Monday, August 6, 2007

How to spend a lot of money and not actually buy anything

I love things that allow me to purchase accessories. Accessories allow you to differentiate, customize, and optimize your kit. They also allow you to buy things without getting yourself some whole new thing, becuase you know 'hey, this isn't some new thing, this goes with that thing I already bought!'

This weeks base product is my Canon 30D, and the accesory is a ball head.

I previously purchased a camera tripod mounting L-bracket from a company called Really Right Stuff. The L-bracket allows easy repositioning of the camera from portrait to landscape mode. I bought the mount before any of the other tripod-related accessories because it was the cheapest component ;) (plus I was able to get used to holding the camera with this extra piece of metal wrapped around it. It could actually be considered an 'accessory accessory' because it is an accessory to the camera that only allows you to use other accessories!

Now, it is time to start buying the other parts. Professional opinion is that you buy your tripod "from the top down". So, you buy your camera and lenses (or a list of what lenses you will get), buy a head (the 'swively part' that your camera connects to), then you buy legs. You do this so that your rig ends up stable, not top heavy, and strong enough to keep your lens stable even at weird positions.

When I bought the well-made Arca-Swiss style L-bracket for my camera (as opposed to a generic one that 'basically' fits) I made the decision to purchase my head from the same company. Rather than getting mass produced 'generic' or 'good enough' clamps and plates, this company makes sure that there products are made with tight tolerances.

Quick lesson: A ball head is a tripod head that has the top part connected to a 'ball' that fits inside a sleeve. The sleeve can tighten around the ball holding it still. This allows for easy redirection in any angle. A pan/tilt head uses a set of independantly lockable axles. This configuration means you can lock one angle while still being able to move the other, and while it can be handy it is better for videography than photography.

RRS makes several different ball heads. I opted for the 'BH-40', which is their mid-size version (the '40' indicating the size of the ball is 40mm). The BH-55 is a beautiful looking piece of work, but until I buy a glass cannon I have no need for its weight/size.

Specifically I have the BH-40 LR II. This mounts the ball head with a quick release clamp (uses a lever instead of a screw) and a bubble level. The quick release clamp will make attaching the camera easier; I had a quick release clamp on my old Velbron pan/tilt tripod kit and it was really handy. The level will (not surprisingly) help level the camera.

Tomorrow... the legs.

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