Photo Tripod

The choice of the material remains one of the main questions of amateur photographers, including with respect to the jungle of cameras and targets. But for some accessories, it is too complicated to navigate, especially when it comes to invest several hundred dollars and to take this investment for many years. This is the case of the tripod, one of the first accessories that can be required to buy. That’s why I wanted to write you a comprehensive guide on the subject.

How to Choose a Photo Tripod
Why use a tripod?
I already wrote an article about the reasons to buy a tripod before, but a little reminder is needed. The tripod is an essential accessory in many cases:

  • Des that you have to use pose too long to avoid blur shake hands. For example it is often the case when you make the photo at night, but also as soon as you voluntarily want to do long exposures, like for example using an ND filter, or a picture of thunderstorms. Attention: remember that even in low light, the long exposure does not help with a quick topic, which will be blurred in the photo.
  • the ‘ self-portrait of course (or group pictures with friends in front of a beautiful point of view, if you are tired of never being on the pictures)
  • Certains creative effects that involve either a long exposure, or that you’re not behind the camera, as for example the lightpainting.
  • the ‘ use of techniques to manage the scenes contrasted (to high dynamics), as the HDR or exposure blending.
  • If you get attacked by a Grizzly, it can use firearm.

(no animal was hurt during the writing of this article: d

  • certaines disciplines in which the tripod helps a lot, as the macro (to stabilize the development), animal photography, sometimes (to carry the weight of mammoth telephoto without get cramps on your biceps), photo studio (to have a stable framework and model to see your eyes rather than the large lens of the objective), or even landscape photography (to clarify its composition maximum).

This last point gives me the opportunity to highlight a very important positive side effect of the tripod: it really helps clarify its composition, and improves so your images.
In short, the tripod is used in a lot of areas, and there is a good chance that you need a day. But how to choose among the hundreds of templates available? Let’s look at the criteria which will allow you to justify Ms. or Mr. that “if if it is really useful to spend € 350 in a tripod, look Darling (e) it is carbon and it makes the coffee!
The selection criteria
Small precision before entering the heart of the matter: be aware that the goal number 1 a tripod (without which it is also useless as a space shuttle between your grandmother’s hands), to be stable. It is the most important. Other things that you think are in the first place its weight and size (it must wear!), and then the practical aspects related to your needs and your practice picture (landscape, macro, etc.), which are much more variable. Your budget will obviously play on the trade-offs you have to make.

  1. the acceptable maximum load

It is the first criterion, and more important: as I said, if your tripod is not stable, it doesn’t help. Therefore, it can take the weight of your unit stride against winds and tides (literally).

Photo Tripod 1
Take the weight of your device + your heaviest lens. If you don’t know them, you don’t have to run into the kitchen using a scale: do a simple Google search or look on websites selling Amazon type, it is shown (on the manual of your device and lens too).
And then take a tripod that supports 1.5 to 2 times that weight: it will allow both to ensure stability, and to predict the future (if ever the weight of your material increases, which tends to happen when you go up in range). It will save you from buying a tripod in 1 year and a half!
In practice, the maximum acceptable load (and therefore stability) are very much linked to the weight of the tripod: it is heavy, then it will be stable. So I’ll think of a compromise between stability and clutter: a heavy tripod will always be very stable, but hard to carry. A too light weight tripod will be easy to carry but will lack stability. The challenge is to find a good compromise between the two.

  1. the height of the tripod

The maximum height
You typically two maximum heights: by using the column central or not. A schema is better than a long speech.
To the comfort of shooting, in the ideal that the tripod happen you roughly at shoulder: by adding the height of the unit, you will have about the viewfinder to the eye level and you will avoid look you and break you your back. That said, if you’re 1 m 90 like me, it can be difficult!
Whatever your size, the maximum height is still important: bigger it is, more you possibilities to choose the level of the camera. Also consider that if you have a nice landscape behind a wall, if your tripod is smaller, you have it in the os.

The minimum height
The minimum height to which can move the tripod is also important: the more she is low, more your creative possibilities will increase. For example, I use particularly in landscape with a ultra wide-angle picture in order to enhance the effect. It is also a very important criterion in macro, where to be able to photograph very close to the ground.
Several techniques allow to obtain a good minimum height:

  • des legs that could unfold in a very open angle, instead of the usual 45 °
  • a central column that pivots and brings closer the device from the ground (but beware of stability!)
  • a reversible Center column which allows well close the device from the ground, but in this case, it will be “upside down”.

