My Theory to Selecting the Best Tripod for Your Needs

Some say to buy the most expensive tripod you can afford. Yet others recommend keeping it as cheap as possible. The worst has to be those who say a tripod is completely unnecessary with today’s cameras.

I have my own theory, obviously.

Buy the largest, highest quality tripod you’re willing to carry that fits in your budget.

First, and most importantly, know what genres of photography you enjoy the most and if that genre requires a tripod. Then, buy the largest, highest quality tripod you’re willing to carry that fits in your budget. Specifically in that order; do not put budget ahead of any other aspect of the tripod. If you go too cheap, you may very well end up with a tripod that meets none of your needs when you’re forced to replace it due to instability or fragility. The adage, “buy cheap, buy twice (or more)” applies here.

If you’re into portrait, landscape, cityscape, night or long exposure photography, you’ll discover that the tripod is just as important as your camera body. To get results when using shutter speeds at a half second or longer, your tripod needs to be as solid as your average boulder or you’ll end up with more misses than hits. Even worse, your misses will look like hits on the LCD playback but revealed as misses when you see them on your monitor back home. Obviously it’s too late to retake the shot at that point.

Buy the largest, highest quality tripod you’re willing to carry that fits in your budget.

I won’t recommend a brand but I’ve used many and have had good experiences with Benro, MeFoto, Leofoto, Feisol, and Really Right Stuff. Currently, I use Gitzo across the board.

Once you’ve selected a few tripods that meet your needs for height, stability, size when folded, and build quality, fold it up, strap it to your bag and decide if it’s something you’re willing to carry for the longest of trips on foot. Remember, when it comes to height, ideally it should be near eye level without having to fully extend the center column.

If the one you choose has a price that’s above your budget, extend your budget either by waiting and saving up or pushing back something else in your wish list. Otherwise, shorting yourself here can cause problems later, especially if your substitute fails to meet all of your needs.

Buy the largest, highest quality tripod you’re willing to carry that fits in your budget.

Why do I have 4 tripods? As I said before, you want the largest, most stable tripod you’re willing to carry. For short hikes, I’ll carry my large Systematic. For longer hikes, I’ll carry the mid weight Mountaineer. Footing it around town, I choose between the Mountaineer and the compact Traveler depending on which camera bag I will use for the jaunt: the Mountaineer with a backpack or the Traveler with my sling or messenger bag. The Traveler also becomes an option for mountainous terrain, a true hike where weight is a high priority. And finally, the Mini Traveler when I plan to use a monopod if the location doesn’t allow tripods.

Again:

Buy the largest, highest quality tripod you’re willing to carry that fits in your budget.

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