Why Use a Camera Tripod?
Camera tripods are a necessity for
anyone who wants to take the best pictures possible. They are
useful for many different situations by helping to minimize camera
movement which can cause an image to blur.
Blurring is especially noticeable in photographs taken with slow
shutter speeds (under low-light conditions, for example) and
becomes more apparent when photographs are enlarged.
Telephoto lenses, because they are essentially enlarging the
image before it's recorded by the camera, will also accentuate any
camera movement. Even slight motion of the camera, when using
either a slow shutter speed or a telephoto lens, can cause
unacceptably fuzzy photographs.
Supporting the camera can help to reduce camera movement and
ensure sharp photos. This applies equally to traditional film
cameras and digital cameras.
A tripod provides the best support, but cameras can also be
stabilized with objects such as doorframes or tree trunks. Monopods
are suitable for outdoor use when tripods are either too heavy or
too cumbersome to set up.
Broad Range of Prices
There are hundreds of camera tripods to choose from in a broad
range of prices. The most expensive ones are made of composite
materials such as carbon fiber which is lighter and more durable
than either aluminum or alloy. Expensive tripods are usually
equipped with quick release mechanisms for adjusting the legs and
the camera mount.
Each tripod has three heights which must be considered --
maximum, minimum, and collapsed. For most purposes, the maximum
height should allow you to use the camera at a comfortable standing
position. You rarely need a tripod higher than this.
If you do a lot of close-up work, the minimum height is an
important measurement, although extensions can be added to the head
which allow the camera to be brought close to the base of the
tripod. Finally, the collapsed height is important to determine the
tripod's portability -- compact tripods are usually easier to carry
Tripods usually have a center column to attach the tripod head.
This center column can be used for fine height adjustment and some
models allow the camera to be tilted down towards the ground for
closeup work. Look for a center column with a hook – these
can be used to hang heavy objects for increased stability.
Pan and Tilt
Tripod heads are the part of the tripod that the camera attaches
to. They allow the camera to swivel and move up and down. This
movement is accomplished with two basic types of head – the
three-way pan tilt head, and the ball head.
Traditional heads are the three-way pan tilt type. They have
three different axes and each is controlled with its own mechanism
and lock. The locking mechanisms make this type of head ideal for
situations where precise control of the visual field is needed, but
can be inconvenient for other uses.
Ball heads allow all three axes to be set at the same time, so
they are easier to use. They are also more expensive but most
photographers gladly accept the higher price for the increased
flexibility in camera movement.
Basic Pan and Tilt Tripod head
manufactured by Manfrotto
Compact Ball Head from Manfrotto
Monopods are an ideal alternative to tripods where portability is a
concern. They consist of a single support which the camera is
mounted on. Outdoor photographers often prefer monopods over
tripods because the latter are bulky and difficult to set up.
Using a monopod is almost as easy as pointing and shooting. The
monopod gives the camera the extra stability necessary for good
When photographing wildlife from inside a vehicle, a "beanbag"
is a useful alternative for keeping the camera steady. At its most
basic, a beanbag is simply a sealed fabric bag filled with dry
beans or rice.
You can place the beanbag on the vehicle window sill, or even on
the edge of a partially opened window, and then "bed" the camera on
the beanbag. This will provide much more stability than placing the
camera directly on the sill or window.
Carrying a tripod is easier with a case or a carrying strap.
Cases can be used to hold all your camera equipment but are bulky
to carry around. If you don't have a lot of equipment a shoulder
strap is the best solution for carrying the tripod.
If the camera needs to be perfectly level, small bubble levels
can be attached to the tripod. Some tripods come equipped with
levels, but they are also available as inexpensive accessories.
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