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I'm currently looking for a good tripod for (mostly) macro photography and other kind of photography as well. I own a Canon EOS DSLR. Which tripod should I consider?

There are many on sale, but I'm not quite sure which one to buy.

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3  
I have found tripods to be even more complicated to buy then a DSLR body! I would recommend being very specific, maybe even splitting this up into multiple questions and include the research that you have already done. You could split it into categories such as legs, head, and macro accessories for example. You also might want to include price range, weight or size restrictions, your current equipment(body, lenses, tripods), etc. Right now this question is going to be tough to answer with a "best answer". –  dpollitt Jan 20 '13 at 15:45
    
What are your intended subjects? That will play a big part in what to recommend. –  Eric Jan 20 '13 at 21:15

6 Answers 6

up vote 1 down vote accepted

If I were to just go ahead and suggest a specific tripod for macro work it would without a doubt be the Gitzo Explorer. What sets this tripod apart is the 'center column' can tilt a full 90 degrees off axis (and anywhere in between) which was a huge plus back when I was really into macro. You can setup your tripod and (with a counterweight) send your camera about 12" out away from the tripod's center! This is great for when you want to shoot down over something, or there is an obstruction (like a fence or rock) that is preventing you from centering your tripod right in front of your subject and then you can slide it back/forth.

Also, since the center column can tilt a full 90' you can drop the tripod to ground level, putting your camera inches above the ground, many other center column tripods can't go any lower than the length of their center column.

Obviously 'normal tripod considerations' should be observed (desired height, camera weight, price).

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This isn't exactly what you asked, but one thing that can be quite useful to go with macro photography if you're going to use a tripod is a slider. I'm not sure what it may really be called, but it goes between the tripod and the camera and allows for lateral movement, usually a few inches. This would typically have a know that you turn to make fine movement, and some other means of locking it.

In macro photography, it is often more convenient to focus by moving the whole camera than to adjust the focus of the lens. Without a slider, you will be futzing with the tripod a lot to get it just the right distance. If you can control the subject by moving it around instead, then you don't need a slider. For example, if you're taking pictures of jewelry, it's easy enough to fix the camera roughly right and then slide whatever the jewelry is on back and forth to get the right composition an focus.

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They're usually called "macro focus rails", and the ones that do a two-way traverse (fore-and-aft and left-to-right) really are incredibly handy. Macro is often a game of millimetres, and a geared-down positioning system sure beats trying to nudge the ol' 'pod a hair or two. –  user2719 Jan 20 '13 at 13:58

The main criteria specific to macro photography is your ability to get sufficiently close.

How close you need to be depends on the lens and subject. A typical 35mm macro lens for example at 1:1 magnification gives you a working distance of 4cm while a 100mm gives you around 25cm. Check the numbers specific to your lens to find out.

To get this close a tripod with flexible camera placement is best. Manfrotto for example makes several models with a tilting center column. This lets the camera hag from the side of the tripod. See Figure 10 here. This is probably most used for photos of flowers which cannot be displaced. Probaby insects too which you may not want to displace.

The tilting center column creates something not perfectly balanced so make sure to get a strudy one. Another option from Slik is a reversible center column, so that you can attach the camera between the legs pointing downwards. This is less flexible but more stable.

Regardless of which tripod you use, you should get some focusing rails to adjust focus precisely by sliding the camera steadily forwards or backwards. Manfrotto calls this a Micrometric Positioning Plate.

Other brands make this, I am sure, but those are the products I know.

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I'm not sure how you came up with your distances. At 1:1, the distance from the effective focus point to the subject and to the image plane are both 2x the focal length. With a 35mm lens, this means 75mm between the focus point and the subject, although the physical size of the lens eats into that somewhat. With 100mm lens, that will be 200mm, which is 20cm, minus some for the lens bulk. This math won't work for lenses that can't be approximated as a single focus point, like what a tele extender does. Short lenses typical of macros aren't usually like that though. –  Olin Lathrop Jan 20 '13 at 21:21
    
These correspond to Pentax macros: DA 35mm F/2.8 Macro Limited andf D FA Macro 100mm F/2.8 (Both WR and non-WR versions). I do not have macros for other mounts but the Canon MP-E 65mm which I rented previously has a working distance of 4cm at 5:1 and 10cm at 1:1 which falls between the 35mm and 100mm as expected for the same 1:1 magnification. –  Itai Jan 20 '13 at 23:54

Buying a tripod is really confusing, there are so many at such a variety of prices. Most pros giving advice say to pay a lot for the tripod, as they last forever, and you will quickly decide that a cheap one is not good enough. They call it a rookie tax, you buy a cheap one, decide you hate it, buy a more expensive one, grow to hate it, and finally spend far more that you imaging, say $500 to $1000 and get one you actually love and use for 20+ years.

I listened and I've paid the rookie tax, but I'm just an amateur, so I bought a pretty good one from B+H for about $150. So far, I like it a lot, far better than the $50 one I first tried.

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I think @Shazam's Gitzo is a great suggestion. It can be awkward to work a normal tripod into position when your working distance to the subject is so close.

For many subjects I've found a GorillaPod to be really handy. They're not ideal if you have a heavy macro lens like the Sigma 180mm or the Nikon 105mm VR, but they're good for tabletop use, or for getting a bug's eye view of the daisies in the garden. They can be fussy to get stable and in the right position, but they certainly get you close to your subject.

Not really what I think you're after, but handy to have in the bag.

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Please make sure you check what the tripod can hold. So many people don't read the weight limit of the tripod until disaster happens.

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