Tripods are a tool that should be in every photographer and videographer’s arsenal. But what sort of tripod should I be looking at? Let’s explore the wonderful world of tripods as well as a few alternatives that might work even better.
What factors should I keep in mind?
When shopping for a tripod I might find myself overwhelmed by the sheer variety of options available. So when comparing brands what besides price should I be looking at?
One of the best considerations to consider is the weight capacity. How much can my prospective tripod hold? This is usually described on the box as the “maximum load capacity.” This becomes even more important if I decide I want a thinner tripod.
The size of the tripod, both collapsed and extended, is also important. How tall is it at maximum extension? And how short does it collapse? What about locking mechanisms? Usually, tripod legs are either twist to lock or use locking levers. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. For those unfamiliar with the two types, it’s a great idea to spend some time in a camera supply store testing different models.
Last comes choosing the material it’s made from. Do I want a plastic one to save money at the cost of durability? An aluminum tripod which is fairly inexpensive and durable but can be a little heavy? Or maybe carbon fiber which is both durable and lightweight but the most expensive?
Tripod or monopod?
Monopods are quite useful and often overlooked by people looking for image and video stabilization. Monopods are usually used by sports photographers to provide just enough stabilization. Given the fast shutter speeds, sports photographers use not much stabilization is needed to prevent image blur.
Monopods are cheaper than tripods since I’m only getting a single leg instead of three. And they can be extended and collapsed much more quickly than a tripod. But for a video recorder, they are a poor choice. A monopod is still better than shooting handheld but there will be a noticeable swaying in the video over time.
Popular alternatives to tripods
Image stabilization systems are almost standard now in today’s interchangeable lens cameras. They are built into either the lens or the camera itself and come in two flavors. Digital image stabilization uses software to help correct issues in the final image caused by unstable hands.
The second type uses hardware elements which cost more but are usually more effective. Usually, they have labels like IS (image stabilization) or O.I.S (optical image stabilization). But be sure to do your research because not all image stabilization systems work with video recording.
Suction cup mounts
Suction cup mounts are a quick and flexible way to get image stabilization that is sometimes even faster than using a monopod. These are usually made out of plastic and are flexible stalks that have a mount for a camera on one end and a suction cup on another. The stalk lets you position the camera any way I like and then ideally holds in place.
The major benefit of using a suction cup mount is that you can get your camera into an awkward angle easily in a fraction of the time it takes to adjust tripod legs. But suction cup mounts tend to sag after a brief period. The less expensive they are the less resilient the stalk tends to be. Also if your camera is on the heavy side it will also cause the stalk to sag towards the ground. For video recording, this is a pretty big negative. So proceed with caution when using these tool and be sure to test it before buying.
While there are a variety of different choices tripods remain the gold standard for image stabilization in videography and photography. Choosing the best match can be a bit challenging. So considering the above factors while spending time in the store experimenting will lead to the best results. Happy shooting!