PMA 08; Tripods, Monopods, And Heads

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 lens comfortably.

Acratech Heads

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 Camouflage

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.

Custom 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.

Davis & Sanford Attaras

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.