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Old Mar 18, 2006, 2:21 AM   #1
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When looking for a tripod, what should I look for? Reason I'm asking is I'm coming from a point-and-shoot digital camera and have never used a tripod before--the thought of using a tripod seems cumbersome.

I'll be taking primarily scenic shots (w/ Canon Rebel XT) and in the future, wildlife. I can't seem to wrap my head around using a tripod. I guess that when I first get the XT and take my first scenic shots, I'll understand why tripods are important when the shots turn out blurry.
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Old Mar 18, 2006, 6:51 AM   #2
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When using slow shutter speeds any tripod is better than no tripod. A tripod also encourages you to take your time setting up the shot. Photographing groups it helps focus attention on you, which is one of the reasons wedding photographers use them.

First thing to look for is stability. The tripod should be fairly sturdy so that it's not easily shaken by the wind for eaxample. Mine has a hook on the centre post so I can hang my camera bag on it for extra stability.

A decent pan and tilt head allows you to move the camera around without moving the tripod. Ideally you also want to be able to flip the camera from landscape to portrait.

A quick releasetray is better than afixed head. With this you can screw the tray onto the camera and then use it on or off the tripod with the minimum of messing.

A spirit level on the tripod head can be nice to have, helps make sure you've got thing straight.

Final thing I can think of is a wind up height adjustment rather than a unlock,slide and lock adjustment.
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Old Mar 18, 2006, 10:30 AM   #3
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You might also consider a monopod. These are less stable than tripods, but do offer some bracing for the camera, but some are made to double as a walking stick. Tripods can become a pain in the neck, but they really help minimize camera shake.

Weight is important and in general, the lighter they are, the more they cost. Dragging a heavy tripod around can be a problem and can lead to your leaving it at home.
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Old Mar 18, 2006, 1:55 PM   #4
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When using a tripod to shoot a landscape, is it common for photographers to use an automatic/timed shutter release? So the possibility of depressing the shutter doesn't cause any shaking?
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Old Mar 18, 2006, 2:20 PM   #5
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It's always best to use a remote shutter release or failing that the timed release.
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Old Mar 18, 2006, 3:38 PM   #6
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I would recommend against getting a pan-tilt head. My understand is that they are primarily used for video work.

Will they work? Absolutely.
Would you do better with a ball head? In my experience, yes.
I started with a pan-tilt head and it is now used exclusively with my spotting scope. I found that it didn't give me the freedom of movement that I really wanted, that the arm got in the way (some times), I had to take my hands off the camera to aim, and it didn't let me go into portrait (unless I had a tripod color on my lens.)

A variety of companies make very good ball heads and I find that they work much better. I have an Arca Swiss ball head, but I got it used. There are good ones that are much cheaper

If you really want to do landscape, you might consider getting an L-Bracket. Most landscape lenses don't have a tripod collar, so you're only choice to do vertical/portrait shots is to flop the camera to the side or use an L-Bracket (which gives you a quick release plate on both the side and bottom of the camera.) The downside to a ball head that can let you "flop" the camera to the side is that it changes the view. It isn't much, but it can be enough to bother you.

But most of that is about a head.

As for lets, I recommend Gitzo. They are expensive, but very good. bogen is good (owned by the same company) and cheaper.

The questions really are:
How much weight are you willing to accept? Lighter is definitely more expensive.
How small do you need it to collapse? (4 segments usually become smaller, but are less stable.)
How tall do you need it to be? Don't forget that you'll have a head on the tripod that will raise the camera up.


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Old Mar 19, 2006, 10:41 AM   #7
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Manfrotto 3021Pro tripod is nice. It's heavy (after a couple of miles!) and I tend to use the monopod for hiking.

I usually have both a still camera and a DV videocam so I WILL use the video head (Manfrotto 3130) for stills. It's just convenient. Locked down, there's no difference in stability and in many ways, its easier to frame a shot.

A 3/way still head (Manfrotto 3047) can be a bit heavy.

I've got a Manfrotto ball head that I use mostly for panorama stitching and QTVR. But it's nice, and the lightest one of the bunch.

Go to a retail camera store and try them out. Don't buy anything until you've held it in your hands, felt the stability, the weight and whether it's right for your size and intended uses.
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Old Mar 19, 2006, 11:45 AM   #8
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There are three major desirable features of a tripod: light, sturdy, cheap -you can pick any two of those. Since you want to avoid any tripod that is not sturdy, that leaves the choice between light and cheap.

All of the point made by the folks above are good. Another point that applies to landscapes is that a tripod slows you down. That forces you to think more about one of the most important issues about shooting landscapes - where to stand when you shoot.
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Old Mar 19, 2006, 12:15 PM   #9
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If you use a camera dock as I do. When shooting around the house in or outdoors I found I do not like a tripod that has the quick release feature. To bother some putting it on and taking it off. I use my old thunb screw tripod most.
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Old Mar 19, 2006, 12:22 PM   #10
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Interseting to read about Eric's take on tripod heads. I've tried ball heads and much prefer a pan and tilt head. As for the portrait option my tripod head has an arrangement like a hinge that allows me to flip it into portrait very quickly.

My experience of a ball head is that it's not as easy to make sure it's level and the one's I've used tend to creep with heavy bodies and lenses. Maybe I've just not got a high enough quality model.
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