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Best light-weight tripod and head for Kowa 883 (1 Viewer)

wolfbirder

Well-known member
Hi

I treated myself last year in buying a superb Kowa 883. I bought the traditional RC157 head and Manfrotto 055 tripod. They are certainly sturdy, but I have found that carrying them around is just too much for me aged 57. I have developed severe tennis elbow and also my back ache is terrible when out birding.

I am on the verge of thinking about trading my wonderful scope for a Swarv ATS65 and lighter tripod.

I realise that the Kowa is quite a heavy scope, is their a better tripod & ball head I could acquire, that is lighter than the Manfrotto and RC157 head, yet still provides a secure base? How much lighter would they be?

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
 

Dutchbirder64

Well-known member
A carbonfiber tripod with head is around 2400 grams. With a 883 or ATX95 scope about 4.5 kg. You won’t win much with a lighter tripod. A smaller scope can save you 1 kg I think. But a smaller scope will never give you the optical advantages of the bigger ones. I am about to think about getting the ATX115 which is 1 kg heavier then my ATX85. But wow this scope will be epic and I won’t walk kilometers with it. Most birding is done by car when I go scanning flats, lakes and seawatching. And when I go into the forest I won’t use the scope.
 

wolfbirder

Well-known member
Appreciate your thoughts folks.

I had a Velbon Sherpa tripod that actually was very good, and lasted 2-3 years before something broke, but at around £100, I think they are very good. But very light to carry, and I also have an Opticron travel Scope that is pretty reasonable.

I guess there isn't really a compromise, I just have to think about how and when I use the Kowa.
 
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mbb

Well-known member
There are 3 options, which can be combined:
A lighter scope.
A lighter tripod and/or head (considering carbon fibre)
A ScoPac, MulePack or similar to carry the scope more ergonomically on your back/shoulders, which makes a huge difference on walks. (Not so much probably if birding from next or close to your car...)

And with a lighter scope, a lighter tripod-head might be OK (double win). E.g. the gitzo gh1720qr: great lightweight head for a 60-65mm scope (if not digiscoping with anything significantly heavier than a smartphone).
If you go for a Swarovski 60mm specifically for its weight, you might also look for some second hand ATM (HD).

Changing only one of the three things above might not be enough to make a really big difference, but combining them should, I think.
 
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wolfbirder

Well-known member
Done some weight comparisons of various combinations: -

Manfrotto 055 carbon fibre tripod 3.49kg
Manfrotto RC128 pan head 0.9kg
Kowa 883 Scope 1.5kg
Total 6kg

Velbon Sherpa 200R tripod with PH157Q two-way head 2kg
Kowa 883 Scope 1.5kg
Total 3.5kg

Velbon Sherpa 200R tripod with PH157Q two-way head 2kg
Opticron ES80GA Scope 1.6kg
Total 3.6kg

Velbon Sherpa 200R tripod with PH157Q two-way head 2kg
Opticron GA52 Travelscope 0.6kg
Total 2.6kg

Gitzo GT2545T Traveler Carbon eXact tripod Series 2 1.3kg (£489) - (Series 1 = 1kg £429 from Gitzo carries up to 10kg & same height as Series 2. The series 2 is probably better due to weight of the Scope).
Gitzo GHF2W Fluid 2-way head 0.6kg (£229 from WEX)
Kowa 883 Scope 1.5kg
Total 3.4kg with Series 2, 3.1kg with Series 1

So..............its good to see that I can reduce the weight I carry by nearly half if I purchase the Gitzo tripod £429 and Gitzo 2-way head for £229. TOTAL £658 (series 1) or £718 (Series 2).
 
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wolfbirder

Well-known member
There are 3 options, which can be combined:
A lighter scope.
A lighter tripod and/or head (considering carbon fibre)
A ScoPac, MulePack or similar to carry the scope more ergonomically on your back/shoulders, which makes a huge difference on walks. (Not so much probably if birding from next or close to your car...)

And with a lighter scope, a lighter tripod-head might be OK (double win). E.g. the gitzo gh1720qr: great lightweight head for a 60-65mm scope (if not digiscoping with anything significantly heavier than a smartphone).
If you go for a Swarovski 60mm specifically for its weight, you might also look for some second hand ATM (HD).

Changing only one of the three things above might not be enough to make a really big difference, but combining them should, I think.

Thank you MBB, very much.
Yes I need to consider a 'mule pack' I know they aren't too much.
 

dogbreath

Well-known member
I have a Kowa 883 and use a Benro 37c tripod with a Gitzo 2380 head. The head is very good but heavy but was a very good used buy. The tripod weighs 1.85kg and currently costs about £270 (Benro Mach 3 series 3, 3 leg sections). Together, this combination works very well but a lighter head would be even better. The Gitzo GHF2W would be good although Benro do something very similar (or they used to and I have seen one used for sale recently but can't recall where).

A Swaro ATS 65 weighs about 1405g including the eyepiece so swapping to the Swaro saves you about 120g over your Kowa. Frankly, you should save more than that by getting a lighter tripod and head.
I also use a Mulepak and that is excellent.

I see that Focus Optics in Coventry have a used Velbon Geo (1.63kg ish) with a Manfrotto 701 Head for sale for £250. That might suit you and isn't too far for you to go and have a look at.
 

Jim M.

Choose Civility
I've used the PH157Q two-way head on my 883 for years and it works great for me – in my experience sturdier and/or lighter than Manfrotto heads. I have a carbon fiber Velbon tripod. Nick's calculations suggest you could save considerable weight with these (though I'm not sure if the tripod I use is the one referenced in his comparisons).
 
