Australian cinematographer cum director cum LUTmaker Paul Leeming took advantage of a break away from the Australian bushfires, torrential rains and floods to drop by our Sydney home studio and shoot some footage on our Fujifilm X-Pro2 and a loaner Fujifilm X-T3, courtesy of Fujifilm Australia.
Mr Leeming was on his annual Australian jaunt after completing photography for a feature film set in Osaka, to eventually return to his domicile in the Netherlands where he will get back to working on Leeming LUT Pro custom look-up tables for the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, Fujifilm X-T3, Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Panasonic cameras including the GH5 and GH5S, amongst others.
He shot the feature on two fundamentally different cameras, Panasonic’s Lumix DC-GH5S and the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, and Leeming LUT Pro will play a crucial role in ensuring easy editing and colour grading of HLG and raw video footage.
Leeming LUT Pro™ is the world’s first unified, corrective Look Up Table ( LUT ) system for supported cameras, designed to maximise dynamic range, fix skin tones, remove unwanted colour casts and provide an accurate Rec709 starting point for further creative colour grading.
Multi-camera shoots are now much easier, because you are starting with a common, colour-matched baseline, meaning much less time trying to match cameras in post before starting your creative grading.
Once all your cameras have been corrected, you can optionally use the specially matched Leeming LUT Pro Quickies™ for a one-touch creative grade designed to work seamlessly with the common baseline of Leeming LUT Pro™ corrected footage.
Save hours of frustration and give your footage the best possible quality right out the gate. It’s as easy as Shoot – Apply Leeming LUT Pro™ – Done!
Leeming LUT Pro custom LUTs coming for Fujifilm X-Pro2 and X-T3
Fujifilm X-Pro2 with Fujinon XF 23mm f/2.0 R WR lens, both in Graphite.
Fujifilm X-T3 with VG-XT3 Vertical Battery Grip and Fujifilm XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS zoom lens.
Mr Leeming shot colour chart footage using the ProNeg Standard film simulation on the Fujifilm X-Pro2 camera, and in the Eterna, F-log and HLG picture profiles on the X-T3.
His preferred profile when shooting with Panasonic cameras is HLG and it is likely that Fujifilm’s HLG will prove to have the same benefits when shooting for high dynamic range aka HDR and standard dynamic range aka SDR output.
I recently shot some HLG footage on the X-T3 in available darkness and the results were impressive to say the least.
Always carry a grey card for white balancing video
I have been guilty of forgetting to carry a grey card when out with my camera each day due to the ones I have being a little too large for my daily carry camera bag, so it is good to know there are smaller and cheaper – free! – alternatives available at your local hardware store so long as it stocks Taubmans paint.
Paul Leeming Shooting Footage for Leeming LUT Pro for Fujifilm X-T3 and X-Pro2
“We have just released Version 3.0 of our popular Modular Belt System, with improved access speed and ease while accommodating for today’s gear. The Modular Belt System moves weight from your shoulders to your waists for more comfortable all-day carry. Many of the new pouches are expandable to fit pro-sized lenses with hoods in the shooting position….”
The news earlier this month that Think Tank Photo has updated its Modular Belt System to version 3.0 is welcome indeed here at ‘Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success’ as we are in the throes of refining our equipment carrying system for transporting gear in the field and on planes, trains and automobiles.
I chose Think Tank Photo products some years ago on discovering its Wired Up Multimedia system when getting back into photography and video production while needing an integrated system for carrying audio equipment, cameras, lenses and accessories of all sorts and sizes.
I went on a quest to buy every bag in the Wired Up Multimedia system after it suddenly vanished from Think Tank Photo’s website and the retailers stocking it here, and use its components still, but I have long needed to expand it with newer offerings better designed for more contemporary mirrorless cameras, lenses, audio equipment and other many and various accessories by other equally innovative brands such as 3 Legged Thing, Fujifilm, Olympus, Panasonic, Peak Design, Røde Microphones, Rotolight, Tascam, Zoom and more.
The core of the broader integrated production system I am putting together for my documentary photography and video work now may well be Think Tank Photo’s Modular Belt System V3.0 along with the company’s Naked Shape Shifter 17 V2.0 (or its possible V3.0 successor).
Integration seems to be name of the game as production gear makers in different countries partner with each other in making their gear work together in ways that never occurred before.
I will be poring over the components within Think Tank Photo’s Modular Belt System V3.0 via its PDF and website in order to work out the best combination for me, in the absence of a local stockist with plenty of Think Tank Photo product on its shelves for a good try before you buy now that professional suppliers L&P Photographics in Artarmon and Foto Riesel in Sydney are sadly no more.
Think Tank Photo Modular Belt System V3.0 and related items
Think Tank Photo’s Modular Essentials Set V3.0 from the new Think Tank Photo Modular Belt System V3.0 can make a good starter set of Speed Belt-mounted camera bags for cameras, lenses, accessories, personal items and hydration supplies.
Think Tank Photo Pro Speed Belt V3.0 is the core of the Think Tank Photo Modular Component System.
Think Tank Photo Pixel Racing Harness V3.0 attaches to the Think Tank Photo Pro Speed Belt V3.0 for even more fatigue relief and attachment points for bags, camera straps and other items.
