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Buyer's Guide To Tripods

 

What is the right tripod for me? Tripods like many other products in the photographic market are made to suit particular purposes, Landscape, Portraits, Wildlife and Video are all catered for within manufacturers ranges. This can be seen in the form of numerous tripod legs, heads and accessories. However it is crucial to purchase one that has a weight tolerance high enough to take your camera, lens and any other items that are attached, e.g. battery grips and flashes.

 

Are they all heavy? No there is a broad range of weights available depending on your budget, the vast majority are made from aluminium, but should you require a lighter set of legs carbon fibre is also available. In regards to the tripod heads once again they are commonly made from aluminium, but the top of the range units are made from magnesium.

 

Are they all the same size? No there are tripods small enough to fit in your pocket and tripods that fully extended reach as high as 8 feet tall. All tripods have information readily available regarding their maximum and minimum heights. Smaller tripods can be used on desktops for indoor macro photography or outdoors on walls for landscapes. Their key benefit is that they are noticeably smaller and lighter, but with this size comes restrictions on their maximum weight capacity and practicality as they are only useful in certain scenarios.

 

What is a quick release plate? A quick release plate is a piece of metal that screws into the base of your camera or camcorder, this can then be attached or detached to the tripod and then locked into place. Quick release plates come in different shapes and size depending on the manufacturer or weight capacity of the tripod head. These plates assist you in setting up or taking down your camera gear quickly and easily, this also benefits you when changing your equipment mid shoot.

 

So which features benefit my style of photography?

Aviation:  The tripod head is crucial here, to ensure you never miss an opportunity the head must be fast in its action, offering panning with minimal restrictions. For this subject I would advise a Ball type head, preferably with a friction control. Alternatively there are some fantastic Pistol Grip type heads on the market which provide a comfortable, fast and versatile way of adjusting your composition. The legs need to be able as with all tripods to take the weight of your camera gear but height and weight are not a primary concern unlike in other photographic genres.

Recommended Tripods and Head combinations:

Giottos MTL 8351, Giottos MH1300-550

Gitzo

Manfrotto MN190XB, Manfrotto MN222 or MN498RC4

Slik Pro 713 CF II, Slik AF2100 or Slik Ball Head 800

Velbon GEO E630, Velbon QHD 61Q + QR

 

Landscape: The right tripods for landscape photography are the hardest to choose, with light weight legs and head being crucial for portability. However due to the subject nature and low lighting in which most people capture their landscapes both the legs and heads need to be extremely sturdy. A 3 way geared head would provide the greatest control for the axis and resistance to slip, however due to the desire for light weight components search for a magnesium version. When searching for legs the same criteria applies as macro photography, maximum and minimum height are important along with an adjusting centre column. The material the tripod is made from can be dictated by budget and physical ability, a top of the range carbon fibre tripod will provide sufficient support for long exposures although aluminium is still favoured by many willing to carry the weight.   

Recommended Tripods and Head combinations:

Giottos GTMTL9361B, Giottos MH5001

Gitzo

Manfrotto MN055CXPRO4, Manfrotto MN410

Slik Pro 714 CF II, Slik SH-807 Q/R

Velbon GEO E640L, Velbon PHD-61Q + QR

 

Macro:  In this genre, legs and head play equal importance, the legs need to be as rigid as possible, and the rule of thumb would be the heavier the better. However they also need to provide flexibility in terms of maximum and minimum height. This combined with an adjustable centre column; preferably both reversible and angling will provide you with the option to capture subjects from extremely low or unusual angles. A strong 3 way head is preferred here allowing you to control each axis independently resulting in greater control. Geared heads are also available and provide stronger resistance to slipping; these are a great feature to look for ensuring the composition is consistent throughout the shoot.

Recommended Tripods and Head combinations:

Giottos GTMTL 9361B, Giottos MH5001

Gitzo

Manfrotto MN055XPROB, Manfrotto MN410

Slik Pro 714 CF II, Slik SH-807 Q/R

Velbon GEO E640L, Velbon PHD-61Q + QR

 

 

Portraits / Fashion:  With models constantly moving this provides a similar challenge to Aviation photography, requiring fast, controllable heads and where maximum and minimum height pays little in the way of cause for concern. Depending on whether you will be taking your pictures in a studio environment or out on location will effect which material you should opt for. For studio I would advise aluminium this will ensure that movement in minimised, and will also stand less chance of being knocked over during background and lighting changes. However on location carbon fibre tripods are preferable due to their lack of weight, with numerous items already loaded in your camera bag a light tripod will prove itself to be a huge blessing.

Recommended Tripods and Head combinations:

Giottos MTL 9251B, Giottos MH133-550

Gitzo

Manfrotto MN055XB, Manfrotto MN222 or MN498 RC4

Slik Pro 713 CF II, Slik AF2100 or Slik Ball Head 800

Velbon GEO E630, Velbon QHD 61Q +QR

 

 Sports:  Personally I advise a monopod for sports photography due to its versatility, these also come in carbon fibre and aluminium. Providing you with support stabilising your images, but these monopods are primarily used to relieve the weight of your equipment. However if you do require a tripod I would advise something light, preferably made from carbon fibre, with a ball or pistol type head capable of recomposing quickly. For sports photography a quick release plate is essential due to the ever changing nature of the subject. Adjustable centre columns are not essential for this type of photography due to the fact they take too long to set up.

Recommended Tripods and Head combinations:

Giottos  MTL 8351, Giottos MH1300-550

Gitzo

Manfrotto MN679B + HD234 or Manfrotto MN190CXPRO4, Manfrotto MN222 or MN498RC4

Slik Pro 713 CF II, Slik AF2100 or Slik Ball Head 800

Velbon GEO E630, Velbon QHD 61Q +QR

 

Video:  There are a vast array of video tripods out the, noticeable primarily by their panning arm, this offers the user the ability to move the camera left and right, and up and down, all in one movement. Allowing smoother movements while recording; however as a photographic tripod they are flawed in the respect they have no X-axis (portrait/landscape) adjustment. A sturdy set of legs are advisable here however like landscape photography weight is dependent on personal preference, if you need to cut down on weight carbon fibre legs are available. Maximum and minimum height is not as crucial as stability when purchasing a video tripod, the same can be said for an adjustable centre column this is nice to have but will not be needed for most situations.

Recommended Tripods and Head combinations:

Giottos MTL 9251B, Giottos GTVH6011-658D

Gitzo

Manfrotto MN055XB, Manfrotto MN128RC2

Slik Pro 714 CF II, Slik 506QF

Velbon DV7000 Kit

Buyers Guide | Tripods

 
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