29 2017 May

Choosing the Best Camera Tripod.

Happy Memorial Day! A basic ball head conveniently screws straight into the tripod socket thread on the base of a camera. Of course if you are out taking pictures of various scenes and people all day, you may need to do a couple portraits on the tripod, then a few awkward shots by hand, and then a horizon shot using the tripod. Each time you must unscrew the camera from the head, then screw it back in again. Wouldn’t it be nice if it just snapped off and on, somehow?

With a quick-release plate, you can detach the camera by flicking a lever, then snap it back onto the tripod head to re-attach it. Some quick-release plates use screws with coin slots to connect, but I prefer to have a butterfly nut that I can tighten with my bare hands.

I’ve mentioned that the legs of a tripod typically come in 3-5 sections, but which is better? This depends upon how you are using the tripod and where your priorities lie. It is true that tripods with 5 section legs fold down smaller for carrying around. But when extended, 5 section legs may be more unstable than 3 section legs.

This is why you need to get a feel for the tripod that you like (or one similar), in your favorite camera store, before buying! I generally like to physically shop around until I find a few I like, then go online to find the right price.

Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

22 2017 May

Choosing the Best Camera Tripod.

If you are really into landscape photography, you will want a camera tripod with some kind of spike at the foot of each tripod leg. These typically screw onto the bottom of the legs, replacing your rubber feet. Many models are also available with retractable spikes. This feature does not appear to reflect a big difference in the price of the tripod. However, when considering one for purchase, I also want to make sure that the foot is not likely to slip with the spike retracted.

Manfrotto 294Tripod legs typically come in aluminum, carbon fiber, basalt, or stainless steel. Carbon-fiber legs normally come in tubular form and have a threaded twist-lock system to secure the legs, while aluminum, basalt, and steel tripods may come in different shapes with a flip-lock or twist-lock system. A tripod’s height is varied by extending/retracting a number of sections per leg, normally 3 to 5. The tripod generally becomes less stable as its leg sections are extended. I choose the lowest comfortable height for better stability.

Weight is also a significant factor when choosing a tripod. If my tripod is too heavy I find myself leaving it at home more often. Carbon-fiber tripods are the lightest and are extremely durable and stable. The carbon-fiber material also does not rust. However, it does come at the highest price tag.

Aluminum legs are heavier than carbon fiber, but they are also much cheaper. Most inexpensive tripods are made of aluminum or an aluminum alloy.

Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

15 2017 May

Choosing the Best Camera Tripod.

The most important factor when choosing a camera tripod is stability. Rigid tripod legs made of aluminum or carbon fiber are best for stability, while also limiting the weight of the tripod.

The locks of the tripod leg sections must lock securely to prevent slippage while supporting the weight of the camera. I prefer the twist lock variety for convenience. Careful attention to the tripod’s weight limits will also help with stability. Don’t forget to add the weight of your lens package, when calculating your camera’s weight.

The tripod with a center column is in its most stable configuration when the center column is lowered all the way to its stop. As the center column is raised, the camera will become less and less stable. This is especially noticeable in moderate to high winds.

And in wet or slippery conditions, the standard plastic or rubber feet that typically come with a tripod may not be adequate for a stable platform. It may be necessary to replace them with spikes, or better yet, buy feet with retractable spikes that fit the tripod legs.

Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

8 2017 May

Choosing the Best Camera Tripod.

I love to go backpacking on trails with my camera bag and, of course, my camera tripod. For backpacking, I prefer a very light, but sturdy tripod with optional spikes or retractable spikes for feet.

You could buy a replacement set of feet with spikes. In an application like this, you just pop off your existing rubber or plastic feet and mount the spikes onto the end of the legs. These are normally held in place with a phillips screw that grips the spikes to the leg tubing. The downside being that you need to swap feet each time you want to use spikes instead of your normal feet.

rubber_spiked footPersonally, I prefer to shell out a little more money on a set of rubber/retractable spike feet. This provides me with the best features for both worlds, a solid rubber footing for indoors and good weather outdoors, and when the weather turns sour, I just make a quick adjustment to each foot to expose the spikes. These also attach to the leg tube with a phillips screw. The advantage being that you can leave them on all the time. When ordering these, be sure to get the right size to fit your leg tube.

If you’re buying a new tripod, you will find that affordable tripods do come from good tripod manufacturers with retractable spikes already installed.

Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

1 2017 May

Choosing the Best Camera Tripod.

Most camera tripods come with some type of head, either a ball head or a pan head, but not always. And in some cases, the max load limit of the head is different from the max load limit of the tripod. Although it is assumed that your supplier (or the manufacturer they purchased from) will match them up closely, it is best to check the specifications for the product to ensure that both the head and the tripod will support your digital camera’s weight plus the largest lens you expect to attach to it. This is usually listed as “Max Load” under the head specifications and tripod specifications, respectively. If you do not see a max load listing for the head, it would be wise to ask as sometimes it is accidentally left out when creating the listings.

