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posted by - Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Whether you are shooting with the RED One or another camera, here are some points you will want to consider when choosing a tripod and fluid head.

The RED One camera can be configured in many ways, so there can be numerous choices for tripod support. Stripped down to bare essentials, the RED One may weigh in around 30 pounds and extend little more than 16 inches front to back, so a fairly small tripod system can be used. When fully kitted out with a large zoom, mattebox, drives and other accessories, the camera can easily top 65 pounds and push close to three feet in length, so a far more robust tripod system would be required.

Weight ratings for tripod heads are measured based on an imaginary brick placed directly upon the top of the device. But, as the weight is cantilevered off the front or back of the tripod head, the capacity of the weight handling capabilities decreases. Imagine holding a set of weights in your hands; it is far easier to hold the weights with your arms at your sides compared to when your arms are outstretched. Abel recommends that clients always use tripod systems that greatly exceed the actual weight of the camera package. Over-weighting a tripod head results in poor pan & tilt control as well as inevitable damage to the tripod head, which can lead to costly repairs.

There are three common mounts between the tripod head and the tripod legs: a 100mm ball coupling, a 150mm ball coupling and a flat Mitchell Camera design disk plate. Generally, these three designs match to the weight capacities of the tripod systems; 100mm for lighter duty, 150mm for heavy duty and Mitchell for extreme heavy duty. Some tripod heads can switch between 150mm and Mitchell base, and there are adapters available to mount a 100mm or a 150mm ball head onto a Mitchell tripod or dolly. Most 100mm tripod systems top out at a weight capacity of 55 pounds. Most 150mm ball tripod systems top out around 65 pounds, and Mitchell plate systems can go to more than 100 pounds. Another difference between tripod heads is the tilt range. This is a measurement of how far forward and back a head can tilt from level, and this is expressed in degrees, i.e. +90/-90. This would indicate a head that can tilt fully from pointing straight down to straight up, or a 180-degree range.

Tripod legs can be configured with single extension stages or multiple extension stages. Spreaders are devices that control the spread of the base of the tripod legs and are available as ground units or mid-level units. A mid-level unit is best for uneven terrain, as it allows the tripod feet to be adjusted to individual heights without regard to the spread.  A ground level spreader more closely controls the spread of the tripod, as it is the limiting factor on the actual spread directly at the base. For relatively even surfaces and cramped interior spaces, a ground spreader is often preferable. Please note that on some heavy duty Mitchell tripod systems ground spreaders are the only available option.

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