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Photography QnA: Best Camera Tripods

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Category: Best Photographic Equipment to Buy : Best Camera Tripods

Wondering which are the best camera tripods out there? Some say flathead tripods, others say domehead tripods - join the debate! Also, check out this great article by Kerry Drager: The Accessory Photographers Love to Hate.

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Photography Question 
Kathy Radford
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Kathy
Kathy's Gallery

member since: 1/2/2006
  1 .  Tripod Buying Tips
Someone told me I shouldn't be attaching my camera directly to the tripod - that I should buy a piece to attach to the top so I don't wear out the top of my tripod. What is this piece called, and is it really necessary? How often would the tripod wear out without using the special piece.

1/2/2010 5:18:41 AM

  Hi Kathy,
I have tripods that are well over fifty years old. Made of wood, an early form of carbon fiber. The tripod doesn't wear out, if it is good to begin with. Cheap ones do wear out. The tripod head can break, as tripods do get some rough treatment, and the heads can't always take it. Tripod heads are especially fragile on cheap tripods. I do like to have quick release plates for connecting the camera to the tripod. These can be attached to some tripod heads, or are built-in to other heads. These make it easier and faster to put the camera on and off the tripod. I don't think they affect how long the tripod will last. Buy a good tripod, the money you spend in front will pay off in the years you own it.
Thanks.

1/2/2010 10:10:54 AM

Ken Smith
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Ken
Ken's Gallery

member since: 6/11/2005
  Kathy, to piggy back on John's response... If you do get another tripod, get the kind that allows you to attach a ballhead. Manfrotto is a good manufacturer. You purchase the base (the three legs), then purchase the ball head and there are different options. I have the 322RC2 ballhead.
I then have the attaching gizmo already screwed into my camera body so when I want to pop the camera on the ballhead, it's a very quick thing to do. And the ball head is so easy to use. You don't need multiple levers. You just grip the handle and rotate to whatever position you like.

1/2/2010 10:49:48 AM

  Thanks John and Ken for your info, that is very helpful. I don't know what I would do without all the help I have received from BP over the years I have been a member!

1/2/2010 12:18:28 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  Those quick-disconnect plates John mentioned can save valuable time during a shoot. If you get several of the plates, one can be affixed to each of your camera bodies and your telephoto lenses with tripod collars. And if you have a bellows or a macro focusing rail, a plate can be attached to it as well. This makes it easy to switch things around in a hurry.

1/2/2010 10:16:57 PM

  Thanks Bob, I guess there is a real advantage to having one. Kathy in NH

1/3/2010 5:01:32 AM

Gina Plant

member since: 10/8/2009
  Hope you don't mind me chipping in with a question for Ken, Kathy.

I have a Manfrotto Neotec tripod which is excellent. I also use a 322RC2 ballhead Ken, but am having trouble with it at the moment. It's very sticky to move around which makes positioning the camera a very jerky and frustrating process. Also, once I've positioned and focused, I can't seem to tighten it enough to stop the camera from drifting so I am getting shots that are not tack sharp even when using a remote shutter release. This hasn't always been so. I've always thought it a great piece of equipment, so perhaps it's because dust has accumulated over the 3 years of use. I can't seem to find any reliable advice on how to clean it. Do you have any suggestions Ken?
Thanks
Gina

1/5/2010 4:33:50 AM

Bill Boswell

member since: 3/22/2004
  If you decide to go the ball head route which I strongly recommend, consider the ball head and camera plate which are the "arca-swiss" style. This is an industry standard way of attaching the camera to the ball head and found in products from several top manufacturers.

If you start with the arca-swiss system you will grow into it and not have to replace your ball head or plates in a few years. It is the only system that advanced amatuers and pros use.

1/5/2010 5:31:52 AM

  Kathy, avoid flip lock legs if possible. I have a Manfrotto and use it out in the cold a lot. I've had 3 of the flip locks break completely on me. Replacement parts are fairly cheap but it's tiresome having to extend the legs and lock them with masking and electric tape until I can get new parts.

1/5/2010 5:59:46 AM

Gina Plant

member since: 10/8/2009
  I agree with Sharon, Kathy. The legs on the Neotec are really easy to use - they just pull out and push back in.
Gina

1/5/2010 6:49:41 AM

  Thanks Gina, Bill and Sharon for the info. Sharon my tripod has the pull outg legs and I love it.
Kathy in NH

1/6/2010 3:05:02 AM

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Photography Question 
Lorena Simon

member since: 10/13/2009
  2 .  Need Lightweight Yet Sturdy Tripod
Hi, I have a really good tripod but it is very heavy to carry for hiking with camera, and all the equipment. Can you suggest to me a light but steady tripod for this kind of situations? I have a Nikon D80 camera, and the heaviest lens I have is a 70-210 zoom.
Thanks

11/4/2009 8:13:08 AM

Donald R. Curry
BetterPhoto Member
wildlifetrailphotography.com

member since: 3/2/2006
  Take a look at a Monfrotto. I have neen using the the model 3001n for years. I do a lot of hiking.

