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Mounting giant binoculars on a budget.

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#1 Glassthrower

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Posted 06 August 2005 - 12:37 PM

During my brief time on Cloudy Nights, I have paid close attention to most of the
discussions regarding mounting issues with large aperture binoculars. The consensus
amongst the group appears to be that giant binoculars in the 70mm-100mm range require
a HEAVY DUTY tripod. There is a small measure of disagreement when it comes to
defining a "heavy duty tripod", but conventional wisdom states that a binocular should
weigh no more than the tripod/head combo is rated to support. This would also appear
to mesh with what common sense should dictate. The tripods of choice, at least here on
Cloudy Nights, for heavy binoculars are of the Bogen/Manfrotto line. Bogen has a long
history of manufacturing quality tripods that are built to withstand the increased weight
of large-aperture binoculars. Bogen tripods are rock solid and Bogen tripod-heads are
equally secure and capable. It appears to be a "no-brainer" that any person who plans
on using a giant, heavyweight binocular should mount said bino on a Bogen tripod/head combo.
While this is the answer for many, and for some the argument ends here, there is a
not-insignifigant segment of the binocular-astronomy crowd who simply cannot afford the
substantial cost of a Bogen setup. A typical Bogen setup can cost in excess of $350-400 US.
For some, spending ~$400 in a good tripod setup does not present any financial difficulty,
but others (like myself) cannot afford to spend ~$400 to mount a ~$200 pair of binoculars.
So what alternatives exist for those with big-budget tastes on a low-budget checkbook?

Obviously, anyone spending ~$1000 on a quality, large binocular, will likely have
the financial wherewithal to purchase a decent Bogen setup. For such persons, there is
no logical reason to save money on a mount and try to pinch pennies with a cheaper tripod.
If however, one's budget is limited to ~$100 US for a mount/tripod, there are two possible
solutions.

Posted Image


1) For smaller "large" binos, like the 70mm class, a simple photo tripod may work. I own a
pair of Celestron Skymaster 15x70mm binoculars. This pair was my first entry into binocular
astronomy and I had virtually no funds to spend on a mount. The binos were a Christmas gift,
and I had erroneously assumed that I could use these 70mm by hand-holding them. After discovering
that handheld 15x bino-astronomy is next to impossible, a tripod was in order.

The 15x70mm Skymasters are stated to weigh exactly 3 pounds by the manufacturer. I need a
tripod for a 3# binocular, and I needed one fast. I didn't have the time or patience to order
a tripod online and sit around for a week or two waiting for it to arrive in the mail. I
wanted a tripod immediately, so I set out for the only place in my town that sold tripods - Walmart.
At the time, Walmart stocked two tripods in their photo department. One was a "lightweight" tripod
rated to hold 2# (retail $24.99), and the other tripod was exactly the same but had a taller
center post adjustment (56" versus 48" for the smaller model). The taller model retailed for ($29.99).
Both had the same 3-way pan head, L-shaped sectional legs, center spreader with accessory hook,
built-in compass-level, and quick-detach camera adapter with 1/4" standard thread. I opted for the
cheaper $24.99 model. So I bought one and took it home for use with my 15x70mm Skymasters.

Ok, red flag goes up : The 15x70mm Skymasters weigh 3 pounds, the tripod is only rated for 2 pounds.
Another factor to consider is that photo tripods are designed to be used with cameras, not binoculars.
A camera is a very compact object with a low center of gravity. In comparison, a large-aperture binocular
that is sitting atop a L-bracket or similar tripod-adapter is quite bulky with a higher center of gravity.
One can assume that the inherent issues of using a binocular on a camera tripod will place extra stress on
the head assembly. Taking this into account, it may be safe to "error on the side of caution" and
factor this increased stress-load into the rated load for the tripod/head combo. So I have heard some
experienced bino-astronomers suggested using a photo tripod that is rated for DOUBLE the weight of the
binocular in question. This will help ensure that the presumably under-engineered camera head will not
fail under the increased stresses of supporting a heavy binocular it was not designed to support.
Again this seems logical and common-sense, but the retail cost of "heavy duty" tripods rapidly increases
in relation to maximum-load capacity. Most "cheap" tripods are only rated to support 1 to 3 pounds.
As the load capacity of a given tripod approaches the 10 pound threshhold, the retail cost of that tripod
approaches $100 and can quickly escalate to ~$200. Thus, following the common-sense "rule" of
doubling camera-tripod load to safely approximate binocular weight, can quickly lead back to the original
problem of financial budgetary restraints. So let's throw common sense out the window and see what
actual use and first-hand experience can teach us...

