For those of you new to photography, first off congratulations. Photography is a fantastic way of capturing an image, a moment in time that portrays a story that can be interpreted by people in so many different ways. Of course you yourself will have your own interpretation but that is one of the beauties of photography.
As photography has developed we have moved away from strict film photography and now typically use digital cameras. Although some people still develop and utilize film as more of a fine art, digital cameras now enable you to see pictures that you take instantaneously, with the opportunity to delete them on the spot if you wish. It also allows you to take hundreds of photos with a small memory card and gives you a greater range of features to work with at the scene.
When looking at digital cameras there are really two options to choose from:
Point and shoot cameras
DSLR Cameras (Digital Single Lens Reflex)
Point and Shoot
Point and Shoot cameras are great for beginners as well as for those that are interested in taking photography further. In fact, professionals have sometimes used this type of camera to develop great shots because they are simply so much more portable.
They will be able to take 90% of the type of photos you are interested in and have a non-removable lens as well as a built in flash.
Digital Single Lens Reflex Cameras (DSLR)
If you are very serious about getting into photography this is the type of camera for you. This type of camera has many different features that you can change in order to affect shutter speed, the amount of light you let into the camera, etc.
One of the large benefits to DSLR cameras is its ability to add accessories and lenses. You are able to add lenses that allow you to have better wide angles or focus from a greater distance. You even can fix your camera up to a microscope.
These cameras give you the ability to take a greater variety of footage and help you achieve that extra ten percent of particular shots that Point and Shoot cameras will not be able to take. They are great for landscape, wilderness and sports photography.
For those of you that already have a Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) Camera, you have already made the jump to take photography as a serious hobby or profession. If you have ever read a basic book on photography, you may have heard the technique of tucking in your elbows and holding your breath right before taking a shot. This is to keep the camera from shaking as little as possible.
In many cases this is sufficient enough for you to take breathtaking images. However in some cases you will want a DSLR stabilizer or tripod in order to set your camera to better ensure that there is no camera shake. In the following article we are going to provide you the top five DSLR tripods under an affordable budget, under $200.
Two Tripods Under $100
If you are on a serious budget and are also looking at a tripod that is portable to Joby GorillaPod is a great choice. This tripod will be the cheapest product on our list. Although we do say “cheap” it is not to say that this product lacks in quality.
This product weighs 6.6lbs and has over 24 leg joints that allow you to adapt the tripod to different surfaces. The legs are flexible which is unlike the standard tripod that you may be used to seeing.
The portable design makes it very easy to transport and move around respectively. Perfect for transporting in a backpack. It should be used for smaller DSLR cameras that are not too bulky or heavy.
Is very light and easy to transport.
Will fit in a regular sized backpack
Flexible legs that can be adjusted to various angles
Will only hold cameras up to 6.6lbs
Slik Pro 700DX
The Slik Pro 700DX is a budget tripod that still remains at a professional grade. The maximum height of the Slik Pro is just over 70 inches. On top of this the tripod is graded to hold up to 22lbs or an 800 mm lens.
The product is also very maneuverable. Despite it being a very durable and sturdy tripod the Slik Pro uses a lightweight metal made from titanium, magnesium and aluminum. On top of this the leg lengths can be changed separately in order to photograph different angles. Also the center of the tripod can be separated for those of you looking to take special low angle shots.
The quality of this tripod is by no means reflected in the price, being just below 100 dollars. It is a great product if you are new to the industry and want a quality product you can depend on, as well as if you are a professional photographer or videographer.
Can hold up to a 800 mm lens
If you are less than 6 feet the extendibility may seem unnecessary
For those of you with a little bit more money and trying to stay right under $150 check out this option.
Our pick for a tripod under $150
Manfrotto Befree Compact Aluminum Tripod
You may have already heard of this brand before. Manfrotto is well known for developing sturdy and high quality equipment.
This specific tripod is exactly what it says it is, compact. The tripod is perfect for those of you that enjoy the outdoors and may be going on extended outings where you have to hold your equipment all in one small bag. Despite its small and compact size the Manfrotto Befree is still able to hold a majority of DSLR cameras.
Being that the tripod is designed for the outdoors the legs are very sturdy in order to make sure you do not get any camera shake. One of the let downs of this product is the maximum height is 57 inches. Therefore anyone with an average height will have to kneel down to take photos. Not a big deal if you are doing outdoor adventure photography but taking portraits on a daily basis may be straining.
Weighs just over 3lbs
Has a maximum height of 57 inches, not ideal for everyday portrait use
For those of you that have a little bit more to spend and really are looking for a professional tripod that you will use for an extended period of time, take a look at these options.
There are not any specific cons for these tripods. They are both great options. The question you should ask yourself when purchasing these type of professional tripods under $200 is what are your necessities.
Two tripods under $200
Ravelli is a well-known brand for its high quality at an affordable price. One of the major appeals to this specific tripod is its ability to hold up to 27lbs. It is a heavy duty tripod which has three-way interlocking tripod legs.
Despite its ability to hold excessive weight the Ravelli is still easy to use and easily adjustable.
The tripod has a dual adjustment panhandle, which enables you to spin the camera 360 degrees as well as tilt at a 180 degree angle. This is perfect for developing videos as well as taking photography of moving objects.
