A tripod is an important accessory that creates a steady, level platform for a camera. Use of a tripod eliminates blur in images caused by camera shake that can occur when taking photos while hand-holding a camera.
A tripod is useful for close-up, panning and landscape shots. It is used for taking photos in very low light, for timed exposures, when using slow shutter speeds and when using a heavy lens with a long focal length.
There are so many types, qualities, sizes and weights of tripods that buying one for the first time can be daunting.
A decent tripod does not have to cost a lot but don’t buy one that is cheaply made. Paying up front for a decent tripod is less expensive than having to buy a new camera if the tripod falls over. A sturdy, well-balanced and well made tripod is particularly important when using heavy cameras and lenses.
A tripod should be easy to set up, easy to use and have controls that are easy to adjust. It should be stable, rugged and high enough so you can easily look through the viewfinder or observe the LCD.
If you travel a lot, consider a tripod which is lightweight and folds to a compact size.
If your digital camera has image stabilization, check your camera manual if it should be shut off when using a tripod.
Stability – First and foremost, a tripod should be stable: light enough to carry, yet strong enough to support your camera. If you use add-on lenses factor in the weight of your heaviest lens. Extra lens weight at the front of the camera can topple the tripod.
Quality construction – Avoid tripods that have a lot of plastic parts, particularly mounting screws. Quality tripods are made of metals such as aluminum, carbon fiber and titanium alloy.
Quick Release – A tripod has a mounting screw to enable attachment of a camera by screwing it into a hole found at the bottom of your camera. A tripod with a quick release mounting platform comes with a plate to attach to the bottom of your camera. This lets you quickly attach or detach the camera.
Camera positioned horizontally and vertically – The tripod should be able to hold its position when the orientation of the camera is changed.
Height – High enough for comfortable viewing so you don’t have to bend over. Most tripods have a center extension pole that can be raised for extra height. There are three heights to consider: maximum, minimum and folded height.
Tripod heads – Most consumer tripods have permanent three-way pan tilt heads. There are other types of tripod heads including geared heads and fluid heads.
Clamps levers or flip-locks – Used to adjust the legs of a tripod when on uneven ground.
Bubble level – Built-in level helps keep photos straight when shooting scenes with horizons and other horizontal or vertical lines.