Manfrotto’s Magic Arm kit is ideal for easy camera positioning—one lever locks three pivot points. It can support about eight pounds.
Systems Support Magic Manfrotto makes a whole array of excellent tripods, from carbon fiber to lightweight metal, but one thing that makes their product line especially interesting is the ability to add all sorts of attachments to tripods for special purposes that can make nature photography easier. Owning a Manfrotto is buying into a vast system of camera support products. This is particularly important in the outdoors, where nature often places subjects in inconvenient ways, and the right accessories can help overcome nature’s obstacles. I worked with the well-designed 303SPH panoramic head, the Macro Flash Bracket 3278B and a variety of attachments that help get the camera into low and unique positions. It’s nice to know that tripod work can be made so adaptable.
The Macro Flash Bracket 3278B from Manfrotto lets you position your flash right where you need it.
The panoramic head is a precision piece of gear. It’s designed to set up your camera so it rotates around the nodal point of the lens as you shoot multiple shots across a scene to create a panoramic image. This helps make those shots line up and match without problems of details not lining up. The head also rotates the camera up and down for verticals or to create a very wide shot built up from multiple images shot across and vertically over a scene. This leads to very large image files that allow huge panoramic prints with extreme detail. The arms and grip attachments allow you to put a camera close to the ground and into places that would be awkward to do otherwise. It can be difficult to handhold a camera in a group of flowers and keep the shots consistent, for example. The arms and grip attachments work well to keep your camera in position, which can be a huge benefit when you’re awkwardly lying on the ground trying to frame a close-up.
Use the Manfrotto Super Clamp on your tripod leg to get down to ground level. Easier than inverting the center column, the clamp can be quickly removed and reattached in a new position.
The arms have to deal with the weight of a camera away from the tripod, so you’ll need to put your camera bag or other weight on the tripod. The shorter the support is away from the tripod, though, the more stable it is for longer exposures. The flash bracket allows you to position flash for close-ups while the camera is on a tripod (it can be handheld, too). Estimated Street Price: $578 (model 303SPH panoramic head); $49 (Macro Flash Bracket 3278B).
When choosing a tripod and accessories, remember that your ends justify the means in terms of weight—tripod weight and the weight it will support—and the tripod’s adaptability to your style and subject matter. Learn to adapt your camera support to the shot you want.