Selecting a Tripod


Tripod & Hat        In his book, “Backcountry Journal, Reminiscences of a Wilderness Photographer”   Dave Bohn writes, “The trouble with photographers, and anyone else attempting anything creative, and in fact doing anything, is that they get addicted…(and)…I was addicted to the tripod as a necessity for the photography of large landscapes.”

I remembered (and liked) that quote from an article I wrote in October 2013 and thought I should post it again. I can’t say that I am addicted like Mr. Bohn, but I, too, really enjoy using a tripod when I shoot landscapes.

I reread my 2013 article on tripods and decided to repost some of my discussion after talking with a friend about tripods. He is planning on getting a new one as a gift for his wife, and we were discussing what might be the best for her.

When I select a tripod I want one that extends above my head so I can use it on hills. I don’t like bending over to peer through my camera’s viewfinder. I also prefer tripod legs that can be extended out horizontally when the ground is uneven.

I don’t want a crank to raise the center column as that is just added weight, and becomes one more thing to get caught on things. I like a column lock that turns to lock and unlock so I can easily adjust it up or down.

An important feature on the tripod I select is a strong and easily available quick release on the tripod head. The tripod head is another subject completely and my advice is get one that has a reasonable size ball surface and that is lightweight.

A tripod shouldn’t be so heavy that it’s a bother to carry. Nevertheless, it must be sturdy and capable of supporting my camera without shaking. I am always amazed when a photographer uses a cheap, little tripod to hold their camera and lens that are worth well over the thousand dollars plus mark.

I am pragmatic in my approach to photography. Sometimes the conditions are fine for just pointing and shooting, but if I really care about the picture I know I will have better success getting a quality enlargement if I return to the car and get my tripod. That’s just good sense.

I know there are many modern photographers are of the belief that the difference between a blurry and a sharp enlargement is megapixels or vibration reduction features. I can’t disagree with that altogether, but I do think a good, stable tripod is just as important and in some cases more.

Using a good tripod that allows one to stand up straight, take time to analyze the scene, problem solve, compose, and contemplate is an excellent experience. In addition, it keeps the camera from moving.

I suggest buying from people that have used, or at least can discuss, the tripods they sell.  The department stores will allow you to bring it back if you aren’t satisfied, but I am sure they are not interested in paying for the damages to your camera and lens that crashed to the ground while using their bargain tripod.

In recent years more and more quality tripods have become available and are worth owning and using. All one needs to do is spend some time researching and checking reviews.

Photographers spend lots of effort selecting that DSLR and lenses for each purpose they want to use it for. My advice is to take the same amount of effort with that purchase a really good tripod.



11 responses to “Selecting a Tripod

  1. Great advise. Being a novice about 5 years ago, I opted for a mid range, but ok tripod. Realized very quickly as my lens collection grew in quality and size that I had made a mistake. Should have sought out good advise and bought with the future in mind. If you purchase quality, you will not have to second think.


  2. I’ve decided there’s no point in “travelling tripods” for me because they aren’t that much lighter and they’re not a convenient height.

    However, I have a new problem on my forthcoming trip to Guatemala, Cuba and the Caribbean. I saw a note on Wikipedia and the lead photographer on my Cuba tour confirmed that anything valuable in luggage can disappear and she advised not to take a tripod. So I can’t take my RRS tripod. What I will do instead is take a Sunwayfoto minitripod that I can still fit my Acratech head on. That can go in carryon. I’ll also take an old Feisol tripod that I don’t use anymore and probably doesn’t have much second-hand value without a centre column. At worst I’ll still have the minitripod.


  3. Good advise John, I use a tripod for about 95% of me shots …… “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right”. I use a plastic bag for a rain cover on my camera as I like a dry head also 😉 Nice interesting shot though.


    • I like tripods. While on a workshop many years ago our leader, Scott Bourne, quipped “whats the difference between getting a magazine cover and not getting a magazine cover?”….”A Tripod.”
      thanks Larry, glad ya liked my hat rack shot.


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