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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 
Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  11 .  Which Tripod Is Best?
I'm looking at the Gitzo G1228 C/F but noticed that the Slik Pro814 C/F looks very similar and is considerably less. Velbons 630 C/F is also considerably less. I understand you get what you pay for, so my questions: Am I paying for the Gitzo name? Is the Slik AF2100 good, or is Manfrotto 322RC2 better?

12/15/2005 5:00:28 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Slik, Manfrotto and Gitzo are all imported, I believe, by HP Marketing. This really comes down to intended use, budget and personal preference. Personally, I prefer Gitzo. I have two - a Reporter and a Studex - both with Linhof ball heads. It seems I've had them forever. They've survived well in hard, nearly daily use.
My vibe, Oliver, is buy more tripod than you think you need right now so you can expand into it if your photography changes, say to a different format(s). A solid, sturdy well-made tripod is an investment in whatever photography you do, whereas a cheap, wobbler with plastic threaded parts or spring clips is a real liability.
Yup, you really do get what you pay for. Consider buying a used pod, like a Gitzo, although they're tough to find used because guys who have them tend to hang onto them (like me). But for used models, look at KEH.com and if you're looking new, http://www.bhphoto.com. They seem to have the best prices on new Gitzos.
Take it light.
Mark

12/15/2005 5:40:30 PM

  Oliver: Manfrotto is superb. Imported from Italy by www.bogenphoto.com As with any tripod, don't buy the smallest/flimsiest model.
Gitzo is the Rolls Royce of tripods. Superb but expensive.
I have not tested any recent Slik or Velbon models.
Regards, Peter Burian, Instructor,
Mastering The Digital Camera and Photography
http://www.betterphoto.com/photocourses/PBN01.asp

12/16/2005 5:55:28 AM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  Thanks, Peter and Mark!!! I use B&H so I'm glad they come highly recommended. Last night, I met a girl that sells used camera equip and she told me that used Gitzos are rare and don't depreciate, so I'm going that way but will look at the Manfrotto. Should I go ball head or pistol grip? Those grips are popular with the young car show photographers.

12/16/2005 8:32:39 AM

  Oliver: The pistol grip is large and heavy but very convenient. It works best with lenses that are not too heavy.
Regards, Peter Burian, Instructor,
Mastering The Digital Camera and Photography
www.betterphoto.com/photocourses/PBN01.asp

12/16/2005 9:11:30 AM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  I'm either getting the Gitzo 1227 or the Manfrotto 055MF3 both are C/F. I looked at the Linhof heads and was wondering if there was a great/good head in the $150 range?

12/16/2005 9:29:25 AM

  Oliver: I cannot keep track of all the different models in both brands. Check the specs (www.bogenimaging.us/) closely for:

- Weight: The amount of weight that each one is expected to support
- Type of leg locking devices ... if clips (as with most Manfrotto models), they are much faster/easier to use
- Low-level capability ... if you plan to use a tripod from a very low shooting position

I am not familiar with Linhof heads; they are used mostly by studio photographers. Here's a useful guide to tripod heads:

www.shutterbug.net/equipmentreviews/accessories/0705getyour/index.html

All the best, Peter Burian, Instructor,
Mastering The Digital Camera and Photography
www.betterphoto.com/photocourses/PBN01.asp

12/16/2005 10:28:19 AM

  Those Are Good Choices On The Tripod Oliver,Tripod Heads Come In Different Styles And Can Be Tough To Choose From,Your First Consideration Should Be How Much Weight You Intend To Put On Them,The More Weight They Have To Hold The More The Price Goes Up;-)
For $150.00 That Should Get You A Nice Ball Head From Manfrotto/Bogen Capable Of Holding A DSLR And A Short To Medium Sized Tele Lens.
If You Intend To Use Heavy Camera's And Long Tele Lenses Now Or In The Future Your Budget Would Have To Increase To The $500.00 Range Hope That Helps...

12/16/2005 10:32:12 AM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  I've got the 10D but soon the 1DS MII with a 70-200 2.8is and was looking at a 400MM for MotoGP races so if I'm getting up into heavy weight the tripod and head will need to support at least 18lb. yet light enough to carry up the Laguna Seca hills.

12/16/2005 10:38:35 AM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Howdy, Oliver.
If you really want to get into the fancier and heavier-duty end of camera mounts for tripods, take a look at http://www.reallyrightstuff.com. Their preference is Arca Swiss ball heads, which are very very expensive. Good but big bucks.

My preference for Linhof Profi II and III ball heads with Linhof quickfix plates is because I've found them sturdy, reliable, easy to adjust without looking at them, and quite solid. Some less expensive ball heads tend to float or slip, usually at the worst possible moment. I'd say the Linhofs are mid-price range. Not cheap, but not up in the Arca Swiss range.

While Peter's right in that ball heads are used by studio photographers, I use mine both in the studio and on location. I've found them extremely handy for shooting things like sports if I'm set up somewhere. The panning feature is pretty nice. Otherwise, I just use a monopod. Another nice thing about ball heads is you don't have a few tripod head handles sticking out in various places. All the adjustments are right below your camera platform.
Gitzo legs will allow the tripod to get pretty close to ground level, unless the center column is in the way.
Oh, and the link I gave you to b&h at http://www.bhphoto.com is still good.
HP Marketing distributes for Bogen here in the U.S. So http://www.hpmarketingcorp.com will get you linked to Bogen, Manfrotto, etc., and while you're there, take a look at the Linhof heads. Again, B&H is the best place I've found for them, although once in a great while, KEH.com has them.

Laguna Seca hills? Are you photographing the track, highway 68, Salinas, Monterey, Seaside or Fort Ord?????? or none of the above.

