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All About DIY Tripods And More


Davide DB

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If you want to take home shots of those little animals crawling on the bottom or hiding among the gorgonians, you need a tripod.

Although some housings are designed to mount 1" balls to which you can attach legs, the majority of housings do not have them. All the housings have one or two camera screw holes 1/4" 20 UNIC where you can attach a tripod head.
You have to make do on your own, then. Let's see how. Basically you have two options:

  • a tripod for underwater use; from the cheapest ones made of plastic or aluminium to the most sophisticated and expensive ones.
     
  • A DIY solution that is not necessarily worse than the ready-made ones on the market. On the contrary, it can be customised for one's own requirements.

My Nauticam NA-GH5 housing has the mounting I mentioned above and here is how it looks with legs made from 20 cm (8") arms.

 

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The previous Nauticam housing (GH3 and GH4) had a Flexitray so I was forced to find a DIY solution. Mind you, tripods were not available on Aliexpress at the time 😉 I think the solution shown in this video is the best:

 

 

Here a step by step explanation:

https://www.ti-leidland.no/en/blog/46-scubadiving/136-diy-quatropod-for-underwater-housing

Basically you attach 15/20 cm arms transversally to the handles and that's it. An even more stable quadripod. Here are some photos of my realisation.

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Some tips on use

I find it very convenient to always have the tripod even when I am not diving for macro. You never know what you're going to find and having a WWL-1 that focuses almost in contact with the glass you can do close-ups of organisms by placing the camera on the bottom. 

However, a compromise must be found between the stability (and therefore weight) required to keep the camera stationary on the bottom and the lightness needed to shoot freehand and carry it during the dive without strain. My solution is to have the complete equipment slightly negative (weight in water not exceeding 200 grams) and only add weight when it is necessary to use the tripod on the seabed. 

How do you add weight?

To stabilise the tripod you only need to add one kg (with a well-balanced kit even 500 grams). A diver with decent skills and proper weighing should have no problem carrying an extra kg on him. There are various solutions.

  1. A classic belt lead with a small leash/bungee and a bolt snap
  2. A detachable freediving lead
  3. A freediving lead with a screw to screw into the base of the housing or tripod

 

piombi.jpg

 

 


This is a start. I know @bghazzal also made the tripod following the directions in the video in this post, and I await more DIY solutions from others.

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  • The title was changed to All About DIY Tripods And More

Indeed, I did build a quadripod based on this system, and have been loving it ever since!
It all started out with the idea of attaching a tripod to Nauticam’s Flexitray, which in itself isn’t super tripod friendly, especially the version I have for a compact camera, which is one of the worse in terms of spacing / screw on options

(for future reference the archived version of the original WeP thread - which shows the process and attachment system/screws - can be accessed here, and the currently still live one here, but I would rather keep this discussion here on WaP from now on).

 

However, the system Davide and other suggested, based on adding two ball-end arms to the tray, not only works great, it's also ideal for building a quadripod – I went for that and never looked back.

A good quadripod is just a fantastic tool for macro video, really flexible in that is allows you to shoot in very different conditions, angles and heights (I shoot a lot on a slope in east Bali where I am now, and it’s fantastic for that, since I very easily can compensate for the angle).


A quadripod also very forgiving when it comes to stability - probably more so than a tripod (biased, reference/citation needed 😉)
My core compact-based setup in itself is very negative, but I have been using floats successfully to make it near neutral for wide-angle video.

When I started shooting macro regularly with the quadripod, I dropped the rig buoyancy down to very negative, as I thought this would be more stable, but gradually brought it back to only slightly negative, which is easier/better to use (and carry around!)

Reasons for this return to a lighter rig for macro were as follows:

- Currently in east Bali, I shoot primarily on a very fine (volcanic) sandy substrate, and a heavily negative rig will make the tripod/quadripod’s legs sink deep into the sand. This makes it very difficult to reposition the rig without causing a sandstorm, since you need to lift the legs out of the sand to do so. Add a bit of water movement, and you have a short sand blizzard, not great for the critters or your/other's future shots...

And it turns out the quadripod rig is reeeeeeeally stable, since you have 4 weight-balancing contact points and can efficiently adapt to pretty much any topography.
This actually means the rig doesn’t shake even in mild current – main issue I’m having in currenty conditions is actually visible light shake when working with a snoot for instance - which is a video-centric problem....

 

- Lastly, on the weight/stability/currents, one thing to keep in mind is that actually, you probably won’t end up shooting a lot of macro in heavy current or surge (at least if you have the choice...). Most animals are hiding when it's ripping, and those that are out really don’t look that great, flattened out by water movement, sheltering, and there’s usually not a lot going on behaviour-wise - in that it's quite different from wide-angle, where you can get hunting, animals drifting closer etc...


On the weight, I would say go for a quadripod for video if possible and try things out. Instead of starting heavy like I did, try going as light as possible to compensate the lens that you will be using, and adding the weight you need to get your macro trig stable - the additional weight ideas given by Davide above are great for that!
 

