About My Tiltall tripods…
This subject was the catalyst for me to set up a blog. Gary Regester has a terrific page dedicated to the history of Tiltall Tripods plus sources for updated center columns, spare parts, etc. here and a Tiltall-specific blog here. I contacted Gary to point out some differences between the knowledge posted on the two sites above and my own observations based on the tripod that I bought new about 20 years ago, also to share some enhancements I have made with the help of my brother. Gary suggested that I provide links to my blog so that I could offer these enhancements to “The Cult of Tiltall” followers. Funny thing is, I didn’t have a blog at the time. 😀
Well, here is that info. I have not yet spoken with my brother about producing the parts in quantity, if there is sufficient interest I will do so. Before proceeding I will need to understand the specific differences between Tiltall variations that would affect fitment of these parts, so if I have anything wrong please let me know.
Also in this post I will show the Leitz version that I picked up recently for about $40 that was manhandled and needs some TLC, along with my observations as to how it differs from my Uniphot model.
First off I want to say that I have been extremely satisfied with my Tiltall over the past 20 years. It’s a bit more fiddly than a high-end ballhead in that often the camera will move as the tilt handles are tightened down, but once tight it makes for an extremely stable platform.
The first difference that I noted is that as far as I can tell, all of the tripods shown at the two links above(including the exploded diagram in the blog) have the same size knobs for column height and swing; either both are fat or both are thin; mine has one of each, which I find helpful to avoid loosening the wrong one. These are visible in the pics below. Neither has ever been replaced. Note the Leitz pictured further down this post that also has two knob profiles.
Secondly, the column base on my tripod had neither the hole like the Leitz/Marchioni version nor the 1/4-20 screw that appeared in later versions as shown here. My end cap is threaded 1-3/16×24, as near as I can measure.
Third, and perhaps of interest to the Cult of Tiltall, my tripod came with a monopod head as shown in the next two pictures. This cap has the same 1-3/16×24 threads as the column plug and a leather hand strap. Below are three photos that show what this piece looks like.
The steel ring appears to have been manufactured with a round opening, at the time of assembly it appears that it was crushed into the groove in the aluminum head to keep it in place. The markings that can be seen on the exposed face of the steel ring are from use, where the top of the monopod tube binds against the ring. Anyone with a mechanical engineering background will tell you that this is less than ideal — there ought to be a washer there that provides a uniform bearing surface — but it seems to work well enough for the occasional, casual use that it’s seen under my care. I have more use for the monopod these days, so will be looking for a good tilt adapter and yes, a washer to prevent damage to the top of the monopod tube when tightening.
My custom carry strap setup…
My oldest brother is a machinist, specializing in custom designs, prototyping and short-run machining. He made up some pieces to address the lack of a quality carry strap for the Tiltall as well as a binocular mount(which may not fit all binoculars but will fit any tripod). I looked around at various straps, and decided that I liked the Bogen strap design. It’s wide, long enough, and has a nice threaded plug and swivel at the top. I’d rather not advertise for Bogen, but I really liked the plug/ring setup and I wanted something that I could possibly replace somewhere down the road, if I was going to have custom mounting hardware made up for it. Now, nearly 10 years later, the same strap is still available in camera stores.
I had tried a number of methods of carrying the tripod in my first 10 years with it. My first iteration was a simple camera strap, one loop around the column between the head and the crown and a second loop around the column near the bottom plug. The problem with this was, the loop around the lower part of the column would slide up the column sometimes, unbalancing the tripod and leading to a lot of cussing. Also, as detailed below, the legs had a tendency to flop around. I tried to mitigate this with a velcro loop but I had two of them blow away in the wind over the years.
I worked with my brother on this design with the intent of solving all of the above issues and adding some usability enhancements. IMHO it worked out very well; one of the things I wanted was for the strap to be useful for short moves; for example, I’m shooting somewhere, and I want to move 50 yards from my current position. All of the ideas I had been presented with were fiddly enough to make this operation a pain. A loop over the legs requires that you retract the legs for carrying. A bag requires that you dismount the camera from the tripod(usually). With this setup, all I have to do is grab the strap near the top swivel and hike it over my shoulder. The legs swing inward and snap in place on the spider. This works well even if a camera is attached to the tripod, though I have to watch the balance. Then when I get to my new spot, I simply stand the tripod up, swing the legs out, and I’m back in business.
The only things I have to watch out for are making sure the top swivel is pointing between the two legs that the strap threads through, and making sure the legs don’t swing too hard when picking up the tripod and break the fingers off of the spider. No issues with that so far(10 yrs), knock wood. Here’s how it looks.
