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Tuesday, 17 March 2015


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Another opportunity to wheel out Arthur Kramer's adage that 'the sharpest lens in the world is a tripod.' The single most useful line I've found on the internet. It made a huge and improved difference to how I photographed.

My favourite moment using a tripod was at the top of a ski jump, within the Arctic Circle, in Norway. No one else would climb up with me, including my assistant. Had to lug the lot up myself. I got the shot, though.

I still use them. Not as much as I used to. Tripods are great for available light portraits regardless of whether you're using digital or film. Just my two cents.

Great photo, by the way.

I use a tripod when I absolutely have to. Otherwise, not.

I don't think anyone is interested in tripods anymore (or ball heads for that matter). I mean, hasn't IBIS and ISO 51,200 covered all the bases? ;-)

No centre column!? Where would I hang my other seldom used kit from?

I don't think Mrs Keane would appreciate having to go all the way up there to hang her coat, either!

I do product photography for my spouse's website, tripod constantly, Gitzo. Also during the macro phase. But that filthy film stuff, never! 😀

When I use my tripod and manually focus the photos usually look like I upgraded my lens to something much more expensive. I don't use it enough but My wife gave me a much lighter one for my birthday so I hope to put it to work.

I too have a weakness for photographs of photographers, though I am usually the photographer photographer (that's a mouthful). I went on a "fall color" trip with some fellow Juneau photographers in 2013, a real blast, and I made sure to document my friends at work. They need captions, I noticed...

Tripod use – almost always. Even when I have to force it (that is, I even tend to use one when not strictly necessary, if I can manage.)

Of course I shoot architecture and installations for work but I even tend to use a tripod when shooting casually.

Yes, I'm older than the digital age and I'm sure that is an influencing factor. I like that it slows me down and (I think) makes my compositions more deliberate.

I've tested many and found but a few ball heads that I like but these days I'm always shooting with geared head. Again, it's the precision and deliberate camera positioning that I really like.

I do have to admit that when I am traveling light and trying to work quickly I have gotten shots that I like that I probably wouldn't have managed had I been tripod bound. I just prefer working tripod based.

Well, I may not be a twenty something, but 31 I feel is close enough. I used to use my tripod extensively, back in my film days. Since I went digital with an E-M5 a couple of years ago...not much.

Pretty much just family pictures and the occasional astro/night time landscape picture. Part of it is that I need a new, lighter and better tripod and ball head. The 055 I ended up getting is a tank compared to what I really need these days (it was sized for my OM-1 with a 400/5.6 or 70-210/2.8 on it).

Even if I get a newer and lighter one, I doubt I'll really use it all that much. The IBIS in these things as well as better and better high ISO ability can really solve a lot of tripod problems for me.

Still, I'd rather have a tripod than not have one, as there is the occasional photographic situation that just demands one.

Here's another tripod-

And a bicycle serving as a tripod-

I use 'em all the time. I used my Manfrotto Carbon BeFree tripod just last night with my Fuji X100T to take a photo of a Schiit headphone amplifier.

Tripods are made much easier to use with a good ball head (I use Markins) and Really Right Stuff (RRS) L-plates and quick release clamps; I have RRS plates for my Fuji X-Pro1 and X-T1, and will be getting one for my X100T very soon. Plates and clamps don't come any better that RRS!

My tripods go with me in the car everywhere...ya gotta do what ya gotta do to get the shot.

At 34 I'm not a 20-something, but, I am a digital native- I really never shot film aside from some disposable point & shoots in my teens and during college. I didn't start seriously shooting until around 2004, and that was with a Canon 10D.

I do use a tripod occasionally- probably half of the time when the situation allows one, I use one. I've got a fairly beefy CF Giottos (don't remember the model number) with one of the smaller RRS ballheads for my dSLR gear, and a small Induro C014 with a cheap Manfrotto 484 for my Sony mirrorless gear.

But, a large majority of my shooting these days is kid pics- chasing my toddler around the house- and using a tripod simply isn't feasible.

If I ever get a chance to get out and do "serious" photography, though- I relish the opportunity to use the tripod, setup a shot, shoot at low ISO, stop down as much as I want, etc.

