How to Choose and Buy a Tripod for a DSLR Camera

The camera and tripod are an age-old pairing that still manages to maintain relevance and unrivaled functionality in a world dominated by image stabilization and Photoshop tricks, like peanut butter and jelly. 

Tripods are an important piece of equipment for any photographer. They come in all shapes and sizes, but it can be hard to know what type is right for you. Just like when buying a car or a computer, the key is to figure out what your needs are before you decide on anything.

Purchasing a camera tripod might be a difficult task. In this article, I’ll go over some of the benefits of using one, as well as some of the features available, to help you sort through the plethora of options and make your selection a little less stressful.

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So let’s start…..

The Requirements of Tripod

Do you have the perfect shot in mind, but your hands are too shaky to hold the camera still? You might need a tripod.  A tripod is a device that stabilizes and supports a camera so it can take photos without being touched by hand. 

A tripod may be required for any or all of the following reasons:

  • To capture HDR and panoramic images that demand fine framing and precision.
  • Photographing nocturnal things such as the Moon, planets, stars, and other celestial bodies and painting with light or making use of available light in landscape and architectural photography.
  • Using a camera timer to take self-portraits.
  • To capture extreme close-ups/macro shots (flowers, insects, etc).
  • To hold a variety of items such as flashes, reflectors, and so on.
  • To shoot (hand-held) at difficult or impossible angles.
  • To capture videos that are devoid of vibrations.
  • A tripod keeps the camera steady for lengthy exposures, preventing camera wobble caused by hand-holding.
  • To acquire the most depth of field, use a low ISO and a tiny aperture.

The Difficulties of Tripod

The Difficulties of Tripod
  • They are inconvenient to carry around and travel with, especially when you choose a robust one and add a nice tripod head. 
  • They can be expensive for a nice one.
  • In busy places, it’s tough to use.
  • It’s difficult to set up quickly, and you can miss a shot.
  • If you buy one that is too small or flimsy, it may collapse or sink, causing damage to your equipment.

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Components of Tripod

Components of Tripod

A tripod system is made up of the following components:

  • Legs – Legs are self-evident. Aluminum, basalt, steel, or carbon fiber are commonly used for tripod legs.
  • Hands – The section of the head that carries a digital camera or a lens is called the head. There are numerous various sorts of heads, but ball-heads and pan-tilt heads are the most common.
  • Center post/Center Column – a secondary leg that goes through the center of the tripod, allowing the tripod head to be raised even higher.
  • Feet – for inside and outdoor use, good tripods have interchangeable tripod feet at the end of the legs.

The most basic tripods include legs with an integrated non-replaceable head and feet, as well as a center post, but the most advanced tripods include a modular tripod system with replaceable feet and the ability to attach a separate tripod head (the head is typically not included).

Most significant characteristics to make your decision

Most significant characteristics to make your decision

You’ve begun your tripod purchasing binge and are unsure where to begin. What considerations should you think about while buying a tripod?

When deciding on a tripod, there are a few things to keep in mind which are given below:

1. Tabletop Tripods :

For some, the simplest and smallest answer is sometimes the best, and the tabletop tripod—a tiny answer for the everyday shooter—is attractive to this population. These tripods come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and are sometimes marketed as kits, with a head and legs already attached, often inseparable, and reaching a maximum height of less than afoot.

These tripods are great for tourists, hikers, and photographers who need to shoot in places where full-size camera supports aren’t allowed. 

These small and lightweight supports can be wrapped around a number of things (such as tree branches, pipes, and handlebars) to stabilize your camera on uneven terrain or create a distinctive new photography perspective.

2. The Entry-Level Kit

Many tripod makers are well aware that the majority of entry-level and hobbyist photographers demand a tripod that is tall, durable, and reasonably priced, with no requirement for modification or interchangeable parts.

As a result, companies like Sunpak make full-size tripod kits with an inseparable legs-and-head combination that, like the table-top tripods we covered before, is designed to meet the fundamental demands of most amateur photographers.

For quick and accurate adjustments, many of these kits feature a simple three-way pan-and-tilt head that may be used for most photographic situations.

3. Tripod Head Styles

  • The 3-Way “Pan-Tilt” Head 

When most people think of tripod functioning, they think of the classic three-way head’s movements and signature handle-controlled style. Because of its simple operation and generally precise movement, this design has remained popular, particularly among novices. 

The vertical-tilt, horizontal-tilt, and 360-degree pan are all controlled by three independent arms on the helmet. Landscape, portraiture, still-life, macro, and product photography are all frequent uses for three-way heads, although they can be used for practically any photographic application.

  • The Ball Head

Due to its compact size (as compared to three-way heads), high weight capacity, and ease of change, the ball head is the most modern and, typically, the most popular form of the head these days.

Ball heads, unlike three-way heads, reduce space and weight by using your camera as the “handle” and allowing you to move the camera into any position with just one control knob rather than three.

This head style is popular among sports, action, wildlife, travel, and studio photographers because of its size and speed, yet it can be used for practically any photographic purpose, just as the three-way head.

  • The Gimbal Head

Due to their capacity to support the huge telephoto lenses that are an unmistakable feature of the discipline, gimbal heads are essentially a must in the elite sports and wildlife photography field.

