Upgrading my trusty tripod

OK, I’m talking about tripod heads. There are a few reasons why it matters to me and might be relevant to anyone else:

  • Some classic lenses are really heavy (–> tripod)
  • Some people use classic lenses to stitch panoramic landscapes together (–> tripod)
  • I have a near classic set of tripod legs and it’s only the head I have an issue with
  • I hate turfing good gear out if it can be updated to be better

I’ve had my Manfrotto 055PROB tripod for about 20 years. The aluminium legs are good and solid, not all that heavy, and the centre column can also be mounted horizontally.

The 141RC three-way head on the other hand is a shocker. I’ve never liked it, but this didn’t matter much when I didn’t use it much. Now I use it a lot for film cameras, long exposures, landscapes, etc. The 141RC is really heavy, but not very steady. The three-way controls are clunky. I always have to level the legs for panning because the head offers no useful adjustment in that domain.

I recently saw one of the major tripod makers’ heads with a levelling bowl type adjustment underneath. Get the legs stable, and then level the head from its base rather than fiddling with legs on uneven ground. Great! Could I retrofit something like this on my on 055PROB legs? Turns out, yes.

So in the image below are pictured my Manfrotto 055PROB tripod legs, with a Sirui LE-60 levelling base and Sirui L-20S tilt head … and the giant clunky 141RC alongside for scale.

The Sirui gear is really nicely made. It included one of their big camera plates (TY-70-2), so my Pentacon Six TL medium format camera feels rock solid on there. Sirui camera plates are Arca-type quick release. The tripod with the Sirui gear on board weighs a lot less than before, and makes it easier to carry further. The new head arrangement is smooth, precise and compact. There are numerous accessible spirit levels built in. It’s a spectacular improvement.

So I’ll sell or give away the 141RC. The 055PROB legs will live on for at least another 20 years. _Nothing went to landfill._

Landscapes and long exposure shots will be SO much easier to do now.

Oh, and I guess I could have just bought a whole new setup. I can’t afford to do that (this retrofit is cost effective), and I like the old 055PROB legs anyhow …

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