly how I’m going to use all of this, it is new to me but I become excited and interested in the idea of glassing with quality instruments. Also, all of this starts adding up. I wasn’t anticipating the need to be required to buy a pricey tripod and then add a pricey head to go with it but quickly realized I do so part of the budget is learning and digesting.

I’m almost 6’3” and have a straight scope so appears I need 67” fo comfortable use it. This was part of why I was drawn toward the 055 bc it is 55” base and up to 67” with center extended but also expect the head and mounting of the scope will add a few inches. In fact, that’s a variable I don’t know precisely. If the 055 was 55” and I mounted a 500ah and my scope to it, where would the eye piece be in terms of total inches? I need to get to 67” but don’t know how much center elevation I need.

Your benro looks intriguing, I like them. I think the measurements are slightly less depending on what you were counting. They are 4” taller than the 055 at 59” but go to 71 with the center up. This might be better for me.

Anyway, my budget is growing but so is the desire for more equipment. I don’t see myself hiking around and not overly worried about weight with this setup, hence, not looking at carbon. Ideally, I’d like to spend 200-300$ for my head and legs but realize I may need to be slightly north of that .
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Old Sunday 1st September 2019, 15:30   #4
jkingrph
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Not knowing much , i went with the 500AH head. I found the large sliding plate too large to use with a case on my Kowa scope, and very uncomfortable on my NiIkon P500 camera. My solution was to make an adapter plate so I could attach a smaller qd Manfrotto 323 base to the sliding base and use their much smaller 200 pl plates. which fit inside the tripod mounting location on my scope case and is much, much smaller and less obtrusive on my camera, I can actually fit the camera in a small carrying case with that plate attached. As I do some informal bench rest shooting, have a couple of dedicated spotting scope mounts that clamp to a bench, vs using a tripod, which is much more secure, less prone to knocking my scope over, and the smaller base is much better than a larger base for the 500 size sliding plates. I saw a video on youtube on making an adapter and modified it to better fit for my set ups. On the video head it probably raises the total height a little less than one inch, more on the order of 3/4" seems very secure so the height is not a problem.
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Old Sunday 1st September 2019, 16:14   #5
Alexis Powell
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tealboy1 View Post
...Your benro looks intriguing, I like them. I think the measurements are slightly less depending on what you were counting. They are 4 taller than the 055 at 59 but go to 71 with the center up...
Oh, you are right--I was wrong about the specs of the Benro tripods because I forgot they have a center column. My most equivalent personal tripods are Really Right Stuff models that are similar in dimensions to these Benro but mine have no center column and instead another section in each leg to achieve the same height.

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Originally Posted by tealboy1 View Post
...If the 055 was 55 and I mounted a 500ah and my scope to it, where would the eye piece be in terms of total inches? I need to get to 67 but dont know how much center elevation I need...
The head will add several inches, as will the scope itself. Don't overthink the exact numbers for this measurement, just try to error on the generous side. In the real world, you won't always be setting up on flat level ground. Any time you are on a hill, looking downhill, your tripod will need to be even taller to reach your eye height.

--AP
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Old Sunday 1st September 2019, 16:17   #6
Alexis Powell
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Originally Posted by jkingrph View Post
...I found the large sliding plate too large to use with a case on my Kowa scope, and very uncomfortable on my NiIkon P500 camera...
Could you have simply used a shorter plate than the one that came with the head? A variety of lengths are available for this standard, which is used by Manfrotto, Gitzo, Sirui and perhaps others.

--AP
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Old Sunday 1st September 2019, 18:53   #7
tealboy1
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alexis Powell View Post



The head will add several inches, as will the scope itself. Don't overthink the exact numbers for this measurement, just try to error on the generous side. In the real world, you won't always be setting up on flat level ground. Any time you are on a hill, looking downhill, your tripod will need to be even taller to reach your eye height.

--AP
Agree, but when you are almost 63 using a straight scope, its harder to find things on the generous side but Im heeding the advice as I see the value in having something tall enough. Also respect your point re using the center piece adds instability so longer legs matter. The benro May be the best option as far as value, quality and tallness goes.
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Old Sunday 1st September 2019, 19:49   #8
Boogieshrew
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Tealboy,
have a look at the Audubon shop The Border tripod.
I have picked one (or something familiar) up on the auction site and it is quite unusual.
Only 2 sections to the legs and the diameters of legs and centre column are large. Very very stable and surprisingly lighter than it looks.
I will post some photos and thoughts about it at some point this week when I find the time.
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Old Monday 2nd September 2019, 10:51   #9
tealboy1
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Originally Posted by Boogieshrew View Post
Tealboy,
have a look at the Audubon shop The Border tripod.
I have picked one (or something familiar) up on the auction site and it is quite unusual.
Only 2 sections to the legs and the diameters of legs and centre column are large. Very very stable and surprisingly lighter than it looks.
I will post some photos and thoughts about it at some point this week when I find the time.
I found it boog, like it but too short without having to use a lot of center piece extension which Ive been warned to minimize for stability. Im tall plus have a straight scope so an ep at 67 is ideal. Will already have stability issues at that height so taller legs are important. Overall value and availability of 055s continues to point me in that direction. Seem to be a good number of used ones Available
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Old Monday 2nd September 2019, 12:18   #10
jring
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Hi,

in case of the Audubon birder tripod, I would make an exception of the usual rule to keep the center column down - they have designed the tripod for the use with spotting scopes after all and have thus used an oversize center column and a strong clamp.

