One thing that sets professional photos and videos apart from amateurs is the steady, smooth shots that can only be captured with a tripod. Any time you watch a professional photographer take their time to get perfect shots, they use tripods. Tripods steady the camera and guarantee a level shot, making sure photos are crisp and clear, especially under conditions of low light or indoor lighting. And when it comes to video, if you've ever felt seasick watching a friends jerky, bouncing vacation movies, you know what a difference a tripod mounted camcorder can make. In this guide we will take a look at how tripods
work, when and how you should use them, and where to buy them and how much tripods cost.
How Tripods Work?
If you look at the bottom of your camera or video camera, you will see a little recessed silver whole with threaded screw marks inside. Take a peak - pretty much every camera has one, usually right in the middle but sometimes off center -- always on the bottom of the camera. What is that thing? If you've never used a tripod, then it is probably a mystery. But that whole is called a tripod mount hole, and tripods and their adapters come with a metal screw fixture that fits right into that hole, allowing you to tighten and firmly attach your camera to the tripod. So that's how you attach your camera to the tripod. But what are tripods for, and when do you use them? Tripods are meant to be used when you want a steady, crisp photo, or steady, clean video without all the jerky motions that occur when you try to hold the camera in your hands. As an example, if you are shooting macro photos (close-ups) or using a telephoto lens, you need a VERY steady camera since you are at such an extreme zoom level -- even the slightest movement can blur your photos. Tripods are perfect for telephoto and macro photography. With plenty of bright outdoor light, most handheld cameras can capture scenes pretty clearly without the use of a tripod. But indoors and under low-lighting conditions, and under ANY conditions for smooth video, tripod use is recommended. For example if you are shooting digital pictures of items for sale on Ebay, you'll get much clearer, crisper pictures if your camera is mounted on a tripod instead of held in your hands. Indoor photos especially have longer exposure times, and even over the course of just a fraction of a second, your hand can and will move a little, adding some blur to your photos. If you are taking outdoor sunset photos, a tripod helps guarantee you a nice level shot with no camera movement. Taking portraits with flash or special lighting is vastly improved by the use of a tripod. Now its true that traditional tripods are bulky and not always convenient to have around, and for casual fun photos, you can probably live without the stability of a tripod. But if you are looking to take your photos and video to a more professional level, or just want more professional looking results, invest in a tripod and use in when lighting conditions require it. Below, we list some mini tripods
that fold up an fit in a pocket -- come on, there is no excuse for not carrying one of these around if you are serious about your photos! You can browse the best selling camera tripods here
Tripods for Digital Cameras - Mini Tripods
With the advent of ever smaller digital cameras, there has arisen a cottage industry of mini tripods for digital cameras
, in a variety of styles. A simple one is the Pod Bean Bag Tripod, which comes in a few colors. It is 3.75" in diameter and it has a camera mount screw in the center. Other than that, it is a bean bag which can be placed on a lot of non-smooth surfaces to give you a steady base for your camera -- $14. Digio is one company that makes mini tripods that look like, well, mini tripods. They are pocket-size with 5 section extending legs, a pivoting and rotating swivel head with screw mount -- they cost $16. A funkier design is the Gorillapod Tripod by JOBY. It looks something like an alien spider creature, with 3 segmented, bendable legs than can be positioned to stand like a tripod, or even wrapped around a bar or railing to position the camera where you want it. Cost is $21. There is even a little bottle top tripod that fits any standard bottle, letting you snap quick indoor or outdoor shots at restaurants and parties - $11. You can find all these tripods at Semsons.com
. For an even bigger selection of popular minis, check out MiniTripods.com -- they carry models from Ambico, Assia, Giottos, Sima, Sunpak, Velbon, and Vanguard. For a real sturdy tripod, check out the Sunpak Mini Plus. At $21, you get a well-built, 3-section legged tripod than goes from 7-12 inches. A bubble level is include to insure level horizon shots on any surface. Over the years we've gone through 3-4 mini tripods of varying designs and prices, some cheap ones have broken, but our little Sunpak is still going strong -- recommended. For something with a longer reach, check out the Assia Midi Tripod which extends up to 31" on its slender metal legs. BEST
- Joby camera tripods
are considered some of the best in the industry. They are lightweight and most are flexible so you can the correct angle for the shot. The Gorillapod and Gorillamobile are 2 popular lines they offer.
Best SLR and Camcorder Tripods
Those mini tripods work pretty well for the tiny digital cameras around today, but if you have bulkier equipment like a larger camcorder or an SLR camera, chances are you will want a larger, sturdier tripod that can handle the load. Some of the big brand names in camera tripods include: Alpen Optics, Barska, Bogen, Brunton, Bushnell, Carson, Celestron, Kowa, LOMO, Meade, Nikon, Pentax, Radian, Swift, TeleVue, Velbon, Yukon, and Zhumell. A good site we found that carries a huge selection of tripods at good prices is OpticsPlanet.net. Now a lot of these are professional level tripods, with prices to match. Like the Bogen Manfrotto View Aluminium Kit 701RC2 190V
for $240 -- it comes with a 2-movement, fluid video head that can accomodate cameras or video cameras up to 9lbs, and reaches as high as 61" on its sturdy but light aluminum legs. For something simpler, check out the Celestron Photographic/Video Tripod 93606 for $40. It folds up to 27" and can extend up to 63", and comes with a 3-way panhead with quick release plate, making it easy to pop-off your camera, binocs, or video camera instantly. You'll find most good tripods come with one of these quick release plates. The plate has the tripod mount screw that attaches to your camera, so you can keep it always attached when you think you may want to use your tripod. Then, you can quickly slip the plate into your tripod without having to worry about screwing or unscrewing anything, since it can sometimes be a challenge to screw your camera onto the mount as some wildlife moves quickly across a meadow, or the sun dips just behind the clouds! Amazon.com also carries a decent selection of camera tripods, ranging from $6 for a mini spider tripod to $2000+ for fancy Sachtler System DV Aluminum Tripod Systems. View top rated professional tripods here