A wooden tripod

My first tripod, a Slik,  was found in a garage sale many years ago. It was made out of aluminium tubing, light, easy to handle and erect and fairly non-wobbly. Or so I thought…

A friend photographer of mine has been using a wooden tripod for years. A long , heavy  and expensive piece of gear but he is very fond of it. It will spreadeagle over any terrain and always end up very stable no matter where it is setup.  My friend is into landscape and flower photography and depending on light he does not hesitate to have shutter times of several seconds. Now that is someting my aluminium tripod was not suited for!

His tripod stayed put wherever he put it, mine always vibrated at least a bit, and at least when the camera on top of it was one of the heavier ones. It could take the weight of the 5D2 but the Mamiya 645 was out of the question.

For some of years I lived with the situation but the last few years my equipment has been endowed with a Berlebach Report 9033 wooden tripod. What a great tripod! Yes, it is heavy (2.9 kg), yes, you don’t easily carry it around, and yes, you cannot fit it in your hand baggage at the airport no matter how hard you try (77 cm collapsed, 154 cm full length). But who cares? It is a joy to use! And it delivers! Rock steady everywhere! It takes the Mamiya 645 gear with no hassle (update: It also easily takes my 4×5″/5×7″ large format camera too).

The construction is a bit unusual in that the head is built in to the tripod. That is both a good and a bad idea. The good part of it is that the head tends to be small and also stable as it is an integral part of the tripod. The head can be tilted around a somewhat due to the ball under the mounting plate. The downside of this construction is that taking pictures in portrait orientation is impossible.  As most of my shots are, if not of landscapes, certainly in landscape orientation I often get by anyway. The mounting plate has a small circular bubble for orienting the horizontal if needed.

Apparently wood dampens vibrations better than aluminium. Or so the sales brochure says anyway. From my use of it over the years  I can testify that it is indeed very well damped and vibrations are never a problem nowadays. So while I have not used another tripod of the same construction I must concur that the wooden Berlebach is first class.

Another feature of the wooden construction is that wood never feels quite as cold as metal. Even in extremely cold weather the tripod never drain the hands from their heat, very comfortable. And when left in the sun it does not tend to get very warm either.

There is only one thing about the tripod I would like to see changed. The leg-locks are made out of knobs you screw to loose and tighten. A quicker way would have been great. The old Slik had them, sure Berlebach should have them too?

Of course all this comes with a price tag. At some £300 it is not exactly cheap. Then again, it is no toy. Is it worth it? For me definitely so. But then I am prepared for the hassle of carrying it with me. Cameras come and go but lenses and tripods last. The Berlebach is built to last.

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