Think Tank Photo modular bags attach to speed belts and camera bag side rails with this tongue and flap system so they stay in one place on the belt or rail or are able to be moved into place as needed. To anchor the bag in one spot for the duration, place the tongue into a loop like this. For free movement, place the tongue over the loop.
Think Tank Photo Naked Shape Shifter 17 V2.0 is specially designed with internal rails for attaching Modular Components System pouches and belts. Use it to carry your system onsite, belt up then keep the Naked Shape Shifter on your back to carry personal items and rain jacket, or for rapid packing when your shoot is completed.
Think Tank Photo Speed Belt and Modular Belt System V3.0 components make for fast, easy access to all your gear on location instead of fiddling with shoulder bags or backpacks.
Think Tank Photo Little Stuff It! V3.0 can be attached to a belt, bag rail or vertical straps such as Think Tank Photo Pixel Racing Harness V3.0 or straps on other camera bags and backpacks. I want one so I can keep my mobile phone and other small daily necessities in it then swap from bag to bag at speed.
Think Tank Photo Camera Clip Adapter V3.0 enables you to hang cameras off your Speed Belt or camera bag rail via camera clips made by Peak Design or the Spider brand’s Spider Light or Spider Pro.
Think Tank Photo Stuff It! V3.0 can hold a wide variety of small items. I have two of its predecessor, Stuff It! V2.0, and use them attached to backpacks and waist packs. One always holds my personal items for easy transfer between bags.
Think Tank Photo Stuff It! V3.0 can hold keys, reporters’ notebooks, pens, pencils, mobile phones, business cards and plenty more besides. I have two version 2.0 Stuff It! bags.
Think Tank Photo Credential Holder Tall v2.0 for holding press passes, credentials papers, business cards, mobile phones, pens, pencils and more. I have one small and one tall, ready-packed for when I need to dash off to cover an event.
Instead of leaving your water bottle in the side pocket of your Think Tank backpack, carry it with you at all times on your Think Tank Speed Belt. Think Tank Photo R U Thirsty V3.0 can also make a good holder for mini umbrellas.
Think Tank Photo Hubba Hubba Hiney V3.0 may have started life as a camera bum bag concept but it can be so much more than that, the core bag component of your modular belt system for carrying gear while shooting.
Think Tank Photo Lens Changer 25 with cover over the lens for better protection. Think Tank Photo’s Modular Component System V3.0 contains six version 3.0 Lens Changer bags.
Think Tank Photo Speed Changer V3.0 can hold one battery grip-equipped DSLR or mirrorless camera, or several lenses or a myriad of small items of various sorts.
Think Tank Photo Speed Changer V3.0 can carry several small lenses, SSD or hard drives, batteries, SD card holders or other accessories.
Think Tank Photo Speed Changer V3.0 can also carry a range of smaller items in its two front compartments.
Think Tank Photo Slim Changer V3.0 can carry lenses, a non-gripped DSLR or mirrorless camera or other small accessories and production equipment.
MindShift Gear – website – Think Tank Photo’s companion brand for outdoor adventure bags and accessories.
Peak Design – website – many Peak Design products work in synergy with Think Tank Photo and Mindshift Gear products.
One thing my partner learned from ten years working in Canon’s research and development division is that even photographic market leaders have hardware and firmware blindspots, and in that instance they were legion and persistent, and remain so to this day.
Fujifilm has its own persistent camera and lens hardware and firmware idiosyncrasies, which I have covered in other articles on this site, with one of its most recent hardware blindspots being the failure to issue a hand grip for the camera most in need of one, the Fujifilm X100F.
When I managed to see an X100, I was impressed by Fujifilm’s achievement but dismayed by its minimal built-in grip and the slipperiness of its tiny body.
I ordered one and it arrived just before a trip to San Francisco where I carried it everywhere every day.
It helped me produce some terrific photographs but my ability to hold it comfortably and safely at all times was compromised by the lack of a hand grip, despite finding a reasonable wrist strap to attach the camera.
I eventually came across Fujifilm’s MHG-X100 hand grip and snapped it up, attaching it to the camera along with Peak Design’s Clutch and Cuff camera straps.
I was impressed by how Fujifilm had thought of everything, by designing a rectangular notch into the side of the hand grip to allow attaching camera straps like the first one I bought for it, from San Francisco’s DSPTCH travel company.
Gallery of X100 images, before and after hand grip
The top three photographs were made when I did not have a hand grip for my X100, and the three photographs below were made after I bought a Fujifilm hand grip.
The safer former grip afforded by the hand grip gave me far more confidence and allowed me to be far more gestural in my approach, working faster and getting close in to the action.
I use my X100 with hand grip for documentary projects to this day.
No Fujifilm hand grip for the X100F!
I was shocked to learn that Fujifilm had failed to produce an updated version of its MHG-X100 hand grip for the X100F, when I was kindly loaned an X100F.
Like the X100 and its two successors, the X100S and X100T, the X100F’s body is small and slippery, and its taller built-in slippery grip bump does little or nothing to aid in ensuring a good hand-hold of the camera.
I attached my usual Peak Design Clutch and Cuff via Peak Design’s Arca-Swiss compatible camera plate, as in the photographs above, but it was a compromise compared to my hand-grip-plus-camera-straps solution for the X100.
Compromise, too is the word I would apply to each third party camera grip design I have seen online so far, linked to in my list of links blow.
