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Compact travel tripod for compact travel scope

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Old Thursday 13th August 2020, 16:24   #1
Tobz
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Compact travel tripod for compact travel scope

Hi All

I'm planning to get a small scope and compact tripod for travel (to fit easily in a reasonable size backpack). Emphasis is on light/compact whilst maintaining a reasonable degree of quality. I've settled on the scope which will be an Opticron MM4 50 ED/45 accompanied with the SDLv3 zoom lens, for example here:

https://www.birders-store.co.uk/opti...y-on-case.html

Settling on a tripod is less easy. I've decided to go with a ballhead tripod head style. I've read other posts here and while I realise that it may not be as easy to track birds with as some other types, there seems to be a concensus that it is OK with a small scope and reasonable for a compact set-up. I'm very tempted to push the boat out all the way with the Peak Design carbon fibre travel tripod:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Peak-Design...254129&sr=8-39

It is obviously expensive but hope will function extremely well for a long time. It is designed for photography and I will sometimes put a super-zoom camera on it, although the primary purpose is for the scope. I'm aware the aluminium version is significantly cheaper but if I was spending this I'd go all the way! I've also seen the Benro Slim recommended on this forum:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Benro-TSL08...67&sr=8-4&th=1

which has the advantage of being much cheaper. I would be very grateful for any advice or other options that would fit my requirements.
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Old Thursday 13th August 2020, 17:10   #2
Andrew Whitehouse
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If you're thinking of spending big on the tripod, I'd suggest something from the Gitzo Traveller series e.g.
https://www.wexphotovideo.com/gitzo-...d-kit-1578808/
https://www.wexphotovideo.com/gitzo-...d-kit-1578806/
They're around the same price as the Peak Design and are almost supernaturally stable for their size and weight.

The Benro may be a reasonable option. I've not used that particular model but other Benro tripods I've used have been well made and good value.
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Old Thursday 13th August 2020, 19:44   #3
Alexis Powell
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If you want something that's actually practical to quickly deploy from its collapsed state, and that can be quickly adjusted from collapsed to eye level, or from eye level to ground level, and quickly collapsed again, I recommend the Velbon Ultra 455 with a solid but lightweight ball head of your choice (I use RRS BH-25 Pro). A big chunk of the spec weight of the 455 comes from the boat-anchor head that comes stock with it, so get rid of it immediately! Unfortunately, other than the 655, that line seems to have been discontinued, which is nothing but a shame. They were uniquely practical travel tripods, regardless of budget. The Ultra 455 should still be available at some vendors for about $190. I've seen the slightly lighter and more compact Ultra 355 for only about $100 online. The still current Velbon UT-3AR might be a good substitute for the Ultra 355 if it is as well made (I don't know). These tripods can't be beat for versatility and speed of deployment. Little super expensive carbon tripods with scores of separate leg locks are ridiculous unless you will be leaving them extended over periods of longtime use.

Here's a demo (Ultra Luxi L is essentially identical to 455): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RPhmIcN3as

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Last edited by Alexis Powell : Friday 14th August 2020 at 13:44. Reason: add video link
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Old Thursday 13th August 2020, 20:33   #4
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The Peak Design tripod would appear to be absurdly expensive for combination with such an inexpensive scope. The number of leg sections and their dimensions would severely limit stability.
Alternatively have a look at the Novoflex TrioPod: https://www.novoflex.de/en/. I have one with the 3-section carbon fibre legs, which offer excellent stability but it is a modular system and just screws together, so you could buy a TrioPod base and for a compact travel tripod and could fit compact 4-section or even 5-section legs.
Though i would not recommend the latter solution, with two sets of legs you would effectively have two tripods for the price of the Peak Design - one for stability, one for compactness.
Novoflex quality, btw, is IMO unsurpassed.

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Old Thursday 13th August 2020, 20:54   #5
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Hi,

some good advice has been given - for the price of the Peak design, a Gitzo will be be a superior choice, but you can probably get away with one of the cheaper options mentioned with that featherweight kit.