Take er easy.
Mark

12/16/2005 12:52:41 PM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  I'll be trackside, I was fortunate that one of the riders (Mladin #1) gave us tickets that got me on the starting grid. I shot all the Umbrella Girls and the riders showed the photos to RedBull USA and the rest is history. I also have Suites at Cal. Speedway (AMA, Nascar), and at LVMS so I'll be bringing it to all those events. That's how I fell into photography. If you want some photos of Nascar drivers let me know your favorites and I'll send them.

12/16/2005 1:44:59 PM

Oliver Anderson
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/16/2004
  Just going report on what I bought and how it working. I bought the Giottos 8180 carbon fibre tripod with an Arca Swiss B1 head with RRS quick release. I also sprung for the RRS L bracket and it is great. Heavy to lug around for any extended period but the quality of the photos are worth it.

2/3/2006 4:44:51 PM

  This message is probably too large for your purchase, but perhaps it will help someone else.

My first tripod was a Slik, and it was slick. One windy day, the tripod went over and fortunately I caught the camera strap on its way down to the grass. Otherwise, my Nikon lenses would have hit the ground.

I eliminated that tripod from my possession and bought a sturdier, well-built tripod instead. It sort of depends on the value of your equipment. If it's a cheap point and shoot, it may not make a big difference to you. But, if you've made a big investment with lenses and your camera body, I'd recommend something sturdier.

If my car is nearby, I use a Manfrotto 3021 with a 3045 head. I like this because I'm learning to capture flowers as well as people, and the tripod contains levels in the pod and in the head.

But, this is not the tripod that I've carried to Europe, because, for me, it's too heavy.

And while I have a Manfrotto 3001 pod with a quick release head, I'm not certain that is durable and less tippy enough for my more expensive Canon equipment. So, I, too am shopping for something light, but of a sturdier design and they are out there, but they cost as much as some lenses.

10/29/2006 5:36:22 PM

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Photography Question 
Janet L. Poole

member since: 11/21/2004
  12 .  Tripod and Ball Head
I am looking to buy a good tripod and ball head. I would also like the tripod to be lightweight. Please provide suggestions on the best on the market. Thanks.

6/15/2005 6:44:34 PM

Michael H. Cothran

member since: 10/21/2004
  I am never quite sure how to answer questions where people want the "best." You did say a "good tripod," but then stated the "best on the market." I do try to answer questions like this literally. So... the "best" would be a Gitzo Mountaineer carbon fiber tripod ... strong, sturdy, and extremely light weight. There are many fine ball heads available today. Gitzo has introduced their own family of ball heads. My personal favorite is the Kirk BH3. Kirk Enterprises makes some awesome accessories. This combination will run several hundred dollars, but if you want the "best", you have to pay for it.
You CAN buy cheaper for sure. Manfrotto is the most popular brand of tripods, and relatively cheap - but don't expect the quality of a Gitzo in one.
Michael H. Cothran
www.mhcphoto.net

6/16/2005 5:33:35 AM

Janet L. Poole

member since: 11/21/2004
  Michael

Thanks so much for the quick response. I do not really care about price. I just want a great set up. I do not want to buy something to save a few dollars. Then, turn around and have to buy something else, because, I was cheap the first time around.

I like your internet site. You have very nice pictures.

Janet L. Townend

6/16/2005 5:52:37 PM

Bill Boswell

member since: 3/22/2004
  If you want what most of the professional nature photographers use, look at the Gitzo 1325 CF tripod and the Arca Swiss B1 ball head. This will run about $1,000 but is very stable and easy to use.

6/21/2005 4:25:48 AM

  Agree on the Gitzo recommendation. Ball Heads - Arca Swiss, Kirk, or Really Right Stuff (http://www.reallyrightstuff.com/) are what most pros recommend.

6/21/2005 5:03:55 AM

Amanda E. Radovic
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/16/2004
  I would go out and try them first - a tripod has to combine the right amount of sturdiness vs lightweight, the head has to feel right and be easy to use, the quick release has to be just that! It will just feel rihgt whatever you choose and that is what you buy - especially nice when money is no object! The problem lies here in - if your tripod isn't easy to use and fit your photographic style then you just wont use it as often as you should. Likewise - if it isn't quality enough and sturdy enough to carry your equipment - then you are risking the safety of your gear. I personally use Manfrotto - it suits my needs and feels right. I love the quick release ball head I have, you depress the handgrip which gives you full free ball rotation. When your image is how you want it in the viewfinder you simply let go of the pistol grip and it locks into place - couldn't be easier! Hope this helps.

6/21/2005 5:51:28 AM

Janet L. Poole

member since: 11/21/2004
  Thank you all for your responses. I really appreciate the advice.

Janet

6/21/2005 6:02:43 PM

Norbert Maile

member since: 7/28/2004
  I beg to differ! Gitzo is probably the best in the world but I would say that Manfroto is a close second. Some people have told me the opposite so I guess it is a matter of taste. You need sturdy. If you are backpacking then you need to consider weight more so. If not then it is not so important. Either company will provide you will a first rate product.A ball head from either company would be a solid buy and last for years to come.

6/21/2005 10:12:46 PM

Janet L. Poole

member since: 11/21/2004
  Norbert

Thanks for the advice.

Janet

6/22/2005 2:21:05 PM

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Photography Question 
Mike Stephens

member since: 6/1/2005
  13 .  Shutter Speed Vs. Tripod Use
In general, at what shutter speed would you typically start to use a tripod or stabilizing device?

6/7/2005 11:05:37 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  With a lightweight lens/camera combo - like a 50mm or 135mm - if you're steady, you can do 1/15 without. What you might see recommended in a book or manual, 1/60 without. Below those, go with a tripod. But, that doesn't mean you have to.

