Top 6 Considerations when Buying a Tripod

No matter if you are a professional photographer or a beginner, buying a tripod can give you headaches. Whether you want a portable tripod for travel photography, or a sturdier one for studio applications, making the right choice is time-consuming. That is why I will summarize the six most important aspects to keep in mind when buying one, from how much you should spend to what materials you should choose.

Why Should You Use a Tripod in the First Place?

Beginners might wonder why a tripod is essential in obtaining quality shots. One of the greatest advantages of using it is reduced blurriness. Tripods help you control the composition of your shots, being ideal for night photography or long exposures when shooting a subject in movement. A great panoramic can also benefit from owning one, as it helps keeping the pieces perfectly aligned.

how to buy a tripod, three legged tripod

Three legged tripod

Using a tripod is all about quality, while buying one is all about making it fit your needs and shooting style. So, let’s check what to consider before making the right decision.

1. Budget – How Much Should You Spend on a Tripod?

How much you can afford investing in such a tool for your hobby is one of the most important things to think about before getting your hands on a tripod. Spending more than $400 might be a good deal if you are a pro, but there are less expensive choices that can meet your needs if you are an amateur intending to use your camera for personal purposes.

In most cases, the price is directly proportional with how strong and sturdy the tripod is. So, a first time buyer could spent between $100 and $300 for a decent tripod, but a professional willing to upgrade his tool might get rid of large sums of money, some exceeding $500.

Note: You can also look after discounts, or, if not urgent, wait around holidays or Black Fridays.

2. Usage – Where Will You Use Your Tripod and for What?

Basically, there are four main categories of tripods and tripod applications: pocket tripods, travel tripods, medium duty tripods, and studio tripods.

  • First, pocket tripodsare best for group shotsand self-portraits. These are cheaper, lighter and ideal for amateurs.
  • Second, travel tripods are preferred by landscape photographers, or simply, by users who love nature, sports, and travelling. As a representative feature, these are light weighted, but steadier than the portable ones, which would accommodate both the needs of a hiker and his backpack.
  • Third, medium duty tripods are best for events photography, such as weddings and parties as they are a good choice for video cameras. These are classified between portable and studio tripods.
  • Fourth, sturdy duty tripods are used in studios. These are big, heavy and difficult to move, used mostly by professionals.

3. How Quick will the Legs Release?

Tripods come in a variety of styles and their components define how complex they are. Setting it up might be tricky, but here are a few tips. The majority of photographic tripods have telescopic legs, which come in 3 to 5 sections.The highest the tripod is, the less stable it will be, but more important than the height, is how fast it can be set and how stable your camera will get.

The leg sections are extended or contracted by a locking mechanism. Some photographers say it is desirable to look for quick release leg locks than rubber twist leg locks, as they are faster. In practice this is not always the case, so make sure you try out both types before deciding on a tripod.

4. How Fast does The Head Adjust?

Now that your tripod is steady, you need to position your camera as quick and easy as possible because wasting too much time, or even worse, missing the chance to capture amazing shots will drive you mad. Finding the right position depends on the head of this tool.

There are two common types of tripod heads: pan-tilt and ball heads. The first type is considered to be more useful as it allows you to control your camera both left-right and up-down, while the ball head locks your camera into position. But keep in mind that some heads are made for video applications, while others are ideal for still shots.

Tripod heads

Tripod heads: ball head, one-way tilt and three-way tilt head

5. How Heavy Should Your Tripod Be?

Depending on the applications your tripod is used for, weight is as much an essential aspect to consider as it is its legs release or head adjustment. Finding the perfect balance between stability and weight is not easy.

The most versatile tripods are lightweight ones as you can take them with you practically anywhere, but make sure you do not sacrifice much sturdiness. The heavier a tripod is the more chances you have to get sharp shots. The weight it can support is also essential. Check if the tripod can bear not only your camera, but also heavier lens or a flash.

6. What Material Should You Choose?

Whether it is aluminum, carbon fiber or wood, the material of your tripod relates not only to its price, but also to its usage. For example, carbon fiber tripods are preferred when traveling, as they are lighter, but more expensive than aluminum tripods, which are heavier.

The best tripod material and most comfortable to handle especially in the winter is wood, but it is much more impractical than the other two options. If you find yourself masterful, you can create your own wood tripod.

how to make a wood tripod

Wood Tripod

Last, but not least, you can check the websites of tripod brands for more information, but better than reading reviews or technical specifications is to get your hands on as many tripods you can before buying the one that suits you best. So, head to the next specialty shop and knock yourself out.

Image Sources: a, b, c

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About Karsten Monroe

Half Dutch and half Canadian, Karsten is an enthusiastic workaholic photographer turned blogger. Architecture graduate, he is determined to make the most of his passion for photography and takes great pride from being a self-taught individual.