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Buying A Camera Tripod Guide

camera tripod and leica

Camera Tripod Buying Basics

A camera tripod is among the many essential camera accessories available on the market and using a tripod opens up a great deal of benefits and creativity for many beginners, especially to develop great fundamentals in composition, image sharpness, and scene awareness.

Using a solid camera tripod practically guarantees that the dreaded image blur from camera shakes (accidental or otherwise) do not ruin what could’ve been a great picture. Despite many modern lenses and cameras sporting image stabilization features, there’s no substitute to a good tripod to ensure the sharpest image possible, in addition, many lenses and cameras offer marginal image stabilization benefits in really low light.

The tiniest of camera shake can ruin an image’s sharpness and detail rendition.

In low-light conditions, the lack of illumination forces you to use slow shutter speeds and not even the best image stabilization mechanisms can compensate. In addition, if you’re using small apertures, or taking multiple-exposure shots for high-dynamic range (HDR) images, a tripod is the only way to guarantee identical composition, shot-after-shot because of the elimination of camera movement.

If you’re in a the market for your first camera tripod consider the guidelines below:

Purpose of the Camera Tripod

Figure out the main type of photography you’ll be using your camera tripod for. If you’re a landscape photographer, for example, a sturdy, easy-to-carry tripod with a precise pan-head like the Ravelli APGL3 with 3-way pan head might be ideal, for quicker camera adjustment, the Ravelli APGL3 ball-head version of the same tripod set may be more ideal . If you only need it for light-gear, vacation type of use, a nice and light tripod like the Manfrotto MKC3-H01 will be more than sufficient.

If you’re using it indoors like a studio, most of the time, then weight isn’t much of an issue, so opt for something like the Velbon DV7000 as you value stability and sturdiness more than weight and portability.
manfrotto 190x camera tripod

Tripod Height

There are different heights available for different camera tripods, much of it depends on your height and needs. Ideally, the height of a tripod should match your body type, the less you have to bend over, the better. Base the working height of the tripod without its center column extended for the most part.

Having the right tripod height is essential for comfort as well as making sure you can get all the vertical shooting available to you when the opportunity arises.

Also, if you plan to shoot table-top or where the camera will often be in strange angles, opt for tripods with tiltable and removable center column like the ever-popular Manfrotto 190XPROB aluminum tripod (head not included).

Material

Many tripods were created using aluminum, a lightweight and sturdy metal, and is considered to be the bare minimum material for tripods. Be wary of tripods that are too light because you’re putting expensive equipment on top of it. You wouldn’t want the tripod to tip over and collapse due to poor construction.

More expensive tripods use carbon fiber materials. Carbon fiber is very light, sturdy, but expensive. If weight is a big factor for you, go straight to carbon fiber models. Some high-end tripods, like the excellent Gitzo GT1542T Series 1 are reserved mostly for those who have tried cheaper tripods and found the light weight and exotic materials worth the price of admission.

Compatibility

Be careful when choosing a camera tripod, make sure it’s compatible with your type of camera gear. A cheap, small tripod may work only for small, pocket digital cameras and will definitely collapse when you put a DSLR on it. Some tripods are designed to work for studio use with really sturdy base but will make no sense if you’re planning to bring it to a mountain hike.

Check the base plate of the tripod, where the tripod mounts to the base of your camera. Ensure that it uses a standard 1/4-inch thread type.

Always check the weight-load capability of the tripod and the tripod head assembly. Weigh your camera gear loaded with your heaviest lens and flash, then add about 20% more to the weight and find a tripod that can support that total weight.

Camera Tripod Price

The price of tripods can range from very affordable (under $50) to over $500 or more. This mostly depends on the capabilities of the tripod, its brand, and the materials used for it.

my I LOVE NY shot by Barry Yanowitz

Credit: Barry Yanowitz

As mentioned previously, small and cheap tripods work just fine for small, pocket cameras. Once you migrate to a DSLR, however, it’s prudent to invest in a good quality, sturdy tripod as you’ll bound to keep the tripod for a very long time and you wouldn’t want to put thousands of dollars worth of equipment on a cheap camera tripod, right?

You wouldn’t park a Ferrari in a run-down, muddy parking lot, so it doesn’t make sense risking a 5-foot drop of your precious camera gear just because the three legs holding it are made of noodles.


Here Are My ‘Safe’ Suggestions for a Camera Tripod

Under $100

Benro A0570F Tripod and Tenba 15-inch Black Messenger Bag Bundle – Trusted by many, Benro is one of the few China-made brands that have gained respect for their tripods’ performance, reliability, and great value.
Over $101 – Under $400 Manfrotto 190XPROB with 496RC2 Head – As mentioned earlier, the 190X series is one of Manfrotto’s best sellers. While many buy the 190X with the 322RC2 Joystick head, the 496RC2 is actually better and more flexible tripod head for the 190X.

Over $401

Manfrotto 190CX3 3-Section Carbon Fiber Tripod with Giottos MH1300-657 Professional Calibrated Ball Head with MH657 Quick Release – The combination of the 190X series’ flexibility with feather-light carbon fiber frame, coupled with an ultra-smooth and Arca-type plate holder of the MH657 is a tough combination to beat in performance and value.

Final Note

Camera tripods are one of the most underrated photography equipment of all time. Because of their apparent size and deliberate effort required to utilize them, many photographers tend to skip this essential tool. In the age of image stabilization, ultra-high ISO cameras, many photographers mistakenly think that tripods are tools of the past.

However, once you get used to working with a camera tripod all the time, you’ll find yourself more immersed with the process of taking a photograph – a process where every single millimeter of change in composition, positioning, and timing are no longer caused by accident or luck.

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