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wolfbirder

Well-known member
I've used the PH157Q two-way head on my 883 for years and it works great for me – in my experience sturdier and/or lighter than Manfrotto heads. I have a carbon fiber Velbon tripod. Nick's calculations suggest you could save considerable weight with these (though I'm not sure if the tripod I use is the one referenced in his comparisons).

Do you mind me asking what Tripod you use Jim?

I hope to get to In-Focus at the weekend either to look at another Velbon Sherpa 200LR with PH157Q, or the 2nd-hand Velbon GEO E630, or even perhaps the Velbon GEO E635D that they have new. Not sure if I can use the PH157Q with that head?

I am not sure if the PH157Q two-way pan-head can be used with the Velbon GEO E630?

A lot of British birders look down on Velbon products, but I have used their tripods for years. I probably haven't previously looked after them particularly well and for me they last about 3 years. But as they cost about £100, they are excellent value compared to the Carbon-fibre Gitzo tripod and head that cost £700. I would like to consider one of these one day.

I have always liked the PH157Q head, the way it works is very simple and effective. The Velbon Sherpa tripods are light even though they are aluminium and not carbon fibre.

My main concern, upon buying the Kowa 883 was that I didn't want it to blow over, but the weight of the heavy Manfrotto is crippling me. If I do use the Kowa with the lighter tripod I need to get this right.

Again, thanks to all who have posted, really appreciate everyone's input.
 
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Tringa45

Well-known member
Europe
Nick,

I would echo Dutchbirder and mbb here. Going lighter is going to involve serious compromises in eithe stability or optical quality/ease of view. Consider another carrying option.

John
 

wolfbirder

Well-known member
Nick,

I would echo Dutchbirder and mbb here. Going lighter is going to involve serious compromises in eithe stability or optical quality/ease of view. Consider another carrying option.

John

Appreciate your thoughts John.

I previously used a Velbon Sherpa 200LR with my old scope (same weight - an Opticron ES80), and had no issues with it except the leg broke after 3 years. And.......it blew over whilst I was at the Pallid Harrier twitch in the Forest of Bowland.

I don't intend to get rid of my Manfrotto's, so the scope can be interchangeable depending on where I am birding and weather conditions, but the bottom line is I cannot carry the Manfrotto and scope far (6kg) without it affecting me adversely.

Long term I would like to buy a Gitzo tripod and head, but I am hoping to look at a Velbon carbon fibre 2ndhand tripod at In-Focus at the weekend.

Thanks again, I appreciate it is important to get this right, but in my view at least I will have different weight options as I will then have different tripods.

I've also ordered the Viking Scope Pack today to help carry it.
 
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mbb

Well-known member
Done some weight comparisons of various combinations: -

Manfrotto 055 carbon fibre tripod 3.49kg
Manfrotto RC128 pan head 0.9kg
Kowa 883 Scope 1.5kg
Total 6kg

I think there is a small typo/mistake.
The Manfrotto 055 cxpro4 (carbon, 4 sections) is much lighter than 3,49kg. It is 2,1kg according to the Manfrotto product website.
It is the one I currently have. I haven’t weighted it though. (And I’m wondering if I shouldn’t switch to a 3 sections version, Manfrotto or Gitzo, not so much for the improved stability, but for the speed/ease when setting it up: I almost always need a bit of the last section... Of course I would loose some compactness.)
I think that even the aluminium 055 is lighter than 3,5kg.
 

mbb

Well-known member
Nick,

I would echo Dutchbirder and mbb here. Going lighter is going to involve serious compromises in eithe stability or optical quality/ease of view. Consider another carrying option.

John

I certainly agree that the carrying option matters the most (e.g.Scopac/Mulepack/...) and that saving significant weight by only replacing the tripod or only the scope might not be enough. (Unless of course one would compare an ATX 95 or their new 115 ‘monster’ to any smaller option... ;) ) However, I find my carbon tripod and 1720qr head very stable for my 65mm scope (with only a locking issue making the head not suited for digiscoping with more than a smartphone due to the resulting unbalance) and the ATX 65 very impressive. I might switch to a 85mm one day, but unless maybe for who uses his/her scope mainly at very low light levels or very high magnifications, I wouldn’t call the 65mm a serious compromise.
Still, I have never tried a Kowa 883 and thus cannot compare them optically, I don’t know if that head would work well for the Kowa 883, I seem to mostly stay around 30-40x, and the weight difference between the scopes only is not that big: it is mainly the Scopac that makes me comfortably take the scope on walks. Thus many disclaimers :)
 
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jring

Well-known member
Hi,

as pointed out by mbb, the 055 CF legs are 2.1kg (4 sections) and 2.0kg (3 sections - preferable due to better stability).

As for whether a certain head can be mounted to some legs - most of the time it works... in the worst case you need a cheap adapter from 1/4" to 3/8".

In my opinion a mulepack/scopac or clone is the most important thing to make a scope and tripod combo more portable. It not only allows you tho carry it like a backpack - also with legs extended if you don't need to navigate narrow trails - but also allows you to have some weight on the legs to dampen vibrations and make it less likely to tip over.

Joachim
 
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Richard Scott

Well-known member
Nick, I've also got a Kowa 883 and my tripods/heads are:
Benro TMA37C Mach3 + Manfrotto MVH500AH - very sturdy but quite heavy
Velbon Sherpa Pro CF-535 + Manfrotto 701HDV - lightweight

I've previously owned 2 Velbon PH157Q heads. They are nice and easy to use but in my experience they aren't smooth or sturdy enough for a big scope like the Kowa 883.

I would strongly suggest you go for a decent fluid video head with a sliding quick-release plate to balance the scope e.g. Manfrotto, Sirui or Gitzo in preference to the PH157Q. I'm not up on the latest models so I can't help you there.

As far as legs are concerned you want to be looking at carbon-fibre with 3 leg sections
 

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