In a recent blog post I discussed tripods, additionally listing potential models to consider. The topic is coming back to the forefront, though, because a new company is making serious waves on Kickstarter that are necessitating additional discussion.
Colorado-based tripod company, ‘Colorado Tripod Company’ (clever, eh?), is introducing what they claim to be ‘the world’s first titanium tripod system’. They are making some pretty bold claims on their Kickstarter page, like that their new tripods are more stable than Gitzo tripods, and better constructed than Really Right Stuff ballheads.
Colorado Tripod Company’s(CTC) claim that they are making the “world’s first titanium system,” is not exactly accurate. They must be forgetting Gitzo’s 90th anniversary titanium system release. Sure, only 390 were produced, and they sold for about $2,500, but technically they did get there first.
CTC promises to offer a titanium system that is also affordable. The main allure of a titanium system is the amazing strength-to-weight ratio that titanium possesses. Although titanium is denser than aluminum (which is what most tripods are constructed from), titanium has double the strength of aluminum. Thus, either titanium tripods will be much stronger or the same strength at a much lighter weight. The idea is interesting so let’s look at the specific models that CTC is introducing.
Titanium Versus Aluminum
- Titanium is stronger – 2x the strength at the same weight as aluminum
- Aluminum is an easier material to work with for manufacturers
- Titanium is a more expensive material
CTC is releasing three ballheads, two aluminums ballheads and one titanium. The Highline Ballhead is showcased below.
CTC is introducing the Highline as an aluminum head and a titanium head. The thing that instantly stands out, in my mind, is the price tag. $499 MSRP puts it up there with the most expensive offerings from Gitzo and Really Right Stuff, which means that the titanium head is going to have to really deliver to live up to its price. As hinted above, the titanium head is lighter than its aluminum counterpart, and it delivers the same locking force.
CTC is also releasing two tripod models, both dubbed the ‘Centennial;’ one is made from carbon fiber and machine aluminum and the other is made from carbon fiber and machined titanium. Both models are competitively priced, with the Al version at $299 and the Ti version at $899. CTC is aiming to do business similarly to Gitzo, where they have high-end offerings, but also ‘budget’ offerings in their Aluminum series. CTC is using a very interesting machining process that aims for the highest quality possible, they also say their $299 Centennial Al will be just as stable as $700 offerings from Gitzo due to their machining process and the quality of their raw materials.
- CTC claims that their ballheads solve ‘the right-hand problem’ and increase range of motion
CTC says that ballheads have been manufactured by many companies that ignore the fact that cameras are produced as right-handed machines, but ballheads are never optimized for the left hand…so you can shoot/move camera with your right hand and adjust your ballhead with your left. They also introduce a large ‘slot’ opening where you can drop the ballhead down to switch from horizontal to vertical orientation. These are both good ideas, I definitely recall times where I’ve fumbled with my tripod A LOT to get setup for a shot. And that meant adjusting the knobs with both hands and not having the motion I wanted when going vertically. However, one simple thing has ended all of that pain and suffering for me – an L-bracket. So, although I think these ideas are good, I think CTC is overlooking how many photographers use an L-bracket or might use one in the future. L-brackets have already solved these issues.
- Worlds first titanium hollowballs and tripods
Now, this is cool. Although the price is very high for CTC’s Highline Ti ballhead, it’s a good sign for the future. If manufacturers can figure out how to efficiently use titanium to construct ballheads and tripods then that means that the weight of our setup is going to go way down. Anytime weight can be shaved off a camera setup, that’s a good thing. So, hopefully other companies will also start to experiment with titanium and we will see the price drop down. It’s possible titanium flops too, but if it doesn’t, we are going to be treated to some super strong and super light tripods in the future.
- Innovative Manufacturing Process
Most of the market uses magnesium casting as their production process of choice when it comes to manufacturing tripods. Gitzo, Induro, and Manfrotto all use this process, along with many others. Magnesium casting allows for fast production times and is less expensive. CTC uses a different method, one called CNC machining. CTC is able to use this process to machine productions from solid blocks of metal. This allows for the creation of more precise and durable parts, with beautiful finishes – something not really possible with cast molding. Cost of business is definitely higher for CTC with this method, but they are using this method of production for all tripods. Which means, we could actually see a $299 tripod that truly is stable and high quality. We really don’t have that on the market right now.
- No Quick Lever-Release?
Along with an L-bracket, I think a lever-assisted quick release system for a ballhead is one of the most important tripod accessories or features available. Really Right Stuff’s lever system is absolutely amazing, you can pull the lever and swap orientation or pull off your camera in just seconds. I don’t like the screw system on the CTC ballhead plates, it’s frustrating and you lose precious time when you’re shooting a fleeting moment or fast-moving wildlife. I think the lever-release is a feature that all high-quality tripods should have and I’m disappointed to see an innovative titanium ballhead without a lever release.
- Marketing? Or Real Deal
As a photographer who spends a lot of days in the field each year, I want the best gear. It makes my life easier, and my gear lasts forever. I know how good Gitzo and Really Right Stuff tripods are, I also know how expensive they are. I don’t think CTC can just come in and revolutionize the market, even though their marketing campaign makes it seem like that’s possible. I do think these tripods might be fantastic for the price though. That means that photographers out there seeking a budget option could be in luck. If titanium really does pan out, we could see a new trend in the high-end tripod market as well, which would be really cool. I am always interested in saving weight, but still maintaining the features that are most important to me in the field. We will have to wait and see what happens, but if you want to take advantage of the deal on Kickstarter, head over to the link and take advantage of the discount.
Matt Meisenheimer is a photographer based in Wisconsin. His artistry revolves around finding unique compositions and exploring locations that few have seen. He strives to capture those brief moments of dramatic light and weather, which make our grand landscapes so special. Matt loves the process of photography – from planning trips and scouting locations, taking the shot in-field, to post-processing the final image.
Matt is an active adventurer and wildlife enthusiast as well. He graduated with a degree in wildlife ecology and worked in Denali National Park and Mount Rainier National Park as a biologist. He also spent 6 months working in the deserts of Namibia before finding his path in photography. Matt’s passion for the wilderness has taken him to many beautiful places around the world.
As a former university teaching assistant, Matt is passionate about instruction. It is his goal to give his students the technical and creative knowledge they need to achieve their own photographic vision. He truly enjoys working with photographers on a personal level and helping them reach their goals.
You can see Matt’s work and portfolio on his webpage at www.meisphotography.com