None of them appeal to me and I am wondering whether even Really Right Stuff’s L-Plate Set and Grip might be worth the investment given its size, weight and slippery CNC surface, despite the potential usefulness of its optional L-Component for tripod-mounting in portrait orientation via an Arca-Swiss tripod head.
Really Right Stuff’s X100F solution has one really big downside besides slipperiness, size, expense and weight, and that is its lack of provision for attaching my two Peak Design camera straps.
Instead the company offers its Magpul Gen 2 MS4 Dual QD Sling for carrying the plated and gripped-up X100F rather than my smaller, safer, lighter and more elegant Clutch plus Cuff solution.
A long, long time ago… even the Leica CL, Leitz Minolta CL and Minolta CLE had a hand grip
My first thought on first seeing preview images of the Fujifilm Finepix X100 online some years ago was that it might be the closest digital equivalent to a Leica CL, Leitz Minolta CL or a Minolta CLE.
The Leitz camera company, now Leica Camera AG, reportedly killed off the Leica CL as sales were eating into those of the far more expensive Leica M5, and having seen and tried an M5 I can see why.
According to Ken Rockwell, “the CLE is a joy to carry, and a joy to shoot” and that it “could be photography’s messiah: the smallest, lightest possible solution for a complete advanced camera system” but as none of its versions appeared in my part of the world at the time I have never had the pleasure of using one.
It is remarkable how popular the Minolta CLE remains amongst those in the know to this day, including Take Kayo of Big Head Taco who reportedly has two of them.
Three lenses were created specially for these three cameras – the Minolta M-Rokkor 28mm f/2.8 wide-angle, the M-Rokkor 40mm f/2.0 “perfect normal” and the M-Rokkor 90mm f/4.0 medium telephoto.
“Remain inconspicuous while shooting with Think Tank’s new Spectral Shoulder Bag. A magnetic Fidlock clasp enables quiet, one-handed access your gear — then locks automatically when closing the flap. An additional zippered closure gives you piece of mind while traveling and can be tucked away when you’re actively shooting. Constructed with durable yet stylish materials, the Spectral Shoulder Bag offers Think Tank quality and ingenuity at a reasonable price.”
Think Tank Photo’s new 3-strong leather-free Spectral line of shoulder bags is a refreshing change from the leather-trimmed product revisions it has released in recent years.
Based on Think Tank Photo’s information about the Spectral 8, it may prove to be a useful one-camera, several-lenses option for slow and steady documentary photography or cinematography with, say, a Røde VideoMic Pro+ in place of the 50-140mm zoom lens.
Think Tank Photo Spectral 8 shoulder bag with Fujifilm camera and lenses.
Think Tank Photo Spectral 8 shoulder bag with Fujifilm camera and lenses.
Think Tank Photo Spectral 8 shoulder bag with 3 Legged Thing Albert travel tripod.
An Evolving Focus
The company’s marketing email and website product shots are increasingly featuring mirrorless cameras and lenses in addition to its tradition emphasis on DSLRs, with focus on Fujifilm APS-C and Sony digital 35mm mirrorless camera though Panasonic’s increasingly popular Lumix M43/Super 16 hybrid stills/video cameras have yet to make an appearance so far as I can tell.
Both moves are welcome and I would love to see Think Tank Photo add Panasonic’s GH5 and professional lenses for video and stills, for example, to its product shot scheduling.
I note that 3 Legged Thing’s also increasingly popular tripods are also starting to feature in TTP marketing material.
Seeing gear that one actually uses being featured in emails and web pages helps make better-informed purchasing decisions given many of us often do not live near a good bricks-and-mortar stockist where one can try-before-buy and so must rely on sight-unseen purchases at online retailers in other countries.
Not all mirrorless cameras and lenses have the same dimensions nor do they fit in the same bags, I have often discovered, so photographic evidence of good fit is incredibly useful and helps avoid purchases one soon comes to regret.
The Ever-growing Scourge of Mould
Leather, and certain plastics, are susceptible to the growing epidemics of mould infection popping up in places like Sydney with the onset of major climate change.
Although it has proven possible to chemically remove mould from the surface of leather and some synthetic materials, mould spores remain beneath the surface ready to spring into action should the weather change yet again.
As a result, we have had to throw out many leather and leather-trimmed products including camera bags to avoid the risk of mould and mould spores spreading to our photographic equipment.
We have been shocked to discover expensive bags made of synthetic fabrics infected with mould and mould spores too, though not all woven plastics are susceptible.
There are two other considerations in the use of leather in constructing and decoratively trimming camera bags, cruelty and environmental responsibility.
My Plea for Leather-Free
Industrial agriculture’s animal husbandry practices are inherently cruel, and contribute huge amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, apparently to a greater extent than emission from motor cars.
I wish to see camera bag and accessories makers take up the challenge to go 100% leather-free and pro-vegan from now onwards.
Wildly innovative British tripod and tripod accessories maker 3 Legged Thing has updated its website while launching its new QR11 Universal L-Bracket, with the side benefit of making the entire 3 Legged Thing product range more comprehensible via plenty of product shots and descriptions. An unexpected revelation of the new website is the addition of a second pro tripod colourway alongside established bronze and blue Equinox in the form of the more subdued Eclipse.