So back to my current quadripod system - it's pretty much set, and a real joy to use.
Pics below, show the system, and some basic positioning options.


At one point I did wonder if the legs I had were too long, but this turns out to be super handy on a slope or for filming critters up on some kind of perch, like a seafan or hydroid, so I’ve kept these.

The main tweak I did was to add open clamps to the front legs, instead of closed ones which gives me many more options for leg angles.

For critters lying low, on the sand for instance, I usually keep the arms in the upright position (which is also my default carrying position for entering/exiting the water) just use the end of the front ball ends/clamps for support - the clamps are positioned flat so that the clamp screws don't get in the way.

I also use this if I need to switch to handheld macro shooting for instance (which is sometimes necessary for some critters, and why it's great to have the rig not too negative)


Then the next position is twisting the frontal clamp back to a more standard position and spreading the front legs out.
From there on, the sky’s the limit.  You can go from high to low, doe the limbo, and cover pretty much any angle...

Though the pictures below show a lot of shooting from above, in real life I try to shoot critters from below if ever possible, and the quadripod has been fantastic for that, simple, stable, flexible and really does the job!

So definetly count me in a a very happy DIY camper there, and super grateful for an excellent tip 😁

 

cheers
ben


IMG_20231214_101118.jpg

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I used to over tighten the clamps when the rig was heavy, hence the nasty scratches on the 1"ball ends...

IMG_20231214_100943.jpg

Arm attachements needed a little creativity with the weird spacing of my Flexitray model:

Screws/bolts/nuts and washers used are all marine grade SS (the shoemount seen at the back is for my RGBlue screen magnifier (essential since I can't use an external HDMI screen with the LX10) - the attachement broke so I've repositioned the system form above, but kept the shoemount on there in case I can get the part some day...)

IMG_20231214_102210.jpgIMG_20231214_102154.jpg

Here's my basic water entry / shooting position - I use the end of the front clamps / ball ends only for support:

IMG_20231214_101548.jpgIMG_20231214_101456.jpgIMG_20231214_101440.jpgIMG_20231214_101421.jpg

From this base position, you can extend the back legs when needed:

IMG_20231214_101619.jpg

And when it's time to follow Mr Sly Stone and take it a little higher, just pop out the front legs:

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and up and up we go...

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But in real life, there's also a lot of shooting from below, like so:

IMG_20231214_112252.jpg

 

 

Edited by bghazzal
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Let me add another solution used by my friend on an Aquatica housing.
He too opted for DIY, but it was more elaborate. He made an aluminium plate to which he attached three one-inch spheres and completed it with a plexiglass base that also stabilises the camera's movements.

Here one can see the famous screw-type freediving lead that can be screwed under the housing to stabilise the tripod. It normally lives in the pocket of the drysuit or jacket.

 

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P.S.

The tripod can be an excellent aid for more stable shooting even in open water. An open leg provides a grip point further away from the housing

PGH20567.MOV_20231218_003210.887.jpghandle, increasing stability.  

 

 

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  • 2 months later...

For a while I used a DIY tetrapod based on Loc-line parts. I'm about to disassemble it for a new project and I thought I share it here. DSC03402_res2.jpg

 

It didn't work that well. It was noisy and adjusting position was not easy. Don't try this direction. I hope you can learn from a failed project.

You can see it "in action" (also a good example of wrong lighting set up) in this video:

 

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Hello everyone,

 

I would like to show a few pictures of my different tripod variants here:

 

Version 1:

Nauticam NA-A7rII housing with Sony A7rII and 90mm Macro. DIY-USB-Powerpack on top, also used as bracket for the dive computer. Front legs of the tripod are attached to the normal ball-mounts. Back leg via tripod screw on the ground of the housing.

 

2019-03-29_16h-08m-37s-by-Tino-Dietsche.jpg

 

2019-05-07_19h-43m-20s-by-Tino-Dietsche.jpg

 

Version 2:

Nauticam NA-A7rII housing with Sony A7rII and 90mm Macro, but with a ground plate for the attachment of the tripod legs.

 

2020-05-14_11h-30m-14s-by-Tino-Dietsche.jpg

 

2020-05-14_11h-39m-35s-by-Tino-Dietsche.jpg

 

Version 3:

Nauticam NA-A7rIII housing with Sony A7II and 90mm Macro, for this housing i use the tripod mount set from Nauticam.

 

2020-05-25_16h-57m-48s-by-Tino-Dietsche.jpg

 

Greetings from Switzerland,

Tino

Edited by Tino Dietsche
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  • 4 weeks later...
On 3/20/2024 at 6:26 AM, Jochen said:

I have decided to 3D print an adaptor for the flexitray, with integrated Swiss arca plate mount. 

20240319_115129.jpg

 

 

 

 

Wow terrific idea!

 

Would you share the files and instructions on this thread? 

 

 

 

I will add it on the opening post.

 

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13 hours ago, Davide DB said:

Would you share the files and instructions on this thread? 

 Hi Davide, sure, just uploaded it. Hope I put it on the right place. Regards, Jochen

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