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Thread: Newbies Guide to Tripods - I

  1. #1
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    Default Newbies Guide to Tripods - I

    Hi,

    Buying a tripod can be difficult, given the no.of brands and models available out there. I wrote this to help new and budding photographers with the decision making process. I have purposefully avoided naming specific brands and models...you will have to take those decisions...hopefully this will help you get there

    A. Why do I need a tripod
    To get a sharp image.
    A tripod is an eqpt used to stabilise a camera. Other ways to stabilise a camera include keeping it on a rigid surface, supporting it against something etc. The general rule of thumb is that the minimum shutter speed to prevent camera shake should be at least equal or more than the focal length of the lens you are using. For eg. if you are shooting with your 55-200mm lens and are taking a picture at the 200mm end of the lens your camera shutter speed should at least be 1/200sec. Two ways to keep the shutter speed, while maintaining a given exposure would be to either increase the size of the aperture (lower f-stop); increase film speed (ISO) or a combination of both. Both these methods have their downsides. Increasing the aperture decreases the depth of field (area of the picture in focus) and increasing the ISO increases grain( noise). In situations where one wants to use a larger f stop (landscape/ macro etc) or wants a cleaner noise free image, one needs to lower the shutter speed and thus the role of a tripod (or any other stabilising technique).

    Another reason for using a tripod is when the weight of the camera and lens (think telephoto lens) is too heavy to hand hold (bird photography), a tripod or monopd helps in supporting it.


    B. What do I look for in a tripod?
    1. Material: Tripods can be made out of wood, aluminum, and carbon fibre. Wood has the best vibration reduction capacity, followed by carbon fibre and aluminum. Carbon fibre tripods are the lightest and aluminum tripods the cheapest. The decision between which material tripod to buy is based on one's budget.

    2. Load capacity: One decides on the load capacity based on the equipment you have. One should buy a tripod that can take at least twice the weight of your camera plus your heaviest lens. Lets say you have a Nikon D5000 and your heviest lens is the 70-300VR. Your maximum load is (D5000 + battery)600gms + (Nikon 70-300VR + filter)800gms. A ball head will add another 500gms, and if you buy a flash, it will add another (SB600)300gms. This brings our total to approximately 2.5 kg. You should therefore look at tripods that can take at least a load of 5 kg.

    3. Height: The height based on individual preference. A tripod (for photographic use) essentially has three telescopic legs. The legs retract into each other, so that the lowest leg has the least diameter. One aims to get a tripod that reaches eye level. The camera and the ball head add about 15-20 cm and your eyes are usually 5-10cm below your height. So the ideal height for your tripod should be 25-30 cm less than your height. Most tripods do not reach this height, and tripod manufacturers add a central column to give this additional height. The problem with the central column is that it converts a tripod into a monopod, making it inherently less stable. One should try and use the central column as less as possible. It is therefore important, when comparing tripods to see the height of the tripod without the centre column extended. The maximum height that tripod manufacturers indicate is usually with the centre column extended.

    Another aspect of height is the no. of sections. A tripod can have three/ four or even five sections (no. of leg sections that telescope into each other). Having more sections decreases the folded length of the tripod making it easier to pack and travel. The disadvantage is that with more sections, the diameter of the lowest section is very narrow, making the entire tripod inherently less stable. In addition, setting up a five/ four section tripod in the field would take longer. My suggestion would be to go for a three section tripod.

    One also needs to decide on the ways the sections of each leg are locked. Two types of locking mechanisms are available. One is the flip lock, and the other is the twist lock. The disadvantage of the flip lock is that the flip levers get caught in clothing, bushes etc. However flip locks are faster. The disadvantage of twist locks are that more turns may be required and the legs may rotate when twisting the lock. Higher end tripods like the Gitzo have single turn twist locks with ALR (anti leg rotation). I have used both and prefer flip locks.

    4. Weight: The weight is decided by the material and therefore by the budget. However when comparing tripods made of the same material, one tries to buy a lighter tripod. A light tripod will not be as stable as a heavier tripod made of the same material. However, if the tripod is too heavy, you may not carry it on your photographic journey..a tripod is only useful, if it is with you.

