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Thread: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

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    Senior Member apicius9's Avatar
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    Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    I don't want to steal Rafael's thread, so I am starting a new one. For some reason, it is much easier for me to spend money on a lens than on a tripod, and the prices for those seem way out of proportion to me. Now, of course I have read a lot about how important they are, but i hope that those with more experience can point out again what the main differences between the 'cheaper' and the better ones are. I have a small Slik tripod that so far has done everything I asked from it, what would a Manfrotto (or any of the other prime brands) do better? I guess I will rent one of them and find out, but pointers would be great. We also see a lot of pixel peeping on some forums when lenses, sensors and whatnot get compared, but I have not yet seen a comparison between shots taken with a cheapo tripod and a fancy one in the same situation. Would I see a difference?

    Stefan

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    Contributing Editor ustein's Avatar
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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    From my video book:

    Finding a good tripod for still photography is complicated. You need to consider many factors, including:

    - Weight
    - Size
    - Solid, sturdy (to stand up to twisting, the wind, vibrations)
    - Solid ball head
    - Can be used outdoors / weather resistant
    - Price

    Small and sturdy are at odds most of the time. It then of course depends on the camera you use. This note is meant to just get started.

    By the way: We shoot mostly handheld and adjust the shutter speed accordingly. But if we use a tripod it is very sturdy and light in relation to its size. This costs some change. The head is also as important as are the clamps and plates.
    Uwe Steinmueller
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    Editor&Owner of Digital Outback Photo
    http://www.outbackphoto.com

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    Subscriber Member TRSmith's Avatar
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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    Lloyd Chambers has an article (for a fee) about sharpness in which he discusses the various factors that influence sharpness with modern equipment. In that article he does a comparison of various tripods by the leading makers. Some of his findings are counter-intuitive in that occasionally a lighter model by the same maker will yield sharper results. I'm doing this from memory and don't want to completely screw up his conclusions. However, if you demand the ultimate in sharpness from your equipment, then careful research into every aspect of your gear will be important. Including which tripod to use.

    On the other hand, if you've been getting results from your Slik that satisfy you, then forget about it. Just know that there IS a difference. Whether you decide to pay to experience it or not is up to you.

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    Member sangio's Avatar
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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    Hi Stefan:

    The link below is to an old article on choosing a tripod by Thom Hogan. It makes for some interesting reading.

    http://www.bythom.com/support.htm

    regards
    Santo

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    Simple answer is you want a STURDY tripod that doesn't move or wiggle when locked down. Typically there are three main considerations with tripods: Most Sturdy/Rigid, Lightest Weight, Least Expensive --- and you can pick any two as your main priorities. So assuming you want sturdy, you will either get a heavy cheaper one, or a lighter more expensive one.

    ,
    Jack
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    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Contributing Editor ustein's Avatar
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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    It is important to understand that micro blur is often hard to detect and may show only as less resolution.

    This is not about fancy at all.


    By the way: Tripods for video follow slightly different criteria (here the head is the most expensive component).
    Uwe Steinmueller
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    Editor&Owner of Digital Outback Photo
    http://www.outbackphoto.com

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    Senior Member biglouis's Avatar
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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    Simple answer: you get what you pay for?

    I sprung for a tripod and ballhead from Manfrotto matched to the weight of my camera and it still represents one of the best value for money investments I've made. BTW, I also bought the carry 'bag' for the tripod which is very convenient for storage and protection. I maybe use the tripod about 10 times a year but each time I use it I know I am putting my camera on a reliable and sturdy platform - and that it is a long term investment, e.g. I won't be buying another one any time soon (ever again?).

    Incidentally, I liked the tripod so much I sprung for a Manfrotto monopod which has been very useful and given its size, often more convenient.

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    Senior Member kevinparis's Avatar
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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    no connection to the comapny... but i do own one of their tripods - seems to hit a good compromise between price and quality.


    http://www.vanguardworld.com/index.p...entry-1-4.html


    kevin

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    Senior Member apicius9's Avatar
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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    Very helpful comments so far, thanks! I have mostly used my Slik indoors and with the 2 sec timer, so I had the impression that this might be enough, but have to admit that it is a bit flimsy outside in the wind. On the other hand, would I carry a heavier tripod with me 'just in case'? The heaviest combination and longest lens I own is the GH1 with a Leica Telyt 250 + 2x converter. The few times I had that out on the beach or in the park I attributed blurry pics to slow or imprecise focusing with the long length, but it may well be that the light tripod contributed to that - catching surfers in action can be tricky....

    I was just remembering that I was going through a similar thought process with my hifi equipment where I then found out that a good rack and spikes DO make a noticeable difference in sound, big enough to justify the cost. I just feel like in the shampoo isle in the supermarket, there are 1700 different shampoos, and I just want something to wash my hair The endless possibilities of leg/head/plate combinations can be a bit overwhelming.