The gimbal head, which is designed to support and balance large lenses and camera bodies, allows the user to track a moving subject vertically and horizontally while maintaining its last position even when the photographer’s hand leaves the camera.

They are normally the largest and heaviest head design, but their use for photographers that require them is unrivaled.

  • The Fluid Head

With practically every stills camera capable of advanced video features, many photographers have begun to include video components in their tripod kits, with the fluid head being the most important of these additions.

The fluid head allows for smooth pans and tilts along two axes, and its integrated “fluid” cartridge avoids unpleasant jitters, vibrations, and shaking when recording video.

In the hands of entry-level videographers, precise weight balance is critical for a fluid head to operate successfully, and resistance from an imbalanced load might nullify the head’s video-smoothing qualities.

4. Tripod Leg Styles : The Material Choice

Tripod legs are a pretty easy matter for both the beginner and professional user, and it boils down to three simple factors: weight, load capacity, and price. 

  • Aluminum: Aluminum is an oldie but goodie for tripod legs since it is often heavier, cheaper, and, in some respects, more durable. Aluminum tripods benefit from their weight with enhanced stability and the capacity to endure the drops and dings that occur during normal use, even though their weight is sometimes counterintuitive for travel. On the other hand, aluminum legs are impacted by their surroundings, which means they heat up in the sun, cool down in the cold, and can rust if not properly cleaned after exposure to fresh or saltwater.
  • Carbon fiber: The second option of Carbon fiber is the best alternative for individuals wishing to spend a bit more and carry a little less. Carbon fiber is lighter than aluminum and offers lower vibration transmission, temperature resistance, and the absence of rust-prone components. On the other hand, carbon fiber isn’t without its drawbacks: its more delicate nature makes it prone to fracturing, and more care must be taken when transporting it to avoid damage.

5. Lock Style

  • Flip Lock

Due to its ease of use and quick set-up time, beginners, amateurs, and enthusiasts frequently choose the flip lock. The user merely flips the lock open to extend the leg and then closes the lock to hold the leg portion in position, resulting in a quick and easy set-up process. Even though today’s modern flip locks are commonly adjustable and long-lasting, all flip-style locks require periodic re-tightening and cannot be weather-sealed to keep moisture and debris out.

  • Twist lock 

 Despite their inherent advantages, the more professional lock form of twist locks is frequently perceived as more difficult to work, but with a little experience, they can be easier to use than some flip-type locks. Remember the “quarter-turn” rule when using a twist-lock: practically all twist locks only require a quarter turn to open and close the locking mechanism. Twist locks may be simply removed for cleaning the tripod after use in harsh settings such as sand, dirt, or mud, for individuals who enjoy do-it-yourself maintenance.

6. Weight

The first thing I’d check is how much weight a tripod can handle. Many photographers make the mistake of purchasing a tripod that is only capable of supporting a few pounds and is not designed to carry hefty camera equipment. What happens next is self-evident: the whole apparatus collapses at some point, shattering the camera and lens.

Always double-check that the tripod you’re considering can sustain at least 1.5 times the combined weight of your camera and its heaviest lens. I say “at least” because I prefer it to be roughly 2x higher. Remember that if you’re shooting with long lenses, you’ll be putting strain on your camera and even resting your hands on the setup, which adds to the weight.

7. Height : 

I usually suggest getting a tripod that is the same height as you are so you don’t have to lean to look through the viewfinder. The viewfinder should be at eye level once your camera is mounted on a tripod. It’s fine if it’s higher than your eye level because the legs may easily be shortened.

However, if it is much below your eye level, you will find yourself bending all the time, which can be a tiring experience, especially when you are waiting for some kind of action and need to constantly look through the viewfinder.

If you’re buying a tripod with a head, the point of the head should be level with your mouth. If you’re buying a modular tripod with a detachable head, be sure the legs are at least shoulder height.

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Which tripod to buy

After all of that information, you might be even more perplexed than you were before. Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered.

You can read our in-depth buying guide on “10 best budget camera tripod for Photographers

First-time buyer

First-time buyer

If you’ve never used a tripod before and are looking for your first one, seek a nice all-in-one tripod (legs and head combined) in the $100-150 area. Choose one that is durable enough for your current system and put it to good use.

After a few months or a year, you’ll have a better idea of how often you use it, in what scenarios if you travel with it, and if you’ve outgrown it as your camera and lens collection has grown. But, until you have a better notion of what your needs are, it will give you a solid place to start without breaking the bank.

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Upgrading 

Upgrading

If you’re seeking to improve your tripod (perhaps you’ve already done so), I recommend going with a modular setup.

Expect to pay between $300 and $500 for one that is more adaptable, lighter, and will get you a little further.

You may eventually discover, as I have, that you require more than one tripod for various uses or if you enter any of the specialized sectors (video, macro, pan). However, if you invest in a decent modular system, you can always update and add to it one element at a time.

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Conclusion

So now you know what to look for in a tripod. You’ve learned about the 7 main types of tripods and how they work, as well as considerations when choosing between them. Make sure that whichever tripod you buy fits your needs and is easy enough to use so it won’t become another piece of equipment gathering dust on your shelf! 

Good luck with finding the perfect tripod (or two) for all of those amazing images!

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