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Thread started 07 Jan 2012 (Saturday) 14:38
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Acratech GP-S & Feisol CT-3442

 
RandyS
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Jan 07, 2012 14:38 |  #1

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The Tripod -

I'll come out and say it right away .... the Feisol is NOT a Gitzo. But that doesn't make it a bad tripod. Quite the opposite - it's a seriously nice one at 2/3rds the cost. And this particular model fits my needs better than I had hoped to be able to find.

- No center column (optional center column or leveling base available)
- Full height = 54.3"
- Folds to just under 19"
- Weight = 2.3 lbs
- Folded diameter is about 4.5" - 5" at it's widest spot to the outside of the legs.

It came with wrenches to fit basically every screw on it, as well as a nice padded tripod case. The case is made to *just* fit the tripod, so if you add spikes to the legs you need to find a different solution. It also has an outside pocket that's large enough for the wrenches, as well as a couple extra batteries, some film, etc.

I ordered it from Kerry @ ReallyBigCameras. Level of service and communications were outstanding, and he it got here so quickly it made my head swim.

Speaking of getting here - to give a sense of size: It was shipped in the Feisol box, and the mailman left it in our rural box (door closed) when he delivered it!

At full height, the viewfinder is right around 64" (+/- depending on how level the ground is) -
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The Acratech GP-S fits nicely between the legs. The limiting bit would actually be the clamp, not the base. That could be fiddled with to maximize how tightly things fold up, but worst case is one leg is parallel to center rather than angled in towards the center. It never exceeds maximum diameter of the tripod without a head.

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(It also fits an Arca-Swiss B1.)

They use twist locks on the leg joints. This one is the 'Rapid' version, meaning that the legs don't twist as you lock/unlock them. You can just unlock all three joints and pull the full leg out.

And no. I have no idea what kind of tournament they're talking about.
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----

The Head -

I dealt directly with Acratech on the ballhead. I bought one from their pile of 2nds for 10% off, and I've still not sorted out exactly how it ended up in the 2nds pile. I dealt with Chrys at Actratech and so far the service and support has been just as amazing as Kerry @ ReallyBigCameras. Extremely easy to deal with and quick to deliver.

The head came in a very well padded box with instructions and a wrench for removing the clamp.

The first thing that struck me after taking it out of the box was how light it is. I knew it was only 0.9 lbs, but until I actually felt that it just didn't register. The fit and finish on this thing is outstanding. As taken aback as I was by the weight, I was just as startled as to how smoothly it operates. Both the ball movements and the panorama base. And this is coming from a long time Arca-Swiss user.

The drop slot. You can see the head has far more room for normal movements than a "standard" ballhead design, but if you need to drop the camera to do a portrait mode or some such, here's the slot.
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When the head is dropped into the slot, it's fairly well limited to 90 degrees.
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There is a bearing surface on the stem of the ball visible in this photo, as well as a pin on the bottom of the ball. That allows the head to be used as a gimbal head. I don't believe you want to use an extreme lens, like a 500/4, but a 300 (or 400?) 2.8 shouldn't present a problem

Actually, the larger issue with using it as a gimbal head is that it's not over the center of the tripod. That puts the weight to one side, but that can be at least partially overcome by hanging your bag from the removable gear hook on the bottom of the baseplate (included with the tripod).

The other issue is probably unique to a pod w/o a center column. Some motions are limited by how closely you're operating to the tops of the legs. Not a huge deal, but one to be aware of.
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Something else you can see in the photo above, is the lugs on the bottom of the clamp. The GP-S is designed so you can remove the clamp and put it on the bottom of the head (I'll do more photos later if someone want's to see that) and mount the head upside down on your legs. That allows you to level the clamp and shoot single row stitched panoramic shots.

Since the clamp is removable, the lugs are there to prevent the clamp from twisting on top of the ball stem by someone moving their long lens or camera.


The GP-S is a redesign of the GP, but for use with traveler type tripods. For that, they made the pano base a bit smaller in diameter. But more importantly, they moved the pano knob. On the GP, that knob is on the base smack dab in between the main and friction knobs. By moving it over 90 degrees they left room for one of the tripod legs to fold into that spot.
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RandyS
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Jan 07, 2012 14:39 |  #2

Cont'd:

Finally, and to me most depressingly ... I come to the wart in the design.

