Need to shoot a night landscape or a city in the light of lanterns? Are you planning a complex collage of several shots and is it important that the angle is the same down to the millimeter? Do you shoot at high zoom? Or maybe you want to get into the frame at a friend’s birthday, where you are both a guest and a photographer? In any of these cases, you will need a tripod for the camera.
We figured out the types of tripods and what parameters to look for when choosing them for different situations.
Tripod on one leg. It is a folding tube, one of the ends of which is placed on the floor, and the other is attached to the camera or lens. There are very small monopods for phones. This includes the very selfie sticks.
The monopod is the least stable of all tripods, which means that it is not suitable for shooting with a slow shutter speed of several seconds (and even more so minutes). Due to the design, it is assumed that the photographer supports such tripods with his hands, which at a slow shutter speed will turn into blurry frames.
However, one anchor point is already a good way to fix the camera. At the very least, it is more reliable than shooting manually, and allows you to improve the quality of shots and reduce the burden on the photographer. For example, the Falcon Eyes MP-18 monopod can support a camera up to 8kg.
Due to its design, this tripod is mobile — it is easy to carry and set up, it does not take up space, unlike a more bulky tripod. It is suitable for reporters who constantly move from place to place, and videographers. Especially for them, there are monopods with a small brace at the bottom (in fact, a mini-tripod), which increases stability and allows you to smoothly move the camera.
The monopod was not originally designed to fix the camera completely still, it primarily acts as a support for heavy equipment, which allows you to take better shots. This is not a tripod replacement.
A classic tripod with three legs. Usually, when we say “tripod”, we represent just such a design. The legs of a tripod are usually attached to the central stick with spacers, which increases its static nature.
This option (depending on the design features, material, etc., which we will discuss below) provides maximum static camera. Such tripods are taken for shooting landscapes, architecture, any shooting with a long exposure, when collaging, when the same shooting angle is important, and also if you shoot portraits in a studio with natural and not very bright light and you need to lengthen the shutter speed and raise the ISO.
Budget models for amateurs will cost only a couple of thousand rubles. For example, a tripod for travel Raylab Travel 55 costs only two thousand rubles, and its more professional and strong “brother” Benro C1570FB1 — 11 thousand. At the same time, it can withstand a load of up to 8 kg versus 4 for Raylab.
In film production, quadropods and hexapods are also used. These are tripods with four and six “legs” for professional video equipment. But buying them for everyday photography is pointless — such accessories weigh more than 5 kilograms (there are models more than 20 kilograms), and cost tens of thousands of rubles.
These are tripods for phones and amateur cameras. As a rule, the length of the supporting structures of such tripods is small — they are not high, so it will not work to put the camera in an open field and shoot a full-length portrait.
— tripods-clamps, which are attached to surfaces with a clamping screw;
— tripods on flexible legs;
— table stands. Like tripods, only small;
Clamps and tripods with flexible legs allow you to attach the camera to almost any surface from the back of a chair to a tree branch. Due to the unusual mount, the camera can be placed at any height and in the most unusual angle. Also, their advantage is their small weight and size, which makes it easy to take the accessory with you. This tripod is perfect for those who want to experiment while shooting.
Due to their size and design, mini tripods, especially clothespins, will definitely not support a heavy professional camera with a lens. But they are definitely suitable for those who take pictures with a soap dish, a light mirrorless camera or a phone. In other cases, it is better to check the stability of the tripod directly with your camera and lens.
What to look for when choosing a tripod
1. Material and weight
Tripods come in steel, aluminum and carbon (carbon fiber). The most budgetary and heaviest are steel, and the lightest and most expensive are carbon.
But when choosing a tripod, a high price doesn’t mean you’re getting a value for your money. The main question is: what type of shooting do you need a tripod for? After all, the more it weighs, the higher its stability.
If you are shooting nature, animals, open areas where strong winds can blow, it is better to take a heavy steel model. If you are taking a tripod for macro, studio or amateur travel photography, then consider lighter options.
Due to their great stability, it is heavy steel tripods that are most often used by photo studios to place studio lights and bulky light shaping nozzles.
2. Permissible load
This is how much weight the tripod can support. One thing is a phone that weighs a couple of hundred grams, and another is a SLR with a telephoto lens, the weight of which can reach several kilograms, especially if an external flash is additionally installed on the camera.
If your camera with the heaviest lens weighs 2 kilograms, take a tripod with a load capacity to spare. For example, 3 kilograms or more. In this case, even if you upgrade your equipment a little, you will not have to buy another tripod.
Otherwise, during shooting, the tripod head may tilt under the weight of the lens, or the tripod may fold in height during shooting.
