Tripods Still Save The Day.

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Tripods Still Save The Day.

 Between high ISO settings and stabilization lenses is a tripod needed any more? Photographers today like to be fluid, traveling light; rapidly changing positions to get the “Shot”.

 There is merit to those comments. It is interesting though when you look at the high-end pros, the real quality craftsmen, they often quietly put their camera on a tripod.

 It is rarely a cheap one; quality counts here too.

 For pros, the tripod is a two-part purchase. The legs and the head, of which there is a baffling number of options.

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 When does a tripod come into play?

 1) Well, low light is always obvious. Usually the most dramatic scenic shots are early morning or late in the day. I know you can just pop up the ISO but it comes with a price. There is noise. The bigger the image is going to be, the more the noise  becomes visible. Saying it’s an artsy approach to your style does not cover the issue.

            2) You do have to remember to turn off those stabilizers though; they will create vibration as they struggle against the solid stance of the tripod.

 3) The longer the lens, the heavier the camera, or in some cases the camera can be too light to hold steady. Along with age creating less steady hands this creates the need for the tripod.

 4) Doing multiple exposures where, say, you plan to pose one person 5 times in an image or capture live fireworks.  There is also the panoramic image where a collection of shots are stitched together.  A tripod will save you a bundle of time in Photoshop.

 5) Tripods are great to just mark out your territory. A good tripod goes down and people respect the area around it. They do make a statement.

 When I started out I was looking for anything with three legs and a head. They were usually cheap, heavy, cumbersome and poorly designed, but I did not know the difference.

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 Here are some insights for you.

 1) Buy the tripod and the head separately; you might even need two or more heads to match your gear.

 2) For the tripod, stay away from the flip locks. They will fail. To get it tight enough to always lock they get very stiff. Clothing or camera straps easily snag them then accidents happen. Go for the twist style.

 3) Telescoping legs give you the height while keeping the tripod compact. In most cases you want a tripod that goes to your height.

 4) Check the feet, you should have both spikes for outside with pads for inside use.

 5) The screw pin on the top should be the thicker screw. It is more stable, screws better and fits the pro heads.

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 6) Consider the weight. Generally the lighter you go, the more the cost. Carbon fiber and even lighter materials cost more. Twenty miles into the bush, they are a bargain. The savings in airline travel weight could pay their own way.

 7) Get a brand name. Look at reviews.

 8) For the head, consider your use. Video? Big heavy lenses, larger heavier camera?

 9) Most are rated by weight. Saving a $100 on the purchase price then having it collapse after a few uses is no savings. Becoming un-lockable because of the weight could cost you a shot.

 Tripod head makers will tell you the weight ratting. There are ball heads, which are popular now. Pan heads are great for video.

 The ball heads are not all equal. For example the high quality Right Stuff heads are well machined, release their grip slowly and constantly. Cheaper heads will stick. They will slowly give out over time too.

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 There are lots of accessories to consider for your tripod too. Tether tools, iPad leg holders; quick flips like Right Stuff’s L bracket lets you change your camera from vertical to horizontal while keeping the center point the same.

 I believe good photographers will have at least one tripod in their closet. In a long career you will keep turning to one for a great shot.

 The Tripod has not been as sexy to upgrade as that flashy camera yet there is a whole industry that has quietly been refining this mainstay tool. Get one; you will wonder how you got by without it.

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