Old Tripod in action photo by Mike Anton
Why change my tripod?
I like a lot of things about my Feisol 3471 tripod. It has been a reliable companion on countless trips. It is stable and lightweight. Usually thats all you really want in a tripod.
My main issue with my Feisol 3471 is when I shoot birds that are perched high on a tree. I usually have to bend my back to get the shot. After careful research I found that almost all tripods that can carry a super telephoto max out at around 5 feet at full extension. Thats ok if you are shooting at eye level or lower like the picture above. However in a forest when the birds are high in the trees it becomes difficult to bend for long periods of time, even for someone who is only 5'8 like me.
So I searched the internet for a new tripod. I had simple criteria.
1. It should extended to 5'8 to 5'10.
2. It should be the same weight or lighter than my Feisol. So five pounds
or less. I was trying to save my back after all.
3. It should be as stable as the Feisol with all the legs extended.
4. Locking and unlocking should be better than the Feisol since I was
5. I did not want my gear to get damaged because of a tripod failure. So I
did not want to experiment with an unproven product.
My Feisol was very reliable, I wanted something just as bulletproof.
After looking at everything in the market the only two products that would fit my specs were the Gitzo 3542xls and the Really Right Stuff TVC 34L. Mainly because all the tripods usually maxed out at 60 inches or 5 feet. There were some others that were taller than 60 inches but they were a pound or more heavier than my Feisol so they did not make the final list. It is a mystery to me why almost all tripods are only 60inches high fully extended.
I don't understand why Gitzo models which are usually almost all 5 feet or so in height suddenly jump to 6'6 as the next highest tripod.
The Gitzo and the RRS both had great reviews and looked like high quality tripods.
It was a choice between just two tripods. Both of them looked very good. The Gitzo 3542xls was slightly lighter than the RRS by .2 pounds and taller by 10 inches. It was also cheaper. Gitzo tripods also have a great reputation. My friends who use them seem quite happy with their sticks.
But in the end I chose the RRS 34L because it was the exact height I wanted. Fully extended it is 5'10 giving me a perfectly straight back when I point the lens up. I think the legs are also thicker in diameter so maybe it will be a bit more stable. I doubt if I could ever use the full extension of the Gitzo which is 6'6 so the extra height is something I did not need because I am only 5'8.
In the end I ordered a RRS 34L . It takes around 2 weeks for them to ship one out so I had to wait a bit before it arrived.