Gearing Up: Selecting the Proper Tripod

Different types of photography require different environments. For every kind of environment, there are tripods that work better than others. That’s why we asked Tim, our tripod expert, to give us some pointers about what different types of photographers and videographers should look for when selecting a tripod.

Wildlife photographers often encounter uneven terrain, a need to move, and a need to adjust the angle of the camera, all while keeping the camera stable enough to capture the image. They should look for tripods with adjustable legs, no center column (the absence of which will allow them to get their tripod as close to the ground as possible), portability, and tripod heads that isolate panning motions while ensuring that swing shots stay level.

The Gitzo Series 3 Carbon Fiber Systematic XL Tripod is a tall, flexible tripod whose center column is interchangeable and removable, allowing you to get very low to the ground, while also allowing you to adjust the leg height for particularly uneven terrain. It’s surprisingly lightweight and has a load capacity of 40lbs, meaning it can hold medium format or DSLRs with 500mm lenses, perfect for wildlife photographers. Pair it with a Wimberley WH-200, a specialized tripod head for telephoto lenses. Its gimbal-type design allows you to rotate your lens around its center of gravity and thus easily manipulate very large lenses, perfect for any wildlife photographer.

Gitzo Series 3 Tripod
Gitzo Series 3 Tripod

For the more intrepid backpacker, the Induro CT-313 or CT-314 might be up your alley. These carbon fiber tripods are a lighter, more portable tripod than the Induro 4 Series, while still being able to support the weight of a professional equipment setup. It doesn’t offer the flexibility of the Gitzo, but it won’t set you back as many dollars either. A good head for the Induro 3 Series would be the Induro GHB2.

Landscape photographers have somewhat similar needs to wildlife photographers in regards to the terrain. However, their treks can be longer, with the amount of time they spend looking for the perfect photo spot, yet they usually will not need as big of lenses as wildlife photographers, so their tripod’s maximum load can be a bit lighter. Being able to stitch together several images also means landscape photographers will want to use a ball head with isolated panning.

Tim suggests the Benro Travel Series or MeFoto line, depending on the weight of your camera and your gear. The MeFoto line can support up to 17.6 lbs of gear but only weighs 3.6 lbs on its own, making it the tripod equivalent of a powerful army ant. The Benro Travel series has a maximum load weight anywhere between 13.2 lbs and 26.4 lbs, depending on the model, and they come with a custom carry case and strap for portability, and a removable two section center column, giving you extra flexibility in how you frame your shot.

Benro Travel Series
Benro Travel Series

In terms of heads, Tim suggests the Benro B1 Ballhead, which features dual independent manual drag and locking controls, a Universal Arca-Swiss style Quick Release mounting plate system, and smooth panning control with positive locking knobs so you can hit that pan perfectly, all while supporting a max load of 26.4 lbs. For an Induro tripod, Tim recommends the Induro PHQ3, which offers a full five-way camera positioning system, meaning you can level your head and then pan with independently locking controls.

Benro B1 Ball Head
Benro B1 Ball Head

For the most part, studio shooters don’t need to consider portability as much as their wildlife and landscape counterparts. They are more concerned with adjustability and stability. The Manfrotto XPro B offers a horizontal center column that can swing out to make switching between framing and positioning setups incredibly convenient. Plus, the quick action leg locks make setting up and taking down your tripod easier than ever.

Manfrotto XPro B
Manfrotto XPro B

If you’re a photographer who travels quite a bit, Tim recommends the lightweight MeFoto line we mentioned earlier, or the Benro Travel Angel, a compact tripod that’s equipped with a center-column hook for adjustable weight balance and a precision-matched B ball head.

Videographers have different options. For DSLR videographers, Tim Recommends the Benro Series 2 CF Video Tripod Kits equipped with either the S4 or S6 heads. These tripod kits feature adjustable leg angles, quick-lock legs, leveling control with the center column, a pan drag/lock lever and a tilt drag/lock lever so that you can perfectly nail those camera movements, plus a heavy duty case and strap for the videographer on the go.

Tim also recommends the Manfrotto Video Tripod System with a 701HDV Head, MVT502AM Tripod, and Bag. The 701 head offers improved ergonomics with locks and knobs that allow for a more solid grip, and the internal fluid cartridges offer great fluidity of movement and control, while the twin-leg structure of the MVT502AM creates a stable, lightweight structure for a DSLR or small camcorder. However, if you’re using a more “big rig” setup, with a professional camcorder and all the weight that follows, consider the Manfrotto Pro Middle Twin Kit, which comes with a 509HD fluid head and a 545B twin aluminum legs, giving you the control you need in the movement and the stability you need for a heavy-duty rig.

Manfrotto 701HDV Head with MVT502A Tripod Kit
Manfrotto 701HDV Head with MVT502A Tripod Kit

Did we not touch on your specific needs? Feel free to call the store at 866-940-3686 and ask for Tim, or email Tim directly. He’ll be happy to help!

Midwest Photo

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