11/7/2009 6:10:56 PM

  Hello Lorena,
I have a heavier Bogen/Manfrotto 3021 tripod that I mainly use at home and a very light Bogen/Manfrotto 190CXPRO4 Carbon Fiber Tripod w/Manfrotto 468MGRC2 Magnesium Hydrostatic Ballhead. The 190CXPRO4 has 4 sectioned legs and collapses down nicely for carrying on one of my camera backpacks. It runs about $324 at Amazon. It is easy to position, sturdy & very light.
I wanted the Gitzo 1541 (also a carbon fiber tripod) but this one runs about $600. The Gitzo with a Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead would be my preference but they are not cheap.
I am happy with the Manfrotto 190CXPRO4 w/468MGRC and this combo is cheaper than the Gitzo tripod alone.
If you have the $$ - I would go with the Gitzo/Really Right Stuff combo but otherwise my Manfrotto is a great alternative.
I hike a lot as well and it makes a huge difference when carrying a lightweight tripod and is well worth the investment. I also use a 100-400mm f/4.5L lens I carry on my hikes and it is plenty sturdy on this tripod.
Cheers!

11/7/2009 6:49:04 PM

  Hi Everyone,
Great question, and great tips! Also check out Rob Sheppard's Camera Tripods: An Essential Photo Accessory BetterPhoto Instructor Insights blog.

Thanks,

Kerry

11/12/2009 1:19:26 PM

  Thanks for the link Kerry.
I lugged my heavy tripod with me everywhere and it is so nice to have the lighter Carbon Fiber tripod now. I love landscapes, waterfalls, slow shutter speeds, more DOF & HDR imaging so my tripod gets a lot of use and I really enjoy getting everything set up and dialed in and the hitting the remote shutter release just knowing my captures will be good :)
I cringe when I hear a photographer say a tripod is too much hassle. I would feel lost without mine.
Have a great day everyone and Lorena, let us know what you get.
Carlton

11/12/2009 4:26:38 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  Try this one

11/13/2009 3:12:05 AM

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Photography Question 
Paul D. Carter

member since: 4/19/2002
  3 .  Tripods
What is a good tripod for traveling? I need a sturdy and safe travel tripod that can be packed in a carry-on bag on airlines that will support at least a standard 50mm lens or a wide angle 19-35 mm lens. I am afraid of small tripods that are travel size that may not be able to properly support the camera. Thanks.

7/8/2008 4:43:39 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Greetings Paul. This subject has been discussed here a lot and as you might guess, opinions on this particular issue vary equally, a lot. Do a search (top right-hand corner) under "tripods" or even "travel tripod".
Best solution is to find a big camera store to go to - i.e., Samy's in L.A. or B&H in NYC, and look at models with and without supplied heads. IMHO, first consider the tripod legs themselves and portability vs. stability under the weight of present and future cameras you may get. Then think about what head to put on it - say, a ballhead and perhaps add a quick release to that and your camera. I always recommend Gitzo for those reasons I mentioned, plus durability, fixability if necessary, and supplied items like spikes for dirt, variety of materials, and warranty (if you ever needed it). I like Linhof Profi ball heads with quick-release plates but there are a lot of those available too.
My Reporter model Gitzo has lasted 29 years in heavy use. I also have a Gitzo Monopod, nice for hiking, and a Studex for studio work. Manfrotto, ad infinitim, are also good.
Take it light.

7/8/2008 1:15:51 PM

  Hi Paul,
Mark made a good suggestion to go to a camera store and look them over. See how they feel and function to determine what will work for you.
I have a Manfrotto 3021 Tripod w/Manfrotto 468MGRC2 Magnesium Hydrostatic Ballhead & Manfrotto 322RC2 Pistol grip head, and a Manfrotto 676B monopod w/Manfrotto 3229 head.
This tripod is light enough for me to carry on my 8-mile hikes through the woods and is flexible and so far has been sturdy enough for my needs. I carry my tripod with me everywhere I go.
The 322RC2 Pistol grip head is quick and easy for small lenses, but for my 70-200mm and 100-400mm, I needed more stability and the Manfrotto 468MGRC2 Magnesium Hydrostatic Ballhead does handle the weight. The pistol grip goes for about $120 (if I remember correctly) and the 468MGRC2 sells for about $350.
I will probably get a sturdier Gitzo tripod sometime soon as I am doing more portrait work now. Good luck with your decision Paul - carlton

7/8/2008 9:01:08 PM

Dawn Penso
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/6/2005
  Hi Paul - Don't know where you're going but in London and most European cities you won't be able to use the tripod in the streets. If you are coming this way, you might therefore like to consider a table top size tripod or some other form of support. Or even leaning on a lamppost. Enjoy your trip!
Dawn

7/15/2008 9:07:13 AM

Alan N. Marcus

member since: 3/4/2006
  Hi Paul,

When traveling, I gave up on tripods. Got chastised at museums and in the streets. I looked at many a monopod and settled on the one at Wal-Martís photo department. Maybe $20 US, it telescopes and fits in my luggage. I put a rubber foot on it purchased at a hardware store. Now it doubles as a walking stick. Got chastised again and temporary held by security at the Vatican.

