Why you need a good quality tripod:
I have been taking photographs for years and remember film cameras where you had to make a decision with every shot of whether it was worth taking as you only had 35 shots per reel of film. Digital cameras arrived and now you can take unlimited shots, picking the best ones at a later time. As my cameras increased in performance and price, I overlooked the accessories, especially the tripod, which I used regularly.
One picture shoot, my lovely Canon 5D Mk III, with a new 28-300mm pro lens, was set up on my old tripod. I was looking away at something when I heard a snap and the falling of my camera to the ground. Turning back I saw my camera and lens in 2 pieces on the ground, the top of the tripod having broken in two. The camera and lens together weigh 8Kg, which was just too much for the old tripod and it broke. For the sake of hanging on to my old cheap tripod, I ended up with an £800 repair bill.
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Time to get a decent tripod.
I asked Calumet, one of the better camera shops, about their tripods, and they explained the differences, offering one that was the best solution for my range of cameras. It was nice to chat with some really helpful and enthusiastic people. Ultimately what I wanted was a tripod that was light and would work with my range of cameras.
So these are the two boxes that arrived.
Enter the Calumet 8157 4-section 8xcarbon tripod with Calumet Pro-D ball head. If what I had before was a good workhorse, this is like the space shuttle. Top of the range spec at regular pricing, the Calumet tripod solution was exactly what I needed.
Note: All good tripods come in two parts; the tripod and the tilt/swivel head that the camera fits onto. This allows you to choose the best components for the job, as well as upgrade individual component if needed, depending on your future camera.
Technology has moved on with tripods just as with digital cameras, and the new Calumet Carbon Fibre Tripod build gives incredible stiffness and strength in a very light weight. The 8x refers to the number of carbon fibre layers used to build the tripod legs, and trust me, 8 makes it strong. The matching head drops smoothly into the tripod top and the pair work perfectly for the weight of my camera, which is 8Kg plus. A range of different heads are available to suit light (or heavier!) cameras.
Calumet has a range of tripods and it is important to choose the right one for your needs if you want to get the most out of it. Small table tops tripods are available from Calumet that may help to provide the stability you need for shots, but they are only suitable for small cameras or a GoPro. As with most things, you need to choose the right tool for the job.
So Why a Tripod?
Almost all bloggers, especially food bloggers, have a tripod. It is an invaluable tool that is used to fix your cameras focus on an item and allow a decent exposure setting.
Some people say that digital cameras can process images so well and fast these days that you don’t need a tripod for regular shots. This is certainly true if you are just a ‘snapper’. But it shows how they completely misunderstand how their camera works or what they could get out of it.
In good light, any digital camera will take a picture at a high speed, high aperture (maximum focus) and a low ISO (low ISO means it won’t look grainy)
But as the light drops, the camera will take the picture at a slower speed, so any camera shake will blur the picture. To avoid this you can increase the ISO which makes the digital sensor (think film) more sensitive, but that also makes it more grainy. The aperture may drop, so less of the area will be in focus. You end up compromising picture quality simply to avoid camera shake, which is exactly why you need a tripod.
Tripods typically do one thing well, and that is they support the weight of your camera, keeping it supported at a fixed level. It doesn’t make any difference which camera is on the tripod, the principle is the same; it removes any element of motion shake.
If you are taking video then a tripod is essential to prevent that horrendous up/down shake that hand-held video always has. And it can do it much better than you can by holding a camera yourself. If you have ever loaded a video to YouTube and it has offered to remove the shake from your video then you need a tripod.
With small light cameras, you tend to overcompensate for movement and end up shaking it. Bigger cameras tend to drift rather than shake, usually dropping down as you try to hold it towards your subject.
The Calumet head has a cool feature called drag control. You can smoothly swivel the tripod head to pull around the camera, totally avoiding any shake, as it is naturally damped. It works like a treat. This makes it easy to create beautiful panoramic videos without the amateurish video shake that just makes it difficult to watch. If you have a cheaper tripod and want to reduce any jumpiness or speed variations even more then there is a trick to doing this. Attach a rubber band to the camera and pull it around using the band. The movement is smooth, and any changes in pull speed are taken up in the band and not by the camera. Magic!
I am going to upload some videos in another post that show this feature, and how a stable carbon fibre tripod can drastically improve your videos.
If you want to make a panoramic photograph, simply take a shot and manually move the camera round step by step. Any auto-stitch software will work easily because there isn’t any manual shake or miss-positioning of the shot. You can get attachments for the tripod that a mobile phone can slot into, allowing for quick panoramic Instagrams of amazing quality.
Use a remote controller. Pressing the cameras shot button with your finger does not count. It is most likely to cause the camera to shake when you least want it to. Almost all digital cameras have some sort of remote control so make the most of it. If it doesn’t, use the camera’s timer to make sure any movement from pressing the button has gone before the shot is taken.
At this really high-quality level, camera shake can be minimised even further. The Canon 5D Mk III has the option to lock the mirror before taking a shot so that even the minuscule movement of the mirror opening when the remote is pressed has been removed. (That’s the mechanical sound when you press the button on a bigger DSLR)
Stabilise the Tripod
The bigger the camera, the more top heavy it will be on a tripod, so the simplest way to make sure it is safe from falling over, usually in high wind or because of careless feet, is to hold the tripod down. Now you don’t need to screw it into the ground with tent pegs. The Calumet tripod has a hook at the base of the centre riser, from which you can hang something heavy. I usually hang my camera bag from this hook, but you can just use a carrier bag filled with stones; use whatever is to hand. It definitely adds more stability to your tripod and more peace of mind.
For me, the lightweight Calumet Carbon Fibre Tripod can handle my 8Kg Canon 5D as well as my GoPro and everything in between. It has the strength and reliability to do what I want it to do which lets me focus on creating the shots. I wouldn’t be without it.
Phone: 0333 003 5000