Help me pick a tripod!

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Antonsrkn
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Help me pick a tripod!

Post by Antonsrkn » March 1st, 2013, 12:07 am

Ok, I think I made one of these posts a few years ago pre-crash but never ended up following through with it...this time I'm serious, its happening. This guy is getting a tripod, here is the catch...I have no idea what kind to get and I have a few requirements for it. I'll list them out just cause its easier to read that way...

1) Price-it has to be cheapish. Lets say under $100 but ideally $60-80. My mistake last time was I decided to get a Gitzo, started saving up money... got side tracked and never ended up getting any sort of tripod. I would love a gitzo but I rarely use a tripod, so even though i want to start using one more often, I don't need anything top of the line. Most of my $$ is tied up right now but I still want one so lets see what I can get.

2) Compact-This is an important one, it has to be relatively small and lightweight. I plan on taking this tripod on trips with me, hiking, backpacking, etc... The less I carry the better. Both weight and size are important to me here.

3) Durable-I'm going to be shooting in dirty/wet areas. I don't want a tripod that is going to get gunked up from dirt or mud immediately or rust after I have it in the water for a bit. Don't get me wrong, I would obviously clean it off after such a shoot but still I want something that can withstand the elements as much as possible.

4) Versatile-Something that can get low and high...need I say more?

Ok I realize this is a broad request, I'm sure there are 100s of possibilities out there. But if you guys have any suggestions they are more than welcome. I plan on using this tripod for a variety of types of shots... long exposures (water, night, etc..), landscape photography (HDR type stuff), and less so but also for long distance wildlife photography.

I remember before when I was trying to find a tripod I was reading various reviews and discussions and most people were saying how you need to buy a good tripod right away as you will end up spending more $$ in the long run replacing shitty tripods and how you can only trust your equipment on quality pods, blah blah blah. I see where they are coming from but a quality tripod just isn't in the budget right now so as much as I would like a gitzo or some other $500+ tripod its just not going to happen. Lets consider this one a "bridge" tripod to tide me over until I come around to the mindset that I need a top of the line pod and have a chunk of cash for it.

And just to keep you guys entertained, here's a few photos I wish I had a tripod for...
Balanced the camera on my knee for these next 2...
Image
Image

Image

Any general advice is always welcome and brand suggestions, tips, etc are also appreciated! And for those of you who regularly or occasionally use a tripod feel free to share what you like/dislike about it what brand it is, when its useful, and so on.

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chrish
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Re: Help me pick a tripod!

Post by chrish » March 1st, 2013, 5:23 am

This is a bit of a tough one. I am not a big proponent of spending $500+ on a tripod because I think you can get decent equipment for considerably less. But your $60-80 budget is getting you down near the "cheap tripod" range. I honestly think you might need to look at somewhere around twice that level to get a decent tripod with a usable head.
The tripod head makes a big difference. I think you are better off getting something with an Arca-Swiss type quick-release because that is the standard that you will probably end up with later anyway.

In my experience, carbon fiber tripods are better than aluminum. They are significantly lighter and I find them steadier. You are more likely to haul a CF tripod into the field than a heavier aluminum one (I know this because I have both types). But CF is more expensive.

You want a tripod for which you can control the leg angle independently for getting down low on uneven ground.

I like the tripods from a company called Benro. They are pretty good tripods at pretty good prices. I have two of their tripods and have used them for years with no regrets. They also make a series called the "travel angel" which folds down to something like 15 inches but still is a normal height when extended. And you can buy their tripods with small ball Arca-Swiss type heads for pretty reasonable prices. A few years ago, their stuff was amazingly cheap because you could only get it direct from China through Ebay. Then US distributers started carrying it and the prices doubled. :(

Here's one that looks interesting for $139 (free shipping) - http://www.adorama.com/BEA0350Q0TI.html although I would want to remove the center column so I could get it down flat to the ground.

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Neil M
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Re: Help me pick a tripod!

