View Full Version : Tripod, Head, and Clockdrive for Photography and Astrophotography Advice

2010-Jan-28, 07:40 PM
Hi folks, here's my situation: I've been doing a lot of wider field astrophotography that I'd like to continue to do but not be married to piggybacking on an 18" telescope that's cemented through a 2-story building. I'm also a more general photographer and am looking to upgrade my $35 tripod to something a little more pro-level, as that's the last piece of equipment that I *really* need (got the body, lenses, flashes, etc. ... I think I'm the only guy in a long time to shoot a wedding on $10k of equipment on a $35 tripod).

What I really want is stability and portability, so I'm willing to sacrifice some stability if it means I can actually lift the tripod legs. As in, I'm looking for legs that weigh ~<5 lbs as opposed to 20 lbs. I also need two tripod heads. And, I'm looking for a good tracking system that's accurate to a few arcseconds over the course of many minutes. While my focus at the moment is more wide-field (anything from 2 to 50 or larger), I may want to narrow that down in the future while maintaining the portability. I do NOT want a dedicated telescope tripod system at the moment (in part because I don't have a telescope).

To that end, I'm looking at two different legs, the Gitzo GT-2531 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=productlist&A=details&Q=&sku=567542&is=REG#specifications) and the GT-2541 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/567541-REG/Gitzo_GT2541_GT2541_Mountaineer_6X_Carbon.html#spe cifications). I'm leaning towards the 2531 because of price, max. height, and stability with 3 leg segments instead of 4, but the 2541 collapses to more than 3.5" shorter. Both are carbon fiber. Anything I haven't thought of there in the difference between the two? Can anyone recommend other legs?

For the tracking system, I'm looking at purchasing the AstroTrac TT320X (http://www.astrotrac.com/Product.aspx?d=Products&category=TT320X+and+Polar+Scope&product=TT320X&p=tt320x) which seems to be about the cheapest good passive tracking system I can get that's actually portable and has periodic errors of just a few arcsec over the course of 10+ minutes.

Because of the tracking system, I will need to purchase two heads :(. At least one will be a ball head, and I would like to avoid creep (that's what it's called - right? - where you position the camera and then you tighten the head and it moves slightly?). I'm looking at a few. One is the Kirk BH-3 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/554685-REG/Kirk_BH_3_BH_3_Ballhead_with_Quick.html#reviews), and another is the Arca-Swiss Z1 sp (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/469920-REG/Arca_Swiss_801102_Monoball_Z1_sp_with.html#reviews ). But then I need another head, and due to the way you set up a tracking mount, a 3-way panning head would probably be easier to use. On the AstroTrac site, they happen to use the Manfrotto 410 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=NavBar&A=getItemDetail&Q=&sku=124665&is=REG&si=rev#anchorToReadReviews), though I noted that the Manfrotto 808RC4 (http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/445434-REG/Manfrotto_808RC4_808RC4_3_Way_Pan_Tilt_Head.html#s pecifications) is $80 cheaper and can support 3 kg more.

In terms of weight, I have at least my 7D body, 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens, a second head, and the AstroTrac that the first head needs to support. From my math, that's 0.8+1.6+0.5+1.1 = 4kg at least. Hence, getting a head that's rated at 5kg is kinda pushing it. Note that both of the legs I listed above support 12kg.

Now, as for budget ... The AstroTrac system is going to cost nearly $1k alone. I was really hoping to get in at under $1600 total, but I don't think that's going to happen. The AstroTrac plus tripod legs alone already are just $10 shy of that and I need two heads in addition. That said, I really am looking to not spend a whole heck of a lot more.

Does anyone have advice to give?