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  Reviews by: Tom Conte  

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Gitzo G1348 Inter Pro Studex Mk2 Carbon Fiber

Review Date: Jan 29, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $621.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sturdy, high quality, great weight holding ability

I'm a firm believer that there is no such thing as a single tripod for every situation. So I've elected to own two, a ultra-packable tripod for short lenses, and this tripod. The G1348 holds a lot of weight, and hence is great for big guns, is sturdy as can be, and packs up to a short two feet.

My motto: a long or bulky tripod is a tripod left in your car, 'nuf said.

I've heard people say that the G1325 is sturdier, but honestly I don't care. What?? Why don't I care? Because when I extend two of of the three extendable leg segments of the G1348, it is the perfect height for me. I don't need the fourth leg segment. The G1325 wouldn't be quite right. (And since you may be trying to figure out if this trick will work for you, I'm 5'9").

Some people don't like the leg locks. There is a trick to this: do not over-tighten the locks! If you do, ultimately, it will require even more tightening, etc., and become more annoying. Tighten the locks one quarter turn past when you first feel resistance, and that's it. Also, extend the leg locks working from the lowest lock first, untwist that, extend, go up the tripod leg. If anything slips, slightly tighten the upper locks. Reverse the procedure to collapse. It is second nature for me now.

Acratech ballhead

Review Date: Jan 29, 2005 Recommend? no | Price paid: $275.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: It is ultra light and very well machined. The design is open so you can clean it. Acratech is a great company to deal with (and you can now buy these at B&H too).
The design became annoying over time. The asymmetry would be perfect if you could tilt the earth at a 45 degree angle. There really isn't a tension limiter or other tension drag control analogue to what conventional ball heads have, and that proved dangerous to me at least once.

I had this ball head for about a year on my Gitzo g1228 so that I could have a light, all-around package for on the go.

At first, I loved this ball head because it was very light weight. But as time went on, in use, I got increasingly annoyed by its design. You have full range of movement in only some directions. For wildlife tracking, there is no good fixed orientation for the ball head. To compensate, you have to leave the panning base unlocked and the ball reasonably loose and hope you don't get into a 'programmed' mode where it won't go where you want it to go.

Also as I mentioned in my negatives, the main knob is progressive, which is good. But there is no tension stop like the Arcaswiss B-1 or the Markins M10 has. So you have to be careful to not open it without supporting your equipment, or bang! I did that once. Call me stupid, sure, but I was just tired. I like torque limiters and missed it on this head.

Ultimately I sold the Ultimate Ball Head after I decided it wasn't cutting it for me.

Markins Q-Ball M10

Review Date: Jan 29, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $300.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Head is smooth as butter, very well finished using "hard-anodized" aluminum process with a metal ball, very light weight (1.12lbs), holds a lot (88lbs)
The supplied clamp has a non-captive knob, and an annoying locking pin (get a different clamp)

There are a lot of contenders for ball heads these days, and this is a category leader in my view. It is extremely well made and operates very smoothly. The main knob is progressive as opposed to 'binary', meaning you can adjust the tension on the fly. Some other ball heads separate the main knob and the tension into two knobs. I think I like the progressive approach better, it's all there. There's an Arca-swiss style finger knob in the main knob that lets you limit how much the main knob can be unlocked, thus providing a tension limit.

This thing is almost as light as the Acratech UBH, but more traditional in styling. If you want a beefier head for, say, atop a Gitzo 3- or 5-series tripod, I'd recommend going for the M20, although the M10 will serve there too.

The panning base is ultra smooth, and that is nice for Wimberley sidekick users.

My only gripe is that the supplied clamp has a non-captive knob (meaning it can be unscrewed and fall off) and also a 'locking pin' that makes sliding the plate on and off impossible without fully unscrewing the clamp. My advice: get the 'NQS' (no quick shoe) version and then get a clamp from Acratech or -- better still -- a lever clamp from RRS.

Also with their distributor now in Canada, it is easier to get one of these. It used to be you had to order from Korea, or from

Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L USM

Review Date: Jan 18, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $1,400.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Incredible bokeh and razor thin depth of field (which when used correctly is extremely powerful), sharp wide open, nice color
Fat and heavy, racks through quite a range so its slow focusing

The best way to experience a 85mm lens is on a full frame camera, and then it just 'makes sense' as a portrait lens. This and a 1Ds is a powerful combination. The bokeh is excellent. There are concerns I hear that this lens is slow to focus, but (if you have a 1-series) set the P.Fn that turns off drive seeking. Then it is not bad at all.

Hands down this is my favorite lens.