Ah, tripods. Love 'em but hate carrying 'em. My first, bought on the recommendation of a dear friend who sadly passed away two years ago (Ron James), is a Bogen 3035. A heavy monster of a tripod but sooo adjustable and stable as hills. I used it extensively with my first 'real' camera, the Nikon EM. My second tripod is a Sunpak Ultra 757b. Sounds like a rocket. Pretty stable but a bit (a lot) lighter. Two years ago, I came to own a Feisel 3441. Love the light weight until it blew over one night when I let go of it briefly. With camera, it is just under 5 lbs. So I went back to the Sunpak, with camera just under 7 lbs. Better, but the night wind was still getting the best of me. 35 years later, I'm now back to the Bogen when shooting from the car. With camera it is the weight of a medium bowling ball, about 13 lbs. I love this tripod. Solid as a rock but oh so heavy.

Mike: I took the liberty of putting together a quick poll/survey via Google Docs. Readers can complete it by following this link...


I'll let it run for a few days, then let you know what the results are.

Tripod? That's some sort of third party add-on VR or IS module right? ;)
I'm 29, so not exactly "young twentysomething", but my first camera was a fujifilm digital compact (this dates me a little because it wasn't also a phone), and I frequently use a tripod.
I spent a large part of last month working on an archaeological site in northern British Columbia. My tripod made decent site photos possible. It's not the most 'modern' available, but my Ries H600 is reliable, sturdy, and portable (compared to the survey instrument tripod we were also packing, it's positively miniscule). It has the well built mechanical object qualities of a classic manual focus lens, so I actually enjoy using it. Plus I like to support local business, and Ries tripods are made in Bremerton, WA, a stone's throw from where I live in Victoria, BC.
I tend to avoid carrying extra weight if I can, but sometimes the freedom to have decent depth of field without pushing the ISO is worth it.

Mike wrote, "I wonder how many people use tripods now?"

I have a monopod, two tripods and a Joby Gorillapod -- usually rolling around in the back of my car. You never need one until you do. Kind of like a spare battery.

They're pretty important for video.

Because I use a wheelchair and have limited hand function I always use a small tripod on my lap. The 'chair provides a pretty stable base. As a bonus, my photo friend and I often take shots of each other shooting while we're out on our couple of times a month photo excursion: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tonywallace416/sets/72157633835817058/

I'm not a Dektol-breather!
I'm 51, but I started shooting less than 5 years ago. I don't know whether I should be considered young or old for photographic purposes. I do know I use a tripod whenever I photograph at night, or when light is too dim to hand-hold the camera. It's the only real way to ensure low light images are sharp enough. I do admit trying to use a tripod for street photography gets a bit messy at times - it reminds me of the Virgil character playing cello in a parade in Woody Allen's 'Take The Money And Run' -, but it's feasible. At least it's not impossible.
Sharpness can be affected either by motion blur or by the smearing of fine detail that noise and film grain induce. Both are compromises I'm not willing to accept. Add to it the virtual impossibility to focus when resourcing to a manual focus lens set at maximum aperture. Hence my loyalty to that antediluvian accessory they call 'tripod.' There isn't any other way to get the kind of image quality I want from my low light shots. I can see why some think of tripods as a thing of the past, but that's not entirely fair. Having 7-figure ISO sensitivities in a camera is no guarantee of image quality. Sharpness will always be compromised in a way that could be prevented by resourcing to a tripod.
One of the reasons I have a tripod is that I found an absolute bargain three years ago: a carbon fibre model from a chinese brand named Triopo, which makes what seem to be OEM versions of Gitzo's tripods. The tripod, together with an Arca Swiss-like ballhead, cost me less than USD $300. New. I'd have been crazy not to buy it. It works perfectly well, it's light and stable and makes for razor-sharp images. The price-quality ratio is unbeatable, and it's good enough to use even with the heaviest of cameras south of large format ones.

I love my tripod, and I miss using it when I'm not working on a project that requires it.

When it's time to take it out of the closet and start carrying it to a location again, I get such a warm feeling: it means I'm going to be working in a very deliberate and contemplative way. I'll take my time setting everything up: leveling, thinking about the best height, stabilizing the setup, setting the focus and exposure manually, working with a remote shutter release. Oh, the detail you get when everything is locked down!