Not as good as a tripod by along shot but Ö. It works somewhat!

Alan Marcus

7/15/2008 9:39:55 AM

Howard J. Sheffield

member since: 3/5/2007
  Hi Paul
I just finished a wildlife cruise in Alaska where I carried a just purchased Gitzo carbon fibre 4 leg that was packed in my suitcase with a Really Right Stuff ball head. It was the best move in tripods I have ever made. Check them out. Also I take a monopod from Wal Mart that cost about $20. It doubled as a walking stick and pod where the tripod didn't go.
Howard Sheffield

7/15/2008 10:29:03 AM

Bob Fately

member since: 4/11/2001
  Paul, you have already seen som egood advice - I agree with the Monopod concept at times and have a Gitzo 4-section leg tripod (with Acratech ballhead) which I travel with when possible. But there is another alternative to consider - a strong ball head and legs plus a vice-grip. Let me explain:

Check out the Leica "large ball & socket head" (no model number per se) and their "Tabletop Tripod with Folding Legs" - these are not cheap items but I've had mine for over 30 years and they hold up well. They are quite compact, able to hold 5 pounds of gear, and can be used as a wall support if you merely press the unit against a wall or other raised item.

Further, you can get a 1/4" threaded bolt welded to a Vice-grip type of locking pliers - and attach the ball&socket head unit to that. In this manner, you could lock the pliers onto a park bench or fire hydrant or other solid support and have a very strong stand. Of course, a full-sized tripod has more flexible placement options, but in cities and other areas where they are verboten it is worth considering something like this.

7/15/2008 12:56:30 PM

  Paul & everyone,
I received a tip from Jim Zuckerman that I will implement on my trip to Europe next week (with Jim Zuckerman) http://www.lpworkshops.com/

The tip is to take off the ball head from the tripod and set the ballhead w/camera on the floor or tabletop and this will give you stability & NO Tripod for the "No Tripod Allowed" areas.
My Manfrotto 468MGRC2 Ballhead is heavy enough it should work well for this with a remote shutter release. I will see how this works and report back.
Carlton

7/15/2008 10:54:02 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  HEY CARLTON !!!

I plum forgot about your going to Europe this summer. Have a wonderful trip, post some shots when you get back and travel safe.

Don't forget to hollar when you get down to this neck of the woods.
Bon Voyage !!! :>))
Mark

7/16/2008 9:17:03 AM

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Photography Question 
Regina 

member since: 8/31/2007
  4 .  Best Monopod
I'm going on a hiking trip to Utah in a couple of weeks and am considering buying a monopod that can be used for a hiking stick as well as a monopod for my camera. I would like a quick release. Any suggestions?

8/31/2007 6:36:54 PM

Craig m. Zacarelli
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/3/2005
  Any pod should work. Just also buy a ball head with a mounting plate, and you'll have your quick release... I use a Manfrotto mini ball head. Depending on your camera and lens combo weight, you might be able to buy the micro ball head instead of the mini ... it is really small but strong.
As for the pod, they are basically all the same. I'd go for an aluminum one or a carbon fiber ... but honestly, I had an $18.00 aluminum one I got off eBay that was great! To me, it's all about the head.

9/1/2007 3:29:23 AM

John Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/8/2001
  One with three legs. You can actually get one (I think it's made by Manfrotto) with "pop-out legs.

9/1/2007 6:38:21 AM

 
 
 
Try this instead of a monopod. It weighs less and costs less. The simplest and best piece of photo equipment you can build is the chainpod. It works like a monopod, weighs a couple of ounces and fits in your pocket. To build, it drill a small hole in 1/2 inch 1/4X20 (that is a thread size) thumbscrew. Attach about 6 feet of chain to the hole (more if you are really tall). Next, put a nut onto the thumbscrew and position it so that the screw canít go too deep into you tripod socket and glue it in place. To use attach the thumbscrew to the base of your camera drop the chain and step on it. Now pull up against the chain. Steady!

9/1/2007 2:35:43 PM

Ken Smith
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Ken
Ken's Gallery

member since: 6/11/2005
  I also have the ball head with mounting plate - Manfrotto 322RC2. I can quickly release it from the monopod and place on my tripod, and vice versa. The ball head gives you quick flexibility for moving it around ... no more fooling around with several knobs. I've never used my monopod as a walking stick, but I guess I could...

