It was not long ago that I reviewed the Really Right Stuff TVC-34/34L Mk2 tripod and based on my positive experience, I added it to my personal kit. The longer I used it, the more I liked it and then a Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2 in 10-condition showed up in the B&H used department.
I tried to resist, but... to no avail. I even had the deal ready to share on the news page, hoping that someone else would buy it before I succumbed, but ... I weakened. This model would be a perfect size fit between the Really Right Stuff TQC-14 Mk2 and TVC-34L Mk2 Tripods. I had an RRS BH-40 tripod head sitting on the shelf, helping to rationalize the deal and ... I couldn't resist adding another useful and awesome Really Right Stuff piece to the kit.
Please note: since this tripod only differs dimensionally from the Really Right Stuff TVC-34/34L Mk2 tripod and I'll share much of the content between these reviews.
There are seemingly thousands of different tripod models vying for a place in your kit. The tripod market has become a very crowded one, and discerning the good from the bad has become increasingly difficult.
Unfortunately, most beginners start out buying a low-quality tripod and this typically means buying a second tripod – if the first tripod does not turn the photographer off to tripod use altogether. Though increasingly difficult, selecting a good quality tripod is at least as important as it ever was. With the ultra-high resolution of the current generation of digital cameras, a steady camera is more important than ever.
A tripod's purpose is to hold a camera (or sometimes something else). If a moving subject is being followed with the camera, the tripod's job is to take the weight burden from the photographer, but otherwise, holding a camera very still is nearly always the goal. There are a host of reasons a camera needs to be held still, but to get sharp images is a primary one. A still camera is also needed for multi-shot strategies including HDR and focus stacking.
Photography, especially testing cameras and lenses, is my job and tripods are a crucial accessory for doing that job. They are perhaps too important to be considered an "accessory" and I'm on a continuous search for the new ultimate tripod. As with cameras, lenses and camera cases/backpacks, I'm of the belief that one cannot have too many quality tripods. Often two are needed at the same time, tripods are needed at different locations and having a variety of sizes and strengths available simply makes life better.
The Mark II denotation indicated that this is not the first version of this tripod. Here is the list of updates delivered with this update:
So, that list is relatively short and that leads to a good question that I'll answer right at the beginning of this review.
Most of those with an original Mark I version Really Right Stuff carbon fiber tripod are going to find it at least somewhat difficult to justify the upgrade cost. While the Mk2 versions are equal or better in all regards, the amount of better is going to be found minimal to many.
My personal decision: I upgraded all three versions of my RRS carbon fiber tripods to the Mk2 models.
If you see anything on the upgrade list above that seems important for your needs, definitely upgrade. If you just like having the latest gear, don't let me hold you back. If you are happy with your current RRS carbon fiber tripod model, you already have an awesome piece of kit and you will likely find a better way to spend the upgrade cost.
Tripods come in all sizes, ranging from tiny tabletop models to super-tall models that can require a tall step ladder to use. Along with a vast size differential, a large weight differential exists. You can carry the lightest tripod all day and barely know it is there while the heaviest will become burdensome in a short period of time. Strength and rigidity are often the balancing factors between size and weight. A heavy short tripod is likely much stronger and more rigid than a super-light tall tripod. So, tripod selection involves finding a model that offers the right balance between dimensions and weight, along with the features it offers, for the need.
RRS has tripod models available that accommodate nearly every combination of size, weight and strength requirements, so the first task is to select the right model(s).
Before looking at the table of RRS tripod models below, it is helpful to understand the model naming convention. I'll use the being-reviewed Really Right Stuff TFC/TVC-24/24L Mk2 Tripod model name for the example:
T is for "T"ripod. That was easy. Next is F for "F"ixed apex or V for "V"ersa (as in versatility) apex with removable top plate. RRS also has Q models, referencing a quick column being included (vs. optional with the V models). The 2 refers to Series "2", typically on a 00-5 industry scale. The 4 indicates "4" sections per leg. The L refers to "L"ong, medium/standard does not get a letter and S is for "S"hort.