    Stefan

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    Senior Member bradhusick's Avatar
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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    Just remember that a great photo tripod and ball head DO NOT make for good videos. You need a special purpose fluid head and the appropriate tripod for video work. I just bought a Miller setup and I love it. I had never heard of Miller until I got into some video.

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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    A long time ago I was having issues with sharpness that I simply couldn't explain. I was shooting cars and often with the tripod quite high up and I would need to use a small step ladder. I had a large 075B Manfrotto which "looks" very solid but was in fact prone to vibration, even though each leg is stabilised against the centre column. I eventually decided to upgrade my (already substantial) tripod to the Gitzo G504 which extends much higher and is absolutely solid. It cost a fortune at the time, about $1300AUD with centre column and a ball head, but was worth every cent. This was over ten years ago and I have never looked back.

    Don't underestimate the importance of a tripod. We spend lots of money on lenses only to have our work un-done by a piece of **** holding the camera up (the tripod, not the photographer, although maybe some times the photographer too).

    JJ

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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    I jumped in the deep end and got myself a Gitzo 3541XLS and a kirk BH1 ballhead that happened to come with it. Absolutely love the tripod and weight as well as the solid head, everything just feels, well, solid. I used to always borrow my mates cheap silk tripod and that did the job also, this new tripod however just fills in the gaps, ie taller, lighter, sturdier, modular. Cost me an arm and a leg, but it is just a dream to use. It all comes down to your needs really. I needed a tripod that was tall, could switch between video fluid heads and stills ball heads, light, get low to the ground. This just happened to meet all my needs at the right time.
    Last edited by MRfanny; 13th October 2010 at 08:02.

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    Senior Member bradhusick's Avatar
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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    Quote Originally Posted by bradhusick View Post
    Just remember that a great photo tripod and ball head DO NOT make for good videos. You need a special purpose fluid head and the appropriate tripod for video work. I just bought a Miller setup and I love it. I had never heard of Miller until I got into some video.
    Here's the Miller I got and highly recommend for video work. It's about $2K:
    Last edited by bradhusick; 17th July 2014 at 09:27.

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    Senior Member bradhusick's Avatar
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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    For my ball head, I love the Novoflex MagicBall. It handles 22lbs and has a greater range of motion than nearly any other head. Silky smooth.
    Last edited by bradhusick; 17th July 2014 at 09:27.

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    Senior Member apicius9's Avatar
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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    I understand the 'you get what you pay for' philosophy, but I also believe there is a point where the 'return of investment' curve flattens out, and I guess that's the point I am looking for. For example, Brad's setup looks absolutely fabulous but it's way out of my price range and I am not experienced enough to even appreciate all it offers me.

    I also collect kitchen knives, and if I recommended you the fabulous Hattori KD chef's knife for around $2000 for occasional weekend cooking, I am sure most of you would hesitate to go out and buy one This knife will give you probably 50% better performance than a Hiromoto AS chef's knife - at 1,200% of the cost. I had a look at the Vanguard tripods and monopods that Kevin pointed out, they look like they offer a lot for a reasonable price point. I'm just wondering: If I spend 100% more, how much gain in performance does that get me? 10% - 20% - 30%?

    Stefan

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    Contributing Editor ustein's Avatar
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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    >If I spend 100% more,

    If you get sharp images all is fine. There is nothing like 80% more sharp. So the comparison to your knives may be off.
    Uwe Steinmueller
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    Editor&Owner of Digital Outback Photo
    http://www.outbackphoto.com

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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    I have quite a few tripods, very big/heavy, medium size/weight, very small/light, some custom made ones, such as ground level or car mounts for example, see below;



    There is no single tripod that will do everything perfectly. It does not exist so don't waste your time. In terms of return on investment, or bang for your buck, I think a simple Manfrotto 055 is a very good tripod that will do most things in most circumstances. There are many variations on the same basic design but I think this is the point where you are not spending too much money but getting an excellent tripod that will last a very long time. I have 2 of the 055's, but slightly different models. They are a very nice and rigid tripod and well designed and quik to use (speed is important to me). If you want to spend more then CF is an option but the standard aluminium tripods are excellent.

    JJ

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    Quote Originally Posted by apicius9 View Post
    if I recommended you the fabulous Hattori KD chef's knife for around $2000 for occasional weekend cooking, I am sure most of you would hesitate to go out and buy one This knife will give you probably 50% better performance than a Hiromoto AS chef's knife - at 1,200% of the cost.
    Sorry, but your argument is comparing kitchen knife sharpness with camera sharpness is not comparable. If a tripod wiggles just 1% during exposure, your image will be ZERO percent sharp. If a kitchen knife is 80% as as sharp as the next, it will still slice the tomato cleanly...
    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    About 10 years ago I started off down this road.
    I now have a novel approach . . . I don't use tripods at all.
    I brace against trees, lie on the ground, hold the camera against cars - whatever it takes, but I found that when I used a decent tripod, the images were possibly sharper - but definitely less interesting.

