Tripods: The ultimate image stabilization

No shaky shots. Guaranteed.

In this time of high-tech image stabilized and vibration reduction lenses as well as anti-shake capabilities built into cameras from Sony, Olympus, and Pentax, you might wonder if you even need a tripod? I think so. Let me tell you why.

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Don't rock the boat: There is no doubt that an image stabilized camera body such as the Olympus E-3 can be a big help in low-light photography. Exposure for this shot was hand-held at 0.4 seconds at f/3.5 and ISO 2000. (Neat Image was selectively used to reduce digital noise.) But sometime you need to shoot at shutter speeds slower than this, and that means you'll need a tripod. © 2007 Joe Farace


Be kind to our three-legged friends: Manfrotto's CX-Series line of carbon fiber tripods features a Q90 (Quick Center Column System) that allows the column to be rotated to a horizontal position with a single motion, without removing the head or disassembling the column, making switching between framing and positioning a snap.

For portraits a tripod can be a three-legged assistant that holds your camera when you walk up to a portrait subject and touch up their pose. While making portraits, some photographers prefer to have the camera on a tripod so the subject can look at them instead of seeing a face blocked by a camera. When you want to work at smaller apertures to increase depth-of-field, especially for those macro shots, you'll need a tripod to hold the camera stead for those l-o-n-g shutter speeds.

A tripod is important for maintaining precise registration for “before and after shots,” construction progress photographs, and panoramic images, no matter if they're virtual reality or conventional. Infrared photography, whether film or digital, often requires filters that are seemingly opaque and have filter factors approaching infinity that produce long shutter speeds that even the best anti-shake or image stabilization technologies can't handle.

Infra-ready: Shutter speed used for this digital infrared photograph made through the opaque Singh-Ray I-Ray IR filter was eight seconds. Even the best image stabilization lens or camera body won't work at these kind of extended shutter speeds. You're gonna need a good tripod. ©2008 Joe Farace

Tripods come in many sizes from tiny tabletop models to heavy-duty camera stands for studio use. Because of the availability of so many types, sizes, construction materials, styles, and even colors, there's never a one-size-fits-all solution, and like eating potato chips you can't have just one. That's why most of us end up with a collection of camera supports with different tripods used for different kind of tasks.

Joe Farace is co-author of "Better Digital Available Light Photography" along with Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Barry Staver. It is published by Focal Press and is available in all the best bookstores.

 

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