This report focuses on camera support systems designed for SLRs, whether digital
or film. Frankly, I wouldn't plant my Canon EOS 5D or even any compact
D-SLR on any tripod under $100 (including head), although there is one tripod
under $100 in this group that could arguably support a compact SLR with a small
Acratech's items lean more toward specialized applications, such as
macro and panoramic photography, but I'll focus on the more familiar ball
heads and one aimed at the long lens user. The Ultimate Ballhead ($269) and
V2 Ballhead ($329), each weighing less than 1 lb, come in a satin black anodized
finish and fit all standard tripods (1/4-20 and 3/8-16 threads). Of extreme
importance, the ball will not shift when tightened (important for architectural
views and critical still life shots). Moreover, it uses an oil-less and greaseless
ball that will not attract or hold dirt and debris. The V2 adds fully adjustable
tension control, which is important when switching between lighter and heavier
lenses or different cameras. They are compatible with numerous quick-release
plates, including Arca-Swiss. The Long Lens Head ($329) is designed to solidly
support super telephoto lenses with a tripod collar attached, and to provide
ease of use and freedom of movement, while still weighing less than 1 lb.
Berlebach (HP Marketing). These venerable wood tripods now come in a Camouflage
series, making them the ultimate bird and wildlife photography support outside
an observation blind (of course, inside a blind, color doesn't matter).
Featuring three-position leg spread, different models may sport a leveling ball
and center column, with most achieving a maximum height between 5 and 6 ft and
weighing just over 7 lbs (priced between $315 and $390 MSRP). There are also
Camouflage monopods (two-/three-section models: $150/$165). Also new are two
pan heads: model 540 is a two-way pan head ($560) with safety lock, tension
control, adjustable-angle tilt arm, 1/4" and 3/8" quick-release
plates, calibrated base thread 1/4" and 3/8", two bubble levels,
and weighing 1.4 lbs; model 650 is a three-way quick-release pan head ($830)
with itinerated dovetail quick-release system, bubble levels, weighing in at
just under 2 lbs.
Brackets CB Gimbal
Custom Brackets announced the CB Gimbal head ($700) for long lenses with tripod
collar attachment. True roller-bearing design provides ease of movement in all
directions. The head also features separate drag adjustment and locks for both
horizontal and vertical alignment using soft rubber-coated knobs. This modular
head disassembles for easy packing in your bag. It also can be used with any
Arca-Swiss-type ball head for lenses like the 200mm and 300mm when not using
the base. The design also allows it to be used as a panoramic head, providing
360° markings when employing a wide angle lens.
The Vista Tripods division of Davis & Sanford (Tiffen) introduced the
Attaras ($129 MSRP). It features ultralight aluminum construction for indoor
and outdoor use, with three-section legs and a non-glare black anodized finish.
Quick-release leg locks make setup fast and easy. The easy glide two-section
centerpost provides smooth elevation and the ability to shoot at ground level.
The independently adjustable, foam-grip legs make an 11" minimum operating
height possible. It also features a three-way fluid pan head with quick-release,
nonslip rubber feet, and--this may be a first--a built-in compass.
A deluxe padded bonus tripod bag is included. The Attaras has a maximum height
of 63", weighing only 4.6 lbs. Also new from Davis & Sanford is the
clever Monopod Duo, which is a monopod combined with a removable tabletop tripod
(serves as ball head when attached). Weighing just 1 lb, the aluminum monopod
uses five sections with quick-flip locking levers to reach the maximum 60"
height (folds down to 21"), adding a retractable spike for versatility
on any terrain.