That is the spring loaded 'safety' pin they put in the clamp. On the surface, it's a good idea. When it fits into the holes/slots most plates have and prevents your rig from just sliding out if the clamp is loosened.

I know there are other manufacturers that use it (*cough*Markins*cough) and a lot of folks rely on the pin. But truth is that to me, it seems like the work of the devil. One of the advantages of a screw clamp (as opposed to a lever clamp) is that it can be partially released to slide a plate or rail in/out to adjust balance or macro focus or nodal point or ... . With these pins, you pretty much have to open the clamp all the way and lift your camera/lens/rail out of the clamp to reposition it. Most the time at least.

I've got an email out to them to see if there's a way I can remove or disable this pin without trashing my warranty.

UPDATE: Chrys from Acratech got in touch to say they don't condone removing the spring loaded pin on the clamp, as it's a safety feature. But ... she also let me know how to deal with it if I insist.

The wart -

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===============

Forgot the shot of how it all fits together on the 28L
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yendikeno
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Jan 13, 2012 00:34 as a reply to  @ RandyS's post |  #3

Randy,

Nice review. I don't know about the Acratech, but I have a Markins ballhead with the safety pin. On the Markins you can remove a small screw under the spring-loaded pin, and either take it out entirely, or just reverse the pin and spring, which is what I did. Now I don't have that pin bothering me anymore.


_____________
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AZFred

  
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RandyS
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Jan 13, 2012 03:44 |  #4

Thanks yendikeno.

It's nice to know I'm not alone. The Acratech isn't all that much different than what you described on the Markins. It looks like there's a small circlip in there rather than a screw. Hard to say at the moment - I need to drag it all into better light to see for sure.

But it's accessable from the bottom of the clamp at least.




  
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Needsnow
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Jan 13, 2012 03:54 |  #5

I have this exact setup with the LEVER release. It is amazing. Their lever release works really well and is adjustable.


Canon EOS R

  
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Jan 13, 2012 08:46 |  #6

Nice review. I can see a possible issue with the spring-loaded detent pin and a lever clamp but not with a screw clamp. I use the Markins clamps on all my ballheads and just top load into the clamp. After doing it for several years I think it's actually quicker than sliding the camera in from the side.


~Peter

  
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RandyS
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Jan 13, 2012 09:00 |  #7

peter_n wrote in post #13697533 (external link)
Nice review. I can see a possible issue with the spring-loaded detent pin and a lever clamp but not with a screw clamp. I use the Markins clamps on all my ballheads and just top load into the clamp. After doing it for several years I think it's actually quicker than sliding the camera in from the side.


Thank you.

I've always just dropped the camera/lens in from the top to mount it in the clamp also. Even in the 4-5 other clamps I have (none of which have the pin). Also, all my lens plates and my nodal rail have stop screws at the end so you couldn't just slide it in anyway.

But there are times you want to slide the lens/camera/rail once it's already in the clamp. Effectively taking it out of the clamp and repositioning it doesn't seem to be the best, or safest method. I'm still trying it out, but it's very difficult to get things right where I want them if I have to lift the camera out of the mount while trying to adjust its position.




  
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Heap64
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Feb 13, 2012 06:56 |  #8

Thanks for the post, I have been looking for a great light travel combination. I was already leaning towards the Feisol CT-3442, but hadn't decided on a head yet. I was planning to get a Photoclam but was really wanting to keep a few bucks in the USA. This looks like such a unique head and from what I have read well done. I ordered the GP-S over the weekend, I will be ordering the tripod in a couple weeks. I can't wait to really get to use them in the Canadian Rockies this June!


James
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Feb 15, 2012 16:05 as a reply to  @ RandyS's post |  #9

Many thanks for this review Randy, which is steering me towards the same setup as you have here - probably! I'm hoping you can answer a couple of questions for me first please.

Do you know if the GP ballhead allows the legs to fold over it, either to a lesser or greater extent? I appreciate that the GP-s probably works better in this respect - I'm just curious if the GP works at all.

As the smaller base of the GP-s makes it slightly less stable/sturdy than the GP, do you notice this at all?

I'm not planning on using an L bracket at the moment and wonder if, with the camera tilted over 90 degrees for portrait orientation, if you can still pan or if the legs get in the way?

Do you find the knobs of the GP-s easily accessible in use? I'm just curious, due to the different layout compared to the GP.

