Surveyor Tripod Conversion

By Bill Kumpf © 2009 for


I have always been hesitant to use my Gitzo tripod for the wet and dirty shooting environments of the creeks and wetlands. For these shoots, I have modified an aluminum surveyor tripod. I am not the first and nor, hopefully, the last to use these rugged and cheap tripods for photographic work. Several members of this forum also use similar conversions.


Hopefully, this will serve as a guide for those who would like to try this conversion.





I purchased a used tripod from an equipment rental company. The unit cost $30.  The adapter pieces were cut from scrap plywood. The 3/8” diameter bolt was a spare from another project. In an afternoon, you can create a very useable unit.


This is the finished conversion. My Gitzo three way head is mounted to the surveyor’s leg set.






The first step of this conversion is the remove the transit mounting screw and bracket.





The attachment is located on the under side of the tripod plate. Turn the unit over and support the adjoining leg assemblies. This bolt also clamps the adjoining leg assemblies. With the bolt loose, both legs are also.


With the tripod upside down, remove the bolt and the leg clamp. The transit mounting screw and bracket will lift off the locating stud.








These pieces are removed from the surveyor’s tripod. Be sure to save them if you ever want to convert it back to orginal.






To mount the head, you will need three discs. These are cut from plywood.


The assembly is fastened with the bolt used to mount the camera or tripod head. Both my Gitzo head and Zone VI requires a 3/8” bolt. All three discs were drilled in the center with a 3/8” hole.










The smallest diameter disc is cut to fit into the tripod plate hole. This disc thickness should be less than the depth of the hole in the tripod plate.


The other two discs should be about ¼ inch larger diameter. These fit above and below the plate and clamp the assembly together.





Insert the bolt into the center hole of one the larger disc then add the smaller disc. Insert the assembly into the tripod plate and add the third disc.


The bolt, inserted through the center hole, should protrude at least ¼” inch. Measure the depth of the mounting socket of either your camera or tripod head. Your bolt length is this measurement plus the stack up height of your disc. Measure this installed on the tripod plate.  The length can be adjusted by using washer under the bolt head.









The tripod head is then mounted to the bolt. The Gitzo head has a base diameter that is larger than the hole diameter in the tripod plate. It can serve as the upper disc.



For landscape work, I mount the camera directly to the tripod. With a Zone VI camera, the third disc is required for clearance for the camera’s focusing knobs.


In this mode, the converted tripod tipped the scale at 7 ¾ pounds. Not light but very usable.


Modify the system to fit your needs. I since have added two wood screws to lock the wood disc in place.


Simple and it works.



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