The 502 will easily carry any spotting scope, as would the 500. Its counterbalance system is designed for a load of 4kg which means it will work best for a load close to that (like an ATX95 with a camera). For normal scopes, the 2.4kg of the 500AH are probably quite sufficient.
The 128RC is a different beast and I would only consider it for smaller scopes of 60 or maybe 65mm... It will also not be so easy to have smooth pans for following birds in flight...

Joachim
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Old Wednesday 4th September 2019, 17:11   #11
Alexis Powell
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adapt 128 to use Arca-Swiss plates

tealboy1,

In response to some of my previous comments (above) and to your PM to me about the Manfrotto 128, you may be interested in this thread by Kevin Conville:
https://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=249059

Also check post #6 in this thread.
https://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=376615

But don't let me or these threads drive you crazy. You may be perfectly happy with the regular plate for the 128.

--AP

Last edited by Alexis Powell : Wednesday 4th September 2019 at 17:21.
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Old Wednesday 4th September 2019, 19:39   #12
Tringa45
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I too would recommend the Manfrotto 128 and suggest that you get the 128LP (without QR) instead of the 128RC.
Mine is mounted on an old Aluminium Gitzo Series 4 with a total weight of 4 kg, so it's not carried far and is only used for sea-watching and as a grab-and-go for a look at the planets or moon from my balcony.
My portable birding set-up is a Berlebach 552 head on a Sirui M3204 carbon fibre tripod and, for the sake of compatibility, I have attached a Berlebach 150 Arca-Swiss clamp (cost more than the 128LP :-() directly to the 128LP.
There are however much cheaper Arca-Swiss alternatives and I only chose the Berlebach to have the same safety retention.
When Jan Mejerinck tested ball heads and video heads for the Twentse Vogelwerkgroep years ago, the 128LP was one of the best. A support is only as good as its weakest link and with my Kowa 883 the old Gitzo and 128LP shows a lower amplitude of disturbance and quicker damping than my portable set-up.

John
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Old Thursday 5th September 2019, 23:30   #13
jkingrph
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alexis Powell View Post
Could you have simply used a shorter plate than the one that came with the head? A variety of lengths are available for this standard, which is used by Manfrotto, Gitzo, Sirui and perhaps others.

--AP
Probably not, for some of the things i wanted to do with some mounts other than tripods. A base to use that style plate is still larger than I wanted.

I did not know of any shorter plates, nor could find any such thing.
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Old Friday 6th September 2019, 17:42   #14
Alexis Powell
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...I did not know of any shorter plates, nor could find any such thing.
The Gitzo GS5370C is quite short and fits the non-Arca sliding plate standard used by Manfrotto, Gitzo, and Sirui.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produ...ase_Plate.html
https://www.amazon.com/Gitzo-GS5370C...gateway&sr=8-1

--AP
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Old Friday 6th September 2019, 23:24   #15
jkingrph
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Originally Posted by Alexis Powell View Post
The Gitzo GS5370C is quite short and fits the non-Arca sliding plate standard used by Manfrotto, Gitzo, and Sirui.

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produ...ase_Plate.html
https://www.amazon.com/Gitzo-GS5370C...gateway&sr=8-1

--AP
If you say so. I looked and did not see any direct statements where these plates are compatible with the Manfrotto 500 head. They mention some types of heads as gitzo series 1-5 type c, and I have no idea what that means. It's all a moot point now, I made an adapter, and put the Manfrotto 323 adapter base on the 500 plate and then the 200pl plate on my scope and camera and it works great. I also put a 323 adapter on my bench clamp scope mount and it works great there.

I had looked for a smaller plate before starting my homemade adapter and could not find anything. My adapter is rather simple a piece of 1/2 thick. aluminum bar 11/2 wide Couple of holes, actually 3. One through my adapter to clamp the 323 base to adapter and the 500 plate. another threaded for the 1/4" screw to help orient it and I drilled and tapped another for a little set screw on the opposite side to again prevent twisting. It is very solid and painted with a semi flat enamel looks professional. It took a few minutes of measuring and lay out to center and then match screw holes, but probably around 45 minutes to make.

