Camera Supports

Introduction

When conditions are against hand-holding, the choice of support for a camera is crucial to getting the shot. Supports vary, ranging from a plinth at a lookout, through to specialised vehicle mounts. Between those extremes are the ubiquitous tripod, and the related monopod.

While I own a monopod, it doesn’t see much use. This will change once I get back into using telephoto lenses; the monopod is faster to deploy and manipulate than a tripod, making it ideal for wildlife work.

Tripods are my default choice for landscapes, as they give me a sturdy base with relatively precise control over camera positioning. Over the years, I’ve amassed quite a range, from pocket-sized to full-sized. I don’t use smaller tripods that often now, as they’re relatively less flexible, and often struggle to handle anything more than an entry-level compact digital camera.

This week, I’ll focus on my largest tripod, and the way I use it.

Big Ben(ro)

The Benro Transformer, with the B2 head, takes the heft of the Topcon-Horseman Press Camera in its stride.

The largest tripod I have is a Benro Versatile A2970F, fitted with the Benro B2 ball head.

Capacities are 20 kg for the ball head, and 10 kg for the tripod legs (so 10 kg capacity for the whole unit). This maximum capacity is at least twice the weight of the heaviest gear I have; I have no qualms about loading the tripod up. The combination weighs in at a mere 2.5 kg, so it isn’t too much of a burden for the times I have to carry it.

One of the main reasons I bought it was the detachable centre column. When removed, it can be locked to the side, or any number of awkward angles I normally wouldn’t be open to. It’s been a boon having this for macro work. I should make it clear that a lot of tripods offer this, but the Benro was more within my reach.

The other main reason I went for this tripod is the level of user serviceability. I can strip this tripod down to all component parts on my own, and reassemble it without any issues; cleaning, general maintenance and repairs are simple as a result. It’s a marked change from the cheaper tripods I started with: if something cracked or chipped, it was unrepairable, and the whole unit had to be replaced.

Overall, I’m content with the capability and repairability of the tripod.

In Use

Whenever I take the tripod out, I keep a small toolkit with me. The toolkit contains: allen wrenches for the quick release plate and assembly screws; a bungee cord; appropriately sized screwdrivers; spiked feet; and a spanner for changing the feet. This allows for field repairs, in addition to letting me adapt it to softer ground (with spiked feet) or windier conditions (with the bungee cord).

Where possible, this is my preferred working height: low wind profile, sturdiest leg length, and I can sit down while I'm composing a scene.
Where possible, this is my preferred working height: lower profile, sturdiest leg length, and I can sit down while I’m composing a scene. If it’s very windy, I will spread the legs further to bring the height down more.

Wherever possible, I keep the extendable leg sections stowed, and work closer to ground level. This lowers the surface area of the tripod presented to the wind, and eliminates vibrations between leg sections, giving me the most stable platform to work from. As an added bonus, it means I can sit down out of the wind, which is nice in winter.

When forced to work with the legs extended, I attach the ends of the bungee cord to the hook at the base of the centre column. I put my foot in the resulting loop, and pull it down to the ground. This anchors it to the ground, and in my experience, is also quite effective at quelling vibrations from the wind.

The stability of the tripod not only depends on the tripod, but on the way it’s used. By attaching the right feet for the surface, keeping it low, or pinning it down when its extended, I maximise the benefit I gain from its use.

Conclusion

A diverse range of camera supports exists for an equally diverse range of requirements. The type(s) of support that are best depend on what you take photos of. I keep a range, so that I’m covered for a number of situations with as few compromises as possible.

For most of my work, I’ve gravitated towards a sturdy, high capacity tripod with a broad range of camera positioning options. Since I predominantly shoot landscapes and close-ups, I’ve found this to be a good fit.

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