TEXT BY CHRISTOPHER ABBISS
Company Photographer and Technical Representative,
Bogen Photo Corp. Images courtesy of Gitzo and Manfrotto.
A wildlife photographer may not need the same features as a wedding or commercial photographer. Some issues to address: Will it comfortably support your new equipment? Will its role be primarily in-studio, on location, or both? If on location, is it light enough to carry? How tall should it be? How small can it become?
CARBON - FIBER TRIPODS
The last few years have seen the emergence of the carbon-fiber tripod. These tripods absorb vibration better than metal, and are up to 30 percent lighter than equivalent aluminum tripods, while retaining strength and rigidity. When combined with high pressure, temperature, and an epoxy resin, carbon fibers form to produce stiff, light tubes that become resistant to bending, while offering impressive tensile and compression strength.
This weight-saving concept has proved ideal, not only for nature photographers, but also for commercial and video applications. It has also led to carbon-fiber monopods and fishpoles for sound and audio professionals.
Other features available on these tripods, as well as regular aluminum series tripods, permit the photographer to convert to a rapid, geared, or even a video tripod, accepting heads with 75mm or 100mm bowls.
Carbon fiber has paved the way for the entry of magnesium heads into the marketplace. These heads offer a weight savings of 20 percent. For a studio-based shooter heavily involved with location photography, this combination offers endless possibilities.
Another carbon-fiber tripod permits the photographer to make it a convertible tripod, where the center column doubles as a lateral arm. A tripod head mounting plate unscrews from the bottom of the center column to replace the standard column for ground-level shots, without compromising rigidity.
STABILITY & PRECISION - BUILT
Despite the popularity of the newer carbon-fiber tripods, regular aluminum series tripods, or black anodized versions, still lead the way. Tripods today are engineered to optimize the critical balance between weight, maximum height, loading capacity, and sturdiness coupled with vibration resistance.
One manufacturer offers studio-based photographers a tripod capable of providing a stable platform for cameras up to 44 pounds, along with a maximum height of 8.75 feet and a minimum of 17 inches. Better designs and materials ensure resistance to wear despite heavy use.
In addition, wide choices of heads make it easy for photographers to match the need from lightweight camera operation to large format. Precision-built heads for photographic and video production are also designed for strength and stability, while providing effortless movement in all directions.
So, after studying different manufacturers' brands, comparing features, and the quality of materials used in construction, ask yourself these questions about the tripod's appearance: Does it look professional? When coupled with your camera setup, in-studio or on location, will it reflect the image you wish to project to your clients? If so, you've found your tripod.