I’ve been in the market for a really good, solid tripod for the longest time. I’ve had a few that were flimsy and not very well constructed, ultimately breaking apart (you get what you paid for). I’m no professional photographer but I take my photography serious enough now to start considering using a quality tripod that will suit my needs. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to spend a lot of money on any one of the various Manfrotto tripods and heads. Also, with all the choices available, picking one tripod was proving to be as difficult or even more so than choosing the right camera (I settled on the Nikon D90). Last year my tripod problem was resolved when a friend gave me his used tripod and monopod.
My friend Paul had a Sunset GD-3000 tripod which he generously gave to me without a second thought. Pulling it out of his trunk, I saw that the tripod had gone through some pretty heavy use. I was still very appreciative of his kind gesture. Since then the tripod had stayed in my trunk without being shown the love that it deserved for over a year. I simply forgot all about it. Frustrated at not being able to find the right tripod to fit my budget and of quality, I remembered, and turned to the Sunset tripod in my trunk.
It was worn, dirty, had some dings and scrapes on it and some small spots even showed some rust. Hey, that’s a testament to how heavily used it was, no doubt providing some great shots during its lifetime. Still, it was very sturdy and solid, weighing in at 4.5 lbs. It was clearly aluminum but it contained another metal I couldn’t identify. The only plastic part on the tripod was on the handle which was made of a heavy plastic. The head was fixed and provided only three-axis. However there is a ring at the base of the head which appears that could be unscrewed. Maybe it can be removed but hard as I tried, I couldn’t make it budge. Perhaps it was only for cosmetic purposes. There was no quick release mechanism on the head and this was the only drawback that I really didn’t like. There was also no level built in. The metal clips that held the legs in place when extended were difficult to release and tighten. I don’t think I’ll be having any problems with the legs slipping. Extending the tripod height was an ease as the crank turned very smoothly. At its full height without camera, tripod stands half an inch shy of five feet. Turning the tripod over, I saw that the thick rubberized ends could be twisted to reveal metal spikes. This was a really nice touch.
Appreciating the tripod after closer inspection, I decided to give it a thorough cleaning. Looking online, I saw people posting various techniques and product recommendations. One consensus was to use WD40. I didn’t agree so much with that so I finally took the tripod to the neighborhood hardware store. These guys never let me down before and were really old school. The guy at the counter took one look and quickly recommended Noxon. I never heard of it but he swore by it, claiming that it would clean and shine my tripod. It could handle seven different types of metals: stainless steel, aluminum, chrome, pewter, brass, bronze and copper. It was milky white and of thick consistency containing ammonia. Forking over $5, what did I have to lose?
For the next couple of hours on a Friday night, I took the knobs, legs, clips and other parts of the tripod and disassembled them. Taking a rag and soaking it with the stuff, I sat in a well ventilated area and while watching TV, put some work into cleaning it. I wish I had taken pictures BEFORE I had cleaned the tripod. Looking at the finished work would’ve been much more appreciated. I really, really started to like the tripod! It was looking good and smelling clean. The only thing left was to use some lubricant around the moving parts of the tripod. I guess I will get some WD40 to spot clean some areas but it really isn’t necessary. I’m fine with the results.
I left it to dry and shortly thereafter, starting taking some night shots with it from my window. I plan on purchasing a quick release adapter with plate for the tripod as I feel this is the only thing that is missing. Screwing and unscrewing my camera to and from the tripod is a little time consuming for my tastes. Looking online, I saw that Amazon and B&H had the Bogen Manfrotto 323 RC2 for under $40. I found it on eBay for $21.50. If I win the bid, I’ll write about it when I get it.
What’s better than spending $100 – $300 on a good tripod? Getting it for free of course! It’s not the type of tripod that I would take overseas (it is a little heavy) but for my purposes, it will suit me just fine. This tripod has seen better days but now it’s about to get its second wind and give a new owner some more fruitful years of photographic enjoyment. Thanks Paul for a very good tripod!
PS – If anyone has any further info on this tripod (manufacturer, date, etc.), please drop me a comment.