Tripods and Supports

a column is cheaper than a beam - and much cheaper than a cantilever

Your choice of support for an Ultra Large Format Camera is one of the most crucial determinants of image quality. A well designed Studio Stand will give the most solid support, but it's less than practical for hiking with. 

Even the best tripods are compromised by the sheer size of a big camera at almost any extension.

All articulated structures are less than completely rigid and the addition of a head to a tripod adds even more pinned joints and bearing surfaces, each of which must have tolerances in order to allow them to move at all. The sum of these tolerances might not matter so much when your camera is a small point load supported directly above the apex of the tripod, but when your camera is a collection of cantilevers, beams, suspensions, and columns, all many times the size of the support area, then the amount of movement possible is alarming. Even the ground underneath your tripod provides a source of movement, unless it's very firm.

There are those who recommend heavy tripods, and if the tripod is well designed and constructed, then there are some advantages to this approach. Heavy weight alone, however, is no guarantee of rigidity...

I decided that I'd be using a lightweight tripod for travel; if I didn't then I probably wouldn't be tempted to use the camera at all. One approach to adding stability to a large camera on top of a tripod is to support the ends of the camera, and in the case of the C1117 those support points have been integrated into the camera, front and back.

A lightweight tripod and two lightweight monopods offers far more vibration damping at the ends of the camera than the heaviest tripod I've got, though the heavy tripod and two monopods is obviously better. Particularly when using that 9.5kg lens I mentioned elsewhere... As I was told in my first structural engineering lecture, many years ago, a column is cheaper than a beam - and much cheaper than a cantilever.

In use, the camera is balanced with the load slightly to the rear, and the monopods, attached to the dovetail rails on the camera back via ball heads, and with the leg extensions unlocked, do not interfere with focusing or movements. When you're ready to lock off for a shot, a few quick twists of the head and leg locks will provide more reassurance than any single large and heavy tripod.

There is also a mounting point under the front standard, and for even more vibration damping the tops of the front standard posts can be braced to the camera back using telescoping carbon fiber shafts.

All structures will exhibit some form of vibration or oscillation when loads are applied to them, and a ULF camera and support system is no exception. Being able to control those vibrations should lead to more predictable results when the camera is used in less than ideal conditions.

Of course, there are better tripod, head, and monopod combinations, but identifying them might take a lifetime. There is also a danger that any conversation regarding the camera will quickly devolve into a conversation about a tripod, which is unfortunate, given that I haven't designed the tripod. Maybe a studio stand...

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