9/1/2007 6:14:53 PM

Philip Frederiksen
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2005
  The Manfrotto 682 has the pop-out legs.

9/1/2007 11:32:17 PM

dennis w. mcclain

member since: 8/2/2004
  check out the trekpod. its a pretty nifty looking device
http://www.trek-tech.com/

9/11/2007 6:09:17 AM

Tom P. Clausen
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/6/2006
  Gitzo GM2540 6x doubles as a walking stick. tom clausen

9/12/2007 5:26:17 PM

William Schuette
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/8/2006
  I love my Gitzo carbon fiber monopod. It is light but strong enough to stabilize a heavy DSLR lens combination.

Bill

9/15/2007 4:07:17 PM

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Photography Question 
Frank B. Pearman

member since: 5/19/2007
  5 .  Monopod & Quick-Release Head
I own a Canon S3 IS camera. I have always wanted a monopod. After lengthy research, I have decided between the Bogen Manfrotto 676B and 679B monopod along with the 3229 QR Swivel Tilt Head. Is either one of these combinations a good choice for my particular camera?

5/19/2007 11:07:08 AM

  I just wanted to mention my favorite do-it-yourself accessory, the chainpod. Hereís the tip I put on BetterPhoto.
The simplest and best piece of photo equipment you can build is the chainpod. It works like a monopod, weighs a couple of ounces and fits in your pocket. To build it drill a small hole in 1/2 inch 1/4X20 (that is a thread size) thumbscrew. Attach about 6 feet of chain to the hole (more if you are really tall). Next put a nut onto the thumbscrew and position it so that the screw canít go too deep into you tripod socket and glue it in place. To use, attach the thumbscrew to the base of your camera drop the chain and step on it. Now pull up against the chain. Steady! Photos: Demonstration of Chainpod and Chainpod Detail
Thanks, John Siskin

5/20/2007 9:02:58 AM

Frank B. Pearman

member since: 5/19/2007
  Thanks, I'll have to try that. I'm guessing the tension "resists" the swaying effect.

5/20/2007 11:41:46 AM

  Hi Frank,
Exactly, and of course, it is inexpensive and fits in a pocket.
Thanks.

5/20/2007 11:47:44 AM

Bob Fately

member since: 4/11/2001
  Frank, you mention a QR head - this is generally the term for "quick release". QR mounts (like from Kirk Enterprises or Really Right Stuff - both have web sites) involve having a plate on the camera (or lens) and a clamp-like device on the tripod or monopod. The clamp can lock down or loosen very quickly, rather than having to screw the camera down to the support.
John mentions his chain idea. This is certainly compact, but still relies on your muscles to hold things steady. Another approach might be to use a vice-grip type plier with a couple of 1/4" x20 bolts welded to it and a ball-and-socket head screwed onto that. You can clamp the pliers onto a bench, tree branch, whatever (assuming one's around) and that way have a quite stable platform for your shot.
But to answer your orignal question - either monopod is probably fine, and the swivel head on top is the best way to go. In fact, if you check out Really Right Stuff's site, they have an article on just this approach.

5/20/2007 8:35:57 PM

  Iíve been using a modified vice grip for about 20 years. It is very handy if you have something to clamp it to. With some sculpture wire, it makes a good tabletop tripod. Good suggestion, Bob!

5/21/2007 8:43:36 AM

  Frank, I have the 676B & the 3229 combination and you will be making a good decision with this set up. Lightweight, quick and stable.

5/21/2007 11:55:34 AM

Joe Ciccone
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/7/2005
  the Canon S3 has an Imagae Stabilizer. Just why you wish to use a monopod with this small, easy to use camera puzzles me a little...Cheers
..Joe C

5/22/2007 3:56:04 AM

Frank B. Pearman

member since: 5/19/2007
  Thank you all for the feedback - I have purchased the monopod and awaiting the 3229 QR.

Joe C - for telephoto shots at the race track. At a cost of less than $75- I see this a modest photography investment to get that special shot I want - yet mobile enough to move to a different location at the venue.

This despite its "easy-to-use" capability or its image stabilizer technology.

5/22/2007 4:55:46 AM

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Photography Question 
Stephanie M. Stevens

member since: 4/20/2005
  6 .  Reversing Center Column of Tripod: Why?
I see lots of tripods that have reversible center columns. What is that purpose of that?

1/20/2007 12:56:21 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  Instead of simply locating the camera on top of the tripod, a reversible column also allows one to locate it low - between the legs for shooting low-angle or close-up/macro of subjects on the ground.

1/20/2007 1:32:38 PM

Stephanie M. Stevens

member since: 4/20/2005
  thank you!

1/20/2007 3:24:38 PM

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Photography Question 
Estella Aguilar

member since: 7/27/2006
  7 .  Monopod - What It Is, Why Use It
What is a monopod?

9/6/2006 11:07:24 AM

Kerry L. Walker

member since: 12/21/2004
  It is a one-legged instrument upon which a camera can be mounted.