Post by Neil M » March 1st, 2013, 5:56 pm

Highly recommend this one, ballhead is great and there are tons of little added features that I like (panning head, hook to add weight for stability, foam grips etc). I had the same issue with not wanting to spend much and I have been very happy with this guy.

http://www.amazon.com/Dolica-GX650B204- ... oline+B204

Neil M

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Indafield
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Re: Help me pick a tripod!

Post by Indafield » March 2nd, 2013, 9:30 am

Picked up a Benro mefoto, so far I'm pretty happy with it, light enough, small enough, good build quality. Something I would actually take in the field with me.

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Re: Help me pick a tripod!

Post by bgorum » March 2nd, 2013, 5:50 pm

So I don't have any suggestions for an inexpensive tripod, but I will suggest that what ever you get, also budget in a little extra to get a wireless remote for your camera if you don't already have one. The issue with cheap tripods is that they are unable to adequately dampen vibrations caused by your camera's mirror slapping against the mirror box right before the shutter opens. This will result in unsharp pictures when using shutter speeds between about 1/2 and 1/60 second, (varies from camera to camera and to some extent from lens to lens, long lenses with their own tripod collars can be problematic up to at least 1/250 second). With the wireless remote you'll want to use your camera in the mirror lock-up mode if it has one, if not use the exposure delay mode. Mirror lock-up mode locks up the mirror with the first press of the release, you wait a second, then press the remote again to trip the shutter. Exposure delay mode uses only a single press of the remote, but it first raises the mirror, and then after about 1/2 second or so, fires the shutter. Using either of these modes with a wireless remote, (I guess a wired remote would work too), will go a long way to helping you get the most sharpness possible from a less than ideal tripod.

And yes, if you start using the tripod regularly you will dump it for something better sooner that you think!

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chrish
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Re: Help me pick a tripod!

Post by chrish » March 3rd, 2013, 5:29 am

bgorum wrote:The issue with cheap tripods is that they are unable to adequately dampen vibrations caused by your camera's mirror slapping against the mirror box right before the shutter opens. This will result in unsharp pictures when using shutter speeds between about 1/2 and 1/60 second, (varies from camera to camera and to some extent from lens to lens, long lenses with their own tripod collars can be problematic up to at least 1/250 second).
Or you can just buy a modern DSLR like mine that has a fixed mirror and never has this problem. :lol:

Don't worry, Canon and Nikon will copy the idea soon.

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Re: Help me pick a tripod!

Post by bgorum » March 3rd, 2013, 7:19 am

chrish wrote:Or you can just buy a modern DSLR like mine that has a fixed mirror and never has this problem. :lol:

Don't worry, Canon and Nikon will copy the idea soon.
There is that! Actually I believe Canon beat Sony to the party on this one, though I don't know if they still make a camera with a pellicle mirror. Anyhow I suspect switching systems would blow his budget :) Actually live view, if your camera has it, accomplishes the same thing, since the camera lifts the mirror up out of the way for that mode. You are still going to want to trip the shutter with a remote though, (or maybe the self time if you find yourself remoteless), in order to prevent introducing vibrations from your own hands.

Off topic questions for Chris, if you all will indulge me for a minute. 1. Any idea why Sony uses a mirror at all? Seems like they could completely eliminate it. 2. How is the electronic viewfinder? Is the image close to being as crisp as an optical viewfinder image? 3. How is the latency (I think that would be the correct term)? Can you easily use the electronic viewfinder to pan with fast moving subjects.

I honestly think electronic viewfinders are the way of the future. Optical viewfinders have become so poor in terms of ability to precisely focus and judge depth of field, plus they never did give us the ability to preview the effects of changing exposure.

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Antonsrkn
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Re: Help me pick a tripod!

