Been racking my brain since the first of the year about what to blog about. So I figure I will ramble on about feeling like I’m purchasing or need to purchase something every month to make my photography life easier and the insights or not of purchasing those small things that make a difference…or lack thereof.
So, last year, I had a terrific bubble level for the camera that I had purchased. And, of course, I lost it during one of my shoots. I purchased another one at a local camera store, which I’m not too thrilled with. It’s not as precise as the other one but it was all I have until I figured out what other brand to purchase. Last month, bought three online thinking they would be better. It was hard to imagine that they could level even worse. Every one of them. Apparently, not every level levels the same. Who would have thunk? I assumed with quality control and these bubble levels needed to be precise, that each one would level exactly the same. I really need to stop assuming things! I, unfortunately, am still on the hunt for a good bubble level. How does the building industry do it? Strapping one of those levels to my camera may be a bit much.
I just purchased some transparent door stops and waiting for them to come in for pick up. It was something simple and useful to get for my gear, but I had waited. Lately, I’ve been finding doors that just won’t stay open so I thought, “Hmm, I wonder if they sell transparent ones?”. Lo and behold, they do.
Besides getting some more lenses (which isn’t happening yet), I think I need to replace a tripod I just bought in August but didn’t start using on a daily basis until October. So, math time… that’s 3 months of continual use and abuse. That is really sad. When I bought the tripod, I knew it wasn’t what I really wanted but it was what the job (at the time) had called for. Not exactly buyer’s remorse since I knew what I was getting, but I thought it would have held up a bit better.
So, what am I looking for in a tripod? Well, the tripod is made up of the head, which is the top part where you secure your camera to, and the legs. For architectural photography, I need a three-way head, where I can straighten the angle on three axes. A quick release plate is always a good idea. I think I prefer the Arca Swiss type head though. This involves sliding the quick release plate into the head and clamping it down by turning a knob versus snapping the camera down in place with a click. Though the second may be more efficient, I’m always afraid that I’ll accidentally hit the lever that releases the plate and my camera will fall off.
Although it would be convenient to remove the handles on the head if placing it in a stand/tripod bag, I would rather that they not be removable. I’ve already thought I’d lost one handle because it was loose and slipped off (thankfully into the rain cover I had over my bag). Shooting interiors with one handle is not recommended. Besides these considerations, I also have to think about how much weight will be on the tripod and will have to choose my head accordingly. When I first bought the current tripod, I was only expecting to have my camera body and a 14mm lens on it. But I’ve occasionally had to put a 24-70mm on it. When the camera is shooting vertical, all you will see is a drooping camera because the weight is too heavy.
As for the legs, I prefer to have a tripod that is taller than my height. Of course, this get a little more costly, the higher you go. There were three different ways to extend the legs: twist and lock, the flip lock, and the knob.
When I was looking into tripods last year, I couldn’t really find any new tripods that had the knob. Someone had told me to get the flip lock, which I knew I wasn’t going to like tremendously. And that’s true, I’ve had to had one particular flip lock constantly tightened. Otherwise, you have one sagging tripod leg as you’re trying to take multiple exposures. Quite annoying. When I was at Hallmark Institute of Photography, we had tripods that used the twist and lock. I like these a lot better, though sometimes I couldn’t untighten the lock or I would turn the lock the wrong way so that I would be trying to tighten one section of the leg for five minutes. There’s currently a new tripod out where you don’t have to deal with all the knobs, flops, and twists. You just extend the legs out and it locks itself. It sounds really good in theory. I don’t worry too much about having spikes on the ends of the tripod legs since I’m not shooting on any steep, soft incline. I do have to consider whether having the legs fold up in three or four sections is better. Four is more compact, could get the tripod taller, but more unstable because the diameter of the leg sections is smaller than that of the three sectioned legs. For me, I would want to have a center column. Though it’s less stable to have it up, shooting exteriors when I can’t get far enough away from the building to include all of it, even with the legs fully extended, it helps extend the camera up a little bit to where I still can get the top of the building without having to tilt the camera up. If I was doing macro photography on the ground, a center column hinders more since I won’t be able to get closer to the ground. Another consideration I didn’t think I’d have problems with, but I’m now conscious of, is the hinges I pull out to further extend the legs than normal. I don’t necessarily use this for my architectural shots, but having those hinges pull out more readily when I don’t intend them to is a bit frustrating when I’m trying to set up the tripod.
And one last consideration, (“Geez! Isn’t that enough?! What else could there be???”, you ask.) is what the tripod is made out of. Currently, mine is made out of aluminum. Not exactly ideal. It’s light but not as durable. But running around the city with it on my back, it’s quite heavy enough, though not for the right purpose. There’s steel, but that’s heavy. Then there’s carbon fiber, which is the best of both, light but sturdy…and pricey. I have a wooden tripod, but that’s for use with my medium format camera.
I hope this had led to some insights! Thanks for reading!