Orquid "Phoenix"

Orquid "Phoenix"

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What are the types of pods and which pod is suitable for which situation?
Is there a camera holder which can be curled around the shoulders and neck?

What are the pros and cons of them all?

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I know that everyone says you should just buy a $700 tripod right now, or else you'll buy a bunch of cheaper tripods and then end up with the $700 tripod anyway. But I think there's a lot of value, especially if you are using a camera that's lighter than a DSLR, to getting a smaller (easier to carry around) and cheaper (so you don't stress out if you lose it) tripod and getting used to bringing it with you and setting it up and learning when and how to use it. My first "real" tripod, for my SX10, was something like staples.com/Vivitar-VT-41-8-Section-Tripod-Silver/… –  drewbenn Jan 4 '12 at 8:17
    
@drewbenn that link points to nowhere. –  TheIndependentAquarius Jan 4 '12 at 8:30
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re: edit 2: steadicam (though it's intended for video). I think your question is straying here: it's no longer a single question. It started with tripod-monopod-qudrantpod. But Gorillapod (a specific brand which makes a tripod with non-straight legs) is just a subset of tripods. A better question, to start, would have been: "What are the types of supports, and when should I use them?" which would have allowed for beanbag tripods, wire-support systems, window mounts, shoulder-supports, jetpack pods.... "Tripod height" is a 2nd question and "What support to use for landscapes?" is a third. –  drewbenn Jan 4 '12 at 8:33
    
Works for me :( Maybe try this link: vivitar.com/products/13/tripods/120/vt-41 –  drewbenn Jan 4 '12 at 8:36
    
@drewbenn You re right, Ive edited the question. :) –  TheIndependentAquarius Jan 4 '12 at 8:39
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6 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Just for completeness' sake, I'll add a couple of options not touched upon so far.

Chestpod -- This is a device consisting of a shoulder harness, a broad plate that rests on your chest, and an adjustable support arm with a small ball head. It's designed to help you support SLRs and long lenses (usually using the lens's tripod ring). It is not a replacement for a tripod or monopod -- it doesn't come into contact with anything more stable than the photographer's body -- but it can significantly reduce muscle strain and fatigue when working "handheld".

Rifle-stock style suports -- These are, as the name implies, rigs that look very much like a rifle or shotgun stock, with a shoulder piece, a grip with a remote shutter release, and often a forestock to allow the user a more comfortable position to support the front end of a camera with a long lens attached. These are a lot less popular now than they were in the manual focus film SLR days since you don't have handy access to all of the camera's controls while shooting. But for birding it can still be useful (used from the prone position or with an auxilliary support, such as a tree trunk or a fallen log) since it can be nearly as stable as a tripod (assuming sub-second shutter speeds) while being much faster.

Video/Cine shoulder supports -- Devices like these are designed to give you a good compromise between stability and mobility. There is usually a shoulder hook and two handles attached 30-45cm (a foot to a foot and a half) away from the body. They're great for video, but it's very difficult to access the camera's controls while using one, and since video is a fixed horizontal format, there's usually no provision for mounting the camera in a portrait orientation.

Camera stands -- Used in studios, these are tall columns on a heavy rolling base with an adjustable arm for mounting the camera. Typically, these beasts weigh more than a hundred pounds (and can be several hundred), can support cameras weighing tens of pounds comfortably, and give new meaning to the word "stable". Surprisingly, they are often more nimble than a tripod in a studio setting; raising a camera from knee level to stepladder level is usually a matter of turning one knob a few degrees, lifting the camera support arm (which is counterweighted and feather-light to operate) and retightening the knob (and barely finger-tight will do, thank you).

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How in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks did this supplemental addendum become the accepted answer? All of the stuff I mentioned is special-purpose gear that the average photographic "civilian" is never going to run across in real life. The only reason I mentioned it at all is because we want to make this site as comprehensive as it can be. I really hope the tick mark wasn't based on rep. –  user2719 Feb 26 '12 at 6:48
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Tripod

  • when a stable platform is required, especially when no camera or subject movement is occurring
  • landscape photography
  • long exposures
  • macro and product photography
  • situations where a remote trigger/tether is used

Monopod

  • compromise when a tripod is to heavy/bulky to be carried (hiking, travelling)
  • for supporting large lenses when the subject is moving (birds and animals, sports) - the monopod allows the camera to be panned as the subject moves more easily than a tripod
  • also can be used when there is sufficient light outdoors, so that a tripod isn't really required, but a monopod can provide a little extra stability to prevent camera shake

Gorillapod - this has its uses in tabletop photography, with small cameras, or travelling when it can be carried in a purse or bag. Not really a true replacement for a normal tripod.