Here is a Really Right Stuff tripod specification comparison chart, including RRS-revised specifications:
|TQC-14 Mk2 *||1||4||58.5"||(148.6)||3.3"||(8.4)||17.7"||(45.0)||2.60||(1.18)||30||(13.6)|
|Ascend-14 Long Int||1||4||68.9"||(175.0)||5.1"||(13.0)||21.3"||(54.0)||3.38||(1.55)||30||(13.6)|
|TVC/TFC-23 Mk2 *||2||3||52.6"||(133.6)||3.7"||(9.4)||23.9"||(60.7)||3.30||(1.50)||40||(18.1)|
|TVC/TFC-33S Mk2 *||3||3||50.8"||(129.0)||3.9"||(9.9)||22.8"||(57.9)||3.70||(1.68)||50||(22.7)|
|TVC-45 Mk2 *||4||5||84.5"||(214.6)||6.8"||(17.3)||24.8"||(63.0)||6.90||(3.13)||100||(45.4)|
While a much heavier than stated capacity load can be placed on most quality-rated tripods, the amount of vibration experienced becomes too high at some point. That point is often considerably lower than the load capacity and 1/2 is the fraction frequently used. Don't underestimate the importance of vibration control as there are many causes of vibration including wind. Because of their weight capacity, I have long selected 3-series models for my primary tripod, so this part of the decision process was not difficult for me.
Next up is to select the number of leg sections. More leg sections equate to more locks (to buy and to adjust) and a thinner bottom leg diameter, resulting in potentially less stability. The quality leg locks and sections being made today have greatly equalized the 3 vs. 4 leg sections stability differentiator, though the price and adjustment factors remain for the RRS tripods. The advantage of the 4-section models is a shorter retracted length, including a shorter height when set up with all 4 sections retracted. I travel with my tripods and the reduced minimum folded length is especially advantageous to me, so I usually opt for a 4-leg-section model.
Next in the decision process was to select the maximum height needed. The advantage of the shorter models is a shorter retracted length, including a shorter height when set up for use with all 4 sections retracted, lighter weight and lower cost. The reduced minimum folded length is especially advantageous to me when traveling. Remember that your tripod ball head and the camera/lens' tripod-mount-to-viewfinder height add significantly to the tripod's height during use.
The taller a tripod is, the more likely it will accommodate your eye-level height. While that is important, consider that your tripod may sometimes require one or more legs to be below your standing level. The latter is a frequent occurrence for outdoor photography as well as those shooting from stairways, etc. Sometimes, especially for architecture photography, a level camera is important and a higher camera position is sometimes required for the best composition. My next commercial shoot after writing this review required exactly that. I was standing on a pelican case to look through the viewfinder.
"The standard-height tripod models do technically offer a slightly-measurable increase in rigidity over the "Long" model (when fully extended), but most users do not find the difference considerable on a practical level." [RRS]
At 6' (1.83m), I waiver between getting the standard height and the long model and have been preferring the long models in recent years.
While high is good, so is low. Getting the camera right down on the ground can be ideal for some compositions and also for table-top work. With all of the RRS models able to fully spread their legs, there is little difference between the models and all are very good in this regard.
A tripod's folded length is of primary concern for packing and transporting. A smaller retracted tripod, regardless of its maximum height capability, consumes less space. Shorter makes it is easier to fit into luggage and shorter means less extension above a backpack. Another benefit for a short retracted length is that the tripod can be easier to use on a table top or similar without the legs fully spread.
The TFC vs. TVC decision was a challenging one for me. I mostly use my tripods with the top plate installed and, in that case, having a removable top plate was of little advantage. The TFC model with the narrower fixed plate was less expensive, more compact (there is practically no space between the legs when folded), and lighter, shaving a minor 0.18 lbs (0.083 kg) from the weight. In the end, I went with the TVC model for the versatility, the slightly wider leg stance and the increased space between the legs for grasping the folded tripod.
That the TVC can easily be converted to a TFC model via the RRS Fixed Apex Conversion Kit means I can easily change my mind later. Note that the pull tabs should be taped tightly closed before removing the legs from the apex.
