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Travel tripod with fluid head - advice/recommendations sought

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Old Tuesday 13th August 2019, 12:47   #1
Raptorash
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Travel tripod with fluid head - advice/recommendations sought

Hi all, sorry if this is going over old ground, but many of the threads on here regarding travel tripods are quite old now and better/more up to date advice may be available.

I'm looking for travel tripod and fluid head advice/recommendations based on birders personal experiences.

I bird in the UK with a Swaro ATX95, mounted on a Swaro carbon-fibre tripod with a Gitzo gimbal, all mounted on a Scopac to lug around. When extra stability is needed (like sea-watching in wind) I hang the 2 vols of Concise BWP under the centre-column in a bag! I use a gimbal because it also gives me the flexibility of mounting a DLSR with long lens on it if needed. The Gitzo gimbal balances beautifully with either scope or camera gear.

Ok - that suits me for UK birding, but for foreign birding with travel by air I'm looking for a more compact tripod and fluid head to support the 2.9kgs scope in the field.

I don't really want to spend 600+ on a Gitzo tripod solution, as at the moment that doesn't really suit my finances. I'm hoping to get away with somewhere more in the region of 200/250 for tripod and head more suited to sticking in a bag in the overhead lockers - just don't trust putting optics in the hold !! I'm not wedded to a new purchase only and am happy to scour eBay etc.

I'm all too aware that compromise will be needed, but stability and compactness are equally important to me. Unlike in the UK I'm unlikely to want something holding a scope steady in an on-shore gale when sea-watching ! It's going to be more a case of getting out of hire-car and setting up scope for roadside watching in relatively benign weather conditions.

I'd be grateful for any recommendations birders put forward - cheers.
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Old Tuesday 13th August 2019, 13:20   #2
dwatsonbirder
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I'd look at something like these or these legs, but you will need a fairly heavy duty head to cope with such a large scope. I suspect a Manfrotto 128rc is about the lightest you could get away with - you will also save a few grams as the foot of the scope fits into the head without a QRP.

Have you considered a smaller scope for travelling?
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Old Tuesday 13th August 2019, 21:04   #3
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Hi,

or this one - 3 sections and thus a bit longer but more stable... and put a 500AH on it... you really want to be able to properly balance your heavy scope with the long plate...

https://www.ebay.de/itm/Velbon-GEO-E...dUBFh#viTabs_0

My setup is quite similar (the Velbon legs are a predecessor of the N530 with twist lugs) and usually travels in checked baggage - just the glass goes into my cabin backpack...

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Old Tuesday 13th August 2019, 21:22   #4
Tringa45
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As Daniel suggested, a smaller scope for travelling might be worthwhile and the obvious solution would be a 65 mm objective for your ATX.

I wouldn't have any reservations about putting a tripod in a suitcase in the hold, but if you really need compact folded dimensions that means four or five leg sections, which in turn means thin bottom leg sections and poor rigidity.
Some tripods allow you to fold the legs back through 180 over the extended centre column and head, but that's not going to work with a fluid head. Perhaps this friction ball head would be a possibility https://www.flm-gmbh.de/en/ball-head...e/cb-38-ft.php. It allows you to lock out the lateral tilt for a 2-way head and the top plate could be replaced with a suitable Arca-Swiss adapter.

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Old Tuesday 13th August 2019, 21:34   #5
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I primarily use long (as long as they make) camera lenses on my tripods, yet I find my scopes more difficult to support securely. If I am travelling, even my Canon 800mm can be hand held - but that is simply not happening with a scope! Normally I would suggest a 3 or 4 series Gitzo Systematic, but they are a wee bit bulky for travel.

They are a little short for my straight scope but have a look at the Feisol Tournament models. They are stupidly light, old back on themselves (like a Gitzo traveller) and are surprisingly rigid. I belive your scope is an angled model so these should be fine for height.

https://www.feisol.eu/product-catego...ipods/?lang=en

Happy hunting!
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Old Wednesday 14th August 2019, 13:05   #6
Raptorash
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Thanks Dan - both those leg sets look reasonable - I'm holding off on any purchase decisions as I'm hoping someone will reply with personal experience of a purchase and use in the field, and say something like "I use the Manfeeble 1000 XY or Z and they're the dogs-b*ll*cks, I've used them many times and they're rigid, lightweight and hold an ATX95 rock-steadyyet fold down to 45cms for travel " !! Don't want much do I ??

