Test Results

Test Results

The stiffness of the TVC-33 is excellent.  When compared to similar top-end 3-series tripods, the RRS is the best, though the admittedly the differences are pretty small.  The damping measure here is pretty poor though.  This particular model TVC-33 is a pretty old model though, and all of the newer RRS tripods I have tested have had much better damping characteristics.  I would expect any newly purchased TVC-33 II to damp very well.  This lower amount of damping was a known issue with the early RRS tripods and telescope users, for whom the damping matters greatly, noticed the issue.  At some point unknown to me, RRS improved the damping provided by the pad on the top plate, and the issue was resolved.

Harmonic Mean Stiffness2183.5
Yaw Stiffness1509 +/- 4 Nm/rad
Pitch Stiffness3949 +/- 8 Nm/rad
Yaw Damping0.215 +/- 0.022 Js/rad
Pitch Damping0.255 +/- 0.026 Js/rad

The stiffness and damping data are the averages of 10 trials for each measurement.  The reported error is the standard error, except in the case of the damping data. I have set the error in the damping at 10% as the standard error metric does not appropriately capture the error in fitting to the data.  All of the reported specifications are measured, with the exception of the weight rating. The tripod is measured at full height, with the center column (if applicable) down.

TFC Version:  I have not tested the 33 legs with the TFC ‘fixed’ apex, but I have made the comparison for other sets of RRS tripods.  Here is what you should expect.  When using the TFC apex vs. the TVC tested here, the stiffness should be roughly the same.  The stiffness of a tripod is primarily determined by the strength of the legs, not the apex.  However, you should expect significantly lower damping.  The damping on a tripod such as this mostly comes from the rubber pad on the top plate.  With the TFC version, you get no such pad, just bare aluminum surface.  If you are using a set of gear with high damping requirements such as a long, heavy telephoto lens, definitely use the TVC version of the tripod.

The TFC apex also lowers the rotation point of the tripod, which is the point in space where all three legs come together.  With the TVC, that point is about where the camera is when used with a ballhead.  With the TFC, that point is within the ballhead itself.  So again, when using heavier gear, use the TVC version.

Bonus Data:

I don’t normally test the stiffness vs. height for tripods, but happened to do so for the TVC-33 as part of my investigation into the topic.

For full context on understanding this graph, see the full post series here.

Recommended Gear Limit

The exact gear limit is highly dependent on the external conditions such as wind, and technique, such as the use of a cable release.  Under perfectly still conditions using perfect technique, sharp images can be obtained using any tripod. Developing a consistent and broadly applicable set of guidelines for what kind of gear a given tripod can reasonably support is still a work in progress on this site.

The RRS-TVC-33 should be a reasonable support for just about any commonly used photographic gear.  If you are using the largest telephoto lenses on rigid mounts, you may appreciate going to a larger, stiffer set of legs.  If you are using those telephotos on a gimbal, the TVC-33 will provide plenty of stability.

Example Test Data

The following data is example raw data from the stiffness and damping measurements.  The relevant information with regards to the tripod performance is entirely contained within the stiffness and damping figures presented above.  The plots below are solely present so that the tested stiffness and damping figures are believed. Each plot and the corresponding Fourier frequency space plot correspond to one of the ten trials done on each axis to obtain the test results.  For a more in depth discussion on the meaning of these graphs, see the methodology section and the “understanding the test results” page.

This tripod acts as a near perfect resonator, as shown by the fourier plot.

Now for oscillation about a radial axis from the tripod’s apex:

The resonance is not nearly as perfect for the radial data, but its still quite good.  This makes sense, as there is much more going on.