Lightweight Backpacking Tripod Drops Some Weight
On my latest backpacking trip, I had plenty of opportunity to put the Giottos RT-8150 through the paces. For the most part, I found it a real pleasure to use. It was easy to deploy and strong enough to support my 25 oz (709 g) DSLR. One thing I noticed, though, is that the head sometimes required a bit of fiddling in order to get the composition I wanted in the viewfinder. Being more accustomed to traditional ball heads, I soon found that this slowed me down in the field and got in the way of the creative process. In short, it was annoying. Upon arriving back home, I decided to take care of this problem. There was only one solution: Off with her head.
Tools Needed: Hacksaw. 1/4″ round file.
Parts needed: Giottos MH 1004 Min Ball Head.
Hardware needed: 1/4″-20×1″ bolt, 14s flat washer, 1/4″ lock washer.
Step 1: Saw the head off your Giottos RT-8150. Cut as close to the metal triangular cap that covers the hinge assembly as you can get. Don’t worry about scuffing it. You’ll probably decide not to use it, but if you do, you can always touch it up with black paint.
Step 3: This is an optional step, but it will save you 0.3 oz (8 g). Unscrew each leg from the hinge assembly and pull off the silver caps.
Step 4: With the round file, take off the little bits of metal in the hole of the hinge assembly that are blocking you from inserting the 1/4″ screw. Alternately, you can use an electric drill and 1/4″ bit.
Step 5: Insert the 1/4″ screw and 14s flat washer into the bottom of the hinge assembly. Larger diameter washers will prevent the legs of the tripod from closing completely.
Step 6: Put the 1/4″ lock washer onto the bolt. Screw the Giottos MH 1040 ball head onto the bolt until is finger tight. Make sure the thumbscrew on the ballhead is locked down before you do this.
Step 7: Screw the legs back onto the hinge assembly.
Step 8: Let’s weigh it. 12.3 oz. (349 g) total. Not bad. We saved 6 oz. (170 g) or almost a third of the original weight. Just as important, we gained function.
Let’s take it outside.
Like the original head, the Giottos MH 1004 will hold my camera still without slipping, even in portrait orientation. Unlike with the original head, I can quickly and easily point the camera in any direction I want.
Taking off the metal hinge assembly cap allows each leg to be opened at any angle you choose. This is really an advantage when setting up your tripod on uneven ground. Combined with the eight section legs this gives you infinite height adjustment, from the ground up to it’s full height. What you’re giving up is the ability to lock the leg angle. From experimentation with the modified tripod, I’ve found that in outdoors situations, you really don’t need to lock the legs. The ground provides enough friction to hold the leg angles steady as long as you use a little common sense when setting up the tripod But if you’re worried about the tripod legs slipping out and destroying your expensive camera, you can just put the metal cap back on. This will add an additional 0.6 oz. (17 g).
Comparison with Zipshot:
The closest competitor in this weight class to my modified Giottos RT-8150 is the Tamrac Zipshot. Let’s compare them head to head.
Weight: The modified Giottos weighs 12.3 oz.(349 g) while the Zipshot weighs 11.1 oz.(315 g). Slight advantage to the Zipshot.
Height: From the floor to the top of the modified Giottos is 40.25″ (102cm). For the Zipshot, it’s 41.25 ” (105 cm). Again a slight advantage to the Zipshot.
Compactness: When collapsed, the modified Giottos is 11.75″ (30cm) long with a circumference of 4.25″ (11cm). The Zipshot is 15.75″ (40cm) long with a 5″ (13 cm) circumference. Advantage goes to the Giottos.
Speed of Deployment: Both are much quicker than a traditional tripod. With the Zipshot, you undo two pieces of shock cord and shake the tripod until the legs snap into position. In practice, sometimes you have to assemble some of the leg sections by hand, but it’s still a very quick process. With the Giottos, you pull each of the telescoping legs out, then twist the second from the top leg sections to lock them. Both processes are very quick and easy and neither tripod has an advantage here.
Leg stability: Both are somewhat noodly and no match for the stability of heavier tripods. Both are fine in still conditions or in a light breeze as long as you turn on your image stabilization. Hanging your backpack from either one will help when the wind is stronger. I’ll call this one a draw.
Leg adjustability: The modified Giottos has infinite height adjustability due to the fact the it has eight sections and each leg can be set at a slightly different angle. The Zipshot basically has one setting that is easy to use and three others that can be set by folding up the legs and holding them in place with rubber bands. Advantage to the modified Giottos.
Ballhead: This is what I see as the big disadvantage to the Zipshot. The way the head attaches to the legs makes it wobble as you’re trying to set up your shot. In contrast, the head of the modified Giottos stays put where you set it.
Quality: This is admittedly a subjective evaluation, but I feel that the Giottos is superior to the Zipshot in quality. I didn’t think about this much before I started pulling the Giottos apart. My impression upon inspecting the individual parts of the Giottos is that it is well made and nicely put together.
Price: The Zipshot sells for $50. The Giottos RT-8150 costs $34 and the Giottos 1004 Mini Ball Head, $12.99. Add a few dollars for the hardware and you have a wash.
I’ll be testing the modified Giottos on my upcoming backpacking trips and reporting on what works, what doesn’t, and how things can be made better.