What is a Camera Tripod
Any photo enthusiast knows that frustrating feeling when a handheld photo just doesn't come out right because of the slightest vibration that smears the picture and totally ruins the effort. Therefore, photographers often use a special pole with 3 adjustable legs, called tripod, to put their camera in a stable position and get a perfectly sharp shot, unaffected by trembling hands or vibrations from other sources. Any high-quality architecture masterpiece, nature, macro, and panoramic photographs are done with a tripod support.
Furthermore, tripods are often used in photo studios for getting clear, crisp portraits of a sitter. However, you can also see them used for shooting news reports, documentaries, concerts, and movies. Usually, a tripod comes with a special camera head that mounts on top of the centre column. It provides better control of the camera movement flow and can be fixed in certain positions. But more of that below.
So, if you want to gear up your photo studio or you plan to set off for a long journey with a scenic route, you might also be interested in our review of the best camera backpacks with a strap for a tripod fixing. But that's not all. You might also want to check out our pick of the best portrait lenses. And for those, who want to know the latest tendencies in the photo industry, we can recommend our fresh selection of the best mirrorless cameras.
What Features to Compare
Let's start with a few words about Compatibility. Most of the tripods come with a column that has a 3/8" screw for mounting the head. The head has, in turn, a standard 1/4" screw that matches the threaded hole in the bottom of the most DSLR and compact cameras. Therefore, you can readily use your DSLR, GoPro or TV camera with any tripod from this review.
So, the first serious parameter to check out is the Maximum Load a tripod can support. If you don't know the weight of your camera with a lens, just google them separately and sum their weight. If you are worrying that a huge telephoto lens might disrupt the balance, look for a tripod with the counterweight hook at the bottom of the centre column. Also, some models come with a leg spreader that has bracket arms for some additional stability.
Weight and Material. The most common materials are carbon fibre and aluminium. The first one is lighter and somewhat better at vibration dampening, though they cost more than the metal ones. A bit heavier aluminium model can be helpful for shooting outdoors where lighter models can be simply kicked over by the wind gust. But carrying a heavy model for several hours can be tiresome.
As a rule, tripod legs have from 2 up to 5 telescopic Sections. The bigger their number is, the more compact it will be when folded. Still, a large number of parts may affect the overall stability of the stand. The centre column may also have 1 or 2 sections. There are lots of models with telescopic legs and adjustable centre column.
Note, there are several Head Types that define the camera position and movement patterns.
- Ball head can be rotated all around and has a very smooth running, yet be careful not to bump it accidentally.
- 3-way Pan-Tilt heads are usually cheaper and allow a more precise adjusting. The downside is that they have large handles that always get in the way and also many levers that you have to tighten up or loosen almost every time to move and fix it in a certain position.
- Gimbal heads are very specific and designed for holding large and heavy cameras.
Each leg here is multi-sectional and features flip locks for a quick height adjustment. When fully extended, the tripod is not too short - 144 cm from the column's tip to the ground. A tripod also comes in the set with a small aluminium ball head for smooth camera panning and angle fine-tuning. Additionally, the head comes with a quick-release plate that can be attached to the camera and swiftly removed from the tripod for taking a few handheld shots or switch between the cameras. Without a plate, the head has a standard 1/2" threaded bolt, coming out from the top.
Overall, this Manfrotto tripod boasts excellent build quality and many adjustment features for taking stunning panoramic shots, time-lapses, stable long-exposure photos, and so on.
Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT Aluminum Tripod Legs
Feel the Difference
First of all, it's made of aluminium but you may find a bit more lightweight carbon fibre model as well. The joints seem to be pretty durable. After tightening the column clamp, it securely holds the camera in place.
Also, the tripod is designed to hold up to 7 kg load and you can also hang a counterweight on the hook, that comes out from the other side of the column. Each leg has a release lock button at the top that allows you to change the leg's angle to one of the fixed positions - at 25°, 50°, and 80°. Other adjustments are straightforward, too. Each leg is telescopic and features 2 flip locks for the quick realignment. The soft foam grips on them also come in handy when you need to carry your tripod from one place to another. Since it's made of aluminium, it's a great choice if you love winter photography, as you can safely grab it with a bare hand.
Don't Lose Your Right Head
Concluding, at 2 kg, the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT might lose the weight contest to some of its carbon fibre competitors. And yet, it's one of the lightest models made of aluminium with such flexible functionality. Although it comes without a head, you might not even need it in most cases due to the unique multi-angle column system. Therefore, we readily recommend this heavy-duty camera tripod to any photo enthusiasts - beginners and pros alike.
Turn the World Around You
The included ball head comes with the Arca-Swiss style quick-release plate, compatible with most of the video and photo cameras. What's more, the head has a 360° scale that may come in handy when taking panoramic or cityscape shots. If you are a big nature fan or just love experimenting, you might also like that the centre column can be set upside down on the tripod legs for the low angle, close-to-the-ground shots.
The key feature, though, is that the centre column can be detached from the legs and then used as a 4-section monopod with the operational height from 42 cm to 183 cm. This function allows you to take skilful panning photos of quickly moving objects.
The only notable downside is that the legs end with the pointy non-slide rubber feet only and have no retractable spikes. Therefore, they might become weary over time if you use it on the rough ground. In other regards, the firm and reliable design, multi-degree angular and height adjustments make this tripod an ultimate choice for professional and semi-professional in-studio and outdoor use.
AmazonBasics Adjustable Pistol Grip Head Tripod
Each leg and the centre column are made of a durable aluminium alloy. Every leg has a telescopic, 3-section construction design with 2 flip locks and also features a leg release lock for the quick height and leg angle adjustment. The tripod can be extended from 81 cm to 177 cm, that makes it one of the tallest models in its price range. Also, the tripod can safely support up to 5 kg load.
The tripod is geared with a pistol grip ball head, that is considered one of the most easy-to-use head types for portrait photography as you can simply pull the trigger and instantaneously adjust the head tilt position, and then release the trigger to keep the camera in a specific position. The head also features a couple of bubble levels for precise horizontal and vertical orientation. And with its quick-release plate, it's possible to take the camera off the tripod without a fuzz for taking handheld shots or camera switch.
What's more, the tripod is safe to use both indoors and outdoors. The rubber feet can be screwed further up to expose the metal spikes that will provide additional stability on the soft ground like sand or soil.
View From Different Angles
The pan-tilt heads are used mostly in TV filming industry where its axis-lock mechanism and 2 handles can provide 3-way smooth panning movement. In photography, such heads are used for shooting panoramas and for taking portraits as they allow photographers to swiftly change the camera position at 90° from landscape to portrait orientation. What's more, you can set the centre column upside down for a low camera angle in this model as well.
This tripod can be extended from 44.5 cm to 165 cm and can hold up to 3 kg load. This is enough for most of the compact video cameras and many DSLR cameras with the standard lenses. Therefore, we can recommend this Manfrotto Compact Tripod to any photo enthusiast or video camera owner who requires an inexpensive yet durable tripod for shooting videos or photos both indoors and outdoors.
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