The tripod was the greatest accessory ever invented and is as essential today as it was in the past. Camera tripods date back to the dawn of photographic era in the 1840s, and used not only by artists but soldiers, astronomers, seamen and surveyors. From the wooden version up until the sensitive silver-halide plates and flexible roll film in the 1880s, photographic tripod has come a long way.
Virtually, any professional photographer owns and uses a tripod to keep the camera steady and ensure outstanding picture quality. Tripods play a lot more than a supporting role in photography. It serves the special needs of fashion, portrait, television, and astronomical photographers, videographers, professional cinematographers, and photojournalists.
What you should look for when buying a tripod?
If you are planning to buy a tripod, make a checklist to help you spot the right kind of product within your budget.
• Choose a terrific product at competitive price. Take a serious look at the height of the tripod before buying. A tripod that meets elevation requirements will lessen bending and straining for a more productive shoot. Many professional photographers prefer the taller ones at it allows them to shoot from a creative high angle or on a slope.
• If you shoot wildlife, choose twist locks than snap lock because there is nothing worse than getting close to an animal only to scare it away.
• A two-leg or three-leg section tripod will depend on your set up requirement.
• Check mechanisms for easy adjustments and strong tripod leg locks.
• Test stability by mounting your camera unto the head and fully extend the legs. An expensive camera needs a stable tripod that will not be knocked down easily by the wind.
• Choose a sturdy but lighter option that you can carry around with you. The most common types are carbon fiber (light, rigid, and expensive), and aluminum (heavy, bulky, and cheap), but the most recent to enter the market is basalt, which is between aluminum and carbon fiber. It’s fairly light and cheap.
• Opt for the tripod head that offers flexibility for your type of photography, secure camera mounting with quick-release function.
Two main types of heads:
1) Ball and socket head gives smooth operation in moving your camera in all axes of rotation.
2) Pan and tilt head offers stable locking position in 2-axes or three axes types.
Other head types are fluid head, gear head and gimbal head. Fluid heads and gear heads facilitate smooth camera movement without the jerkiness. Gimbal heads allow the rotation of a lens along its center of gravity, giving you ease of operation, for example, while snapping on moving wildlife subjects.
Tripod heads can also be purchased separately depending on a photographer’s needs.
While the versatility of a tripod is underappreciated by many photographers in providing a handy perch for composing portraits or landscapes in slow shutter speeds, serious photographers should have fewer than two compendiums of tripod capabilities.