If you’re reading this, I take it you’ve made the decision to invest in a new tripod but you’re having difficulty deciding which one to choose.
If you're still unsure about whether to get a tripod, I suggest you read through these 8 reasons why you should invest in one.
I promise you, it’s a real game changer. The possibilities of what you can do with your smartphone camera increase quite a bit with the help of a tripod.
Because there are so many options out there, it can be challenging choosing the right one for you. In this article, I will go through some basic things you need to consider to help you find the right tripod.
Let’s start with something obvious…
The type of photography that you’ll be doing and the type of shots that you’ll be taking should be a big part of the determining factors of what type of tripod you should invest in. Think about the terrain you’ll likely be shooting on, weather conditions and how much often you’ll be using it.
For example, if you’re photography will mostly be at ground level or on top of a table or raised platform, then a mini tripod would be just fine for your needs instead of a big, bulky tripod.
If you’re a hiker or someone who enjoys taking photos in the great outdoors, you know that some of the terrain you’ll come across will be uneven or even rocky. In this instance, you’d need a tripod that has multi-angle legs and spikes or claws for feet, so that you can get your tripod stable even at weird angles and on rough surfaces.
Claw feet on a tripod. Source: reallyrightstuff.com
This point goes hand-in-and with the one above. Once you have figured out what you’re needs are, you need to consider all the components that make up a tripod and how they’ll help you get the shots you want.
I won’t get into the details of each component in this post, but I have written an in depth article that discusses each part in detail. I suggest you read the article, so you can get a broader understanding of the various parts.
Basically, the major components of a smartphone tripod are:
The head: This where the phone is attached to the tripod via a smartphone mount. There are different types of heads you can choose from to suit your needs and preferences. Certain heads give you flexibility that others don’t.
The legs: These are obviously the basis of all tripod units. They’re usually made of either aluminium or carbon fibre. Both these materials have their pros and cons, so you’ll have to decide what you’re willing to trade off for your requirements. Durability for the adventurous, or a lighter weight for the traveller.
The feet: An often overlooked yet important part of the tripod. Feet come in various styles to suit any environment. Usually you can find rubber feet, spikes, or claws attached to the end of the tripod legs. Interchangeable feet are not uncommon on certain tripods.
The chassis: This part where the legs meet controls how wide you can spread them. If there's no centre column, it's where the tripod head is attached. Some chassis can spread the legs 180 degrees, perfect for odd angles.
Centre column: This piece is meant to add more height to the tripod unit when extended out. Not all tripods come with a centre column. Those that do, have the tripod head attached on top of the centre column and not the chassis. If you’re going to do overhead photography such as food photography, look for a tripod with a centre column that can lie horizontally and convert into a lateral arm.
Tripods can be bought as a fully assembled unit or you can buy the different parts separately. By doing the latter, you can assemble a tripod for yourself that suits your needs exactly.
Stability is everything. After all, that’s the main purpose of a tripod. Will it stay in one place on a windy day or withstand the knocks, bumps, and vibrations that are part of the nature of the business? That’s why you need a tripod that’s strong and hard-wearing.
Have a look at the legs of the tripod. Take note of the material they’re made of and how thick they are as an indication of how steady they are. You wouldn’t want a tripod with wobbly legs.
Fully extending out the centre column and tripod legs can compromise stability. Look for a tripod that has a hook at the bottom of the centre column. This hook is intended to carry a weight that will keep the tripod sturdy.
This is actually something I feel you need to pay attention to for a couple of reasons. Obviously, the type of photography you’ll be doing matters.
For example, if you’re mostly taking table-top shots or ground level shots, then you’ll need to consider a tripod that is small enough when completely retracted to give you the type of shots and angles you need.
Depending on how tall you are, the maximum height also matters. This is mostly for comfort and ease of use when the tripod is extended. It can be very difficult to use a tripod that is too short because you’ll constantly have to keep crouching to see what is happening on the screen.
If you can get a tripod that is at least somewhere close to your height or taller when fully extended, then that is great. Your back will thank you.
If you think how much the tripod unit itself weighs doesn’t really matter, wait until you have to lug one around on your next hike. At some point, it can seem to get heavier by the minute. If you’re travelling on holiday, you don’t want a heavy tripod weighing down your luggage.
For reasons such as these, the weight of the tripod is very important to consider. Of course, if your photography is mostly going to be done at home or you don’t have to travel far carrying your tripod, then weight won’t be that big of a deal to you. But for those constantly on the move, it matters.
As mentioned earlier, look at the material your tripod is made out of, consider its weight, and see if that’s something you’re comfortable carrying around.
And while we’re on the topic of weight, let’s talk about another weight issue-- load capacity. In other words: how much weight can a tripod support before it starts becoming ineffective.
Smartphones aren’t really heavy at all so the load capacity is not a major concern at all, as most tripods can easily support the weight of a phone. If you’re going to use your tripod to mount a heavier, traditional camera, then it is important to consider the capacity of your unit.
The tripod legs and the head have their own weight support capacities. How much weight the entire tripod unit can support is derived from the lowest load capacity of the two. For example, if the head has a 1kg load capacity and the legs can carry 2kg, the load capacity of that tripod unit is 2kg. Anything above that may start causing problems, especially for the head.
This is not to say that your tripod will explode or break into pieces when you slightly go above the capacity. Rather, this simply means that anything above the load capacity will start compromising the stability of the tripod. Too much weight then, yes, the tripod will give in and break.
The issue of how much you should spend on a tripod is really a subject one and depends on your pockets. However, I would suggest you avoid for going for the very cheap options. In my experience, I have found that these cheap knockoffs aren’t durable at all and give in to wear and tear in no time.
My suggestion would be to invest in a decent tripod that will at least last you some years to come. Also, if it’s one that can support a higher load capacity, all the more better. That way, you can use your tripod not only with your smartphone, but also with action camera like a GoPro or even a DSLR camera. Sure, this might be a bit of an expensive option, but I truly believe it’s worth the investment.
Choosing the right tripod boils down to personal preference and the intended use of the tripod. Once you have figured out what you need and expect out of a tripod, selecting one will become easier.
If you're also interested in investing in something other than a tripod, then consider these other camera support options for smartphones.