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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Marchionis, Tapered and Shouldered Blocks

I recently purchased two Machioni Tiltalls on EBay and noted that there was a design change at the "apex" block from a tapered "cone" section (left) to the permanent design that follows today - a much easier to machine squared shoulder.

For those interested in the headless monocolumn that I offer, the "shouldered" and assumed newer iteration (right) will accept the column, if the rather thickish inner bush strip is exchanged for a thinner bushing. The earlier lacks the bushing and I cannot recommend the expense of machining inorder to add a monocolumn.

No doubt there are even more earlier Marchioni design changes and if you have a curious version, I would be happy to post your jpegs and story.  Click on photo to enlarge.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Enhancements - Dave Anderson

Visit Dave Anderson's site for two Tiltall based innovations. Dave has recently (August 2010) blogged about his adventures with the Tiltall and the headless monocolumn.  Continuing his demonstration of what a innovative mind and a friendly machinist can create.

I am happy to post links to all other useful objects d' Tiltall.  I encourage Tiltall owners and designers to engage each other directly as my plate is overfull.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Enhancements or Detours

My own tinkering with Tiltall parts and pieces to create a video stablizer - any thoughts would be appreciated. Click on photo to enlarge.

Hopefully, this idea would not only smooth the tiny new HD cameras, but the offerings of the Nikon and Canon still/motion convergence as well.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gams without Jams

From Daniel Wong- Attached is a photo showing three (3) different versions of the leg lock
design on my own Tiltalls: Left:  Early model Leitz Tiltall tripod.  (best-working; all brass, similar to Marchioni); Middle:  Late model Leitz Tiltall monopod.  (better-working; brass and plastic); Right:  Star-D Tiltall tripod.  (cheaply designed; soft nylon.  Aluminum locking collar threaded onto an aluminum tube - a metallurgical no-no. Note that the nylon bushing has formed a small ridge as a result of repeated jams).

Mystery of the Star-D Tiltall

Following the Leitz purchase of the Marchioni company, what is the continuing ontogeny of Tiltall? My understanding is that Uniphot, an US export company, purchased Tiltall from Leitz hoping to export Tiltall to European and Asian markets, however Uniphot collapsed in the early '90s as did a number of other international photo trading groups such as Mamiya's Osawa in Japan, etc.  In 1998, Tiltall's current manufacturer, Oliver Yang, was asked by the folks that controlled some of the Uniphot holdings to continue Uniphot's Tiltall iteration and Oliver seems to have been true to that design to present.

Somewhere in the mix, we have the mysterious Star-D Tiltall. The Davidson Optronics Company was located (photo left) in West Covina, a suburb of Los Angeles. The Davidson Company still exists and made a number of interesting tripod designs during its history including the tripod shown above with the unique "Star-D" handle crank. According to numerous rumours, Davidson did not ever trade on the 'Tiltall" name (who knows, there may have been some partnership breakups between the Uniphot heirs).  But might have made some trademark sale of "Star D" to Fred Albu of Unifot.   To add to the confusion, some quite innovative tripod models do trade under the name "Tiltall" with no relation to the Marchioni design - many with quick release mechanisms and removable tripod heads  - see some of Adorama's Tiltall offerings.  [Ed: I thank Daniel Wong for the word "ontogeny".  UPDATE: current owner of the Tiltall mark, Oliver Yang, seems to add the name Tiltall to many other non-Marchioni designs.  Humbug!!]  Any corrections to this mythology are highly appreciated.

ADDENDUM March 12, 2010: Speaking today with Sam Bailey, of Davidson Optronics..  Sam started working for Davidson Mfg Company in 1963 and at that time, the Star-D tripod [left] had already been in production by Davidson since, he believes, the late 50's.  Sam says production ended in the late 60's, 1968 or so.  We may surmise, as the Marchioni Bros did not sell their concern to Leitz until 1974, that when the Star-D tripods by Davidson ended in the late 60s, some clever Davidson dealer, apparently Fred Albu, Camera Barn, NYC, and owner of the distribution company, Uniphot, was aware that the Star-D brand and logos might be available from the Davidson company.  [update: 2020.11.06 see various opinions following.  I have since purchased three of the original Davidson Star-Ds -gr]  

ADDENDUM : History detectives, thanks, Stan and Rolfe- November 26, 2002  Stan Yoder wrote:

I understood that the story went like this: when the Marchioni brothers(of NJ) died, the widows EACH sold the production rights, one to Leitz USA, the other to Davidson/Star-D, which at the time was an American firm. But that may be partly apocryphal. Leitz USA published a pamphlet on the Tiltall that states that it approached the brothers in 1973 about an "affiliation." The brothers then decided to retire from tripod production, Leitz moved their machinery to Rockleigh NJ, and the brothers trained the Leitz staff. It could be, then, that Leitz subsequently (what year?) sold the Tiltall to the entrepreneur who owned Star-D. OR, maybe the story is partially correct after all, and Davidson was producing its version concurrently (but after the bros. died?)