6/7/2005 11:16:29 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  It's all relative to the individual and, as Greg pointed out, the equipment he or she is using. If you have the tripod with you, use it. That's the general rule I follow whenever I go below 1/60 for all-around scenics with a standard or medium wide-angle lens, and below 1/250 with my telephoto or tele-converter.
In macro, I will use a tripod always.
You can get acceptable results on slower speeds by using your own body as a support. Leaning against a tree or wall is a good example. Sometimes, I'll sit on the ground and prop my elbows on my knees. These methods can't replace the tripod but will work in a pinch.

6/8/2005 4:27:31 AM

Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/27/2004
  IMHO: if you want tack-sharp images, use a tripod. Of course, there are conditions when using a tripod is simply not practical. However, I use a tripod about 85 percent of the time and find that I have gotten fairly adept at setting up quickly. I have found that my shots are generally better when using a tripod since it forces me to slow down and really "see" a scene before I start trying to capture it.

6/8/2005 5:30:26 AM

Steve Eschenburg

member since: 9/17/2004
  Generally, if you are stuck without your tripod, or monopod, or something to lean against, take the inverse of your maximum lens length and use that as a guide. If your lens is 50mm then anything slower than 1/50s would call for extra stability.
There's a cut-off point somewhere above 200mm (it's different for everybody) where a realistic shutter speed/hand-held combination isn't worthwhile. You'll need to do some tests to find yours.

6/14/2005 1:29:38 PM

Alan Jefferys

member since: 10/1/2002
  As a you should use a tripod when your shutter speed is less than that of your focal length. So with a 50mm lens 1/60th should be regarded as a minimum, at 135mm it would be 1/125 and so on. I hope this helps. Good Luck.

6/14/2005 1:35:34 PM

David King

member since: 9/12/2004
  Egos aside, Irene has the correct answer... USE A TRIPOD any and every time possible, ESPECIALLY with digital! you'll hear a number of rules of thumb such as the oft quoted one about shooting speeds of 1/focal length to be safe. Nonsense.

A few years ago several instructors and myself at the college where I teach decided to test this. We set up side by side and shot our own cameras at every shutter speed both planted on a tripod and hand held. We then enlarged the 35mm images to 11x14. In every single case, no one had any trouble picking out the hand held shots even with normal (50mm) lenses shot at 1/125 and sometimes 1/250.

They all looked tack sharp on the contacts, and many were acceptable at 8x10 but fell apart readily at 11x14. Years ago in a desperate moment I astonished myself with a hand held shot for a full second leaning against a tree. It was a miracle. I could now claim in some learned article that I can shoot hand held at a second but it would be a lie. Remember the sample shots you see in magazines are small and printed with a line screen for reproduction. The proof is in an enlarged print.

Now before the wails of protest arise, I confess I do have a friend that routinely pulls off 1/30 of a second hand held shots. Or so I thought until we ent shooting together. He takes multiple shots and only prints the ones that worked. The truth is he has about a 20% success ratio and then only when he is leaning against something solid.

So get a useable tripod and a cable release (it does you no good to put the camera on a tripod then lean on it and impose that movement on the camera) and use them. you will notice an improvement in sharpeness. You will probably also notice an improvement in composition becasue now you can study the image and fine tune it. Remember, those great shots of Adams and Weston and Sexton are all shot on tripod and the steadiness and ability to calmly and purposefully compose are as much to credit as the large film size. Good photos are most often "made" not just "taken." some people worry about the time involved but I've always found that Minor White was correct: "If the subject sees in you someone worthy to take its portrait, it will wait for you."

David
www.ndavidking.com

6/14/2005 6:31:37 PM

Mike Stephens

member since: 6/1/2005
  Steve, Alan, and David- Thank you for your input. Dave, glad you mentioned the cable release! I almost forgot about that! However, as far as the Minor White quote, tell that to the two fawns at a local park I was at!! =)

Again, THANKS!!

mike

6/14/2005 7:02:41 PM

Scott Pedersen

member since: 11/18/2001
  Iv found that handheld keep the shutter speed a 1/125th or use a monopod. If you get too slow use a tripod.

6/15/2005 3:58:28 AM

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Photography Question 
Frank P. Luongo
Contact Frank
Frank's Gallery
francislphotography.com

member since: 6/7/2004
  14 .  Best Camera Tripods
My current tripod is too small. Unless I raise the center column to its max height, it is not at eye level. Without raising the center column (which I would prefer) to have more stability, I find myself bending over too much to look through view finder. And, I'm only 5'6" in height. What do people do who are 6 feet and up?
Anyway, I have been searching online looking at the Bogen/Manfrotto tripod legs and ball heads.
Max heights without center column are 51".65" with column raised.
Prices for legs only range from 150.00 to 500.00. Pan heads run about 100.00. Should I spend 400.00 or so?
Is this a good investment?
I like architecture, which I'm told needs a 3 way panning head.
Hope you can help. Thanks.

5/17/2005 5:33:00 PM

  I'm 6'4". This tripod works fine for me: http://dutchhill.com

5/17/2005 7:18:05 PM

Martin Ebbesen
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/8/2001
  Hi Frank,
I'm 189cm and I just got the Giottos MT9170, a great set of legs for about $150. As for a head, well, I'm mainly into nature photography so I decided on a Kirk BH-3 ballhead. But my advice to you would be to bring your camera to a store with a selection of tripods and heads, and see what head best suites you.
Regards, Martin

5/18/2005 6:27:11 AM

Kevin Ekstrom
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/20/2005
  Try a Calumet tripod. They're great and priced right. You won't go wrong. Also SLIK makes some nice tripods. I own an ABLE 300 DX with a pan head that I purchased for 100.00. I use this tripod every time I go down to the lake or out in the woods. It's very sturdy. I've owned it for years.

5/21/2005 2:24:11 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  Frank,
There is nothing wrong with raising your center column when the conditions warrant the extra height. Just be sure not to be touching your camera or tripod during the time the shutter is open ... especially with long exposure times.
Using your timer (or a remote shutter release) will help to eliminate movement due to the decreased level of stability when the center column is raised.
(P.S.: I'm 6' and would rather stoop than raise the center post and worry about remotes or timed releases.)

