FLM CP26-L3S Carbon Fiber Tripod

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FLM CP26-L3S Carbon Fiber Tripod

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I learned fairly early on that a quality tripod, while often expensive, is a crucial tool that a photographer needs in his kit.

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I started out way back when like most do – with a cheap, flimsy tripod that didn’t offer much in the way of flexibility or even solid support for that matter!  My first was a Velbon tripod with support brackets that connected the 3 legs to the center post so there was not much adjustability, and it had a 3-way pan head.  The center column went up and down via a crank handle.  It was a piece of junk – luckily it was cheap too!

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After about 6 months of the Velbon, I got a set of Bogen 3021 tripod legs – a classic in the photography world.  I mated a Bogen pistol-grip style ball head to the 3021 and ended up using that set up for quite a number of years actually.

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I then went to a Gitzo Explorer series tripod because at the time, a lot of my favorite photographers used Gitzo.  Later, I wanted to switch to a carbon fiber tripod so I started looking for one.  Bogen had been bought by the Italian company Manfrotto and had the most reasonably priced CF tripods so I went with a 55X model tripod and put on a new Induro BH-2 ballhead.  I used this combo up until recently, thinking I had myself a nice, lightweight tripod setup.  Then I spotted some new tripods one day at my favorite local camera shop – FLM was the brand and the staff talked about how fantastic they were.  Not being in the market for a new tripod, I didn’t really give them much of a look.  I did pick one up though and then I understood…Wow!  This thing is LIGHT!

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The model I picked up was the CP26-L3S and with a ballhead attached, it was lighter than any full-size, quality tripod I had ever picked up.  I started studying the tripod and was blown away by the build and features.  Made in Germany, the FLM products just reek of quality and precision!

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I really looked at the CP26-L3S long and hard.  It was obvious that it was built extremely well using premium parts.  It had great features…easily adjustable legs, milled metal retractable spikes in the legs, retractable hook in the center column that you could take out and put into the bottom of the head if you weren’t using the column, and many more.   It went almost a foot over my head fully extended (I’m 6’1″) and I remembered all the times I wished my Manfrotto went higher…I had to extend the center column a few inches just to get it to eye level.  Still, I didn’t need a new tripod but after being told that I could trade my existing tripod in towards buying the FLM, I decided to go ahead and do it.  I’m so glad I did.

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One thing I particularly love about the FLM is that you can take the center column out and mount the head directly to the tripod legs.  Assembled like this, the FLM puts my camera directly at my eye level with the legs fully extended, while allowing me to lower the tripod to about 4″ off the ground for macro work!  This is awesome!  I carry the center column in my backpack for the few times I need to go higher than my eye level, which isn’t all that often but it’s nice to have that ability.  Switching to the column only takes 2 or 3 minutes so it’s NOT a big deal.  I am currently using my Induro BH-2 ballhead for now, but I very well might end up going with an FLM ballhead in the future.

I can honestly say the the milled aluminum leg twist collars are the BEST I’ve ever seen on a tripod.  They loosen and tighten easily, and hold perfectly.  I like twist collars more than the Manfrotto-style flip levers.  My Gitzo tripod had twist collars, but after a year or so, the rubber was a bit loose and they always made my hands smell like burnt rubber!  The FLM collars are really perfect IMO.

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UPDATE 5-7-14:  On my recent trip to the Great Smoky Mountains, I used the tripod and am happy to report that it was fantastic.  Tall when I needed it to be, easy to get really low for macro when I needed it.  The light weight was a blessing as well when hiking to the various places we went to.

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If you find yourself looking for a carbon fiber tripod and/or quality ball head and are looking at the premium lines like Really Right Stuff, Gitzo, etc. I strongly urge you to check out FLM…they are really, really nice.

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