On another note, I find that suppliers always like to list the maximum height of a tripod with the center column extended as max height. Please keep in mind that if you extend the center column to this height, you are essentially turning your tripod into a monopod. When creating a stable platform for your camera, you will rarely want extend the center column to this height because it will wobble. So I find it is more important to look at the height of the tripod with the center column lowered. Sometimes both are listed in the specifications.

Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

24 2017 Apr

Choosing the Best Camera Tripod.

So, ball head or 3-way head, which is best? It probably comes down to personal preference, influenced by the photographic environment that you encounter most often. But I prefer a 3-way head when I use a camera tripod.

The convenience of a ball head boils down to only one holding screw that needs to be loosened to freely move the ball in any axial direction. The drawback being that if you only want to shift your lens slightly to the right to center your subject, you need to loosen that one screw, but also be careful not to shift the ball up or down while doing so. If you frequently need to make changes in both horizontal and vertical alignment, at the same time, then a ball head may be more convenient for you.

The convenience of a 3-way head is that minute shifts in a single axis are made easy and error free, by the operation on one adjustment knob. If you want to shift your lens only to the right, one knob is loosened and moved, while the vertical position remains locked. The drawback being that if you want to move the head in all directions, like when first lining up with your subject, you need to loosen up 2 (or 3) knobs and then lock them back into place when on target. A 3-way head is also typically a little more expensive, due to the additional hardware involved.

Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

27 2017 Mar

Choosing the Best Camera Tripod.

When I first started taking landscape photography shots, I had trouble sometimes getting the vertical and horizontal alignment just right, especially when there were mountains or rolling hills in the background. I finally made room in my budget for a camera tripod that had reference bubble levels.

I find that the bubble reference helps me to line up my shots much more quickly. Thus, I can focus more on the quality of my pictures than on the mechanics of my tripod and camera alignment. It also allows me to take really cool shots from the side of a hill. Some of these really have people turning their heads as they look at the shots.

The bubbles help with alignment on fisheye shots too. In these shots the distortion can make it difficult to get the camera frame aligned. But now I just line up my bubbles, attach my camera, and shoot! I really enjoy my photography hobby a lot more since I got this tripod. Setup is a breeze!

Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

20 2017 Mar

Choosing the Best Camera Tripod.

When choosing a camera tripod for landscapes and professional portraits, I prefer one that comes with a 3-way pan/tilt head. This way I can control each direction of camera movement on the tripod separately, for those sometimes tedious minute adjustments. Tripods from better manufacturers also allow me to adjust the leg angle as desired, so I can get really close to the ground without reversing the column.

Some also have an Easy Link attachment that allows me to add other accessories to my tripod system, such as a magic arm, an external LED light, or another camera attachment head. I do love convenience. Another great option is built-in Spring Assists at the tilt motion, to compensate for heavy lenses and off-center loads. This ensures that my equipment is less likely to tilt rapidly and cause the entire tripod to fall over.

I also want my tripod to be light and fold down into a small size for traveling to those portraits and landscape settings. So I normally choose a good aluminum build, to keep it within my budget as well.

Until next time, Happy Shuttering.

13 2017 Mar

Choosing the Best Camera Tripod.

I find that there is nothing worse than to spend a lot of time lining up a perfect shot using my camera tripod, only to have one leg slip right when I’m ready to shoot. This usually occurs because the clamping mechanism for a leg is either ineffective or has simply lost its grip due to poor maintenance or age.

To help avoid this from happening to me, I choose a tripod with well performing leg locks from a reputable manufacturer in the first place. Personally, I like the twist lock design. But there are other designs distributed from well known tripod manufacturers that work well too.

I also maintain my tripod as recommended by the manufacturer regularly, like cleaning my tripod legs at the end of the day after using my tripod outdoors, to remove the dust and grime that has collected around the locked areas. I test the leg locks periodically, to ensure that they do not slip, just like I did when I brought it home for the first time.

By performing these common sense actions, I have found that it saves me both time in lining up a great shot and money in the long run. It also allows me to enjoy my hobby more.

Until next time, Happy Shuttering!

27 2017 Feb

Choosing the Best Camera Tripod.

manfrotto290-monopodThere are times when I don’t want to carry the full weight and size of my camera tripod. That’s why I bought a relatively inexpensive monopod for myself. It’s all about the convenience of having to only carry an extra 1.1 pounds.

This monopod extends from 19.3″ to 59.4″. Plenty of flexibility for me. It supports a camera and optional head load of up to 11 lb, and weighs just 1.1 pound. Flip locks allow me to adjust the four sections of the leg. A reversible 1/4″-20 and 3/8″-16 mount allows me to attach the optional head and my camera, or my camera directly to the monopod. It tops everything off with a nice rubber grip and a wrist strap to provide comfort and a secure hold.

Even my lightest tripod weighs about 4-5 times this amount, making the monopod an easy choice for long hikes in wooded trails and up hills. My monopod is designed in light but rigid aluminum, so it will stand up to the test of time while lightening my load, too. And I found it online for around $50, so it was very easy on my camera accessories budget. I find it great to work with in a crowd, as well.

Until next time, Happy Shuttering!