    C. How do I decide which tripod to buy?
    This is the most confusing part of the whole process. However if you make some decisions based on the above criteria, the whole process becomes much simpler. The most important thing is your 'BUDGET'. Once you have decided on how much you are willing to spend, go to the following link. This is the worlds largest photo store (BH Photo Video, New York).Although the prices are in US Dollars, you will get an idea of the brands and the cost. The prices in B&H are quite low, and it is unlikley that you would get better prices any where else. The prices in Singapore are likely to be higher, but at least you now have an idea of the cost.

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/Tripo ... 4291756656

    You can see the columns on the left and make a selection based on your requirements. This will bring up a list of tripods and you would be able to compare costs/ features etc.

    The next thing to do is to go to a shop that stocks tripod. Now that you are quite knowledgeable, you don't have to go by what the salesman is trying to sell you. In the shop, you should pull a tripod out to its full length (without centre column extended),place a camera on it and see how much you are willing (comfortable) to bend to take a picture. This will give you an idea of the height you will need. Also see whether you like flip locks or twists locks.

    Dont buy your tripod yet..go back home..now that you know your height, and other requirements, you will be able to further narrow down your list. Once you have narrowed it down to two or three tripods, post on different forums asking for user experience. People are more likely to respond to specific brands and models and this should help you make the final decision.

    D.What extra features would be valuable on a tripod?
    1. Spirit level: Some manufacturers provide a spirit level. If you do a lot of panorama photographs, this feature will help with levelling the camera.
    2. Hook: Some manufacturers provide a hook below the base plate (or centre column). This allows you to hang some weights from the tripod and increases the stability.
    3. Horizontal centre column: Some tripods allow you to remove the centre column and position it horizontally. While this makes the set-up less stable, it could be an useful feature, if you do a lot of macro photography.
    4. Turn legs 180 degrees: The ability to turn the legs 180 degrees allows one to fold the legs over the ball head. This decreases the height of the tripod further and can make carrying it in a small suitcase possible.
    5. Tripod bag. Some manufactures (Gitzo most notably) do not provide bag. A bag included in the cost, provided other parameters are the same can tilt your decision.


    Cont'd in next post
    Last edited by gorby; 2nd January 2010 at 08:53 AM. Reason: spell check

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Newbies Guide to Tripods - II

    Cont'd

    E. What accessories do I need to buy with the tripod?
    Although the camera can be screwed directly onto the tripod, one will not be move the camera by itself, but only along with the tripod. This makes accurate composition difficult. Also separating the camera from the tripod is cumbersome. In order to make this process easier, one usually purchases one or more of the following accessories. There are two sets of accessories. One is a a head, which allows movement of the camera on the tripod. The other is a quick release system, which makes removal of the camera from the tripod/ head easier.

    1. Head: A head is a device that allows one to move the camera independent of the tripod. Two types of heads are available. A 'Pan & tilt head' and a 'ball head'. A pan and tilt head is usually cheaper, but occupies more space and is more cumbersome to use. A ball head is costlier, but simpler to use and allows easier and better positioning of the camera. The links for the different brands of pan & tilt and ball heads is

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?ci ... 4289945437
    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?ci ... 4289945438

    If your budget is limited, a pan and tilt head is more than adequate.

    2. Quick release system: A quick release (QR) plate has two components. One is attached to the top of the head or tripod and is called a QR clamp. The other is attached to the bottom of the camera and is called as a QR plate. This plate remains attached to the camera at all times and perfectly fits into the clamp. It is released from the clamp using a lever. This way one can easily detach the camera from the tripod or the head. Most heads usually come with their QR systems, however it is always better to confirm this.

    3. L-bracket: One problem with using tripods is that the camera tripod socket is in the bottom of the camera. While this is good for taking pictures in the landscape mode, one cannot take pictures in the portrait mode. Although a head will allow the camera to drop into portrait mode, the camera is no longer vertically centered over the tripod (decreasing stability). More important, the view seen by the camera in the portrait mode with the head dropped is not the same as seen in the landscape mode. One can adjust for this by recomposing the picture by moving the tripod. A L bracket makes this process slightly easier. It is a L shaped bracket that screws onto the tripod socket of the camera. It has built-in QR plates on both limbs of the L, so one can place the camera vertical on the head or the tripod.

