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tonya Jul 22, 2010 2:58 PM

tripod questions
I tried doing a search for this, but I ended up with more questions because I don't know what some of the terms mean. I recently purchased a Canon xSi. I have had an Ambico tripod for many, many years and it has been sufficient for my needs. I don't shoot on uneven terrain. I mostly use it for when I want to get in the pics myself. On our recent vacation, I think I lost a piece of the tripod on the beach. When I try to raise or lower the center column, it doesn't move smoothly anymore. Anyway, I don't want to trust it with my new camera. So, I am looking to buy a new one. But, I have no idea what I need. The prices vary so much. And, I don't know much about the features and what they are good for. Again, I want it to be sturdy but I don't have a lot of money to spend. And, I won't be using it on anything but smooth surfaces. What should I look for in a tripod? Any recommendations on the lower priced ones?

shoturtle Jul 22, 2010 3:02 PM

cullmann magnasite line 519 or 525, or slik pro series, the 700 is good, not to expensive. Must importantly, very stable. Both can be grounders. the cullmann comes with a short tube, so if you need to set it up for a very low short, or want to make ti more compact. It works nicely if you add a ball head.

mtngal Jul 23, 2010 2:54 PM

Visit a camera store that carries a variety of tripods, if you can. There are several different types of leg locks and you might find you like one better over another. Also check out different types of heads. Many prefer pan/tilt heads, but I'd far rather use a ball head with a separate panning control (it's faster to set-up).

The first thing you need to consider is weight. You say you are mostly going to take pictures on a smooth surface (not that it matters all that much, most tripods have collapsible legs and you just lengthen or shorten one leg to level it most of the time). Is this smooth surface going to be right next to your car? Or are you planning on carrying the tripod a half-mile or more to use it beside a waterfall or on the beach? Are you planning on flying with it?

If you don't plan on carting it very far, then you can choose a cheaper, heavier tripod. The lightest sturdy tripods are always expensive, so decide on how heavy a tripod you can carry - that should give you a price range that you'll be looking at.

Some thoughts about stability - if you have two tripods that are identical weight and size, the one with the fewer sections will be sturdier (and weigh less). But it's a relatively minor difference so if size is important, go for more leg sections.

Extending a center pole to make the height required is also less stable as resting the camera more or less on top of the legs. If stability is primary, buy longer legs rather than shorter ones. A camera mounted on a long center pole will also be more likely to tip over if there's a breeze. I'm short so I don't need a huge amount of height and it was easy for me to find legs the appropriate length - a tall guy might not be so lucky.

When looking at tripod specifications, another thing to keep in mind is the lens you will be using. All specifications will quote you the maximum weight bearing capacity of the head and legs, but that's not the only thing you need to think about. None of my lens/camera combinations are very heavy and so I could (on paper) use most tripods. However, one of the lenses I use is a relatively long telephoto lens. If you've ever looked through a 300 mm lens, you'll see that it's much harder to hold it still than a 200 mm lens. It's much more sensitive to motion, so would require a sturdier tripod than a camera with a 100 mm lens, even though the camera/lens combination might weigh the same, so it's something else to consider when looking for a tripod. If your lens won't be beyond 200 mm, then you probably won't need to take this into consideration.

Some miscellaneous items - carbon fiber is light and sturdy, but expensive. I liked the look and feel of the basalt tripods but they are heavier (and cheaper) than the carbon fiber. Aluminum tripods have been around for years, they can be very stable but are always heavier (for the same stability) than the other two. They are also normally cheapest. If you are rough with your equipment you'll find they don't hold up as well as the other two but if you are careful with them, they can last a long time. Because they can vibrate longer, it's best to use a remote with them (which you are probably doing anyway since you are in the pictures yourself).

Since you mentioned beaches - if you are going to be using a tripod on one very much, you do NOT want to have a tripod that the sections can come apart completely. You'll just end up with lots of sand in your tripod legs, and they will be difficult to clean out/keep the leg sections operating smoothly.

shoturtle Jul 23, 2010 2:58 PM

If you shoot with a tripod at the beach, get 3 tennis balls, cut a slit in them that you can get the food of the legs into snuggly. It will help allot giving the feets greater surface area, and keeping sand out.

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