In The Desert
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Everybody is making tripods and trying to get into the action. However there are a few tripod manufacturers that concentrate on just tripods. This is not to say you may not have had a good experience with the others, it's just more likely you'll have more options, better quality, and better warranties. After all this is what they do. Who are they? Manfrotto, Slik, Velbon and Benro are probably the most recognized in this industry.
Tripods use a lot of different methods to adjust the legs. Here are just two examples:
If your shopping for a tripod or just want to look at what's available, then here is the complete listings for Tripods on Amazon. Some of these prices will surprise you.
As an example: Bushnell is noted for optics, binoculars, rifle scopes, etc. But they are one of the few companies that make a window mount tripod. By that I mean to mount on your vehicle's window. They work great and ours has held up just fine for over 20 years. They still make them.
Giottos also makes a nice window tripod. Use this when it's really cold or hot outside to stay in the conditioned comfort of your vehicle.
How many times have you needed a quick shot in low light with a long telephoto and knew that opening the car door would scare away the wildlife you wanted to photograph? This window mount will come in very handy and they are not expensive.
Here are a few other things you should know about tripods. What are they made of, and for what purpose? The most expensive is the Carbon Fiber and it's also the lightest. They were developed for campers, hikers, wildlife photographers, and for people that have to carry their gear for long distances and yet need a sturdy tripod. Magnesium and Titanium is also expensive but gives you a stronger and lighter tripod than aluminum. Aluminum is the most popular material for tripods and least expensive in some cases.
Some tripods, such as this medium priced Slik have a bubble level built into the tripod. Nice feature, especially if your going to photograph a panorama and you have to line up the photos to join them. These small bubble levels are surprisingly accurate!
Some medium priced Slik video tripods use these thumb locks for the leg extensions. They are full- proof and will probably outlive us. They are time consuming and sometimes a pain because of the time it takes to open them. Now there are faster and better alternatives you should look for.
This inexpensive Slik ($20.00 at the time of purchase) tripod has quick acting releases which makes it fast and easy to set up. They are noted for breakage and we've lost several tripods in the past because of this locking system. For some reason this one has lasted for over 10 years. This tripod is very light and easy to carry, but will not support a heavy camera with a big telephoto or be reliable in strong windy conditions.
Some of the really small tripods are pretty much worthless. Once in a while you'll find one like this one below. See the links at the bottom of the page.
Table top tripods can also be a plus when you need support close to the ground or don't have the room for a full sized tripod. There are many different makes and models available. Some like this old one are made of steel and will support a medium sized camera. Also helpful for macro photography. Quick and easy set-up is also a plus.
Monopods are another consideration. Some are even designed to be used as a walking stick as well as a camera support. See the links below for more info....
Table top tripods
You should find a tripod that suits your needs. Here are two that have worked well and lasted for a long period of time. Both are made by Slik....
This tripod has a fluid-like head which makes it ideal for panning during video work. All the tightening adjustments are smooth. Even the handle is adjustable for different positions and angles. The legs can be opened up so the head sits only inches off the ground. The center shaft is reversible so the camera can be mounted inside the tripod near the ground or the surface it's sitting on. This makes it ideal for product photography or video. This tripod is heavy, and built to last.
This tripod is great when you need a quick set-up and your using a medium weight camera in conditions without high winds. It's a very inexpensive tripod ($20.00) and works well in most situations. Other name brands have similar tripods. It is light and easy to carry, but lacks smooth panning and smooth up and down motions.
We've stayed with Slik over the years because of the excellent service we've gotten from them. I'm sure other brands are just as well made. You can find good quality inexpensive brand name models. See below for the Amazon Store button.
Home made tripods?
When you need a way to get close to venomous snakes to photograph them, this is one alternative we came up with. A flat bar of aluminum with a slight bend at the bottom and Velcro to hold the remote shutter release up near a convenient spot on the bar. This has worked very well for years and is a very specialized type of camera mount. It is shown here only as a reminder that you may be able to make that special mount you require in your own home or shop. See the snake section of the site for photos taken with this set-up.
Maybe this should have been labeled camera mounts? If you need a way to mount your camera in your vehicle, this could be one alternative. All camera tripod mount bolts or screws use a 1/4 - 20 thread. So use a 1/4 - 20 bolt the right length. Then mount the box on several layers of foam to cushion the camera. This works quite well.
What does this all mean? If you need a specialized mount think of a way to make your own. It's not only possible but may be the only way to get the job done.
Hopefully this will help with your first or next tripod purchase. Plan to spend some time looking as there are now hundreds of different tripods available.