Really Right Stuff TVC-34L Tripod with Leveling Base and BH-55 B

Really Right Stuff Camera Supports Review (Podcast 350)

Today we're going to have a bit of a Really Right Stuff love-fest, as we look at the new camera L-Plates for the 5D Mark III and the completely re-designed L-Plate for the Canon EOS 1D X, as well as the TVC-34L Tripod with Leveling Base that I recently bought, and...

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Martin Bailey
Martin Bailey is a nature and wildlife photographer and educator based in Tokyo. He's a pioneering Podcaster and blogger, and an X-Rite Coloratti member.
  • Dudley Warner
    Posted at 01:17h, 04 September Reply

    Martin –

    This is an excellent review. I have been using RRS ballheads and other accessories, and have definitely been impressed with their design and quality. I am using a Gitzo 3 series tripod, but want to see what your opinion is of using an RRS TA-3-LB Leveling Base with it. Currently, I am using a 3rd party plate that bolts thru from the bottom into the base plate for additional security. This seemed necessary when carrying around the Gitzo with a Wimberley head and a Canon 500mm f/4 attached. One consideration is that would not be possible with the leveling base.

    Thanks for your opinion.


    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:40h, 04 September Reply

      Hi Dudley,

      Thanks for checking out the review!

      I also have a Gitzo 3 series tripod, but it’s not Systematic, so I can’t use the RRS Leveling Base with it. If your tripod is Systematic, the leveling base would certainly be a nice addition, but maybe not with your requirements.

      The RRS leveling base comes with screws to lock it in place and prevent it from falling out, but you won’t have the holes for these screws in the Gitzo. With that in mind, if you really need to carry the 500mm on a gimbal over your shoulder, I would give it a miss. It wouldn’t be much fun to see that all falling to the ground.

      I hope that helps!


      • Greg Kraushaar
        Posted at 09:16h, 09 September Reply

        I use an RRS leveling base with my Gitzo 3541LS Systematic. It works a treat. While I haven’t done it with mine, I see no problem drilling and tapping three holes for grub screws to lock the plate in the same way that RRS does with their tripod. If you are not up to this yourself I am sure almost any engineering shop could do it in their sleep. Actually, you would probably only need one as you would still use the Gitzo clamping system for the main lock. The grub screw would simply be a safety net.

        I also use the replaceable centre column. In my case, mainly for indoor work. It is much easier to make slight corrections in height for close work with it than it is to play with the leg extensions. As I am usually using flash here, any loss of stability is moot. It is the work of seconds to swap them over.

        I really wish RRS had brought out their tripod before I needed one last year. That when I bought the Gitzo. RRS were saying the tripod would be out “real soon now” but I just couldn’t wait any longer.

        Cheers Greg.

  • jhony
    Posted at 00:20h, 16 October Reply

    nice review, This is a very informative and interesting post to read. Thank you for posting this!

  • Tracy Lynn
    Posted at 20:50h, 17 August Reply

    This is a really excellent review. I have the TVC-34L and the BH-55 for use with my 5D Mark III. I have skimped on good tripods in the past and decided with my investment in a relatively high end body, 70-200 IS II and so on that I should have a tripod worthy of supporting my equipment. I am consistently blown away with the quality of Really Right Stuff gear. Is it expensive? Yup. Will it serve me for many many years? No doubt. Their tripods are works of art. Just make sure if you travel you get a Pelican case that fits it and not the soft side RRS offers. The soft side is fine for local work, but you don’t want to show up at the airport and the ticket agent insists on checking it when it’s in a canvas bag. I will only check it if in the Pelican case.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:58h, 18 August Reply

      I couldn’t agree more Tracy. RRS are well worth the money and total works of art.

      On traveling with the tripod, a Pelican case is a good idea, but often when I travel I’m only allowed one checked bag, so for me, the tripod usually goes in the main suitcase or duffel that I’m traveling with. I usually take the ball-head off and put them in the case separately, to remove a stress point, and I’ve not had a problem so far (fingers crossed!).

      Thanks for stopping by and for the comment Tracy!

  • Brad Oliver
    Posted at 02:51h, 19 December Reply

    Hi Martin,

    A quick follow-up question regarding the Leveling Base…

    RRS also offers it in a long(er) handle version with a hook. Obviously, this would have an impact on your ability to use the tripod with the legs at their lowest level, but I am curious if you’ve found the standard length handle adequate, or if you feel a longer handle would be beneficial.

    Thank you.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 10:46h, 19 December Reply

      Hi Brad,

      While I like the idea of the hook, I went for the shorter handle because you can still open the legs out fully without the handle touching the floor, as can be seen in one of the photos above. The longer handle will hit the floor with the legs out horizontally. Although a slightly longer handle would be nice, the standard one is plenty long enough, so I’m happy with my decision here.