Let's take a look at the Really Right Stuff TVC-24/24L Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod's measurements and specs.
|Specifications||Really Right Stuff TVC-24/24L Mk2|
|Load Capacity||40 lb||(18.14 kg)|
|Max Height||49.4/66.1"||(125.5/167.9 cm)|
|Minimum Height||3.8/4"||(9.65/10.16 cm)|
|Folded Length||21.1/24.4"||(53.6/62.0 cm)|
|Weight||3.3/3.7 lb||(1.50/1.68 kg)|
|Measured Weight||~/3.8 lb||(~/1.72 kg)|
|Top Plate Diameter||2.00"||(50.7 mm)|
|Chassis Max Width||3.68"||(93.5 mm)|
|Top Leg Section Diameter||1.29"||(32.7 mm)|
Really Right Stuff load ratings are always comfortable to me, not seeming over-inflated. The Really Right Stuff TFC/TVC-24/24L Mk2 Tripod can conservatively be considered useful for nearly 20 lb (9.07kg) loads, significantly more weight than most of us will place on a tripod. An oft-used rule of thumb for tripod load capacity is to exceed at least 2x the weight of the gear intended to be mounted on it. While a much heavier than stated capacity load can be placed on most quality-rated tripods, the amount of vibration experienced becomes too high. Don't underestimate the importance of vibration control as there are many causes of vibration including wind. I'll provide more-specific gear capacity advice later in the review.
This tripod has plenty of height for me (6'/1.8m) to comfortably shoot upward from a standing position. When standing on a level surface, I often extend only the lower two sections to quickly create a level tripod that is adequate for my height. With all legs fully extended and a head mounted, the 24L mounts a camera considerably higher than my eye level, though I often utilize that entire extra height when shooting on a hillside.
All other aspects being equal, larger diameter leg sections will provide greater stability and lower vibrations than smaller diameters. Leg wall thickness and construction details are other aspects that come heavily into play here. In general, you carry a tripod by the top leg section and very thick leg sections can become more difficult to control. The thickness of TVC-24/24L Mk2's top leg sections is perfect.
The apex is a substantial part of the tripod and it puts a mark on the overall weight and folded width. However, as a rule, the larger the chassis and the closer it is to a true triangle in shape (vs. a circle with leg pivots attached to the outside), the less able it is to flex and in turn, the more rigid it is. Thus, I'm interested in the chassis max width measurement. The RRS TVC-24 and TVC-24L Mk2 tripods have a rather small apex that is mostly round in shape (the TFC apex is very small). However, thickness also matters greatly and substantial thickness makes this apex very solid.
While the diameter of the top plate/platform may hint at the strength of the tripod's chassis, it more-directly ties into the base size of the head being attached with the smaller diameter of the two potentially being a limiting factor for stability. This measurement is taken from the perimeter of the top-most portion of the top plate, the surface width available for contact with a head. The TVC 24 and 24L accept most medium-sized heads without a problem.
All other aspects being equal, lighter is better. All other aspects are not always equal and a compromise is always being made to achieve the lightest weights. The farther and longer you have to carry a tripod, the more important light weight becomes. The weight does not matter much for studio-use tripods that are seldom carried for more than a minute while multi-day backpackers live at the other end of the spectrum. Those flying are required to comply with luggage weight restrictions and, in this case, tripod weight becomes a strong consideration.
All RRS carbon fiber tripods are or are among the best-in-class for their strength and rigidity to weight ratio. This factor alone can be the reason to choose one of these models.
Starting at the top of the tripod, we have the part that holds everything together with the apex size and strength being keys for the overall strength and rigidity of the tripod. Skimp here and nothing else matters. Fortunately, skimping is not in Really Right Stuff's playbook and the apex of the Really Right Stuff TFC/TVC-34/34L Mk2 Tripods is solidly-constructed of corrosion resistant, anodized CNC-machined aluminum.
The design of the TVC spider is excellent with very robust thickness completely encircling (no split) the top plate/platform and transitioning into the leg axles. Three substantial set screws lock into a circular groove on the top plate, ensuring that it does not unintentionally release from the apex, even under pressure. "Carry your tripod over your shoulder with confidence. The SureGrip Apex Lock securely fastens your tripod accessory (Versa tripods only)." [Really Right Stuff] The TVC apex has 1/4-20 threads on each of the three sides, accommodating a wide range of accessories with the impressive little BPC-16 and BC-18 Microballs being especially attractive.
Especially when using a ball-style head (usually my primary choice), the level of the tripod is often not important. But, there are times when I need the tripod's top plate to be completely level. These times include when I'm using a panorama or gimbal head or want to create a panorama image using the ball head's panning base. For those times, the Really Right Stuff TVC models have a spirit/bubble level (as previously mentioned, the TFC models do not).
The TFC models feature a smaller solid apex design that lacks a removable top plate and the level.
