Tripod buying


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Jan 12, 2012
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Toronto, Canada
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Hello TPF folks! Still quite new to photography, but learning fast.

Quick question... when buying a tripod, what are some key things to look for? Any specific no-brainers in the $150-300 range?

Thanks a ton ;)

Consider your intended use(s). For example, if you are mostly going to use it in a studio/indoor type setting, then you probably aren't concerned about weight. But if you plan to take it hiking, then you'll probably want something lighter.

How heavy is the gear that you'll put onto it? Will you be using long telephoto lenses?

How tall are you and do you want/need a tripod that will be comfortable to use in a standing position?

How much precision do you need? Will you be shooting macro, or maybe multiple shots to stitch into a pano?

How demanding are you going to be for the very best image quality? Professional landscape photographers are likely to use tripods that cost $600-$1000 and then a head & accessories that cost another $700.

Most 'good' tripods will be separate from the head. The head is a more personal choice than the 'legs'. Common types are ball, 3-way, pan & tilt, gimbal, geared, pistol grip ball etc.

And something I've heard said of choosing a tripod....there are three main factors....
1. Light weight (doesn't weight a ton)
2. Is strong, stable and robust
3. Doesn't cost an arm and a leg.

The catch is, you can only pick two of the three options.
What are you going to use it for?
Absolutely what Big Mike said -

Laymans terms here:
and, of course this is a personal pref, but consider what type of mounting to the camera you will be choosing.
A quick release is very handy as opposed to screw on, screw off types.
Absolutely what Big Mike said -

Laymans terms here:
and, of course this is a personal pref, but consider what type of mounting to the camera you will be choosing.
A quick release is very handy as opposed to screw on, screw off types.

And Arca-Swiss style standardized quick releases are nicer than proprietary models, in that you're not limited in who you can buy your plates and heads from. Any compatible plate works on any compatible head. Companies like really-right-stuff make plates customized to specific cameras and lenses to provide optimal stability without excess bulk.
Hey, thanks for the great advice. Definitely may need to up my budget. That said, I already have a great (great for me anyway) monopod with swing out tripod legs. Carbon fiber. Doubles as a hiking stick up to 200 lbs. Great for wilderness/hiking on the go stuff. It's a trek tech XL.

The negatives are that it's not very adjustable for slants, not sturdy in heavy wind, and the quick-release ballhead leaves a bit to be desired in the fine-adjustment dept.

So basically I'm looking for a new head that I can use for both my new pod and the trek tech. And then something a little sturdier for road trips/landscape stuff where I won't really need to carry it around a ton... But wouldn't mind the option if I HAD to. So something mid-weight and stable with a decent quality head... I don't need fancy features like levels and stuff.., I Just want it to move and adjust finely and stay put! (no droop or change when my hand is removed)

Knowing this additional info. Does anyone have any further recommendations? Let's say anywhere up to $600 just to open up the options a bit, but would appreciate advice on both costly $500-600 and less costly $150-300.


Depending on the weight of your gear, you could look into one of the smaller heads by ReallyRightStuff, or Markins. The engineering is top of the line, and precise, and any of their products will last you forever. You can see if something fits in your budget.

For legs, you really just want the sturdiest thing you can find. They get more expensive if you want them to be easy to carry and highly adjustable and all that, but if they're not absolutely rock solid then you may as well not have them. So, poke at some legs in person if you can, see which ones look like they won't budge (and don't cost an arm and a leg). Gitzo is sortof the industry standard when you don't care what it costs, so you can see what's available and compare.
Thanks. Definitely looking at Gitzo legs. Pretty decently priced used. May as well spend a bit more once and do it right :).
Nice. I've got a GT3531 and it rocks my world :thumbup:
Currently trying to decide between a series 1 traveler 6x 4 section and a basalt 4 section. MAYBE an explorer, but I'm not sure how much I'd use the extension arm... It's one of those things that I could see becoming either a necessity or a burden :S

Anyhow, I don't actually need it until late April (road trip on the entirety of historic route 66 :)...). So I'll keep my eyes peeled for deals.
I wouldn't get the explorer.. I test drove one, so to speak. It was a little too gimicky. Got into lots of weird positions, which can be cool depending on what you do, but it sacrificed stability, which is dumb at that price. I feel like they could've done it better. Those basalt models look to be a really good deal actually.
Well a killer deal I found on eBay made my decision for me. Found a series 1 gitzo traveler 4 section BNIB for $479... Free local shipping! $200 off our retail price here in Toronto. Looked into the eBay company and they're solid/legit. So... Done and done.

For the ballhead I'm going with a markins Q3 traveler (made for the gitzo traveler pods). They look nice and simple and high quality. I'm getting the quick release plate.

All in all more than my original idea of price, but I think I'll be way happier with it in the long run. Nice and light, and great for my DX setup... And even into a small body full frame setup in the future.

Thanks again.


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