Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Man's Best Friend - The Leitz TOOUG

The Leitz TTT - OK - I'll use proper parlance - it's the Leitz Table Top Tripod (part number 14100 [or name TOOUG] for the cognoscenti) a 'gadget' that has been in production in one form or another since the 1930's . . and despite its longevity I don't actually see many people using it, though strangely a lot of people must, because (I believe) it is still in production.

Ok Sheepy, but isn't it just three bits of metal and a wing/nut-sort o'thang? 
Isn't it as stone-age as a human-drawn plough is to a Massey Ferguson tractor? 
Isn't it, in a word, BASIC?

Well yes, but a lot of times in simplicity lies great integrity.
If you thought the TTT was a piece of junk . . . you're WRONG!
It's a total boon - a simple, ingenious device - all solid metal and paintwork. In it's stowed state it is small enough to fit into a decent pocket, but erect and with a decent ballhead on it, it is sturdy enough to take the likes of a Koni Omega Rapid or a Hasselblad at some very jaunty angles.
Aha - you're doubting that aren't you?
Well, far be it from me to say "I told you so" . . . see below for very real evidence.

You see in its simplicity lies a sure-footed, integrated performance where little can go wrong. Set the legs at the right angle (more on this further down the page) and you have solidity you would be surprised at..
And ignoring for a moment it's obvious uses as . . . er . . . a tripod, it will also double-duty as the most variable camera bracket you can buy! 
Dedicated brackets for all sorts of cameras are relatively pedestrian compared to the variable whizzkid that is the TTT. 
I doubted this until I got one.

I'd seen the pics of Roger Hicks, in his Low Light Photography book, and guffawed a bit, until I got mine and once I got the hang of it there was no going back. 
In Scotland, where a handheld photograph in the Winter can be a precarious exercise, I found it to be a wonderful and easy to travel with companion - 1/2 a second (or less!) was easy with the M2, a 1/15th (or less!) with the Nikon. 
No more need to lug the Gitzo around if I was just out on a photographic wander . . I'd just take the TTT. Let's put it this way - it's too small and handy to NOT take, and (for a Leitz accessory, where grams usually equal the current trading price of pounds for platinum) they're relatively cheap, so what's not to like?! 
For the modest price of a TTT set-up (usually well under £100 if buying secondhand) you've got a sturdy companion for life. 
With the emphasis being on sturdy.
I've used it with my M2, I've used it with the Nikons, I've used it with the Rollei and the Minolta and the Koni, and now I am using it with the Hasselblad.

The beauty of it is that you can rest it against pretty much anything: walls, windows, dogs, companions, car bonnets, lumpy-grassy bits . . . and yourself. 
Oh yes, you can't rule yourself out of this - David Warner Ellis (the Redferns/Getty rock photographer) once said that all you need is two legs and a wall and you've got a tripod - oh how right he was, but with the TTT all you need is it and a strap and you've got a wonderfully easy to move around, sturdy body brace - no need for an olde-fangled wall! 
It's a technique I've used with the Rollei, which has translated over to the Hasselblad, you use a neck strap and tension the camera from your neck, resting the TTT against your body at the same time . . . release your breath and bang, there y'go.
It sounds peculiar, but it isn't half comfortable and it doesn't half work.
With a fastish film, moderate daylight and care, you can produce nice shake-free photos you can be proud of.

Of course all this wouldn't be nearly half as much fun without a nice matching ballhead . . . or, in typical Leitz parlance the 14115 large ballhead [KGOON] and the 14105 small ballhead [FOOMI]. I have both and I prefer the large ballhead, all satin chrome, with a serrated ball and an ingenious rotating safety collar (making it useable at ALL angles) - I don't know how it does it, but it grips like a bulldog on your privates.
It's as solid as any ballhead I've used that didn't require me to sell my son, and is actually as solid as my two venerable Gitzo Pan And Tilts, and that as they say, is saying something!

