Really Right Stuff

I recently bought my first ball head and started using a tripod. Here’s what happened.

My daughter was losing her second tooth. I wanted a photo before it came out so I told her we were going to take a special picture the following morning. My plan was to use my D600 and 180mm prime. The morning came and she was next to my bed reminding me of our photo shoot plans. Perfect.

I decided to set the Nikon up on my tripod for this. I never do tripod shots. I just don’t. I have an aluminum Bogen 3001 tripod with a fluid head that together just collect dust.

The fluid head was a pain to use. I wanted to flip the camera 90 degrees to portrait orientation. This just wasn’t optimum with my fluid head. I wanted an L bracket for the first time ever. I was already familiar with Really Right Stuff and considered that they made really high quality gear but at prices I wouldn’t touch.

First I took to Google and looked into which quick-attach system to use. Was RRS’s Arca-Swiss system good? By all accounts, yes.

So I took to eBay. I looked at alternative brands (Kirks and a couple others) but it seemed that an RRS BH-55 or BH-40 was in my future. I even saw one user’s testimony that they had a BH-40 and it served their weight needs, but that upgrading to a BH-55 was an improvement for them.

So I took to eBay and I found a $328 EX condition RRS BH-55 on KEH with a screw clamp. $445 new from RRS, so $117 for forgoing their 5-year warranty. Not quite worth the risk, but I took it anyway. Then I impatiently awaited delivery.

It arrived and the clamp was very banged up. Not EX condition at all. It had deep gouges and had clearly been dropped at least twice. The ball head itself was not banged up; just the clamp.

I took some photos immediately and called KEH. The fella there said I could send it back but they don’t adjust price. Then I think he spoke to someone and came back asking me to send photos. I did. A couple days later, they replied that it was indeed in BGN (Bargain) condition and had been miscategorized. They offered me $60 off, based on their BGN price for that item. I accepted. $268 for a BH-55 was just right for me. I didn’t mind the banged up clamp, but I didn’t want to have overpaid for it, which I definitely had. I’ll happily use this clamp at this fair price.

If it needs any repair in the next five years (unlikely, I gather) then I’ll probably wish I’d bought new.

I love this setup.

I took some more photos of my daughter with the BH-55 on my tripod — this time with my Fuji X100T, which I found a used RRS L-bracket kit on eBay for — and I really enjoyed using the tripod now. It stayed planted and I could just take a bunch of identically framed shots. Making slight adjustments to my framing, given my willing subject, was very workable. Not a problem at all.

I’m excited now about doing more tripod shots, whereas before I always shot handheld. Using a tripod seems to support more deliberate photography, whereas all my prior photography had been ad hoc.

Perhaps being set up for quick tripod work (L brackets are staying on both my primary bodies —my X100T and my D600) and along with the iOS remote control feature of my X100T, I’ll be in some of my family photos going forward. I’ve been behind the camera these last 12 years or so and don’t feature much at all in my body of photographs.