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-   -   What to look for when buying a tripod? (

superakuma Mar 21, 2007 1:00 AM

Right now I have a really cheap tripod that I got from wal-mart for $15. It does a decent job but ever since I loss the screw that holds the head, I can't tilt it.

I have the Pentax K100D and I am looking for a good one for about $50 if possible but willing to spend up to $100 if I have to.

Now my question what do I need to look for in a good tripod? My intrest is landscape and nature photography if that makes a difference.

Illuminati Mar 21, 2007 2:38 AM

Look at the build for the tripod. If the legs feel flimsy, that'll translate to vibration. A tripod that needs an additional support brace attached to the center pole usually means it's not very sturdy and easily movable. Really good tripods can move its legs independently of one another and require some force to move. Not only that, but good tripods can even allow for really wide splaying of the legs for additional stability. My tripod, for example, has 3 positions it can lock into, one of which really sets the legs wide and brings the camera down low (great for macro or windy conditions)

Look at the load capacity for the tripod. Since you're using a DSLR, you'll definitely want a tripod that can support additional weight for any lenses and accessories you may attach to the camera. Cheap tripods hold 2 lbs or less, which is great for digital P&S cameras, but will barely hold your camera plus a telephoto lens. You don't want your camera to come crashing down because the tripod couldn't support the weight now, would you? Unless you're going to use lenses in the size range of the Bigma lens, a tripod that supports 5+lbs should suffice. My tripod supports 6.6lbs.

Look for tripods with thick legs and not too many sections. Cheaper tripods could have 4 or more collapsible sections and thin cross-sections. Having more sections can lead to more instability, leading to more vibration. My tripod has 3 sections.

Look at the material of the tripod. Good, light tripods are made of aluminum or some alloy like titanium. Really good tripods are made of carbon fiber. These alloys or composites are great for vibration attenuation. Cheap tripods will use cheap metal or skimp out on material to lighten the weight; this poor material choice doesn't help the already flimsy design of these cheap tripods. My tripod is made of aluminum, magnesium, and titanium.

Look at the customizability. Cheap tripods come with a non-removable head. Often, these heads are garbage, not locking down tightly and resulting in camera movement. They often come in the flavor of 2 or 3 screws, and most often do not include a removable shoe. Good tripods sometimes won't come with a head. This brings the cost up, as you need to purchase one separately; however, this gives you added flexibility in your tripod decision. If you're on a budget, you can go with a solid 3-screw head. If you want more flexibility, you can get a ball-mounted head. The point is that good tripods aren't locked down when choosing heads. My tripod came with a 3-screw head, but it's replaceable.

Here's the tripod I use with my K100D:

eric s Mar 21, 2007 10:42 AM

I agree with everything said above (well put!) but also wanted to say that you need to consider your height. You want the camera to be at a comfortable height so you're not stooping over all the time to take the picture. If you raise up the camera using a center column, then you're making your camera less stable. The higher the center column, the more you're making your tripod into a monopod. Not good (or just buy a monopod instead!)

Center columns also get in the way of putting your camera low to the ground. My tripod, for example, doesn't have one. But it can stand up very high (taller than I need it, in fact.) But its way out of your price range.

While you're not going to spend this much money on a tripod, you might still find this article very interesting. It has good humor, but it's message is right on:

Learn about what makes a good tripod (you started that by asking here about them) and then buy a good one the first time. Don't be surprised if you replace it at least once, but the more you know the fewer times you'll replace it.


BillDrew Mar 21, 2007 3:02 PM

Good points above. One thing to keep in mind is that a good tripod will outlast several cameras so it is worth spending more than you might think reasonable.

Eric's point about the center post is very good. Extending the centerpost with a camera on it is like having a watermellon on a stick - it will wave about.

The five main features of a good tripod are stabilty, stability, stability, stability, and stability. Keeping the camera stable is the only reason to use a tripod. Anything that does not add to stability is much less important.

surfnron Mar 21, 2007 8:47 PM

All godd info in the previous posts. One thing to add though. Since you said landscapes, you might wnat to see if you can get a tripod or head that is panoramic. This will allow you to pan the camera to make wider landscapes.

superakuma Mar 21, 2007 10:53 PM

Thanks for the tip everyone. I want to order the tripod online because it is cheaper and don't think there is any good camera shop around here. All we have are ritz and whatever other name they call it. Since I am going to buy online it will be hard to test out the tripod to see how stable it is.

My heavest lens is my sigma 24-70mm which is 716g which is a little bit over 1 1/2lbs. The next big lens that I plan to buy is the bigma 170-500mm which is about 3lbs.

Is there any particualr brands that I should look for?

I looked into the pano head but the price are pretty high. If I want to do pano, I would just use my wide angle or just use photoshop get get it.

BillDrew Mar 22, 2007 8:35 AM

A panorama head is a very specialized tool: don't worry about it for now. The only issue it can add to your tripod choice is to allow for a bit of extra weight - and even then not much since it will be used with a wide lens.

pagerboy Mar 22, 2007 12:27 PM

My tripod has the center column that breaks in two so I can make it shorter.

Illuminati Mar 22, 2007 12:53 PM

I myself own a Slik 330DX. Bogen/Manfrotto makes great tripods as well.

If you're going to get a Bigma, you'll want a beefier tripod. With a 6.6lb carrying capacity (which doesn't include the tripod head), my 330DX may not be strong enough to support the Bigma + camera + accessories. A 340DX will work, as it supports up to 11lbs.

superakuma Mar 23, 2007 1:36 AM

I ended up buying this one from Frys for $49.99, $10 cheaper than bh, $20 including shipping.

When buying this I took everyone's advice on this. This one seem to fit my budget and it felt very soild. I wasn't able to find the load cap on this but online it says that it is able to load up to 15lbs.

After I bought it, I went to downtown to test out the tripod. the tripod leg felt very strong and solid, I liked that a lot. It was a lot better than my $15 wal-mart tripod. But I didn't like the head on that tripod at all. It still felt as cheap as the wal-mart tripod. I had my Sigma 24-70mm lens(about 1.5lbs) and when ever I move the tripod, it felt like the camera can fall out. The legs were able to support it, but the clip on the head didn't seem to hold it that well. I was able to jiggle it a little bit. Also the clip that you mount on the camera, didn't seem to go on that well either. I tighten it as tight as I could but I was still able to move it around and twist it off. The clip on my wal-mart one didn't move at all.

I am going to return this unit and hope that I can find one with a good head that will stay still.

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