Tripods and Monopods
Over 30 odd years of being a photographer I have purchased many tripods amounting to $1000’s of dollars. What I learned is that I should have bought one good tripod and kept it for life.
Whats a good tripod you may well ask? And the answer would be it depends! The best tripod is one that you carry with you and use. So that means it should be lightweight (so you will carry it) and expensive (so that you will use it) if you buy a cheap heavy tripod it will probably never leave home.
What features should you look for in a tripod? These can be broken down into two types. Still photo tripods and Video tripods lets look at Still photography tripods first. I look for a still photography tripod without all the bells and whistles which means no fancy locking mechanisms for the legs, and definitely a simple tripod head without and all sorts of handles. These handles and fancy leg locks will just get broken off or stop functioning over a few months or years of use.
Next consider the weight of camera/lens combination you will be using on your tripod. The heavier camera and lens combination you plan to use on your tripod means that you will need a heavier, beefier tripod and tripod head.
So where to start? I purchase a Tripod and Tripod Head separately and I have three weights of tripods I use. Which tripod I will take will depend on the nature of my trip and the cameras I will be placing on them, here is what I currently use with links to the manufacturers website.
Still Photography Tripods
Light Weight (Backpacking) – Gitzo G1057 Carbon 6X
Medium Weight (Air Travel) – Gitzo Mountaineer G1228 great to carry, pack in your suitcase for travel.
Heavy Weight (The Ultimate in Support) – Gitzo Mountaineer G1348 needs an optional center column.
Ball Heads are a favourite of mine because they are sturdy, strong and versatile little workhorses. Remember to get a camera plate to match your camera/lens combination to the ball head of your choice.
There are lots of choices out there but the companies I turn to are
With most DSLR’s capable of shooting full HD video these days the need to have a “video tripod” will become rapidly evident if you plan to pan during a shot.
While you can use still photo tripod for “locked down shots” in video it’s not designed to do pans where a levelling base or bowl with and a fluid head is needed where not only the tripod can be levelled, but the head van be levelled as well. This will allow a true horizontal pan during a shot and the use of a fluid head will ensure that a smooth pan both horizontally or vertically is attained. You can use a video tripod for still photography as a video tripod can be locked into position but generally you will find that video tripods are bulkier and heavier than still camera tripods.
What do I use will again it depends on shoots I want to take only one tripod I will use one of my Gitzo tripods and take a Ball head? But I when I want to shoot video I will attach a Acratech leveling base and a Gitzo fluid head this is a real slick hybrid I place on my still camera tripod for travelling
Looking for a good inexpensive video tripod for lightweight DSLR Video shoots? check out this Pearstone entry level Video Tripod VT2500B
And if you need something more robust my current favourite is this
with the Manfrotto 545B Pro Heavy-Duty
The bottom line do a little thinking about the shooting you plan to do with your tripod. How heavy is the gear plan to use, is video an important factor. Are you staying near home or studio for shoots or flying, hiking for shoots.
Remember buy a good one that fits your needs and make sure you use your new purchase!