Sunday, August 30, 2009

Support Your Gear

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.
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
Slik PRO 340 BH with SBH-200DQ Ballhead


The advantage of ballheads over pan-and-tilt heads is that they can provide a free range of panning, often in 360 degrees on a 90- to 180-degree axis, which gives plenty of tilt for shooting in any direction you'd like. The Hydrostatic Head series from Manfrotto adds a unique hydraulic friction and locking mechanism to the classic design for holding the camera solidly in place. The head can support loads of up to 35.2 pounds, and there's adjustable tension control for a smooth experience. Models with quick-release plates for easy removal from tripods also are available. Estimated Street Price: Starts at $229.

Hydrostatic Head
The Slik PRO 340 BH tripod with SBH-200DQ dual-level ballhead has two bubble levels to assist in keeping a camera exactly level, even on uneven surfaces. The tripod reaches almost six feet, but it's also designed to be compact for low-to-the-ground shooting with a minimum height of just over 20 inches and a gearless center column that can be converted for using the tripod at only 10 inches above the ground, ideal for macro shots. For strength, aluminum-magnesium-titanium-alloy legs provide a 40-percent greater strength-to-weight ratio than standard aluminum legs. The PRO 340 BH handles up to 8.8 pounds of equipment. List Price: $239.

Monostat of Switzerland


A monopod is a solution for stability that isn't limited by the setup and pull-down time of a tripod in between shots. It's also lighter and easier to handle, making it ideal for sports, nature and animal photography. The trade-off is that a monopod doesn't offer the absolute stability of a tripod. Monostat of Switzerland offers a family of wonderful monopods, each featuring ART (Anti Rotation Tubing) with a unique Swivel Toe Stabilizer that allows you to rotate and angle the monopod easily without losing steadiness. Estimated Street Price: Begins at $165.

Sunpak 757TM, Sunpak 9002TM
The Sunpak Tri-Monopod series combines the best of both worlds by providing a tripod and a monopod in one package. The center column removes from the base for use as a convenient monopod. The three models start with the affordable 6601TM with a load capacity of 4.4 pounds and a maximum height of 61.4 inches (monopod mode). The 9002TM supports 6.6 pounds at the same height, and the top-of-the-line 757TM supports up to 11 pounds at 62.6 inches. All three models include a three-way, fluid-effect panhead with a quick-release plate; the 757TM also sports a bubble level. Estimated Street Price: $34 (6601TM); $46 (9002TM); $112 (757TM).

Novoflex QuadroPod

Unique Support Systems

There are some camera-support systems that defy convention. Novoflex, for instance, has a leg up on the tripod design with the QuadroPod. The QuadroPod includes a modular tripod collar design that's available in three setups—without the center column, with the center column or a variable model that includes adjustable removable/attachable aluminum or carbon legs, which can be added in either three or four sections as three or four legs. Thanks to the four-leg spread, the QuadroPod can support up to an incredible 110 pounds in any direction, as opposed to tripods where the heaviest portion of a camera (i.e., the lens) must be positioned over a leg for the best weight distribution. The introductory QuadroPod model is full-sized with three-section aluminum legs and no column. List Price: Begins at $798.

BushHawk 320D
A shoulder mount is another way to keep your camera steady with rifle-like anchorage in the crook of your shoulder, especially helpful when shooting with large telephoto lenses.

Joby Ballhead
The BushHawk 320D, available in Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax and Sony mounts, uses a trigger to fire your camera via an included shutter-release cord while you hold the system comfortably with a double-handed grip. The shoulder mount is padded, and there's a tough, neoprene, adjustable-grip strap for right- or left-handed shooting. The BushHawk 320D kit also comes with a window pod for shooting from a car, a sling strap for easy carrying and a black nylon bag for the kit with a small hard case for cords. The Professional Kit version adds a quick-release system. List Price: $250 (Deluxe Kit); $315 (Professional Kit).

Joby Gorillapod
The Gorillapod from Joby is distinct and versatile, thanks to its construction. The legs are composed of articulating, adhesive balls that can be used as a tripod or to wrap around many different types of surfaces like tree trunks or railings. The Gorillapod is available in a range of sizes for accommodating mobile devices, compact cameras, video camcorders and D-SLRs with or without lenses. Joby also has released the Joby Ballhead for use with D-SLRs and zoom lenses. The Joby Ballhead pans in 360 degrees, with a 90-degree tilt for perfecting your framing, while the slim-line quick-release clip with bubble level keeps the camera connected and level. There's also an adapter screw that makes the Joby Ballhead compatible with both 3?8-inch and 1?4-inch threads for use with other tripods, as well. List Price: $44.
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