Perhaps not seeming important at first glance is the comfort of the tripod in your hand. I carry a tripod a lot and any sharp design features where the chassis meets the top of the legs, the natural carry location, meets not-well-padded parts of the hand. Thus, a smoothly-designed leg to chassis transition can make a big difference in the pleasure of using a tripod. RRS tripods have one of the most comfortable designs I've used. While the edges of the apex are not especially rounded, the apex is thick enough to create a flat surface wide enough to be comfortable.
Most tripods offer a solid top plate, a height-adjustable vertical/center column or the option of either.
While a center column makes camera height adjustments quick and easy and with the center column able to rise well above the apex, very high camera positions are enabled without impacting the tripods fully-retracted length. The huge disadvantage of a center column is significantly increased vibration experienced when the column is in a raised position, especially at full height where the difference in vibration dampening is dramatic. Another disadvantage is that the tripod's minimum height is limited by the length of the center column. When the center column is removable, the choice is yours and you can change your mind frequently.
Starting with the easy description, the RRS TFC models have a fixed apex with no other option aside from what can be mounted on top (a universal leveling base for example).
Much of the TVC option's appeal comes with its namesake versatility related to what mounts in the apex. With the Really Right Stuff TVC-24/24L Mk2 and other RRS Versa series tripods featuring a set-screw-removable CNC-machined aluminum top plate, an optional quick-column (the compatible TA-2-QC is 11"/28cm) and/or fast-leveling base can easily be added when desired. The top plate is substantially-sized and securely held in place by set screws (if the top plate comes loose, your camera is likely hitting the ground).
Also substantially-sized is the CNC machined aluminum hook mounted under it.
The tripod head mount screw is reversible with 1/4"-20 & 3/8"-16 thread sizes that fit practically all tripod heads.
Unless you are always going to use the tripod on a completely flat surface, typically a floor, you want a tripod model with independent leg spread. You want your DSLR tripod legs to open at various angles to accommodate whatever terrain you may encounter.
Models featuring independent leg spread have angle stops around the leg pivot axles and this seemingly basic design feature plays an important role in the tripod's functionality. One of the primary design observations to make is how strongly the leg angle locks transition into the stops provided on the apex. Is the stop a weak little tab that protrudes from the apex? The latter invites failure and it must be considered that this failure may result in your camera and lens hitting the ground. Also determine if the weight distribution goes straight into the leg through the leg cups. If there a vibration-inviting angle design being used, keep shopping.
The Really Right Stuff TFC/TVC-24/24L Mk2 Tripod's Tripod features substantially-sized, smoothly-tapered, CNC-machined aluminum leg cups with also-significantly-sized angle locks and stops that, when all are locked in place, provide a very high strength setup with weight being directly transferred straight into the legs. The design of this tripod aspect is superb.
Most tripod models offer multiple stop angles and the specific angles made available are seldom a strong differentiator between models. All Really Right Stuff tripods have leg locking angles of 25, 55, and 85° and non-locking angles can be used if conditions permit.
A tripod differentiator is ratcheting locks that snap into the current angle lock position when the direction is reversed from outward to inward for faster, more convenient setup and the RRS models have this feature. Push from inside or pull from the outside to open a tripod leg lock, open the leg just beyond the desired angle stop and reverse the leg angle direction, or simply open the leg fully, and the angle lock gently snaps into the locked position and slides over narrower set positions as the leg is moved inward. A big downside to the ratcheting leg locks comes during reassembly, such as after cleaning. This process can make a good day into a bad one very fast. Tape the lock tabs tightly closed before disassembly to avoid the extremley fidly spring reassmebly task.
One more differentiator can be the angle locks' ease of use and carrying comfort. The Really Right Stuff TFC/TVC-24/24L Mk2 Tripod leg locks are substantial in size, an especially good attribute from a strength position. There is just enough open space to the sides of the locks to be able to pull them out and it is easy to push the locks open from the back. My favorite part of the design is how smoothly the locks are integrated into the leg cup, making the tripod very comfortable in the hand while carrying.
Don't like the force required to spread the tripod's legs? Adjust the axle bolt tightness with the included wrench. Significantly-sized brass bushings keep leg angle movements very smooth. Nice is that RRS tripod legs do not fold past their normal folded position.
Like the apex, the legs are a critical part of a tripod.
Perhaps the primary consideration for tripod legs is what they are constructed of, with aluminum and carbon fiber being the two most common options. "Should I get an aluminum or carbon fiber tripod?" is a common question.
