Photo Lesson Overview on CGIPix.com

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they make computers that you can attach a lens to.
Tripods Let You take Better Pictures

A tripod is an essential piece of gear, so don't skimp on it. Start off with a cheap tripod, and you'll constantly be upgrading and buying new ones until you spend the money on a good one. You need to figure the weight of your heaviest camera and lens, then get a tripod and head to support it. A good range for a tripod is around 12-15 pounds, that will support most any combination you will buy.

Carbon Fiber or Aluminum?

Carbon fiber tripods are nice, but the added costs are usually not offset by the small amount of weight saved. If you're in an area with lots of wind, then you will always have to anchor the carbon fiber tripods to keep them steady. Aluminum tripods are sturdy, and work great. The costs are about 1/2 of carbon fiber, and the weight is only 25% more or so.


Tripod Heads There's all kinds of tripod heads to get, here's a brief description of each type:

3-Way

The 3-way tripod head is the standard head that comes with most tripods. It's not great for any one thing, but it's pretty good at getting most every tripod job accomplished. They are slower when shooting action, because you have to loosen a knob to move the camera, and for landscapes they are not precise in their adjustments. If you only have money for one tripod head though, a 3-Way is the best one to get.


Fluid Head

A fluid head is mainly used for video, but they are also nice for use with long lenses. If you're buying a DSLR with video capability, definitely get a fluid head for the video shots. Using a video camera hand held usually results in shaky video that is hard to watch. If you use a 3 way head and not a fluid then the video is jerky and doesn't have the smooth follow of a fluid head. Using a gimbal mount, the video is a bit more erratic than hand held, because gimbal mounts are made to provide almost zero friction. Any amount of pressure causes extreme movement, then you have to correct for the movement.


Ball Head

Ball heads are good for action and supporting heavy lenses. The main drawback with a ball head is you have to lock it whenever you aren't holding the camera, or the camera will flop down. They fall short for landscape work, because they are harder to keep locked and still, and composing with them is harder, because they always seem to shift a bit when locking them down.


Gimbal Mount

A gimbal mount is the ultimate head for using long lenses with action shots. The gimbal mount is designed to balance the lens and camera, so it doesn't have to be locked down. You set the balance and tension, and the camera will stay there, or can be quickly moved without touching any screws.


Geared Head

The geared head is the ultimate head for landscape work. It has 3 knobs to make fine adjustments, so that composing a still shot is much more accurate. Rather than moving the camera and locking it down, the gears move the camera, adding a lot of precision to composition. Geared heads are terrible for anything moving, they can be loosened for major swings, but then once you let go of the knob, the head locks down.


Monopods

Monopods are good for travelling with a heavy lens in the field, where a tripod is too slow and heavy, and the speed is more important than stability. A monopod will allow you to get shots that would be missed while setting up with a tripod. I prefer to mount a ball head on a monopod, that way it gives me a little more freedom of movement with a monopod.


Tripod Brands

For me, Bogen/Manfrotto have always been my tripods of choice. They are built well, and are priced reasonably. There's plenty of good brands out there, but for me, Bogens are the best value.

My tripod equipment:

Here's a list of the tripods and heads I currently use:

Bogen Heavy Duty Tripod 3058 - This thing is a beast, it supports up to 44 pounds.

Bogen Medium Duty 3050 - The version with quick release legs, push a few levers, and the legs come out and level, very quick and easy.

Bogen Monopod - For low light with the 300mm 2.8.

Bogen Gimbal Mount 393 - The Bogen gimbal mount is the cheapest gimbal out there, less than 1/3 the price of other mounts. It works great, and the click stop is very nicely designed.

Bogen Geared Head 405- The heavy duty geared head, for shooting landscapes.

Bogen 3-Way - It sits in the drawer, but it stay around in case it's needed.

Bogen Micro Slides 3419 - Handy for macro and panorama work.

Bogen Ball Head - Mouned on monopod all the time. I bought the medium duty without a mounting plate, to save money.
NOTE: Never mount a camera with a rubber grip bottom on the rubber of a ball head without a mounting plate, they don't have a screw like most tripod heads or plates. You can get the 2 rubber sections stuck together, and the rubber will peel off the camera trying to get it off of the head. Buy a ball head with the release plates if you're going to mount a camera on it, then you have a screw release. I mount the tripod foot of a lens on the ball head, so it's not a concern for me.

Velbon Carbon Fiber - A good tripod to carry for sunset shots with a wide angle lens. Usually carry a bogen for heavier lenses, and this one for wide-angles.

I've added a sliding mounting plate to the geared head, just like the one built onto the gimbal head, so that I can switch lenses from the gimbal head to geared head without having to remove a mounting plate.

Some other tripod brands: Really Right Stuff

Giottos

Gitzo

Wimberley

Kirk

Arca-Swiss

Any of these are good brands, just depends on what your budget is.
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