As for using a ballhead with a scope - I'm usually not a fan of it as you usually have to loosen the tension a bit to pan and then tighten it again in order to prevent it from tilting over... not great.
With a ballhead with a notch and a separate vertical axis and panning adjustment plus a scope with an adjustable collar (usually found on angled examples - the MM3 has one too), you can tilt the ballhead into the notch and attach the scope with the tripod foot sideways. Then you use the ballhead just for up and down movements and the vertical axis for panning. This allows to have both axes with low tension and a quite smooth operation close to a fluidhead. Unfortunately most stay on cases will not work with the tripod foot to the side.

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Old Friday 14th August 2020, 12:08   #6
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I have Nikon ed50 scope and have this tripod https://www.amazon.com/TYCKA-Compact.../dp/B01IUO068S to go woth it. It has worked well and it fits easily to small backpack.
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Old Friday 14th August 2020, 17:50   #7
etudiant
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alexis Powell View Post
If you want something that's actually practical to quickly deploy from its collapsed state, and that can be quickly adjusted from collapsed to eye level, or from eye level to ground level, and quickly collapsed again, I recommend the Velbon Ultra 455 with a solid but lightweight ball head of your choice (I use RRS BH-25 Pro). A big chunk of the spec weight of the 455 comes from the boat-anchor head that comes stock with it, so get rid of it immediately! Unfortunately, other than the 655, that line seems to have been discontinued, which is nothing but a shame. They were uniquely practical travel tripods, regardless of budget. The Ultra 455 should still be available at some vendors for about $190. I've seen the slightly lighter and more compact Ultra 355 for only about $100 online. The still current Velbon UT-3AR might be a good substitute for the Ultra 355 if it is as well made (I don't know). These tripods can't be beat for versatility and speed of deployment. Little super expensive carbon tripods with scores of separate leg locks are ridiculous unless you will be leaving them extended over periods of longtime use.

Here's a demo (Ultra Luxi L is essentially identical to 455): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RPhmIcN3as

--AP
Agree 100%!
I've the older Velbon Ultra Luxi, it is tailor made for the ED 50.
I too ditched the heavy Velbon head and replaced it with the (vastly cheaper) Kakafoto knockoff of the RRS BH-25.
Imho, Velbon had the answer to the travel tripod issue, but did not understand it. Even so, their current 655 series tripod with the appropriate head is about as good as you can get for reliable travel tripods.
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Old Friday 14th August 2020, 19:05   #8
Tobz
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Thank you all for taking the time to reply. Some excellent suggestions there to check out, making me realise I don't need to splash out on the Peak Designn!
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Old Friday 14th August 2020, 20:08   #9
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Regarding heads, I have used a ball head for both Opticrons MM50 and MM60. I think it is a perfect combination, but the important feature is to be sure that the pan control is separate from loosening the ball head for tilt. Manfrotto and Gitzo make excellent ball heads.
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Old Saturday 15th August 2020, 00:27   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bcskr View Post
Regarding heads, I have used a ball head for both Opticrons MM50 and MM60. I think it is a perfect combination, but the important feature is to be sure that the pan control is separate from loosening the ball head for tilt. Manfrotto and Gitzo make excellent ball heads.
Agree entirely, once in the field, a ball head is no fun if it flops around on both axes.
A bird rarely moves enough to require more than a nudge left or right to stay on target. Even field birds such as Longspurs usually work around a puddle or similar feature.
I found this head to be both inexpensive as well as good quality:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Last edited by etudiant : Saturday 15th August 2020 at 00:30.
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Old Saturday 15th August 2020, 07:52   #11
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Hmm, a ball head without "stick" (waddaya call it) is a good travel option for a small 50/60scope! I see Manfrotto indeed offers solid affordable ones. Good suggestion, thanks. Not having that "stick" (stupid word can't find better now) might need some getting used to, anyone experiences how that works in the field?
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Old Saturday 15th August 2020, 12:34   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ries View Post
Hmm, a ball head without "stick" (waddaya call it) is a good travel option for a small 50/60scope! I see Manfrotto indeed offers solid affordable ones. Good suggestion, thanks. Not having that "stick" (stupid word can't find better now) might need some getting used to, anyone experiences how that works in the field?
I used to have a Manfrotto 128 pan and tilt head. You could remove the handle and it was still reasonably compact but not as small as a ball head

