Ries Tripod – Large Format Photography

Sometimes when you decide to try something new, you get a surprise. When I decided to switch into large format photography, I spent a year trying to heard all of the details together that was involved. Overall, I would have to say that I did a pretty decent job, there were only a few minor issues that needed some attention. However, there was one thing that came up that I thought I had covered. I did have something that kind of worked, but I was asking too much of it. Let me explain.

When dealing with a large format camera, you need a really firm base. These cameras are very heavy and bulky and handholding would be impossible. When I was going over my list of equipment that I had and what I would need to acquire, I had this particular piece of equipment covered, or at least that is what I thought. Many years ago, I wanted to get closer to my subject with my DSLR. I purchased a very long telephoto which was very heavy. Realizing if I wanted to get sharper photos with this lens, it would be best to use a tripod. All of the tripods that I had at the time were not heavy enough. I went out and bought one of the highest load capacities that Manfrotto made. I also bought one of their high load ball heads. When I received and assembled it, I took it out and it worked perfectly. I sold that lens awhile ago so the heavy duty tripod has been sitting in the corner for years.

When I was going over the list for the large format camera, I marked off the tripod as already having it. It’s a “heavy duty” tripod right? After a year went by and the large format camera was actually in my hands, it was time to take it out. There were a lot of “firsts” on this trip. The minute I attached the camera to the tripod, I could tell this was not the best fit. The tripod did hold it. However, I could see that it would move around as I worked with it and loaded/unloaded the film. This concerned me for two reasons. First, what if a gust of wind came and knocked it over? Also, after all the effort of planning, loading the film, going to the location, shooting and developing, would the negative come out? I’m thinking of sharpness of the focus. What was happening was that after I locked the focus down, I would load the film holder into the camera. I could see the camera wiggling all over. This concerned me as I was afraid that I was altering the focus I just set. I could tell it was time to figure out another solution.

After some research and asking questions, one of the same names kept coming up, Ries Tripods. This was followed by, “They are the best, if you have the budget.” Everyone has a different budget and what is expensive. I’m in the camp where I would rather spend more up front and have it for life than spend money three or four times over only to wished that I bought the original thing I wanted earlier. I’m not saying I’m flushed with cash either.

I looked at Ries’ website and they offer a variety of products at all kinds of price points. I was mainly worried about the load weight as I didn’t want to under buy and I didn’t want to over buy either. After looking everything over, I went with their biggest tripod. At the time, the site said the load weight was 77 pounds. The reason why I got this one is in case I got a bigger camera down the road.

During the production, I talked with the owner (his name is Spencer too) and he told me that there was a manufacturing change. I thought, oh this is going to be interesting. He explained what was on the site was when they were using cast metal which is heavy and brittle. Some folks were breaking some of the parts. So they switched the metal over to a specialized mix of aluminum. He said they just updated the load limits on the website. He said my tripod would now hold 145 POUNDS! I was like, awesome! Now I can use a camera the size of a small country!

I took it to an art market recently and folks really like the look of the camera with the tripod. I’ll be taking it out with me on a shoot soon. Here is a video of the tripod and me mounting the camera for the very first time.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean



  1. Spencer. Definitely interested in another field trip. Sign me up.

    • Spencer

      Sounds good, we’ll get it going! Thanks!

  2. A fascinating tale.

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