Tuesday 13 January 2009

Gear we use and abuse,Head and Feet

So you have saved enough money to get the Long lens you have been dreaming about for a long long time, Now other questions come up-Is my tripod and head up to the extra weight and if not what do i get,Well i use a Gitzo 1548 tripod and will cover lens support next week,Tripod heads-well there are hundreds of different designs,Gimbal,Ball,3 way, you have to consider carefully exactly what you want the head to do, Either way if you are using a 500 or 600mm lens its going to be expensive, You have spent a lot of money on the lens and there is little point in using it on a cheap head,If like me you want to cover animals and birds that move then you will need a head that has a nice smooth action so that once you have focused on the subject you can 'pan' and get a nice sharp image, I use a Wimberley Gimbal head-the WH200 to be exact-seen here with the flash bracket attached,Not cheap but beautifully made and very smooth allowing you to move in a left to right and up and down movement with a single finger when using a 600 lens,This also means that if you are panning, your tripod must be dead level-a real pain to do until i found the leveling head and with a quick release of the knob underneath you can quickly level the head and then then tighten the knob and job done all in a few seconds,Particuarly good if you are shooting when standing in water with the lens a few inches from the surface,

The leveling plate has a release handle on it so that once released you can quickly remove the Gimbal head and put another head on for say landscapes,For this i use an Arca Swiss ball head, Again beautifully made and i have had mine for a few years-now in need of a service and once done will last many more years, The thing that both heads have in common is that they accept a 'wimberley' type lens plate,these have a dovetail cut into them and clamp into the head,When i moved to Nikon i decided that i needed to save as much weight as possible and so doing i bought new feet for my 200-400 and 600 lenses,

The new feet are from a company called 4th Generation (wimberley do a similar product) they are made from a high grade alloy and have the dovetail already cut into them,These have a lower profile than the standard feet from Nikon and Canon and are very light-another quality product and come with an allen key and new screws-fitted in minutes and the low profile foot leaves enough space to get a grip if you carry your lens by the foot as i often do, They have a nice security feature to,If you carry your camera/lens attached to your tripod over your shoulder and the head jaws come loose there are 2 small screws that protrude to stop the camera/lens coming out of the tripod head and come crashing to the ground-you will see that on the 600 i only have 1 fitted the reason for this is that i like to get everything balanced and if i use/dont use an extender the screw gets in the way,so i always make sure that i have 2 fingers through the camera strap if carrying it over my shoulder just in case

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