The flimsy, plastic tripod adapter that came with my 15x70mm Skymasters was too flimsy and shaky for
serious use. I quickly discarded it and went to eBay and purchased a solid, metal, Pentax-style, tripod
adapter for ~$15. This combined with my tripod purchase of $25, put my end mounting cost at ~$40.

What is the verdict? The Walmart tripod was more than capable of supporting the 15x70mm Skymasters through
all the rigors of stargazing. Although the head was a suspect-looking affair of 90% plastic, it admirably
and flawlessly held my binoculars in a secure fashion. One slight modification was in order : the tripod
head has a "flip up" function to faciliate "vertical" photography where the camera is turned on it's side.
Such functionality was totally useless for stargazing applications, and the hinge/catch for this part of
the head was a potential failure point. So with a liberal application of strong glue, I forever sealed this
portion of the head and in the process shored up a weak point and source of vibration. The tripod itself
is a typical example of low-end, mass-manufactured product with dubious overall quality. As a result,
the legs are hollow and very light, and the center spreader is very flimsy. The center height post has a
crank adjuster that suitably handled the weight of the head and binoculars. One cautionary note : when
the center post was fully elevated to maximum height, the tripod did become rather top-heavy. While not
entirely unstable, it is not recommended by anyone (including myself) to use a tripod in this manner.
Instead, I recommend never approaching the maximum extension height. My tripod was rated for 48" inches,
so I never extended it more than 42" inches. Observing this cautionary rule not only prevents the tripod
from becoming dangerously top-heavy, but it also helps to minimize vibration by making the center post
more secure. As a further enhancement, I hung a heavy counterweight from the accessory hook on the bottom
of the center spreader. This helped anchor the tripod securely to the ground to prevent tip-over, and it
also served to dampen vibrations by rendering the entire tripod more stable. I used this tripod-binocular
set up over the course of dozens of extended stargazing sessions and I never once had a problem. The tripod
never tipped over or failed in any way. Of course, the inherent limitations of the tripod were evident.
Viewing the sky near the zenith required a little creative positioning for someone of my height - approx. 6 feet
3 inches. But the limitations of the setup were not prohibitive - vibration dampening times were acceptable,
and the head smoothly and securely handled the binoculars in almost any position. All in all, I consider it
not only possible to mount a 70mm binocular on a light-weight camera tripod, but I would recommend such a
setup to those who require a minimal financial investment for their choice of mount. In summation, I would like
to add that using an under-rated tripod for one's binoculars always involves a certain amount of risk and
increased care should be taken when using such a setup. One should be keenly aware of the tolerances of one's
equipment, and remain fully aware of such factors as "center of gravity" while using an lightweight tripod
to stargaze. Having said that, with some consideration and care, this method works.

Ok, so I contracted aperture fever and ordered myself a pair of 25x100mm Skymasters. 100mm binoculars are truly
GIANTS in every sense of the word. They dwarf smaller binos like the 70mm model it terms of scale and weight.
The body of 100mm binos is roughly double the size of a 70mm binocular and the 100mm model weighs in at a beefy
~10 pounds (9.8 to be exact, according to Celestron). Obviously, a 10-pound binocular is entirely too heavy
to mount on a lightweight photo tripod that is rated for 1-3 pounds. Attempting to do so would be pure folly.
Well, when my big 100mm guns showed up in the mail, I realized I had overlooked the tripod issue. Now I had
a giant pair of 25x100 binos and nothing to mount them on. Throwing all caution and common sense to the wind,
I attempted to mount these big dogs on the same Walmart tripod I had used with my 70mm binos. This did not work.
No amount of custom-rigging or careful attentiveness will permit the use of these mammoth binoculars on such a
lightweight tripod. The aluminum legs of the tripod groaned and bowed outward somewhat under the strain of
supporting 10 pounds of binocular. The head was entirely overloaded and incapable of holding the binos in a given
position without much play. One could find the Pleiades for example and "shoot high" to aim the binoculars on it.
Then tighten the pan-handle VERY tight, and the binos would slowly sink downward until they arrived at the
intended target. Careful holding and coddling allowed some limited use, but the entire setup was entirely too
unstable. Seeing those big 100mm binos perched precariously on top of that $25 tripod was downright frightening
and an accident waiting to happen. So while a 70mm binocular is possible on such a tripod, a 100mm bino was
WAY out of the question. A bigger, heavier, tripod was in order.

