Really Right Stuff Camera Supports

Tripods – What, When and Why I Use Them (Podcast 379)

Once again I'm going to reply to a listener question this week, this time a question from listener Fred Kotler about when and how I use my tripods. I thought this would be a good chance to take a look at my current support line-up, and discuss a little about why...

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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.
  • t.linn
    Posted at 07:30h, 16 July Reply

    I don’t think any company makes gear as beautiful as RRS. Their designs are art in themselves.

  • Soenke
    Posted at 18:21h, 17 July Reply

    Dear Martin,

    thank you for your good points on tripods. I bourght recently a Manfrotto 190CXPRO3 carbon fiber and a MH054M0-Q2 ball head to support my heavy Mamiya AFD with Aptus 65 back, but how do I test the combo at best?

    Working on a tripod I usally use the mirror up – although it is a (machanical) pain on the AFD. But I would also love to use my old Mamiya MF 500/5.6 for nature photography.
    Since I know that it will take 3s to stop shaking from the mirror and that on realy long exposures i.e. 30s that 3s shake would not be visible in the shot – would you suggest to set up a test with exposure times around that 3s? Do you have a suggestion how to test if the tripod meets my demands?

    Thank you – greetings from Magdeburg, Germany

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 19:49h, 17 July Reply

      Hi Soenke,

      I’m sure you’re fine, but to test, just look at your images at 100%. If they look sharp, you’re in good shape.


  • Chris Kiez
    Posted at 00:24h, 27 April Reply


    I’m in the final stages of ordering a Canon 500mm lens to increase my reach doing wildlife photography.

    I currently use a Canon 7D or 5Diii, mounted on a RRS tripod or monopod, depending on the application. My current bird lens is the 100-400mm, and I generally go through the day’s shoot with the monopod or tripod–lens and camera attached–over my shoulder so I can quickly bring to bear for the sudden appearance of birds/wildlife.

    My question is, I have ordered the RRS PG02-LLR for my incoming 500mm lens; can I have this lens (with the RRS replacement foot) mounted on my TV-34L and shoulder carry the rig when I walk? I use an Upstrap as a safety on my camera strap mounts (main point of contact is an RRS clamp strap holder on a RRS L-plate) since Upstraps straps are known for their industry-standard setting strength and reliability.

    I plan to use the Upstrap on the strap mounts found on the upper barrel of the 500mm lens, while shoulder carrying; that way, if the foot plate or other point of contact failed, the lens would be still attached at two points and around my neck.

    Do you have experience of carrying your big glass on an RRS gimbal setup over your shoulder while doing nature work?

    Fantastic blog and overall web setup.


    Chris Kiez

  • Mundo
    Posted at 04:48h, 16 July Reply

    Hi Martin,

    I came across your website while looking into the RRS TVC-33 and TVC-34L tripods. Thank you for your time providing invaluable photographic information.

    I am considering the purchase of either one of the tripods mentioned above.The TVC-34L currently goes up to 68.5″ tall when fully extended, adding the benefit of extra height for those situations you mention.

    One interesting point is you recommend using the fatter, top leg sections first to help maintain rigidity, which makes totally sense. I would certainly want to use it this way. But upon inquiring, RRS advices to use the bottom leg section first, as doing so would minimize the collection of sand, water and dust in the bottom twist lock, which otherwise would be sitting right next to the feet. They also mention it would minimize maintenance requirements. I was wondering if you have experienced any problems with this.

    The TVC-33 is 58″ tall when fully extended. It is a 3 section tripod and so in theory I would think it is more rigid than the TVC-34L extended to the same height taking RRS’s advice to extent the bottom, thinner section first. However, RRS contends there is no noticeable difference in stability when both tripods are set to the same height, regardless of what and how many sections are being utilized on the TVC-34L. Any thoughts?

    Thank you for your help.


    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:36h, 16 July Reply

      You’re very welcome Mundo. Thanks for stopping by.

      On the advice you received from RRS, that’s surprising, and in my opinion, just wrong. They are of course confident in the strength of their leg sections, but still, you should always extend the top sections first for utmost rigidity. If you really use the tripod, you’ll stick all sections into water, dust, sand and all sorts of stuff. These are tools, and if they need to be maintained through use, so be it.

      Having said that, I have stuck my RRS tripods in sand, dirt, water, snow, dust etc. and it’s always been fine. It gets a bit smelly if I can’t dry it out quickly enough, but basically when it’s gotten wet, I extend all the leg sections when I get home or back to the hotel, and give each leg a wipe, and allow it to dry out. That’s all I do, and it’s as good as new. My advice is to ignore what you were told.

      In the field, I’ve found both the TVC-33 and TVC-34L to be about the same rigidity. Because I usually use the BH-40 on my TVC-33, it isn’t quite as rigid as the TVC-34L with BH-55 when shooting in windy conditions, but if weight is an issue when traveling, I am happy to take the TVC-33 with BH-40, and still do long exposures etc. without issues. Note though that although it’s lighter, the TVC-33 is actually slightly longer than the TVC-34L when compacted, because of the lack of that extra leg section.

      I hope this helps!

  • Mundo
    Posted at 04:17h, 17 July Reply

    Hi Martin,

    Thank you for your quick response to my post below and kind sharing of how you use your tripods in the real world. It’s very much appreciated.

    Whichever tripod I end up choosing, TVC-33 or TVC-34L, I will pair it with a BH-55 ballhead. And your hands-on assessment of both will definitely help me make an informed decision.


    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 20:23h, 17 July Reply

      You’re welcome Mundo. I’m pleased I was able to help.

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