      I guess if you rarely take the tripod to it’s lowest level, the longer handle and hook would be nice. It’s a tradeoff, as usual.

      I hope this helps!


      • Brad Oliver
        Posted at 14:26h, 19 December Reply

        Thanks for your response Martin. Yes, it was helpful.


  • Chris Kiez
    Posted at 07:40h, 27 April Reply

    I tried posting a question before, but I’m not certain if it made it.

    I’m moving up to a Canon 500mm prime lens, and have already ordered the PG02-LLR to go with my existing RRS TV-34L tripod.

    I’m wondering Martin, have you ever been able to carry large glass on your RRS gimbal, over your shoulder? Once I’m in the field and after birds, I generally like to carry my DSLR and long lens mounted on a RRS tripod or monopod, over my shoulder and ready to shoot.

    Is the RRS PG-02LLR in your opinion sturdy enough for this type of carry? I plan to backup the security with an Upstrap attached to the lens strap mounts during this type of carry.

    Outstanding website, photos and overall delivery of critical info! Thanks very much!


    Chris Kiez

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 10:00h, 27 April Reply

      Sorry about that Chris. I see two email with your post from the system, but I’ll check where the first one went.

      On your question; firstly, I personally haven’t carried a long lens very far on the RRS Gimbal, but that’s mostly because the locations I’ve shot with it so far don’t really require that I do. The good thing about the RRS Tripod is that there are grub screws holding the tripod base plate into the top of the tripod legs, so it can’t fall out.

      As for the PG-02LLR, as long as you have a stopper screw in the bottom of your tripod foot or lens plate, to stop the plate sliding out fully should it work loose some, I’d be quite confident to carry a long lens on there, but as you say, having it tethered in some way is a good idea. Even with shorter lenses, when I walk with them on the tripod I always make sure they are tethered to something.

      As I say though, I haven’t actually done this myself with the RRS Gimbal, as I’ve only just switched from the Wimberley. If you need to do this, before you buy I’d recommend you give the RRS sales team a call. They’re really down to earth, and speak with photographers with this kind of field experience all the time. They may not be able to assure you that nothing will happen, but they will be able to give you candid advice about the risks and possibilities.

      Thanks for the kind words Chris, and for stopping by. The best of luck with the new gimbal too if you make the jump. It’s a beautiful piece of kit.


  • Chris Kiez
    Posted at 00:00h, 05 May Reply

    Thanks for the reply Martin. I have received my RRS PG-02LLR gimbal setup and am now only waiting on the Canon 500mm!

    I’ve installed the gimbal on the TV-34L, and tightened up, I can see that an over-the shoulder carry, with the long vertical arm of the gimbal resting on the shoulder, will work fine.

    I did contact RRS, as I have in the past, and the weight capacity of the gimbal is 50 lbs. which would support the lens and gimbal in carry.

    Bearing in mind that the Canon screws in the replacement RRS foot could always fail, I would as you say, always have a lens strap ’round my neck in carry, so that there would be 2 points of contact (RRS clamp with strap to the RRS L-frame on the body, then a second strap to the lens).

    When in doubt, I would go very carefully and if needs be, just remove the lens and backpack it for a distance.

    Again, great site. Thanks for the reply,


    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:05h, 05 May Reply

      Good to hear you’re all set Chris. Congratulations on the new gear. It’s always exciting to get new stuff.

      Thanks for the update and kind words!

  • Daniel Geiger
    Posted at 14:01h, 28 June Reply

    Just switched from a 12 year old Gitzo 1327 w/ Arca B1 on short column to a TVS 34L with BH55. I shoot lots of belly plants with Zeiss MP 100 mm ZE, and/or MPE 65 mm, so low level performance is key. The RRS setup goes about 2-3 inches lower than the Gitzo/AS, and that is major! I considered even buying the RRS ground pod, but the TVS 34 with BH55 is sufficient. For lower shots, I put the camera on the ground.

    Re quick clamp, this works only if you dedicated yourself to RRS rails. I also shoot 4×5″ ArcaSwiss, so have to use the screw clamp. For inverted shots with the AS, I also got the 3-series column, which can be inverted, and the fix base plate can be field exchanged for the column. You get the best for each situation.

    The self ratcheting leg arrests are absolutely genius! I have had more than one painful catch of my skin on the Gitzo.

    The non-swiveling hook is not an issue, IMHO. I cannot think of any situation in which the swivel could make any difference.

    The hex key storage on the D1 is interesting. I drilled a couple of holes into an old RRS screw clamp for the same reason. Works quite well.

    I have no concerns with the base plate not holding, I swing the tripod over shoulder with any of my more higher end lenses, such as a Canon 300 mm 2.8 IS, the Zeiss Otus 55 mm 1.4 ZE, or the Zeiss Distagon 15 mm ZE.

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