So why get a Tripod?
Every photographer should have one, why? Because it holds your camera and lens steady and gets the best image out of your camera. At the same time, tripods are bulky and you have to carry them and set them up. So obviously you’re not going to use one for high speed action photography or when you’re on a trip with friends and family, it wouldn’t work. But for any type of still life photography or product shoots, they’re indispensable.
The Main Advantages on Using a Tripod?
- Macro photography, night time photography, long exposure photography, all benefit from the use of a tripod
- Panoramic shots benefit from a stable horizontal axis, very easy to achieve with a tripod
- The bigger the lens the more important the tripod becomes to hold the camera steady
- By removing camera shake you better more flexibility in your camera settings which leads to better quality images
- Studio shots and formal wedding photography have much more control and stability with the use of tripods.
Ultimately we’re trying to get the best out of our camera. As all cameras will shoot video, a tripod is even more critical to prevent the jittery videos and the up and down movement as the camera pans around a scene. You’re able to take the camera settings into regions that would otherwise introduce camera shake. So when you need one, you need one.
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So how light can a tripod be
It used to be the case that the heavier the tripod the better. But better materials and modern design have made this distinction less clear. There are flimsy designs with many leg extensions and when extended tend to be quite floppy.
Newer materials such as magnesium alloys allow for very rigid but light designs. Carbon fibre is even lighter and just as sturdy.
But if you use your tripod outdoors ( landscape photography) then a heavier design will stand up to the wind and passers-by brushing the tripod as they walk by. If you’ve got expensive equipment then you wouldn’t want it crashing to the ground.
So as with anything, there has to be a compromise between portability and security.
Different Types of Tripod Heads
All tripods you buy will come with a tripod head, but just as there are different type of camera lenses providing different qualities at different price points. So there are different tripod heads with different qualities and price points.
The main types are the common pan-tilt head, ball head and gimbal head. Pan heads have two axis’s of movement, controlled from either one or two levels that lock the head into position. Ball heads allow any position of the head and are normally have a quick release lever or trigger. The gimbal head is designed for accommodating larger lens. These allow the camera and lens to float and find its own centre of gravity. The result is that the camera and big lens becomes highly mobile and allows you to follow fast action.
As we get to the professional end of the market, there’s all sorts of heads designed to create smooth fluid motion. All the way to motorised heads at the high quality end of the market.
legs and feet
There are many designs for tripod legs. Many years ago these were fixed lengths and just folded in and out to make the familiar triangular base. But now legs are mainly tubular and in sections that slide into one and other. You slide the leg out and either twist it to lock it into position or use a flip lock to secure that section into place.
If you’re photography takes you outside, then you might want to consider leg covers for your tripod. This will help when the tripod gets that rugged treatment (it will) and hit all sorts of things. High density sponged covers can be bought, which wrap around the leg and a Velcro strip keeps them in place. Once worn you can just replace them instead of an expensive tripod.
The feet can be adjusted for inside use, a ribbed rubber cone is screwed downwards and makes contact with the floor. For outside on lawns, the come is screwed upwards revealing a metal spike which anchors the tripod in place.
These are sometimes supplied with the tripod but can be bought or replaced quite easily. You should look for a rugged, waterproof cover with a handle and a sling strap, so that you can put it over your shoulder.
Mounting the camera
All dSLR cameras come with a threaded slot on the camera’s bottom plate. Into this is screwed a mechanical fitting which is then used to fix the camera to the tripod head. Large lenses also have the same mount thread so that the camera/lens combination can be held at its centre of gravity.
These camera attachments allow quick release onto the tripod head with a rotating clamp. Some of the more expensive models use a plate attached to the camera to provide a more rigid and quicker quick release.
You’ve also got to consider the size and therefore weight of the tripod. Cameras with big lenses need a bigger tripod. Also the heavier the camera lens combination the more important the tripod head becomes ( the part of the tripod that the camera or lens attaches to) as if these are not sufficient then the whole camera lens combination will, due to the gravity, tip over, as the locking mechanisms on the tripod head are unable to hold the weight.
Don’t forget Cell phones
A great number of cell phones are getting really good at producing digital images. With the inbuilt software and the ability to compensate for camera shake introduced be the operator, these are producing some remarkable images. But optics don’t change and the physical laws still apply.
Can Cell phones benefit from a tripod, yes. And there are various models with Cell phones in mind. You’ll also able to buy caddies that enable the phone to be attached to a more traditional tripod and get some of the same advantages as a dSLR.