The Best Tripod I Have Ever Owned

TVC-34L

And boy, have I owned tripods.... Like many of us who have been photographers for years/decades, I've accumulated a number of tripods over time, some I still have, many are long gone and others are "in process".  This week I received the tripod that is the best I've ever owned.

Following a series of conversations with the very helpful folks at Really Right Stuff, I ordered a leg set to go with my existing head.   My kit today consists of:

I love the construction quality of the RRS equipment.  While the legs and pano gear are new, I have used the other gear for some time on Gitzo GT3541 legs and loved it.  What I needed was a taller tripod that gave me stability without necessarily having to extend the centre column fully.  The 34L legs do that.  They are slightly larger in diameter than the legs of the Gitzo and have a refined construction method to their carbon fiber tubing.  The leg set is only nominally heavier than what it replaces and delivers the stability I want.  I like the wider domed rubber feet and that I can easily exchange the feet for rock feet or spikes should the need arise.

I added the quick column not because I really wanted a taller height but to give me flexibility on slopes.  I rarely find that the ground where I shoot is level or flat.  The wider diameter legs feel more stable, especially with the weight of the Hasselblad H4D-40 and 300mm lens mounted up.

On top of the column I mounted the TA-2-LC leveling base.  Mine was actually a universal base that I converted from a 3/8-16 screw on top to a Really Right Stuff lever clamp.  This way I can level out whatever head assembly I choose to use before adjusting the head.  It adds a bit of length to the unit and some weight but the fast levelling capability more than overshadows the additional size.

I added the TH-DVTL-55 dovetail plate to the bottom of my existing BH-55 ball head.  The BH-55 is without a doubt the best ball head I have ever used.  It handles everything, is easy to deploy and never creeps.  By putting the dovetail plate on it, it makes it easy to change heads or insert accessories such as the Panoramic clamp.  At some point I might want to get one of the Omni Pivot Packages and the ability to change heads quickly is appealing to me.

The PCL-1 Panoramic Clamp also has the PCL-DVTL plate on it so I can quickly mount it on top of the BH-55 or between the BH-55 and Levelling Base depending on my needs.  I find that the RRS Lever clamps are superb, fast to lock and unlock and take up less space than the knob style clamps.  Don't get me wrong, the knob style clamps are extremely secure, I just like the speed of the levers.  I also got the 192 Precision Plus rail kit to make it simple to find the nodal point and to be able to use either camera body or lens mount orientation on the rail, because the mini-clamp is rotatable.

The macro rail kit is extremely precise and very smooth.  I had been using the simpler Manfrotto macro rail before and it worked fine for lighter cameras but it was a bit awkward with the Hasselblad and macro lens.  I added the adapter in the package as my Canon 180mm macro is a collared lens, so I can mount either body or lens orientation quickly.

I do have other RRS gear purchased over time and have never been disappointed.  I am always impressed by their team's knowledge and customer first attitude.  I've never had a quality issue and the one time I thought I had an issue, it was actually my fault for using a clamp wrong.

The main reason that took me to Really Right Stuff was the ability via L-Plates on my camera bodies to switch from landscape to portrait orientation without altering the lens plane.  To some this sounds like an expensive solution to a simple issue, but for me, I took a chance and have been proven right.  All my Canons, my Hasselblad and the Leica have L plates.  Nothing to lose, fast and secure mounting and no hassle makes this system hard to beat.

I don't sell Really Right Stuff gear.  I'm just a customer.  But I have to say I think it's the best gear out there and well worth the investment.