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A good tripod is an accessory overlooked by photographers of all skill levels. Matching the right tripod with your camera, location, and budget is very important. There are heaps of tripods out there, and selecting the right one to support your camera is tricky. We can help with a quick peek at a handful of newly introduced and specially priced models.
Many owners of point & shoots and compact SLRs are intimidated by the large, unwieldy, and overly-intricate tripods available. To address that, the M-Y family of tripods are inexpensive supports that are as simple to use as the cameras they were designed to hold. The M-Ys are ready-to-use kits that include heads with their purchase (choose ball or 3-way pan/tilt,) and are available in two different leg sizes depending on the weight of your camera. These tripods are the continuation of the Digi series tripods like the recently discounted 718B,* an aluminum model that is perfectly suited for those casual occasions when a steady camera is needed.
The 190XB* is a utility support that features good ergonomics, 'native' weight allowance (without a head) of up to 11 lbs (5 kg) and an array of configurations for video or still photo purposes. For photographers doing more robust studio or field imaging needing a good sturdy platform for their cameras, there is the 055MF4* MagFiber series that uses strong but light carbon-fiber tubing and magnesium joints and has a remarkably lowered price. It features a center column bridge that allows the column to be positioned horizontally for macro shooting.
If you need expedition-grade support for your heaviest camera gear, then the Gitzo GT2541* 6X carbon-fiber legs are natively capable of wielding up to a whopping 26.4 lbs (12 kg), yet it only weighs around 4 lbs. Using Gitzo series 2 tubing, this is a perfect weight-saving accessory for accompanying SLRs with heavy lenses, medium format cameras or some large format cameras.
Along those same lines, Induro's offering to the roving photographer is the Adventure Series tripod; three convenient kits differing in size and weight that include legs, ballhead and travel case. A perfect all-in-one solution for photographers seeking a very utilitarian camera support, it comes with a few nice features like reversing center columns, eye-level platform height, spring-loaded weight hook and foam leg grips.
For the jet-setters or weight-conscious among us, Benro has a series of camera supports dubbed the Travel Angels designed for the long or short haul. They are a perfect second tripod that is easily packed in your carry-on luggage or camera case. The Travel Angels make use of aluminum or carbon fiber tubing joined with a unique assembly that allows them to fold into an extremely compact size. By allowing the legs to invert upon themselves, wrapping around the joint where the legs meet the center column – the tripod's overall length is reduced. Additionally, many of the included Benro heads use Arca-Swiss type quick release connections that have time and time again proved to be quite efficient at providing a wiggle-free mount.
The Pro 700DX with a 3-way pan/tilt head for midsized cameras up to 15 lbs. The legs are made of a blend of aluminum, magnesium and titanium that makes this ready-to-shoot kit quite strong. For more compact cameras, the Pro 340DX* is good support for an entry-level DSLR or advanced point and shoot camera. It also comes with a pan/tilt head, quick-release plate, and tripod bag. Point & shoot owners are served by the U8000, an economical compact tripod that extends to 5 feet and is functionally better than resting a camera on an uneven surface in order to get in the photo or take a long exposure. If you need a tripod that has decent height, light weight and can fit in a pocket of a camera bag, then look no further than the SDV-20*. All of these tripods include a Slik carrying case so you don't scuff up the legs in transit.
A spiffy two-head and one leg combining the Pro 523PX carbon fiber tripod with pan head and an accessory interchangeable ballhead is offered by Sunpak. This bundles a light pistol grip ballhead with a rigid three-section tripod support. The head comes with a handy quick-release plate and is very comfortable to use when rotating a camera around the ball pivot.
Having garnered a lot of attention with their nifty grab-nearly-anything Gorillapods, this ape family seems to continue to grow without the help of Jane Goodall. These flexible, knuckled, suction-enhanced, gooseneck armatures can stand straight on their own or wrap around a banister or the back of a chair to give you a portable platform wherever you go. They come in an array of candy-colors and depending on the model it can accommodate compact cameras to up mid-sized SLRs.
Watch our video featuring the JOBY GORILLAPODS
"The Sidewinder" as it is affectionately nicknamed, is an alternative to the common ballhead and is useful to shooters who use large optics or bulky camera bodies. Unlike traditional ballhead designs, the 322RC2 * has a horizontal grip with a trigger-like release that can be easily accessed under camera setups that would otherwise be hard to reach.
A perennial favorite compact ballhead is the 486RC2, a compact head for light to mid-weight duties that also includes a quick release plate for quick camera interchanges.
A good combination for the pro-grade Gitzo GT2541 tripod mentioned above is the Gitzo GH2780QR*, a center ballhead with quick-release. A magnesium body with fine tuning and smooth adjustments, this quick-release enhanced head can safely bear the weight of 20.8 lbs (14 kg). The pivot tension is adjustable and securely fixed via a double-locking mechanism.
It may look a bit odd, (actually, I find that all tripod heads look a bit funny on their own,) but the machined aluminum design of the Cullmann Magnesit 30 Nm ballhead is meant to provide good ergonomics while remaining durable. It has three independent knobs that allow for adjustments to positioning, panning, and friction control. If quick-release capability is needed, then that option is present on the similar Magnesit 35 Nm ballhead. Aside from bearing 50% more weight and having a bubble level, all of the comfort and controls on its junior are there.
The SBH-120 is an inexpensive, all-metal ballhead that provides a variation to 2/3-way pan/tilt heads that can be easily exchanged with the head currently on your tripod. A unique rotating base provides pan rotation without having to lose alignment of the camera.