Thursday, September 4, 2014

Fujifilm X-T1 tripod setup: MHG-XT handgrip + BH-30 RRS ballhead + MeFoto BackPacker tripod

Over the last few months, I've been on a mission to loose as much weight as possible... not for myself (maybe I should!), but on my camera gear! As part of my "Bye Bye Nikon, Hello Fujifilm" switch from the heavy DSLR to the compact light weight mirrorless gear, I've now also revisited my tripod set-up.


Over the last few years, I've used a very sturdy Gitzo G1257 6X carbon fiber tripod together with a Markins Q20 ballhead. Although they both work great with the X-series Fujifilm cameras, it was clearly a bit of overkill. 


Shortly after I bought my first mirrorless (Fujifilm X-E1) camera, I picked up a  lightweight MeFoto Q0350 tripod. Since then, MeFoto has re-branded their tripods and it is now called the BackPacker series. As of today, it will set you back a very reasonable 150,-USD. Folded, under 30cm (12inches) long, it is perfect as a travel tripod and offers great stability with the X-T1 and 55-200 lens; probably fuji's heaviest camera/lens setup for the time being.


The MeFoto tripods come with its own detachable ballhead (image above, left) but I find these a bit too flimsy to deliver quality work with the heaviest of my mirror-less kit, especially in windy conditions. Now I must say that I did not have the opportunity to use the lasted versions of the MeFoto ballheads, as mine is over a year old and improvements have likely been made. 

Anyway, it was time to look for a higher quality ballhead with about the same size and weight as the MeFoto one. Likely the best place to look for ballheads is Really Right Stuff (RRS) and it quickly became clear that the BH-30 LR had my name on it! At 275,-USD these things are not cheap, but they are extremely well made. Like fine-art machinery if such a thing exists!


Lastly I wasn't entirely happy with the "one size fits all" camera plate provided with the MeFoto ballhead neither. I came close to buying a full size RRS L-bracket for the X-T1, but eventually have settled on the MHG-XT (large) handgrip made by Fujifilm. 


Once screwed to the bottom of the X-T1, the battery can still be easily changed which is a huge plus compared to some of the earlier X-E1 grips. Beside the MHG-XT (large) adds a nice grip which is perfect if shooting the longer lenses such as the 55-200. I picked one up for 109,-USD at my favourite Fujifilm retailer in the UAE; Gulf Photo Plus. By the way, the "small" version of the MHG-T1 is identical expect that it doesn't have the rubber grip on the front. 

Even though an L-plate is great for shooting verticals (including panoramas), I eventually didn't buy one because I found it too bulky (and ugly, sorry RSS). Some issues that have been reported when using cable releases also made me revise my decision. 


As one can see in the image above, one is still able to shoot good verticals with the MHG-T1, by flipping the camera on the ballhead.

Adding everything up, MeFoto tripod, MHG-XT handgrip and the BH-30 ballhead; set me back just over 500,-USD; quite reasonable for a high quality but very lightweight travel tripod setup! 

While the total weight for the original setup without the camera was over 2.2kg, the new setup totals at 1.3kg. As I'm in the process of preparing my next photo-adventure to Burma/Myanmar next November, I know what tripod kit I'll be taking along! 

For the ones wondering, the tripod still fits inside the MeFoto carrying bag with the BH-30 attached.


Last but not least, I did find a great use for my now unused MeFoto ballhead; installed on my GorrilaPod SLR ZOOM it makes for a great combination for places where tripods are not allowed! And my Gitzo carbon fiber tripod; no its not going anywhere for now, as it is still regularly used on jobs closer to home and/or from a parked car...

Remember, "Wherever you go, there you are".
Have a great weekend!

BJORN







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