7 Questions to Ask When Buying a Tripod

Do you ever take blurry photographs? Do you want to improve the quality of your photographs? Using a quality tripod is often the missing key to better, sharper photographs.

photographer-with-tripod

“photographer setting up to shoot” captured by Vee (Click Image to Find Photographer)

If you like to adjust your exposure settings, use a telephoto lens, or if you just want to experiment with the manual settings on your SLR, then you need a tripod. A tripod is especially important if you enjoy macro photography, landscape photography, night photography, and portraiture photography due to longer exposures.

So how do you find the right tripod?

Not All Tripods Are Created Equal

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of digital SLR tripods available today. With tripods materials ranging from aluminum and plastic to high-end carbon fiber, it’s hard to know where to start.

slr tripod guide

“Photographer Meet Train” captured by Thomas Hawk (Click Image to Find Photographer)

Once you narrow down your selection to the type of tripod, you still have to select from Canon tripods, Nikon tripods, Bogen Manfrotto tripods, Joby, Velbon, Gorillapod, Davis and Sanford, and more.

One thing is certain–not all tripods are created equal, and it’s easy to buy the wrong tripod. Let’s make sure you ask the right questions and find the right tripod for your needs.

Suggested DSLR Tripod Requirements

Here’s what you should consider when shopping for a tripod for your SLR:

1. Can the tripod support the weight of your camera gear? Make sure the tripod is capable of supporting the weight of your camera and lens system to avoid camera “droop” where your camera drops (or “droops”) after you set up your shot.

2. What lenses might you buy in the future (like a heavy zoom lens for example)? Try to select a tripod strong enough to support your present and future camera kit to avoid buying two tripods.

digital slr tripod tips

Photo captured by Sohail Nakhooda (Click Image to Find Photographer)

3. Check the maximum and minimum extended heights to make sure you can get close enough to the subjects you are photographing. Macro nature photography often calls for a tripod that can go very low to the ground.

4. Will you be taking photos outside? Verify that the tripod is heavy enough for windy conditions. Some tripods have a hook where you can hang your camera bag to decrease the likelihood of your tripod and expensive camera gear from blowing over.

5. Verify the setup time meets your requirements. Can you adjust the tripod quickly enough for the subjects you are photographing? Some tripods have a geared center column while others have a rapid center column for shorter setup and adjustment times.

6. Check the weight and dimensions of the tripod. A heavy tripod can make a hike a miserable experience, but a light tripod can shake like a leaf in the wind. If you will be carrying the tripod extensively, consider a carbon fiber tripod.

7. Finally, will the tripod accept the type of tripod heads you want to use? Most higher-end SLR tripods have removable tripod heads. There are both video and photo tripod heads available which are configured for different types of photography.

If you consider each of the above requirements, you will find it much easier to narrow down the list of available tripods to a tripod that meets your specific requirements.

About the Author:
Jason Ayers is a contributor to Best Digital SLR Reviews (site currently down) and uses a Bogen Manfrotto 055XPROB SLR tripod, a heavy-duty, 2.4 kilograms (5.29 lbs), aluminum tripod.

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3 Comments

  1. Ian W says:

    Check out Feisol. Although they ship direct from Taiwan they have the quality of Manfratto’s top CF models at half the price. I paired mine, and one of their monopods, with a Markins ball head.

    Many good discussions of both over at at the Nikonians foum.

    i

  2. C. says:

    Good tips, however the continual use of “digital SLR” gives the impression that the author really doesn’t understand the subject. So..… I can’t use the same tripod that I have sued for years with my medium format gear (which weighs far more than my digital cameras) with the same results? Is only a “digital SLR tripod” good enough or will using something left over from the days of film going to label me as a newbie to “digital SLR photography?” Can you suggest where I can purchase a “4×5 format tripod? Too? I was in a local and very well-known and respected pro camera store and heard a salesman giving the same advice to a customer – that their customer “has to use only the digital SLR this and that – if they want to get serious about photography”….. and of course the “digital photography ______” had a much higher price.

  3. Mat says:

    Hello, I question whether it is worthwhile to choose a cheap tripods. Many have heard that they are not good whether it is worth risking something like that and it may be better to buy something better?

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