Camera tripod can make a huge difference in the sharpness and overall quality of photos. It enables photos to be taken with less light or a greater depth of field, in addition to enabling several specialty techniques. This tutorial is all about how to choose and make the most of your camera tripod.
A camera tripod’s function is pretty simple: it holds the camera in a precise position. This gives you a sharp picture when it might have otherwise appeared blurred due to camera shake. But how can you tell when you should and shouldn’t be using a tripod? When will a hand-held photo become blurred?
Common rule of thumb for estimating how fast the exposure needs to be is the one over focal length rule. This states that for a 35 mm camera, the exposure time needs to be at least as fast as one over the focal length in seconds. In other words, when using a 100 mm focal length on a 35 mm camera, the exposure time needs to be at most 1/100 seconds long — otherwise blurring may be hard to avoid. For digital cameras with cropped sensors, one needs to convert to a 35 mm equivalent focal length.
HOW TO CHOOSE AND USE A TRIPOD
Whether you are a pro who needs rock-solid support to eliminate shake, or a family memory-keeper looking to get better results in low light and more consistent framing, choosing the right tripod for your needs is key. Here are some tips to get you started.
Weight capacity (load) rating
The very first, and most important, thing you need to look at is the maximum weight load the tripod can bear.
Make sure it will hold more than your heaviest camera body and biggest lens combination. 1.5 to 2 times more than your camera weight is a good place to start.
Keep in mind you may lean on the camera, add a flash, a heavier lens, or battery grip at a later date so allow for some room to expand your system. Web sites for tripod makers are a good resource for this information, and a good camera specialty store should be able to provide this information for any of their tripods in stock.
When choosing a tripod there are generally two types. Ones that come as a one piece package with the legs and head combined, and ones that you can select the legs and head separately.
I recommend the latter as you can mix and match (even from different manufacturers), or buy multiple parts and change the legs or head for different types of photography.
Within the legs alone there are also several choices: tubular legs with a twist lock vs ones with flip locks; how many sections are the legs composed of; maximum height of the tripod fully extended; and what material the legs are made from (steel, aluminum, carbon fibre or basalt).
Number of leg sections
This will usually vary between three and five.
More sections doesn’t necessarily mean the tripod will extend higher. There are several types that use 5 smaller sections which allow them to fold down to a smaller size, more compact for putting in a backpack or suitcase.
Look at the options and see which is the best fit for you taking all the factors into consideration.
If you are buying one with a head included make sure it comes up to at least your chin.
If you are buying the legs separately look for them to reach shoulder level or higher (legs only, not including extending the centre column which reduces stability).
Check to see if the legs fold down small, or splay out so you can get closer to the ground. This is handy for those down and dirty shots, literally in the dirt.
Weight and construction material
Once again you will want to choose the legs based on what you will do with this tripod most often.
If you do a lot of hiking into the bush, you will probably want to look at legs made of carbon fibre as they will are much lighter than the other options. It is also extremely durable and doesn’t rust. Carbon fibre however, does come at a premium price and they are usually the most expensive options and will weigh in somewhere between 3-4 pounds. Aluminum is next most popular but heavier than carbon fibre, averaging 5-6 pounds. Basalt is becoming more common and popular as it weighs in between the other two but carries a lesser price tag than carbon fibre usually. Shop around, but go to the store and feel the difference for yourself by picking a few up to compare. Get the one that is best suited to your needs and your budget.
Summary And Bonus Tip
- Choose from either a one-piece tripod or modular first and decide what kind of tripod head you like best
- Choose the legs and get the best you can afford (lightweight, sturdy, max-height, min-height) that fits your shooting style and needs.
- Ensure both the legs and head will easily hold the weight of your equipment and then some
- Bonus tip – get a tripod head with a quick-release plate system. This has a plate you mount to the bottom of your camera and just clips in and out of the tripod head easily. Allows for quick and easy setup and removal from the tripod.