The Star-D could be had in at least two models, the better/best of which (the "Professional") had the brass collets in the leglocks, like the original. I own (and prize) one of these and the only difference I can detect is that the two tilt handles have black plastic grips rather than the aluminum knobs of the Marchioni bros. original. Otherwise, built like the proverbial brick s---house, and NOT lightweight. Sturdy is as sturdy does.

I dunno about the current Tiltall, having neither seen nor handled one. I've heard that it's not made like the older ones. "They don't build 'em like they useter, Horace!"

Can anyone shed conclusive light on this history?

The Star-D and the Leitz branded Tiltall were definitely produced
concurrently. The Star-D was cheaper, both in price and in fit and feel.
The current Tiltall seems to be somewhere in between, IMHO. I can't get the
legs tight enough on my modern Tiltall -- they want to screw right off the
head up at the top. Also, the redesign of the feet was certainly a
questionable one. On my Leitz, there is no way you are going to lose a foot
but on the modern tiltall, it only seems a matter of time before one comes
unscrewed without being noticed.

- --
Rolfe Tessem
Lucky Duck Productions, Inc.
rolfe (at)

ADDENDUM- June 08 Note Asian Star-Ds in Comments below.  I am still hoping, as the California Star-D copy occurred during the Marchioni Bros lifetime, if the relationship was friendly or acrimonious? Perhaps a Marchioni Jr or Grand Jr would know.

ADDENDUM - June 09 On 4-Oct-2006, Bob Salomon - head of HP Marketing posted this on the Large Format Photography Forum.   I know Bob and consider him very knowledgeable in the history of the photo industry, but having spoken to an employee of Davidson (above), I cannot yet sort the following. Some of the internal logic is a bit bumpy: "Star D ended up being owned by Fred Albu who also owned Camera Barn a large camera store in NYC and the Uniphot distribution company who, among other products, was the distributor for Hoya.  Marchoni sold the Tiltall to Leica USA who manufactured it for a few years and then sold the Tiltall line to Star D who then sold two versions, the Titall and the Star D copy. (Ed: Davidson says they ceased manufacturing BEFORE Marchioni's sold to Leitz - above) Uniphot has been out of business for about 25 to 30 years. The Tiltall went off the market when Uniphot was closed. The tools and trademark were for sale by the Uniphot trustees and after a few years was purchased by the Chinese company that makes and sells it today. Under Uniphot several Star D tripods were sold and Star D also made tripods in the 50s as an independent company before Fred bought the company. There is no successor company to Uniphot or Star D and neither has existed for 25+ years so parts would have to be made. A replacement tripod would be more cost-effective then repairing."  Fred Albu is also mentioned in this history of Tiltall. which also mentions Omicron Electronics of Chatsworth which I believe is the missing link between Uniphot-Levitt's demise in the early 1980s and our current, Oliver Yang.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Marchioni Tiltall with detachable leg

Gary- You say in any earlier post that "If you own a Marchioni Tiltall with a 1/4-20 termination, let me know. The mythical belief is that the advent of the removable leg came with the 1/4-20 column base."  I have a Marchioni Tiltall, from late 1960s and it definitely has the removable leg. The original column cap fit it (to be a monopod), but I have since replaced it with your column which supports ballheads. I doubt this is new information, so I am a bit puzzled with your statement above. - Wayne Fulton
Wayne- Your are right, my statement is not at all clear.  With your Marchioni Tiltall - once the leg is removed from the Marchioni body, is there a "TEP-6" tripodie-type (1/4-20) base to then screw into top of this leg - or asked differently - how does your removable leg become a monopod. My Marchioni has no removable leg and only an open- ended stop at the bottom of the column. You have definitely squished the myth that the detachable leg came after Marchioni. - Gary

Gary- Oops!   Sorry, I cannot defend the monopod idea now...  I think you are correct.  I am glad you asked. The original center column had the screw-in stop on the bottom end of it, mine shown here (original column at bottom, reversed end to end).    That cap removes and will screw into the removed leg. However I discover that it is open ID and no monopod is possible, so there is no point of that.  There is a smooth one inch hole in it. I have never used the monopod, however it was always my notion that it provided one.  I am making this up now, but perhaps there was an accessory cap with 1/4" screw that did that?  My memory fails me now on this.    Anyway, it comes as a big surprise to me.    But why else would one leg unscrew? But my memory came from somewhere, and all these years, I have always "known" that one leg removed to be a monopod. I see no marking or distinction on the leg which removes, you have to find it.  Sometimes you have to use a little (reasonable) force to get it started loose, but no tools, bare hands only.  One leg will, and two will not, AFAIK.   I always assumed all Tiltalls did this. It is still a mighty fine tripod. -Wayne

Monday, February 15, 2010

Replacement Center Column Bush for Marchioni

From: Richard Karash, Feb 14, 2010

Hello Gary -- Following another blog post, I tried making a replacement for the paper/fiber bushing. A white/translucent Fuji 35mm film "can" looks just about right. Cutting a strip carefully to the right size, matching it to the existing fiber bushing. It's a great replacement for the paper/fiber bushing, perhaps a little thicker, which should help those who cannot lock the center column.

However, your headless column has a slightly larger diameter, so I have the opposite problem: I need a thinner bushing. After trying several approaches, drawing the plastic tightly over the sharp edge of a good scissors planes off a little at a time.  After a dozen strokes, I have a new plastic bushing that is just right...  I can slide the column up and down, but a moderate twist of the knob locks it down tight. Thanks for the excellent support of Tiltall. -Rick

Captions, photo above: Fuji 35mm film "can" has just about the right amount of plastic, right shape, and right thickness to replace the original Marchioni paper/fiber bushing Inset: Dark Marchioni paper/fiber bushing compared to my new plastic bushing from Fuji Film "can."  The white plastic is about the same thickness as the original, perhaps a little thicker. As is, it should help those with slipping center column.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cigars anyone??- new Tiltall Grandbaby

Oliver Yang, present manufacturer of the original Tiltall, has recently completed the design and first production of a direct descendant of the Marchioni Tiltall - in two versions, an aluminum tube and in a lighter carbon fiber tube, in two sizes. (Shown at left, larger carbon TC-284 with ball head BH-3, click on photo to enlarge.) Tiltall's grandbaby continues the reversable center column, removable leg cum monopod and spike/rubber leg tip, but adds a monoball head and three stop legs that folds over the ball head (see my earlier "dream" post) for a compact carry-on size.  Stats: Smaller carbon TC-254 closed: 42cm; extended: 142cm; weight: 1050g; Larger carbon TS-284 closed: 50.5cm; extend: 172cm; weight: 1430g; Smaller Alum TE-254 Closed: 42cm; Extend: 142cm; Weight: 1300g; Larger Alum TE-284 Closed: 50.5cm; Extend: 172cm; Weight: 1640g. Adorama is the first USA dealer - selling the smaller aluminum Tiltall Traveler TE-254 with smaller ball head BH-20 for $130.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Learning curve - feet Two

The original Marchioni foot (left) had a descending spike through a fixed rubber tip.  The foot in current production follows  the opposite design - a fixed spike with a descending rubber tip - a change in design that I believe occurred with the Marchioni brothers before they sold the company to Leitz USA, but a design that certainly exists on the later Uniphot version and the StarD version.  If you own a late Marchioni, Leitz or StarD Tiltall, kindly submit a foot jpeg to correct this post and for the edification of your fellow aficionados.

Learning curve - feet

More notes from the field - The Uniphot (Woodside NY) foot (left) looks like it has very close to the same diameter post as the current production foot (right) and probably had/has a fixed spike/decending rubber (Note: Marchioni had decending spike/fixed rubber - see next post). But the Uniphot definitely has different threads - as per my order page, this is where the "may need a machinist" comes in - the ID of the last section of leg may need to be re-threaded. Or try to force things and/or copious amounts of epoxy for a very permanent solution. Alternatively, watch EBay for a Uniphoto Tiltall and cannibalize the parts as you need them.  (If you end up not using the current foot, please return ofcourse without paying.)  Photo and question from Jerome Crowder