Post by Antonsrkn » March 3rd, 2013, 10:18 am

Thanks guys! As always I appreciate the help! I will need to do some further research but now I know where to start and the tripods you guys suggested look great.
also budget in a little extra to get a wireless remote for your camera if you don't already have one. The issue with cheap tripods is that they are unable to adequately dampen vibrations caused by your camera's mirror slapping against the mirror box right before the shutter opens. This will result in unsharp pictures when using shutter speeds between about 1/2 and 1/60 second, (varies from camera to camera and to some extent from lens to lens, long lenses with their own tripod collars can be problematic up to at least 1/250 second).
Yeah I will definitely invest in a remote as well. That's the first explanation that really makes me think about getting a better tripod+head. I had no idea that would be a problem, it makes sense but it just hadn't occurred to me that the mirror could cause enough movement to blur. And thanks on the tips on how to avoid that problem.
And yes, if you start using the tripod regularly you will dump it for something better sooner that you think!
Haha yes I believe it. I would just get something better but with my funds stretched thin this is just a temporary solution until a time when I have a little bit more fluidity. I may be going on a trip later this year and I want to make sure I have all the equipment I need before then even if I have to get something cheaper than I normally would have. Its a temporary solution like fixing a leak with duct tape, but it will hold me over.
Actually live view, if your camera has it, accomplishes the same thing, since the camera lifts the mirror up out of the way for that mode.
Interesting, live view is something I don't really care about too much when looking at camera bodies but its good to know about this advantage of it.

Thanks again everyone!

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Re: Help me pick a tripod!

Post by jimoo742 » March 5th, 2013, 9:44 am

Look at Manfrotto tripods with horizontal arm capability. It will allow you to get your camera down to 6-8" off the ground which is great for herp photography.

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Antonsrkn
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Re: Help me pick a tripod!

Post by Antonsrkn » March 7th, 2013, 12:55 pm

Hmm the horizontal arm capability sounds interesting, I had not known about that before, its a fairly appealing feature.

I'm still trying to figure out which I want to get that is the right blend of price and quality. Haha, who would have thought picking a tripod would be so tough?! :crazyeyes:

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Re: Help me pick a tripod!

Post by bgorum » March 7th, 2013, 2:56 pm

Just to muddy the water and make your decision even more difficult.................................. I used to own a Manfrotto 3001 Pro tripod that featured the center column that could be mounted horizontally and I really didn't care for the arrangement. The main problem was that when the column was horizontal my ball head was now in the wrong position and adjusting the camera was just counter intuitive. Especially if you're looking for a light weight tripod, I think its probably best to avoid center columns altogether. It is inherently less stable to have the camera supported on the end of a single leg, compared to the point where three legs come together, and an extended center column is essentially a single leg stuck on top of a tripod.

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Re: Help me pick a tripod!

Post by jimoo742 » March 11th, 2013, 7:32 am

I've not had that issue (and I use a fairly heavy camera (a brass Canon F1n)) as I move the arm so it isn't fully extended out most of the time. For me though, getting low for salamanders, ground flowers, is rather critical. The ball head I have is versatile enough that I have no problem getting horizontal plane shots when the arm is also horizontal. It does take some getting used to in regards to manipulation, but the pros far outweigh the cons.

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Re: Help me pick a tripod!

Post by jimoo742 » March 11th, 2013, 7:52 am

But yes, they aren't light weight nor very cheap (though certainly not high end).

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Re: Help me pick a tripod!

Post by fvachss » March 11th, 2013, 1:04 pm

There's a now-classic article by Thom Hogan on choosing a tripod/head: http://www.bythom.com/support.htm . In short he suggests getting good equipment the first time rather than bargain hunting, ending up dissatisfied and having to rebuy the proper gear later. I'm a worshiper at the church of Gitzo and tend to agree. I will suggest though, that if you have to compromise, bargain hunt on the legs not the head. There are some lower priced legs that support stably enough (though maybe not with the durability or smoothness of a Gitzo, they will work).

A crappy head, however, is always going to be an annoyance - shifting ever so slightly when you tighten it up, just the sort of thing that costs time and ruins shots. Kirk and RRS are a couple of good brands for ball heads. They're not cheap, but they're money well spent.

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