Below you can see the black anodized aluminum fitting that the swivel/plug on the strap threads into. Clearance was allowed for the oval-head screw that secures the tripod head to the column.
Here you can see the top fitting a bit better. It has a ramped profile so that it does not interfere with folding the long handle all the way down. I will see if the top fitting will work on the Leitz, the protruding head/column screw might mean adjustment is needed. Certainly the lower column plugs are different.
The column plug was modified to accept the “spider” that retains the legs in the closed position. This took a couple of iterations to get just right. The spider itself is made from Delrin, and we had to experiment with the profile a bit. Too loose and the tripod leg opposite the strap would come loose while hiking rough trails. Too tight and it was too difficult to engage/disengage the legs from the spider. Side note here — I am well aware that the tension on the legs is adjustable and in theory this adjustment could be used to mitigate the flopping around of the tripod legs. I found that once I had adjusted this tight enough to keep the legs in place, it was very inconvenient to set up the tripod or break it down – it was too stiff. And one leg still managed to swing free after a bit of hiking.
The spider and the standoff that the strap attaches to are both made of Delrin and pinned together. They rotate freely on a bearing that is mounted via a screw through the bottom column plug, which facilitates removal of the plug without winding up the strap and allows the spider to align with the legs without having to worry about the precise rotational position of the column.
We didn’t design this with mass-production in mind, but if there is enough interest in making these for “The Cult of Tiltall” I will contact my brother and see what I can work out.
Leitz Tiltall that I picked up in need of some TLC…
Well, when I started talking to the previous owner of this tripod, he said it was pristine. Getting back into the swing of work after the Christmas break, I put it on the back burner for six days. The previous owner had this to say about what happened in the interim:
There’s a thin circle of cardboard-like material that works like a bushing lining the column base. It snagged when I inserted the column and wouldn’t let it slide in. Finally I drove the column down with a hammer, and succeeded in jamming it firmly four inches into the base. It’s stuck there now.
He knocked the price way down, I think I got it for $30, $40 shipped. Generally it seems to be in OK condition except for the damage he did. There are some interesting details though. First, a general pic of the crown & head area. I see no indication of where he was hammering, maybe he used a wood block to protect it. I should note here that just like my Uniphot Tiltall(and unlike all of the examples mentioned/linked above) this tripod has different knobs for the column and the swing knobs.
Here is what the end of the column looks like. I think that a bit of time on a disc sander to remove the bent area and a bit of deburring/shaping of the last thread, and this should be fine. Side note, the thread is 1-3/16×32.
This is the bushing that got caught – I asked him to send me all of the pieces. He also drove the soft pad out of its seat as well; you can see it protruding alongside the column. Looks like I’ll be trying the film canister fix from the Tiltall Support Blog.
It is in fact the Leitz with the brass insert. A bit of good news… Though I have to say, my Uniphot with the not-so-good threads has been fine for 20 years, but I lubricated the threads with nickel-based anti-seize long ago.
This next part may be of historical interest, and I will most likely follow up with whatever final solution I decide on. One of the feet came off during shipping. All of the feet are cheesy rubber feet, pressed into place with a bit of glue. There was some discussion about what feet came on which tripods here and here, this seems to be yet another variation. There are no threads or evidence of any metal parts having been press-fit into the lower sections; as far as I can tell these feet are original. Too bad this just adds to the mystery rather than clearing anything up. I’m going to be looking at ways to mount the replacement spike/rubber feet.
Custom Binocular Mount for Tiltall…
This was a little fun project that my brother made up for me as a thank-you for the many hours I had spent helping him through computer issues. I have a pair of 9x-27x binoculars that are very difficult to hold steady at full magnification. They have a cap on one end of the hinge that covers a 1/4-20 female thread. My brother made up this incredibly nifty mount for the binoculars. Every part of it was made from bulk raw material, e.g. billet, rod stock, etc. Here is what it looks like on the tripod:
Here is a better look at the one-off captive screw and the steel plate that bears against the binocular mount point:
Here we have an oblique view of the binoculars mounted to the adapter:
Here is a side view of the binoculars mounted up. I can rest my hand on the tilt knob, and my chin on my hand and it keeps me stable in the right viewing position relative to the exit pupils. It’s a very handy setup, but I think I need to send it back for an adaptation now that I have a Really Right Stuff clamp living full time on the tripod – it needs a dovetail on the bottom.
Hopefully this information will be of interest to Tiltall owners. I have a feeling that many of these tripods will outlive their owners(surely some have already) — I feel as if mine will, though I may update it a bit. If you have any thoughts to share, interest in parts, etc. please leave a comment below.