A 10-pound binocular is nothing to scoff at in terms of mounting. Your standard lightweight, camera tripod will
NOT suffice - regardless of manufacturer or retail asking price. If one has custom-dewshields (like me) and
a finder-scope attached, the weight of a 100mm bino can exceed 11 pounds. Not only is this a lot of weight, it
also places a great deal of stress on the head-assembly when viewing in positions that stray from the horizontal.
Turning the binocular straight up to the zenith requires the head to hold such massive binos in a nearly vertical
position, which obviously places much more strain on a tripod head than a camera of similar weight. Using the
common-sense rule I cited above (doubling the rated weight of the tripod to handle a binocular instead of camera),
one would ostensibly need a tripod rated for 20 pounds or more to securely hold a 100mm bino. When it comes
to tripods in this category, Bogen rules the roost, and retail prices in the range of ~$500 US are the norm.
Many binoculars in the 100mm+ aperture range retail for ~$10000(!), so dropping another thousand dollars to
mount a five-grand binocular is another no-brainer. But chances are, if you are still reading this article
with interest, then you likely don't own a pair Fujinon cannons or have a hundreds of dollars for a truly
"heavy-duty" tripod. And that is another thing, many tripods that claim to be "heavy duty" simply cannot
support a 10-12 pound binocular, especially when said binocular is moved into position to view the near-zenith.
Here is where the options become somewhat limited for pinching pennies. With a 100mm bino, no amount of wishful
thinking will make a Walmart tripod suffice. One MUST purchase an expensive, quality tripod. But does this mean
one must spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars? No.

This is where the used market comes in. While purchasing optics, sight unseen, through the mail may involve a
great deal of risk, purchasing a used tripod is comparitively safer. A tripod is a simple piece of mechanical
engineering, and purchasing a used one is simply a matter of finding a candidate in the right price range.
I looked extensively at various online retailers for used deals, open box/demo deals, and clearance sales, but
I could not find a suitable, new, tripod for less than $100. So then I went onto eBay and started searching
the auctions for a used tripod. The majority of used Bogen tripod/head combos were selling for $175 to $250.
This was too much money for me, so I did some further searching. A stroke of luck lead to a great deal.

I found a Sanford & Davis, Tiffen Magnum tripod bidding for $30.00. This model tripod is quite large. It has
thick, tubular aluminum legs that have "screw-in-out" type leg adjustments. It has no center spreader, but due
to it's bulk and workmanship, it doesn't need one. The center post is adjustable for height, but it does not
have a center crank. The head is a two-way, fluid "F-10 type" head, that is as smooth as butter and has very
good mobility. This particular Tiffen Magnum tripod is black and is adjustable to ~72 inches in height. I
bookmarked the auction, came back later with about 20 seconds to auction closing and "sniped" the tripod for
$32 plus $15 shipping for a total cost of $47.00. A little digging on Google revealed that this tripod sold
for ~$149 brand new, and that it was rated to support approx. 5-7 pounds. (I forget the actual load rating,
since I have been unable to locate those specifications recently). This particular Tiffen tripod is billed
as both "heavy duty" and "professional" grade equipment. When it arrived in the mail a few days later, I
inspected my new acquisition and decided that the tripod was indeed "heavy duty". It had a nice, heavy feel
to it, and the legs are very thick and stable. The head has really fluid motion that allows precise aiming
that will hold on target without drift or sink. I mounted the big 100mm guns on this tripod and proceeded
to do some serious observing. Vibration is minimal, dampening time is minimal, and the overall mobility and
functionality of the tripod is excellent. While only rated for a fraction of my bino's 11+ pounds, the tripod
and head appeared to have no problems supporting the weight of giant binoculars. I had to mount the binos
"backwards" on the head, with the pan-handle pointing out in the same direction as the objectives, to
facilitate vertical-zenith viewing. Even with the binos pointing almost straight up to the zenith, the head holds
the position securely. When the center post height is kept within 66-68", the entire setup is very stable
and tip-over is not a worry. When the center post is fully extended to ~72", the setup becomes a little top
heavy, and some increased care and awareness is called for while observing in this configuration. It is
doable, but not recommended as a regular practice.

