Peter's blog

Musings (and images) of a slightly warped mind

How to have fun with a tripod

Or how some affordable accessories will make your tripod a lot more useful

I already owned a Velbon Carmagne 603 carbon tripod when, recently, I got me a surprisingly useful travel tripod from a Chinese manufacturer. The reason for getting the travel tripod is because the Velbon was pretty bulky, and very unwieldly to be taken on a motorcycle trip. So, since the bike is now my main form of transport, and since I really like working from a tripod, I had to find a tripod that would make this less cumbersome.

This left me with a perfectly good tripod that I wouldn’t use anymore. I briefly had it for sale, but quickly decided that it would be fine for studio applications. But the Manfrotto head was already sold separately, and I didn’t like the original head that much. So I decided to get me a Z-flex tilt head from Amazon, and yes, at 27 euros, this was the cheapest one milled from aluminium that I could find.

When it came in, I quickly found that, with a somewhat heavier-than-usual camera with a modest lens (a Minolta XE-1, which is made out of forged iron and volcanic rock, with a 35-70 zoom on it), the hinges had to be tightened. So I used the supplied 3mm Allen key to do just that.

I then combined that with an extension arm that I had ordered in December, but hadn’t used much because the Manfrotto 029 tripod head I used was way too heavy (it was, in fact, heavier than the tripod itself). Mounting the Z-Flex head on it made much more sense.

So… what can you do with it?

I quickly found that this setup is extremely flexible.

For instance, it allows you to get straight over your subject without the tripod legs being in the way. Like so…

We’re staring straight into that tulip’s skirt here.

As you can see, there’s a hook at the end of the extension arm, where I’ve got a carabine hook attached. In case our centre of gravity is too far outward, hanging your camera bag, or something else that’s heavy, will fix that.

Here’s what it looks like from the other side:

And this is the resulting picture:

Can’t a tulip have some privacy here?”

How low can you go?

This tripod can already go pretty low (cat for reference only, not necessary for the operation).

But you still have to ad the height of the tripod head to it.
Using the extension arm, not so much…:

Yes, that’s pretty much below the belt.
Remember the rusty iron cat thing that you see on the extreme left… that’s what we’re looking at.

Now, I know you can do that by just putting the Z-Flex Tilt head onto the ground. But if your camera gets a bit front-heavier (by putting a bigger lens on it), it’ll just topple over. And if you’re in the grass instead of in a tiled garden, that might not help much either.

Here’s what this setup looks like:

It’s fairly evident you’ll need the angle finder for this setup. There is no way you’re going to get access to the viewfinder without it. You can read about it here, if you scroll down to “Angle finder”.

And here’s the picture you get. Remember that rusty cat?

Meow. Nice bokeh, human!

Other applications

First thing I can think of, the extension arm, when used vertically, can also be used to add some height to your tripod. This is it in its default position:

But you can extend up the entire length of the extension arm.

And yes, you can also shoot in portrait mode by flipping up the Z-flex thingy:

It’s also very convenient if you need to shoot pictures for your wife’s gallery web site for her paintings:

In fact, think there’s not much you cannot do with it.

And the good news is, apart from a camera with lens and a functioning tripod, all it takes is this:

That’s about 120 bucks for a load of flexibility. I’ve seen worse deals!

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