Birder's Guide

DEC 2015

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Manfrotto MT190XPRO4 Manfrotto MT190X3 Manfrotto MT190CXPRO4 Swarovski CT Travel Swarovski CT 101 13 November 2015 | Birder's Guide to Gear which is a threaded attachment point for accessories. For typical birding use, this may not be of great utility, but it could be cool if you'll also be using your tripod for some types of photography. The center col- umn on this and the other Manfrottos is cylindrical but with a fat side to prevent it rotating when adjusting it up or down. Manfrottos with lever locks come with a clip-on wrench for adjusting tension, par- ticularly helpful if a joint is getting loose Sport Optics sent me to include in the ar- ticle. (Full disclosure: I am a member of the Leica Birding Team and use their gear on a consignment basis.) Below, I summarize my fndings of each. (Prices are from the Eagle Optics web page as of 2 November 2015 unless otherwise noted.) Please also allow that tripod kits will be a bit heavier and bulkier than a leg-only equivalent. Ul- timately, you might want to add the weight and price of the legs and head along with a few inches of extra clearance that the head will add to the folded length and extended height when you are comparing rigs. Tripod Legs –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– • Manfrotto 190X3 : $179.99, Aluminum, 3-section lever locks. 63" max. extended height, 23.2" folded length. Weight 4.4 lbs., maximum load 15.4 lbs. Reviewer comments: This is the updated version of Manfrotto's (and prior to that, Bogen's) workhorse birding tripod. It's really hard to go wrong with the combination of price and sturdiness. This model (and the other Manfrottos to follow) features "Easy Link", even the fimsiest tripod/head systems seem adequate on paper since even full- sized scopes these days won't top their load rating. Many heads ideally suited for spot- ting scope use have 2-way tilt/pan controls, but some have one control for both axes of motion. Like tripod leg-lock options, this choice of head type boils down to personal preference and quality of construction. Heads have a diffcult dichotomy of per- formance criteria. With minimal effort, you should be able to lock off scope movement, but when scanning, they should move smoothly without being too loose. In my opinion, the best tripod heads have the addi- tional ability to allow fuid scope movement when you are searching and to then leave the scope on target when you let go without the additional step of locking off the head. With the help of Ben Lizdas, sales man- ager at Eagle Optics, I was able to test 10 of their most popular tripod offerings (some as legs only and some that come as kits). Ben also sent six heads to test, covering a range of types and price points. Additionally, I re- viewed a newly released Leica tripod and head combination that Jeff Bouton of Leica

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