Tripod choice: twist or flip
by Richard Rivera
The difference between tripod twist-locks or flip-lock is a curious dilemma that continues to divide photographers. There are proponents of each type and each photographer usually has a specific preference for their way of working. I have owned and worked with both. In my experience the problem with twist locks is that you never know how much twist actually is enough. Is it too loose or are you over-tightening? Or are you under-tightening, in which case there will be slippage and you will suddenly find your tripod lowering on one side. And with twists it also becomes a hassle if you need to rapidly re-adjust leg height.
I have found that for my way of working flip-locks work best. I find they are faster, lock without question, and are easier to setup, especially when you are outdoors and rapidly changing light is a factor. I had twist locks for years, including Gitzo’s, and was always disappointed with them. They would sometimes stick giving the impression that they were locked, then slip.
Nowadays I use a Velbon flip-lock carbon fibre GEO E540 with a removable/changeable head) for outdoor use, it weighs about 6 pounds (with head). It has independently adjustable legs that splay wide for very low-angle shots (4 inches from the ground) or independently depending on the need. I have used it for the last 5 years and find it to be fabulous. I have used my Velbon carbon fibre in temperatures from 15 to 110F degree for years and never had a problem.
Many photographers are unwilling to consider anything but the most prestigious brands, but I say use whatever brand fits your needs. When you decide to buy, bring your camera and work with it at the store, work with the tripod controls in every position and make sure you feel comfortable with your choice. You may want to buy the head separately depending on what kind of quick-mount system you need and the kind of shooting you do. Since heads are changeable you may want a lighter weight ball head for certain situations and another heavier head. It all depends on your budget and needs.
Small-to-medium ball-heads with a separate lockable pan knob are excellent for creating panoramas or for following action. They are very useful, especially if you carry your gear into the field and don't want to be burdened with a lot of unnecessary weight. I was fortunate enough to find the Cullman 40180. It was just the right size and weight for DSLR’s, mirrorless, or 300 to 400mm length lenses.
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