9/6/2006 1:20:58 PM

James Lynch

member since: 5/11/2005
  It's like a tripod, only with one leg instead of three. It's mainly used in sports photography or where space is confined and you still need to shoot at a slow shutter speed.

9/6/2006 3:32:54 PM

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Photography Question 
Keith W. DeAngelis

member since: 8/20/2006
  8 .  Tripod Buying Advice
Hi there! Please point me in the right direction - I shoot with a Nikon D50 and want to shoot some night photos, as well as macro photography. I plan to purchase a tripod, but wanted to ask the experts what you'd recommend. My criteria includes: reliabilty, durability, travel-friendly (light and compact, and is versatile to do both macro and night shooting. Budget is wide open.
Thanks so much for your guidance!!

8/20/2006 9:06:54 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  From our Department of Redundancy Department, Dept.

If you search this site under "tripods" or "Tripod buying advice" or something similar, you'll likely get a gazillion hits that more than sufficiently address your question.
Mark

8/20/2006 12:37:26 PM

Michael ORourke
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/3/2003
  Keith,
Just remember to get a sturdy tripod head. A good tripod with a flimsy head is not good.

8/20/2006 2:04:52 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  Think features and compatability. How much does your camera with its heaviest lens and other accessories weigh?... This is the key component.
You should check to make sure you are not compromising too much on ease of transport at the expense of having a reliable, rigid shooting platform for your intended equipment. Check the specs on whatever 'pod you choose to make sure you're not cutting yourself too short.
What subject matter does your macro photography entail? Do you need your support system to be contorted into weird angles to get your shots? Or will a more standard tripod position fit your needs? There are models available from all of the major manufacturers that will have the ability to support a camera and lens at just about any angle or position.
As mentioned, a good head is an important aspect and should be considered. (There are times when I've tolerated a flimsy head as long as the legs were good but we won't go there.) ;) Many prefer the ball-type heads for ease of use and quick deployment. Others like the ones which have separate tension knobs to control horizontal and vertical positioning. I prefer the latter because I rarely have to rely upon instant camera positioning, and I prefer the extra stability these types of heads provide with my equipment.And always check the legs! Make sure they have tension levers to extend them and lock them into place. I hate the ones with the round screw rings you have to turn. These are a pain for me to work with when I'm in a hurry to get set up.

8/20/2006 3:27:39 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/9/2005
  Hello Keith,
Plenty of advice on (what) to purchase, so I won't go there. The understanding of HOW to use a tripd is equally important. I know that sounds stupid, but many believe a tripod is to hold a camera steady when you can't. This is a flawed way of thinking. Here are a few items to ponder:
1) A tripod, no matter how expensive, exhibits poor stability when extended fully. Hard to believe? Try shooting a long exposure (1/2 sec or so) at 300mm. Shoot it with the pod fully collapsed and then fully extended. You'll see what I mean. SLR mirror slap can vibrate the entire tripod like you would not believe!There are work-arounds for this.
2) Leveling a tripod is critical in landscape or panoramic shots. I don't think the D-50 has grid lines in the viewfinder, so use care.
3) Rubber feet are fine on some surfaces, but are really bad on grass or on slippery surfaces. I have rubber feet AND stakes that I can poke into dirt, grass etc. "Sticking" a tripod into the ground is far superior than letting it sit on top of the ground.
There are more points to tripod usage, but I'm sure others will help out too.
There is no "perfect" tripod... well; I think I own one, but when carried into the wilderness, I risk a hernia! LOL
All the best,
Pete

8/20/2006 4:44:41 PM

Keith W. DeAngelis

member since: 8/20/2006
  As a first time poster and new member -- thanks to you who've taken the time to steer me in the right direction!! Pardon my faux paus of adding redundancy to this board -- I'll chalk it up to my excitement of this new found hobby.

Thanks, again -- Keith

8/20/2006 4:56:50 PM

Dirck Harris

member since: 4/9/2003
  This is a good site to read up on tripods.

http://www.bythom.com/support.htm

8/22/2006 4:08:40 AM

George H. Dalsheimer
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/13/2006
  In light of new airline restrictions, you may want to consider how you would pack the tripod. I am told that tripods are no longer allowed on planes.

8/22/2006 9:32:47 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  YIKES !!!! I just flew from NY to SFO Sunday with three equipment cases and a Gitzo 505 Studex in a soft pack. Is this something new this week George? It's not on the TSA restricted list as of now, btw. See the list at:
http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm#11
Latah kids.
Mark

M.

