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Underwater tripod?


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#1 frogfish

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Posted 26 December 2005 - 02:29 AM

Has anyone here thought through (or better yet, succeded at) making a workable tripod for underwater use? I've considered cobbling something together from ULCS arm sections, but it sounds inelegant. Another thought would be to just buy a cheap conventional tripod and use it until it doesn't work anymore, which probably wouldn't be long.

Any thoughts, experiences?

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#2 PRC

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Posted 26 December 2005 - 03:34 AM

I am planning the cheap conventional tripod way ( got a real nasty one on EBAY :)

I have machined a recess in the ally handle of my Ike housing and inserted an anodized plate with the required threads cut in it.

Probably need to cable tie some lead weights on to each of the legs for stability as it will be likely unstable in even a minor current.

As I say - it is all still a plan - figure if it is washed out it should last OK as it is all aluminum.

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#3 Kasey

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Posted 26 December 2005 - 04:31 AM

I use 3 ulcs arms connected to a triple clamp. Very handy, and can be carried folded against the housing or slipped into the leg of my shorty. I don't use it to hold the housing much, usually to hold a light source.
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#4 Drew

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Posted 26 December 2005 - 09:47 AM

I'll bring my ULCS tripod for you to try in Jan. OR there's this titanium one that's japanese...very cool but about 3k I believe.

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#5 Paul Kay

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Posted 26 December 2005 - 10:18 AM

I've tried ordinary and ULCS tripods - base problem is they are a **** to carry about underwater and require weight to adequately hold them down - I've been toying with the idea of using something like:

http://www.overxpose...m/products.html

which could be held down by shot lead bags but haven't got around to trying one yet. These look like the best compromise I've seen to date but couldn't be used on sensitive seabeds!
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#6 fdog

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Posted 26 December 2005 - 10:28 AM

Robert, I've flailed my way through the tripod learning curve, so I hope my mistakes can help you.

My first question would be: Why do you need a tripod? If it is to just hold the camera in a spot for daytime (conventional) shooting, like poised to shoot remote triggered images of garden eels, the ULCS solution may be all you need.

If it's to extend your shutter speeds out past 1/15, to the relm of 1 or 2 seconds, the ULCS tripod fails to deliver. At least for me.

As to the latter, here's what works for me.

Generally, the two important words I'd use to describe an underwater tripod would be big and heavy. Simple, and cheap, would be good as well, due to the wear and tear of salt water.

Big
I use tripod legs that are roughly 72" extended, and 24" collapsed. This is the equivalent of the Manfroto 3001 legs (which I don't use, see Cheap below). This size choice is because anything smaller has too small of a footprint for stability, and, most importantly, anything shorter has me too close to the bottom to frame the image through the camera. I usually have the legs extended by one section; this seems to give decent clearance. Big is also robust enough for a heavy housing.

Heavy
If it's too light, it turns into a kite. The effect here is magnified by being in the water. Don't even bother with carbon fiber, it's too light! I actually dive with an extra 5 lbs on some webbing that I sling under the ball head. I estimate that the whole assembly - legs, ball head, housing and lead - have an underwater weight of about 10 lbs, which is barely adequate for 2 second + exposures. (note) Make sure you BC has enough reserve bouyancy to haul this around, especially if you use a wetsuit and are deeper than 80' or so. Most BCs don't...

Simple
Just plain old tripod legs are all I've needed. The geared center column is just another thing to fail and I've never needed one underwater, anyway.
I cannot reccomend a real ball head enough. It is much easier to use (especially when you are well narced) and faster. The video type pan-tilt heads are truly a PITA even for surface shooting, let alone underwater. The quick-release plates are actually kind of useful, although I'd save my money and pass on the Accra-type plates.

Cheap
The Manfroto 3001 legs are perfect. Unfortunately, even on eBay it's about $70 to pick some up - used. I found a dealer on eBay, amvona.com, that sells tripod legs that are 90% of Gitzo quality at about $20. I reccomend this model from them. As for the ball head, the Bogen 3055 is an excellent choice, as they are old enough they go for cheap, and they have a delrin ball that won't freeze up from corrosion. (happened to me) You can get one of these for about $40 on ebay with the quick-release plates. Do NOT accecpt any head smaller than this, you'll regret it, usually at the swim platform.

For me, a typical dive with a tripod consists of seeing the shot, and hovering above the bottom while extending the legs and attaching the lead. Then I'll sink slowly to the bottom, place the tripod, and frame the image. Shutter set to self-timer, squeeze off the shot and let go until I hear the shutter fire.

As I said, a smaller/cheaper tripod may be tempting, but if you're serious, just bypass the ineffective stuff and get something that will work. If you want to see what my setup looks like, see my profile pic.

All the best, James

#7 frogfish

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Posted 28 December 2005 - 03:02 AM

Thanks to everyone, and especially James, for the very useful and informative replies. What all of you are saying makes a good deal of sense.

One thing I was interesting in doing this for was to try longer exposure wide angles (using the Magic Filter and ambient light). It seems clear that's going to mean a big, heavy tripod. The BC buoyancy is an issue I hadn't even thought of - I use a fairly small (30 lb max lift) wing.

Sounds like this may not be feasible for the trip I'm planning in January, but I'll definitely be trying some of these ideas out when I get back to Bali.

