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Tripods ? A Personal History


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Tripods A Personal History

23 Aug 2022 3:01PM   Views : 353 Unique : 221

Tripods are very useful accessories and in some cases indispensable for some types of photography. Some models are more suitable than others and Ive had a few over the years.

Your working style and/or genre may mean you don't have an immediate need for one, but the same can be said of tilt and shift lenses or extreme wideangles and fisheye lenses. As your photography moves on you may well be glad to use one. Before I go on that reminds me, there was a science fiction series in the early 1980s a first for being shot entirely on video even on location. However, they were aliens and of little use to photography (unless you're visiting Area 51).


The very first tripod I had cause to use belonged to my father. We're talking of days when ISO 100 film was the norm (not to mention Kodachrome at ISO 64) and ISO 400 film with golf ball grain. Attempting flower photography, some indoor natural window light portraits and night shots meant a solid support was necessary.

The tripod was large and heavy and I'm sure I still have it tucked away. It's something I'd never get rid of. Perhaps it ought to be a retro ornament. Why do I say those things? Because my father had it made to his specification and did some of the engineering himself. It's made of aluminium tubing with a machined aluminium head. Such materials were hard to come by in those days but working in the forefront of aviation design and manufacture (I can say no more) meant it wasn't a problem.


I wanted something manageable and at least half decent. Travelling to and from university meant size and weight were important. I opted for a Velbon model which was adequate for my small Pentax at the time. This served me well for a number of years.

I h a Canon T90 which was a larger camera, though not much more than my Pentax with a winder attached, but those weren't the reasons for getting my next tripod. It's true that a heavy camera and lens combination needs a solid tripod to be effective but I wasn't using long lenses at the time. I went on a photo holiday/course and part of that involved close-up work often low down, photographing frogs and small plants. Enter the Benbo. It was the tripod for nature and wildlife photographers at that time. It was solid, had sealed lower legs that could safely be used in water and was able to be positioned in awkward pl;aces where conventional tripods would fear to tread.


The Benbo could be carried easily by the centre column, balancing well in the hand. It had one control for loosening and tightening all the legs (hence its flexibility of setting up) but that could be a problem, as not tightening it properly would see your gear go crashing to the ground (that never happened to me I have to add). Some photographers never got on with one and would liken it to grappling with bagpipes on heat (I defer to their knowledge on the subject).

The original Benbo was heavy, and a lighter version as well as some copies were produced. However, for longer treks or longer use the allure of carbon fibre models was attractive. I bought a Manfrotto model from a photographic show at the NEC, from a dealer that is sadly no longer in business like so many others. I went for a four section model, and while three sections are supposed to be more rigid, compactness was also a consideration, so I was glad of the choice. I still use that tripod today and it's perfectly at home holding heavy long lenses.


There is another tripod worthy of a mention and that's one of those with flexible legs. They aren't large but will easily fit into a rucksack so are great for travel. The legs can wrap around a support for extra stability or positioning in tricky places. They are also useful for holding a flashgun or small LED panel in place for off camera lighting effects.

There are benefits to using tripods, and one of the less tangible ones is slowing you down and making your photography more considered. That will improve your images.

All text and images Keith Rowley 2022

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altitude50 Avatar
altitude50 19 24.1k United Kingdom
23 Aug 2022 3:21PM
My main tripod was bought in about 1985 it is a big heavy Manfrotto which I fitted recently with a good quality ball head. Used a lot for indoor table top & macro photography such as my milk splashes and OO gauge buildings/figures indispensible for that.
The other tripod is a secondhand Manfrotto Elements carbon fibre lightweight one with a decent head bought for 22. I only take one of them out with me on occasions when I know that I am going to use it. Sometimes get caught out.
dark_lord Avatar
dark_lord Plus
19 3.0k 836 England
23 Aug 2022 4:42PM
That's an absolute bargain at 22!

Tripod heads, that's another story Smile
Imageryonly Avatar
Imageryonly Plus
4 208 11 United Kingdom
25 Aug 2022 12:35PM
My personal favorite is a Manfrotto Art 075 studio tripod with a Junior 410 head attached. Total weight probably around 10 kilos, so not for backpacking, but it goes down to 12" ( 300cm ) and up to 9ft 6" ( approx 3 metres ) and the dogs cannot disturb it Smile I also have the Studio dolly for it. Bought at a village Jumble Sale for 15 complete.
I seem to have collected Tripods, a current count is 10, all of which I still use regularly, more so now as age begins to tell Wink


whatriveristhis Avatar
25 Aug 2022 11:16PM
I loved my Benbo Mk.I, with the standard ball head ...quite heavy, but so easy and quick to set up. (And yes, I always made sure it was well tightened! ) I haven't used it since I went digital, but I can't bring myself to part with it.

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