Basically we choose based on a tripod’s material and its design/storage method.
Usually there are two kinds of tripods on the market, one is aluminum alloy and the other is carbon fiber material. Their main difference lies in the weight. Aluminum tripod is heavier than carbon fiber one; weight matters a lot in traveling, especially in field hiking and urban exploration, even a little extra weight may cause inconvenience.
Secondly, they differ in their prices. Carbon fiber material usually is more expensive than the aluminum one.
In addition to weight and price, these two materials have different hand feel.
Especially shooting in Winter, aluminum alloy tubes tend to be colder and we will need to buy a pair of cold proof gloves or tripod leg warmer pads (Sunwayfoto LWP-01); However the carbon fiber tubes do not get extremely cold and we can use it without further protection to the hands.
Therefore, based on material, if the weight of a tripod does not matter much, then aluminum alloy tripod is a good choice due to its high cost performance. Carbon fiber tripods mostly are more popular in traveling or transportation due to its light weight and strong material, which also greatly reduces the damage rate. It will be a worthy investment to choose a carbon fiber tripod if it’s to be used as a long term traveling tripod.
Different designs of tripods
The mainly difference in design of tripods is the different storage methods.
One is reverse-folding design (T2540CT ), whose advantage will be very easy to carry because its length is short after we retract the tubes.
The other is non-reverse design (T2840CK) which is suitable for professional photographers who choose stability over portability.
Another difference in design of a tripod is the center column.
Function of the center column :When the tripod is fully opened, the height of the camera can still be increased by moving the center column up.
Some tripods’ center column can be used in horizontal direction that is very useful in taking Nadir Shots. Our CCB-01 is one example. It is often used in shooting delicious food or macro.
We need to take special note of the balance between camera and tripod when we use such horizontal center column.
Therefore, based on its design, if you mainly shooting portraits in traveling, then reverse-folding tripods of compact size (TT2650CE) are strongly recommended for it’s really easily carried on the road.
If you mainly do landscape in traveling, tripods of full size (T3240CM) are ideal in shooting long exposure or time-lapse photography for its ultra-stability.
We need to pay attention to the following five points when buying a tripod
1 Maximum height
2 Tube Diameters
3 Max Load Capacity
4 Number of Leg Sections
5 Material of leg joints
There are many different brands of tripod available, no matter how much budget you have, which material and storage method you buy, please pay attention to the following five points, details as follows:
- Maximum height of a tripod
The maximum height of a tripod is measured when it’s fully extended, and not include the extra height with center column fully raised. The height of a tripod is better the same as your height, so you do not have to bend often during shooting which can be tiring and also difficult to get a great spot when there are so many people around. Do not choose a tripod which is too tall either, or it adds extra weight.
- Tube Diameters
We need to check the tube diameters when we select a tripod. The bigger the tube diameters are, the better stability the tripod will be. Besides, we should also pay attention to the thinnest leg section, if it’s too thin, it usually may not be stable enough.
Due to the characteristics of different designs: a tripod without a center column has more space and the legs can be designed to be thicker and more compact, so it has better stability. We can feel the stability by shaking the tripod a bit before purchasing, especially the thinnest leg section, see if it moves too much. All tripods should stand still under our shaking and in this way we will be able to determine and find a comparatively stable tripod which will function even in windy conditions.
- Max Load Capacity
You should calculate total weight of your camera including the biggest lens before you buy a tripod. So you know the tripod’s max load capacity can meet your requirements or not.
- Number of Leg Sections
Most tripods have 4 leg sections, and there are still 2, 3 and 5 sections available. The fewer leg sections a tripod has, the bigger volume it will be after folding. We usually have to weigh and choose between stability and volume.
- The material of the leg joint is very important.
We recommend semi-automatic mode. It won’t pinch your fingers and there is no need to adjust repeatedly either, it will fold automatically. Material of the leg locks are very important as well, most common design are twist locks, there are also flip locks (TL3240CS-Q), you will choose according to what you prefer.
These two parts are mostly used, at least 4 times when extending and retracting a tripod, they are easy to get worn out so be sure not to choose plastic ones which are not practical or durable, they won’t be able to stand cold weather and easily damaged in winter.
In addition to the above five points, when buying a tripod, it would be even ideal to get a nice tripod bag as a gift.
We have not talked about tripod heads yet since it’s more sophisticated system. To a travel photographer, we use ballheads mostly for their small size. It will be cost effective to purchase tripod kit of both a tripod and a ballhead.
Before you buy a tripod, it’s best if you can visit a store front and feel the tripod in hands so you better understand the material and weight.
If there is no specific shooting target and it’s only for random shooting, we recommend that you choose a light tripod to reduce the load (TT2650CE)
If you drive by yourself to a destination, we recommend a heavy tripod of full-size for more tasks (T2840CE)
Mind the load capacity when matching with a ballhead.
A tripod has long service life and it’s normally not frequently updated, some may use only one tripod for all shooting tasks in lifetime, so buying a good tripod is necessary plus you do not have to concern its quality of details in use.