A little alliteration goes a long way on a weary Saturday afternoon. Today I thought I would share a cautionary tale with those of you who don’t know this already. The first tripod that I bought was a Manfrotto. As I didn’t know much at all about tripods and photography in general at the time, I assumed that because it had the Manfrotto name, it would be a good tripod. After all, I had paid a massive $189 for it! Ah… that salesman saw me coming from a mile away. It was the best one in the store – a leading white goods and electronics retailer. Hmm thank goodness for hindsight being 20/20. Never again. As I later discovered, $189 was bargain basement price and as the old adage goes, “you get what you pay for”.
So what to look for in a tripod. Some advice that I was given and read along the way was:
A) A good tripod and head are usually NEVER sold together. You’ll probably have to buy both items separately in order to get something decent.
B) Have a budget. I couldn’t afford to spend a lot of money but I knew that going cheap was not an option either. Get what you can afford.
C) What do you want from the tripod body? Would sturdiness or weight be your main consideration. If you won’t both of these considerations in one package then you are looking at big bucks for one made with carbon-fibre material. For me, weight is a much more important consideration (though I don’t want something flimsy either). So I opted for the Manfrotto 190XB Aluminium Tripod which weighs in at 5kg. Not too heavy to carry cross country on my landscape adventures, but sturdy enough not to have to worry about its stability.
D) What kind of tripod head do you need/prefer? My tripod had a flimsy ball head which would either not hold in the place that you put set it, or it would slip under the weight of the camera body and lens. Precise orientation of the camera was limited too and I would spend ages trying to line the camera up. This almost put me off ball heads altogether. Yet I kept reading that “all the pros use them”. So when it came time to bite the bullet, I investigated further and tried a few of them out. See Lesson 2 below. I decided to go with a Manfrotto 322RC2 Joystick Head. It was both firm and flexible and its manoeuvrability can be customised with a “friction” dial to make it either looser or stickier to move.
A couple of lessons learned here:
1) Buy your equipment from a reputable camera retailer. Generic retailers and department stores often have both limited stock and the staff generally have limited knowledge of cameras and camera equipment. You might strike it lucky and find a salesman who knows what he is talking about in one of these stores, but I never have (I would also apply this advice for computers and computer equipment although the chance of finding a geek who knows his stuff at a department store is much better in my experience).
2) If possible, try the equipment out before buying. In the case of a tripod, carry it around the store and get a feel for the weight. Set the tripod up and collapse it again – does it work efficiently and smoothly? Attach the tripod head that you have chosen and try it out as well. Attach your camera. If you haven’t got yours with you, ask the salesman to get your model from the showcase with a comparable lens – ask them to attach the heaviest lens that you have in order to gauge whether the tripod head can support the weight of both the camera and lens, particularly in portrait orientation.
3) Have a healthy bank balance. Be prepared to spend at least $200 on the tripod mount and another $200 on the tripod head.
4) If the salesperson has any problems with the requests and/or actions in Lesson number 2, refer to Lesson number 3. You are spending a lot of money and if the sales staff are not obliging, go spend your money at a store that will accommodate your requests.
So if anybody has any suggestions to add, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment and share your experience. I am by no means an expert but I like to share the knowledge that has so freely been given to me.
On to my two new photos for today. Here are some shot that I took yesterday on my explorations in Brisbane. Click on the photos to enlarge and have a good weekend.