Photographic equipment has been very much been on my mind the last few weeks. Mainly because my faithful of camera body has gone to that great photo workshop in the sky, dying after years of service. I’m now on the hunt for a new one.
However, one of the advantages of having a DSLR (or an SLR) system is that lenses and other equipment can be used with other camera bodies. Obviously there are different systems, but within a system you can swap stuff about. This means if I choose an appropriate camera body all my existing bits will fit and work.
I’m sure at this point some of my friends will be screaming the word ‘gadget’ as it’s well known I love my little electronic toys. Some are more useful than others and I definitely like my photo-gadgets to be useful. They don’t need to be expensive, although I would suggest you buy the best you can afford if it’s something you will use a lot.
So I thought it would be an idea to look at some different bits of kit, what you might use them for, and what factors you might want to consider before parting with your hard earned cash. Given the iconic image of a photographer involves a tripod I thought that would be a good place to start.
So why might you want one?
The longer your shutter is open the more likely you hand will move or shake while the image is being created. So if you want to take shots where the shutter is open for more than about 1/90th of a second you’re going to need some way of holding your camera still. This usually involves placing your camera on something which won’t move. The most common way to do this is a tripod. You could however use a monopole, beanbag, fencepost, or in the case of some shots I’ve taken, a friends head! All that matters is that you keep that camera steady.
Tripods come in a huge price range from very cheap to ridiculously expensive. I own a SLIK one which I bought about 10 years ago (a PRO 400DX if you’re really that interested). I put a lot of thought into which one to buy and I’ve never regretted the decision.
The features I considered were :
Size. I wanted one which I could use at eye level without stooping, but which would also allow me to sit on the floor and be comfortable. Consider the type of images you wish to create with your tripod. How tall will it need to go? How close to the ground? How much space do the legs need when opened out? If you’re working in a very confined space then will you even be able to set it up.
Weight. As a basic rule the heavier the tripod is then the more stable it will be. This means that the cheap one in the local camera shop might be up to the job of holding your camera still while you’re photographing the rose you got for valentines day, but it’s unlikely to be much use outside in even a light breeze. Now a heavy tripod might be super stable but remember you will be carrying it around with you. Not great if like me you’re a weedy girlie and carrying heavy weights is an issue. So consider the types of shot you want to be able to take and look for the best compromise.
Construction. You want something durable which will be able to hold your camera still, but believe me you also want it to be easy to operate in the dark with cold fingers. Do you want screw in place legs or some sort of click and lock mechanism. What about the type of material used? Carbon fibre may sound all snazzy but it’ll cost and is it worth it for your needs?
Attaching it to your camera. Some tripods (often the cheaper ones) attach directly onto your camera. This can be fiddly and also time consuming. Others use a base plate system where a ‘plate’ attaches to your camera and then this connects to your tripod. While there is the risk of loosing your base plate this has the advantage of allowing you to quickly and easily attach and detach your camera. Really convenient for changing lenses and quickly setting up for that special shot.
Something I would also throw into the mix here is foam legs. My tripod has metal legs with a sort of foam wrap about them (you can just make this out in the photo at the top). This means when outside I don’t have to put my hands on cold metal to carry it. I paid a little extra for this but boy oh boy was it worth it!
In case you’re interested my SLIK tripod is primarily metal in construction with click and lock mechanisms on the legs for adjustment. It also has two handles which are attached to ‘screws’ which allow me to set the angle of the camera, I’ve already mentioned the foam on its legs. I don’t have a panoramic head for it or spirit levels etc, I didn’t think that they were necessary for the sort of work I was doing at the time I bought it.
Anyway I hope the dark nights are not stifling your photography to much. If you get a tripod you can play about with night shots and long exposures which is always so much fun! My new camera body should be with me in time for next Foto Friday as it’s hopefully already in the post. Can you guess what I’m likely to be waffling about this time next week? Hehe….