I have used my 25x100mm Skymasters on dozens of occasions for extended viewing sessions and I have never
encountered any sort of negative issue. Which leads me to believe that perhaps some of these tripods are
intentionally under-rated in terms of "maximum load supported". Perhaps the manufacturers would rather
error on the side of caution, than risk consumers damaging their gear and seeking reimbursement for tripod failure?
At any rate, it is my position that mounting and using large aperture binoculars on seemingly under-rated
tripods is not only possible, it is entirely workable for those with budget constraints.

In summary, I would like to clearly state that I am not advocating the use of under-rated tripods over
more capable models for those with the financial ability to purchase a rock-solid setup. Using an under-rated
tripod may violate your warranty if the binos fall over and break and the warranty-service catches wind of
the fact that your broken binos are the product of intentional use of an under-rated mount. And let me
also state that the use of the mounting techniques I mentioned above requires an increased measure of care
and awareness of one's equipment while using it. But with proper precautions and careful use, an under-rated
tripod can be a serviceable alternative to a high-dollar setup.

MikeG

#2 DJB

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Posted 07 August 2005 - 02:00 AM

Hi there Bebs,

Quite a rendition. Something caught my attention. I have had a BOGEN 3040 tripod for some time, among others. No head, tho.

However, I mounted a Universal Astronomics Unimount Heavy-Duty Delux parallelogram mount to the removable insert. I had to modify the heft of the insert. I changed the thread-to-bolt property. Then I used a generous amount of "Goop," a fantastic glue-sealant, to secure my work.

This will hold anything from binos to scopes; it is rated for 15#, the Unimount that is.

I mount my Oberwerk 25x100 on it and NO PROBLEM. So, I have to agree that BOGEN offers some very sturdy, well-built units. Never had a problem with it, but it now is dedicated to the Unimount, because of the modification.

Take care and regards,

Dave.

#3 Erik D

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Posted 07 August 2005 - 05:45 AM

I have been going to a local flea market for about 15 years. Purchased nearly a dozen used tripods during that period, all for under $25. Of those, 3 of them can reach ~6ft thus are tall enough for standing ovservation. Occassionaly I loan them to friends who needs a tall tripod but I have not use any of them myself for several years.

There are many non Bogen tripods out that can support 3-6 lbs load. Most of them are designed for still photography. You point the camera at fixed location and lock it down....unlock to pan/tilt and lock it again to view a different part of the sky. It works OK but gets tedious after a while...If I don't tighten them enough they slip, if I do they are impossible to pan. Some of the heavy duty photo tripod can handle 10 lbs+ load but will not tilt beyond +60 deg.

I have two Quickset Samson tripods rated for 40 lb load and reach ~80 in. They are strong enough to mount the Nikon 20X120mm and cost under $100 each from ebay including shipping. The QuickSet tripods use special head/mounting so are not interchangeable with ANY non Samson tripod. I use them as a mounting platform for my scopes but not for giant binos. I enjoy checking in with ebay when I have the time but many of the quality Bogen tripod/heads I am interested in are bid up to near mail order prices. Why spend days getting a used 3011 for $80 when a new one can be purchase for $100?