First, what are the advantages of a carbon fiber tripod? Carbon fiber models are typically lighter than equally-weight-rated aluminum models and that is often a primary consideration for photographers. A huge carbon fiber advantage is its ability to better dampen vibrations. Carbon fiber does not transfer heat as easily as aluminum and if using the tripod in cold temperatures, you will appreciate holding a carbon fiber model over an aluminum one.
What are the advantages of an aluminum tripod? Aluminum is a great material and its primary advantage in tripod leg form is low cost. Aluminum generally has a lower friction coefficient than carbon fiber, making it slide more easily for height adjustment.
Aluminum dents and bends while carbon fiber breaks. Neither is good and the latter is less likely, but dented and/or bent may remain usable. Carbon fiber is my nearly-exclusive choice and the only current option if you want a taller-than ground-level RRS model.
Another important aspect to tripod selection is leg section length along with the number of sections per leg. Roughly, the number of leg sections times the length of the sections (minus some overlap plus the chassis height along with the leg angle set) determines the maximum height of the tripod. The length of the leg sections is also a strong factor in a tripod's retracted length.
Because there is one leg lock on each leg section joint, tripods with more leg sections have more locks and for that reason, they generally cost modestly more. Increasing the number of leg sections also slightly increases the setup and take-down time. With each leg section having a smaller diameter than the one above it, tripods with more leg sections generally have a narrower lower leg section than the equivalent tripod with fewer leg sections.
General purpose tripods are most frequently offered in 3- or 4-leg-section models and I generally choose 4-section legs for my primary tripods. Four leg sections give me a relatively-compact retracted size that is especially appreciated when traveling with a maximum height that works well for me. With quality-constructed tripod models, I don't find the stability of the thinner lower leg section to be an issue.
The high-quality RRS tripod legs have a sharp-looking patented carbon fiber weave with a just slightly soft feel.
New with the Mark II models is a slot cut into the back of each leg cup, as seen in the bottom view image, that releases air pressure when the legs are being extended or retracted. Do the air vents help? It is hard to discern the difference in leg retraction pressure as the new leg locks are sealed, preventing airflow. But, air can be felt exiting this slot when the legs are being retracted, so the slot helps.
Most tripods have multiple legs sections, allowing them to be set to various heights or retracted compactly. This means that leg section locks are needed and the first choice to be made is often between lever or flip-locks and twist locks. I've used both and strongly prefer the twist locks.
What are the downsides to flip-locks? Some can pinch your fingers (it's painful), they are loud if not being very carefully closed (and closing slowing may lead to the first downside), the levers can catch on camera straps, backpack straps, branches, etc., and I find the levers to be slower to use.
Twist locks, especially the short-rotation designs such as those that RRS employs, are very fast to use and fast can be very important. Some may argue that you only extend your tripod legs once when shooting and that speed is therefore not important. For some that may be the case, but hopefully you do not walk up to a scene and automatically select full standing height but instead analyze the scene and adjust the camera height for the best composition. Hopefully, you also vary that height.
When retracted, all three of the Really Right Stuff TFC/TVC-24/24L Mk2 Tripod's leg extension locks (on each leg) can be simultaneously grasped and twisted 1/8 turn (perhaps even less) to loosen the leg sections. Follow the three quick turns with leg extensions and give each leg lock the short turn that is needed to tighten it. Pull the legs outward and the tripod is ready to go in a very short period of time (at full height). Reverse the process to retract the tripod.
Moving fast, you can set the Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2 Tripod up and take it down twice in under a minute.
If not using the tripod at full height, conventional wisdom says that the lowest legs should be the most-retracted as they are the thinnest. Quality tripods have very solid lower-leg sections and it is easier to reach the top leg extension locks to fine tune the height, so leaving the top section at least modestly retracted can make sense regardless of the lowest section's extension. With the long models, I sometimes leave the top sections fully retracted with the otherwise-extended tripod having a nice height for working on a flat surface. If I want a less-than-fully-extended position, I often hold the tripod head at the desired height and extend the legs in lowest-first sequence until I have the tripod secured at the desired height.
While lever locks can be adjusted to hold solidly against leg section retraction, that often means a very tight lever and a very loud snap upon tightening (wildlife and quiet-venue photographers take note). Quality twist locks hold very tightly with only a moderately-strong, silent twist.