I've had that 128RC head before, on my 1st Swaro scope I bought in 1999. I'm sorta favouring the Manfrotto MVH500AH because it's got a sweet spot counter-balance at around 2.4 kgs - I've borrowed one before off a mate and liked it.

I don't want to go down a smaller scope route as I'm v happy with the ATX95, and it travels well broken down into 2 parts in a Think Tank Airport Commuter bag which fits in the overhead bins when travelling by ac. I really want to nail down a tripod/head combo that will also go in the bag which the Swaro carbon-fibre legs won't do, even with my Gitzo gimbal taken off - they're too long at almost 60 cms.
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Old Wednesday 14th August 2019, 13:13   #7
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Thanks Joachim,

I'm hoping to go down the 4 section leg route just to get the whole set-up that little shorter for travel - but I know that potentially compromises stability/rigidity.

I have an absolute fear of losing gear in checked luggage - it's happened to me 4 times in the past 20 years (twice the bags were lost by the airline, and twice things were stolen out of luggage by baggage handlers at airports), so I like to try and get everything into the cabin with me.
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Old Wednesday 14th August 2019, 13:24   #8
Raptorash
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tringa45 View Post
As Daniel suggested, a smaller scope for travelling might be worthwhile and the obvious solution would be a 65 mm objective for your ATX.

Perhaps this friction ball head would be a possibility https://www.flm-gmbh.de/en/ball-head...e/cb-38-ft.php. It allows you to lock out the lateral tilt for a 2-way head and the top plate could be replaced with a suitable Arca-Swiss adapter.

John
Hi John - thanks,

I'm not the biggest fan of ball-heads - I prefer to use a video type head for a scope. My only gripe with Manfrotto, who make some good ones that are often available on eBay second-hand, is that they don't do arca-swiss compatible so you then have to buy an adaptor. I like to keep things as simple as poss, and an adaptor is just another piece of kit that could go wrong with expensive consequences !
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Old Wednesday 14th August 2019, 13:35   #9
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Originally Posted by johnf3f View Post
have a look at the Feisol Tournament models. They are stupidly light, old back on themselves (like a Gitzo traveller) and are surprisingly rigid. I belive your scope is an angled model so these should be fine for height.

https://www.feisol.eu/product-catego...ipods/?lang=en

Happy hunting!
Thanks - I'm afraid the Feisol are a little out of my price range at 400 plus just for the legs. One wag in Australia is advertising the Feisol legs with a head on the Aussie eBay site for over a 1,000 - I think he's had a touch too much sun, either that or he couldn't give a 4X. I'm trying to do the legs and head for around 250 (tho I suspect I may have to stretch to 350) as it won't be my go to set-up for using the scope in the UK, but just for a few short benign birding trips abroad. Hence the lack of willingness to spend !

I'm sure a good compromise set-up is out there, it's just hoping that someone is already using it and can post their experiences in reply to my RFI. I find the internet doesn't have many good reviews of using travel tripods for birding with a scope - most seemed aimed at photographers
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Old Wednesday 14th August 2019, 13:45   #10
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The only personal experience I can offer relates to my old velbon cf645, which I used not only as my travel but also my primary tripod over the last decade and in 20-odd countries. Always performed well, and was stable whilst still folding down to approx 50cm in length - fitted into my 70l backpack. Unfortunately it gave up the ghost during a seawatch in the spring, and has been replaced with a velbon luxi - fine for an ED50 in low winds, but highly inappropriate for anything larger than a 60mm scope.

Park Cameras have a good deal on the Manfrotto head you're after, under 50, although looks to be on back-order.

I can't comment on optics shops in our area (Ace Optics in Bath are probably the nearest), but there is an optics event at HW at the end of the month where you may be able to look at support options.

