I had a little Manfrotto tripod from several years ago designed to support a camcorder or a point and shoot (this one: http://www.adorama.com/BG785SHB.html ). However I put it through so much abuse that the leg locks have broken and it is falling apart. Realized it was time to get a tripod that would actually hold my gear! I have been following the threads here off and on trying to figure out what to get.
I started looking around on e-bay and was thinking of getting one of the inexpensive carbon fiber tripods from there. But I figure that there must be a catch, a "you get what you pay for" sort of deal so I was really leery to do so...
So, I headed down to Pro Photo Supply here in Portland Oregon. Great shop by the way. Figured I'd play around with everything they had and go from there...
They carry Manfrotto, Benro/Induro, Giottos, Gitzo, and several other assorted tripods and ball heads.
First I figured I'd decide on a set of legs: I played with them all and realized I disliked the twist leg locks very much--and the ones that don't have the anti-leg-rotation system are even worse. Good thing I didn't get that e-bay tripod.
I eventually settled on the Manfrotto 190 series. The question was: Spend the extra money for the carbon fiber version? I eventually decided to get the 190XProB (the aluminum one) that so many people here have recommended. I love the legs, thank you guys so much. Very high quality, very sturdy, and I just love the way the center column works. The weight rating (11lbs?!?) is VERY conservative. My only complaints are: The bag hook could be bigger and I wish it folded down smaller. The weight really isn't that bad honestly--the 190 series is a lot lighter than the 055 series...
Once I decided on the legs...well, what about for the head?
Many here had recommended the 488RC2 Ball Head. I really didn't care for it. In fact none of the Manfrotto ball heads really felt that good to me. Also who wants a proprietary mounting plate? I looked at the Induro/Benro ones and they seemed alright. However, I noticed that you could say, keep loosening the ball lock knob until it came out of the ball head and figured that that was probably not a good sign as to the quality lol. The Acra Tech ones were very very nice but I didn't want to pay that much at this time.
Eventually I found the Giottos MH-1300 head. Here's a link: http://www.bhphotovideo.com …H_1300_Pro_Series_II.html . It's very sturdy and seems extremely well made. The panning action is fluid and silent, it feels like the head is floating. The friction control is great--easily adjustable so that it holds the 450d+55-250+430exII flash still while allowing you to move the camera very easily (it's definitely way overkill for this, which is good imho). It's rated to support 33lb which is definitely believable. The movement is completely smooth even with the friction tightened way up--it doesn't lurch around.
There is an extra fluid level on the quick-release adjust knob as well which is handy for the camera being flipped over into the portrait position. Anyway, just my 2 cents!