I have two Bogen 3001 tripods with 3126 fluid heads purchased many years ago....I was mounting spotting scopes for target shooting and thought I can get by with a light duty tripod. These days they are on loan to my brother and brother-in-law. For me having two $300-$350 Bogen tripod/501 head combo works out much better than having a dozen $25 flea market tripods. My observation time is always limited and I want my bino mount to work flawlessly during the 20 min I have....

We spend a lot of time here discussing the merits of $150 bino vs $300, $300 vs $500, etc. Quite often $200 addtional investment buys very subtle improvement in optical performance. Spend the same amount on a tripod means huge difference in observing pleasure.

I just purchased a Casio EX-Z55 digital camera($300, 5 Meg, 2.5 in monitor, 3X zoom) for my wife this week. I fully expect the camera to be obsolete in 3-5 years.....I expect to keep using my Bogen 3221/3046 tripods for another 30 years and pass them to our grandchildren....;-))

Just another point of view.

Erik D

#4 lighttrap

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Posted 07 August 2005 - 06:20 AM

Bebs, forgive me for not reading all of that long post. I will just add that not all of us are sold on Bogen/Manfrotto tripods as being the only, or even the best solution. I've owened several of them, and have several Bogen heads. For large binos, and larger scopes, I much prefer a standard surveyor's tripod. Even the light duty surveyor's tripods are available under $100, and the heavy duty wooden ones are available starting just under $150. When you get to the point of hanging oversize binos on a parallelogram, the stability of the surveyor's tripods is really a good thing.

As for cheap and flimsy dept store tripods, I've owned a couple of those, including a disastrous Davis & Sanford traveller that broke in the field at an inoportune time. I think the cheap tripods are almost always a false ecconomy that often result in shaky views, catastrophic failure and eventually spending more in the long run.

However, if you want a true budget bino tripod, I've seen some good ones made of 3 crutches. Google "crutch tripod". They're not as field portable as a good collapsible tripod, but it's a low budget way to get a lot of stability.

Mike

#5 Beri

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Posted 07 August 2005 - 08:33 AM

This is the hardwood tripod I built for my clubs 25x100
Posted Image
It costs arround 100$ in materials and a weekend of laid back work. It is a bit heavy, but can carry the binos together with the observer :)
Construction details described here (bottom of page)

#6 Joe Ogiba

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Posted 07 August 2005 - 08:54 AM

For large binos, and larger scopes, I much prefer a standard surveyor's tripod. Even the light duty surveyor's tripods are available under $100, and the heavy duty wooden ones are available starting just under $150. When you get to the point of hanging oversize binos on a parallelogram, the stability of the surveyor's tripods is really a good thing.


I agree since I have two HD wood surveyor tripods and they are much more stable than a photo/video tripod in the same price range.

Joe

#7 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 07 August 2005 - 09:19 AM

I have both a wooden HD surveyor's tripod and the Bogen 475 tripod. Both are rock solid and can take a beating...and they have their pros and cons. The surveyor's tripod while relatively cheap is quite heavy, some what bulky, and does not have a geared center column which I like. The Bogen tripod while being relatively light and compact with a geared center column is relatively expensive.

MikeG, think about making your own tripod if you have the time, hardware, and know-how. But if you don't, like me, then I recommend this: Save up and buy one, and only one, tripod/head that will support all, or at least most, of your binoculars. You shouldn't have to think about buying ANOTHER tripod/head when you jump to a bigger set of bins. A strong, hefty, durable tripod/head like Bogen (and there are other brands out there) should last a life time. Buy it once and you're all set.

Just my opinion.

#8 Joe Ogiba

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Posted 07 August 2005 - 10:06 AM

The most sturdy tripod/head combo I ever had was a Gitzo 505C with geared center column and a Cambo geared head rated for 55 lb capacity that I used for a 4x5 Cambo studio camera.

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Posted 07 August 2005 - 10:40 AM

Mike,

As someone new to binocular astronomy, and someone who is also on a rather tight budget these days, I found your assesment of using inexpensive tripods both enlightening and encouraging. It is interesting to me that although you took great pains to point out what actually WORKS, some will insist that that isn't good enough, and that you should try something else. No problem. All of the information is good, and as a newcomer to CN I find this forum to be totally engrossing.