Hope this helps!
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Old Wednesday 14th August 2019, 14:19   #11
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Hi,

well if you want to go 4 section, take the 180 quid Velbon legs posted by Daniel in post #2 and the 50 quid 500AH from Daniels latest post and you're set.

The Geo E 440L is the long model though which on one hand is nice since it is fairly tall and will work great with the column down but otoh is not that short collapsed... see:

http://www.velbon.biz/product/archive/geo_past.html

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Old Wednesday 14th August 2019, 18:52   #12
Raptorash
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Hi,

well if you want to go 4 section, take the 180 quid Velbon legs posted by Daniel in post #2 and the 50 quid 500AH from Daniels latest post and you're set.

The Geo E 440L is the long model though which on one hand is nice since it is fairly tall and will work great with the column down but otoh is not that short collapsed... see:

http://www.velbon.biz/product/archive/geo_past.html

Joachim
Oh don't you just wish it was that simple Joachim - I was about to press the buy it now button, but thought to just double-check specs a last time.

The max recommended weight to load the legs is 2.5kgs (as recommended by Velbon literature) - my scope is 2.9kgs and then there's the weight of the head to factor in. All in, probably 3.2kgs+ so a tripod only recommended for 2.5kgs I'd probably be asking for trouble - gulp.

I'll keep looking - cheers to you and Dan tho, for sticking with me on the search
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Old Wednesday 14th August 2019, 22:03   #13
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...I really want to nail down a tripod/head combo that will also go in the bag which the Swaro carbon-fibre legs won't do...
Based on my experiences traveling w/tripods on planes internationally, I recommend that you also find a lightweight sleeve/sack, with your contact info affixed, that will also fit in the bag. I have twice had my tripod rejected as carry-on by airport security because they said it could too easily be used as a weapon. Both times, I removed the head to put back in my carry-on bag and sent the legs through gate check of luggage (as is sometimes done last minute with bags when overhead storage gets filled). Both times I got it back in baggage claim, but not with the regular luggage--I had to ask for it from the office where they put pets, musical instruments etc, so it was nerve-wracking and time consuming.

--AP
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Old Wednesday 14th August 2019, 22:29   #14
jring
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Originally Posted by Raptorash View Post
The max recommended weight to load the legs is 2.5kgs (as recommended by Velbon literature) - my scope is 2.9kgs and then there's the weight of the head to factor in. All in, probably 3.2kgs+ so a tripod only recommended for 2.5kgs I'd probably be asking for trouble - gulp.
Well, the ideal load is 2.5kg - max is 5. Swaro lists the ATX95 kit at 2.15 kg... Or is it a BTX or a camera on top?
With 900g for the 500AH it's a bit over 3kg - so a bit more than recommended but if you keep the column mostly down (and you can, as it's quite tall with column down) it should work ok...

Or take the slightly used E530 I linked... that is specced for 3kg ideal... and put it in the suitcase... after all, you're getting a cheaper setup in case it might get lost.

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Old Wednesday 14th August 2019, 22:32   #15
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Thanks - I'm afraid the Feisol are a little out of my price range at 400 plus just for the legs. One wag in Australia is advertising the Feisol legs with a head on the Aussie eBay site for over a 1,000 - I think he's had a touch too much sun, either that or he couldn't give a 4X. I'm trying to do the legs and head for around 250 (tho I suspect I may have to stretch to 350) as it won't be my go to set-up for using the scope in the UK, but just for a few short benign birding trips abroad. Hence the lack of willingness to spend !

I'm sure a good compromise set-up is out there, it's just hoping that someone is already using it and can post their experiences in reply to my RFI. I find the internet doesn't have many good reviews of using travel tripods for birding with a scope - most seemed aimed at photographers
Two friends of mine have these tripods, one brand new and the other was used from FleaBay. The "used" one looked brand new and cost 90 3/4 years ago - it always pays to look! Incidentally 400 is more than I paid for any of my Gitzo tripods new or used. You need to hunt about.
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