Not all tripods are created equal. So what can you expect in a tripod if you can’t afford a durable, name-brand one?

After accidentally leaving my quality, Manfrotto carbon fiber tripod at home on a recent, multi-day photo excursion last week, I started learning what it was like to use a less-than-perfect tripod!

Here are my thoughts on what I missed about my Manfrotto and some ideas for how I compensated and made the most of what I had.

 

 

Behind the Scenes Insights

  • “Wal-Mart tripods” aren’t necessarily tripods bought from Walmart. All I mean by this phrase is simply to describe the cheap, plastic tripods that are widely distributed at non-photography-specific retail outlets and commonly included in photography bundles purchased online.
  • The “Wal-Mart tripod” I was using in this video had a video pan head instead of a ball head. The ball head that I have on my Manfrotto makes it very easy to get any angle I want quickly and level up the camera regardless of how off kilter the legs are, so to use the “Wal-Mart tripod” with multiple knobs to loosen or tighten multiple movements simply required more time and patience.
  • Screwing the camera on to the top of the tripod might not seem like a big deal, but when you have to screw and unscrew it every single time you want to take the camera on and off of the tripod quickly squelches motivation to use the tripod at all.
  • To give stability to a “Wal-Mart tripod”, the center column is attached to the legs via sliding plastic connectors. These prohibit the legs from folding out further than 45 degrees, which in turns prohibis the tripod from letting the camera get closer to the ground if you wanted. These connectors are a sure sign of a “Wal-Mart” tripod because the legs of a truly sturdy tripod can hold their own and do not need stability helps.
  • “Wal-Mart tripods” can actually be used on uneven surfaces, it’s just that there is a limit to how uneven those surfaces can be and it’s just more difficult to get the camera leveled up properly in general.
  • The biggest problem with “Wal-Mart tripods” is that they do not absorb vibration. Especially when the legs are extended all the way, just the slightest thing will cause vibrations. Just try it. Set the camera on the tripod, use Live View to zoom in 10x (or however far your camera allows) and look at the screen while trying to press the shutter button. Just look at it wiggle! It is for this reason that I will generally use an external release or the 5-10 second timer to take any picture using a “Wal-Mart tripod”. (On the Manfrotto, I only need the 2 second timer since it doesn’t vibrate nearly as much.)

Submit your own pictures of schoolhouses in the snow for the Old Schoolhouse Magazine assignment at www.lenspiration.com/old-schoolhouse-winter. Deadline is March 31.

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