Want to know how strong a tripod's leg locks are? Fully extend one leg, firmly tighten the leg locks and, while keeping the leg vertical (not spread), pull straight down, gradually increasing the pressure until a significant weight is applied. Note that exceeding the weight limit of a tripod could break it (I do so at my own risk), but quality leg locks will not retract under the pressure of my weight (170 lb / 77 kg).
The Really Right Stuff TFC/TVC-24/24L Mk2 Tripod's leg extension locks make the grade, holding solidly under my full weight.
To further test the strength of a tripod, also testing the chassis' strength, I fully extend the tripod legs, spread them to the first stop on a non-slippery surface and then hang from them. Again, exceeding the weight limit risks breaking the tripod (and there is a chance that I will hit the ground fast if that happens). However, I know that the Really Right Stuff TFC/TVC-24/24L Mk2 Tripod holds my weight, and I am now confident in loading expensive gear onto these legs. I am also comfortable recommending that you do the same.
Supporting my weight may seem like an excessive requirement, but I often rely on my tripod to hold me personally. While not all photographers get themselves into the situations I manage to find myself in, those of us who do need to rely on the tripod legs to support ourselves while navigating steep trails, stream banks, large rocks, and other difficult terrain can greatly benefit from the confidence-inspiring support of a high-quality tripod.
Important to me is that the leg sections do not rotate when unlocked, allowing any individual leg lock to be tightened before the others. Most quality tripods made today support this feature and the Really Right Stuff TFC/TVC-24/24L Mk2 Tripod checks that box.
Lateral rigidity is a primary responsibility of the leg section locks. Applying lateral pressure (but not too much as this is a breakage risk) to fully locked legs will quickly illuminate any play and/or flex that exists. Also, with the tripod setup and legs fully extended with modest pressure on the top plate, a tap to the middle of the extended leg will cause visible vibration. How quickly that vibration dissipates is the observation to make during this test. The RRS legs have very impressive lateral stability and vibrations dampen quickly.
The leg locks were a Mark II upgrade feature. As mentioned at the beginning of the review, the new twist locks have integrated wipers and O-rings seals that help keep particles out (not waterproof) of the locking mechanism, providing better resistance to the elements, keeping the threads clean (avoiding wear) and the locks smooth while providing better tactile feedback. The new collets replacing the old locking gibbs reduces lock engagement to half the travel for faster locking and unlocking with less effort. RRS calls the improvement "dramatic".
While some other manufacturer's twist locks are improving and coming closer to those of Really Right Stuff, the RRS locks are my all-time favorite. They are relatively low profile and have a comfortable rubber grip surface. The ultra-short-rotation design coupled with the sharp resistance release is quite impressive. Note that when loosening the twist locks, one is not typically pulling on the leg to learn when it becomes loose. Thus, the haptic feedback provided by the twist lock helps the photographer know how far to twist. With no feedback, the photographer typically must overcompensate, twisting farther than necessary and that negates the advantage of a short-throw twist lock. RRS got this one right.
The tripod must rest on something and we logically call that something 'feet'. The RRS tripods come with rubber-coated feet with a teardrop shape that keeps the legs off of the ground (out of the dirt) even when the tripod is at its lowest position.
Optional are spiked feet. While the price "per foot" is a bit steep, they are of remarkable quality, featuring machined stainless steel with an O-ring to keep them tight. I quickly became a fan of these upon receiving a set along with some other gear I purchased. The 3" (7.6cm) of length below the threads is significant and often welcomed. I don't recommend using these on a nice hardwood floor.
RRS also offers rock claw feet. I have not used the rock claws, but they are built similarly to the spikes and priced the same.
For their recommendations, RRS says "Versa Series 2 tripods are the perfect choice for mid-sized gear combos. Common mid-sized gear includes most DSLR cameras and 70-200mm/f2.8 & 300mm/f4 telephotos." I'm very comfortable with their advice and don't hesitate even momentarily to use at least a 400mm f/5.6 lens on this tripod fully extended and still longer focal lengths can be used.
To gauge my comfort level, I used a 600mm f/4 lens mounted to a solid ball head and with all adjustments fully tightened. Weight-bearing was not a concern (this tripod is rated to hold 40 lbs and it can hold me), but vibrations are usually the limiting factor.
