After several months of painstaking research and careful consideration of weight limitations and current equipment, I finally decided on my camera gear. If you’re not familiar with my criteria, you might want to read my other post on travel photo gear. My primary body will be the Nikon D7200. It’s bigger than I originally wanted, but is the best compromise between the functionality I needed, weight and image quality. The D7200 will work with all my existing Nikon equipment so I don’t have to go out and get all new gear specific to a new system. I’m also very familiar with the user interface so I won’t have much of a learning curve. It won’t perform as well in low light as a full-frame sensor camera, such as the Sony Alpha 7 series, but it’s a whole lot better than my previous D300 body. Plus, it has full 1080p video saving me from carrying a separate camcorder.
After trying out the MeFOTO Aluminum Backpacker Tripod, I decided to return it, spend a little more and get the Sirui T-025X Carbon Fiber Tripod. I know that in my review of the MeFOTO I tried to justify not getting a carbon fiber tripod because of the extra expense over an equivalent aluminum tripod, but there was something I didn’t take into account. Carbon fiber is stiffer and doesn’t resonate like aluminum. Weighing in at 1 lb. 14.5 oz. (862 g.), it’s 11 oz. less than the MeFOTO and is helpful in reducing the total weight of my photo backpack. So here’s what I’ve discovered so far about this tripod. I’ll be making some comparisons to the MeFOTO, so bear with me.
The MeFOTO and the Sirui target a similar audience: travelers looking for a lightweight tripod solution. However, a tripod is more than just its own weight. It must be steady and support the weight placed on it. The Sirui T-025X uses carbon fiber tubing versus aluminum. The carbon fiber tubes are a slightly smaller diameter, but with nearly the same tubing wall thickness. The legs each have 5 sections and fold 180° for compact storage just like the MeFOTO. However, the carbon fiber legs are stiffer than the aluminum ones and they don’t exhibit the resonant vibrations I get with the aluminum legs. The smallest diameter leg sections are where the carbon fiber really shows its stiffness and dampening ability. Even with weight hanging from the center hook, there was hardly any bending or flexing in the legs.
The Sirui’s center column is removable. Even with the center column installed, if I move my camera slightly when mounted on the Sirui, it doesn’t transfer that movement down into the legs. Not something I could say about the MeFOTO. Wind induced vibrations are also reduced, and since the center column is removable, without it, vibrations are almost non-existent. Eliminating unwanted vibrations is one of the major reasons I went with carbon fiber over aluminum. The removable center column also means a minimum height of 10.2″ versus 16.75″ for the MeFOTO whose center column isn’t removable. Good news for those needing to shoot low angles or macro photography. Continue reading
When I’m shooting for a client locally, I’m not really concerned with the same things as when I’m traveling and taking photos along the way. These are different situations and they call for different equipment. When looking for travel cameras and photo gear, here’s what I consider important:
Quality is paramount
There’s not much point in taking photos if they’re not the best quality available today. Photo quality isn’t determined by the resolution or the camera processor, but by the glass that you shoot through. Good quality lenses make better photos, so I stick with well-respected German or Japanese brands. I explain this in much more detail at Choosing photo equipment.
Resolution is important
Medium format equipment these days can produce 50 megapixel images. Most digital SLRs are between 24 and 36 megapixels now. Even point and shoot cameras can capture 18 megapixels or more. Even though I just said in the previous paragraph that resolution does equate to quality, it is important, because a higher resolution image allows more flexibility for cropping and manipulation. So if that art director doesn’t want all that foreground that you’ve included in the shot, they can simply crop the photo and not sacrifice too much resolution to get only what they need. A low resolution image can’t be cropped much without some pixelation occurring. For what I’m doing, 20 megapixels is the minimum. Continue reading