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Scene 1: Post in a group for Photography Enthusiasts: Planning to buy a tripod. Budget around Rs 15k. Please suggest .

The first comment was an exclamatory emoticon followed by a question mark after 15k

Other comments were on similar pattern showing surprise over spending 15k on a tripod when an entry level DSLR costs less than 25k with the kit lens.

Scene 2: Post in the same group: suggestions for a tripod below 3k.

This post had more than 20 comments suggesting the models of tripod and places to buy from.

Scene 3: During a Food Shoot in a 5 star hotel,the Executive Chef showed interest in taking photographs of his creations. He went inside his room and brought out his latest purchase. A DSLR camera with dual lens kit and a black nylon bag carrying a tripod. The multi brand electronics store gave the tripod for free as a part of promotion scheme going on at the store.

Scene 4: During a photography workshop on using available light conducted indoors,the participants were asked to carry tripods along with the camera. Out of 10 participants, 1 person had a tripod which costed him around 15 k and rest were using tripods of category of under 3k.

Scene 1 and 2 were just discussions on social media but scene 3 & 4 are real life experiences.

In the Scene 3, I requested the Chef to mount the camera on the tripod. It was a very basic flimsy,almost all plastic tripod and it shook when the camera was mounted. It could not even stay at the same place when the head was tilted at a certain angle. While tightening the screw for holding if steady at a particular angle,a crack sound was heard. The tripod story ended here and also dashed were hopes of the Chef of taking photographs of food recipes designed by him.

In scene 4 ,only the participant with 15k tripod managed to click the photographs properly at almost all the angles,in horizontal format as well as vertical format without any trouble. The participants with less than 3 k were struggling to keep the camera steady. The legs were not strong enough to hold the weight of the camera and the plastic head was too flimsy to control the camera.

Why do you want to put 3 legs under your camera?
When photography started in mid nineteenth century the cameras were bulky and heavy and it was not possible to hold them in hand and take photographs. It is only with the introduction of Kodak cameras,the size reduced and photographers started using the cameras hand held. The initial tripods were wooden and helped in long exposures due to low sensitivity (ISO 1-3) of the glass plates. The standard 1/4×20 mounting screw was introduced around 1880 which still continue.
The photography has evolved in the last 175 years. The cameras have become smaller, film has been replaced by digital sensor which has allowed using different ISO settings. Also the technology has helped in reducing the noise levels in the photographs clicked at higher ISO settings. And then there are cameras and lenses with the option of image stabilisation or vibration reduction.

So what is the need of using a tripod when a not-so-heavy camera can be used at higher ISO setting.
The tripod is considered to be the greatest photographic accessory ever invented, a professional photographer cannot even think of a career in photography without a tripod in the photography kit. But lately the new entrants or hobbyists or photo-enthusiasts are not taking this important accessory seriously. A camera mounted properly on a sturdy tripod helps in achieving the following:

Sharp photographs every time irrespective of shutter speed. The camera shake while clicking is avoided when the tripod is used. Though as a rule of thumb the safe shutter speed for hand held camera is equal to the focal length of the lens (35 mm equivalent focal length ) – 1/200 sec for 200 mm lens but with the increased resolution of cameras this safe shutter speed may not work at all times. So for longer lenses tripod is must – in fact most of the longer lenses come with their own tripod sockets. Also comparison tests have shown that images shot at faster shutter speeds with camera mounted on tripod are measurably sharper than shots taken hand held.

 More Depth of Field-more sharpness in the foreground and background. When using narrower aperture for enhancing DoF( f 11 to f 32) the shutter speed is low and in order to keep the camera steady during the time when shutter is open, a tripod is helpful.

Better image quality with lower ISO setting in any kind of light situation. With the increase in ISO the image quality is compromised with noise creeping in .

Precise framing. When it is very critical to keep the verticals and horizontals parallel to the frame specially in architecture/Interiors photography , a tripod is indispensable . The spirit level in the tripod helps in keeping the camera straight. Also while doing table top photography like product or food photography,the camera position with respect to subject does not change when it is mounted on a tripod. This becomes handy for the photographer to fine tune the composition by moving towards the subject and making necessary changes. With hand held camera,the exact same position cannot be achieved if the photographer moves from one place to another.

Bracketing for HDR and creating panoramas. Though the editing softwares are able to detect minor changes in the multiple images because of movement of camera which was hand held but it is nor fool proof . A camera mounted on a tripod will always give the perfect output resulting in perfect seamless images.

Stable videos. Most of the cameras these days are capable of recording videos and a shaky video captured with hand held camera is of no use. Tripod help in smooth movement of the camera specially while panning the shot.
Besides the above advantages,tripod helps in experimenting with various genres of photography. Long exposure night shots,capturing star trails,astro photography, enhanced magnification in macro photography and self portraits ( now a days termed as Selfies) etc are all possible only because of tripod. And yes, the tripod can also be used for mounting lights,speed lights,reflectors etc besides holding the camera.

Tripod is a must accessory for a person who wants to take up photography seriously,

So what is the definition of a good tripod. First of all it is important to note that buying a good tripod is a life time investment. Unlike camera bodies which need regular upgrade,tripods if properly maintained lasts for years. It is advised to spend a little( actually not very little) extra to buy a good tripod. A poor quality tripod will not last long and will have to be changed frequently also will not provide the desired level of service for which it was purchased,

The quality of tripod is determined by the load bearing capacity and the material used for manufacturing( plastic is strict no no). Good quality tripods are always sold in two parts- the legs and the head. A basic pan & tilt head with sturdy legs is sufficient for most of the photography needs. The legs are telescopic and are adjustable according to the height needed for taking the photograph. For long lenses heavier tripod(load bearing capacity) is recommended.

Benro,, Manfrotto,Vanguard,Velbon are some popular brands available in the market. A basic pan & tilt head sturdy tripod will be in the range of Rs 10-15k. Gitzo is another brand worth considering if you have deep pockets.

How to chose the best tripod

Tripod is the backbone of photography and a strong backbone will help you in covering long distances in the path to success in photography .

Happy Clicking…

© All right reserved Ravi Dhingra

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