Rem Roberti
Orion ST80
Nikon 10x50 AE

#10 Erik D

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Posted 07 August 2005 - 12:06 PM

A HD Surveyor tripod works nicely if you are mounting giant binos on a parallelO mount. Since I prefer the simplicity of using a fluid head with quick release plates a photo tripod with center column works much better. I don't want to adjust leg length of the tripod or or carry an observing chair when I want to view different parts of the sky. Keep in mind a tripod spreader is a must if you are using a surveyor tripod on hard surface....

I am not in love with Bogen/Manfrotto tripods but I have spend more than 20 years buying, comparing and using tripods. My company has been exhibiting at the NAB(National Association of Broadcasters) trade show in Las Vegas for the past 15 years. I get to see a more than a dozen camera support/tripod manufacturer at the show year after year. From the Sub $100 Davis Sanford tripod to $2K QuickSet Gibraltar that can support 200 lbs+. Manfrotto ang Gitzo are now owned by the same parent company and share the same booth:

http://www.bogenimaging.us/

I have yet to find another tripod manufacutrer who offers the same price/performance/wt/versatility as Manfrotto line.
All Manfrotto Rapid and Geared center column tripods share the same 3/8-16 mounting arrangement and spare parts are available year after year. I don't have to toss a $100 tripod becuase I have lost the $10 QR plate on a discontinued private label .....

I have spend a lot of time and $$$ buying bargain tripod, making extentions, and slow motion tripod adapters. After 25 years I found it would have been a a lot cheaper and more enjoyable to purchase the $135 Bogen 501 fluid head in the first place...... Shop around and wait for a bargain of AMart or Ebay if you must. Hopefully you won't have to acquire 20+ tripods to reach the same concolusion.



Erik D

#11 Glassthrower

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Posted 07 August 2005 - 12:37 PM

Everyone raises valid points in response to my little discourse. Let me try to address some.

I have never heard anything bad about a Bogen/Manfrotto/Gitzo tripod. Everyone who has ever owned one and taken the time to write something online about it, has said nothing but good things. Everyone praises them as being both rock-solid and having heirloom quality to them. And believe me, if I had the money, I would be the proud owner of a Bogen setup, and we'd likely be discussing my glowing review of that wishful Bogen setup.

I am in my "proto-astronomer" stage, and my involvment in the hobby is still evolving. Over time, I plan on upgrading and diversifying my equipment. I am sure that a Bogen tripod is somewhere in my future.

Another thing that initially struck me about the high-end tripods like Bogen, Manfrotto/Gitzo, etc, is that the legs and the head are most often sold as seperate pieces. To a newbie like myself, the multitude combinations of heads and legs can be a bit intimidating - trying to decide which combination is best for a given price point. I only purchased the cheapie Walmart tripod out of impatience and desperation. Surprisingly, that little tripod served me well for quite some time with my 15x70 binos. In due time, I dismantled it, salvaged the head assembly, and combined it with a scrap, wooden telescope tripod I had laying around. So the cheapie tripod still lives on, via it's donated parts.

I am glad several members mentioned surveyor's tripods. I had completely forgotten and overlooked this alternative. Prices on some used surveyor's tripods are well under $100 and within the reach of an astronomer on a budget. What's more, they do have the consistent reputation of being stable. I also plan on having a paralellogram mount one day soon (which I will likely construct using plans found on CN), so a surveyor's tripod is very enticing to me.

As for building one myself, I have a complete woodshop (thanks to my father-in-law) and basic woodworking skills, so building something functional is not out of the question - building something functional AND aesthetically-pleasing is doubtful.

Beri - Nice work on that tripod. I'm jealous, but also inspired....although I am sure that anything I build will not look as good as your's does.

Rem - Welcome to the group. Yes, we do have widely differing opinions here on CN, but everyone, including beginners can offer something potentially-valuable. Stargazing is a diverse hobby with people of all economic-strata participating, it's only logical to provide resources to cover all those angles. And while I am quick to trumpet the virtues of low-budget astronomy, I am equally quick to admit that this practice is dictated solely by my financial position at this time. I have nothing against high-end gear, in fact I envy it and plan on purchasing some as soon as $$$ permits. Then I will be championing the virtues of another realm of gear.

