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Camera Tripods – Choose the Right One For You

A Guide to Advanced Compact and Digital SLR Camera Tripods (And Video)

Camera Tripods

There is one most common mistake that a lot of people taking up photography for the first make. That is not buying one or two decent, sturdy camera tripods to go with their equipment. This is almost sacrilege as you have no idea of how many wonderful opportunities you are missing.

Just off the top of my head, here are a few examples where I would definitely recommend a tripod for your camera;

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    Wedding Photography (church interior, group shots etc)
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    Night Photography (star trails, city lights, moonsets, sunsets, sunrises)
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    Still life, Product and Macro Photography
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    Interior/Property Photography
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    Nature/Sports Photography (tripping the shutter remotely from a safe distance)
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    Special or "Trick" Photography (experimenting with your camera is fun and will teach you a lot)!
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    Slow Speed Photography (dreamy, milky waterfall shots, landscapes)
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    Self Portraits/Groups
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    HDR (High Dynamic Range Photography
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    Time Lapse Photography

The list goes on. With many camera tripods being so reasonable in price these days, there is no excuse. Especially if you have splashed out on an expensive camera. Gone are the days of companies like Manfrotto, Gitzo, Benro and Velbon monopolizing the market. There are many new manufacturers appearing these days with great tripods at very reasonable prices.

I personally always keep my camera tripods in the car. If I need it indoors I know where it is, and if I need it whilst out and about, I know I won’t have forgotten it! If you want to make a living or get serious with photography, I can guarantee that you'll need a tripod.

So where do you start? What level are you at? How heavy is your camera?

The weight will determine the type of tripod you need, for example, if you use just digital point and shoot or advanced SLR "style" camera, you don’t need to go mad. A simple K & F Concept tripod (pictured above) for around $80 or less should do it.

If you use a Digital SLR with additional battery grip and the occasional flashgun, you will need something a little bigger.

I am using Amazon’s site for reference. Whilst researching (and the fact I bought mine from here), I found that they are well known, reliable, well priced and include paying customers reviews. They also have a good and growing range of top camera equipment.

Beginner camera tripods/point and shoot or video cameras

Camera Tripods - Velbon Lightweight

If you are just starting out in photography, try not to spend too much as you don’t really know how serious you will get. There are many camera tripods available that won’t cost the earth but will get the job done.

For instance, look at the Digital Concepts TR-60N, at $16 you can’t go wrong as a starter tripod. I own super cheap tripods that I use for holding my lightweight LED lighting set ups.

Or for something a little sturdier, try the Velbon Lightweight Tripod at $30-$50.

A quick tip: If you need extra weight for support, attach a carrier bag with a rock or two in it to the centre frame. Always keep a heavy duty carrier bag in your camera kit.

Just bear in mind that you may get frustrated with these tripods in time as they are not really built for today’s Digital SLR’s and large lenses.

Digital SLR with heavy lenses and/or flashgun

If you are slightly "further down the line" and using a larger DSLR or mirrorless camera, you will need something a little sturdier.

Camera Tripods Slik Sprint Pro

If you skimp here and use camera tripods that are too light and unstable, you will inevitably get camera shake. This will ruin the shot and you will have effectively wasted your money.

If you are on a budget, try either the Velbon or Slik camera tripods listed below. Each company has been around for donkey’s years and have a lot of history in the manufacture of tripods.

If you have a little more cash, skip to the next section and "fill your boots" with some quality gear!

At around $100, either of these will do the job and, unlike the cheaper tripods, you can extend the legs outwards to the point of being almost on the ground for some funky shooting:

SLR/Medium Format/Pro SLR etc.

Do you have something bigger and heavier such as a Medium Format, Pro Digital SLR or a Semi Pro DSLR? Maybe you have additional grip and/or lenses and flashguns? This means you are carrying some serious weight and need all the "support" you can get (excuse the pun).

If you use your tripod more as a way of alleviating the bulk and weight of your gear whilst shooting, the following tripod is pretty good and I have used one many times in the past. It will give you full control of the direction, pan and tilt with just one hand. This will leave the other hand to "man" the camera’s controls. The pistol grip/ball head:

Admittedly it isn’t the absolute best of all the camera tripods out there but it is;

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    Light enough to take anywhere
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    As sturdy as you like
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    Accurate with a Spirit Level on the grip and base
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    Flexible enough to get right on the ground when you need to
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    Quick, with its quick action leg lever locks
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    Handy with its dual action centre column
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    Comfortable and warm with its foam grips on two of the legs
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    Excellent when used with the quick action grip release ball head

I have since added a standard 3-way pan and tilt head from Manfrotto for more sturdy work such as night photography, architectural and even video work with the 5D Mark II. I use the Manfrotto 808RC4 head (with quick release plate) which I find works very well with the heaviest of my kit.

Professional Camera Tripods

If you are going to splash out on a pro level tripod, I would recommend the following. It is so versatile and feels reassuringly "chunky" with all the spirit levels and adjustments you will need.

Of course, you may not agree with me so have a look at other options while you are there. The prices are fantastic for what you get especially from the increased range and quality of your images.

If you're shooting with super heavy kit such as large video cameras or DSLR's with external recorders, you need more. I shoot with huge set ups including:

  • Panasonic GH5 mirrorless camera
  • Metabones Speedbooster with Canon glass
  • Atomos Ninja Flame screen recorder
  • Zoom H6 audio recorder
  • Various microphones

That lot gets pretty heavy and I need a serious, professional tripod to deal with the weight. Especially when I am filming or shooting time lapses. I need a heavy, solid and super stable tripod.

For many years, and with no issues, I have use the Manfrotto Pro Heavy Duty Tripod. An absolute beast of a tripod that is as sturdy and reliable as you like. I love it.

More info on using a tripod at All Things Photography

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