The Berlebach Report 332 tripod is a real beauty! Anyway, tripods made of wood like this one are honestly not for everybody. After 3 years in use it’s time for writing a long-time review.
This wooden tripod is handmade in Germany. It is crafted of the world’s best ash woods, which are growing exclusively in the German “Erzgebirge” and some parts of the Czech Republic.
Anyway, the wooden material seems to be notably harder, more resistant, tougher and more elastic than in case of tripods made of basalt- or carbon fiber from companies like Manfrotto, Sirui, Gitzo or Novoflex. Summarized one could say that wood is more convenient to be used in tripods compared to other materials, if image quality represents the main aspect. Furthermore the Berlebach Report 332 doesn’t show any strong signs of wear after 3 years of use. Maybe it’s because it’s not painted and small scratches are not well visible on wood, compared to scratches on aluminum. But maybe it’s also because it’s built very solid…
General information – Is a wooden tripod an alternative for you?
One, let’s call it “disadvantage”, is its heavy weight, but if image quality matters, than this point is also the big advantage of the Berlebach Report 332. Is this wooden tripod an option for you? Actually it depends on which kind of photographer you are. For travelling and hiking this tripod is definitely a way to heavy and much too big. In the latter case I would recommend you to buy rather a light and flexible carbon made tripod like the Sirui T-025X, than a heavy wooden one. In case you are a beginner and searching for a cheap but good all-rounder tripod, you might be happy with an aluminum made tripod like the Rollei C5i or the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AGH. If you don’t care so much about weight and size, but image quality and life expectancy are important for you, then you should continue reading. The Berlebach Report 332 is potentially the best tripod you can get for architecture and landscape photography. If it’s not your first tripod, it will be your last one!
Image quality and sharpness – Our experience
Our first Experience is that our long exposures became slightly sharper since we switched to this wooden tripod. That’s because ash wood is able to absorb vibration. Regarding to the vibration-isolating characteristics wood is much superior to carbon fiber or any other material. Whereas the local traffic or even the swing of the DSLR’s mirror can set an aluminum tripod into vibrancy and entail some blur, this issue is not very likely to occur with a wooden tripod. In combination with wide-angle-lenses micro-vibrations are just a marginal problem. But in case of long exposures with e.g. 50mm prime lenses on a high-resolution camera that small vibrations will become strongly noticeable in a direct comparison. The quality of absorbing vibrations is on wooden tripods phenomenal. Even sharp long exposures with a 300mm telephoto-lens next to a tram station on a big square are possible without any issues of blur.
In Addition wood doesn’t show any thermal expansion like aluminum:
While taking some landscape shoots close to a river with cold molten glacier water we had some issues with that thermal expansion. At first the aluminum-tripod (Sirui T-2004X) was staying in the water, afterwards it was placed on dry ground close to the river. In the close-up above you can see the sharp test image on the left side, on the right side the close-up of the long exposure is shown and a vertical blur is visible: Due to the rapid change of temperatures from the cold water to the warm air with insolation, the tripod legs have been expanding during the time of exposure and the camera was moving slowly up, resulting in a vertical blur in the final photo. This couldn’t happen with a wooden tripod!
Stability and Durability
As mentioned before wooden tripods are comparably heavy, but for this reason they impress with a low emphasis and high stability. Even during strong winds the camera is save on this tripod, whereas an ultra-light tripod might tilt over and cause a broken camera as the result, as already happened to us. The multilayered protection-coatings are responsible for the extreme weather-resistance of Berlebach-tripods. After 3 years of use under hard environmental conditions from North-Africa, to the Arctic and the wet areas in Eastern Europe, as well as the Alps it is surprisingly that signs of wear occur just marginal. We didn’t expect such robustness from a wooden tripod and never experienced something comparable from other ones. There are photographers using the wooden tripods from Berlebach for their whole live.
Specifications of the Berlebach Report 332
Without a head, this tripod has a weight of 3.2kg (70pounds). It is 89cm or 35 inches long. So it not an ultra-light and compact tripod for traveling, but it is still okay for normal use and transportation.
Placed flat on the ground this Report 332 kit can reach a minimum height of 8cm or 3inch, whereas the maximum high is about 145cm or 57inch. In combination with the Manfrotto 410 head the working area is between 20 to 160cm or 8 till 63inch of highness. The loading capacity is specified with 12kg or 27pound under every position, so it’s also usable for medium format cameras and heavy lens equipment.
For the Berlebach Report series there are 10 different platform-modules available. Some modules have a long center column or a spherical platform, others are rotatable and tiltable or fixed. Anyway, the module 3 is included with the Berlebach Report 332. This module contains an alignment-ball on which the tripod-head can be attached separately. This module 3 – platform ist comparable to a usual ball-head, but it’s much bigger and the angle of inclination is limited to 30 degrees. It is made for leveling the tripod-head. There are two bubble-levels mounted on the tripod, one on top of the wooden construction for the fast orientation and the other on top of the platform for fine-adjustment.
The wooden legs of the tripod are relatively wide, huge and very stable. It is possible to brace them apart independently by 20, 40, 60, 80 or 100 degrees. The legs are made of just two segments with one clamp which supports the stiffness and stability, as well the excellent absorption of vibrations. Furthermore a scale is attached to the legs what makes a fast and precise positioning easy. On the inner face small bails enable the mount of accessories like as small basket. A side effect of wooden surfaces is that they always feel warm, which is pretty pleasant in the winter. Additionally this tripod is constructed in a way that is doesn’t contain any hollow spaces like classical leg-tubes which could get tanked up with water or be filled with dirt. Therefore it doesn’t have to be dried after being used in water and it is easy to clean.
The leg-tips are made of steel with screwable rubber tops. Therefore it is possible to use this tripod with spikes on soft grounds or with rubber-tips e.g. in interiors. Of course it’s built in a way, so that it is not possible to lose the rubber tops.
For ca. 275€ you can get the potentially best tripod ever made. It is stable like hell and not shaky at all. It has extraordinary ability to absorb vibrations and it’s made for decades of use. The mechanic is simple built and persistent. If you want to buy this high-quality product for precise an accurate work, you can click on the following link.