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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Support Your Gear

By David Willis Published in Tripods
From left to right: Gitzo Ocean Traveler, Manfrotto 055CX3, Giottos MG8240B
From left to right: Gitzo Ocean Traveler, Manfrotto 055CX3, Giottos MG8240B
Even if you have very steady hands and a stabilized lens or camera, for the sharpest images possible, using a tripod or other camera support is the only surefire solution. Camera supports also are indispensable for keeping your camera in place for meticulous compositions; and if you're a fan of HDR or other techniques that require multiple exposures of the same scene, keeping your camera's position locked down is absolutely essential. There are so many different types of tripods and camera supports that finding a great model for your needs isn't difficult—there's something for every photo and video situation.

Flashpoint F-1228

Tripods

There's nothing more stable than the classic design of a three-legged tripod. Flashpoint F-1228 carbon-fiber tripods provide the sturdiness that you need at an affordable price. The four-section leg set will extend to a maximum height of 60 inches, and the tripod's weight of only 3.3 pounds can support up to 17.6 pounds, which is ideal for combining with the 11-pound maximum capacity of the Flashpoint F-2 magnesium-alloy ballhead. Estimated Street Price: $179 (tripod); $56 (ballhead).

A good companion for today's weather-sealed camera bodies, the Gitzo Ocean Traveler GK1581OT tripod is designed for photographers who spend a lot of time braving the elements. It features stainless-steel castings, a first for tripods, and Ocean-Lock, the next generation of Gitzo's G-Lock leg-lock system. The Ocean-Lock uses inserts at both ends of the carbon-fiber leg tubes to help prevent water, sand, dust and debris from entering and ruining the legs and locking mechanisms. The stainless-steel center ballhead also can be disassembled for cleaning, and extra grease is supplied to lubricate the head once it has been rebuilt. Estimated Street Price: $1,200.

Berlebach 3042 Camouflage
Cameras are extremely sensitive to motion, and often working environments also have vibration from the surfaces on which you're placing your tripod. Tripods constructed from wood are exceptional at minimizing this type of vibration because wood dampens movement from the ground up, too. Wood also is better for extremely hot or cold environments, where the surface of metal tripods can be uncomfortable to handle because they heat up in the sun or conduct cold to bare hands. The Berlebach BE3042 two-section wood tripod legs have a leveling ball and center column for 30 degrees of angle correction, and a version is available with a camouflage finish (BE3042C) for nature, bird and animal photographers. Estimated Street Price: $315 (BE3042); $385 (BE3042C).

Modern tripods can carry more weight while weighing less themselves due to a variety of advancements, including hybrid material construction, new manufacturing processes and chemical finishes. Thanks to durable magnesium castings that reduce the weight of their tripods by about 30 percent, the Giottos MG four-section series of magnesium and carbon-fiber tripods, the MG8240B and MG8250B, are ultra-lightweight at only 1.9 and 2.3 pounds, respectively—yet they can hold a maximum load capacity of 6.6 and 11 pounds each. The leg tubes are made from tough carbon fiber, and the tripods are easily maneuverable, with three leg positions and quick-release locks. Estimated Street Price: $335 (MG8240B); $385 (MG8250B).

The three-section 055CX3 tripod from Manfrotto uses 100-percent carbon-fiber leg tubes for rigid construction and a convenient carrying weight. The aluminum center column includes an adapter for conversion to a short column, which is great for keeping low-to-the-ground shots and macro photography tack-sharp. Estimated Street Price: $349.

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