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How To Choose A Tripod

Dan Eitreim

February 17, 2015

One literally indispensable piece of photo gear that everyone needs is a tripod. Many photos can be dramatically improved with one and others can’t even be created without a good solid tripod.

But, there are a few considerations you will need to make before you buy one…

First – How heavy is it? If you get one that is too light for your equipment, it won’t do the job. It could conceivably collapse and potentially ruin your expensive gear. Or, if it is too light, it won’t be sturdy enough to avoid camera shake.

Second – If you get one that is too heavy to carry around, it will quickly end up in a closet somewhere gathering dust. Remember, most of your best photos will be off the road and will require a hike – carrying your tripod. Plus, you can’t shoot those “found” scenes that you accidentally stumble across if your tripod is in the trunk of your car.

Third – You will need a good head for your tripod. One that can be swiveled and tilted to any conceivable angle you may want to shoot from. Also, the tripod’s head should have a built in bubble level to assist in keeping your horizons and other horizontal lines level.

Fourth – A general rule of thumb in ALL photo equipment is to buy the best quality you can afford. But, just because a tripod is expensive, doesn’t mean it is any good. Below are some options at various price ranges that you may want to consider.

Gitzo GT3541 – In the $800 price range, this one is too expensive for most of us, but if you can afford it, it is an excellent choice. It is made completely of carbon fibre which is a better material for tripods than the usual aluminum. Carbon fibre is lighter (so you are actually more likely to carry it with you and use it!). Also, carbon fibre is stronger and the material dampens vibrations better than aluminum, making for a better image.

Manfrotto 055XPROB – This one is in the $200 range. It is a good choice for photographers who don’t have an unlimited budget, but there are a couple issues to be aware of. First, the center column is made of plastic. If you tend to be hard on your tripods, you need to be a bit more carefyul so that you don’t crack the column. Second, the paint tends to chip off fairly easily. While this doesn’t affect the performance, it is irritating and will make your tripod look as though it has been in a war zone.

Dolica AX620B100 – if money is really tight and you are looking for a simple, basic tripod, then this one may do the job. It has an aluminum base and can hold up to 13 lbs. You can’t really expect it to compare with the previous tripods we’ve discussed, but it only costs around $40 and is light enough to carry around all day.

Whichever price range you find yourself in, remember – a tripod is essential. Bite the bullet and get one today, you’ll be glad you did.

To learn more about a great online class, check out – Photography Master Class

For a bit of fun check out – Trick Photography

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