5 Helpful tips for choosing a Tripod
Last Updated: 01/03/2019
Tripods, like cameras, come with a wide variety of prices and features, from tiny ones for your phone to more sturdy ones for the heaviest cameras. Below, we'll break down some of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a tripod to help you narrow down a model that will suit your unique needs.
1- Weight - Tripods are measured in two different types of weight - the "tripod weight" and the "support weight". Depending on the material used a tripod can weight as little as 1 to 2 pounds or as much as 15-20 pounds. The weight of your tripod can add a lot of bulk to your gear, so for travel and backpacking this can be a critical factor. For tripods used mostly in studio you'll be able to get away with heavier models.
The weight of the tripod will also help determine it's "support weight" - the weight of the camera and lenses it can comfortably support. Evaluate what is the heaviest equipment setup you'll be using on your tripod and make sure you choose a support weight that can handle it.
2- Movement - How does the tripod open and close? Does it use a tension system, or a pop-lock? Can the legs open to 40, 35, or 18 degree angles? Does it use a ball head or a pan-and-tilt head? These factors will all determine how mobile your tripod will be. Mostly they will come down to a matter of personal preference.
Tripods with more extension elements will take longer to open fully.
Tripods with a single leg-position will prevent you from using your tripod at lower perspectives.
Tripods with ball head elements tend to allow for more flexibility, but may be more difficult to control than a pan-and-tilt head.
3- Height - Consider the folded length and maximum height of your tripod. For travel you'll most likely want something that folds down to under 2 feet, for studio the folded length may not be as critical. When the tripod is extended is it within a comfortable range for you to view your camera? If you're 6 feet tall and your tripod is 4 feet tall there may be some back pain in your future! Always try your tripod on for size before you buy. Some tripods will also include a mobile center-column which allows you to raise and lower the center support rod for added height even after the legs are fully extended.
4- Additional Features - Some tripods will give you an option to have interchangeable heads, others have center-column hooks to add additional weight and stability. Others still allow you to break them down fully to convert into a mono-pod as needed. For some photographers these extras may not be necessary or they may be extremely helpful. Will these be helpful for you?
5- Other questions to consider when buying a tripod include:
What type of feet does it have? Spiked feet are great for shooting outdoors but might destroy your studio floor • How durable is the material my tripod is made of? Some use all metal mountings while others use plastic. • What type of plate is used? Many tripods offer a "quick release" for your camera, but some will require you to mount directly to the tripod.
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