    F. Which brand should I buy?
    This is more or less dictated by your budget. I will try and categorise the tripods by their relative quality, brand name, and price.

    1. Expensive Quality brands
    a. Sachtler: They are known mainly for their video tripods, but also have some tripods that can be used by photographers. Their cheapest tripod(Speedlock 75CF) is US$1000/- and they can easily go upto US$5000-8000.
    http://www.sachtler.com/index.php?id=1036

    b. Gitzo: The tripod used by most pro photographers. They have a wide range of tripods and heads. Their heads are not as popular as their tripods.
    http://www.gitzo.com/cms/site/gitzo/cache/off

    2. Moderately priced quality brands
    a. Manfrotto: Most middle level photographers use Manfrotto. They provide good quality and are not very expensive. Again a wide range of tripods and heads.
    http://www.manfrotto.com/Jahia/site/manfrotto

    b. Feisol: Quality not as good as Manfrotto, but price is reasonable.
    http://www.feisol.com/

    c. Slik: Good range with a reasonable price.
    http://www.slik.com/

    d. Giottos
    http://www.giottos.com/

    e. Velbon:
    http://www.velbon.co.uk/

    f. Benro: A Gitzo clone from China...affordable and reasonable quality.
    http://www.benro.com/main/

    Happy Tripod Hunting.

    Cheers,
    Gorby

    PS: This is not meant to be a technical discussion. It is just an overview of tripods in general. I am sure different people have different opinions on some things (does wood provide more vibration reduction compared to carbon fibre?; does a centre column make it unstable etc.). What I have written is my opinion and mostly common sense..I have no scientific evidence....

  3. #3
    Member Dylan1987's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbies Guide to Tripods - II

    Well written, good for beginner like me

    i am looking up for a tripod, almost set to go ahead with the Manfrotto 190xprob and 488rc2 when i come across this Sirui M 2004 and G20.
    had a hard time searching for this China tripod but i manage to find this http://forum.xitek.com/sorthread.php?threadid=581856 (chinese), so just sharing this info for those in a dilemma like me.

    I have read many comment that they go for Markins ballhead, but if the tripod legs can only take up to 10kg (for example) there would be no need for a ballhead that take 30kg(Markins Q-Ball Q3) right? or is it because a good ballhead would not creep under stress?

    thanks.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Newbies Guide to Tripods - II

    im using a sirui 1004, upgraded from a mafrotto 190xprob. No regrets whatsoever
    its lighter, more compact and is way easier to use.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Newbies Guide to Tripods - II

    Hi Dylan1987,

    Thank you for your comments. You are right....A good ball head like the Markins M10 costs more not only because it can take more load, but because it does not creep under load. If your budget is limited, try the Photo Clam ballheads. They are also from Korea and seem equally well made. I have the PC 33NS and am very happy with it. You can read a little bit more about ballheads at this link.

    http://www.clubsnap.com/forums/showt...ighlight=gorby

    Cheers,
    Gorby

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    Default Re: Newbies Guide to Tripods - II

    i would suggest to mods to make it a sticky for newbies like me. =)
    United For Life!

  7. #7
    Moderator Octarine's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbies Guide to Tripods - I

    Well done. Please consider merging this posting with this existing thread: http://www.clubsnap.com/forums/showthread.php?t=384016
    EOS

  8. #8

    Default Re: Newbies Guide to Tripods - I

    Hi can I check with ya which local shops sell sirui tripods? Seems to have quite good reviews on it and affordable. Thanks

  9. #9
    Member Dylan1987's Avatar
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    Default Re: Newbies Guide to Tripods - I

    Quote Originally Posted by AustinPower View Post
    Hi can I check with ya which local shops sell sirui tripods? Seems to have quite good reviews on it and affordable. Thanks
    So far i only heard of TK foto.
    Will be going down sometime this week to try out the tripods, will update after i do that.
    Do anyone know what other brands tripod and ballhead TK foto carry? wish to do comparison there...

  10. #10

    Default Re: Newbies Guide to Tripods - I

    Quote Originally Posted by Dylan1987 View Post
    So far i only heard of TK foto.
    Will be going down sometime this week to try out the tripods, will update after i do that.
    Do anyone know what other brands tripod and ballhead TK foto carry? wish to do comparison there...
    gitzo and manfrotto...

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