Frogfish
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#8 Drew

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Posted 28 December 2005 - 06:51 AM

I forgot the link to the must have "bling bling" tripod for u/w use:

Titanium tripod

They don't indicate the price anymore on the page. From what I remember it was going for nearly 4 figures. Ah but you'd have the coolest tripod wherever you dive. :(

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#9 fdog

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Posted 28 December 2005 - 07:10 AM

I should emphasise that the tripod leg source I referenced, also sells on eBay. I would not pay full price for their tripods, but they are a great value at the usual auction price of about $15-$20.

Amvona Tripod Legs on eBay

All the best, James

#10 Udo van Dongen

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Posted 12 March 2006 - 04:26 AM

i started a thread on the DSLR forum about tripods. I lost this one. You can find it here:

http://wetpixel.com/...showtopic=12493

cheers, Udo

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#11 TuriLed

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Posted 17 May 2007 - 03:44 PM

Hi Udo,

Thanks for posting the links. I had some free time and made myself (well, someone made it for me...) a tripod based on the photo you put here. I had to add some weight on the front leg so it doesn't flip backwards. I used a 1 pund weight connected to a double-dog, so i could take it off the tripod and attach it to my BCD when not in use.


DSC_2244.jpg


_DSC3108_small.jpg

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#12 Paul Kay

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Posted 17 August 2007 - 11:49 AM

In case anyone is interested I've been using an 'Overexposed' baseplate together with a ballhead and Arca style quick release system for some filming I'm undertaking at the moment (using an L&M housing and Kowalski Mini Xenons). This is surprisingly effective although you do have to be careful as to its placement as it could crush anything it is put on top of. Most of the time I can find usable areas where no damage is caused though and for video its working a treat! Now to transfer it to stills......
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#13 james

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Posted 17 August 2007 - 12:20 PM

Here's my setup for tripod work:

Posted Image

I use a RRS plate mounted to my housing - it works great! I use a carbon fiber Benro tripod in the pool w/ a medium sized ballhead. I haven't tried any long exposures or Panos yet but I'd like to try.

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#14 jaykirk

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Posted 17 August 2007 - 02:37 PM

Hi James -

Is your mounting plate from RRS an L bracket?

I'm looking into doing something similar for my housing, but so far it's looking like I'll have to machine my own L bracket to integrate with the quick release. Just wondering how yours is set up.

Thanks!

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#15 Deep6

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Posted 27 August 2007 - 02:09 PM

FYI, the Nexus/Anthis housing have pre-drilled holes in the base. You can attach a tripod head or quick release head directly to the base. I use it all the time (on dry land) to test equiptment set ups.

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#16 Tom_Kline

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Posted 27 August 2007 - 09:37 PM

Here is one cobbled from housing trays - more of a 'low-pod' - but the triangular configuration and 4 pound weight provide stability.

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#17 2Oceans

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 08:10 AM

James,
How is the Benro carbon fiber tripod working out underwater? I have seen them compared favorably to Gitzo and your use is the absolute most extreme I can think of. My first knowledge of them was that they would pop up on ebay when I typed in Gitzo. B&H who I use and respect is now carrying them. What ball head do you use? Do you spend much time cleaning your set up after dunking them is salt water? I use two Gitzo carbon fiber tripods along with several Gitzo aluminum and can't convince myself to get them wet with a Kirk or Arca Swiss B1 ball head. If one is serious about setting up a shot underwater using a tripod it makes perfect sense to use your approach though my guess is that the stability and vibration dampening that carbon fiber is known for is less important than of the underwater utility of the particular apparatus. Any thoughts on using a Wimberly style gimbaled action head? Thanks.
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Edited by 2Oceans, 15 September 2007 - 08:12 AM.


#18 james

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 08:56 AM

Hi,

I would say the Benro tripod is holding up pretty well. Because it's carbon fiber you don't have to worry about dissimilar metal contact as much as you would a tripod w/ Al legs and Mg joints. Plus it's lighter. The one problem I have is that I wasn't paying attention and now my ball-head is frozen onto the center column :-(

I use an Acratech ball-head. You don't need a big one for underwater work because you're not supporting much weight. Also, vibration damping isn't an issue underwater where the water does that for you. Basically the tripod is just there to hold the housing and keep it in place.

I wouldn't use an expensive ball-head like a Wimberley or a BH-55 underwater.

Cheers
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#19 Paul Kay

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Posted 15 September 2007 - 11:43 AM

James

Acratech heads are excellent BUT they do use several steel screws (large 'grub' screws) which I suspect will cause electrolytic problems as they sit in aluminium. I'm currently using a cheapish German made ballhead (can't remember who makes it) and whilst its still working after several months, the friction adjuster has failed and the Arca quick release has substantial rusting on the steel bits too. I'll give it a season's use at the rate its going.

If anyone can suggest a head with no steel bits in it I'd like to know (forget RRS, they are too expensive and RRS recommended not to use them in saltwater when I queried this with them - the BH55 is superb above water though).
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#20 tjgreen

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Posted 17 September 2007 - 04:52 AM

I was thinking about making something like the Gorillapod, has anyone ever tried that underwater? Seems like you could make one using the same flexible plastic interlocking tubing folks use for strobe arms, and it's small, light, and would travel well. It would require something to attach it to though, you couldn't just sit it in the sand very well.
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