Buy a good tripod- and be sure to use it!

Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Week 12, 2007

Q:   With so many tripods available it’s very hard to find a good, reliable one.   Do you have any small (12″ or less) tripod recommendations for a digital camera?

-Greg Voyzey, State College, PA

A:   First of all, I commend you on your desire to get (and hopefully use) a tripod!   This indispensible photographic tool has fallen by the wayside somewhat with the advent of image stabilization technologies, and sadly, lazy photographers.   Before we get to your recommendations I will discuss tripods and their uses, and why everyone should have a tripod, and preferably two of them- a large or medium-sized example, as well as a small tabletop model.

Some of the uses for a tripod are obvious.   They hold the camera perfectly steady for long exposures in low light, support lenses that are too large or heavy to hand-hold, allow you to use long telephoto lenses and get tack-sharp images,   and allow you to get into pictures when using the self timer.

There is a benefit to using a tripod that most amateurs and family photographers don’t think about: it slows you down and forces you to be more deliberate and consistent in the picture-taking process.   Years ago I taught a friend how to photograph weddings, and she was surprised that I used a tripod for almost every formal, posed shot, even outside when light was plentiful and I was using a wide-angle lens.   At first she thought it was overkill, but when she saw that I could concentrate more on my subjects and later saw the end results, she understood.  

Using a tripod does involve a bit more work and deliberation, but this is always worthwhile and your results will show it.  

Good tripods tend to last a long time, and it is worth seeking one out rather than taking the easy route and picking up a cheapie in a department or big-box store.   Good tripods usually have interchangeable heads, allowing you to purchase an all-purpose head for your digital camera, a video head for a camcorder that only tilts
up and down and left and right, etc.  

The two brands used most by professionals and Manfrotto and Gitzo, both distributed by Bogen Imaging, found at www.bogenimaging.us.   Both offer a wide line of tripods and heads that can support anything from a compact digital camera to a motion picture camera.  

The Manfrottos are professional workhorses, well designed and constructed of quality materials, but utilitarian in nature.   The Gitzos are the Rolls Royce, with top-notch design and workmanship, and a Rolls-Royce price to match. Having owned and used Gitzos, I can say they are worth it.   So, if any readers out there are serious photographers and want and can afford the best, check out the Gitzo line. For everyone else, the Manfrottos are so far beyond the flimsy plastic and aluminum cheapies you find in retail stores that it makes them feel like cheap toys, and will be more than adequate for most any need.

Gitzo and Manfrotto tripods are only found in specialty photographic retailers.   I checked and B&H Photo at www.bhphotovideo.com has several Manfrotto models that will meet your needs, starting at $28.95.   Gitzo tabletop tripods start at $149.95. Floorstanding models start at around $100 for a Manfrotto and $400 for a Gitzo.

Improve your photography and videography- get a tripod, and use it!

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