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From time to time I get asked the following question. What's the best tripod to use for time-lapse shooting?

OK, let's break this down a wee bit and discuss the various aspects of what we are trying to do here.

Firstly the role of a tripod in shooting still images or video for that matter is to give the camera a solid footing, basically to stop the camera from having any unwanted movement. We've all seen still images which are blurry or video which has a handheld look to it when in fact that is not what was desired at all. When shooting time-laspe you are shooting a series of shots one after another at a desired interval. It is extremely important that the camera not move at all for as long as your shoot is going to take. Even the wind this can cause your camera to move slightly from frame to frame depending upon the tripod. Shifting sand or a wooden floor which has a bounce to it as you walk for example can do the same thing. A few basic rules of thumb are these, the heavier the tripod the more stable it will be, position your tripod on something which does not move over time and make sure all moving parts are locked down. 

A little bit about a tripod's design.

Tripods generally consist of three extendible legs. Hence the word tri. The legs can be extended indepently from each other so that you can level the tripod on just about any terrain. The longer you are able to extend the legs the more flexibilty you will have in positioning your camera. Most quality tripods allow you to attach a varity of tripod heads, it's the head which holds the camera. Depending on your shooting situation one head might work better than another.
tripod_legs
Most tripod heads have three axis of movement, pan, tilt and roll. By adjusting these 3 axis you can frame your shot once the tripod legs are set up and in place. Generally the pan is a full 360 degrees, tilt up to 90 degrees and roll 45 degrees. Better quality heads have a quick release plate which normally stays mounted on your camera even if you are not using your tripod. This makes attaching and removing your camera to the tripod much quicker. tripod_head
As an option you can always add extra weight to your tripod by hanging your camera bag from the apex of your tripod for added stability. Or you can use a product like the Matin Tripod Butler Pictured here. It can be loaded up with stones to add weight to a tripod. Or also used to hold camera gear as well. You can generally find these on Ebay.

 

When shooting time-laspe you normally always use a tripod so carrying a tripod from shoot to shoot is part of the program. It really is a double edge sword, you want a tripod which is light in weight but as sturdy as possible. Also a tripod with very extendible legs is a huge plus in many cases. One way to accomplish these requirments is to use a carbon fibre tripod, carbon fibre is more costly than aluminum tripods but also much lighter and quite ridgid. In general you have to weigh many things when deciding which tripod is best for you, cost is obviously a huge consideration but so is weight, stibility, height and ease if use. Do your research before you make a purchase. The web has loads of information regarding pricing, various options for mounting your camera and sources for purchase. If you live near a camra store which stocks tripods then go in and checkout what they have on offer. Ask lots of questions and definitly take your own camera along so that you can test different tripods. If you have any questions please contact me via email and I"ll do my best to answer them. Happy shooting everyone.


Comments  

 
+2 #4 Hal 2011-11-08 19:42
Excellent overview.

Good point about adding stability using the weight of one}s camera bag!
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+3 #3 tiffany 2011-10-24 18:19
Good to know there are more cost effective and "organic" ways to stabilize my tripod! This photography habit is draining my account! Would love to know what product you recommend for ease of assembly. The moment can easily be lost during the setup.
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+3 #2 norm 2011-10-24 07:26
Very useful! Looking forward to more.
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+3 #1 Visuality 2011-10-22 15:53
Thanks for the tip on using the Matin Tripod Butler. It will be a very useful addition to my time-laspe toolkit.
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