Photography News | Issue 69 | photographynews.co.uk
Buying Technique 38
Thinking of investing in a new tripod? Here are 11 things you need to look out for when picking your next set Legs 11
2. Many tripods have the option of swappable feet. Some come supplied with different feet; some you will have to pay extra
solid platform from which to shoot. That’s what a tripod should give you. But not all tripods are created equal. In fact, aside fromthemhaving more than two legs and fewer than four, the market is full of variations in height, style, materials and features. So how do you knowwhat’s important when buying?We’ve listed the vital components andwhy they ’ re so important right here...
There’s no getting away from it: tripods are vital for a huge number of different creative techniques and subjects in photography. From crisp and clear landscape photography to finely composed still-lifes and florals; from long exposures to pin-sharp sports and wildlife; from painting with light and composite trick photography to modernmiracles like focus stacking, they all require a rock-
4. More leg sections can mean a smaller tripod but stability can be less good and the tripod slower to set up
Words by Kingsley Singleton
1. Materials You’ve basically got twomain options; aluminiumor carbon fibre. Comparing identically sized aluminiumand carbon fibre tripods, the latter will be lighter, but alsomore expensive. For instance, compare Vanguard’s aluminiumVEO 2 235AB to the carbon VEO 2 235CB, and you’ll find it’s 200g heavier, but only two thirds of the price. If weight is a big issue, as it can be for hikers or location photographers, spending more on a lighter set of legs could save your back. Conversely, if you’re only going to work in a studio or don’t need tomove the tripodmuch, aluminium is just fine. For all practical purposes, aluminiumand carbon fibre legs can support the same amount of weight and both are rugged. Carbon legs do offer a small advantage temperaturemore readily, and therefore gets very uncomfortable to handle. It may also, like anymetal, stick to your skin – but this only happens well below zero. Remember, too, that there are plenty of other components made of metal on carbon fibremodels, so you still need to watch where you stick your tongue. 2. Feet Most tripods come with rubberised feet, so that they’re able to stop the legs slipping in wet conditions, or on steep terrain. So always look for howwell they do this job. Sometimes you’ll find the feet are angled andmay even have tread like a tyre, but surface area is more important – bigger feet offer more stability. Many tripods will also allow you to swap the feet for ones that better suit the terrain. So for example youmight be able to swap the regular rubber feet for spikes that you can push into the earth or sand and aid stability in soft ground. 3. Height This is the range of heights covered by the tripod. A greater range is good; for instance many pro-spec tripods allow you to shoot at head height or even above, which when working in cold conditions, as aluminiumconducts changes in
1. Carbon fibre is lighter (and prettier!) than aluminium alloy but also more expensive
5. Lever locks (left) are quicker to use but might need tightening over time, while twist grips are easier to
canmake all the difference in improving composition. Conversely, a very low shooting height will give you interesting ‘worm’s eye’ views, and will also help you maximise foreground detail. However, getting both very high and very low angle shooting in the same unit is rare as it’s complex to achieve. Very large tripods that allow high shooting either need lots of leg sections to get down low, which will affect their stability, or if leg sections are few, it’ll create a very large footprint when their legs are splayed. In any case you can often shoot low by reversing the centre column or by angling it. And so long as you can shoot between 30cmand 1.5myou’re unlikely tomiss out onmuch. 4. Leg sections Tripods usually have three, four or even five leg sections – separate lengths of aluminiumor carbon fibre tube that can be extended telescopically to control the height. More sections generallymeans the tripodwill have a smaller closed length. But more sections alsomeans less stability. Though the difference isn’t much, you can expect a three-section tripod to bemore stable than a four- or five-section tripod, though this also depends on the width of the sections – thicker sections alsomeans more stability, and you can ensure this by using the thicker sections first.
disassemble for cleaning
3. A tripod’s lowest shooting position can be as important as maximum height depending on your interests, so check both when buying
5. Leg locks Leg sections are controlled by locks and these need to be both strong enough to stop the legs creeping when weight is put on them, but also easy to use. There are twomain types of lock – lever and twist. Lever locks tend to be quicker, but they’re less complicated, and often give a firmer hold. You also know visually when they’re open or closed. Twist locks, on the other hand, are still quick to use, but some need a firm tweak to lock legs securely. 6. Closed height Closed height is themeasurement of the tripod when its legs are folded in. This is mainly important for packing. For example, a tripod with a smaller closed height will fit more easily in, or strapped to, a bag. Many travel tripods now use a system where the legs can be inverted, closing over the head, to reduce the closed size. If you need a tripod that packs into a small bag, this is the design to go for.
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