Written by Mark Comon
Most photographers find a tripod to be a necessary evil. For travel this is especially true where weight and convenience are important. All travelers will appreciate that self-portraits and after dark photos are improved with the use of a tripod.
Yes, you can hand-hold selfies or plop your camera on a trashcan but you lack the creativity and freedom to shoot anywhere. It’s important, especially on family vacation, to get a few photos of the entire group. How often is mom (the photographer) absent from the album? A great tripod makes it possible for everyone to be in the photo!
Some of our favorite travel photos are made after dark. Whether it’s the famous fountain, city lights from a vista point or the crazy traffic. Using a tripod for long exposures opens your capability to new avenues and new picture possibilities.
What is important in a travel tripod? Strength and portability are required. You have to balance your ability to pack and carry with the need stability and sharp photos. We recommend not carrying the tripod all day. Plan where and when you want your group photo and make special after dark photo expeditions where you carry the tripod.
The inside trick… For selfies make sure the focus point (use face detection if possible) is on the group when setting the tripod. This keeps the group in focus. Night photos are best when on a tripod and the stabilizer (VR or IS) is turned OFF!
A Ball Head? In the past tripods have offered 3-way pan heads. Today a single –control ball head is preferred. It’s smaller, lighter and easier to use. One turn will loosen or tighten for quick adjustment. Make sure you choose a ball head strong enough to handle the camera land largest lens you will be using on travel.
Which tripod do I choose? Like most photo accessories you have a choice of qualities… bargain, good, better or best. Really Right Stuff, Gitzo, Manfrotto, MeFoto, and ProMaster are the preferred brands and offer a choice in quality. You can expect to pay ~$129 for aluminum Manfrotto, MeFoto or ProMaster tripods, ~$300 for basic carbon fiber up to $600 to $1000 for top-of-the-line Gitzo and Really Right Stuff tripods and heads.
We recommend light-weight carbon fiber tripods with Arca-Swiss compatible ball heads and quick release. ProMaster 528x tripod ($349) is recommended for most travel photographers.
*If you have questions about this post or would like assistance choosing the right tripod for your camera, head on over to PAUL'S PHOTO and we'll help you out! We are located at 23845 Hawthorne Blvd, Torrance, CA, 90505. You can reach us by phone at 310-375-7014.