8/22/2006 6:20:20 PM

Richard H. Turpin

member since: 11/20/2005
  I have a Canon 20D, so our cameras are quite comparable in weight. After much research on the web, I selected the Feisol CT-3401 (http://www.feisol.com/english/feisolen.htm). To that I added a Manfrotto 488RC2 ball head. The tripod is very well built and it provides a very solid support in my opinion, yet it is light and easy to carry. It is priced a good bit less than most other carbon fiber tripods. I purchased it directly from the company and received it within a week. It comes with a very nice carrying case. The CT-3401 has four leg sections, so it is short enough (with the head removed) to pack in my Rick Steves carryon bag (Is carryon a thing of the past?). It does not include a center post, which is an option. I opted to save the cost and avoid the temptation to raise my camera on a less stable platform with center post extended. In addition to the new tripod, this is my first experience with a ball head and I like it a lot.

rturpin

8/23/2006 6:11:43 PM

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Photography Question 
Lisa Sherwood

member since: 5/22/2006
  9 .  Tripod Buying Tips
Any Nikon shooters out there with advice on a good tripod, not too expensive. I plan on using it for portrait photography. Thanks:)

7/29/2006 12:24:04 AM

John Rhodes
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/24/2005
  Lisa, I too shoot with the D70 and have been very happy with my Bogen-Manfrotto 3021 BPro tripod with the 3047 three-way head. The tripod is tall enough that I can look through the viewfinder with the legs extended without the center column extended at all. This is an alun=minum tripod, not carbon fiber, but the price was right for me; about $140 for the tripod and $85 for the head. I Think this head would be great fro portrait work; however, I'm considering a ball head for outdoor and nature photography.

John

7/29/2006 5:50:21 AM

Lisa Sherwood

member since: 5/22/2006
  Thanks for the advice JOhn, I'll see what I can find.
~Lisa

7/29/2006 7:28:32 AM

  Lisa, if that's more than you want to spend the Manfrotto 724b is a decent tripod as well. It's lightweight, but the ball head does not come off. If at all possible, you should go to a camera store and look at them. That's the only way you can know with some certainty you'll be happy with your choice.

7/29/2006 8:33:40 PM

Lisa Sherwood

member since: 5/22/2006
  Thanks Sahron, you are right - I am just going to go check some out! Thanks :) Have a good day
~Lisa

7/29/2006 10:47:50 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  Make sure that you specify nikon tripod mount threads, because the threads for a canon look very similar, and if you get the wrong ones, you'll have to take it back and get the right ones.

7/29/2006 10:48:18 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  My question to you, Lisa, is why you need a tripod to shoot portraits in the first place. I ask that for a number of reasons. If you're working at very slow shutter speeds and in a dimly lit shooting space then yes, a tripod is helpful to prevent camera shake. But having the ability to move around your subject while working, using your camera, in a sense, like a sketch pad is real useful and you may find working without a tripod actually improves your work. Whaddya think?
But if you really want a pod, I recommend Gitzos. I shoot (not portraits) with Nikon F-2's on a Gitzo Reporter or Studex using a Linhof Profi II or III ballhead and quick fix plates. The Reporter is really portable but sturdy as is the studex which is also solid and extends to about 9 feet with a shorter center column. Both have lasted about the length of my career.
Regardless of which tripod you get, it should last you through camera and format changes so it doesn't end up in a closet gathering dust bunnies with the equipment bags we outgrew.
Take it light.
Mark

7/30/2006 11:52:58 AM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/9/2005
  Hi Lisa,

I have to echo Mark's sentiments....Why a tripod for portraits? It's usually a no-no for serious portrait shooters for the reasons Mark gave..A tripod will also cause your subjects some uneasiness as you peer thru the viewfinder in such a static setup.

Now; if you are shooting slow shutter speeds, absolutely get one.

Tip: The D-70 has no mirror lockup..and even the best tripod will not absorb all the mirror slap..There is a woraround for this..just a little creative engineering. :)

All the best,

Pete

7/30/2006 6:42:19 PM

  Hi Lisa,
For what it is worth, I would add the following general advice to this thread concerning choice of a tripod.
A number of tripod manufacturers now offer tripods made from composite materials, such as carbon fiber or basalt rock, rather than the more traditional metal (generally aluminum) - the advantage is a significant reduction in weight without any loss of rigidity.
Here are a few things to consider when choosing a tripod:
Choice of tripod head type will depend on your personal preference between either a ball and socket head, or a pan and tilt head. If you opt for the ball-and-socket type, make sure it is a centre ball type, as the off-centre varieties are awkward to position with any precision.
Ball-and-socket heads are much quicker to operate and lock securely, whilst pan-and-tilt heads are much slower to use but can be useful when you need to align the camera with a high degree of precision.
As far as the choice of tripod is concerned, you should look at models that will position the camera at eye-level without use of the centre column. The number of leg sections will generally be compromise based on factors such as speed of operation, rigidity, and compactness; models with fewer sections are usually better in respect of the first two attributes but are less compact. The type of leg lock is another important consideration; twist locks are quicker to use but are more susceptible to the ingress of dust and dirt, which can clog the threads. Lever locks offer better resistance to this problem but tend to protrude, so they often snag on things when being carried.
My personal choice is the Gitzo Studex Series 3 G1348 carbon fibre tripod with Gitzo G1377M centre-ball head, as this offers me the best compromise between weight and size, whilst being very rigid. I have replaced the standard Gitzo head plate with a dovetail clamp from the Really Right Stuff and use dedicated camera/lens plates from the same manufacturer. However, what works for me is not necessarily going to work for you, so spend some time researching what is available from the various manufacturers.
You may wish to start by taking a look at the following:
www.gitzo.com
www.manfrotto.com
www.reallyrightstuff.com
www.kirkphoto.com
Regards,
Simon

