Photography Gear: Part II
Tripods seem to be going out of vogue with many photographers of late. Reasons for this are:
However, I still use a tripod faithfully. Here is why:
So which tripods are better? There is no doubt that carbon fiber tripods are the best. They are also light. Another benefit is that they do not conduct the cold like aluminum tripods do. Believe me, you will thank me when you deal with your tripod in the cold. Personally I use a Really Right Stuff tripod - a beefy one. I know that they are expensive but they last. I have had mine for many years now and it just keeps working perfectly. Your selection of which tripod head to use will depend on what you shoot. For heavy and long lenses that need to track moving subjects a Gimbal head is the way to go. Since I shoot more landscapes I prefer a ball head. The one I use is an Arca Swiss Z1 Monoball. Like the tripod it has lasted me for many years and it is still as rock solid as the day I bought it. Please buy good support equipment. unstable support is worse than shooting handheld. Things need to be locked down tightly to get pin sharp images, especially as higher and higher mega pixel cameras come to market. Your tripod and tripod head are items that can last you a lifetime if you buy right.
The only issue I have with my tripod head is the knob to open and close the clamp. Don't get me wrong, it still works perfectly. I have just come to detest using the knob, especially when it is cold and I have gloves on. I much prefer a lever system to the knob system. So recently I got one of these:
This image is from Adorama.com
The bottom of this panning clamp fits to my normal Arca Swiss dove tail on my tripod head. Now I no longer have to deal with the knob on my tripod head and use this lever instead. As an added bonus I can level my camera using the ball head. This can be done in seconds. Trying to level your tripod using the tripod's legs is a nightmare. Then I can use this gadget to pan for panoramic images. I bought mine used for half price. Once again, Really Right Stuff's gear is some of the very best there is. If I were to start over I would get a ball head with this kind of panning base and lever clamp built in from the get go. This will save on cost and weight. Both Really Right Stuff and Arca Swiss have them now. By the way, the reasons why I went with the Arca Swiss rather than the Really Right Stuff ball head was because of price and maximum load weight allowance (which convinced me of its stability). After many years of use I have not regretted my choice.
Another thing that will greatly enhance the stability and sturdiness of your tripod is to fit it with spikes. I press my tripod into the ground with the spikes. It makes the tripod as solid as a rock. It may help prevent your tripod from being blown over by strong wind. This really does make a difference to the sharpness of you images.
This image is from Amazon.com
These are cheap and I highly recommend them. Just don't use them indoors as they can damage your flooring. I realize that a good tripod and head are expensive, but remember, in all likelihood, if you buy right, you only have to buy once and never again (baring some unforeseen circumstance). A tripod and good head are indispensable for my style of shooting. That may not be true for you, depending on what and where you shoot and how far you have to walk to get there.
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