To create vibrations, the camera was firmly tapped with the view through the viewfinder then observed. With the legs fully extended, 600mm vibrations lasted a very-impressively-low 4 seconds. I later thought I had noted an incorrect time and performed the test again. The result was the same. With the smaller frame size of this tripod, wind or other causes of vibration could become a problem when using a 600mm f/4 lens.
With the tripod retracted, vibrations always settle out much faster and, in this case, they were gone in about 2 seconds. At that rate, the TVC-24/24L Mk2 is easily 600mm f/4 support-ready and I have used this tripod with the 600 f/4 in the field (and while sitting in a stream) a couple of times with no issues. Still, I recommend stepping up to the Really Right Stuff TVC-34 Mk2 Tripod for frequent use of lenses this large.
With the 100-400 mounted and set to 400mm, vibrations dissipated in under a second even with the legs fully extended and nearly instant stability was seen at 100mm. This 2-Series tripod will not replace my primary 3-Series model, but it is a great option for when the size and strength of the 3-series model are not required and lighter weight matters, the latter being the reason I've used the 600 f/4 on it.
The right tripod head can make a huge difference in both your tripod use experience and in your results. Do not let your head be the limiting factor.
The Really Right Stuff BH-40 Ball Head is a perfect choice for the RRS 2-series tripods. This head is size-matched to the TVC-24/24L and performs excellently.
Above, the BH-40 is shown mounted on the TVC-24L with the BH-55 and TVC-34 combo to the left and the BH-30 and TQC-14 combo to the right (the Mk1 tripods are shown here).
If you are a fan of high grade, built-in-the-USA CNC-machined gear, this tripod is going to make you very happy. Even the hook under the top plate is precision-machined. No cost-cutting measures are apparent in this design.
Cheap, low-quality tripods are usually a waste of money. They will leave you disillusioned to what a tripod can do for you and will dissuade you from using one at all. Your time is valuable and researching the purchase of a tripod costs you in that regard. The cost of a tripod failing, either mechanical failure or failure to function at a satisfactory level, can be far higher and this results in having to invest the research time over again. Of course, paying for a replacement tripod is similarly inefficient.
Buy right the first time and spend your time photographing (and enjoying the gear you are working with). Using a high-quality model will potentially greatly increase your image quality. I do not remember talking to a single photographer that wished they would have purchased a lower-grade tripod model and I regularly talk to those with regrets of buying low-quality models.
No one is going to mistake the price of Really Right Stuff tripods with one of the cheap options. Quality has a cost and the price for quality must be paid up front. The good news is that this tripod should last a very long time, a lifetime for many of us, and the value will be appreciated every time it is used.
RRS tripods are expensive, but they are in an elite class, among the best available.
Really Right Stuff defines customer service excellence. It is very easy to reach an RRS representative via email, chat or phone and this company stands behind their tripods with a limited 5-yr warranty. The Really Right Stuff TFC/TVC-34/34L Mk2 Tripod used for this review was purchased retail/online.
Note that, while the RRS 2-Series models are less expensive than the 3-Series models, the difference is relatively small enough that it will not be a big differentiator in model selection for most.
In the past, I've found it difficult to find cases that ideally fit my tripods. I've been migrating to Really Right Stuff Tripod Bags and the medium model works well for the TVC-24L. These cases have a classy styling and are tapered with rigid protection for the mounted head with the double zipper encircling the head, making the tripod easy to access.
If you are familiar with Really Right Stuff products, you know what to expect from this one. Those looking for the ultimate tripods typically give serious consideration to the options available in the RRS lineup and with a full range of versatile, no-compromise, top-of-the-line solutions that look as great as they perform, an RRS models is often their final choice.
While the Really Right Stuff TFC/TVC-24/24L Mk2 Tripod has a very high build quality, the design is such that it remains one of the most rigid (impressively so) and strongest options available for its size and weight. This tripod feels great in hand and the leg locks, being comfortable-to-use, requiring a very short twist and providing ideal haptic feedback, are perhaps unsurpassed. Overall, this tripod works brilliantly and the high price is the only aspect I can complain about. Often, you get what you pay for.
What is the best mid-sized tripod? At review time, the Really Right Stuff TVC-24/24L Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod gets my vote. If your budget can afford this model, you don't frequently need to mount huge lenses and don't otherwise need the additional strength of the 3-Series option, the TVC-24/24L Mk2 is a perfect choice.
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