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How To Buy A Tripod
How To Buy A Tripod


Jon Sienkiewicz

YOU NEED A TRIPOD. If you shoot video, panoramas, fireworks, time exposures, selfies, or macro work in addition to general picture taking, you may even need two tripods. Selecting a tripod that matches the way you work is important, and not at all difficult if you approach it in the right way.

The Granddaddy of all Image Stabilization (IS) systems is on the floor at your favorite camera shop right now, waiting for rediscovery. The technology has been around for centuries and has been intertwined with photography since the beginning. It’s the one tool we all should use more often, because it’s the only accessory that will improve nearly 100% of our images.

I hear ya, your camera has built-in IS. To me, the fact that image stabilization in cameras and lenses is so popular is proof positive that you need a tripod.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m not putting IS down. It’s a great and tremendous aid in many and sundry situations. But not all situations.


There are many different kinds of tripods, so it’s easier to wrap our minds around them if we divide them into five basic groups: Pocket, Tabletop, Portable, Medium Duty, and Sturdy Duty/Studio. The category names suggest their primary application. Photographers who mainly shoot wildlife, for example, should consider Portable models, but shouldn’t overlook the other styles.

Pocket tripods slip easily into a bag or purse and are very handy at restaurants, the zoo, mountain climbing, and other places where you may not want to lug something bigger. They support the weight of a compact digital camera and can be a real lifesaver when you’re trying to shoot an impromptu family group picture or selfie. If the Pocket model is short and sturdy enough, it might support a mirrorless SLR, but be careful not to overload it. In all cases, look for one that has some sort of adjustable head, even if it’s basic.

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June 2018