A tripod is an important device for any photographer, no matter if he is a professional, a photo artist or a hobby shutterbug. The market is filled with tripods with various styles, height, weight, and materials used.
If you plan to purchase a tripod, you should know that there are many considerations to be kept in mind.
Most of the today’s cameras have a 1/4″ female thread on the underside which will be attached to the head of the tripod. Although these heads can be purchased separately, usually tripods come with their own head attached. The more expensive tripods have a 3/8″ attachment to the head.
That is why, although most tripods will probably fit your camera, you should either take your camera with you or tell the seller your camera model to be sure you buy what you need.
If the head of the tripod fits your camera should be only one of your concerns. There are other crucial factors that you should take into consideration before making a purchase.
Factors to Consider When Buying a Tripod
The tripod should be able to support the weight of your camera. Buying the wrong tripod means that at some point it will collapse, destroying your camera and the lens. So make sure that the device supports at least 1.5 times more the weight of your camera and your heaviest lens.
Also consider that you will also apply pressure on the tripod, rest your hands on the setup and add accessories, such as a flash or battery grip, that will increase the weight.
You should buy a tripod which matches your height. This way you will not have to bend to be able to look into the viewfinder. When you place the camera on the tripod, you should have the viewfinder at your eye level or even higher.
If you buy a tripod that has an attached head, the tip of the head should be at your jaw level and if you buy a modular tripod that has a separate head, its legs should end at about your shoulder level. Also take into consideration the height of the tripod when it is folded, especially if you want it to fit into your carry-on luggage.
Tripod Weight and Construction
Weight is very important when choosing a tripod. If it’s too heavy, you will be tempted to leave it at home rather than carry it with you in your travels. If you want a light tripod, it should be made of a carbon-fiber material, which is stable, durable and does not rust.
Another material is aluminum, which is heavier compared to carbon fiber, but more affordable. The stainless steel tripods are too heavy to be carried around and are usually used for video equipment.
Tripod legs are either tubular or non-tubular. The tubular ones are made of carbon fiber and are fitted with a threaded twist-lock system that will help you secure the legs. The steel and aluminum tripods’ legs come in various shapes and have a flip-lock.
Depending on how high the tripod is, it might have 3,4 or 5 sections on its legs. The more sections it has, the less stable the tripod is.
The more advanced and more expensive tripods will come with different feet to be adjusted for various situations and conditions. For the indoors, they are made of plastic or rubber, while for the outdoors they are metal spikes. But if you do not shoot in slippery, rainy or icy conditions, the rubber ones will work just fine.
The head of the tripod is the most important part of the system. It is the one which holds the camera securely in place and controls the camera movement.
A modular tripod does not come with a head attached, so you will have to purchase it separately. Remember when choosing a head to make sure that it supports the same amount of weight as the tripod’s legs do.
Modern cameras have a thread on the bottom that allows you to attach it to a monopod or tripod. The more affordable tripods come with a plastic plate that you can attach to any lens or camera, while the more pricey ones have a more durable plate.
This is a very efficient solution for easy and quick operation. The quick-release system will be permanently attached to your camera or lens, to easily slide it into the quick-release clamp.
If the tripod is heavy, this does not mean that it is also stable. There are many tripods that are durable and heavy, but which lack stability when they are used in certain weather conditions. When the tripod is fully set up, it should be able to withstand wind, knocks, and bumps.
Your camera and lens should balance on the tripod, not lean towards one direction. You might end up ruining your equipment if the tripod’s head is not securely tightened or if the front is heavier than the back and everything falls on the ground.
If you are at your first tripod purchase, you should buy the cheapest aluminum one that can hold your equipment. Why would you do that? Because at this point you do not know if you really need a tripod or how often you will use it and for what purpose.
You should pay between $75 and $150 for the head and the legs. Six months after purchasing it you might be doing another type of photography for which you will not need a tripod anymore, or you might realize that you need one for macro and landscape photography. A cheap tripod will give you all the information you need to understand the real role of such a system in your photography.
When you purchase one, no matter if it’s online or from a shop, always remember that camera tripods do not fit all cameras and purposes. Make sure you choose the right one for your equipment and do not be afraid to ask a specialist to be able to make the right decision.