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I want a heavy tripod without a center column for indoor macro photography.

I can only seem to find such tripods starting at ~$700.

I want to spend around $300 including the head, so I was hoping to find a tripod for $200-$300.

Is this unrealistic?

Is there a specific name for this kind of tripod? Because I am searching for "tripod without center column", which seems like it will be missing results.

  • I just think I don't need a center column and I think additional moving components will add instability. The weight will be about 500g, so not much, I just want it to be extremely stable. – user75760 Jun 4 '18 at 15:53
  • I'm not sure about the rest but a big ball head seems like it would be good – user75760 Jun 4 '18 at 15:54
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    Center column is your best friend on macro photography. – Rafael Jun 4 '18 at 20:38
  • Center columns can be an issue in terms of consistent position from shot to shot if you are doing focus stacking via a focus rail. Although they do "settle" after the focus rail is adjusted, they don't always settle in the exact same place each time. – Michael C Jun 4 '18 at 22:41
  • Just get a telescope or survey tripod and modify it. Likely available as junk! – rackandboneman Apr 17 at 7:46
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A tripod for indoor, macro photography...

So, first up, let's dispel the myth of the center column adding instability. A center column, lifted to it's maximum height, creates a precarious platform for the camera to rest on. At that point, you're essentially balancing the camera on a stick and there's not a ton of inherent rigidity to counteract vibrations. But...you're going to be inside. You can use mirror lock up and you don't have to worry about wind causing vibration. So, even in the most precarious position imaginable, you'd still have a stable rig.

Now for some center column benefits: Find a tripod that allows you to pull the center column out and put it back parallel to the ground and upside down as well. Why? For flexibility! You never know when you'll need to shoot straight down on something or maneuver the camera to a wonky angle. Additionally, you're shooting macro - the smallest movements make a world of difference. Got the whole rig set up but need to move the camera up 1/2"? That can be a royal pain without a center column.

While we're talking about micro movements and royal pains, let's jam on tripod heads. Research "Geared tripod head." You may not need it for your macro work, but having minute movements available to you is very helpful.

Now, what about the tripod as a whole? The tripod needs to be able to support the weight of your rig, and will only get more stable and sturdy as you find one that can support more weight. Because you won't be traveling with it, you can save some coin here. Look for sturdy aluminum tripods. They don't have to fold up small and can weigh as much as it takes.

TL;DR - get a sturdy aluminum tripod that can handle a good deal of weight and save some cash here. Do get a center column. Use the saved money on a good geared head. You won't be getting out of this purchase at under $300.

Nobody likes to spend a ton of money on tripods. But, consider this: You've just spent over $2k on a camera and lens set up and peripherals and you absolutely cannot take your shot without a tripod. The difference is in getting the shot, or not getting it. What's that worth to you?

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    Also, a lot of center columns have a hook you can hang weights from to add additional stability to the tripod. – xiota Jun 4 '18 at 22:00
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Is there a specific name for this kind of tripod? Because I am searching for "tripod without center column", which seems like it will be missing results.

The types of tripod you seem to be looking for are often called 'twin leg' tripods or 'twin leg video' tripods. The 'twin' refers to the way each of the three legs are made with double rails for each section. Some have twin rails on all except the lowest section, others include the twin rails on the lowest section.

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They're generally made for video usage.

You are correct that they are more stable than many center column tripods with single legs. They also tend to be more expensive than many single leg style tripods. But there are a few budget options with twin legs that should fit in your budget range. The Manfrotto MVT502AM Aluminum Telescopic Twin Leg Video Tripod pictured above runs around $230-280 without a head in the U.S. Less well known "knock off" brands can be even cheaper.

Most twin leg tripods have spreaders that also add stability. Many have the spreader attached to the bottom of the first section. Others put the spreader at the very base, often with wheels attached.

This type of tripod could come in handy if you are doing focus stacking with macro work that requires adjusting the camera/lens/focus rail slightly between frames.

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