BrickHouse Photo School

Tips, Tricks and Reviews for Photo Hobbyists

Posts Tagged ‘tripod

Photo Gear: Tripods

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manfrottohead

The Manfrotto geared head model 405.

Tripods are too often an overlooked accessory in photography. Most hobbyists, if they even own a tripod, too often settle for a model that is cheaply made and doesn’t offer the range of benefits a good tripod can offer. Plus, if you’re going to put your $1000+ gear on something, shouldn’t it be the best?

First, let’s discuss the basics: a tripod is composed of two parts, the legs and the head. The legs are, as you may already guess, the base of the tripod. It’s important, then, to get the best support possible.

I think the heavier the legs, the better. My favorite manufacturer in Manfrotto because I think this company offers the best product at the best price. I particularly like model 161MK2B (kinda boring name) AKA the “Super Pro Tripod Mark 2 Black (kinda long and still boring name). Despite the rather boring name, this tripod is fantastic. It’s very sturdy and has a high load capacity. This is a great base in which to begin.

As for tripod heads, I prefer what’s called “geared heads” because they are highly precise and easy to operate. In the Manfrotto line, I like the model 405 (now I think Manfrotto REALLY needs to working on product names) because its gearing system is needle-sharp. It allows for 360-degree panning and front and lateral tilt. This is very important for macro photography and landscape work.

I’ll warn you: This whole setup isn’t cheap. The tripod itself will set you back almost $500 and the head is about $400. Yeah, I know. Most hobbyists don’t want to set back nearly $900 for a tripod but, unlike most other photography gear, tripods don’t really go out of style. A good tripod now will last you probably your entire photographic career.

There are less expensive alternatives that are good but don’t offer the same quality as this gear. Be sure to look for these qualities when purchasing your next tripod:

  • Heavy-Duty Design: The heavier the legs the more stable the tripod. Try to pick gear that “feels” like it’s well made. If in doubt, move on.
  • Head Interchangeability: Can you change the head? If not, this probably isn’t the best tripod for your money.
  • Well-Known Names: Sometimes I’m not a fan of “brand names” because there’s some gear that may not be well known, but are great pieces of equipment. In tripods, I say go with the names you know. Manfrotto, Bogen, Slik – but only the “pro” rated gear and Swarovski Optik.
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Must Have Equipment: Gorillapods

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There are only a few pieces of photo gear that I get excited about and the Joby Gorillapod is one of those items. It’s a photographer’s dream because it’s simply built and highly functional.
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Unlike traditional tripods, the Gorillapod doesn’t require a level surface – you level out the camera yourself. The device is composed of multiple, fully-articulating, ball-and-socket joints that allow you to bend, twist and fold the Gorillapod into any shape necessary to get the perfect shot. Rubberized feet and soft rings between the ball-and-socket joints prevent slippage even in the toughest environments.

There are 5 versions of the Gorillapod: The Go-Go version for phones, MP3 players and compact cameras; the Original for compact cameras and point-and-shoots; the SLR model for prosumer-style cameras; the SLR-Zoom to support SLRs with long lenses and the Focus style, which can hold a whopping 11 pounds, for pro-model SLRs.

There are also a host of accessories for the Gorillapod including spikes for the feet – great for outdoor photography and photography in mud or snow; a level and a flash clip to support off-camera strobes.

This is a must-have piece of equipment especially if you do macro photography or mount remote cameras. Also, Gorillapods work great if you’re doing tabletop photography and/or fine art work. The units are well-priced with the SLR-Zoom model priced at $54.95 and the Focus model priced at $109.95.