Anyway, photographic evidence is now forthcoming. 
Ignore the mess of my desk - I didn't have much time. 
And why are the cameras on their side? 
Well, to demonstrate solidity, but also to say to you that you must align the legs correctly, tripod triangular-like, and always, if the camera is on its side, with one leg under the camera, and if upright, one leg pointing forward under the axis of the lens.
It's basic info, but essential for non-topples.
I will admit the Hasselblad has tested it, but it didn't topple, however I wouldn't trust it on its side in a heavy wind without some extra balast!

Handy Telegraph Pole.

Ever-so Handy Pavement.

Ooh, Grass! That's Handy Too.

TTT & M2. Handy Desk.

Nikon F & TTT.  Handy Desk.

Rolleiflex T, & TTT (That's Four Ts!).  Handy Desk.

Drunken Hasselblad & TTT.  Handy Desk.

Vic Again. That's A Heavy Set-Up.  Handy Desk.

My Friend - The Mighty Atom.  Handy Desk.

Why am I spouting all this? 
Well, in the spirit of passing on things I have learned through real world use . . 
I am saving you time and film . .  I like helping people.
And that's it folks.
Don't ignore this . . .
Go and buy one.
You won't regret it.

TTFN . . . oooh . . . where did I put my Captain Leakies?


  1. I have a Manfrotto TTT and although it's very handy, it's clearly no match for the Leica.
    But I'm going to let you into a secret. A square format camera gives you a square neg, even when tilted on its side. Some digital photographers might be misled. Only we few, the chosen ones, know about this, so burn the email as soon as you have read it. Even so, it's a fine demonstration of sturdiness

    Very pleased to see the wonderful 60mm lens in the flesh.

    And here's a baffling, unanswered question. Why do Leica choose names for their odds-and-sods from the crews-lists of crashed alien spaceships ships in Area 51?

  2. Aha - I know it doesn't matter the orientation of the negative, but when you're using a WLF and the subject is above eye-level, it's easier to pop the camera on its side and view that way rather than trying to find that stool!

    As for the names - they sound like things that would have been uttered by Kenneth Williams voicing Will O' the Whisp . . go on . . flare your nostrils and say "The Moog!" and then say "The Leitz TOOUG!" . . .
    See . . .

  3. Granted. I know you'd have a reason. I hadn't given it enough thought. I do remember seeing demonstrations of Rolleis held upside down over the heads of crowds. I imagine it was even trickier to follow a moving subject that way.
    Wouldn't you just love to see a Leica OOMATRON? Probably all held in collectors' vaults by now.

  4. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it wiv me own eyes. If that anti-gravity capability could be transferred to a space ship we'd have interstellar travel (continuing the space metaphor). But you didn't show the braced against the chest pose! I still don't believe that's possible either without getting a leg up your nose. It would be interesting indeed to see what it would make of the Kodak Specialist!

  5. David - you have just invented a new Olympic sport - overhead TLR action following - that would be extraordinarily difficult AND not a little bit disorientating.
    I've got a Leitz 'IFANCYANOGGINOFTHATMYSELF' [Part Number 132, 4545] if anyone is interested.

    Bruce - the legs don't have to be in a triangular setting - they can align to any position, so unfortunately you can't shove it up your nose and take a picture at the same time . . . and yes, I have had the Wista DX on it too, though the ballhead is a little rickety to say the least.

  6. Scotland, famous for engineers, has already invented the answer to the tripod on-chest problem. Two answers in fact – the deep-fried Mars bar and the battered pizza. Legends in their own lifetimes, both!
    Consume a few of these each day and an ideal tripod platform will emerge.
    But always remember: "Ye canna change the Laws o' Physics!"

  7. I've also got a Leitz 'GEEZASWATCH-o'YURCOUPON' - matches the 16453 'Y'CANNAEWHACKREM'

    Deep fried pizza is as fine an artery-hardener as I have ever eaten - especially if done in lard.


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