Really Right Stuff TVC-33 – a quick informal review
Nearly $1000 for a tripod… are you kidding me? and I have to spend how much on a head for it… is this a joke?
I bet these are the questions rolling around in your head… I know that something similar was playing out in my mind as I was making the decision, I pondered buying a TVC-33 for about 2 months, I looked at other brands, the Induro in particular, it seemed just as good and about 70% of the price of the RRS tripod… but I couldn’t find many reviews or positive comments about the Induro, in fact, the only things I could find were negative reviews about the head popping off… not something I was keen to experience. On the other hand, everything I have read about RRS is good!
Click on the image for a closer look! —->
Up until this point I have been using a Manfrotto 055xprob with a 486rc2 ball head. All up I think it cost me about $500… it is a decent setup and had done me well for the past few years… I had a couple of reasons for changing my tripod.
Firstly, The 055xprob is metal (alloy I think), and it gets REAL cold to handle in the cold weather (I know, I need to toughen up!), and it isn’t the lightest of tripods for it’s size. It also has a centre column that I don’t use, in fact, it was getting in the way, if I wanted to shoot low I had to extend the centre column, and make it go horizontal and slide it back so my centre of gravity was back over the middle of the tripod and then put up with a slightly unstable platform…. this also took about 3 times longer than if it did not have a centre column. I am sure the centre column also added undue weight, I think that all tripods with a centre column need to make it removable!
I also had 2 gripes with the Manfrotto ball head, it doesn’t have a panning function, once you have locked the ball in the only way to pan is to unlock the ball, and the second gripe is that the ball suffered from some droop, that is, I would lock it into place and it would droop a couple of mm… annoying, besides these small things, the Manfrotto is a great tripod, and it will stay in my arsenal as a back up.
anyway, I should get on with telling you about the RRS TVC-33… that’s why you’re here, isn’t it?
If you asked me to sum it up in one word, I would say WOW!
Really Right Stuff are certainly creating their own niche market, yes it is EXPENSIVE, should a tripod ever be worth a thousand dollars? I don’t know… they’re certainly getting us to pay it! And I will tell you why…. my first tripod was $35 about 20 years ago, I still have it, its a piece of crap, I use it for mounting an off camera flash, or a video camera but that’s it… before I knew that photography was going to be a hobby I would become really passionate about, this was a smart move… in fact, I hardly used a tripod until recently, so it saved me a lot of money and did the job for when I needed something. My next tripod I bought is the Manfrotto 055xprob, you have already heard my thoughts on it… I think the only reason I bought this was I ended up doing some weddings, and needed something better than my $35 piece of crap… in fact, I used my piece of crap for a few weddings before upgrading… believe it or not! The Manfrotto was great for weddings, in fact, the carbon fibre version would probably be ideal if you’re a wedding photog looking for a solution…
Next… I bought the Really Right Stuff TVC-33… I have always known their stuff to be quality, I had a buddy that was using their stuff, and raved about it, I just couldn’t justify the cost… until now. 99% of my shooting is on a tripod, and I have started to sell some of my work. As photographers we’re happy to spend thousands on a camera that will plummet in value as soon as we take it out of the box, yet we cheap out on other gear… here’s what I can guarantee… I would be lucky to get $35 for my piece of crap tripod if I was to try and sell it. It isn’t even a brand you would know… my Manfrotto on the other hand would still re-sell for a decent amount, and the RRS, if I ever decided it wasn’t for me… would have the highest resale of the lot! So it is a very safe bet.
So is it Really Good Stuff? yep… this tripod lives up to the hype… it is solid and light, everything a photographer could want. The leg locking mechanisms are easy to use, and it can be set up tall or really close to the ground… quickly! I found it easy to adapt to the twist locks and love the fact that when I set it up, it just sits in place, it is VERY sturdy! I opted for the Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead, and it is a piece of art! I will do a write up on this soon too…. All up I have spent a few bucks, but I know that it is the LAST tripod I will ever have to buy… if you’re in market for a tripod and considering the TVC-33… it gets my vote!
Is this the ultimate landscape photographers tripod?
Well, after using this tripod a lot, I am pleased to say it is the best tripod I have ever owned. It does have a slight issue that has developed that I will tell you about shortly.
Is this the ultimate landscape photographers tripod? Well, I don’t think any tripod is going to come as close as the TVC-33. For it’s size it is light, it is very stable and it seems to be handling itself well… I can set it up low to the ground so my camera is just inches of the deck, and it only take me 5 seconds! The twist locks on the legs are still working fine even though I have had this thing in the sea, sand and mud… I just wash it off with the hose when I get home after a day of shooting. The twist locks are much better than the locking mechanism that is on my Manfrotto 550XproB.
However, it is BULKY… so if you’re looking for something easy to carry around with you I suggest you look for a travel tripod, having said that, it mounts on my Lowepro Vertex 200aw, and whilst it protrudes way above my head it is so light, that I hardly notice it is strapped to my back.
A small fault… a ‘known’ issue
My TVC-33 has developed an issue, and after emailing RRS, they have told me this is a ‘known’ issue… so it bugs me a bit that I had to have the problem, they knew about the issue so I am thinking they should have sent me an email and some parts to fix it… now this is MINOR… but for nearly a grand I don’t expect to have the slightest issue… what had happened to me was one of the leg locking mechanisms wasn’t working properly, they are spring loaded so they lock into place, and it was clear that one of the springs had stopped doing it’s job! I took it apart to have a look and sure enough the spring was bent, and after a little handy work by yours truly it was working again. I emailed RRS and as I said earlier they knew about the issue so they were quick to arrange to send me 3 replacements (one for each leg)… I am hoping these are improved so it wont happen again… I will let you know when I have them in my hands!
Really Right Stuff deliver the goods!
After emailing the Really Right Stuff team they were more than happy to send me the replacement parts, and as expected, they arrived well packaged and quickly at no cost to me! Even though I have only had a problem with one of the spring loaded ratchet locks, they sent me 3 replacements, not only did the send replacements, they came with thorough instructions with photos and Loctite threadlock to do the job properly!
It took me about 5 mins to replace one of the ratchet locks properly, this included cleaning the old bolts with acetone. An easy fix in the end and I was pleased of how hassal free it was when dealing with Really Right Stuff… another reason why you would spend the extra dollars and get one of their tripods!