I have two Quickset Samson tripods rated for 40 lb load and reach ~80 in. They are strong enough to mount the Nikon 20X120mm and cost under $100 each from ebay including shipping. The QuickSet tripods use special head/mounting so are not interchangeable with ANY non Samson tripod. I use them as a mounting platform for my scopes but not for giant binos.


I'll have to check out that particular tripod, it sounds promising.

And finally, a last word about my Tiffen tripod. One of the things I love about it, despite it's apparent shortcomings, is it's light weight. It's light as a feather and has great grab-n-go functionality. It sets up and collapses down quickly. Would I trust it to hold the combined weight of a 100mm bino AND a paralellogram mount - probably not. So more tripods appear to be in my future.

Clear dark skies to all...

MIkeG

#12 lighttrap

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Posted 07 August 2005 - 01:39 PM

Bebs,
Check out some of these links.

T&T commercial crutch tripods starting at $55

Doug Nelle's homemade aluminum crutch tripod (Check out the last pic where he's standing on the tripod he made from thrift store parts!)

CST Berger surveyor's tripods at Southern Tool (Check out the sale prices on the heavy duty wooden ones that include free shipping!)

#13 ChrisR

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Posted 07 August 2005 - 03:49 PM

Hey you may want to look at the fork mount from Orion. It goes for about $700 and it will hold big big binos, and telescopes, and its tall.

#14 lighttrap

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Posted 07 August 2005 - 05:46 PM

Why would anyone bother with the $700 Orion/Vixen fork mount, when one can get a really well made Helix Hercules Fork Mount for ~$300 ? Add a CST Berger wooden surveyor's tripod from one of the links I gave earlier, and you've got an extremly stable rig for $450 total. As Beri and others have demonstrated, it's quite possible to make a homebrew version of this rig at huge savings. But, if you want a commercial version, you don't have to pay megabucks to get one. I only found this out after selling a Vixen BT80, that I wanted to fork mount, but didn't want to pay the Orion tarriff. With the new Helix Hercules mounts, you don't have to. Please note that all these alt-az mounts, including the fork mounts are best with angled occular binos. Those with straight-through binos should really give some consideration to making or buying a good parallelogram mount. It makes quite a difference in your observing pleasure.

Mike

#15 Glassthrower

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Posted 07 August 2005 - 05:54 PM

Those with straight-through binos should really give some consideration to making or buying a good parallelogram mount. It makes quite a difference in your observing pleasure.


My thoughts exactly. It's interesting that while we see many different plans for homebrew parlellogram mounts on the web, we see fewer plans for homemade fork mounts. I wonder if that's because angled-ocular binos are generally in a higher price point than straight-through types, and therefore there is less of a need (financially) to improvise a mount.

Two things I definitely see in my near future :

1) a paralellogram mount capable of handling 100mm binos
2) a tripod sturdy enough to hold such a rig, and it will likely be a surveyor tripod.

Both of those things can be done "on the cheap" with a little skill and improvisation.


MikeG

#16 Joe Ogiba

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Posted 07 August 2005 - 06:10 PM

Hey you may want to look at the fork mount from Orion. It goes for about $700 and it will hold big big binos, and telescopes, and its tall.

For half the price you can get the Helix Hercules 12" fork mount that is perfect for my Apogee RA-88-SA's.

#17 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

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Posted 07 August 2005 - 06:31 PM

Two things I definitely see in my near future :

1) a paralellogram mount capable of handling 100mm binos
2) a tripod sturdy enough to hold such a rig, and it will likely be a surveyor tripod.

If you get a p-mount, you will most definitely need a surveyor tripod or something equivalent to one. The weight of the p-mounts with its counterweights in addition to the bin weight will require it.

Are there any commerically available p-mounts for 100mm bins other than from UA? Larry's p-mounts look impressive, and they are relatively expensive. So if you were to take that route you'll need to factor that into a budget. I'd like to get the Millennium mount some day, but cost places it out of my reach at the moment.