There have been times when I've shot in extremely dark environments, and bracketing meant that I sat in the near-dark holding a shutter release for fifteen or twenty minutes per image. That was how it worked when I shot the empty CBGB club in the month before it closed back in 2006. I visited over six days, and it became very meditative.

It's a completely different animal than shooting handheld.

I've recently started shooting a lot with a tripod, and it's made me take more photographic photos, if that makes any sense. That is, one can sense the deliberateness of the composition, without I hope the photo falling into boring equilibrium, and I really like the photos that've been coming out.

I'd been using a Gitzo 1227 Mk. 2 that I've had since 2000, so it's been one of my highest value photographic purchases as it's survived 3 camera system changes, and recently bit the bullet and got an RRS TVC-34 with their pano gimbal setup. I've done short hikes with either tripod, and the weight is actually not too bad. But I did have to change my physical fitness routine (basically lots of pushups), so I don't get a sore back from carrying all that stuff around.

I mainly use this with the D810, a 24 PCE (which is a completely underrated lens), and the 70-200/4, shot on ISO 64, manually exposed with a spotmeter, manually focused with liveview and Kinotehnik magnifier all day long. I have other cameras like the film stuff, GR, DP3, and the iPhone that are handheld and shot more spontaneously. One style of shooting definitely informs the other so I encourage everyone to try both.

"How would you classify yourself as a photographer?

Casual Shooter
Avid Amateur
Aspiring Pro
I'm A Professional"

you left out

"Self involved fine artist"

"I just like buying cameras" is that what "Prosumer" means?

"Recovering professional, I know better but fall off the wagon every so often - is there a 12 step program for this?"

"when I take my Leica out for a walk attractive members of the opposite sex want to talk to me, and its cheaper than moving to an apartment where I can have a dog"

Oh, and apparently "selfie-stick" is what the kids are calling monopods these days.

My two most used camera supports are franken-pod consisting of a Majestic geared head on on Tiltall legs with some Gitzo in between and a 18 foot high monopod (actually an painters extension pole with a ball head on one end).

I was out using the big monopod, which I use for shooting panoramas over fences and crowds, and some guy came up and said "Awesome selfi-stick"

I must admit that I have rediscovered the tripod of late due to a series of architectural photographs taken at night that I am doing of a couple of structures by Calatrava that I have nearby.

I used to use the tripod a lot, but I found the IBIS so good in my EM5 that I became a bit lazy and the tripod laid forgotten in the back of my car.

I must admit that with a tripod ones framing is much more precise and it helps a lot with the composition mainly because it slows you down.

Using a tripod can get you in trouble with the law in some places: http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/guardian-editor-alan-rusbridger-cautioned-by-policefor-using-tripod-on-hampstead-heath-10105696.html

My need for a tripod is directly proportional to the amount of coffee I consume. I like the second so I get a lot of use from the first.

When I started, tripods were a necessary evil to hold all that nice medium format gear loaded with slow film. When I went digital I stopped using them as much.

Short version of a long story is that my photos lacked something. They felt "off". I started using my tripods regularly again a couple of years ago and I've noticed a significant difference in my photos since then. A good difference.

My new tripod head is my favourite and best purchase for the year. It's an Arca Swiss D4. Only had to wait 6 months for it to arrive due to the apparent demand for $1200 tripod heads. It is absolutely wonderful. So much so I don't mind carrying the silly thing and I miss it when I don't use it.


My keen little Manfrotto broke and there were no parts for it even though bought new from B&H less than 5 years ago. I was upset to say the least. I ordered a Slik that was half price from B&H and and found it to be much nicer to actually use. I always take my tripod even if I don't know if I'll need it.

A quote, I don't know from where;
"The best lens is a tripod"

I use tripods for product photography when I need the shots in register or at least want very similar angles. I use tripods for long exposures when I can (and monopods or burst shooting when I can't).

But most of the time I find that tripods make shooting many different compositions much more difficult, and I find that playing with composition is how I get my best work.

I've seen a tripod get me much better results in some situations, and I've seen the lack of a tripod ruin some shots that I would otherwise really like. But I've seen my fifth, or tenth, or twentieth angle on a given scene be the right shot, too, and I tend not to get those shots when I'm bound to sticks. On balance, I use one when I feel I have to, but only when the benefits are obvious.

