Which tripod would suit you is the question, it may seem simple and with no budget buying the best might solve any foreseeable problems, but before we hone in on specifics for your needs let us think of the following points:
- How tall should it be?
- How light should it be?
- How stable should it be?
- What kind of weight can it support?
- How much should I spend on a tripod?
These points are relatively simple to define, why does the height it goes to even matter, similarly why would I need to know what weight I would need it to support, only by establishing your own criteria will you avoid upgrading again and again costing you more than you would have buying the right tripod from the outset.
Which tripod would suit you?
So what is the right tripod?
Which tripod would suit you should begin with this thought choosing a tripod or more specifically a tripod system, one that grows with you as you are buying into a lot more than a camera support.
Like most manufacturers there are different products based on price points, the basic to the specialist, they all appear to do the same thing simply holding your camera steady.
When we go beyond the limits of a piece of equipment it’s weaknesses begin to introduce problems it can be as simple as not being as steady when fully extended, or steady only if there is no wind, we encounter problems every time we take a photo using a tripod, not all are significant some we aren’t even aware of.
Aluminium or Carbon Fibre
It’s not a simple clear cut choice, only when you own both do you realise it’s not simply about weight, strength or cost.
Carbon fibre is the strongest yet it is easily damaged, it is the most rigid yet it is easy knocked over, it is the most expensive so what are the benefits?
When I’m walking carbon fibre comes into its own, the weight is the biggest benefit for me, I need to be aware of the limitations when only considering the weight advantage as the heads I use are not made of similarly light materials they are the same no matter what tripod I fit them on.
Aluminium is light but not as light as carbon fibre, it is prone to resonance but this only requires patience to allow the vibrations to die out. It is prone to oxidation so I won’t use an aluminium tripod near to salt water though the carbon fibre tripods usually have aluminium fixings and need to be washed every time they come into contact with salt water.
When I’m working slowly neither tripod shows any real benefit, aluminium being heavier than carbon fibre is less prone to being accidentally knocked over as a carbon fibre tripod with a full camera kit is top heavy and is easily knocked over if you are not careful.
We need stability, the less movement the better, this is more to do with the head quality than the tripod, the smoother the pan the less likely the tripod will be affected, a poorly designed head will impact on the tripod and a light support will be more easily disturbed.
Using a remote release the most likely issue will be vibrations or wind this is where the tripod is more important than the head, we can add weight to prevent wind disturbance and time will allow any vibration to die out.
Creating multiple exposures for HDR or merging needs stability if the images are to remain in register, software can realign multiple images but the closer in register they are the simpler the process.
Stability and strength are key to supporting large and long lenses, balancing the load is important the tripod is there as a support any imbalance will shift the centre of gravity and may make it top heavy no matter how strong or rigid this will be a risky assembly and will end up with damaged equipment.
When we are photographing small objects or large buildings the positioning of our viewpoint is important, we may need fine adjustments a smooth movement is essential, again the head is the most important part of this type of photography.
These add weight to the upper area causing it to be top heavy, when a camera is slid along the slider weight is shifted and any instability will be apparent through judder, the heavier the tripod the less likely it will rock with weight shift.
I hope there is clarity in what matters with a tripod, my studio supports are very very heavy, they are very stable but not transportable a tripod is not a single support solution it is part of the solution. Look out for my post on heads which will be added soon.