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by Bart Arondson

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I am looking for my first tripod and just learning terminology. I hear there are such that level automatically, but I am not sure how to google them. What is this feature called with different brands? What brands would you recommend? What would be my least expensive choice? I read several posts on tripods and could not locate that specific term that means they adjust automatically. I also checked Vanguard website. Many of their 'pods have "Instant Swivel Stop-n-Lock (ISSL) System." Does it mean they level automatically, or something else?" I am a beginner with a compact camera and limited budget, but want to invest wisely to allow progress in facility and equipment. In other words, I want to buy one that is intended for a better camera than the one I have at present, but such that still can be used for a compact camera. I envision my next upgrade with a Rebel with telephoto.

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I'm not aware of a tripod that will self-level, though I do know of ones that have feet that adjust to some degree to the terrain. That wouldn't level it, just stabilize it. I do know of a ball head that is self-levelling, but at $5000 it's probably a little steep... –  John Cavan Jun 24 '13 at 17:52
    
And there are tripods/heads with levels built-in to aid in leveling. –  MikeW Jun 24 '13 at 19:56

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You are not going to find a cheap self leveling tripod. They are a fairly new thing and would be very expensive if there are even any commercially available that aren't custom jobs. My guess about the ISSL system is that it is simply a way to quickly lock down the ability to move the joint (rather than having to tighten something down through several rotations.) The only term I have heard applied is "self leveling tripod" or "self adjusting tripod". I'm also not 100% sure that they self level so much as self steady. I just know that I've seen where someone can drop the tripod and it will adjust to the terrain (I think the demo I saw showed it being dropped on a staircase.)

The better question is why do you need a tripod to self level? It is not difficult or time consuming to level a tripod. Get a good quality tripod with easy to use legs and you can do it in a matter of seconds by just reading the bubble level and adjusting accordingly.

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Ok, after doing some more research, I'm pretty sure the tripod I saw setting itself up on stairs was one that a professional video friend of mine showed me that someone they knew custom built. I couldn't find any commercial tripods that would level or setup themselves. I could only find a tripod head that would adjust to be level regardless of if the tripod itself was level. –  AJ Henderson Jun 24 '13 at 18:07
    
What do you mean by "reading the bubble level"? –  Lena Borisova Jun 24 '13 at 19:32
    
@LenaBorisova - a decent tripod should have a bubble level on it for adjusting the level. You put the bubble in the center of the circle by adjusting the length of the legs. When it's in the middle, the tripod is level. Typically good tripod heads will also have a bubble level. –  AJ Henderson Jun 24 '13 at 19:45

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