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Tripod with Shim-mering Feet

June 1, 2014

I alluded to my tripod issues in this past Saturday’s post, but it really requires a longer write-up than I could provide in the context of my trip to Uvalde.

So there I was, minding my own business back in September at Cook’s Slough.  Recent rains had turned one of my favorite shooting areas a little bit mucky.  Okay, a lot mucky.  But there was an insect I wanted to shoot and I took a chance with my footing (both my boots, and the tripod).  After successfully getting my shot, I picked up the tripod.  And when I did, one of the rubber feet at the end of one of the tripod legs became a permanent part of the landscape.  I did a thorough search, but there was just no finding that darned thing.

This didn’t stop me from shooting the rest of the day, but it did slow me down a bit and had me wondering for the rest of the day how exactly I was going to get the mud out of the tripod leg.  Thankfully my trusty Manfrotto 190CXPRO4 is made from carbon fiber so rusting would not be an issue.  But I feared over time that the leg would be tougher to use, not to mention I was afraid the leg section would end up getting stuck because there was no rubber piece to keep it from traveling further than designed.

What I found when I got home was that other than making sure that the lowest section did not get stuck, the tripod worked remarkably well.  Yes, the leg didn’t move quite as well as it used to, but for the most part the stability was fine everywhere except for on firm ground or on hard floors.  Even then, the performance was acceptable.

Or it was for a while.

Eventually that leg had the opposite problem that I had feared:  The lowest leg did not retract far enough.  So now I had to keep the lower legs fully extended all the time which was more annoyance than anything else.  But I knew it wasn’t right and I guessed it was caused by a build up of dirt, sand, and other things.

So about three months ago I decide that maybe I can wash out the dirt and everything will work correctly.

And I was wrong in a very bad way.

After spraying water into the empty leg, eventually I did get a good deal of dirt out.  But when I went to extend the legs again, the footless leg ended up on the floor.  There was a short string of expletives that followed.

The tripod was not cheap.  And while I’ve gotten a good deal of use from it, I really didn’t want drop another $300 on a new one.

So I did what most people would do in such a situation.  I took the leg apart and tried to figure out how it worked.

After finding a screwdriver with the right head on it, I was able to get the leg apart.  And what I discovered was that one of the plastic shims was missing.  Two shims go on each leg section and act as the brake.  Well, one of my two shims for the lowest leg was gone.

Or again, so I thought.  After looking carefully at all of the pieces that came off of the leg I found an odd piece that didn’t match anything else.  It was the missing shim, though only a fraction of itself.  It had cracked.  With a little bit of luck, I was able to get the cracked shim back in place and the leg once again refrained from falling onto the floor.

I went out to Manfrotto’s site hoping to find how to order a replacement for the broken part.  And this is where Manfrotto shines.  They have an illustrated parts breakdown of the tripod.  In a matter of minutes I found the parts and their accompanied parts number.  Wow.  Too easy.

To order the parts, they ask that you send an e-mail to them.  Okay… easy enough.  That was March 30th.

April 8th I get an e-mail saying that my request was received and they directed me to the answer online.  The online answer was to call their service department and order the parts.

A couple days later I call them up, provide them the part numbers, and they provide a very reasonable fee for the parts I needed.  Cool.

And then I waited.  And waited.  And waited a little more.  Somewhere in the process I saw a “Pending Charge” on the card I used, so I thought maybe it was just a matter of days.

And then I waited some more.

Finally, right before the Memorial Day weekend I called them back looking for a status.  When I got them on the phone, the rep told me their system was down, but provide him with a phone number and an e-mail address and he’d find a status.  About two hours later I get an e-mail back that the parts have arrived and that they would be in the mail either on Friday that week or early the following week.  Given that, I’m guessing that they had to come in from the home company in Europe and that was what created the delay.

Four business days after the phone call, I had my replacement parts in my hand.  I’m hoping this week to replace the cracked shim, but the foot went on just as it should.

So the verdict:  I’m happy.  It took longer than I had hoped, but all is good in the world.  I am now more careful about where I put the tripod down, but I carry an extra foot in my Go Kit for the next time I lose one.

Now I just need to call Canon about my flash….


4 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2014 10:43 pm

    Glad everything is back in the right place:)

  2. June 2, 2014 11:32 pm

    Good job! You’re a credit to the male fix-it species!

    • June 3, 2014 6:46 pm

      I was just lucky I didn’t mess it up. I did have some assistance from a family member who enjoyed the challenge as much as I did. Still haven’t put in the shim. Maybe tonight.


  1. Without a Leg to Stand On | Jim's Assorted, Usually Photographic, Ramblings

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