These characteristics sometimes combine to provide more flexibility.
For this criterion, think well on your use: If you do not need a small minimum height, just legs that can unfold with an open angle, that’s enough.
The height when folded
This criterion will be important for transport: indeed, more the tripod will be small folded, it is easy to take him for a hike, or fit in a suitcase.
The folded height is mainly conditioned by a factor: the number of sections of the legs. Indeed, more there are sections, over the folded size is small (it’s logical, divide by 4 or 5 rather than 3). Of course there is a downside: more sections, the less the tripod is stable. Normally, won’t you have to worry if you saw broad in terms of maximum load, except in difficult conditions, as in strong wind, where a tripod with a little thin legs can shake.

  1. other criteria of stability

The material used

Photo Tripod 2
First of all, I tell you right now: don’t even think about plastic tripods. They are not stable enough for photo use, and you will probably last about 3 days I know they can be tempting because they are not expensive, but you will regret your purchase and just lose 30 euros. Focus on 2 Kings material: aluminum and carbon fiber.
Aluminum is the material: it offers a good compromise between stability, strength, and cost.
Carbon fiber is clearly a cut above: it will be more stable weight equal (or lighter to equal stability), more resistant to vibrations, and in General a little more durable (she resist including better with salt). Basically, the carbon fiber allows you to make less compromise stability/size, and therefore infinitely simplify your choice.
The consideration is obviously the price: count 50 percent to 100 percent more expensive than the same aluminum model. If you have the means go for it, otherwise a good quality aluminum will give you complete satisfaction, don’t worry
The locking system of the feet
When you unfold the feet, there are 2 systems to block:

  • check valves: you pull, you unblock, you press, you block. It is very simple and quick to make, the system is lighter, but it will be a little less durable (although personally, I have a tripod with this system for 4 years and it is very much the duration).
  • Live: you unscrew to unlock, you screw to block. Do on each section of the foot, I think it’s a bit long and tedious: it’s a little annoying if you unfold / fold the tripod often. The system is heavier, but also more stable and more sustainable.

It is a matter of personal choice: to try the 2 systems in-store or on events like the living room of the Photo to see what you prefer.

  1. the tripod head or ball joint

In addition to the legs of the tripod, it takes something to fix the camera and move it easily: it’s called the kneecap. You can either buy a foot and a compatible ball head separately, or buy both at kit.
Kits are sometimes just a tripod + its sold ball sets (and therefore cheaper), but sometimes the patella is inseparable from the tripod. Is not very serious if you have chosen from the beginning, but is more annoying if you want to change the ball thereafter, because it will replace the tripod… It is often more expensive to buy the two separately, but it is more scalable. Personally, I advise you to choose and anticipate your needs when buying, and find a kit, if possible where the kneecap disassociates the tripod (but it is not essential to 100%).
There are many types of ball joints, but I will only deal with the 2 that interest us for the photo: the 3D ball and the ball head ball. The 2D ball are a veritable hell on earth because you can’t change the tilt of the camera: If your horizon is not straight, you need to change the length of a leg, it’s long and painful. Video kneecaps to fluid head are really specialized for video use and not suitable for the photo.
The 3D ball
The 3D ball has 3 different screw to set the 3 dimensions (where its name). The advantage is that this system is very specific: you set quietly each axis independently of the others. The disadvantage is that it is not the fastest (although with practice it’s still fast enough). She is to be preferred in the areas where you need more precision of speed, as the landscape, for example.
The ball ball
It plays on a completely opposite system: one screw will release the ball attached to the unit. You can then move your box in 3 dimensions, then tighten up when you’re done. The advantage is speed of use. On the other hand, I find it less accurate. Good ball ball joints have a second screw that is used to adjust the friction: you can determine if there will be resistance or not when you will loose the ball. It takes away a little of the disadvantages, but personally I still prefer 3D for the landscape. The ball however proves handy for disciplines where it often takes to move somewhat quickly: animal picture, sport or macro for example.
The choice between the two is mainly a matter of taste: I really invite to try two systems for real before making your decision, because you might not be at all okay with me!

