Steven Brokaw Photography

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I mentioned in my post yesterday one piece of kit any photographer needs is a good set of legs ... I mean a good tripod. Like most things in photography the type of photos you take will point you to the right tripod for your needs. However, one bit of advice, don't be cheap. A good tripod will last for years and will help turn average images into much better photos. This is completely subjective, but expect to pay $250 or more for a full tripod.

If you take low light photography, macro or portrait photography I think a tripod is a must. Really, the only photo setting where I have not used a tripod is when I am doing my hand held street photography.

The 2 key advantages in my book to using a good tripod is 1) image sharpness is improved and 2) you can take lower ISO images in low light. To take tack sharp photos at night or in low light settings, or whenever you need to slow down your shutter speed below 1/50 of a second and don't want blur use a tripod. I've read that you can do away with a tripod if you have an uber fast lens or a good piece of glass with VR (i.e. Nikkor's 18-200mm VR). However, in my experience with low ISO even with fast glass or VR a tripod adds sharpness.

One hint, if you use a lens with vibration reduction (VR) on a tripod, turn off the VR.

I used to have a really inexpensive tripod that weighed a ton. Sure it worked, but man was it a pain. It took forever to set up and tended to drift with anything other than a prime lens mounted on my camera. It was useless and was just stupid (note, "stupid" is not a technical photographic term). I ultimately threw it away. I replaced it with a moderately priced (all in less than $300) Manfrotto component tripod. I purchased the legs and heads seperately. I would recommend that you purchase the legs seperately from the head like I did because it gives you more flexibility to select the head that matches your shooting style. Also if you need to replace a head you don't need to pitch the legs.

I purchased a Manfrotto 190XProB leg set. This is a very light weight black finished aluminum set of legs. The legs adjust with quick locking clamps and have friction tension at the head joint. It weighs almost nothing, is extremely portable, quick to set up, and handles ALL of my existing lenses up to a Tamron F/2.8 70-200mm lens. The legs can basically be set in any configuration.

Also after research and the advice of Roberts Camera I purchased 2 heads. I bought a heavy duty Manfrotto 804RC2 Basic Pan Tilt 3 way photo head. This head is used almost exclusively when I'm out at night or taking a set shot where I don't need to pan or move the camera very quickly or where I want precise settings. It's very sturdy.

For everyday use I purchased a Manfrotto 486RC2 basic ball head. This is a light weight head, and while it works fine, I'm not convinced it's right for my use. It handles all my lens, but it's a bit of a pain to adjust precisely. Also, you need to keep your hand on your lens or camera when loosing the adjustment nob. When you loosen the adjustment knob your camera free floats. Unless you have your hand on your camera or lens it will fall forward to the stops. Not very handy. However, for quick action (i.e. sports) or when you want to pan it works fine. I would rate it a solid 6 out of 10 for my use.

I keep this head on my tripod as a default. I change out to the 3-way head if I know I'm going to need precise settings. However, in hindsight I probably should have purchased a Manfrotto 322RC2, Heavy Duty Grip ball head instead of the 486RC2. This head has a handle with a quick release hand trigger. I've tried this a few times in my local photo shop and it would suit me better. Again, where did I leave that Christmas list?

Bottomline, I'm real happy with the Manfrotto kit, and I'm sure you will find there are other manufactures that make fine equipment and other Manfrotto leg / heads that will suit your specific needs. However, remember my caveat, leave your $50 WalMart tripod at home and get yourself a nice set of legs. I take mine with me all the time and they are always in the truck of my car.

If you want to check out the specs of the tripod go to You'll find everything you need. BTW, I purchased my tripod and got good advice at the good folks at Roberts Camera in downtown Indianapolis.

OK, don't sit there reading this blog, pick up your camera, run outside and take some photos. I do!

Nikkor 35mm of Sweetness

After Dark Decisions