Review / Really Right Stuff Tripod

BH-55 LR Lever-Release Ballhead

BH-55 LR Lever-Release Ballhead

If you've been watching my In The Field series, you'll have noticed the appearance of my new Really Right Stuff (RRS) tripod and ballhead. I'd been in the market the latter half of 2014 for a new tripod, I saved my pennies, and settled on the TVC-34L LR package. Update: In 2018, I added the TVC-24 Mk2 tripod to my arsenal with a BH-40 ballhead.

You can click the image or link to go directly to the product page for all the specs. The key factor for me in choosing this package over others in the RRS lineup was height range, no center column, and a level release for the camera. The 34L fit the bill... and it helped that other photographers I admire use a similar setup.

A few weeks back I wrote a post about gear. Gear is important - or more accurately the right gear is important. I'm interested in gear that will help me make better photos and advance my photography. The RSS tripod and ballhead definitely fall into that category.

So... what do I like about this tripod?

  • Stability: The tripod is rock solid. This is very important to me - my tripod is my anchor to the earth. In my older Dolica tripod, I noticed "creep" during longer shoots - an ever-so-slight change in the composition because the ballhead would slip. Zero issues with the RSS kit. I also like that the three legs don't meet at a narrow point. Rather, they connect to a large base, forming a very stable platform for the ballhead. 
  • Large Ballhead Knobs: The knobs are large, which makes working with gloves on much easier. Gloves, Scott? You're in San Diego? Before sunrise, the desert is surprisingly cold, often below freezing. So I do wear gloves from time to time. The tension adjuster is also nice, giving me complete control over how freely the ballhead moves when the main locking knob is disengaged.
  • Ratcheted Stops: The stops are spring loaded. Pull out the stop and raise the tripod leg, and the stops automatically engage at the top setting. As the leg is lowered, the stops spring into the next locking position. Less fiddling with the stops. And they're large enough too to keep the gloves on while working them.
  • Height Range: The height range is from about 4 inches (10cm) to about 6 feet (1.8m) - and no center column! On beach shoots, I'd occasionally dig a hole in the sand to accommodate the center column on my older tripod so I could get really low. That's not an option in the mountains or on a city sidewalk. I can get really low, very easily. On the opposite end of the scale, the 6' reach is nice. Although now I with my camera had an articulating screen!
  • Lever Release: The etched markings make it easy to dismount the camera, clean a lens, and remount the camera while maintaining a composition. A little extra money, but worth it. 

Speaking of money, that's one of the pills I swallowed purchasing this tripod. RSS gear is not inexpensive. I considered other brands, got itchy knowing I'd outgrown my Dolica, but fought off the urge to buy until I'd saved the money. I easily see using this tripod for 10 years or more, so the money spent now will be worth it in the long run.

It also took a few weeks to get accustomed to the weight of the tripod and ballhead. It's heavier than what I'd been carrying - and a certain weight is needed. A tripod needs to be stable, and some of that is weight. I'm used to it now and it's not a factor for me anymore.

Is there anything you don't like? There is one thing... the L-bracket camera mount for the ballhead. RRS makes custom L-brackets for a slew of cameras to fit their ballheads. The designs are decent, it's quick and easy to mount your camera vertically or horizontally, and the bracket doesn't block access to the battery chamber. (The brackets are pricey!)

The issue I have is the bracket for the D7000 hinders access the peripheral ports. This poses a problem for cable releases or other peripherals you want to use. I could disassemble the bracket and remove the vertical mount - but that's not good. I want the ease of switching between vertical and horizontal.

The workaround is not to place the L-bracket flush against the camera body. And that works for the horizontal position. The workaround is clunky for me. I prefer order vs. chaos and the off-center mounting agitated my mild OCD. The bigger problem is in the vertical position, the clearance isn't enough to connect my cable release. Maybe the connector on mine is longer than the "usual" cable release (not that I own anything unusual).

The solution? I bought a $6 wireless trigger on Amazon. Actually, re-bought. My original one is lost somewhere on a San Diego beach. The wireless remote solves most shooting situation. I can't lock the shutter for continuous shooting with the wireless remote. I'll do that when capturing star trails, and so my cable release remains in my camera bag. I have not figured out what I'm going to do if I want to shoot star trails in a vertical orientation.

All in all, I'm very happy with the RSS tripod and ballhead.

What tripod do you own? What do you like or dislike about it?

Mount L-Bracket off center to access peripheral ports

L-Bracket Clearance Insufficient when mounted vertically