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I'm a relatively new landscape photographer and long-time user of a tripod with quick-release plastic clasps on the legs (I've owned this specific tripod base for around 10 years).

On a recent trip, I spent some time at landscape photography hotspots, where I had a chance to meet and chat with other photographers at scenes. While it didn't come up in conversation at the time, I noticed that most of the other photographers (essentially, all of them) used twist-action tripod legs -- the common older design where leg segments are released or locked in place using a screw threaded lengthwise along the leg.

Is there a reason this kind of leg release action is so popular among (at least) landscape photographers? Is it more robust against harsh environments, or less prone to e.g. locking up after a dip in a cold river (which was a problem that did affect my quick-release clamps after ice formed up on them)?

All I'm sure of is that they have the drawback of being slower to set up.

  • I don't know of screws threaded lengthwise along the leg, but a collar having a separate screw such as in my very old Manfrotto 190 tripod is in my opinion a poor solution: it needs to be very tight or else the legs slip. With quick release, you don't need to have good muscle memory. – juhist Dec 5 '19 at 19:51
  • @juhist that's also one of my concerns. I happen to have an (apparently somewhat newer, still ~10yo) 190 with the quick-release clasps which I like, but they're coming to the end of their useful lives due to wear and tear. – verandaguy Dec 5 '19 at 19:56
  • Oh. Don't the quick-release clamps have any means of adjusting them? If not, I think the design is fundamentally flawed. – juhist Dec 5 '19 at 19:57
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    The QR clamps can be adjusted by tightening a hex nut, but that's never going to be a permanent solution. I'd argue that a 10-year lifespan is still a pretty good run, so I wouldn't call them fundamentally flawed. For reference, this is the design I'm referring to: cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/… – verandaguy Dec 5 '19 at 20:03
  • Everything is better than cheap twist locks that make you guess when they are tight... or even collapse on you when you guessed wrong :) – rackandboneman Dec 8 '19 at 21:02
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It can be very difficult to operate quick-release locks if it is so cold that you are wearing gloves or mittens. If you add the time it takes you to take off the gloves and the not-so-fun experience to handle ice cold metal parts with bare hands, it may both be faster and more convenient to use a tripod with twisting locks.

As Ian already mentioned, most, if not all carbon fibre tripods don't have quick-release locks. The reason is that the carbon fibre enforced resin is not good at withstanding preasure on a small point of surface. A quick-release lock would press onto a small point at the side of the rod and easily cause it to splinter or crack. A twist-release lock applies equal preasure to all sides of the rod, which is much easier for CF to cope with.

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  • I hadn't considered that the QR latches would stress carbon fibre in a way that it doesn't deal with very well -- this is actually a really good explanation of why that design decision is in place. – verandaguy Dec 10 '19 at 17:27
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I think one answer is that most of the higher quality carbon fibre tripods are using twist lock so you see more of them when you are hanging around with serious photographers.

But that is not a real answer - which came first.

Here is what I think the answer is: Compensating for a loosening mechanism is built in. What I mean is if you flip lever gets loose you have to get a tool to tighten it before you can use it. If your twist lock looses some of its grip you just tighten it more.

Having said that I had a Manfroto 190 for a long time too and never had a problem with the lock leavers getting loose. So it could be a solution to a problem that is rare.

As for faster: I don't think any penalty, if there is one at all, is big enough for it to matter. I can take a leg of my Induro twist lock tripod and loosen all three locks with one hand and then let the leg extend and reach down to tighten each backup. It is pretty fast. I never felt like it was slower.

Regarding frozen mechanism: if a lock sever is going to be unhappy frozen then a twist lever is too. I suppose they are less pron to collecting ice or mud that would block the leaver from closing.

One down side: whatever you do don't unscrew it too far. Nothing sucks more than having a twist lock come totally apart in crappy weather. Locking leavers are either open or closed you cannot open them too far.

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