Length of legs - the main advantage of longer legs is that you can position the camera at the photographer's eye level, making it a lot more convenient to frame and focus. I would say this is especially true of a monopod as you will be looking through the viewfinder and don't want to be hunched over.

Longer legs may be an advantage in some situations.

On the other hand, for other shots it's useful to have a tripod that can position the camera very near to ground level. Apart from very small tripods and gorillapods, some tripods have legs that unlock and extend out almost perpendicular like so:

enter image description here

and others have reversible centre tubes so the camera can be mounted upside down.

enter image description here

If you get a tripod with longer legs, you'll want to be sure it's a sturdy tripod or it will be wobbly and defeat the purpose of having one in the first place.

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Great answer Mike. –  TheIndependentAquarius Jan 4 '12 at 6:12
    
@drewbenn , Mike have edited again. –  TheIndependentAquarius Jan 4 '12 at 8:28
    
can someone suggest a use for having an uppside down tripod center tube? –  Graeme Hutchison Jan 4 '12 at 14:37
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Simply if you want the camera to be right at ground level, you can lower the tube until the camera touches the ground. I've used it (very carefully) in a stream to get a very low perspective. Or table top photography if you want a low perspective and more control than a bean bag or gorillapod or similar. –  MikeW Jan 4 '12 at 18:54
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A couple people touched on this, but it should be stated more explicitly: when you use a tripod with longer legs, it becomes less stable. For example, many tripods have legs that can be extended. When the legs are collapsed all the way, the tripod is at its most stable. The more you extend the legs, the more susceptible the camera is to wind. If you're outdoors and the wind is blowing or gusting, and especially if you're taking long exposures or using the self timer, you're more likely to get some camera shake.

Some tripods include a hook at the base of the center column: this is there so you can hang a weight from the center column, increasing its mass and thus its resistance to wind.

Some tripods also have a center column which extends upwards for more height. Just like extending the legs, the higher you extend the center column the less stable the camera will be. Extending the center column will affect the stability more than extending the legs, so if you want a mix of stability and height, you should leave the center column all the way down and only extend the legs.

Here's a pretty rough drawing showing fully-extended three-section legs and a fully-extended center column:

it's too dark out to take pictures

Finally, and out of the scope of your question but worth mentioning, the material out of which the tripod is made affects its stability. Some materials transmit vibrations while others dampen it. So tripods made of wood, carbon fiber, aluminum, etc. will have different responses to ground vibrations (such as you stepping away after initiating a long exposure).

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+1 for the drawing. More drawings please. :) –  mattdm Jan 4 '12 at 12:06
    
Thanks for the effort. –  TheIndependentAquarius Feb 26 '12 at 6:08
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Dedicated photographer can found himself/herself spending most of his/her time using a tripod as a support. There are several attributes defines a suitable tripod for you (where you should be able to find those descriptions per other's question or webpages).

As per alternative camera holder/supporter, they tends to be very specific:

  • Monopod helps you handle weights when you shooting with a telescope lens and/or photographs for a long time. It also increase your stability seems by 2 stops.

  • Gorillapod is extremely compact, it is like having a small tripod in your pocket. It's tentacle legs design also allows you to stand your camera in a unconventional position (eg/ on a tree branch, side of a fence). Been that, it also inherits cons of small tripods.

  • I have never head of Quadrantpod, would be thrilled to know more about this and how an extra leg contribute into the equation.

For shooting landscapes and macro, a strong (usually means heavy) tripod is optimal and usually is the only stand/support you will need.


In addition to part 2 of the question "Do the length of pod legs matter, in which cases?"

If the availability of different height matters to you, then answer is yes.

Let's quick look at following common 3 legged equipments:

  1. Standard professional tripod, available height from 0.1 to 1.8 metre
  2. Small tripod that fits in your backpack, available height from 0.7 to 1.5 metre
  3. Gorillapod that virtually fits in your pocket, available height of 0.25 metre

Only concerning about height availability and shooting landscapes, a bigger professional tripod can go very low to take reflection shots or interesting perspective, and also able to be tall enough to reach to sight behind fences/obstacles.
One can decide to give up those features to gain other attributes such as weight, size or price.