#18 Glassthrower

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Posted 07 August 2005 - 07:37 PM

Somehow I find the idea of building my own p-mount to be less daunting than some other potential projects. The design and principle is simple, the kicker is the degrees of motion. Presumably, one would require a p-mount with at least 3 degrees of motion to provide a nice fluid experience. Other than that, it's mostly a matter of buying/fashioning no-friction washers and attaching the whole thing to a stable tripod. I am willing to wager that I could build the p-mount and purchase a used surveyor tripod for ~$100. Now the next step is to do it and stop postulating about it! ;)

Let's face it, giant binos are very heavy compared to the average hand-held bino, but that doesn't necessarily mean a mount for a giant must be expensive. A used but sturdy surveyor's tripod coupled with a solid and functional improvised p-mount, could be thrown together by just about anyone with : a table saw, circular saw, drill, sander, and a few basic hand tools, provided they possess the minimal fabrication skills required.

I have no doubts about my fabricating ability and ingenuity, my concern is aesthetics. I have seen some homebuilt projects here on CN that are true works of art. I don't think any frankenstein creation of mine will look nearly as good, regardless of how efficient it is.

MikeG

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 07:07 AM

could be thrown together by just about anyone with : a table saw, circular saw, drill, sander, and a few basic hand tools

I am one of those people with none of those things. But, even if I did have a shop with all the fixins' I still don't think I would build my own because I lack the confidence in my engineering skills. Well, let's say that I don't have the trust myself enough to "bet" my BT100 with.

Yep, the basic p-mount is relatively simple in design, but I think when you try to engineer additional degrees of freedom things can be complicated.

I was out with my BT last night and a p-mount would have been perfect. I guess I better start saving my spare change...

#20 Craig Simmons

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 08:25 AM

My experiences with P-mounts for heavy binos (8 lbs.) has been long boomed oak mounts for reclined viewing are shakey. Lot of twist, even with a 4 piece 1x2 boom. They are somewhat heavy and awkward to lug around and store. Beware of pinching your fingers on the booms. Shorter is better, but only for standing and seated viewing. A fellow club memeber told me aluminum (more expensive) square tubing with copper pipe epoxied inside works much better for long booms. Won't twist. Haven't tried it but it sounds like a good combination of materials. Other booms I found didn't work were U-shaped shelf bracket wall supports. Look strong, have equally spaced holes, but twist easily. The hardest part will be making a smooth motioned azimuth device and attaching it to the tripod. The booms and multi-degreed head are the easy part.

#21 KennyJ

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 10:54 AM

Craig,

It just occured to me reading your last post , that in addition to all the " official projects " which you have generously shared details of with CN readers , you must have a wealth of knowledge of basic " DO's and DON'TS " and "TRIED THIS - TRIED THAT " with regard to bino mounting that I feel many members would benefit greatly from a "special" long article by yourself , covering such things.

There are so many little details involved which I feel most of us less gifted mortals might not even consider or overlook , that I really feel such an article posted here would be GREATLY appreciated.

That said , I fully appreciate that finding the time to write such might well prove the biggest stumbling block -- especially given that you must spend more time actually thinking about and creating these mini -masterpieces than most of do reading these forums ! :-)

Regards , Kenny

#22 BluewaterObserva

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 10:56 AM

I just bought the $199 at the time, Bogen head/tripod combo from bigbinoculars.com and it has served me well enough with 25x100 binos.

Best of luck with your purchase.

#23 Erik D

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 11:16 AM

I just bought the $199 at the time, Bogen head/tripod combo from bigbinoculars.com and it has served me well enough with 25x100 binos.


Which Tripod and Head did your get from Big Binos?

Erik D

#24 Craig Simmons

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 11:25 AM

Good idea Kenny. Remembering all the do's and don'ts will be the biggest problem, but I will see what I can put together. Hopefully it will encourage participation from others who construct ATM projects.

#25 KennyJ

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Posted 08 August 2005 - 11:32 AM

GREAT Craig !

Just what I was hoping for !

Kind regards , Kenny


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