How to choose a good tripod that serves your photography needs without overspending? The factors to consider when choosing a tripod, the basics, and the benefits of using them are summarized here.
What is a Tripod?
Tripod is a very useful tool that helps keep the camera, lens, or smartphone steady during a photoshoot. This exceptional tool can transform your photography completely and help you obtain sharp images. It is not very easy to have a steady hand during photo shoots. Even the best photographer is easily prone to handshakes and blurring.
Tripods help with stability and to attain crisp and sharp images. This is especially true for captures in low light conditions. The settings in these conditions call for wide apertures or slower shutter speeds, which are susceptible to blurring. They are also a great convenience during windy conditions, varied lighting, or simply because the lens is heavy and you can be hands-free.
These days image stabilization is built-in for most cameras and one can get great shots without using the tripod as well. But the photographer can benefit from unnecessarily increasing the ISO by using a tripod among many others. It is also simply convenient, the ease of use and benefits are worth it. It is thus important to learn how to choose a tripod so we can maximize the benefits from it.
There are many varieties and models available from nice low-budget ones to really expensive ones. It can be very confusing and overwhelming with so many different options that are available. I am on the lookout for a tripod as well. Doing some homework, research online, and talking with folks who use various models helped understand the factors to choose a tripod . I was able to narrow down to some that matched my preference and that would benefit me.
What makes up a Tripod?
If you have never used a tripod and are not familiar with the parts of a Tripod, there are four main parts. The legs which can usually be extended longer are usually made with aluminum, steel, basalt, or carbon fiber. The head sits on the leg and can be of various types. Some of them come attached and others are removable. They can be of various types like ball-heads, pan-tilts, or gimbal. The feet are at the end of legs and some models allow the change of feet depending on shooting indoors or outdoors. There is also a center column or rod that can help raise up the tripod head so you can get more height.
What are the benefits of using a Tripod?
Before we learn how to choose a tripod let's take a look at the benefits of using a tripod. Here are some of the ways a tripod can help in photography :
- Hand-held shots are prone to blur especially when shooting with low shutter speeds and wider apertures. This can happen especially when shooting in low light conditions. Using a tripod you can get sharper images with better clarity.
- Tripods are a great choice for long exposure photography where you prefer to slow the motion and give a blurring or misty effect, for example, shooting a waterfall.
- They are great for time-lapse, portraits, self-portraits with timer, landscape photography, shooting sunsets.
- The subject can be framed nicely to capture panoramic and HDR images.
- When your camera gear is quite heavy, a tripod can do the heavy lifting, especially when using telephoto and zoom lenses. If you have other equipment like reflectors and diffusers you can be hands-free and in fact, enjoy the surroundings your capturing.
- For Night photography, photographing Moon stars in the night sky or even fireworks.
- Close-up and Macro photography can be easily done at difficult hand-held angles.
- Shooting birds for eg. in bird feeder photography, especially if you have set up the composition and frame.
How to choose a Tripod - Factors to consider
- Price- When shopping for a tripod, one of the questions that often comes to mind is whether to invest in an expensive or cheap one. The cheap ones are available for less than 30 bucks and the expensive ones can even run into 1000 bucks or more.
- Weight-The other dilemma is whether to buy a light or sturdy one and if the tripod can support the weight of the camera. Keep in mind the weight of the camera along with the flash and other accessories added when factoring in the weight it can withstand. It will be a disaster if your expensive lens gets damaged if the tripod gets toppled over due to the weight of the lens.
- Length-Some other questions you may have is how long the legs of the tripod can extend. Most folks prefer that it be at least as tall, so the photographer's eye can easily view through the viewfinder and avoid bending over.
- Easy Setup-How easily can the tripod be set up is a key factor. If it takes a really long while to extend the legs or adjust the head or center post, it can be a waste of time. It can sometimes end up in missing the moment to capture.
- Transportable- Another important factor that is considered is to ensure that the tripod can be easily folded. When folded, they should conveniently be of a size that can be carried in a travel carry-on bag.
Based on collecting information from online sources and tripod owners, for folks who are beginners and pursue photography as a hobby, it seems better to invest in something that is in the range of 200 to 400 dollars. The cheapest ones may serve your purpose but usually not last long. If it is bound to be replaced, in the long run, you might as well invest in something that would last longer.
However, it is again each individual's personal preference. There may be folks, especially beginners who want to try the inexpensive ones and ensure they are using them as often as they thought they would. There is no point in investing in something that is lying in a corner without being used. Being familiar with all the advantages and shortcomings, they can decide to upgrade later on if required. If you are not a professional photographer and using the tripod often, investing in a very high-end and expensive one is better avoided.
In terms of the weight of the tripod, I gathered it is best to have something that is not too heavy and that can be carried around easily especially while traveling. The tripods made with carbon fiber ones are the best as they are quite stable, durable, and lighter. However, they are very expensive. Their aluminum counterpart offers the same but they can be heavier and on the positive side economical.
The length of the legs helps in having an eye view length while shooting and can help in easy captures without much straining and effort. Easy setup is important in choosing a tripod too. Setting up the tripod should be simple and not complicated. Opening up the clips or clamps should easily release the legs. The feet can then be secured to hold in a stable position.
The tripod should be easily collapsible, rearranged to fold, and made compact. The amount of space you can save when compacted is one of the key factors to consider, so it can be easily carried in a carry-on bag during travel.
Some of the choices that I narrowed down below and are based on some of the factors in this post. I have listed a few that have good reviews for those on a budget and in the mid-range which will be useful for beginners and folks who are pursuing photography as a hobby.
Manfrotto Befree Advanced Tripod
Thanks for reading and hope you find this post useful. If you have tips to add in choosing a tripod that I missed out please let me know in the comments below.
Have a great day!
Disclaimer: I am not a photography tutor or professional. This is only an effort to share the lessons and tips I learned and compile my experiences using the digital camera .
All photo credits : pexels.com ; Modified with Adobe Photoshop CC by InspiresN