5/21/2005 3:33:32 PM

Doug  Elliott
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/18/2004
  Frank,
Look into a Bogen 2021n and a 322r head. At B&H, it runs about 254.95. I have had the 2021 legs for 15 years and they are still working. Today, I replaced my 3047 three-way head for the new 322r. 3047 froze at a wedding last week. I will be sending it in for repair. However, since I am out shooting almost every day, I can only say that the Bogen has been a great tripod. I am 5'10" and when the tripod is fully extended without the center post being raised, I have to stand on an apple box to see through the viewfinder. If at this height I have to extend the center, I am using a step stool.
I hope this info helps. Good luck and keep shooting.

5/21/2005 7:53:32 PM

Lamont G. Weide
LamontPhotos.com

member since: 5/1/2002
  Best is relative. I have more tripods than I need. One reason is that I did not have help when I first bought one, another is that carbon fiber was not available when I started. The "best" tripod is one that you use! I just purchased the Bogen 055MF3 carbon fiber tripod. It is compact, light, and versatile. It is by far the "best" tripod that I have purchased, I can actually carry it! Cost $300 at B&H. I purchased the Bogen 488RC2 ballhead. It is solid - cost about $100. Again, you will get many recommendations - the "best" tripod is the one that fits your needs and that you use. If you spend more on your first one and get it right you won't have to replace it for a long long time:)

Lamont

5/24/2005 11:40:10 AM

  Yeah, my tripod from Dutch Hill is kind of weighty. But in a pinch I could probably jack up my car with it..:-)

Bob

5/24/2005 12:02:03 PM

Michael Kettler

member since: 1/19/2005
  Frank, I've recently purchased a bogen 3221WN tripod(brand new, tripod only) that I'm looking to get rid of asap. If you are interested in a steal of a deal give me a email: mdkett@hotmail.com.

Thanks, Michael

5/26/2005 9:48:02 AM

  Thanks to all of you!
I appreciate your comments.
I've learned that I can get a very good tripod for a reasonable price.

I am temted, though, to go for the Bogen tripod and head.
We'll see.
Anyway you guys and gals gave me some direction.

Thanks Again!!
Frank

5/30/2005 3:41:57 PM

  Hi, probably late with my answer. Been on vacation. But I have a Bogen 3021pro, with a 3029 head. Cost less than 200 dollars. I stand 6' 4" Fully extended, it is above my eye level. It is a very sturdy tripod, that you can remove the center post, and put it in horizontal, if you do any macro work this is a nice feature. My only change I would make is a different head. The 3029 is a 3 way, but no quick release, for a few dollars more, the 3030 has the quick release platform, or look for a ball head. That is going to be my next head. I ordered mine from B&H photo, which has prices cheaper than anything I can find locally. Good luck with your choice.
Fred

6/1/2005 5:38:52 PM

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Photography Question 
Heidi Dunlop

member since: 4/3/2005
  15 .  Tripods for Photography: Fixing a Squeak
I have a Bogen 3265 head (about 6 years old). In the last year it has been making an awful squeak when I move it. I am afraid to use anything on it--like WD40. But the squeak has to go. Any ideas?

4/11/2005 2:11:32 PM

BRYAN D. NEWMAN

member since: 3/31/2005
  Heidi,
A very small amount of Dawn Dishwashing Liquid (or any other brand) should do the trick. WD40 shouldn't hurt anything. The trick is that anything you use, use it sparingly. Just make sure you remove any excess so that it doesn't get smeared and possibly get on your camera. Apply only a small "dab" where it is needed.

4/11/2005 5:22:28 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  Try contacting Bogen's Web site directly to see what they recommend. This may be a condition that had occurred frequently enough that their "brain team" has already come up with the perfect solution to the problem.

4/11/2005 7:20:06 PM

Bill Boswell

member since: 3/22/2004
  I wonder if you might have a bit of grit or sand in the mechanism. I would hesitate to use any lubricant since it may impair the locking function of your ball head.

4/12/2005 12:22:06 PM

Bill Boswell

member since: 3/22/2004
  I wonder if you might have a bit of grit or sand in the mechanism. I would hesitate to use any lubricant since it may impair the locking function of your ball head.

4/12/2005 12:45:50 PM

Heidi Dunlop

member since: 4/3/2005
  I went to Bogen website and really couldn't find anything that addressed the problem. I sent them a query--and we'll see if they respond. The sound of the squeak is like a dog's whine.
Also, although the locking function seems to work ok, the entire head swivels--and I can't figure out a solution to that either. (Another query to Bogen.) To be honest--the locking function is slipping. Especially if I use my 105mm 2.8 Nikon lens--which is a bit heavier. I see there is a new ball head pistol grip head out there by Bogen--maybe that is the intended fix for this problem--but I figured spending $80-100 on this head 6 years ago that it would last me much longer. I shopped and considered Bogen the best when I purchased the tripod setup.

4/12/2005 1:14:00 PM

Heidi Dunlop

member since: 4/3/2005
  NO reponse from Bogen. Guess I'll try again.

4/20/2005 7:25:17 PM

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Photography Question 
Bunny Snow
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Bunny
Bunny's Gallery

member since: 11/16/2004
  16 .  Monopod or Tripod?
I've never used a monopod and am still learning my new Canon Elan 7E. However, I am considering taking the Elan with me to China, which we'll be touring in April.

Recalling our trip to Prague last spring, there were places where I had to turn my tripod into a monopod, such as in cathedrals. Hence, I'm thinking about purchasing a monopod for this trip.

Which pod you recommend (price as well as sturdiness)? I'm considering taking my Canon Zoom Telephoto EF 70-200mm f/4.0L, 28-135mm zoom wide angle, and my Canon Zoom Wide Angle-Telephoto EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Image Stabilizer USM auto focus lenses.

