Most higher end tripod come with a 3/8″ screw hole at the bottom of each leg that can accept any type of foot with the same thread. This enables the user to swap out the feet depending on the type of surface the tripod is to be used on. In this post, I am going to look at the stiffness and damping of a couple tripods while swapping out various feet. This particular test is being carried out on a concrete slab floor, covered with an epoxy coating. This is a very firm surface, and I suspect the results should applicable to most types of hard flooring, concrete, pavement, or rock.
I tested two tripods, a Really Right Stuff TVC-33 and a Gitzo GT2542 Mountaineer. For each tripod, I tested the axial (horizontal motion) stiffness and damping with five different sets of feet. These are shown in the image below from left to right as, Gitzo Platform Feet, Induro Platform Feet, Really Right Stuff Rubber Teardrop Feet, Gitzo Rubber Feet, and Spiked Feet.
I am using the term “Platform Feet”, as I don’t have better way to distinguish between feet that have a ball mount and flat rubber bottom, and the feet that are just rubber nubs. Elsewhere on the internet, they seem to both be called “Rubber Feet”.
For each tripod and foot, I took five measurements of the stiffness and damping, and am reporting the average and standard error from these measurements here. I am only reporting the axial (horizontal motions) stiffness and damping here, as it is the weakest and therefore most important axis.
|RRS TVC33||Gitzo GT2542|
|Stiffness Nm/rad||Damping Js/rad||Stiffness Nm/rad||Damping Js/rad|
|RRS Teardrop Feet||1472 +/- 2||0.30 +/- 0.04||845 +/- 6||0.23 +/- 0.02|
|Gitzo Rubber Feet||1441 +/- 12||0.35 +/- 0.02||852 +/- 5||0.17 +/- 0.01|
|Induro Platform Feet||1528 +/- 4||0.39 +/- 0.02||893 +/- 1||0.27 +/- 0.02|
|Gitzo Platform Feet||1574 +/- 10||0.49 +/- 0.02||916 +/- 7||0.29 +/- 0.01|
|Spike Feet||1445 +/- 4||0.31 +/- 0.01||833 +/- 3||0.16 +/- 0.01|
There are small but noticeable differences between the types of feet. The relative performances of the feet in the two different tripods were very similar, so I didn’t feel the need to try this on more tripods.
The spike feet performed the worst, but not by much. But no one ever wanted to use spiked feet on hard surfaces to begin with. They are strictly for outdoor use on soft surfaces.
The two sets of rubber nub feet performed very similarly. These are standard on most tripods and are expected to be good all around performers. They performed slightly better on the hard surface than the spiked feet, though the margin isn’t as large as I expected.
The platform feet provided a small but detectable increase in the overall stiffness of the system, and a respectable increase in the damping. The increase in damping could be very helpful when shooting with long lenses. The Gitzo version of these feet performed a little bit better on both stiffness and damping than the Induro ones.
The results here are not particularly dramatic but consistent with what we could have guessed intuitively. Feet with more surface contact to the ground performed better. If you have the standard rubber nub feet I wouldn’t rush out to buy platforms. They are cumbersome to use in practice. If you are working on hard surfaces with longer telephoto lenses though, a set of platform feet may be for you. The increase in damping they provide is very helpful when dealing with the long vibration die down times that are caused by such heavy equipment.
8 thoughts on “Tripod Performance vs Type of Foot on Hard Surface”
Thanks for doing the testing!
some call the RRS feet the mushroom
foot. the shape nearly follows the
arc of the leg movement.
Mushroom Foot makes more sense. I was using “Teardrop Foot” since that’s the term RRS uses.
Astronomers use separate disks to
deal with vibration on hard surfaces.
For example (I am not endorsing any
store or brand), see these posts by
With most tripods feet unfortunately not being quickly convertible and the little gain in stability demonstrated here, a set of these along with permanently installed (thread locked) spikes would probably be the quickest and most practical way to allow placing your tripod anywhere on a perfectly even hard surface like marble in a hinch, instead of being limited to aligning it for the spikes to hit the seams between the floor plates.
(At least from a predominantly outdoor photography perspective).
I bought these as an upgrade for my old tripod,Gitzo 3542LS.When the newer tripod model
Gitzo 3453LS came out, I noticed that one noticeable difference from the older Gitzo
3542LS which I ow, was the new “platform feet” on the newer 3543LS tripod model. So I
bought the Leofoto SC-50mm set of 3 “platform” rubber feet for $18 on Amazon. The Gitzo
brand was 3x more costly.Using the electronic horizon on the DSLR, I noticed some
dampening of vibration better with these feet than with the traditional rubber feet the tripod
came with. So, I also ordered the 80mm size for the bigger Gitzo 5542ls tripod.
Thank you for the testing!
Excellent info. There is another theory to try. Use 2 rubber feet and 1 spike. Idea is to evacuate camera vibration,
in a single path (hard spiked leg), to the ground. There are highend audio turntables that use this idea.
Thank you for the great content! It was invaluable for me… Thanks to your website, I eventually decided to pull the trigger
and buy a Gitzo GT3543LS and a GT5543LS to replaced all my tripods. My previous tripods were of decent brands
(Leofoto, Fotopro, 3LT, …) but I never realised how the stiffness and damping that you “feel with your hand” (that is, I
considered all of my previous tripods very stiff) has nothing to do with “actual” stiffness and damping properties. The way
my new GT5543LS dampens vibrations is truly amazing (you tested the 3 section version, but I guess it performs very
similar to my 4 sections). Combined with the Gitzo gimbal fluid head GHFG1 (it contributes to cancel vibration in a
wonderful way!) I can now shoot at 1200mm with no vibration at all.
I want to add my experience with tripod feet, hoping that you find it useful. Maybe you can repeat my experiment in a
more “scientific” way… I like the Leofoto TFS spike feet. They come with a plastic cap, which I replaced with soft (VERY
soft) rubber cap for trekking sticks – completely by chance, they fit the spike tip very nicely. Then, I compared the
vibration dampening of Gitzo Platform Feet vs. Leofoto TFS + trekking stick feet. I was concerned about the extra length
of the thin Leofoto TFS, as well as the “poor” quality of trekking stick feet. To do my test, I mounted my 600mm f/4 + 2x
teleconverter directly on the levelling base of my GT5543LS and zoomed all the way in with live view. Then, I hit gently
the camera and the feet with my fingers in various points.
The result was unexpected: Gitzo Platform Feet dampen in about 3 seconds, whereas Leofoto TFS + poor quality
trekking stick feet offer a comparable dampening effect in 2 seconds!!! I believe the reason is that the rubber on trekking
feet is softer, hence it has better shock absorption. The amplitude of the initial shock, however, was slightly higher,
probably because the softer rubber feet allows for more movement. In fact, when I put spike feed directly on the hard
floor, the initial shock amplitude is minimal, but the vibration lasts waaaay longer.
My conclusion: I will leave my Leofoto TFS permanently attached to my new tripods. In the field, they are simply great.
When using the tripod on hard floor, I will just put trekking stick feet on the spikes… Very convenient and even better!