3 Legged Thing describes its new Eclipse colourway as “metallic slate with subtle hints of British Racing Green”, appealing perhaps to the patriots and Anglophiles in the photographic community but also useful in potentially drawing less unwanted attention to the presence of a tripod-using photographer in places where tripod laws and regulations still reign.
I rather like 3 Legged Thing’s beautifully anodized blue and bronze Equinox colourway and find mostly-grey Eclipse dull by comparison though the copper orange accents shared by each spice up the Eclipse look as much as it does Equinox.
Although I do not own a 3 Legged Thing tripod yet, I was lucky enough to try one out when I began the Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success project and learned firsthand how innovatively designed and carefully manufactured 3 Legged Thing’s products are.
3 Legged Thing’s 3 Professional tripod range – Leo, Albert and Winston
My experiences with the Equinox Leo Carbon Fibre Tripod System & AirHed Light, now updated in the form of the Equinox Leo Kit that includes the Airhed Switch, were so positive that I added the next model up, the Equinox Albert Kit which includes the Airhed 360, to my stills photography wishlist.
In the course of the tryout I discovered that the jewel-like colours and finish of the Equinox Leo drew in and even fascinated portrait sitters so they focussed more on the experience of being before camera and tripod, taking their minds off innate self-consciousness.
I was reminded how the relatively unusual sheet film and 120 roll film cameras I favoured for portraiture during the analog era created a similar fascination in my sitters and concluded that any hardware with that capability had to be a good thing.
Today’s digital cameras are bland-looking things in comparison to those hand-made marvels of optical and mechanical design and engineering to the point where I often blend into the crowd, or the darkness, even when standing right in front of a subject mere centimetres away from their eyes.
A tripod-shaped place in my heart
After almost a lifetime of being a tripod and monopod user when shooting photography and video, I have owned, sold off or lost through theft a great many of them and none has won a special place in my heart apart from the very first, a black Leitz Tiltall exactly the same as one depicted in the first photography book I bought about the work of two female photographers in the United States.
That first tripod of mine was described by its US makers as “The Leica of Tripods” and its high quality design and engineering prompted me to investigate Leica cameras, after which I quickly sold off my Nikons and invested in Leica M-System rangefinder cameras and lenses.
As the demands of my professional work increased, so did the size and weight of the tripods with which I attempted to replace my lost Tiltall.
Not one could have been considered a “micro-traveler” or even a “travel tripod”, terms 3 Legged Thing rightly uses to describe its Leo and Albert, and were more in the league of 3 Legged Thing’s Winston and beyond.
I owned all those many tripods in the days before carbon fibre and portability were considered common standards to aspire to and one British-made tripod in particular, bought for corporate photography assignments in the deserts of Western Australia, presented a real transportation challenge due to its size and weight.
Despite that, it was a stellar performer in the nastiest of conditions and I miss it still when needing a tripod capable of bizarre angles or positioning, or of carrying the heaviest of heavy loads; pity that particular model was discontinued when the company sold itself and the new owners chose to truncate the product range.
The QR11 Universal L-Bracket
3 Legged Thing’s new universal L-Bracket is available to two versions, the Equinox Copper-coloured QR11-LC and the Eclipse Metallic Slate-coloured QR11-LG. Your choice will hinge on how much attention you want to draw and whether you like 3LT’s Copper colour.
Given I am considering buying an Equinox Albert travel tripod for easy carrying to shoot portrait-orientation head-and-shoulders portraits and landscape-orientation environmental portraits, I may well opt for a QR11-LC.
Being about to dip my toes into the multicoloured Equinox colourway, why not go that little bit further with an orange-ish L-Bracket to match the orangeish accents on the Albert?
Until coming across QR11 online, I had never seriously considered a universal L-bracket of any brand. Despite digital cameras of all formats being more similar in their sizes and designs than analog cameras of all formats could ever be, any “universal” accessory must of necessity be a compromise, neither fish nor fowl, good in parts but not perfect in all of them.
I had been leaning towards custom L-Brackets for all my cameras for the obvious reason that each is designed to fit its intended cameras perfectly, allowing full access to the camera’s functions and especially its battery and card compartments.
Then the downside of relying on a range of third party custom accessories marks became apparent, with sudden discontinuation of L-Brackets for still-current cameras, as well as the many variations between third party brands, and their design and manufacturing quality.
Strike that particular accessories maker off the wishlist for L-Brackets and perhaps everything else they make. Unreliability is the last thing one needs in a supplier and makes one wonder whether that particular company is flakey in other ways as well. Their recommended substitute for their now-dead GX8 L-Bracket is pathetic, a simple square Arca-Swiss plate, hardly inspiring confidence.
From what I can tell by looking at 3 Legged Things’ product shots, the QR11 is one of the better-designed universal L-Brackets. I love its two camera strap attachment bars given I have standardized on a Peak Design Clutch and Cuff for every camera I own, only attaching conventional neck or shoulder camera straps when doing the two-camera documentary thing.
Another potentially useful element in the QR11’s design is its 1/4″-20 threaded hole for attaching accessories, making the QR11 a little more like a cage and less of a conventional L-Bracket.
Given the nature of compromise, the QR11 does not work perfectly with every camera in common use nowadays, but the 3LT team has tried out and documented its usability with a range of cameras from makers including Canon, Fujifilm, Nikon and Sony and I hope that they will soon add the results of their tests with current Panasonic cameras like the GX8, GH4 and GH5.