    I did carry one with me for the whole of the wedding last weekend, as it was rather dark . . . but I didn't use it.

    Of course, this is just me, and I'm in no way criticising those who use tripods (and if you're going to, it'd better be a good one). For me I can get better composition without the interference of a tripod, and that's always more important than the ultimate in sharpness.

    Just this guy you know

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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    Quote Originally Posted by apicius9 View Post
    ... I have not yet seen a comparison between shots taken with a cheapo tripod and a fancy one in the same situation. Would I see a difference?
    The question doesn't make sense, really, because if your camera is being held properly still you will not see a difference. A tripod that is sturdy and that has good controls, and that will last, and that is light makes a difference in whether you carry it and use it.

    A high quality, sturdy tripod will do more for your photography than any individual lens purchase. Whether you spend a lot of money, or a little, if the tripod is sturdy and the controls work precisely and smoothly, and you use it, your photographs will improve.

    Well designed heads and good sturdy legs that are also light and fold compactly are not cheap. Good news is that if you buy quality gear, it will last many many years giving excellent service, outlasting most cameras or lenses.

    If you buy poor quality tripods that don't work so well, or you don't use the tripod you purchased, then you get no value from your purchase no matter what you spend.

    Of course, if you are like Jono, save a lot of money and don't buy any tripod at all. :-)

    For me, a tripod is the second most important purchase right behind buying a camera and a good lens. I'd rather have one good lens and a good tripod than ten good lenses and a worthless or no tripod.

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    Senior Member apicius9's Avatar
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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flesher View Post
    ...If a kitchen knife is 80% as as sharp as the next, it will still slice the tomato cleanly...
    Tomatoes, yes, but don't say that to a sushi chef who insists that the cutting surface of the fish determines the taste and only the sharpest knives suffice But I see your point, my analogy was not a very good example.

    I guess this is something where experience is really important, so I will try using what I have for a while longer and then borrow or rent something on a higher quality level and see what difference it will make for the way take pictures.

    And just to make sure that this didn't come across the wrong way: I perfectly understand why people strive for the best possible outcome, and how important the (costly) details can be, so I am not criticizing anybody who goes that route. If I could afford it - or make it my highest priority - I would probably go there myself. It makes total sense that low weight AND stability will cost more

    Stefan

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    Contributing Editor ustein's Avatar
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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    Jono wrote:

    >I now have a novel approach . . . I don't use tripods at all.

    Jono, I am with you 98% of the time. But if I want to photograph something like this:



    or this:



    I need and want a sturdy tripod.
    Uwe Steinmueller
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    Editor&Owner of Digital Outback Photo
    http://www.outbackphoto.com

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    Senior Member biglouis's Avatar
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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    Uwe

    Completely off-topic but that interior of Alcatraz is excellent!

    LouisB

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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    Go for quality, but there's no need to splurge on carbon fiber. Buy used from people you trust or learn enough about to trust. Tripods, like audio speakers and some other items, if cared for, are just as good or even better used than new. Ask the seller for a 24-hour inspection period during which a full return/refund is possible. Good sellers will do that for you.

    P.S. I love sushi.

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    Contributing Editor ustein's Avatar
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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    Quote Originally Posted by biglouis View Post
    Uwe

    Completely off-topic but that interior of Alcatraz is excellent!

    LouisB
    Thanks.
    Uwe Steinmueller
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    Editor&Owner of Digital Outback Photo
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    Senior Member Lars's Avatar
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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    It's a matter of perspective. Seeing the camera as an expensive accessory to your tripod might perhaps help evolve the decision process a bit.
    Monochrome: http://mochro.com

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    Subscriber & Workshop Member GrahamWelland's Avatar
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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    I think there's also another perspective that will come in to play in a few more years of shooting - the OP will either go te way of Jono and enjoy the creative freedom of handheld shooting or will come to appreciate the wisdom explained here. i.e. if you're going to shoot with a tripod then you may as well buy the absolute best you can afford now rather than spending a lot more money over time as you accumulate a herd of tripods/heads until you finally relent and buy a real quality one anyway.

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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    I am with Uwe. While I like to shoot without a tripod, there are many cases where the tripod is absolutely necessary, including long exposures where one is trying to blur water or other movement. Simply cant do that hand held.

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    Re: Why do I need an expensive tripod?

    Sharpness is certainly not the only criterion by which a photo is judged. In many cases it's not even near the top of the list.

    But if it is important, you must use a tripod. I don't care how much practice you've had shooting hand-held, you can't control wind, breathing, muscle twitches, etc.

    I doubt that anyone would seriously question Ansel Adam's creativity based on the fact that he used a tripod.

    - Leigh
    Last edited by Leigh; 31st October 2010 at 16:55.

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