Weight is a factor - both my body weight and the weight of my equipment.

Also, I really enjoyed playing with the Singh-ray GRAD filters on the Prague trip. Http://danube2004.us

Is it difficult to use them with a monopod? I have a lightweight tripod. Thanking you in advance.
~Bunny

2/14/2005 12:18:46 PM

Michael H. Cothran

member since: 10/21/2004
  Monopods fill in that void between when you can use a tripod and hand-holding. It does not provide the stability of a tripod, but it does help you stabilize your setup better than hand-holding. I've got a Bogen. It gets very little use, but in those special times, it is invaluable.
Monopods are all pretty much lightweight in nature. None of your mentioned lenses are real heavyweights, so any moderate-sized monopod with a small head would work well.
Just don't expect it to take the place of a tripod. It won't help one bit with really slow shutter speeds.
Michael H. Cothran
www.mhcphoto.net

2/14/2005 12:48:47 PM

Jose I. Granados

member since: 7/25/2003
  Bunny,
I agree with Michael, and you may also consider that there are some monopod models (I have one Manfrotto myself) that include tripod legs hidden inside, which I have found very convenient. Have a nice trip.

2/16/2005 9:03:41 AM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  I too agree with Michael. If you've never used a monopod, don't be misled into thinking that it will replace your tripod. A monopod only stabilizes the vertical movement of your camera/lens combo. A tripod will stabilize the forward-backward ... and side-to-side motions as well.
I cannot offer suggestions on specific brands, but I can tell you that monopods work best when supported against a solid object, such as a rock, or a fence post
(Just food for thought.)

2/16/2005 11:20:46 AM

Lewis T. Beasimer
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/30/2003
  I also have the Bogen/Manfrotto with the hidden legs model #3231. I have walked through Rome with it, and it worked well.
I used the legs when I had the opportunity. With the legs, it's still not as stable as a tripod, but you can make do in most cases. I noticed you have an IS lens, too. I have used the IS with the monopod with success.

2/16/2005 7:07:35 PM

Dawn Penso
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/6/2005
  The monopod can't take the place of a tripod, especially for low-light shots, but they can be useful if there's nothing for you to brace yourself against. If this is a one-off trip, take the tripod instead!

2/17/2005 4:27:12 AM

  Most of the pictures in my gallery have been taken with a monopod attached directly to the camera. I often adjust it to the shortest length and use it as a handle that I can then brace against my body. This works wonderfully for getting up close or for action shots. For those of us with (hate to say it!) aging hands that are a bit arthritic, the handle arrangement reduces the weight of the camera. I have a very lightweight monopod that is made of titanium, and it adjusts in length with little effort. And now that I've used it on an almost daily basis, I find it adequate for most of my shooting situations and far easier to deal with than a tripod. I take my camera with me in the car - even to the grocery store - so ease of use is paramount.

Obviously, a tripod should come first in the list of necessary equipment but the monopod can be a pleasant surprise.

2/19/2005 8:06:59 AM

Emmanuel Panagiotakis
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/22/2005
  go to http://www.amvona.com/v7/shop/ they have some very nice monopods and tripods
Thanks
Emmanuel

2/22/2005 2:11:49 PM

Scott Pedersen

member since: 11/18/2001
  I have a Quantrary one. Its really nice has a quick release plate, can tilt the head. Its really sturdy and I paid 40ish bucks for it new at Ritz camera. Love it. None of those fancy named ones come with the quick release, or a head so you have to go and buy a head and they are really expensive. Now I found this one out after I bought my monopod and tripod. Sunpacks plate interchanges between there tripod and monopod and they of course come with two plates. If that is still the case that is the one a photographer should be looking at. That is nothing but BS when you have to swap plates to use one or the other. Thats my opinon.

2/22/2005 3:01:16 PM

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Photography Question 
Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/8/2004
  17 .  Bipod ... Or Monopod or Tripod?
Do any of you know whether any of the tripod manufacturers actually make a bipod? I am purchasing a Sigma 50-500mm zoom lens and think a bipod would help eliminate blur, etc. Thanks in advance.

12/20/2004 10:06:11 AM

John Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/8/2001
  I don't think anyone makes a bipod commercially. But why not use a monopod or tripod? The latter will give you the most stability, let you walk away from the camera to be certain you've removed clutter, etc.
When you use a monopod, YOU are the two additional support legs. Make sure the monopod leans toward you as you focus and press the shutter.
You might also consider an image stabilizing lens before you purchase the Sigma 50-500mm. Don't know if your camera's maker has one, but this is worth checking out first.
What are you shooting that requires 500mm? If it's birds on the wing, etc., you really aren't going to be too happy, because you'll not be able to move the camera/lens fast enough to easily capture such an elusive subject. If it's insects, you might want to consider freezing the action with flash; this might enable you to purchase a more controllable lens.
Just a thought or two.

12/20/2004 11:03:25 AM

Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/8/2004
  Thanks, John. I am shooting wild turkey, deer, perched birds, etc. I don't try to get birds on the wing. I like the ability of the 500mm to zoom in close up on my subject and thought if a bipod were made, it would be more stable than a monopod. Guess I'll have to do the monopod.

12/20/2004 11:11:07 AM

Keith 

member since: 12/18/2004
  If you need a camera bipod, here's a commercially available one (inexpensive, too):
http://www.exploreproducts.com/bipod.htm

You can actually make it into a makeshift tripod by carrying some light lanyard cord and an anchor. If you attach the cord near the panhead and anchor it to the ground with the camera's weight tilting slightly forward. It's handy if you are on sloped/uneven terrain. I have found that my tripod serves an identical function if I simply disregard one of the legs.