Other essential accessories for your 3 Legged Thing tripod
The 3 Legged Thing product world is built upon the Arca-Swiss quick release system and benefits from a working relationship with Peak Design, as proven by 3LT’s adoption of Peak Design’s square Arca-Swiss camera plate.
3LT makes quick release camera plates other than its square QR4, such as the rectangular QR6 and QR7. I am considering the QR7 with its strap connector and 62mm length as compared to the 38mm of the QR4 that comes with every 3LT tripod.
Many is the time I have put a camera equipped with QR4 or its Peak Design equivalent Standard Plate down upon a flat surface to watch it suddenly tilt over, with dismay at possible dire consequences to camera and lens. Will a longer quick release plate like the QR7 prevent this?
I am planning on converting all my tripods and tripod plates over to the Arca-Swiss system whether they are designed for stills photography or video and have been researching custom and third-party Arca-Swiss clamps. I have yet to make my final decision but 3LT’s two current clamps, the lever-operated Switch Clamp and panoramic 360-Clamp, are possible candidates.
Likewise I like the look of 3LT’s Stilettoz, Heelz and Clawz Footwear solutions for replacing the Bootz rubber feet that come with each 3LT tripod as standard.
I have photography and video tripods and monopods that come equipped with soft rubber or hard plastic feet that can be screwed upwards to reveal short metal spikes. Again, a neither fish nor fowl solution that could be bettered with exchangeable feet designed for each specific surface in varieties of hard or soft as 3 Legged Thing’s Footz have been.
Mould, the ever-present danger
At a certain point in this ongoing global warming aka climate change that out political overlords insist does not exist, mould suddenly appeared throughout apartments and houses in suburbs that had never experienced it before.
Mould infestations were formerly only the thing of inner city terrace houses with poor ventilation, tiny windows, no insulation, and little to no heating or cooling.
Cameras and lenses hate mould and so do I. Certain plastics and almost all leathers attract mould which embeds its spores into them then sprouts pale grey powder onto the outer surfaces. It is the simplest thing to accidentally transfer the powder onto your equipment then watch in horror as mould invades its insides and outsides.
I implore the 3 Legged Thing team to look into their plastics for process to mould infestation and replace them with anti-mould alternatives.
Future 3 Legged Thing products
The updated 3 Legged Thing website has helped me better understand their product range and many items in it go together. It has boosted my interest in them as a brand and, from my time with an Equinox Pro Leo & Airhed Light Kit, one clearly capable of coming with uniquely creative and innovative hardware.
The folks at 3LT have hinted that more products are on the horizon and have not denied one persistent rumour, that a video tripod may be one of them.
I have two very good video tripods at the moment, one large and one small that is designed for travel. Both are far from what I really need, so I am looking forward to seeing what 3 Legged Thing comes up with.
“In the last couple of weeks my little brand, 3 Legged Thing, launched a brand new Universal L Bracket – the QR11. For the most part, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Then, somebody sent me a link to a well known forum, where a conversation had started about the press release for the QR11. The comments were almost wholly negative with more than one contributor stating “You can buy this from **insert website name** for $7″ or “I got one from China for $5 and it works just fine”….”
The above excellent and informative article by Danny Lenihan of 3 Legged Thing is partially in reference to 3 Legged Thing’s QR11 Universal L-Bracket aka L-Plate.
I have been looking for an L-Plate for my still-current Panasonic Lumix GX8 camera for some time and thought I had finally found a good solution in Really Right Stuff’s BGX8 L-Plate, only to discover to my deep disappointment that it was discontinued six months ago.
Really Right Stuff’s now discontinued BGX8 L-Plate for the GX8
The sadly discontinued Really Right Stuff BGX8 L-Plate for the still-currently-in-production Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 for use when shooting in landscape or portrait orientation.
The discontinued Really Right Stuff BGX8 L-Plate for the still-in-production Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8.
Really Right Stuff bizarrely discontinued this L-plate before I had a chance to buy it, so if any readers have one for sale please let me know.
L-plates like this one by Really Right Stuff are invaluable when quickly switching from horizontal to vertical orientation during environmental portrait photography sessions.
The GX8 is a brilliant camera for portraiture and even if the GX9 eventually appears with IBIS and Dual IS per the GH5, I will continue to use my GX8 for tripod-mounted portrait and landscape orientation environmental portraiture due to its lovely sensor.
Why throw away something that works well and keep feeding the camera GAS churn cycle when perfectly good cameras can keep performing for years to come?
My current GX8 “L-Plate” solution
An L-Plate would make shooting in both orientations much easier and surer, quickly swapping from vertical to horizontal and vice versa in a way that is simply not possible by flipping the tripod head from one to the other.
Relying on third party manufacturers to supply custom solutions to common problems that should, perhaps, be attended to by camera makers is prone to all sorts of problems.
A universal L-Plate is a good solution in theory so long as it is designed in such a way that access to all your cameras’ functions are not impeded.
It seems that 3 Legged Thing did not have access to Panasonic Lumix cameras so may not have designed their QR11 L-Plate to fit it, and has not rated it for usability with the GX8 or other Panasonic cameras, or Fujifilm’s X-Pro2 for that matter.
