Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Holiday Buyer's Guide
A look at some of the gear that’s available for the nature photographer on your gift list
If you’re a regular OP reader, you know that we’re big fans of tripods. Image-stabilizing technology is amazing, but nothing beats the complete steadiness of a solid tripod with a good head on it. If you want to find a gift for the nature photographer in your life that’s guaranteed to make an improvement in his or her photography, a good tripod and head are it. The good news is that there are so many good tripods and heads being made, you have a lot of choices. Rather than try to describe each and every possibility here, we’ll describe various design attributes and materials.
If you want a more compact tripod, you’ll want to select one that has more leg sections that collapse to a smaller overall size. For example, a three-section tripod that goes up to 60 inches will be about 20 inches when you’re carrying it. You can find a unit that goes up to the same 60 inches in a tripod with four or five leg sections that might fold down to a little over 12 inches. The trade-off is that all things being equal, more leg sections are less stable at full extension than fewer leg sections. Decide what matters most, choose a model that can easily handle your maximum camera and lens load and you’ll be fine. A quick word about center columns. Some tripods have center columns that can extend the maximum height of a tripod considerably. While they’re handy, the center column reduces the overall stability of the camera as they’re raised to full extension. When you’re making a buying decision, try to get a unit that has legs that will extend to your anticipated maximum height without having to use the center column.
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