There’s really no debate whether or not a tripod is essential gear for steady shots, and advances in technology have given us incredibly light and more durable models to carry in the field.
Creative photography requires more than merely a steady shot, however, and you may often encounter photo opportunities for which a typical tripod isn’t the best solution. Whether aiming for new and exciting angles, looking for unusual portability or originating a new kind of tripod altogether, the models we’ll look at here feature creative answers to some unique situations.
Manfrotto’s 190XPROB sports a popular new innovation in tripods. By extending the center column camera support all the way to its uppermost vertical position, the column can then be swung, still attached, into a horizontal alignment for extremely low shooting, perfect for macro photography of flowers or insects. The 190XPROB works in a height range from 57.5 inches all the way down to 3.3 inches, with four leg-angle settings at 25, 46, 66 and 88 degrees. Leg warmers are included to ease handling in harsh weather. Estimated Street Price: $145.
Communing with nature is a lot more natural when you’re carrying a wooden tripod. The wood frame of Berlebach’s BE8043 offers a more comfortable touch than metal or carbon-fiber tripods in temperature extremes. More importantly, the natural vibration-absorption qualities of wood offer a potential advantage when working in environments where even the ground isn’t stable, such as in streams. The included leveling ball has a bubble balance and sits atop a center column that provides 30 degrees of swivel in each direction. A three-position adjustable leg and a maximum height of 69 inches cover the bases. Estimated Street Price: $280.
Sunpak’s FlexPod Pro mini-tripod takes a flexible approach to camera support. The FlexPod Pro wraps segmented legs around uneven surfaces like tree branches or fence posts to help you work at difficult angles. The non-slip leg joints grip on dry, smooth surfaces, and the legs can be extended for the FlexPod Pro to function as a traditional tripod. When the tripod is entangled, a quick-release plate detaches the camera swiftly. It supports a maximum load of 1.8 pounds. Estimated Street Price: $30.
When folded down into a flat square, the Cullmann Magic 2 tripod measures at an incredibly compact 13¾ inches by 1½ inches. This means easy portage, as the collapsed Magic 2 may even fit inside your camera bag. The screw-mounted legs can be joined with the center column to form a monopod for faster positioning and tracking, ideal for bird photography. A one-twist mechanism locks the leg in a single turn, and the Magic 2 includes a removable ballhead with quick-release capability. Estimated Street Price: $155.
The Davis & Sanford ProVista Airlift features a pneumatic cylinder within the center post for slick and easy height adjustment, even with a load capacity of up to 50 pounds. The twist leg locks require only a 50-percent rotation to release and lock for quick working height adjustment. Double-strutted top leg sections add to the stability. Estimated Street Price: $350.
The unique center column of the Giottos MT III Professional tripod series can be used upside down, reversed or even as a lateral arm for shooting down and close to the ground. It revolves in a complete horizontal 360-degree rotation and swings 180 degrees in the vertical. When the column is removed from the top plate, the top plate becomes a three-way head. A retractable hanging hook lets you add weight for greater stability. Prices range from $169 to $369.
The free rotating ball of the Gitzo GT2530LVL Leveling tripod provides optimum center-column rotation at angles up to 15 degrees, allowing a perfect horizontal balance without ever having to readjust the legs, even on uneven ground. An ideal solution for panoramics or bird watching, the ability to remove the center column for low-to-the-ground shooting also makes it a good choice for macro photography. Gitzo has improved its leg-locking system, too, to make setup extremely fast. Estimated Street Price: $665.
Designed for brute strength, Cullmann’s Titan Professional CT 100 tripod will support a whopping 154-pound load capacity. The Top Lock Design frees leg extension with the touch of a button, and a pneumatic center column raises and lowers the head smoothly, even with heavy equipment attached. Estimated Street Price: $275.
The legs of the Manfrotto NeoTec PRO 458B extend through a simple tug. They lock automatically into position, with no screws, knobs or levers to tighten. The more weight, the tighter the self-regulating locking system gets. Buttons at the top of each leg give one-touch height adjustment, and the center column can be used horizontally for macro or unusual angles. The NeoTec PRO 458B also includes a carry strap. Estimated Street Price: $357.
The Joby Gorillapod acts as a tentacled tripod. Utilizing flexible, gripping legs comprised of articulating ball-and-socket joints, the Gorillapod can be bent or twisted to customize it to the shape of abnormal surfaces. The rubberized ring and foot grips provide the adhesive brawn. Available in three sizes, the Gorillapod Original will support compacts up to 9.7 ounces in weight, the Gorillapod SLR is designed for SLR cameras weighing up to 1.75 pounds and the Gorillapod SLR-ZOOM supports SLRs with larger zoom lenses attached, up to 6.6 pounds total. You also have the option to attach a ¼-inch or 3/8-inch professional head. Estimated street prices are $25, $45 and $55, respectively.
Great for subjects close to the ground, the advanced center column design of the Induro AX113 converts to a vertical center column that rotates 360 degrees horizontally and 180 degrees vertically. The hinge returns the center column to center gravity. The legs are settable in three angles, 24, 55 and 80 degrees, and the retractable spring-loaded hook adds stability while providing a place to hang your equipment bag. Estimated Street Price: $390.
The Gitzo GT2530EX Explorer offers complete maneuverability, with legs that can be adjusted to any angle—from compact at 90 degrees to spread flat at 0 degrees. The column also tilts from the vertical to the horizontal, making the GT2530EX excellent for shots close to the ground, upside down, or in tight or awkward spaces, with an impressive load capacity of 26.4 pounds. Estimated Street Price: $540.
The distinctive swivel joint at the top of the Benbo Trekker MK 2’s (See page 1)center column gives your camera the ability to fully adjust along a 180-degree arc, superb for steady shots of subjects above or beneath the camera. Hanging your camera bag or other equipment on the built-in center column hook attains greater stability. Estimated Street Price: $140.
Benbo (Paterson Photographic)
Berlebach (HP Marketing Corp.)
Cullmann (R.T.S. Inc.)
Davis & Sanford (Tiffen)
Giottos (HP Marketing Corp.)
Gitzo (Bogen Imaging Inc.)
Induro (MAC Group)
Manfrotto (Bogen Imaging Inc.)
Sunpak (ToCAD America)