I have managed to obtain a half-baked solution to my problem with the GX8 by purchasing SmallRig’s Cage for Panasonic GX8 1844 but a camera cage is hardly the same thing as an L-Plate.
I can understand camera-users resorting to Chinese cut-price copyists – I have had to do that myself in the absence of decent local product supply or in the presence of situations like this one with Really Right Stuff, but one thing remains constant – every Chinese-made item I have bought so far has failed spectacularly, or has been poorly-made, or is mediocre a best, or is just a lousy copy of the real thing which I have not been able to obtain for whatever reason.
I am hoping upon hope that 3 Legged Thing’s QR11 can work well enough with the GX8 or better yet that they will update it to work with the GX8 without impeding its full functionality, but the fact remains that L-Plates (and cages) customized for each specific camera are the best solution by far.
I would have thought that the whole point of contemporary CNC machining is that products can be made at any time, without having to produce in big batches, and so making even just one more Really Right Stuff BGX8 on demand should not be an impossible or insanely costly task.
Or do I have the wrong end of the stick? Independent in-demand solutions providers like Hejnar Photo prove otherwise.
As the destruction of the incredible and unique Samsung NX1, NX500 and Galaxy NX cameras proves, well-established manufacturers can and do make lousy decisions all the time and small manufacturers like Really Right Stuff are no exception to this.
Or, for that matter, Manfrotto, with their unique but tragically killed-off Lino Manfrotto Collection and Fig Rig product lines as well as other equally unique products like the Xume filter attachment system that appears to have been blessed with some pretty lousy marketing and distribution.
With the arrival of an X-Pro2, lenses and the perfect messenger-style camera bag, my thoughts turned to plugging the gap left by other essentials I have been doing without for far too long – most of all a sturdy but portable tripod for on-location portraiture, cityscapes and time-lapse photography for use in videos.
The folks at 3 Legged Thing recommended their Equinox Leo as the perfect travel and portrait tripod to go with the perfect messenger-style bag, so it was a pleasant surprise when their Australian distributor, PROtog, kindly offered to send up a review loaner.
One of the first images, above, that I made with the 3LT Leo was a good demonstration of the tripod’s many virtues. Sydney Harbour and many of Sydney’s inner city streets are notorious for their high winds and sudden shotgun blasts of air – and they sometimes occur in this suburb far from the inner city.
Sydney’s winds can kill travel tripods
Umbrellas are not the only objects that easily fall victim to our winds. In his 2011 article, ‘Death of a beautiful camera…‘, cinematographer Philip Bloom described how his Panasonic Lumix GH2 and the lightweight travel tripod it was attached to were suddenly blown over a Sydney harbourside barrier into the drink, never to be seen again.
Channel-legged tripods with long, thin leg sections are a reasonably common sight in the streets of Sydney. I would be very reluctant to use DSLRs or larger mirrorless cameras like Fujifilm’s X-Pro and X-T2, or Panasonic’s Lumix GX8 and GH4, on tripods like this.
I had no hesitation in using any camera on the 3 Legged Thing Equinox Leo, from a Fujifilm X100 through the Lumix GX8 and GH4 up to a Canon 5D Mark II DSLR, even in windy locations like this high footbridge over the Pacific Highway.
While I have not experienced that kind of loss, I have had big problems with wind-generated vibration while shooting around Sydney’s CBD and even the exact same spot where Mr Bloom suffered his loss.
I have shot unusable wind-attacked footage on an aluminium video travel tripod and an older carbon fibre tripod, both weighted to no avail. I have resorted to shooting stills handheld at wider apertures than I would like in order to obtain faster shutter speeds and less likelihood of wind-caused camera shake.
Worse, I have avoided making photographs I have been longing to take that demand long lenses, narrow apertures, slow shutter speeds and in locations prone to high winds. I have a wonderful, big Australian-designed and made Miller video tripod that can cope with pretty much anything nature throws at it, but I can no longer cart it by train and over my back all about the city and so it moulds away in a closet.
An Australian foot in tripod history
One of that particular tripod’s key traits is the care with which its makers have woven its carbon fibre legs. I often mount a small slider on it and it handles the slider’s movement-caused vibration with aplomb, absorbing it beautifully, as it should.
Australian Eric Miller created the world’s first fluid head tripod back in 1946, so the company he founded knows movement and vibration. I learned that years ago learning how to shoot movie film using a Universal fluid head tripod with long wooden legs, similar to this one in the collection of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum.
But there are tripods and tripods, and there is no such thing as a universal tripod for shooting video and stills with equal facility.
Besides which, one tripod is never enough even on a single operator video shoot. Multicamera shoots endow visual richness to one’s work as do different types of footage often shot simultaneously, like time-lapse stills or bracketed HDR plates for compositing in post-production.
Harking back to the globetrotting Mr Bloom, I note that he has the same big Miller video tripod as I do, but supplements it with a range of smaller, lighter stills and video tripods as shown in his behind-the-scenes photographs for The Wonder List – which can be seen at his blog here (with a bit of searching).
The lightweight stills travel tripods Mr Bloom uses for time-lapse look good for that purpose, but I need something more – easily transportable but sturdy, and vibration and, without question, wind-resistant.
So, when the 3 Legged Thing Equinox Leo arrived and I set it up on the shiny wooden floors of our home studio, I was dead impressed. These floors challenge most tripods of any weight and size. Even the big Miller needs weights and bits of carpet underneath its feet for maximum stability on them.