Many thanks for your help.
Nick




  
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RandyS
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Feb 15, 2012 21:08 |  #10

You're welcome Nick.

I don't know for sure about the GP. I was able to fold the legs over my Arca Swiss B1, which I believe is at least as large as the base of the GP, with no problems. I think though, that the panning knob being between the other two knobs may be an issue. That space is where one of the legs folds in. You might want to check with Kerry @ Reallybigcameras and see if anyone's done it. Simply because of the knob, I have reservations.

I highly doubt there's any difference in stability between the GP & GP-s. Keep in mind, this thing is down tight to the tripod head. Neither of them is going anyplace. Biggest advangage I'd hand the GP would be it's probably easier to read the pano marks.

As for the panning ... just now tried it and yes, you'll run into the tops of the legs. If you're using a lens 'foot', then there's enough clearance.

I can't compare the knob layout to the GP, but I find it just as accessable as my B1. Simply different.




  
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Nick7
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Feb 16, 2012 07:38 as a reply to  @ RandyS's post |  #11

Thanks Randy, that's great. I'm in the UK and it's hard to get hold of either the tripod or the ballhead to have a play, so seeing your great review and photos of the setup I've been thinking of is really helpful.

My thinking was along the lines that the GP is the 'preferred' option, for the want of a better way of putting it, and the GP-s is a compromise for portability. That said, I couldn't really see Acratech producing a wobbly ballhead and your comments have confirmed that it's the one for me.

Thanks again for taking the time.




  
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tvphotog
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Feb 16, 2012 08:55 |  #12

RandyS wrote in post #13663884 (external link)
The Tripod -

I'll come out and say it right away .... the Feisol is NOT a Gitzo.

Nice review. But I'm curious about why you're so definitive about the comparison? What's "not a Gitzo" about the Feisol, in your opinion?

Personally, I've not found much difference between the two, and the Feisol actually has several advantages, IMO.


Jay
Ireland in Word and Image (external link) Jay Ben Images (external link)5D IV | 5DS/R | Powershot S100 | 24-105L | 100-400 IIL | 16-35 f/2.8 IIL | 24 T/S f /3.5L II | 17 T/S f/4L | 50mm f/1.2L | 35mm f/1.4L | 70-200 f/2.8L II | 580 EX II | 600 EX-RT | Feisol 3441T/Markins Q3T lever QR | Gitzo 3542L Markins Qi20 BV-22 | Gitzo 5561T RRS MH-02

  
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RandyS
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Feb 16, 2012 12:03 |  #13

tvphotog wrote in post #13907810 (external link)
Nice review. But I'm curious about why you're so definitive about the comparison? What's "not a Gitzo" about the Feisol, in your opinion?

Personally, I've not found much difference between the two, and the Feisol actually has several advantages, IMO.

Other than it doesn't have the pretty pattern in the Carbon?

What I see as potintial shortcomings are only that - potential. Mostly, I like the fit/finish of a Gitzo where the legs join the platform casting more. The sockets the legs go into are deeper, and their fit to the platform simply seems tighter. Is it worth about 25%-35% more to "fix" that? Don't know - time will tell. If nothing ever breaks on this, then nothing ever really needed fixing in the first place.

Overall, the fit/finish of a Gitzo is done at a higher standard. So the Feisol is not a Gitzo. A Subaru STI isn't a BMW M3 either. Doesn't mean it's a bad car by any stretch of the imagination.

FWIW - I don't have a Gitzo. I have Feisol, and "Fred's Carbon Fibre R US" tripods.




  
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tvphotog
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Feb 16, 2012 12:57 |  #14

I like Fred's stuff.


Jay
Ireland in Word and Image (external link) Jay Ben Images (external link)5D IV | 5DS/R | Powershot S100 | 24-105L | 100-400 IIL | 16-35 f/2.8 IIL | 24 T/S f /3.5L II | 17 T/S f/4L | 50mm f/1.2L | 35mm f/1.4L | 70-200 f/2.8L II | 580 EX II | 600 EX-RT | Feisol 3441T/Markins Q3T lever QR | Gitzo 3542L Markins Qi20 BV-22 | Gitzo 5561T RRS MH-02

  
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RandyS
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Feb 16, 2012 13:10 |  #15

tvphotog wrote in post #13909175 (external link)
I like Fred's stuff.

Him and his crew never fail to impress me.

Well ... seldom at least.




  
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