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Buying a Tripod: What to Look For

Friday, February 29th, 2008 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography

Buying a Tripod: What to Look For

For shake-free photography, a tripod is a must! Of course, you can rest your camera on any solid surface and the effect will be just as good, but if you use a tripod, you can tilt your camera any which way you want and still take pictures without a blur. A tripod is especially important if you’re taking pictures of yourself or a person, place or thing in low lighting. But, before you embark on a tripod shopping spree, here are a few tips you should keep in mind. Let’s check them out!

Weigh the Issue

This one depends on the type of camera you’re using. If you’re a hobby photographer who carries several camera lenses and flashes, it’s important for you to buy a tripod that can handle the additional weight of the lenses and flash. On the other hand, if you use a point-and-shoot compact camera that doesn’t have any additional flashes or lenses, even the most light-weight tripod will do. Another thing to consider is “how much is too much.” A tripod is something you have to lug around, so the lighter it is, the better it is for you. But going for a solid tripod that can take on a lot more weight than you really need isn’t a good thing either. Just go for the one that suits your needs the best.

Go for Stability

Some tripods can take the burden, but aren’t really good at standing on their feet. By this, I mean they are prone to being knocked down even if someone so much as brushes past them. Some might not be able to take heavy wind either. So, the best way to test the stability of your tripod is to place your camera on it and test it out with all its legs in full position. If it feels awkward and wobbly, abandon it right away and move on to another choice.

Watch the Legs

Locking the legs is as important as stability of a tripod. Since manufacturers differ in their ergonomics, it’s best to check out half a dozen of them before buying the one that suits you best. The ergonomics of the leg angle release mechanism and the quick action leg locks allow for effortless adjustments. Not only will it seem less cumbersome, but it also promises safety of your camera equipment, as the tripod has to be in place with the full weight of your camera on it.

Extensions Do Matter

Most tripods come in two and three extensions. While some are most comfortable with two extensions, some find three to be a lot better. In hindsight, there are advantages to both. If you choose a tripod with only two extensions, you’ll have a longer piece to haul around when it’s folded up. On the other hand, there is less messing around with extending and locking the legs. Three extensions will give you a smaller folded up tripod and a more sturdy hold.

It’s All in the Length

Tripods come in all shapes and sizes. Go for one that’s about your height when it’s fully extended. That way, you’re buying something that’s custom made for you. Also, height matters depending on the kind of photography you do. If it’s tabletop or group photography, a tripod is a must and the higher it is, the better. But, if those are shots you rarely take, you don’t really need an ultra-tall tripod. Therefore, choose judiciously.

Look for a Comfortable Tripod Head

Every tripod comes with headgear that is uniquely different from one another. Some are easy to use, while some are very cumbersome. It’s also very subjective, so you need to judge it yourself by attaching your camera to the tripod and testing it out. Does it take a lot of time to set up your camera? Or, is it quick and secure? You need to look at those things before you zero in on a tripod. Doing that will also determine how much flexibility you have once the camera is attached. Some photographers prefer tripod heads that can be removed very easily so that they can hand-hold their cameras for a few of their shots. Others like tripod heads that offer a lot more flexibility when the camera is attached.

There are two main kinds of tripods. The “ball and socket” tripods are highly flexible and offer a smooth touch and feel. The second kind is the “pan and tilt” tripod, which is inexpensive and it locks its heads into place much more firmly and securely. However, you can’t move out a lot with those heads. If you don’t like the tripod head you’re currently using, you can buy one separately if your tripod allows for it.

And Finally…

Though it’s best to ask your friends and relatives which tripod they use, the best advice is to check out at least three to four shops before honing in on one. That’s because most of your relatives and friends might be using tripods that are old fashioned and some may not even be on the market today. So, the best thing to do is check out the latest models and opt for the one that suits you the best!

~ Zahid H. Javali

3 Responses to “Buying a Tripod: What to Look For”

  1. […] Tripods range in price between $10 to tens of thousands of dollars depending for the ones movie makers use. You’ll want to find one that’s not too heavy to carry, or you’ll hesitate to bring it out. You’ll also want stability and a model that adjusts to a height you find comfortable.    Click here to read more about what to look for in a tripod. […]

  2. EZgoing says:

    Since you are so ‘up’ on the subject, how about doing a review of some specific models for various situations, and link the various features-options to the different ‘needs’ for that particular situation in a future article? Just telling us to look for options that will fit our needs is not nearly as helpful as reading brand x’s model Y has ‘these’ features that are best suited for taking a tripod on a hiking or camping trip because of ‘these’ features… THAT would help us that are novices to the craft. Just a thought….

    • cynthia says:

      Good question. To be able to give a specific review of an item, our writer would actually have to have hands-on experience with that model. Some larger sites do get free samples of models, but we’re not one of them. So our freelancer would actually have to have contact with multiple models of tripods. That would be somewhat expensive for an individual to do. That’s why you don’t often see us compare makes of new PCs or several new models of phones at once.

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