How to Choose The Best Tripod for a DSLR Camera
First of all, you should understand that any tripod is not ideal. There are three main characteristics – stability, weight and reasonable price, but at the same time, a tripod may combine no more than two of them. In other words, in any case, you will have to compromise. Moreover, that is why the professionals usually have several tripods for various occasions.
Here we choose between aluminum and carbon fiber. Aluminum tripods are cheaper, more stable and heavier. Carbon is significantly more light, usually less stable and more expensive. Aluminum tripods are less sensitive to the wind as they weigh more. However, carbon tripods absorb the vibration, and therefore they work better with a telephoto lens. You should also keep in mind how long you are going to travel with a tripod. Don’t overestimate your physical abilities.
2. Number of sections
Varies from 2 to 5. Needless to say, that the more sections it has, the more compact the tripod is when collapsed. However, you should keep in mind that each extra section reduces its stability. Besides, a tripod with many sections is less reliable. But there are moments when small size is the most important parameter.
3. The diameter of the legs
The diameter of the widest part of a tripod is important from the perspective of stability. The larger its diameter is, the higher is its stability. For some unknown reason, this parameter is neglected as by sellers and so by buyers. And unjustly.
In general, there are many of them. Mainly Chinese. But, in order to buy a high-quality product, it is recommended to pay attention only to three manufacturers: Gitzo, RRS and Manfrotto. Most likely, the last variant as tripods by Manfrotto are well known and can be found in the stores. A good tripod can't be cheap: high-quality models from Chinese manufacturers are not much cheaper than the "big three" mentioned above. So it makes no sense to take risks buying a cheap tripod of questionable quality.
5. The central column
In brief, the central column is useful in situations when the height is more important than stability. For example, in the studio. But during an architectural or landscape photography when a tripod should be fixed steadily and secure, the central column will simply interfere. And even the rotating column will not solve the problem because of its extra weight, and it will be useless for amateurs as well. Again, it will interfere when you try to put your camera down as low as possible. Therefore, it is more reasonable to recommend a tripod without a center column as the only multi purpose variant.
6. The height of the tripod and shooting
These are important parameters that determine the operation range in the vertical plane. The height of the tripod is important for tall people first of all, and in those cases when you, for example, need to make an "eye to eye" portrait. In other situations — it is rather an extra weight and may cause problems during transportation. Moreover, if you have a LiveView mode and a rotatable display you don't need to bend down to a viewfinder. With a tripod, it is just easier to focus using a display.
But the minimum height is crucial in macro photography or landscape photography. And, in fact, it is determined by the limit of the opening of the tripod legs (as well as the availability of the very same central column). If you plan to shoot landscapes regularly, you should check the minimum value of the height of shooting with a particular tripod. By the way, if you have chosen a tripod with a central column, then look at the models that allow its rotation, because it directly affects the minimum height of the shot.
7. The diameter of the base for tripod head
Usually, few people pay attention to this parameter. Meanwhile, it can make your work significantly more difficult. Small diameter (especially if it is less than the tripod head) is less stable, while too big can become a hindrance when you turn the camera placed on the tripod on 90 degrees - the camera just stops at the base. So the base and the head need to be chosen at the same time and very carefully.
8. The size of the collapsed tripod
You will be displeased if you buy a tripod and find out that when collapsed it is not very compact, and hardly fits even in a large suitcase. Meanwhile, the tripod in the journey is useful a thing, so if you plan to take it with you quite often, then consider the size
9. Weight hook
Many tripods are equipped with it, and it's a very noticeable advantage. This hook not only allows you to hang a bag instead of leaving it lying on the ground but also increases the stability due to additional weight. So, if the parameters are equal, choose a model with a hook. This will come in handy.
10. Tripod feet
They are different: rubber or steel, spikes or platforms, and also combined models. The use of a particular type of tripod feet is determined by the shooting conditions: it is not very good to stick spikes into the parquet floor, and the rubber feet will be less stable on the soft ground. In general, it is better to use spikes for soft surfaces, and rubber feet for solid.
11. Leg locks
Locks don't affect the quality of photos significantly but are very important for your convenience. There are three types of locks:
- The latch lock is primitive, but it is quick and convenient to extend and collapse a tripod. However, the latch locks don't fix the tripod legs secure enough. Overall, it's not the best option, despite maximum convenience.
- Ring lock has no protruding parts, so it is very convenient during the transportation. Securely fixes the tripod legs. But, alas, it will take you more time to extend a tripod with such locks.
- Thumbscrew lock— very inconvenient in transportation, as it often gets stuck in something. But it is considered the most reliable.
12. Quick Release Plate
A very nice thing. Its purpose is to speed up the process of installation of a camera parallel to the plane of the surface. Literally at one go. This is very useful for landscape or architectural photography. It seems an obvious idea, however, it is implemented not so often. Nevertheless, the quick release plate can be purchased separately, so if you are planning to make a lot of photos of the surrounding world, we highly recommend you purchase this useful accessory.
OUR TOP 6 PICKS
- Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 055 Aluminium 3-Section Tripod with Horizontal Column
- Manfrotto traveler BeFree Tripod with Ball Head
- Manfrotto MKBFRA4-BH BeFree Compact Aluminum Travel Tripod
- Manfrotto MT190XPRO4 4 Section Aluminum Tripod Legs with Q90 Column
- Gitzo GK1555T-82TQD Series 1 Traveler Kit with GT1555T 5 Section Tripod & Head
- Gitzo lightweight Series 1 Traveler Carbon Fiber Tripod with Center Ball Head