Camera and lens

Choosing a Tripod

1. Weight

A tripod’s weight should be considered from two perspectives.

  1. Will it be carried around?

  2. Used indoors?

  3. Or both?

I have:

2 x heavy tripods for indoor use.

4 x small tripods for tabletop, placing on low walls or a bonnet of a car.

1 x medium weight tripod for outdoor use - Remember that someone is going to need to carry it around. Mine attaches to my Bergan/rucksack which makes it easier to carry long distances.

2. Stability

Weight does not always equal stability. If possible, test the tripod with the camera on it along with the largest lens, light, flash, and microphone. Test it fully extended to see how stable it is. Will it be sturdy on a windy day? Will it take the knock of someone bumping it on the way past? Has it got hooks for weights?

3. Leg Locks

There is a lot of variation between manufacturers when it comes to the mechanisms used for locking legs into place. Often, it comes to personal preference, but secure locks are essential. My main tripods are Manfrotto, they offer quick-release locks that are stable, and I have found reliable.

4. Leg Sections

The number of sections used to alter the height on tripods can be a factor. If they have two sections, they will be longer when they are collapsed. Two is good because there is less playing around with extending and locking the legs, while three sections provide a more compact tripod when folded.

5. Height

How long is a piece of string? Depending on the type of photography, the height requirements of a tripod will vary. What is the maximum height needed? But also, how it operates at its minimum, and how big it is when it is all folded. In all honesty, having a tripod one can look into the camera’s eyepiece without having to bend is a bonus, there is nothing worse than a full day of leaning over to check the framing shots.

6. Tripod Heads

Tripod heads can either be bought with a tripod as a complete set or separately.

One key aspect to consider about a tripod is how the camera attaches to it. There are numerous options available, and it is worth planning and considering the options, as the tripod head not only keeps your camera on the tripod but will determine how much flexibility you have once it is attached.

My preference is the quick release Manfrotto tripod heads, they are well built and extremely sturdy. Each of my cameras and GoPros have a Manfrotto tripod head fitted, so I can easily swap cameras or tripods.

The two main types of tripod heads are:

  • Ball and socket – are great for flexibility and moving your camera around, but I find them fiddley.

  • Pan and tilt – are great for locking into position and are usually more affordable. They are not as fluid to move around and take getting used to, but I prefer them.

Tripod with carry case
tripod
tripod head with arm
Manfrotto quick release unit for tripod