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I want to take pictures with my camera at a specific height (and perfectly horizontal). My tripod has an adjustable center column, but it is the usual unlock-pull-lock kind and it's not very practical for fine adjustments.

I have seen video tripods with a crank on the central column, but those I've seen are flimsy, and if I can avoid getting a second tripod...

So I wonder if there are easily adjustable column extensions.

Alternatively, the central column of my tripod can also be set as a horizontal boom, so maybe I should look at a focusing rail (assuming I can mount the camera sideways)?

Any ideas?

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3 Answers 3

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If you are looking for precise control, search your favorite camera gear vendor for 'geared center column'. You will find tripods with geared columns as well as replacement geared columns for high-end pro tripods.

For example

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This is my Manfrotto 303 plus panoramic head with a $20 2-way macro rail attached to the camera bracket. With this combination all three axis are geared and adjustable.

You'll need to find a used 303 plus as it is out of production (only the plus model is geared), but it can be found for about $115. You might also want to add an arca swiss clamp to the vertical rail, and an L-bracket for the camera... but neither of those are 100% necessary.

You could also just attach the 2 way macro rail to a ballhead set at 90˚ to get just the vertical fine tuning.

enter image description here

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    \$\begingroup\$ I can avoid the pan head by just using my tripod with the horizontal column and the rail a the end. I already have such a long rail in my Arca-Swiss collection, and this could do the job, with a practicality somewhere between the worm-drive rail and the "raw" tripod. \$\endgroup\$
    – xenoid
    Mar 25, 2023 at 1:56
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Cut a stick to the precise height you want and use it as a reference when adjusting your tripod (you may need an assistant because growing a third or fourth hand might be difficult). Or a tape measure.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ The tape measure won't lift the camera... And begs another question: on my camera bodies there is a marker for the sensor plane, and I can sort of guess the lens axis from either the screw thread under the body or some index mark for aperture/focus on the lens, but there is usually no marker for the lens axis height on the side of the body or the lens (unless the lens is used wit a collar). \$\endgroup\$
    – xenoid
    Mar 24, 2023 at 15:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ quite honestly, unless you have a high end professional tripod ($1000s like in movie sets), many deflect slightly (millimeters) when mounting gear on them, and often after tightening the ball head (even on a gigantic Kirk I have). If your needs require more precision that, I suspect most tripods and heads were not designed with that sort of precision in mind. You may wish to find some custom support, like scaffolding or wooden frame... \$\endgroup\$
    – cmason
    Mar 24, 2023 at 15:32
  • \$\begingroup\$ @xenoid I wasn't suggesting the tape measure (or the stick) would lift the camera. I was suggesting using them as a reference when adjusting the tripod. Probably with the camera already mounted to help mitigate what cmason says as well... \$\endgroup\$
    – twalberg
    Mar 24, 2023 at 15:45

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