Editor's Note: Check out Simon Stafford's online courses: The Nikon D50 Camera and The Nikon D70-series Cameras

7/31/2006 2:32:31 AM

Lisa Sherwood

member since: 5/22/2006
  Thank you, thank you all for your knowledge. I guess I just "thought" I needed a tripod, everytime I have been in for portraits, or taken my son in the studio they used a tripod, I am going to holf off a bit and just shoot fro awhile. I am gathering that in the beginning I need my camera, I want to get another lens (85mm) an external flash, I think I want the SB 800 and a large reflector -- I want to start shooting "on-Location" with a lot of natural light, then I can slowly bulid my studio and practice with portraits, I will start with a couple umbrellas, a soft box, the reflector and lights (once I learn a bit more on them) -- I am getting there - this is fun, I have realized that you really should go for something you really enjoy, I never found myself wanting to crack open an anatomy book as much as I enjoy working with my camera and learning new tricks in PS -- it feels good to finally begin to do something I've always wanted to do - I hope I end up building a career out of this. I'm excited and thats what's important. Thank you.

7/31/2006 10:22:32 PM

Jeff Coleman

member since: 2/5/2005
  Lisa,
I'm on a tight budget and wanted a new tripod so picked up a Giottos 9160 for under $140 and the M7001 ballhead at $55 from B&H. I've been happy with combo. I'm shooting with a Canon Rebel XT.
Good luck
Jeff

8/1/2006 1:12:02 PM

Michael  C. Bennett
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/19/2005
  Hi Lisa,

If you're shooting a lot of portraits in a row, working steadily and quickly, you'll probably benefit from a posing stool and a rock-solid tripod.

There are studio tripods and non-studio tripods. Studio tripods are more or less permanent fixtures, always indoors, and their weight, extreme flexibility, etc. is irrelevant. I had a Titan for my medium format which was definitely a studio tripod; it weighed a ton, had a pneumatic ("air lift") centre column - USE WITH CAUTION - and was great for studio use. A studio tripod takes the fiddling out of using it i.e. the legs lock forever once they're locked, the feet don't slide, they're self-levelling, etc.

However, once I'm out of the studio, the heavy Titan is no friend. I use a Manfrotto Professional for everything outside a studio, not because I love the locking clamps, but because it's relatively light, sturdy, and can be used from a very wide variety of heights. Flexibility and lightness, as well as having clamps, not threads, are essential for me in an outdoor tripod.

Gitzo makes a great light, small tripod, but if it has threads instead of clamps, you'll be forever cleaning the dirt out of them outdoors, and it's only a matter of time before you ruin the threads by accidentally running them tight with a bit of sand caught in there.

Best of luck and have fun.

- Michael

8/2/2006 7:13:43 AM

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Noel Baebler
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/26/2003
  10 .  Choosing That Tripod
Howdy,
I've read through all the "What Tripod?" Q's and A's, and although I can now spell "Manfrotto" and "Gitzo" (not "Ginzu"- they're the knife people.), I can't do this alone. I'm looking for a tripod for my Canon XT 350. My largest lens is a Sigmna 70-300. My main desire is: compact and lightweight. I've almost decided on the Gitzo G1027 Mountaineer, carbon fiber 6x. Any thoughts on this tripod? Is the XT tripod socket compatible with Gitzo tripods? Also, does anyone have a ball head they especially like? Gitzo has a ball head (G1077M) that looks quite basic at $73 and would keep the weight down. Off to click. Thanks!

6/4/2006 8:32:29 AM

Kerry L. Walker

member since: 12/21/2004
  It will be very difficult for anyone to suggest a tripod for you, as picking a tripod is a subjective venture. Many people love a ball head. I don't. (Guess it sounds too much like bald head, and I'm getting there.) Most people like a tripod with a quick-release plate. I don't. (OK, I'm a weird guy.) However, we can make suggestions as to brands. Gitzo is the Rolls Royce of tripods, and you can't go wrong with them. Bogen-Manfrotto is also an excellent brand. Beyond that, I suggest you handle the tripod you think you want and see if you really like it.

