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  Helpful Steps To Choose A Great Lightweight Portable Tripod
By Roberta Hochreiter
Helpful Steps To Choose A Great Lightweight Portable Tripod
by Roberta Hochreiter

The tripod is an absolute must because after hiking into an area you become winded and tired and are much less likely to hold your camera still. Also, if you are using a telephoto lens, setting up a panoramic shot or using long shutter speeds you will need a tripod to eliminate shake and create sharper photos. You'll want a tripod that is lightweight, compact but still has the features you need.
1. Important Elements in Chosing a Tripod
No one tripod will meet all your requirements, so you must determine the elements most important to you and chose the ones which meet your main needs. When you are purchasing a tripod you want to pay attention to these five things.

1. Weight
2. Height [with and without the center column raised]
3. Stability
4. Durability
5. Ease of adjustment

The lighter tripod is easier to carry around. There are trade-offs, of course. The lighter tripod is not as stable particularly when raised to its maximum height. There are materials on the market now such as carbon fiber, which help cut the weight of larger tripods. The down side of these tripods is the price. They are quite a bit more expensive than those made of aluminum.

Height is crucial, because standing hunched over your camera all day will really put a crimp in you enjoyment. Also, you want to think about the portability of the tripod. The smaller it compacts down, the more portable it is.

Stability is very important because this is basically the point of using a tripod. Some tripods come with a hook in the bottom of the center post so you can hang a weight on it to keep it steady, particularly if it is windy. Camera shake, even just a little will decrease the quality of your photographs. A tripod is just about mandatory if you are going to take long exposures, use a telephoto lens or take panoramic shots.

When you use your tripod for out door photography and/or nature photography, you want to make sure it will stand up to the elements. A tripod should be able to withstand hard use over a long period of time without breaking. It makes no sense to invest in a product if it is just going to break in a few weeks or lock up because it got wet.

Last but not least you donít want to fumble around with ungainly controls. You want a tripod that will adjust rapidly and easily so you avoid missing important shots. Flick lock legs that adjust individually are great. A ball-head and a quick lift enter post makes for fast adjustments once you get the tripod set to the right height.
2. Lightweight Portable Tripods
After a lot of research, the best portable tripod I found is the Velbon Maxi 343E Mini Tripod. I take it with me everywhere. It compacts down to less than 17 inches and weighs just 2 pounds. Youíll never be tempted to leave it behind because it fits easily into your backpack or suitcase. It is constructed of all die cast metal, which means it can put up with a lot of abuse. It is quick and easy to adjust. Each leg has 3 quick lever leg locks and the feet have rubber tips with retractable spikes so you can use it on any surface. The center column lifts easily into position and the ball socket head can be adjusted without taking your eye off the viewfinder. Maximum height is 62.4 inches with the center column fully extended and 52.7 inches with the column closed. Maximum load capacity is 8 pounds. Best of all, you can purchase this



tripod for under $100 and it comes with a 5-year manufacturer warranty. Did I mention it comes with a case?

You can read users reviews of this tripod at They are getting harder to find and I hope that doesn't mean they will no longer be manufactured.

5/9/06 - I received information from ToCad America who are the distributers for Velbon in the U.S. and this model has been discontinued. If you find one on eBay or another site, grab it now.

Here are some other brands of light weight portable tripods that compare favorably with the Velbon Maxi 343E:

Bogen - Manfrotto Compact Black Digi-Tripod with Integral Tension Ball Head & Carry Case
An ultra-compact tripod - folded length of just under 14", compact ballhead, quick-action leg locks, a rucksack-style bag is included. Weighs 2.2 lbs. with a load capacity of 5.5 lbs. Costs about $85.

Slik Sprint Mini Tripod with a Ball Head & