A long, long time ago, a tripod company called Vinten made a particular type of tripod, which at the time was unique, unusual and certainly unlike anything else on the market.
It was called the Fibertec. Released back in 2002, as this old article explains, it…
…gets its strength from unique “channel” sections of a carbon/glass composite that enables these legs to out-perform the traditional twin tube design.
That it certainly does. At the time of writing that article back in 2002, the Fibertec set of legs combined with a Vinten Vision 100 head cost around £9000. Being unique has its price.
What has happened since then to Vinten?
Vinten is, and always was a tripod and grip company, but as part of their global ambitions, they renamed themselves to Vitec. They went on a bit of a takeover push in the 1980s and into the 2000s, taking in huge names like Manfrotto (1989), Sachtler (1995), Anton/Bauer (1997) and Litepanels. (2008) Source: Waybackmachine
I honestly had no idea they were such a large company. Virtually any camera operator in this age has undoubtedly used a Vitec brand piece of equipment even if they didn’t know it at the time.
What does being such a large company mean when you have so many brands?
Evidently, maintaining all the brands and types of individual equipment types you hold. When you have three different brands as part of your stable all making the same product, you’ve got many pieces, for many tripods for many operators.
Who has the space to store every spare part for every tripod for every brand? Not Vitec it seems. Because, scouring the internet trying to find some information about Vinten 3498-3 (The official part number for the Vinten Fibertec two stage legs) turns up exactly nothing except dead links, old forum posts and actually the old page from B&H where they were once sold, but now long discontinued.
So, how do I repair my Vinten Fibertec tripod?
Unless you know a decent engineer who has years of experience in making necessary repairs to these tripods, you’re pretty much on your own. Which is a shame, because the tripods are still celebrated today, and have been rock solid for me, despite me buying a “used” Fibertec tripod from a colleague in 2015. There are no spare parts anymore that are easy to find, and if you did, they’d be a higher price now than before. Example being the levers, which while the tripod was supported, cost £50 each.
Thankfully, for me at least, I know someone here in London who has repaired hundreds of these tripods in his role as a logistics manager at a major international news network. They used the Fibertec tripod since it’s inception, and only very recently began to replace them with Sachtler Flowtech tripods, which some crew members aren’t as impressed by, and have asked to go back to the Fibertec!
Joe is his name, and frankly is a bit of a genius when it comes to repairing things that seem massively complicated to us. He took me through the process for answering the question most Fibertec owners will, at some point, ask:
How do I repair slipping legs on a Vinten Fibertec tripod?
- Set all of your stages on the tripod legs to approximately the halfway stage between the top and bottom of each section, and spread the legs on the floor. Press your body weight on the head of the tripod, and identify which legs are slipping, and mark the lower levers of the legs that slide with tape.
- The open lower stage lever revealing the screw holding the locking assembly together. Leave the levers where they are, and now lay the tripod flat on its side on a bench. Open the marked lower lever. You see beneath the lock is a single phillips head screw, currently inaccessible. (Pictured below)
- WARNING – THIS STEP CAN LEAD TO THE LEVER AND CONNECTOR SNAPPING AND SHOULD BE DONE CAREFULLY, OR BY SOMEONE MORE CONFIDENT.
That said, you need to pull the lever upwards firmly, towards the top of the tripod, at which point, it snaps out of its locking mechanism, allowing you access to the screw. (Pictured below)
- Once the screw is removed, slide the now loose section down the tripod leg, and gently remove it from the guard at the top of the free leg. Make sure the rods on the sides of the tripod leg don’t slip out, but do check them for damage, and blow out any dust or sand with compressed air, or a paintbrush.
- Look at the top of the removed leg, and you see a small screw which fits an alan key. (Unsure of the size) This is what controls how much pressure is applied to the sides of the leg stage to hold it in place. Over time, the rods that do this job will either wear down or become loose. Ordinarily, this might only require a one quarter turn clockwise to make a difference. Mine, during this surgery, needed a full turn to make tight enough so yours may vary.
- Reinsert the removed lower stage tripod leg, making sure that the leg goes back into the plastic guard correctly. You need to use some force now to cause the fixed lever to go back onto its connector, and then down into the locked position. As long as you can close it without a truckload of force, it should be good enough. Repeat the above steps for each loose lower stage lock.
- Once all lower legs have been completed, set up the tripod on the floor again, fully spread. Lean on the head once more, and see if the upper stage locks require tightening. Mark accordingly.
- We’re fortunate that with the upper stage locks you don’t need to lift the lever to access the phillips head screw. Unlock the lever, and remove the screw.
- Repeat the process described earlier for removing the assembly, and tightening the bolt with the alan key. Be mindful of the brake on the leg, which is pictured between Joes’ thumb and forefinger below. It can come off, and pieces can fall out if you’re not careful.
- Reassemble your tripod, check all the top stage levers are now tight and get some more years out of your investment yet.
I still enjoy using this tripod, and it is even more than capable of taking on heavy payloads in this day and age, seventeen years after coming to the market.
With repairs and maintenance like this about once or twice a year depending on use, you should get plenty more years out of them yet.
Best of luck.
TL;DR: Take the time, read the steps and be careful. It’s worth it.
PS: I’ve gone with the Fibertec spelling for this article, though I have seen Fibretec used as well.