Not Your Everyday Banana

by Bart Arondson

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I'm in the market for my first tripod, and have noticed that they generally top out around 175cm(5'8") tall. I'm 200cm(6'6") tall, and while there aren't many people taller than me, there are some.

What do other tall photographers do?

  • Suck it up and hunch over, as we must for most things in life? (cars, doorways, kitchen counters, etc.)
  • Customize your own tripod?
  • Find a boutique "big & tall tripod" retailer?
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+1 for big and tall tripod retailer! –  dpollitt Jan 21 '12 at 15:27
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6 Answers 6

up vote 10 down vote accepted

There are quite a few tripods that are taller than you (without a head), and many more that would come to eye level comfortably with a head. Brands include Benbo, Benro, Berlebach (wooden), Cullman, Davis & Sanford, Giottos, Gitzo, Induro, Kowa, Linhof, Majestic, Manfrotto, Slik and the 3-Legged Thing. Some of those you would need a stepladder to use at their full extended height. If you're a studio shooter, most camera stands go to eight feet (240cm) or higher. To go shopping, I'd suggest using the B&H Photo and Video site and it's excellent search filters. (You don't need to buy from them, but their site is probably the best way to find out what you want to buy.)

But that's not the whole story in any case. I'm not particularly tall (5'9"/173cm), and while I have used the Benbo 2's full reach (253 cm without a head) out in the field and spent some time on a ladder with studio camera stands, that's not the normal state of affairs. Hunching, crouching, kneeling and lying down are. That's not because of the height of the camera support, but because the subject demands it. One of the pleasures of working with real fashion models was that they were some of the few people I could shoot even part of the time from anything like a standing height (take somebody who stands a little taller than me, then add heels, and I'd barely have to bend to get down to a good level for a 1/2- or 3/4-length shot -- but I'd still have to bend). You can always put people on risers, of course, but landscapes are rarely cooperative in that way (and there are Laws of the Universe stating that the best angle for a landscape will always be something other than your normal standing point of view; like the time of arrival at a restaurant, it is a recipriversexcluson).

So yes, you can find a tripod that will let you work comfortably, but you'll find that comfort and photography are almost mutually exclusive.

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Your height should have nothing to do with the height of your tripod. The tripod has to extended to exactly the height that will give the best composition.

Being uncomfortable will happen whether you are tall, medium or short. As someone suggested you can use Live-View on most modern DSLRs to avoid putting your eye to the viewfinder. An add-on LCD display can be pluged into the HDMI port but those are usually expensive.

Getting a tall tripod has consequences too which you have to weigh. The taller the tripod, the heavier it will be to be stable and the bigger it will fold down to. I've even shrunk my tripod by removing its center column to gain stability since the middle column transmits more vibrations.

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I'm a bit over 6'2" (188cm) and run into this problem all the time. My standard solution is to take a knee. I've actually contemplated carrying a knee pad in my camera bag in the summer so if I'm wearing shorts I can cover my left knee to protect it from all the little rocks and such.

I should also point out that you almost never want to use a tripod at it's "topped out" height. Especially if you get that last few cm with an extension tube that slides up from between the legs. With a lot of tripods you're better off hand holding they are so flippy floppy sloppy extended all the way up.

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Your point about not using a tripod topped out is the reason I asked in the first place. These tripods listed at 175cm are probably intended to be most stable at 150~165, well below my comfort zone. –  Andrew Heath Jan 21 '12 at 14:27
    
Tripods are most sable with the center column down or not there at all (as some tripods support). –  Itai Jan 21 '12 at 17:18
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I'm 6'6" and I have a Manfrotto 055XPROB tripod with a Manfrotto 498RC2 ball head and I have absolutely no problem with it. Fully extended without a head it is 187cm then with the head and camera on top it's much higher. It will easily reach my eye level if I want it to but as others have already said the composition will often dictate how high it needs to be.

It's a reasonably large aluminium tripod but it's certainly not too heavy to carry around etc and the price is reasonable. Overall I've been very happy with it.

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Not good with type numbers but I believe I have the same setup. I'm also tall, at 193cm. I sometimes use the middle column to increase the height of the entire setup. That is probably quite unprofessional to do, but it works for me. –  Ferdy Jan 24 '12 at 21:33
    
Hi Mark. Did you look at the 055XB at all before your purchase? I've been looking at both of those (online only, unfortunately) and was wondering whether the PRO is worth the extra bit of cost? –  Andrew Heath Jan 26 '12 at 9:39
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Hi Andrew, I did consider both but I didn't actually see a 055XB in person before making my decision. The 055XPROB has the spirit level bubble built in (very handy) and the centre column goes horizontal which could be useful in certain situations. This made my decision for me. I purchased from Amazon (in the UK) and there was no price difference. Other than the two things I've mentioned I believe that both tripods are the same. I'm sure you will be happy with whichever you decide to go for. Best of luck. :) –  Mark J P Jan 26 '12 at 23:55
    
Hi Mark, thanks for replying! One more question: what camera(s) are you using with that tripod setup? I looked on your profile but didn't see any gear listed. –  Andrew Heath Jan 27 '12 at 7:43
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Hi Andrew, I'm generally using my 5DMK2 and a combination of lenses including the 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS II - so some reasonably heavy gear and the tripod is absolutely fine with it. The heavier 70-200 lens has a dedicated collar so I mount the lens to the tripod directly. This is probably better than mounting the camera with a heavy lens attached. I don’t generally list my gear as I think sometimes there is a little too much emphasis on gear and not enough on the photographs but in situations like this it is entirely relevant. –  Mark J P Jan 27 '12 at 12:08
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The Manfrotto 3058 is 105 inches (260cm).

Alternatives are to buy a right angle viewfinder, or buy a camera with an articulating (flip-out) LCD so you can just look down instead of bending over.

Or get one of these ;)

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Yikes. That manfrotto is a monster. I'd hate to have to carry that thing around! –  Andrew Heath Jan 21 '12 at 14:26
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I'm 185 cm.

I bought a Benro tripod that's 170 cm without the column extended. That's taller than eye-view for me. Keep in mind the tripod head will add more height, the camera's viewfinder will add a little more, and your eyes aren't at your height. By the time all that's considered for me, 170 cm is slightly above my eye level, so I don't extend the legs all the way unless I'm on a slope.

If I raise the column, I gain an additional 25 cm. This is important to have a tripod that's taller than you so that if you're pointed downhill, you still don't have to hunch over.

Benro legs are good quality. I would recommend them. I've heard bad reviews of their heads, so I opted for an Acratech head.

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