  1. other useful options

Other options on the tripods can be useful depending on your use.

Photo Tripod 3
The first is not what I call an option. Indeed, if it is not present, do not buy the tripod! This is a quick coupler system: you set a plate on your camera, and this plateau then attaches to the patella, and can be removed very quickly.
It is absolutely essential for rapid installation and uninstallation of the tripod: If you don’t have it, you will very quickly put it away in the closet so it will be painful.
Most ball joints offer this option, but I say you anyway in case you dating models with technologies of the 19th century.
As long as it is necessary, do not take a tripod with no independent legs: under certain conditions (many more than you think), you will need to have one leg longer than the other. Believe me!
So the options include:

  • the bubble level on the patella, which makes sure that the horizon is right (unnecessary if your device already has this option).
  • the hook of ballast on the Central column, which allows you to attach a weight to improve the stability of the tripod (taking to the wind even watch!).
  • short column for ease of use in a macro.
  • retractable spikes on feet that can better reflect on some soils.
  • the ‘ option monopod that allows to remove one leg of the tripod to monopod (if you are looking for both, it can save you money!).
  1. what price hope?

One of the essential criteria will, of course, the price. Tell you all now, do not expect miracle below € 100, in any case to support a reflex: I recommend a minimum of 100-€150 for a tripod that will last you for a long time (€200 if you can). You can type a little below if you have a very light system (for example a hybrid), but you will not go down less than € 80 I think.
Think about this purchase as a long term investment: tripods technology changes very little, and a good buy today will still follow you worry-free in 10 years.

  1. which brand to choose?

It’s a big question as soon as it comes to choice of material: to what brand trust? First thing: avoid like the plague the unknown Chinese brands sold at Carrefour for € 30. I advise you to concentrate on the 2 big market leaders: Manfrotto and Vanguard. OK, there are probably other brands quite valid, but do you really have time to look for? You would rather spend a little bit more to be 110% sure that the brand is reliable? In addition, there is a lot more tests comparative in these brands if you want to go further, so it will be easier to find reviews.
As the ranges are a little obscure, I decided to do a quick decryption for you. I limit myself to the most common lines and interesting for the more or less demanding amateur photographer, the goal isn’t to the catalogue of brands in their place

  • serie 055: oriented demanding amateurs and pros, this series supports a weight of 7-8 kg for a price ranging from €300 (aluminium) 600 (carbon), with ball. Note the 057 series which is still above, with double maximum loads.
  • Serie 190: the most popular for the majority of enthusiasts, it supports the weight of 4-5 kg, at a cost of € 150-300.
  • Serie Befree: for travelers demanding photographers, tripods are more compact but stand still 4kg, for 150 to €300 depending on the material.


  • Serie Abeo Pro: demanding amateurs and pros, for a load of 8kg and a price between 300 and 500 including ball-oriented.

Alta Pro ·Serie: competitor of the series at Manfrotto 190, with a charge of 3 to 8kg according to the models, and the price of € 150 to 350.

  • Serie Alta CA: for an audience of fans lit with a small DSLR (5 kg load), and a sweet Prize like a kitten from 100 to €200.
  • Serie Nivelo: very compact tripods designed to hybrids, supporting 2-3kg and costing € 70 to 120.

And if I don’t want to think?
I understand that for some of you, through the lines of tripods is about as tempting to walk on hot coals while eating crickets. While choosing if you do not want to think at all?
It is not necessarily obvious to say, because there are a lot of criteria that fit into account. So keep in mind that it’s still a simplified ultra recommendation (simplistic?) on the basis of the price/quality ratio, but that there are other valid choices but according to the models that I could use:

  • the Manfrotto 190XPRO3 (which I own) is very suitable for all small DSLR and hybrids: it supports 5kg, weighs only 1, 8kg, and rest at a reasonable price. To take as a kit with the ball MH804-3W.

The 263AT Vanguard (which I also own!) better suited to the larger DSLR, with a maximum load of 7 kg. Taken for a kit with 3D PH-32 patella or kneecap ball SBH – 100. The price is more frankly reasonable (under 200) given the quality.