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  Friday  August 12  2005    10: 56 PM


I've been looking for a heavy duty tripod. My Burke and James 5x7 is well under the weight limit of the head on my Manfrotto but that Burke & James really hangs out there with the bellows extended and the Manfrotto is just too flexible. Heavy duty tripods start getting pricey. $400 to $500 is not unreasonable for a sturdy tripod to support a large format camera. Surveyor tripods are a lower cost alternative. But I kept running across a tipod I never heard of before — the Majestic Tripod. It's unique in that it has a gear head. There are a variety of tripod and head made by Majestic. They go back but are still in production: Bencher. You can find them for as little as $70 but they normally go for $150 to $250 for the better ones. The one I wanted goes for $800 to $900 new. I finally got the model I wanted for $107.

It's not a tripod. It's a TRIPOD. It weighs around 18 pounds and is SOLID. I hope I can carry it around. Sally Mann, who is quite a bit smaller than I am, used one with an 8x10 view camera. I should be able to manage. In it's lowest position the platform is 36" (3 feet) high.

It's easy to set up. Each leg has it's own spirit level. The position of each leg is set by a sliding brace that clamps. All the clamps on the tripod CLAMP.

The business end of the head. The lower crank cranks the center column. I'm not used to center columns that are SOLID. Usually I set the height with the legs. With this tripod you set the head low and crank away. The upper crank is for the gear head. cranking it moved the camera fore and aft. No clamping needed. You crank to the position you want and that's that. It's not going anywhere. How high does it go?

The legs are single extendables. The geared center column has a sliding column inside it so that the top of the platform is 96" (8 feet) high. The legs are getting a bit wobbly at 8 feet. It's easy to apply a rotating force to the head and deflect the legs. If that bothers you there is one model up from this one that has three double legs.

Most heads are held on with a 3/8" bolt. The Majestics use a post although there are some model heads that take the puny bolt. Just loosen the clamp and the head just slides off the post.

This is one of the reasons I went for this particular tripod — the extension arm. It just slides onto the post and the other end has a post for the head. Quick and easy.

And it just slides and clamps onto the bottom of the center column, too.

Lossen a clamp and there is about 15 degrees side to side motion.

The gear head moves 90 degrees forward.

It would probably move that much aft but the handle hits the camera. Of course you can just rotate the camera 180 degrees on the platform and crank it foward to get the camera to look straight up. It hardly notices the 5x7. An 8x 10 would be no problem. This tripod is truly worth of it's name — MAJESTIC.