12/21/2004 2:32:08 AM

John P. Roberts, Jr.
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/28/2004
  If you are in an area the prevents you from extending all 3 tripod legs, just extend 2 legs, and you have a bipod. Leave the 3rd leg unextended and pointing away from you. This has worked for me in tight areas or on terrain that is too steep to extend the 3rd leg.

12/21/2004 2:41:35 AM

Todd Bennett
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/8/2004
  Thanks guys. All very good suggestions.

12/21/2004 5:30:06 AM

Scott Pedersen

member since: 11/18/2001
  For wildlife, you need a monopod. You can set up and shoot in a hurry with it. Make sure it has a quick release plate, and make sure the plate is snugged onto the camera good enough, keep the camera on the pod and ready. It's a good plan to keep the camera strap around your neck anyhow just in case. A monopod works great until you get to real slow shutter speeds, which you won't be using for wildlife. You do need to watch to make sure the camera is level. It's steady but easy to shoot at an angle if not paying attention. I don't know what the pros use to steady but that's the way I do it, and it works great.

12/21/2004 5:39:54 AM

Harry H. Marsh

member since: 4/14/2004
  The suggestion of getting a good tripod (Bogen, etc.) and using only 2 legs is a good one! Make sure you get a decent tripod with a head you like to use (try before you buy!). Before you get that particular Sigma lens, what about the APO 80-400 OS (their version of image stabilization)? Very good reviews - and you want to be sure the lens is sharp!

12/21/2004 9:42:20 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  I've used the "two-leg" trick quite often when shooting insects. It makes it possible to carefully lean in to get super close to the subject without disturbing the surrounding plants or flowers. This two-leg method offers more support than a monopod, which only stabilizes the camera's vertical movement.

12/22/2004 5:23:28 AM

anonymous A. 

member since: 9/19/2005
  I have little to add to the discussion except to share that, having despaired of finding the pod I wanted at a price I was willing to pay, I happened discovered several carbon fiber pods sold in the USA at 1/3 the cost of a Manfrotto/Bogen and with equal or better specs. The one I bought (through EBay) was badged "Fancier FT6994T" but I suspect from the sellers' descriptions and specs it's a generic tripod. Anyway, it is lighter than the equivalent Italian pods, very stable, quick to set up, seems pretty proof against sand and dust, and comes with a choice of heads (no extra), very sturdy carry bag, accessories, tool kit.... I'm stoked!

8/29/2006 12:25:46 AM

anonymous A. 

member since: 9/19/2005
  This is weird...I posted the above comment to another discussion. I hadn't opened this one and I have no idea how it finished up here.

I was going to say that with such a long, heavy unit (close to 1.9 K or 2 lb), the best support would be on the lens, and it has the facility to attach the pod direct to the lens. I know that is the way sports photographers work using a monopod, and in the field, with the weight of the camera plus that big lump of LD glass, the fewer legs you have to carry the better!

8/29/2006 6:51:32 AM

Alan D. Montgomery

member since: 11/19/2007
  From personal experience, unless you have nerves of steel you aren't going to be able to hold the Sigma 50-500 lens. You will need a tripod. I don't recommend a monopod as I've noticed I tend to still have some degree of camera shake especially when I use the shutter release button. I did find using an electronic release help vastly. Mostly I shoot wildlife (not to good at it yet - but I'm working on my technique).

Recently I was able to shoot with semi-pros and pros in the Grand Tetons. Almost all those guy and gals used tripods and I noticed I was the only one using a zoom lens. When I questioned a couple of the other photographers I discoved their lenses were much faster than mine which gave them the ability to shoot in lower light conditions and at faster speed than I could using the 50-500. So I cheated and raised the to 1600. Seems to work for me.

By the way I dont use the 50-500 as much as I thought I would - mostly I use the Tamron 28-300. Recentlty I purchased the VC model of that lens. Haven't received it so I cant speak to the photographic quality. I am generally happy with my 50-500 shots.

11/19/2007 11:35:51 AM

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Photography Question 
Susan Bohanon
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/8/2004
  18 .  Tripod for Vertical Shooting
I've read many of the comments regarding tripods, but not sure I've found my answer.

I need a sturdy tripod to support vertical shooting. My current one (which isn't professional) will not support the weight of my camera and flash therefore all my vertical shots are crooked.

Any help would be great!
Thank you!!

11/27/2004 5:58:48 AM

Kip T. Berger
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/20/2002
  Hi Susan,
I like the Bogen Manfrotto Series. The line by Gitzo is good too. For vertical camera position, you are looking more at the type head attachment to use with the tripod. I use a 3 way head with quick release plate. Your other option would be a ball head. Best to test out some models in your local camera shop to see which is more comfortable for you to use. Good luck with the shopping. PS-for mobility, a monopod is alot easier to transport.

11/27/2004 12:59:14 PM

  Hi Susan:
Excellent advice from Kip! Here are a few more thoughts:

If buying in a store:
Take your heaviest lens/camera combination, set up the tripod that looks most promising, and see exactly how it performs with your gear. Of course, you'll want to especially put it to the most critical test - the vertical format! You may also wish to see how high (without raising the center post) or how low it goes.

If buying online:
Of course, there's nothing like seeing - and trying out - a tripod firsthand ... in the shop. However, although you won't know just which model "feels" best (after all, every photographer is different), at least you can order a tripod rig that is sturdy enough to meet your needs. Here's how to go about it:

  • You must know the precise weight of your largest camera/lens setup. Consult your camera and lens instruction manuals, or check the manufacturer's Web site or online camera store for the specifications.
  • Next, see how that total weight matches up against the recommended maximums for both the tripod legs and the tripod head you are thinking of ordering. Most of the bigger online camera shops (i.e., B&H) include weight specifications for tripods (as well as for lenses and camera bodies); otherwise, check the manufacturer's Web site for both the tripod and head.
  • The tripod specs will also include details on how low to the ground it goes - important, for example, if you do a lot of nature macro work - and how high it sets up (including without raising the center post, which can make things less stable).

