My search for the perfect tripod has been a long and arduous journey. The truth is I’m not a big fan of using tripods because I feel they interfere with my creative flow. However, the thing about tripods is they’re like shopping for a good set of tires; We all know we need decent tires to keep our cars on the road because like tripods they help keep us stable, but I know few people that truly enjoy tire or tripod shopping. Good ones aren’t cheap, and they certainly aren’t sexy. Yet the reality is a good tripod isn’t a frivolous accessory but downright necessity! To make matters worse, there’s one for any budget and the choices are endless. The builds and performance vary greatly, and often improve as the price goes up.
What finally drove me to buy a new tripod was while reviewing my images on a 1:1 scale in Lightroom, I noticed that I was experiencing camera shake in some situations. The reality is if you don’t have a sturdy base then using mirror up (for DSLR) and remote shutter release still won’t make a difference. So, I decided to bite the bullet and started my search.
I started by creating a list of must haves:
1. One time investment. I want tripod that’s built to last.
2. Small enough to pack into a standard 22 inch carry-on suitcase.
3. Light and sturdy carbon fiber.
4. Three section tripod to provide maximum support.
5. Large enough base to support a beefier BH-55 ballhead.
6. A solid warranty.
After much research I found myself vacillating between Gitzo and Really Right Stuff models. My travel tripod is a Gitzo and I love it, but my ball head is a Really Right Stuff which I love as well. What finally made me decide on the Really Right Stuff TVC-33 was price was great, the size seemed perfect, and it’s Made in the USA.
My Impressions of the Really Right Stuff TVC-33
The TVC-33 comes in three sizes and I found the TVC-33 (S) fit my needs perfectly. Generally speaking you want a tripod that allows you to put your camera at your eye level, and being 5’8” (I think like a tall person, but alas, I guess I’m not :)) with the ball head and camera it comes in at the perfect height. The weight and build on this tripod are simply amazing. I honestly was blown away by it’s build and how sturdy it felt. I remember turning to Staci and telling her I should have upgraded my tripod years ago. It’s sort of like that moment you put a wide angle lens on a full frame camera and you find yourself going “Oh, this is what I’ve been missing out on!” Well, it’s the same “ah-ha” moment.
I’ve been using the tripod for over three months and I’m in love with it. My only complaint is the rubber feet tend to loosen with vibration. The road to the Racetrack Playa in Death Valley is a real “treat” and quite bumpy to say the least. I suspect that the vibrations loosened one of the feet, and upon removing it from my truck, it was lost. I contacted Really Right Stuff and they reminded me that the feet need to be checked and retightened periodically. If you don’t plan on ever swapping out your rubber feet for spikes, they suggest using Loctite (which they sell) to insure the feet never come loose. Regardless, they responded by sending me the replacement foot as a courtesy. It arrived promptly which is another benefit from buying locally and from a company with excellent service.
Really Right Stuff’s ballheads and tripods are built to last and should be looked at as an investment. I usually suffer from buyer’s remorse because I find myself wondering if I made the right decision, but I can tell you, I have had zero regrets with my TVC 33!
As a quick reminder: I paid full price for this tripod and have no affiliation with Really Right Stuff.
Update: I recently bought a leveling base for this tripod after seeing it in action by one of my student at our Yellowstone photo workshop. It truly was one of those aha-moments. I've owned the tripod for well over a year and other than the occasional tightening of the legs it's been a rock solid performer.