Camera Hack: Build A String Tripod - 7/14/08
Homemade image stabilization for any camera and lens
It's hard enough to carry a camera everywhere you go, so how can you possibly be blamed for not always having a tripod? Unfortunately, all too often a camera is worthless without something stable to hold it. Dim lights and long exposures are everywhere. Manufacturers have long been working on ways to improve photographers' abilities to work in low light without relying on tripods-better high-ISO film and sensors, digital noise-reduction software, portable monopods, image stabilization built in to cameras and lenses-but nothing's quite like the ability to simply stabilize the camera when you click the shutter.It's impractical to carry a tripod everywhere you go, though, and even though little pocket models are great, they don't always provide the eye-level vantage point you may need. So photographers have always worked to control their breathing, form sturdy bases with their bodies, lean on posts and walls and other solid surfaces, every little thing to make long exposures slightly more doable. Somebody way back when also figured out that a bit of leverage can come in handy and, while it may not replace a tripod, it goes a long way to mimicking the image stabilization incorporated into today's high-tech, high-priced cameras and lenses. This simple five-dollar device? A string tripod.
The name's a bit of a misnomer, but the effect is no joke. By creating a tether from the ground to your camera, and with a little bit of tension applied, your camera will be held more stable-and shake-free-than your hands and body alone could ever do. Better yet, this inexpensive fix is both easy to use and ultraportable. Your shots will show the difference, at almost any shutter speed and with any subject. Try it out; stability is always helpful.
1. Get a string.
2. But seriouslyâ¦Get a string that isn't the cheapest thing ever. Maybe something a little more heavy-duty, like braided cord, will hold up a little better. Take the string and measure it to about 15 feet-roughly three times your height, actually. Regardless, it's long. You can always cut it later.
3. Visit the hardware store for a quarter-twenty (that's Â¼-20, the standard camera tripod mount size) threaded eyelet-a little bolt with a ring on the end of it. Get a nut to fit the bolt, too, so it can be fit securely into the camera's tripod mount. Screw the eyelet into the socket on the underside of the camera, then snug it tight with the bolt.
4. Attach one end of the string to the eyelet. For simplicity's sake, you can tie any old knot; for functionality and versatility, tie a loop and slide it over and through the eyelet so you can quickly take it on and off, but it will remain as secure-if not more-than a plain old knot.
5. Use it. Simply hold the camera up to your eye, stand on the middle of the string, and pull the long, loose end of string up and wrap it around your free hand. Use this hand, holding the extra string, to support the camera, too-it offers additional stability than simply standing on the string alone. For more stability, take a wide stance and use both feet to stabilize the string. The line will form a triangle shape that offers a bit more stability than the one-legged string stabilizer approach. You can also use the string to connect to other stationary objects in your environment for even more support.
Remember, this string stabilizer isn't as good as a real tripod, but it's certainly less expensive, more portable, and a bit more unique. In reality, it's a great way to get a little extra support for those situations when you need it-shooting with long lenses or in low light or, heaven forbid, both.