    Hope this helps, Susan, and good luck shopping!
    Kerry

    11/27/2004 2:23:03 PM

  • Paul 

    member since: 7/22/2004
      Hi Susan,

    I would suggest that you stay away from a ball head. I have one know and it is very difficult to use since the ball head allows for any angle. Go with a three way head and you should have no problems.

    11/30/2004 6:13:37 AM

    David King

    member since: 9/12/2004
      If you have a fairly light rig then Bogen-Manfrotto makes an "L"/Elbow brack with quick release plates that lets you quickly switch from horizontal to vertical format if your tripod has a Bogen hex plate adapter. for event shooting several manufacturers make a rotating bracket that allows the flash to stay in the same relative position while the camera rotates under it. It is designed to be hand held and looks awkward but actually works quite well.

    However if you are shooting vertically for cover stuff and with a heavy long lens, then you might look into the Wimbley Gimbal mount or any of the sperical-panoramic heads that lets you position your camera over an optical nodal point or at a balance point.

    David
    www.ndavidking.com

    11/30/2004 12:50:14 PM

    Susan Bohanon
    BetterPhoto Member

    member since: 9/8/2004
      Thanks for all the feedback. I will consider it all!

    Thanks again!

    11/30/2004 3:07:35 PM

    Scott Pedersen

    member since: 11/18/2001
      Check out Ritz camera. I have a Quantratry 550. Love it. Its sturdy has a release plate, I can go horizontal or vertical or even pan if I want. plus its not bad in price. Some people swear by like bogon or manyfrzo but all you are doing is buying a name. You should really check out Sunpack. They have similar tripods, come with two release plates and I found this out (too late) that the plates also interchange between tripods and the monopod. That is excellent if you are going to be using more than one, say you get a lighter one for travel or a monopod.

    12/1/2004 4:49:35 AM

    Susan Bohanon
    BetterPhoto Member

    member since: 9/8/2004
      Thanks Scott!

    Actually this is what I ended up getting. I went to the local Ritz store and got the Quantaray 9500. I have found that it does work pretty well.

    Thanks again!

    12/1/2004 5:25:43 AM

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    Photography Question 
    Debra M. Watkins
    BetterPhoto Member

    member since: 8/26/2004
      19 .  Simple Rules for Using A Tripod
    I have a Nikon D70 and I just purchased a Promaster 6400 tripod. When I put my camera on the tripod with a 70-300mm lens, I am still having problems with camera shake and also getting the camera not to fall forwards due to the weight of the lens. Can anyone help with some basic rules for using tripods ... such as camera stabilization, when to use it, how to set it up, do I have an adequate tripod for my camera equipment, etc.? Any help would be appreciated, as I am a total beginner and trying to soak up anything I can to get better photos. Thanks so much for your help. You guys are great!

    11/18/2004 7:22:12 AM

    Kip T. Berger
    BetterPhoto Member

    member since: 2/20/2002
      I'm not aware of that camera model, but you can buy sand bags to hang from the legs to provide added stability.
    Also, are you attaching the camera by the base of the camera or by the lens adapter for the tripod? Most fast lenses tend to be bigger and heavier and come with an adapter to use to mount to the tripod with, helping to balance the weight of the camera and lens on the tripod. This helps to relieve stress on your camera's lens mount also.
    In addition, try using your remote or a cable release to fire your camera. If your camera offers mirror lockup, then use it to prevent camera shake when the mirror flips up. It will allow the mirror to be flipped up and locked prior to the actual exposure.

    11/18/2004 8:15:11 AM

    Gregory LaGrange
    BetterPhoto Member
    gregorylagrange.org

    member since: 11/11/2003
      A 70-300 shouldn't be heavy enough to be a problem for a tripod. Are you sure you have everything tight?

    11/18/2004 4:31:48 PM

    Bob Cammarata
    BetterPhoto Member
    cammphoto.com

    member since: 7/17/2003
      The above advice is great for eliminating camera-shake. For your "tipping over" problem, just make certain that you position your tripod so that you are standing in a gap between two legs when you shoot. This will place the third leg directly under the lens and make the support system less "top-heavy".
    If it still seems a bit unstable, you can shorten the back two legs just a tad, which will off-set the center of gravity and give you more stability.

    11/19/2004 3:30:20 PM

    Scott Pedersen

    member since: 11/18/2001
      A travel tripod or a light tripod will not be able to hold an SLR with a zoom on it. The head is not sturdy enough to do it and no mater how much you try it just won't hold still.This is from personal experiance, I couldn't keep the head from drooping. You need to invest in a strudy tripod that will hold your camera. Then use your cable release or the timer.

    11/23/2004 4:47:21 AM

    Paul Illes

    member since: 10/23/2003
      You have a good tripod but most beginners don't realize how tight you have to turn the screws to keep the camera from tipping. You didn't say what lens so I don't know how top heavy it is, but the normal lens shouldn't need anything more than tightening ALL the screws. If you need to steady the tripod itself, you can use things like an empty milk jug filled with water and hanging from the center. You can even substitute a Ziploc bag full of water. That way you don't have to lug around a sand bag; just fill it on site or nearby.

    11/23/2004 10:47:25 AM

    Ray Dunn

    member since: 8/12/2004
      Debra, It sounds like you may be having a little trouble with the mechanics of the tripod. Make sure you run through all of the tesion settings. In that particular model, I beleive that boom actually is the tension control for the camera platform. In any case, I recommend purchasing a remote controller. Set your shot, then fire the shutter.

