08 – macro tripods and stupidity

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATypically, I replace sale of photo equipment with new-to-me photo equipment, but the recent sale of all of my m4/3 kit went to much-needed running and cycling upgrades, namely, a Garmin 310XT with heart rate monitor and a cadence sensor so I can monitor RPM’s on the 310XT. However, not all was lost, and I managed to squeeze a Benbo Trekker mk3 tripod in.

I’ve always wanted a Benbo tripod. I have four tripods now. An old Velbon tripod that’s probably from the late 1970’s – I picked it up for $10. It has a geared center column and the legs can’t adjust to different angles. In other words, it’s pretty useless for what I would use a tripod for. My second tripod was a bit better – a $30 Craigslist find: an Amvona ‘professional’ alumnium tripod with pistol-grip ballhead. The legs articulate and it’s nearly perfect…except it’s heavy. I actually brought it with me on a business trip to Quebec and I lugged the damn thing around through Vieux Quebec on a free day to see the sights. As a result, my third tripod is a Trek-Tech T-Pod mini tripod with magnetic ballhead. This goes with me everywhere and it works great for whenever I need a tripod (i.e., long exposures, selfies with the family, etc).

However, I really needed a tripod for my macro photography, but not just any tripod would do. I needed a tripod that could enable weird and low angles and would be light enough to take on hikes (not that I’ve gone hiking with camera gear…yet). Additionally, I needed it to be meant for outdoor use – and only one tripod available in the United States would suffice.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Benbo Trekker mk3 is pretty awesome for its intended purpose. It’s a beast of a tripod to get steady and just in the right position though – the bent bolt that holds the legs and the center column together is a one-motion affair: unlock it and everything unlocks and lock it (really freaking well) and the whole thing is solid. I’m sure I’ll get used to it with more use. Today was the first day using it in our garden and it’s great. I’m using the ballhead it came with and attached the Trek-Tech ballhead to that (yes…cue Xzibit and the “yo dawg, I heard you liked ballheads” meme) so I can gain multiple methods of fine-tuning for position. From what I’ve read, using the Benbo implies that you’re not in any hurry to take your shot…and it’s true. It takes time to use it. But, why use a tripod during bright and sunny days? DoF. This is the kind of picture I would probably get without a tripod:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANot too bad. You can tell it’s a flower. The reason I’d get a picture like this is because I’d try to keep the camera at base ISO but with the front lens element so close to the subject, I’m not getting much light, so my shutter speed suffers. Even with IS, the only way to get reasonable shutter speed would be to keep aperture completely open, in this case, f/3.5. But, stop it down to something like f/11 and this happens:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAh. Depth of Field – so nice of you to join us.

I do have a ring light to use with my macro lens, but unfortunately, it leaves a catch light on subjects and also prevents me from going down to 1:1 magnification since the LED lights add about another inch to the front of the lens. I can actually go down to 1:1, but the LED light casts a shadow instead of illumination at that magnification, so it’s almost moot.

In any case, though the Benbo will probably only see occasional use, it will add tremendous value to my pictures.

So, that’s the subject of the macro tripod from the title. And now, the stupidity.

I had been playing with the different heads on the tripods and trying to see which would be a good fit for the Benbo and I forgot that I had only placed the Amvona pistol-grip ballhead in the bag and had not actually attached it to the tripod legs. Anyway, I had the camera on the couch and the tripods in their bags and I opened the Amvona bag…and out fell the head – right onto the top LCD display of my E-3!!!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s worse than it looks because I already put a piece of clear tape on top to make sure that it doesn’t crack any more. Luckily, the camera is still functional, but unfortunately, the weather-sealing of the E-3 is now ruined since I won’t be able to take the E-3 out in the elements without risk of introducing moisture or dust or sand or whatnot into the body through the LCD.


I had planned on taking the E-3 and 14-54 with me to Ottawa for my trip next week, but alas, I’m going to travel lighter and will take the E-410 and 25/2.8 pancake instead. I can’t risk the E-3 in the cold weather and the snow – it’s a fine camera and I don’t want to lose it. The E-410 and 25/2.8 pancake combo should be small enough to fit in my jacket, so when I’m skating down the canal, I’ll just keep it on my person and not in a bag. I’m a bit wary of blown highlights with the E-410 and with the snow and daylight, it’s going to be highlights galore, but hopefully, I can overcome that with a bit of skill and exposure compensation.

In any case, all of my tripod heads are now probably screwed on and put away!


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