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rockacola and @MikeW I have edited the question. –  TheIndependentAquarius Jan 4 '12 at 5:28
    
Thanks for the edit. :) –  TheIndependentAquarius Jan 4 '12 at 6:17
    
there is one more possibility - mini tripod like Velbon CX mini 3 - although sometime called "table tripod" (height 30 - 64 cm), it is usable outdoors. I use it as travel tripod - it is enough good for most cases and very small. Can be used also with DSLR with smaller lens (like the kit 18-55 mm etc.). –  Juhele Jan 5 '12 at 10:20
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Others have covered the pros and cons of the various options so I'll talk about the height first:

In most cases you will use the tripod in one of 4 positions:

  1. Eye level - that is your eye level, this is useful for not breaking your back in long shoots - note that cheap tripods are not very stable at that height. (you have to make sure the tripod is as tall as you and that it is usable at that height)

  2. Legs fully extended, center column down - this is the most stable positio, when you need stability and don't care about height.

  3. As low as possible - this is especially common in landscape photography where you want to use the ground in your composition. (pro tripod can get much lower than cheep ones)

  4. Table height - for stil life and product photography.

Now, for the various types of camera stabilizer:

  1. Tripod - this is the most common and usually the best tool for the job - a heavy stable tripod is best for photographing but heavy to carry, a cheap light one is usable for photographing (if you don't need it to go too low or too high - because it can't go very low and isn't stable when fully extended) but easy to carry.

  2. Monopod - for cases where you can't use a tripod but still need support (when the tripod is too bulky, to heavy, not allowed or you need to move a lot) or when you don't need a stabilizer at all but the equipment is to heavy to hand-hold (usually for large telephoto lenses). Monopod will almost always be used at eye level - I never used a monopod myself so this is second-hand information.

  3. Gorillapod - the gorillapod is not only a tiny tripod (tiny tripods are not very useful in my experience) - you can wrap the legs around anything like a tree branch or a signpost to stabilize the camera at the height you want to shoot from - never used a gorillapod myself so I don't know how well it works.

  4. And one you didn't ask about originally - a beanbag - a simple plastic bag full of beans or rice (or even your coat if you didn't bring your beanbag with you) will let you securely place the camera on just about anything (so you can balance your camera on a conveniently located fence or use your car's door like you would a monopod) - very useful for night shots when you don't want to carry a tripod with you.

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Nice, would you mention which pods should be used in those 4 situations? Any one for all? –  TheIndependentAquarius Jan 4 '12 at 6:43
    
@AnishaKaul - I've updated my answer –  Nir Jan 4 '12 at 12:05
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Just to be contrary I'll answer the question sideways a bit. I like to take nature pictures off the beaten path. Lugging a tripod 10 miles up a mountain is usually not reasonable. So instead of just thinking "tripod", think about all the ways you can steady a camera. I've had to improvise a number of times. Sometimes you can make it work, sometimes not, but it's good to broaden your thinking anyway.

One thing about being in the woods is that there tend to be trees around. Trees make pretty good camera-steadiers, although you have to find one in the right place. Hold the camera against the vertical trunk so that it touches at two points, usually one side of the body and near the end of the lens. Actually its usually one side of your hand that touches tree with the other side of your hand holding some part of the camera. That makes it easy to so small aiming adjustments.

You might think horizontal limbs would be good for resting a camera on, but those are rarely in the right place, and the ones that are strong enough aren't at the right height.

Don't be afraid to get down on the ground and get dirty, as long as the camera doesn't get dirty. Sometimes it can be very interesting to think about a composition from ground level. Work the low foreground into a landscape shot. You don't have to tell anyone you came accross that by accident of trying to steady the camera.

Sitting down with one knee bent up, then using the knee as a prop works pretty well, particularly for a longer lens when you're a old fart like me that doesn't contort so easily anymore. Another advantage of this is that you'll be less visible to wildlife and look less threatening too.

Then there is just hand holding, but doing it carefully. Feet spread apart a bit but not "wide", one elbow in your belly with hand forward so that torso-camera-forearm makes a triangle sticking forward, other arm tucked in to your side holding the camera body, take a few good breaths, then a deep one, then let it out a bit, and you'll be holding the camera much stedier than usual. Practise with a long lens to see what works for you and what shutter speed you can get away with. Keep in mind a little more noise from higher ISO is better than motion blur, so crank it up and keep the shutter speed as fast as you can manage.

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