Portrait of Brad. In my magazine editorial portrait days, one of my most popular types of photographs was the emotive, highly engaging full-face frontal portrait, usually shot with a 4”x5” view camera, 210mm Schneider-Keuznach lens on Polaroid Type 55 instant positive-negative film. The Leo does not extend high enough for that so I set it to fully extended then tilted the lens upwards for this heroic style of portrait.
Another style of photograph popular amongst my magazine editorial clients was the environmental portrait. I would rarely have more than fifteen minutes with a portrait subject so developed a rapid way of working. First, meet the subject, assess them, their environment and the objects with which they surrounded themselves. Second, visualize an effective shot then quickly set it up. The available light was rarely expressive enough so I carried small flash or continuous light units for supplementary lighting. Call in the subject and make the photograph, often with no more than four sheets of film. Then get straight off to the next assignment!
Behind-The-Scenes shot of the heroic full-face portrait, lit only with natural window light.
Behind-The-Scenes shot of the environmental portrait, again only using beautiful window light. Brad is an electronics engineer and he is holding a second-hand board that he recently bought at a trash-and-treasure sale.
My first carbon fibre stills tripod at left and the 3 Legged Thing Equinox Leo at right. The Manfrotto at left extends more than high enough for the perfect frontal full-face portrait though I would be reluctant to extend its centre column any higher than halfway due to vibration. On the other hand, the Leo is remarkably stable and vibration-free even at full extension like this.
Fighting off the superlatives
The 3LT Leo does not. I am fighting off the superlatives as I write this, having got it out of its bag to set it up next to me, loaded up with Fujifilm X-Pro 2 and 23mm f/1.4 lens to shoot some environmental portraits and in-situ product shots shortly.
The Leo’s sturdiness and stability even on these slick varnished floors belies its size and five-section narrow carbon fibre legs. Of all the tripods I have here right now, the Leo is the closest in those two traits to the big Miller, despite being smaller than them all.
3 Legged Thing is not exaggerating when the company describes itself as “market leader in tripod innovation”. Their Equinox range is seriously innovative, so much so that it qualifies for an ‘Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation & Success‘ photoessay under all three categories.
Guys, next time I am in the UK, shall we catch up and do one?
A high bridge over the Pacific Highway near where we live and work. It is often subject to medium and sometimes high winds.
I have detected faint vibrations in the carbon fibre legs of other tripods I have used in this position but could not feel any vibration in the 3LT Equinox Leo’s legs.
Luckily the self-appointed tripod police are not active in this suburb but I have encountered them in inner city Sydney and especially in public areas like parks and bridges. Will the 3LT Equinox Leo’s unconventional appearance help fob them off in future? Fingers crossed.
Peak Design Everyday Messenger 13 camera bag with 3 Legged Thing Equinox Leo bag. Both are easy to carry on location and during long inner urban or suburban photo walks.
3 Legged Thing Equinox Leo with carrying bag, carabinier and Allen keys. The bag can act as ballast for the tripod by attaching it to the D-Ring on the tripod’s center column via the carabinier. In really heavy winds, place some objects in the bag.
Leo, the smallest tripod in 3 Legged Thing’s Equinox range, fits well into the Peak Design Everyday Messenger 13’s tripod sleeve. Extend the legs a little then place the provided rubber band around the end of the legs. I haven’t tried this with the larger Albert tripod but I suspect it fits well too.
Peak Design has a relationship with 3 Legged Thing as can be seen by similarities in the custom Arca-Swiss-style mounting plates made by each company. 3LT’s Arca-Swiss plate is at upper right. Love that logo!
Peak Design’s Anchor Links can be attached just as easily to 3 Legged Thing’s Arca-Swiss plates as they can to Peak Design’s own tripod plates.
Some initial scepticism, but…
I have to admit to some degree of scepticism when I first came across 3 Legged Thing online. The funky naming conventions, some bro-ish imagery in an earlier version of their website, the disappointment when finally seeing a now discontinued 3LT micro-tripod in a local store last year, the shop assistant’s negativity at a Sydney city pro-ish camera store.
But, trying the Leo out for real has changed everything. I would recommend any of 3LT’s Equinox tripods without reservations. During my trip into the city to shoot the Sydney Harbour photograph at the top of this page, I dropped into a camera store for a “what’s new” and was pleased to see three 3LT Equinox tripods – Leo, Albert and Winston – sitting amidst the tripod display in the middle of the store.
A chance to quickly try out all three!
You get what you pay for…
My all-too-brief in-store tryout of Albert and Winston, in order to compare them to Leo and to understand the 3LT brand as a whole, helped lay to rest some of the negative comments I had heard about their tripods in the past.
The three most common were about the length of each leg segment, the action of the Para-Lock locking collars, and the price.
You do get what you pay for, for the most part, but I have paid far more for less state-of-the-art tripods in the past. There will always be cheaper tripods than Leo, Albert or Winston but best to compare them directly against their competitors. Easier said than done though without access to retail wonderlands like the B&H store in New York where every product in every brand under the sun appears to be available for a damned good look-see.
Tripods rarely receive in-depth reviews in print or online publications. One reviewer stated the reason was that tripods, unlike other items of photographic hardware, need to be tested under a wide range of conditions and for much longer than the usual two-week trial period.