3. Maximum and minimum height
Tripods can have different minimum and maximum heights. For example, the minimum height for tripods can vary from 5 to 150 centimeters, and the maximum height from 10 centimeters (mini-tripods for smartphones) to 180 centimeters. For example, the Manfrotto MT057C4 tripod has a minimum height of 23 cm and a maximum height of 180 cm.
It is advised to pay attention to the maximum tripod height in the context of your height. For example, a tall person may find it difficult to lean too far down to look through the viewfinder.
If height is not an important parameter for you, and you often photograph people, then it is also worth considering that the ideal tripod height for shooting portraits is from 1.5 to 1.8 meters. But, as well as with the maximum load, it is better to take with a margin.
If you are interested in macro and unusual angles, ask what is the minimum tripod height. There are accessories whose legs can be bent in the opposite direction. This allows you to take pictures with a tripod from virtually ground level.
4. Type of tripod head
A tripod head is needed to make it more convenient for the photographer to tilt and turn the camera, change framing and angle.
— spherical. This is a ball, clamped on all sides by a latch, on top of which is a camera mount. Allows you to rotate the camera in any direction. But this is not the most reliable mounting option. In addition, there is a high probability that the ball head will not withstand a heavy camera with a lens and additional accessories;
— articulated with two or three axes of rotation (the so-called 2d or 3d). There is a lever for each axis of rotation. For example, to tilt the camera forward, you need to unscrew the lever, put it in the desired position, and then fix it by twisting the lever. If you need to move it horizontally, you will have to repeat the same steps with the corresponding lever. For example, the Manfrotto 808RC4 has two levers — one is responsible for tilting back and forth, and the other — left and right;
— pistol grip. Common with mini tripods. When the handle is pressed, you can move the tripod to any position, but as soon as you release the handle, the position is fixed;
— fluid head Most often used for video filming. Allows you to smoothly move the camera with a fluid mechanism, which is convenient when you shoot panoramas.
Some tripods have an actuator that raises the center stem, a mechanism with a handle that allows you to further adjust the height of the tripod. This is handy if you need to raise or lower the camera a little, but don’t want to change the height of the legs.
5. Camera mount type: screw or screw pad
The method by which the camera is attached to a tripod. In fact, these options are similar, but the platform is more convenient — you do not need to wind the camera on a tripod while holding both. It doesn’t sound so difficult, but imagine that a tripod weighs two kilograms and the same amount weighs a camera with a lens.
The platform with the screw is built into the tripod using an additional mount. You must first unfasten the platform, which weighs a couple of tens of grams, screw it to the camera, and then fix this structure on a tripod. This method will save time and nerves, because you do not have to juggle with a tripod and expensive equipment at the same time.
Allows you to set up a tripod so as not to fill up the horizon and foreshortening. Useful if you are shooting on an uneven surface. For example, in a forest on moss hummocks, in a field, on a dirt road, rocky terrain, etc. Plus, even the best studios can have uneven floors.
- Number of sections. You can meet from one to six sections. The more of them, the more carefully you can put the tripod on an uneven surface, more accurately adjust the height. In addition, the more legs, the more compact the tripod can be folded, but the less reliable and stable it can be. Especially if we are talking about lightweight and budget models.
- Type of fastening sections. They can be fastened to each other with snaps or screws. The first method is faster, the second is considered more reliable. But you shouldn’t put an end to the latches that allow you to start shooting in a couple of moments — just be prepared that you will have to pay extra for high-quality latching mechanisms and look at less budget models.
- The diameter to which the legs move. Important if you are concerned about tripod stability. The closer the legs are to each other, the more unstable the structure.
- Leg tips. There are rubberized and with spikes. The former are used for shooting indoors, on smooth, even surfaces. The spikes will allow you to better fix the tripod on the ground, grass and are suitable for shooting outdoors. There are also combined models that allow you to modify the tips.
- Hook for extra weight. Allows you to weight even a light tripod, which will increase its stability and allow you to place a heavier camera and lens. It’s also handy if you’re shooting outdoors and don’t want to leave your backpack or bag on the ground.
- The heavier the tripod, the more stable it is. This is important when shooting in strong winds and if you have heavy equipment. If you shoot in the studio, occasionally plan to take a tripod on trips, and your mirrorless or soap box weighs quite a bit, you can safely look at lighter models.
- To ensure that the tripod does not break or fall on the first use, breaking your camera, be sure to consider the maximum allowable load.
- The most reliable tripod head mounts are articulated. They come with three or two rotation axes. The more axes, the more flexible the angle can be adjusted.
- To make it easier to attach your camera to a tripod, choose a tripod with a detachable mount-platform.
- Additional stability will be provided by the largest diameter between the legs of the tripod and additional weight that can be hung on a tripod if it has a special hook, as well as the surface of the legs (studded or rubberized) that is correctly selected for the shooting conditions.