Photography Gear: Part II

May 29, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Tripods seem to be going out of vogue with many photographers of late. Reasons for this are:

  1. Camera sensors are becoming so good at high ISO that photographers are not scared to use higher ISO to get shutter speeds high enough to shoot handheld.

  2. Noise reduction software have also become so good that we can can boost ISO even higher.

  3. Photographers don't like the hassle of carrying and dealing with tripods. Oh' and did I mention the weight of tripods?

  4. Some photographers feel more creative and free without being kept back and or slowed down by a tripod.

However, I still use a tripod faithfully. Here is why:

  1. No matter how good camera sensor performance is at high ISO they will always be better at lower ISO.

  2. The same argument goes for noise reduction software. Image quality is everything to me.

  3. Having a camera mounted allows me to scan the boarders of my image to prevent nicking things. It help to compose more precisely.

  4. It slows me down, enabling me to concentrate better. I get my freedom to roam, and play with possible composition without dealing with a tripod by using my cell phone. Once I find what I want then I get serious with my real camera and my tripod.

  5. I don't want to touch my camera when it fires because even the slightest camera shake becomes an issue when you print large. And I print large - 40X60. More about triggering the camera in the next blog.

  6. Many times I have my camera setup and then need to wait for the sun to reach the horizon or for that wave to come in. You just cannot do that handheld.

  7. Please don't laugh at me but my tripod is also very hand when I try to walk from rock to rock in a river. I spread its legs, plonk it down, make sure it is stable and then use it as a crutch to get to the next rock. I cannot tell you how many times it has saved me from falling into the water. My tripod is my friend.

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:

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          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

          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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