Dual adjustment panhandle
Holds up to 27lbs
Davis and Sanford PROVISTA 18
Outside of being restricted to holding just DSLR cameras the Davis and Sanford can support various camcorders and compact cameras as well.
This tripod is specifically designed for heavy-duty tasks where the user will be doing a lot of work outside. Quick release plates enable the user to easily dismount equipment while its self-locking no-drift features make sure film and photos stay as smooth as possible while shooting.
The maximum height of this tripod is 78 inches while the minimum is 31. This gives you a wide range of shooting ability.
Self-locking no drift features
Maximum height 78 inches with a minimum of 31
One of the great things about a tripod is that it is not something that goes out of style and does not deteriorate rapidly from use. Typically when you get a tripod it will last you for years. Therefore do your research and select a product that will work for you not just for the short term but something that will last for years to come.
Above we have provided some examples of great tripods to choose from. None of them would be a poor choice. However lets take a look at what you should be looking for when purchasing a tripod. This will help you differentiate between different brands and models in order to select what is the right specific tripod for you.
What to look for in a tripod
One of the first things that you should look for when purchasing a tripod is the maximum and minimum height that it can reach. This enables the user to have a more free range of motion to take shots at different heights. Also, while stating the obvious. If you are six foot in height it can be uncomfortable for you to use a tripod that only reaches a height of 5’ 9”.
Often times when looking at the specs on a product they will list the “maximum height”. Make sure to see whether or not this is including the center piece fully extended. It is good to know the height without the center piece extended because this enables more stable shooting. When the center piece is fully extended often the tripod is less stable and more likely to shake.
The actual size of the tripod is very important and you may want a bigger or smaller size depending on your needs. When we talk about overall size we are specifying when it is packed up and stored away. If your photography means you will be traveling often with the tripod you may want something that you can pack up and fit in a backpack. While as if your tripod for the most part will stay in one spot it does not matter how neat and tidy it folds up, as long as it is stable.
Keep in mind you can get small tripods that can extend and develop into quite a large size. This will take some set up time.
One of the most important aspects about your tripod is how much weight it can hold. If your tripod holds 4lbs but your DSLR Cannon with multiple flashes attached weighs 7lbs, well your tripod simply won’t work.
Fortunately the majority of DSLR cameras do not weigh that much which gives you a variety of tripods to choose from. This comes most into consideration when you are starting to use heavier equipment. Regardless keep the weight capacity of a tripod in mind when purchasing. You never know when you will upgrade camera equipment or start to add on accessories. You want a tripod that can last.
Nuts and Bolts
Everything we discussed above is very basic for the untrained eye to see. What you will find when using different tripods is that it is the little things that give you preference over certain models.
You can often find discounts that enable you to have package deals when purchasing a tripod. This means on top of the tripod it will come with a nice carrying case as well as some tools to help you with making adjustments.
Outside of the literal additional items you can receive, some tripods have little extras such as hooks on the center column in order to hold additional equipment. Also the legs may be encased with user friendly foam padding at the top to make for better comfort.
Tripod legs and feet
When looking at the base of your tripod, its legs you typically have two different forms to choose from, tubular and non-tubular. When it comes to tubular legs often they will extend from within and you can twist-lock them in order to keep them secure.
With non-tubular options the legs will fold out and lock once they are straightened. When looking at a tripod you will almost immediately be able to see how much it can stand up from it legs. Keep in mind the higher you stand the tripod the less stable it becomes.
Also when it comes to feet you can sometimes replace them for different conditions. The majority of tripods will come with standard rubber or plastic feet which are sufficient for the majority of photography situations. However if you plan on working for National Geographic and find your self taking shots in wild landscapes with ice and rain you can find screw in feet with spikes to adhere to these conditions.
This is the most import part of the tripod. This is the part that actual holds onto your camera equipment and gives it the ability to move. Depending on the tripod you are purchasing some tripods come without the head, meaning you must make the purchase separately. Make sure that the weight capacity of the head as well as legs are the same so they can support the same amount of weight.
With tripod heads you typically have three different options:
Pan-Tilt Head – This is the most common type of head and has the ability to have horizontal and vertical movement with the use of one single handle.
Ball-Head – The ball head has a control to loosen or tighten the grip on the camera. It enables more smooth control.
Gimbal Head – This head is used for action photography as well as for supporting larger lenses. They can be maneuvered in any direction and at the same time are perfectly balanced. In addition you do not need to tighten or loosen anything to move the head.
Quick Release Plates
So now you have everything you need, you have a tripod which supports the weight of your camera as well as a beautiful head to take shots at any angle. The only thing you now need is something to actually attach all the equipment together.
Quick release plates come with plastic options as well as more durable aluminum equipment. When looking at plastic quick release systems you may have to line your camera up at a specific angle to take it on and off. With aluminum systems often times you can attach and detach the camera from any angle.
Now I have a ton of information now what?
One of the best ways to start understanding what all of these different features mean is to actually get your hands on different equipment. Most stores will let you try different equipment which is something you should do before making an online purchase. Getting a tripod is like a new pair of shoes if you purchase them without trying them on and they don’t fit, you will immediately want a new one.