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Tripod confusion

edited October 2015 Posted in » Nikon D3200 Forum
Hi, could somebody please advise me on what would be a good tripod for me to buy? I am just learning photography and really want to take wildlife, landscapes, and sky at night photos.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated.


  • edited October 2015
    It's hard to make a recommendation without a budget, and new models come out all the time, but I can give a couple of general ideas. The best tripods are pretty expensive.

    Some consideration must be made for how portable you need it, and how heavy a tripod you want to handle. The bigger the better for stability, but if it's a great heavy thing you leave at home, it's no tripod at all. Night skies can be hard to do with a jiggly tripod, even if the camera stands still, because focusing can be difficult.

    For following movement, a ball head is best, but for landscapes and skies, a three way head works well. What you do not want is a "video" style head that pans and tilts but does not offer fine horizon adjustment.

    I have settled on Manfrotto, mostly older ones, but they're pretty expensive. Nowadays there are a couple of Chinese brands, such as Benro, Induro and others, that make decent tripods that resemble Manfrottos or Gitzos, which are much more expensive.

    Slik makes some good tripods with three way heads, such as the 400 DX Pro, for a little over a hundred dollars. I used a 400 DX for a long time, and it's quite steady and the head is nice and smooth. Velbon also may have some good ones. Both Slik and Velbon, while they make very good models, also make cheap mass market ones, so the brand alone is not enough to go on. At one photo store not long ago, I saw a Chinese clone of the better Slik Pro series. I don't remember the brand, but it looked much like a 400DX, and even seemed to use the same quick release pad.

    There are a bunch of newer super light portable tripods made by Manfrotto, Sirui and others, which fold very small. A bit too flimsy for serious astrophotography, but very handy if you travel, and good for lanscapes, self portraits, and so forth, especially if you use a remote shutter release or self timer. Some are quite expensive, though. They're beautifully made, some patterned on Gitzo, but even though they're much cheaper than Gitzos they're still not cheap.

    Among the features that are nice to have are independent leg spread and quick release levers on the legs. It's very handy to have a quick release pad on the head, which allows you to leave the pad on the camera, and mount it quickly, as well as to have extra pads for multiple cameras on the same tripod.

    I would avoid the mass market tripods which have square section aluminum legs, video heads, and internal leg braces. They are fairly sturdy when they're new, but not very convenient for still shooting, and some are pretty easily broken. Among other things, if you have braced legs and a video head, the only way you can get a level horizon is to adjust leg length. Independent legs allow you to shoot on all sorts of odd surfaces, and also to set the camera low or at odd angles for macro shots.

    Still, any tripod is better than none if you need it. I would advise you to splurge a little if you can, because a good tripod will last nearly forever, while a cheap one will be frustrating and end up needing to be replaced even if it doesn't break.

    The D3200 is pretty light, and if you're not using a very big lens, you can get away with a fairly light tripod. A good place to start looking at options would be the B&H website. Their information is very well organized, and it's very handy to compare products and prices.
  • edited October 2015
    Thank you so much, that is a great help.
  • edited October 2015
    Use a shutter release cable remote; this stops vibration when the shutter button is pressed.
  • edited October 2015
    In the case of the D3200, there is no cable remote. There is, instead, an infrared wireless remote. It is very cheap, and the camera can sense it from behind or in front (not the side, but that's only a small problem). The shutter release mode switch allows either instant or two second delay, so you can use it for group shots you're in, and drop the remote before it fires.

    It's a one button remote, and B&H has a generic one for under 6 bucks. If you have a Target store nearby and are impatient, they sell a multi-camera one with extra buttons, which will work fine, for about 10 bucks.

    It happens also that the remote is the only way the D3200 can achieve a true time exposure of over 30 seconds. If you put the shutter on "bulb" setting, the first push of the remote opens it, and the second closes it.

    Everyone should have one of these.
  • edited October 2015
    Thanks again for all the advice. I have bought a remote, it cost £5.00, give or take a few pence. I'm going to practice tomorrow.
    As you've probably gathered by now, I live in England. We don't have Target or B&H stores here, but we have quite a few reputable places to buy photographic equipment.
    Thank you again for your help.
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