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Old Sunday 16th August 2020, 02:15   #13
bcskr
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In my experience once you get used to a small scope with a ball head (takes about 10 minutes or less) you’ll find a handle on a midsized head and scope to be a useless appendage that just gets in the way. The important thing with a ball head is separate controls for pan and tilt.
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Old Sunday 16th August 2020, 05:09   #14
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Originally Posted by bcskr View Post
In my experience once you get used to a small scope with a ball head (takes about 10 minutes or less) you’ll find a handle on a midsized head and scope to be a useless appendage that just gets in the way. The important thing with a ball head is separate controls for pan and tilt.
That makes me curious if and how that will work with a larger 80mm scope; I noticed many small ball heads can easily take the weight load...I feel things like mvh500ah are just massive for travel...but anything smaller too light for an 80+mm
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Old Sunday 16th August 2020, 19:50   #15
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My Gitzo ball head seems substantial enough to support a larger scope, so out of curiosity I mounted an Opticron MM4 77. The head seemed capable enough but I missed the handle when panning and changing the focus. Ergonomically it seems more comfortable to have one hand lower on the handle while panning and the other hand more elevated while changing focus.
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Old Wednesday 2nd September 2020, 19:22   #16
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I decided to look for a more stealthy tripod to use with an MM4/60 scope and my M43 camera and Leica 100/400 zoom. After a lot of research I decided to try a 3 Legged Thing Punks Corey (!) Tripod. The spec looked about right, it folds down really small but has a workable height for me with a scope or camera standing up - without having to extend the centre section. It also adapts into a monopod. It’s not as light as some carbon fibre tripods as it’s made of magnesium alloy and the parts including the ball head have a lot of machined metal. I’m really pleased with it and is reassuringly solid and rigid - although of course, as it doesn’t have as wide a base as my full sized tripod, it can’t be as stable. But it’s pretty good and way better than a Vanguard CF tripod I tried and returned which was very shaky. Anything like this is a compromise but I can get my scope, camera, a couple of lenses and binoculars in a compact backpack with the tripod on the side. Indeed, this tripod would go inside many other backpacks. One possible downside is the rather funky looks of the tripod; it has orange metallic bands around all the twist locks which could glint in the sunshine and maybe scare a bird. I may go over the trim with a black Sharpie or similar. Overall, though, it has a quality feel, the ball head has a smooth panoramic action and it’s all very compact. The head has an Arca compatible QR and my existing plates all fit. It’s even pretty stable with the centre section partly extended. All for £135 at Park Cameras. Anything like this is always a trade off with some compromises and it just depends where you want to draw the line. For a really compact but reasonably solid base, this seems to me to have a lot going for it. Looking forward to getting out and about with it.

Last edited by Singlereed : Wednesday 2nd September 2020 at 20:59.
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Old Tuesday 15th September 2020, 11:21   #17
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The ball head on the Peak Design is very fiddly. Ball heads are already not ideal for spotting scopes (as opposed to a gimbal), but that head will be even worse. I use a ProMediaGear Katana Jr with my Meopta S2 HD 82 and Gitzo Traveler Titanium leg set, which is just barely adequate, a 2-series or 3-series Systematic would be better.
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Old Thursday 17th September 2020, 18:38   #18
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Hi
for my Nikon Fieldscope ED 50 I use a Slik Sprint Pro EZ and am happy with it
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Old Thursday 17th September 2020, 18:59   #19
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The Benro is great for a small scope when lightness is very important. it looks flimsy but is much steadier than it looks. It is a little short but I'm six foot and, with an angled scope, cope without worries. I wouldn't try using it with anything bigger though. The head works well.
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