Considering the other things I have the 323 adapter base on, I am glad I went this route as it makes a neater application than using a larger adapter base for the 500 style plates.
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Old Monday 9th September 2019, 16:33   #16
Alexis Powell
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If you say so. I looked and did not see any direct statements where these plates are compatible with the Manfrotto 500 head. They mention some types of heads as gitzo series 1-5 type c, and I have no idea what that means...
Yes, it's true the companies do a poor job describing the compatibility of plates with their own heads, let alone others. But for future reference and readers of this thread, yes, these plates are compatible as I described.

--AP
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Old Sunday 15th September 2019, 16:38   #17
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Well I picked up one of those Gitzo plates and yes it will work. I find the fit rather sloppy and don't think I want to trust it in securing my expensive scope.
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Old Sunday 15th September 2019, 17:16   #18
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I've gone through two 128rc heads because when they fell on the locking lever (I think) a plastic bit inside connected to the spring broke off, disrupting the locking mechanism. The 500 and 502ah have always been to heavy for my backpacking taste and 2kg scope so went for the mhxpro-2w head and really like its fluid Ness and design (besides the sloppy balance button) esp the simple plastic locking lever, no springs and pins etc
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Old Monday 16th September 2019, 21:28   #19
Alexis Powell
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Well I picked up one of those Gitzo plates and yes it will work. I find the fit rather sloppy and don't think I want to trust it in securing my expensive scope.
Another alternative, for you or others with the same problem, is to use a non-rotating Arca-Swiss type plate (which are available in all lengths to suit your needs) with an adapter to the Gitzo/Manfrotto/Sirui non-Arca sliding standard (such as this one https://www.ebay.com/itm/Metal-Adapt...AAAOSwd4tTwN2r). That's what I do most of the time because it gives me a solid connection to the scope foot and the versatility to connect to any of my Gitzo, Sirui, Arca-standard, or conventional threaded heads (since the RRS and Desmond plates that I use include a threaded socket).

--AP
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Old Tuesday 17th September 2019, 16:55   #20
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Considering the "sloppy" fit of the Gitzo plate to Manfrotto 500 head, I will stick with my adapter block to allow a Manfrotto 323 base to attach to the 500 med sliding plate. I need the adapter block to allow the 323 base to sit flat, due the the locking safety feature which i like, When engaged the lever cannot be opened to allow the 200 plate to be removed or fall out. It was really a cheap work around, a piece of 1/2 x 1 1/2 aluminum bar. I attached it to the 500 plate with both the 3/8 and 1/4 screws so it is extremely secure to the 500 plate. Then the 323 base attaches with the 3/8 screw, and a smaller set screw in installed as an anti rotation pin. It does raise my scope or camera by 1 3/8 above the top surface of the 500 sliding plate,

Here's a link to a youtube video where i got the idea, and made a couple of modifactions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d08nJ-ILWIU
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Old Tuesday 17th September 2019, 18:11   #21
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Yes, that's a good solution if you like the 200PL (=3157N) plates. I have the 323 base on a window mount, and a 700RC2 head on a spare tripod, so I still use them sometimes but generally don't like them as much as others because the rubber base allows some wiggle, the bolt always seems to loosen over time, and they aren't non-rotating unless modified or used with something that accepts a video pin.

With the respect to the sloppy fit you found between the Gitzo GS5370C plate and Manfrotto 500 head, I have to admit that I've never used that combination (not a big fan of that plate for the same reasons as the 200PL), but I suppose I can imagine the problem. One of the flaws of the Manfrotto 500 head is that for all of its beefy robustness, it doesn't connect with the plate very solidly (or at least to the standards usually found with Arca-Swiss type clamps and plates) because the contact area along the clamping side is very small. The plate isn't gripped along its length on both sides, but rather is forced against one side of the slot by the small clamping area. The even heavier 502AH head (which I have) may be a tiny bit better in this respect, but if so, not by much. Unfortunately, Manfrotto makes the problem even worse by making the slot for the sliding plate quite a bit wider than the plate, so a short plate is prone to rotate a bit unless clamped very hard. The Sirui clamp (e.g. on the VH-10X, which I use most) is much better, both in clamp contact area and precision of fit, but it is still not as good as what most Arca-type clamps achieve.

--AP
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Old Tuesday 17th September 2019, 21:25   #22
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I started with a Manfrotto tripod and the fluid head which seems ok for my purposes. I do see what you mean by a small clamping area on the one side, It honestly looks like they had plenty of room to make it longer and more robust, but then it seems to me to be sturdy. The problem with a relative newby like me is making heads and tails of all this stuff, I live in the relative boondocks, a small town in E. Texas so not much chance to have and on hands check of what is available. The manufacturers certainly do not help in giving any compatibility guide.

The little Manfrotto 323 base and 200PL plate may not be ideal or the best but seems ok too me, admittedly I have not used it much, and as I stated earlier I wanted a small compact base to use on one of my bench rest clamps for shooting and it is small enough to fit that and seems to do a good job. My ultimate goal was a QD system that was compact so I could mount the QD plate to my scope to eliminate thread wear on the integral base on the scope. I had an old scope and thread wear was visible.
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