A tripod is a fine tool for some jobs, as is a hammer. But it's not a fine tool for every job ... nor is a hammer.

Amazon just delivered my new gimbal head. Guess I'm going to use a tripod a little longer.

I bought a Tiltall in the mid-seventies—didn't use it much then, and still don't use it much now. I put it in the car for a photo road trip in January, and it's still there.

Thank you for reminding me.
I'll put it back in the closet now.

If you do any sort of target shooting you find that all the expensive triggers, barrels, and other mods you can do to a gun are negated unless you are shooting from a solid rest. Same goes for photography, that ultra-$$$ Zeiss lens is meaningless until you lock it down onto a sturdy tripod.

An awful lot of my photos would be technically improved by being shot from a tripod. However, taking the time to do that would also keep me from getting my decisive moments, and by reducing the number of shots drastically would also probably reduce the amount of serendipity.

For some things, I would probably benefit from prospecting around freehand and then locking the camera down for the decisive shot; that's something I'm trying to remember to investigate when I'm out shooting landscape/cityscape stuff.

I'm even doing almost all my video free-hand these days (which isn't as crazy as it sounds with the extremely capable IBIS in the Oly OM-D EM-5). But still want a good video tripod and head -- there are things that just need the silky smoothness of motion.

I guess this comes timely enough... I found this just now!!

2 tripods for me. For architectural photography (paid) - 4x5 on ancient series 5 Gitzo that goes to 8' high (3-way pan/tilt head) and Pentax 67 on Benro series 3 tripod with geared head. For macro work Fuji X-E1 on the Benro. Everything else hand-held. It takes discipline to put the camera on a tripod and take the time to do that, but if you're serious, you simply do it right.

I believe Hugh Crawford got it about the necessary extra categories.

I would fall under his "when I take my Leica out for a walk attractive members of the opposite sex want to talk to me, and its cheaper than moving to an apartment where I can have a dog" category, except I would not take a Leica. I'd take something like an Olympus EP3, EP5 or whatever they are up to now. A Leica or a Fuji x100 series would only attract middle aged or older guys. I have tested this theory quite a bit. And no, for gawd's sake, don't even think about a Panasonic GX7. Nobody will talk to you then.

I use a tripod only when it is necessary, which for me was landscape, waterfowl, wildlife photography, or other times when I had long exposures or long lenses. Otherwise, if VR/IS works, that's enough.

I have observed a fellow with a medium format on a tripod in Shinjuku, Tokyo and folks ignored him unless they were curious and turned to look at the big camera. Generally, people will duck, run, or climb a wall to avoid being in a photograph in that sort of situation.

A friend of mine noticed the same thing when he had his tripod and NikonDf with a huge Sigma 35mm on it. Folks mostly ignored him. We have been thinking about doing a bit more "street" photography with a tripod. It'd work, perhaps, until everyone else started it.

One of the unsung benefits of digital is the ability to select a [useable] high ISO and avoid the inconvenience of a tripod.

I'm just hoping that in the not too distant future, digital cameras can shoot cleanly from ISO 100 to 51,000.

Meanwhile, I'll grudgingly use a tripod when the shot demands it! :-)

Tripods? Love 'em! For me, it changes taking a photo from a quick action/reaction to a thoughtful, deliberate process. My work is then strengthened through improved composition and by virtue of the lens being locked down.


...like I've said since day one: if your tripod is heavy, hard to carry, hard to move, then it's exactly the right one! I haven't taken a photo for money in over 30 years that wasn't on a tripod...I currently have 4!

I have and regularly use a number tripods like that. The two I use most are ale wooden ones just like he is using, 8' and 15' tall. My camera, a #10 Cirkut is a bit larger, and possibly older than his.

So that old junk is still in use. And crazy people are still doing dangerous stuff it.

I use a tripod for almost everything I shoot. Both in still photography and video. Yesterday I took three tripods to a shoot. One for stills of products, on for video with a fluid head and the third for video with a slider attached. All were necessary to get the quality I want. Also, in advertising a tripod serves as a frame-locker. You get exactly what you want in your frame and the tripod ensures you stick with those boundaries while working with a model, etc. Loosey-Goosey handholding will mess you up if you are required to have a certain frame and background in your images. Once that's set we're mostly shooting for expression. No tripod? Wouldn't consider that option.

