How many legs does it take to hold your camera steady? Two, Three, Five? All of the above, so to speak. If you said all of the above you’d be right. Most folks, myself included, normally use only our own two legs to help hold our cameras steady. The problem is, sometimes that is just not enough. No matter how big and strong someone maybe, holding a heavy camera steady is not easy. And the camera doesn’t have to be very “heavy” before the shake sets in. I’m talking about the shake that starts as unnoticeable by you and eventually turns into a full blown tired arm category two tremor. It’s this camera shake that contributes to that blur you see in your photos.
This not to say that all the blur we see in our photos are due to camera shake, but that it is a factor we can try to overcome when practical. Many photographers rely on three legs, those of the tripod. If the image subject is unmoving, such as a mountain, they will lock the camera in place and step back to take the photo with a remote control. This allows them to eliminate any chance of camera shake brought on by their touching the shutter button.
When I can, I use five legs. My own two combined with the tripod’s three. My camera is supported by the tripod but is not locked down tight. In this way I am free to moved my camera as needed to follow the action without having to support it’s weight. There is still room for some camera shake to occur this way but the amount is greatly reduced.
My love affair with tripods reaches back over two decades. For a while I went the yard sale route. I never met a tripod I didn’t want to buy. It got so bad that my family started to complain that my tripod collection was taking up more room than they were. Then I started looking at the tripods other folks were using. I took note of the brands and the sizes and even more importantly, of the heads. All of my tripods had the usual pan-tilt heads built in. I wanted one of those fancy ball heads. So one day while at a local auction I spotted a Gitzo tripod. Now Gitzo is one of those expensive tripod brands I had read about. But even more importantly, it had a ball head.
I used that tripod for a number of years. But the more I read, the more I realized that it was one of Gitzo’s lower tier of tripods. It was heavy and the head, although a ball head, was offset and hard for me to control. So I sold the Gitzo on Ebay to help pay for a lens I had wanted and went back to using my yard sale finds.
My desire for a “good” tripod never left me though. I was constantly looking at them. In person, online, in ads. I knew that somewhere out there was my perfect tripod. Although I might try and shoot on a shoestring I had concentrated my lust on the well known brands; Manfrotto, Velbon, Gitzo and their like. Then someone in an online photo forum I read asked about tripods on a budget. I avidly read all the responses. Then I researched the brands suggested. At last my lust for a high quality tripod was met by a lesser known brand which is fast becoming popular. I decided on an Induro. Now that I had my brand I still had more decisions. This tripod was going to be my new best friend for years. I had to choose right.
First was which material, carbon fiber or aluminum alloy. Carbon fiber is amazingly strong and lightweight. So lightweight that at times there is a danger of their blowing over. It is also almost twice as expensive as the alloy. So with budget in mind, the alloy won out. Next was size or more accurately weight holding capacity. I added up the weight of the heaviest camera and lens combination I might hope to own in the near future and then chose a size that would easily be able to support that amount with extra capacity to spare. After that I needed to make the choice between three leg sections or four. Three are more stable but a tripod with legs divided into four sections can be collapsed down small enough to fit in a airline sized carry on bag. since I don’t travel by plane with a tripod I opted for the three legged version.
So there I was with a budget tripod that easily fit my needs. I picked a ball head to go with it and was ready to go. Did I stop buying tripods at yard sales, no. The only way I have found to stop is to avoid yard sales. Maybe some where there is a Tripods Anonymous support group I can find. Many of my earlier tripods have been re-homed to friends who are looking for “any kind of tripod” just to get them started.