    11/24/2004 6:44:39 AM

    Debra M. Watkins
    BetterPhoto Member

    member since: 8/26/2004
      Hey Guys!
    Thanks for your ideas. I do believe my problem lies in tightening the controls enough. They already seem pretty tight, but maybe I just need to tighten them a little more. Do the controls have a "breaking in" period, where they will get easier to tighten and untighten? I was just wondering because they are not easy to work with right now (or maybe I am just a weakling). Anyway, thanks again. I will be shooting quite a bit over the holiday weekend and will try your ideas. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

    11/24/2004 7:23:09 AM

    Victor J. 

    member since: 7/29/2003
      Debra,Combine what Kip,Gregory and Bob have said and you should be ok. Oh yes you might want to spray a DAB of Silicone on the thread areas of what screw tighting material you have on that tripod.Be careful not to get that spray on anything else though.And wash your hands afterward to remove any residue from the spray, that you might pass on to your camera. Vic Pizzolato

    11/28/2004 11:02:35 AM

    Paul Illes

    member since: 10/23/2003
      If, because you are a normal female, you are a little more delicate in the hands, get a small pair of utility pliers and put them in your accessory bag. They are only about two or three dollars or even less in one of those bins that hardware and drug stores display with many miscellaneous cheapy tools for a dollar or so. I know Long's and Walgreen's have them occasionally, just to get rid of them, but the pliers are perfectly adequate for you.
    Paul

    11/28/2004 11:50:16 AM

    Gregory LaGrange
    BetterPhoto Member
    gregorylagrange.org

    member since: 11/11/2003
      Ahh, maybe that's it. She's a normal female.

    11/28/2004 6:38:36 PM

    Debra M. Watkins
    BetterPhoto Member

    member since: 8/26/2004
      You Guys are crazy! Thanks for the thought though Paul, but unfortunately one of the few things I inherited from my Dad are his big, muscular hands, so I'm pretty strong, "for a girl" that is. LOL. Things did seem to go better with the tripod this weekend, thanks to everyone's input, so maybe there was just a "breaking in" period. Hope you all had a nice holiday and thanks again for your ideas.
    Debbie

    11/28/2004 6:50:33 PM

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    Photography Question 
    Ben Baxter

    member since: 12/29/2002
      20 .  Handheld vs. Tripod
    As a general rule, what should be the slowest shutter speed to use before going to a tripod?

    10/30/2004 5:12:15 PM

    Shauna Linde
    BetterPhoto Member

    member since: 6/10/2004
      1/60 of a second. Any slower and you risk blur. :)

    10/30/2004 5:14:06 PM

    Jon Close
    BetterPhoto Member

    member since: 5/18/2000
      A general rule of thumb is 1/focal length. So with a 28mm lens 1/30, 1/50 with a 50mm, 1/200 with 200mm, etc. But the rule is very general. With macro close-ups, the image magnification also magnifies camera movement, so using a 50mm macro lens focused to 5 inches you may get camera shake blur up to 1/125. Similar with extreme telephoto lengths, 1/500 may not be fast enough to give a sharp image with 400mm lens. Also, the rule of thumb is intended for use when making prints 8"x12" or smaller. For larger-size prints or projected slides, camera shake is exaggerated, so you'd need shutter speeds faster than 1/focal length.

    As with most things, your mileage may vary. With very good technique - well braced, controlled breathing, gentle shutter button push, etc. - some can shoot handheld at slower shutter speeds than the rule of thumb, while others may need faster speeds.

    An Image Stabilized (aka Vibration Reduction or Optical Stabilized) lens can be handheld at 2 or more stops slower shutter speeds (i.e., 1/60 instead of 1/250 for a 250mm lens).

    10/30/2004 5:35:47 PM

    David King

    member since: 9/12/2004
      I'm aware of the articles suggesting the 1/focal length rule. and also of the miracle shots, including one I have where the shutter was open a second and there is no camera blur. But those shots, all personal egos aside, are flukes. A few years ago eight of my fellow instructors and myself performed a test: we ranged in all ages and experiences. We took our own 35mm cameras with various lenses from wide to long and shot a test image both handheld and from a tripod with cable release. From those negatives we made 16x20 prints and compared them for any indications of camera shake. There were NO exceptions to the results. Even with 50mm 'normal lenses' we could clearly see the difference in sharpeness up to 1/250 of a second. The longer the lens the worse it got. Our conclusions were surprising to us and frankly a hit to our egos, but inescapable nevertheless: if you are planning on making an enlarged print and want it sharp, shoot from a tripod. Period, end of story. If you want to make 4x6s to hang on the fridge or go in an album, then it probably doesn't matter.

    In the ensuing years since that test as students turn in work, usually in 8x10 or 11x14 sized prints, there is no difficulty spotting those that were hand held as opposed to those shot from a solid tripod. So don't be lulled into thinking that someone's claimed steadiness will translate to your own real world shooting. If depth of field doesn't matter to your aesthetic and you insist on hand-holding, then shoot at the fastest speed possible. There is a reason why pros shoot from a tripod... and why they get to be the pros. And don't be fooled by the shots of fashion photographers shooting handheld: they are lighting with electronic flash which results in an effective exposure speed (the duration of the flash) of 1/1000 of a second and often faster. Sports photographers and photojournalists produce a small end product (think of the size of newspaper shots) printed under the absolute worst conditions on the worst paper that fuzz up even sharp photos so again, it is not the same issue.

    Stabilized lenses certainly help and if there is no way around having to shoot handheld they are the way to go along with such aids as monopods or gun-stock mounts. But it is not true that they can replace a tripod in terms of absolute image sharpeness. Unless you are a trained sniper and can squeeze the shutter between your heartbeats and absolutely control every one of the micro-contractions of all of the muscles in your body, you are just relying on luck to get that fritical shot sharp. That's fine when it really doesn't matter and sometimes it may actually, for who knows what reason, work. But pros know when money is on the line you shoot from a tripod.

    David
    www.ndavidking.com

    11/2/2004 7:36:35 AM

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