I am Nancy (age 58), and I am a tripo-holic. I take that old saw seriously: best lens is a tripod.
3 regular tripods, a tabletop tripod, a monopod. If it is a "record" shot taken during a hike in less than interesting light, no tripod. That shot is to remind me to return the site when light is good. If lighting is worthwhile, out comes the tripod.
1. Aluminum Manfrotto 055 with Arca-adapted Manfrotto gear head 410. Astro near the car (easier to get the accurate declination and polar alignment), other near-the-car shots
2. Feisol largest carbon fiber systematic style tripod CT3472, head ArcaSwiss Z1 plus Custom Brackets Basic gimbal arm when needed. Long lenses or other need for super-stable tripod
3. Feisol compact systematic style CT3442, head Arca-Swiss p0. Travel and hiking, lenses under 200mm (preferably under 135mm) - no excuse not to carry it, it weighs only 3 pounds. Most frequently carried, most frequently used, fine for landscape, some macro, wide angle astro.
4. monopod - long lens (400 f/5.6). Often carried with a three legged folding stool, a good stakeout setup for birds

Not much else left to buy or rent (preferably rent), tripod/head-wise, unless someday I have a project requiring a super-tall tripod/mast with tie-downs (tiny version of cell tower!).

I use a copy stand at work to photograph pathology specimens, also have a point-and-shoot zoom attached to the drop-down ceiling frame above the dissection station.

Oddly, I never used a tripod in my Dektol huffing days in the 1970s. I have some non-IS prime lenses I like a lot.

I use a tripod when it is required. I have one in every vehicle I own, so one is always handy.

"that ultra-$$$ Zeiss lens is meaningless until you lock it down onto a sturdy tripod"

Never at truer word spoken.

Dear Folks,

First off, what Matthew C said.

And mostly, for me, it's absolutely not.

I do have two carbon-fiber tripods. One is a pretty heavy duty job I got back in "ought-two" for macro work in Hawaii with the Pentax 67. It's now overkill and so is dedicated to supporting our solar telescope ( http://tinyurl.com/yakj3ja ).

The other is a Promaster I bought from Mike ( http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2010/06/tripod-technology-part-ii.html ). I am not a fan of ball heads, never got comfortable with'em. So I bought the nearly lightest, tilt-and-pan, locking-plate headI could find from B&H-- Vanguard PH-12. It's not well-made, but it's tight, which is what counts. The combo weighs barely 3 lb. It's entirely stable with my u-4/3 rig, at least up to 200mm focal length (don't got nuttin' longer). It's not too big a burden carrying this around, even though I hardly ever use a tripod. But, still, a lot of the time I don't.

As I said, mostly I don't use a pod. I don't need it. I can hand-hold my Olympus EM5 with pixel-perfect sharpness at 1/f seconds at all focal lengths**. Even better than that as the focal length drops-- at the shortest end I'm up to 2.5/f seconds. I rarely have reason to stop down below f/4.5, never below f/8 unless the light's too bright. So long as I have enough DoF, my lenses look great at f/2.8-3.5. I try to stay at ISO 200, but ISO 400 is an almost negligible hit in terms of exposure range and noise.

That all means I typically can be working at f/4 at 1/30th sec at ISO 400, if need be, which gets me into pretty dim outdoor conditions. Plus, it's rare not to find a solid surface I can brace against, which gets me two more stops minimum.

So, yeah, not much use for a tripod in the daytime. I even programmed my EM5 so I can do hand-held HDR bracketing, explained here : http://tinyurl.com/kwwvu9a .

Still it's sloth that dominates. If I happen to have the camera on the tripod, I'll just leave it there and use it that way. If I don't, I tend not to put it on.

Clearly, I am dedicated to my craft [g].

(** yes, of course your mileage will differ. This is mine. Don't quote me some writer or another who claimed you can't make tack-sharp photos without a tripod at anything longer than a gazillionth of second... well, maybe they can't. I can.)

pax / Ctein
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com

I like how a tripod brings a slower pace and more contemplation. It's almost never necessary anymore to keep the camera still. If I unexpectedly have to keep a camera still, I always find some place to put it on.

Ctein - Thank you.

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