BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: Best Photographic Equipment to Buy : Best Camera Tripods

Photography Question 
Lisa Sherwood

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:)

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7/29/2006 12:24:04 AM

John Rhodes
BetterPhoto 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.


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7/29/2006 5:50:21 AM

Lisa Sherwood   Thanks for the advice JOhn, I'll see what I can find.

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7/29/2006 7:28:32 AM

Sharon  Day
BetterPhoto Member Since: 6/27/2004
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  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.

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7/29/2006 8:33:40 PM

Lisa Sherwood   Thanks Sahron, you are right - I am just going to go check some out! Thanks :) Have a good day

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7/29/2006 10:47:50 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto 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.

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7/29/2006 10:48:18 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto 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.

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7/30/2006 11:52:58 AM

Pete H
BetterPhoto 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,


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7/30/2006 6:42:19 PM

Simon Stafford
Simon's Photo Courses:
4-Week Short Course: The Nikon D7000 Camera
  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:

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

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7/31/2006 2:32:31 AM

Lisa Sherwood   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.

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7/31/2006 10:22:32 PM

Jeff Coleman   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

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8/1/2006 1:12:02 PM

Michael  C. Bennett
BetterPhoto 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

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8/2/2006 7:13:43 AM

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