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Saturday, February 12, 2011

How to choose your tripod

Night as well as landscape photographers require a lot of stability to get that perfect shot. Buying an expensive camera system and buying a cheapo tripod isn't going to work. First off, cheapo tripods tend to be weaker. It won't withstand a lot of weight and therefore might not exactly keep your camera steady. Looking for a tripod can easily be as time consuming as choosing your camera system. Tripods are divided into two main parts, the head and the legs of the tripod. Just like your camera, doing research isn't IS a must as it can determine what you're going to buy. Companies to recommend? Manfrotto, Benro and Bogen(currently owned by Manfrotto) are known for their specialty as tripods and monopods companies.

The first thing you need to do is to check how much weight your tripod is going to bear. Bear in mind that if it can't hold that much weight, the tripod's legs might bend. Usually, it's just the camera body, the lens and the flash gun. A good system like mine would weigh not more than 3 kg. But that's because my system is all compact and lightweight lenses. If you're getting a really long or heavy lens, your tripod will have to withstand around 6-8 kg. And I'm not just talking about the legs of the tripod, even the head has should withstand the weight. If its too heavy for the head, and if you're using a ball head(more on that later) you might have to buy another one to replace it. There are a few types of tripods to choose from(depending what type of camera you're using). If you're using a compact, then a pocket-sized tripod will do the job. If you're using a DSLR, then you have to find a medium sized tripod or a heavy duty tripod depending on what you shoot.

Tripod legs
Pocket Sized Tripods
These tripods are usually in your package, as in the seller gives you one FOC(Free Of Charge) as if its an offer. If you're using this for your DSLR, dream on. No matter how 'lightweight' your DSLR is, you'll just eventually end up bending the legs and spoiling it. These are perfect if you need a tripod that's small and compact.

Joby GorillaPod is a great invention. By using the same concept of support with three legs, they made the legs 'movable' as in you can change it into any shape to grab onto virtually almost anything. They're fairly popular, and I'm sure you've seen one of these before.

Medium-sized/Heavy duty tripods
Medium-sized and heavy duty tripods are ARE NOT the same. Medium-sized tripods are usually cheaper because its meant for beginner or amateur photographers. It's considerably more compact and lighter. Depending on what its made out of, you can get one for about $30-$50(without the head). Since it's so cheap, you'd just rather get a carbon fibre medium-sized tripod. It's stronger and lighter. Don't get aluminium tripods unless you have a budget, like me. Medium-sized tripods/Compact tripods usually are in the 15-20" zone. So it's pretty OK, if you don't have a spacious bag. Here's how it looks like(below)
Medium-sized tripod

Heavy duty tripods are like tripods for pros. Usually, only hardcore professionals buy these kind. Just like the medium-sized tripods, manufacturers create aluminium as well as carbon fibre versions for these heavy duty tripods.

Once you've confirmed the weight your tripod is going to bear, you can now check the types of heads you need to choose.

Tripod Heads
Finding your tripod heads is easy, if you know what you shoot. There a few. There are 2 main types. I'd recommend the first - the ball head. You'll probably keep this, and never look back. The ball head offers complete versatility, and ease of use. Beginners will appreciate this. It's just so simple, and it saves that one shot. Twist anti-clockwise, change your composition, twist it and you're ready to take your shot. If your budget is even higher, you can buy those always-locked ball heads. What it means, is that you don't have to twist anything to unlock and lock. Instead, just move the camera, and it locks automatically. For that feature, you're paying through your nose.

The second type, is the pan/tilt head. They usually have different versions. Mostly its one way, two way and three way. What this means is that each 'way' is an axis. So, a 2 way, has an x axis and y axis. This, is specially for landscape photographers or videographers that require precise adjustments. It's not something I recommend, since you have to change 1 to 3 handles to adjust. So, why get this? As I said, this is mainly for landscape photographers and videographers, that need precise adjustment.

What I recommend
There are lots, and lots of tripods to choose from. But there will be only one that you'll purchase(at least if you're me). After hours and hours of searching a tripod with a head for me, I found the Jusino AX-254 w/ Ball Head that supports up to 12kg. It's the ideal tripod if you're on a budget. I had second thoughts when I found out this tripod, because there are usually drawbacks from a cheap tripod that feature something that others don't in that price range. According to reviews, I've read that its a pretty good tripod.

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