Using the right support system can make all the difference between a blurry and a sharp photo or shaky and smooth video clips. The key factor is figuring out what kind of shooting you like to do the most and then choosing the most appropriate option. Whether it’s a tripod that works for photo and video, a simple monopod or a portable video rig, few accessories are as crucial as this one for capturing great images.
After the camera and lens, photographers often rank their tripod as the most valuable piece of gear in their kit. Since video is a DSLR standard now, consider a tripod with features that can support both still photography and video, such as a fluid head for making smooth tracking and panning movements.
The Cullmann Titan 935’s clamping lever is positioned at a working height for quick mounting and dismounting, ensuring you can work with each tripod leg from a convenient standing position without having to bend down. The air-cushioned center column is made of anodized aluminum tubing that can withstand accidental drops. If you do a lot of landscape shooting, any dirt on the outside has no effect on how the legs clamp. Waterproof seals on the legs allow the tripod to be used in up to about 20 inches of water. Estimated Street Price: TBA.
DAVIS & SANFORD
If you do a lot of still and video work, the Davis & Sanford Magnum XG13 tripod and FX13 head make for a good combination. The fluid-dampened head is made from an aluminum alloy, can handle up to 13 pounds and pans 360º with 90º downward and 60º upward tilt, as well as landscape and portrait tilt modes. There are three spirit levels, and the pan-and-tilt handle delivers a comfortable grip. The tripod’s legs extend from 8 inches to 72 inches. Estimated Street Price: $189.
The legs of Giottos Vitruvian VGR tripods use a "reverse technology" system so that when collapsed they fold through 180º to "surround" the tripod center column and head. The latest versions fold to an even more compact length and have two-piece center columns, allowing you to shoot from very low angles. Holding up to 13 pounds, the five-section carbon-fiber VGR8265-M2N weighs 3.7 pounds with height ranging from 16.1 inches to 66.6 inches (with center column extended). Convert it to a monopod by attaching the center column to one of the legs. Estimated Street Price: $499.
If you’re ready to invest in a higher-end model, look to the Gitzo Systematic Series, which received a fresh update this year. Stronger and more stable than the previous generation, the latest models were built using new construction and bonding methods that double how much weight the 6X carbon-fiber legs can support. The legs feature Gitzo’s G-lock twist-lock system, which strengthens their rigidity and enables fast setup. The Series 2 GT2532S model weighs less than 4 pounds, yet supports up to 55. Height ranges from 3.9 inches to 53.5 inches. List Price: $889.
The lightweight Sachtler Ace tripod system has an 8.8-pound load capacity, 5-step counterbalance for quick camera balancing and positioning, and a drag system with three horizontal and three vertical steps. This allows for precise panning and tilting, as well as choosing a drag setting suitable for any situation. The fluid head is designed specifically for video DSLRs and small HDV camcorders. Estimated Street Price: $535.