Tripod Choices

At some point you're going to find that you need a tripod. They are absolutely indispensable in low light-long exposure situations, and make the multiple exposures used for HDR much easier. No matter how still you think you can hold a camera by hand, there will be camera shake variations if you are human. There are a lot of different tripods on the market, but which should you choose? After all, the good ones are quite an investment, but the better made they are, the better they will last and the more stable they are. Personally I chose the Manfrotto 190XPROB. It's not the lightest tripod, but it has several features I really like. If you're looking for something light to go hiking with, a carbon fiber model would be what you're looking for. It will cost you more than twice as much, although the extra cost will be worth it on a long hike. First of all, the 190XPROB has legs that are totally independent from one another, with no stabilizing bar halfway down hooking them together. I knew that I would be using it outdoors for the most part, where the ground is not level. I can fold any one of the legs out so it's at a 90 degree angle from the head so I can find a stable position for my camera in even the roughest terrain. If you're only ever going to use your tripod on a stable surface indoors one of the models with a stabilizer in the middle may work for you, but if you're heading outside you'll probably be happiest with independent legs. There is a center bar that raises for a little more height, or that slips sideways without disassembly for vertical shots. It also has a hook underneath the center so that you can hang a weight from it to stabilize your camera in case of wind, which can get pretty gusty whether you're on a mountainside or at the beach. This particular tripod also has a leveling bubble, so I can get an idea if the support for my camera is level. Don't underestimate this, as it really stinks to get home and find that the horizon line in all your pictures is at an odd angle that you didn't intend, or the perspective is skewed from your camera pointing slightly up or down unintentionally. A couple of the legs also are slightly padded so that when you're carrying it from one spot to another it's a little gentler on your shoulder, as well as giving you a little more grip in bad weather. The 'head' is sold separately, and can vary widely in price. Some are easier to get your camera on and off of, which is a consideration if you're dealing with arthritis or some sort of disability with your hands like carpal tunnel. Some only sit at one angle, which can really limit your flexibility in the field. I chose a ball head, which is adjustable to just about any angle you can think of. These can also have levels attached, or you can get a level that actually fits onto your camera's hotshoe. I recommend you go to the camera store and play with various models, and see what you like. Ask yourself what type of photography you like, and what styles you would like to explore. Once you get one, you'll wonder what took you so long!