Tripods should be put to the test in rain, hail, sunshine, heat and cold with a range of subjects and circumstances for a really comprehensive review. They are the least complicated item in a photographer’s or moviemaker’s kit, and will need to last far longer than almost every other hardware investment.
I am aware of costlier brands of stills tripods that are more popular amongst professional photographers of my acquaintance than 3 Legged Thing. Really Right Stuff is one and its tripods look dead impressive online but I have never seen one in real life. 3LT’s Equinox three have performed better than any other stills tripod I have tested or owned so far, and I have owned more than a few stills tripods in the past.
My trial of Leo and quick tryouts of Albert and Winston show you get what you pay for with all three and you get a lot more than with any of my other stills photography tripods past or present, cheaper or more expensive.
A real pleasure…
Using Leo has been a real pleasure. Objections raised by other photographers and camera store assistants such as Leo’s Para-Locks dual action and its five short leg sections simply weren’t a problem for me. Yes, the way the Para-Locks feel when unlocking them can be disconcerting at first, but familiarity erases any fears.
Likewise I had no problem with five leg sections instead of two or three, say. Leo is a micro-travel tripod and its small size is key to carrying it with ease. It wasn’t a burden transported in its soft grey canvas shoulder bag or slid into the Peak Design Everyday Messenger 13.
After a while I opted to carry it in its own bag as that offered more flexibility when slipping through inner city crowds or standing up on overburdened trains. I could flip Leo right around my back while the EDM13 stood at front to side, ready to offer up a camera, facilitate a quick lens change or battery swap.
At other times I swung both around to my back while shooting, EDM13 and tripod counterbalancing camera and lens at front. I spent long days shooting stills in the inner city that way, and neither bag was a burden. That is something I could never claim of other tripods and their bags.
Another very pleasant surprise courtesy of my time with Leo was its ballhead. With the sole exception of my Joby GorillaPod Focus, I have not been a ballhead aficionado. All my full-length stills tripods have featured three-way heads with handles and my video tripods, and monopods, have had traditional-style fluid heads.
The solid, reassuring action of 3 Legged thing’s AirHed light ballhead that came with Leo as a kit has changed my thinking about ballheads now, especially those featuring Arca-Swiss clamps. Its speed of set-up, ease-of-use and stability whether holding the camera in landscape or portrait orientation is impressive.
The winds of spring return with a vengeance
As winter slid into warmer weather, the customary winds of Sydney’s spring returned with a vengeance and although I continued to be impressed with Leo’s wind-resistance, I found myself wishing for more stability again, especially when shooting on steep, grassy Sydney hillsides.
As I explored the 3 Legged Thing website I discovered the 3LT team is one step ahead with a range of well-conceived accessories to replace their tripods’ default rubber feet aka Bootz. Heels, Stilletoz and Clawz provide firmer footing on dodgy surfaces like rocks, ice, sand and snow and should prove essential to photographers venturing outside inner cities and suburban reaches.
Some of my tripods past and present have come with feet made of rubber or plastic over short spikes so the spikes can be exposed when their synthetic covers are screwed back up the leg. These designs are a compromise though where the soft option is often not soft enough and the hard choice is often not long enough for good grip on every challenging surface.
I much prefer 3LT’s offerings of alternative screw-in feet designed to grip almost every surface you will come across. When I buy my own 3LT tripod, I will definitely be adding two or all three of them.
The Braun ET-66 calculator, designed by Dieter Rams and Dietrich Lubs in the 1980s, is an evolution of Rams’ original ET-22 calculator. We have both models in our collection and they remain in use. The Braun ET-66 depicted here is from the collection of the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.
The Braun Station T1000 Multiband Portable Radio, a classic radio design amply embodying Dieter Rams’ 10 principles of good design. This radio is in the collection of the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.
3 Legged Thing’s Equinox Leo is a thing of beauty that is eminently functional and a real pleasure to carry and to use. Some might consider this to be something of a stretch, but I found Leo and its stablemates Albert and Winston to be in a similar league to products above made by some of the finest designers and manufacturers of the last century, such as Braun and its legendary design director Dieter Rams.
I even found myself comparing Leo to a Fabergé egg more than once or twice due to the colours and finish of its Para-Locks and other functional hardware. While tripods have historically been plain things of black and grey, or black, chrome and wood, 3 Legged Thing has gone beyond other tripod makers like, for example, MeFoto, bestowing its products with almost jewel-like colours and finishes.
3LT’s tripods don’t sacrifice looks for functionality. They are amongst the most functional tripods I have tried or owned and their core functionality can be extended further with the choice of those three different interchangeable feet. I wish there were video tripods as well designed and engineered as these.
While I won’t be adding a Leo to the top of my photo hardware wishlist, I will be getting an Albert as soon as budget permits, with interchangeable feet and all.
As my portraits of Brad the electronics engineer above show, I am now restless to return to two forms of photography I loved so much for so long – environmental and full-face frontal portraiture – especially now that cameras so well-suited like the Fujifilm GFX 50S are about to appear.
While Leo satisfies a number of my on-location and in-studio needs, Albert has the height to look at standing portrait subjects in the eye or to gaze downwards at seated or standing environmental portrait subjects.
Bravo, 3 Legged Thing! You have come up with some real winners.