Buyer’s Guide to New & Used Camera Tripods

Camera tripods can be used for a number of purposes which don’t always initially come to mind. They can be used to prevent shaking of the camera (and blurring of photos), to keep the camera at a particular level when a timer or shutter release cable is being used, or to take photos of the same exact location repeatedly. Adding a tripod can also substantially increase the re-sale value of a camera. However, the characteristics of tripods vary considerably, so there are a few factors which should be considered before purchasing one…

Size: Larger tripods are likely to be more adjustable and can reach a greater height, but smaller tripods are more portable and easy-to-use. If your photo target is fairly high, you will need something to put the small tripod on top of, but it will still perform the other functions of a tripod. If you’re shopping for a tripod on the internet and aren’t sure how tall the tripods you see are, one indication is how many sections the legs have. It is likely to be taller if there are more sections. Single-section (and some two-section) tripods usually range from four inches to two feet tall. Having more than one section also allows you to change the height by extending or compressing the legs. The Velbon CX-540, a three-section tripod, can extend to over four feet tall, and the Weston WX-4000 four-section tripod can reach a substantial height as well. Tripods also vary in weight. Some small or thin plastic tripods weigh no more than a pound, while many others weight three to four pounds or more. The Velbon DF-50 and Sunpak 3300 PRO both weigh about 3-4 pounds. The Velbon CX-690 is heavier at about five pounds.

Compatibility: Most tripods are universal, and most camera tripod sockets are universal, so this usually isn’t a concern. If necessary, tripod socket adapters are available.

Appearance: You may want to find a tripod which matches the colors of your camera for the best appearance. Black tripods will best match a black camera, while black and silver/grey tripods will match a camera of the same color combination. If you have one of those rare yellow or red cameras with a tripod socket, a black tripod will probably match its color best. There are also a few tripods – often Taiwanese – available in unusual colors like green or blue, but these are not very common. While we are on the subject of apperance, it is worth mentioning that some one-section tripods have “feet” which look like multiple compressed sections, so you should make sure you know the height or number of sections in a tripod rather than relying on its appearance to tell you.

Adjustability: Some tripods, such as those sold under the Benz-Gant and Ouyama Best brand names, have a lever which allows the tripod’s angle to easily be adjusted. This feature is more common on medium or large tripods. The Weston WX-4000 tripod has such a lever, while the Meikai AR-4373 does not. Also, many tripods have an adjustable pole in the
middle which changes the camera’s height. This feature is most often included on multiple-section tripods or those more than a foot in height.

Stability: If you’re going to be using the tripod for a heavy camera, make sure it is capable of holding it. Some tripods are only designed for lightweight cameras. Metal tripods are likely to be more stable. It may be difficult to determine whether a tripod is metal or plastic when looking at a photograph of it. Plastic tripods include the Benz-Gant tripod (plastic except for a metal lever), Meikai AR-4373, and several pocket tripod models. Some examples of metal tripods are the Vivitar VPT-120SE, Sony VCT-D680RM, and Ambico V-0552. However, plastic tripods are often lighter and less expensive. Tripods included with relatively inexpensive cameras are more likely to be plastic than metal.

Online shopping websites, camera stores, and internet auction services are the best places to find tripods. They are occasionally found at yard sales as well, but can seldom be purchased elsewhere. If all of these factors are taken into consideration and potential mistakes in tripod purchasing are avoided, you should be able to find a tripod which meets the needs of both you and your camera.

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