6/5/2006 6:27:26 AM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  Hey Noel, if you're gonna buy that great tripod and throw a $75 tripod head on it you're kindof missing the point. The head is what holds the camera still and if it creeps you might as well hold the camera by hand. My friend and I bought CF tripods at the same time. I bought the Arca Swiss B1 and he bought one for $100. 3 weeks later while photographing a catalog he realized he needed better and spent $300 on a better one. Good news is he's got it forever and learned a valuable lesson, bad news is it cost him $100 extra.

6/5/2006 5:10:54 PM

Noel Baebler
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/26/2003
  Thanks you guys.

6/5/2006 5:28:12 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/9/2005
  Hi Noel;

I lug a very heavy Bogen into the wilderness! LOL
No joke..Lightweight tripods are just not for me..at least not when I want to get serious about the shot..ESPECIALLY when shooting slow.

Weight baby..gotta' have weight!

I've even gone to the extreme of mounting a large bean bag on the tripod to insulate it from as much vibration as possible..Yep, I'm probably nuts..but ya know what?..It works!

I've yet to see a light weight tripod that does a great job of dampening.

Pete

6/5/2006 8:04:17 PM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  I build car parts with CF and it will aid big time with vibration plus the hard rubber plugs aid in the anti vibration as well. Nothing will be the weight for vibration thats why all good tripods especially lite ones have the rock bag hook.

6/5/2006 8:38:53 PM

Scott Anderson

member since: 1/2/2006
  You have gotten several good pieces of info above. However, I wanted to make a slightly different point. The Sigma lens you mentioned in your question is a fairly heavy lens to be hanging on a plastic body camera without supporting it's weight with your hand. That body is excellent, for what it is, but it is still not a solid metal platform for a big lens. I shot the origianl Digital Rebel, and still do sometimes, but I never put a heavy lens on it without holding the lens, not the body of the camera. Hope that helps you get even a wider view of the issues involved. Best Of Luck To You!

6/6/2006 9:22:21 AM

Richard Eskin

member since: 7/20/2005
  A couple of additional things to consider: maximum and minimum height. It you are 6 ft tall and your tripod has a maximum extension of 5 ft, bending over will become very uncomfortable after a while. If you extend a center pole significantly, you have essentially converted a tripod to monopod. At the other extreme, if you do a significant amount of macro photography you will want a tripod that can get near the ground and provides flexibility for different angles (Gitzo makes a model with an offset camera support but I forget them model; it isn't really good for a very heavy lens). Weight, height and intended purpose are all important purchase considerations.

6/6/2006 10:10:24 AM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  Height is a major consideration!!! I'm 6-3 so I opted for a 3 section CF tripod because it was 3 inches longer and I wouldn't have to bend over as much. The unfortunate thing is most of the models I photograph are 5-2 to 5-9 so I still have to bend during portfolio shoots..however it is highly benefitial during certain shoots(especially on uneven ground). So is balance. I use a 1Ds Mark II with a 70-200 2.8IS lens it's heavy so are the Macro lenses. The tripod I bought has an extender arm that is great for Macro shoots. I didn't think I'd ever use this but shot a catalog and did tons of other stuff with my Canon 180MM Macro and 100MM Macro that I couldn't even attempt without this tripod. If it isn't sturdy you're risking your camera and lens and that certainly isn't worth saving $100 on, the one thing that you'll notice is everyone that bought the right one the first time still uses that same tripod.

6/6/2006 10:44:27 AM

Marvin Swetzer

member since: 12/25/2003
  I want to add to Kerry's answer. I don't like plastic. Ebay has nice older all metal tripods that are like new. You have to look for them.

But what do I know, I don't like zoom lenses neither.

Marvin Swetzer

6/6/2006 2:24:39 PM

Paul S. Fleming

member since: 4/27/2008
  Noel, I support the advice from the other shooters. Buy quality, weight and the proper height. Quality: It will live longer than all of us. Weight: You need the weight to not allow your camera and lens to move, as that is the whole idea of using a tripod. I bought cheep and the tripod fell over. Luckily I have fast hands (No comments guys) and caught the camera before it hit the ground. That tripod went to the trash bin. Height: Buy a tripod that you do not have to extend after the legs are up. This will save a lot of bending over and you looking light the Hunchback of Notre Dame. As the guys said: Buy one that has all these features and you should be happy and so should your cameras and lenses. Go cheap and you will not be satisfied...Honest. Happy Shooting Noel, PS Fleming

6/6/2006 5:10:48 PM

  Like others said, if you want lightweight forget good shots. I just went to a Manfrotto pod and their "pistol grip" ball head. I like the ease of manipulation and good solid locking. So far so good. I also bought the Manfrotto becayse it has "levers" to lock legs in position vs twist locks.
Also consider multiple angle adjustments for the legs if you shoot macro. Happy hunting ! Chuck

6/9/2006 11:21:18 AM

Noel Baebler
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/26/2003
  Thanks again everyone for the information!

Chuck: Which Manfrotto tripod are you using?

6/9/2006 11:29:58 AM

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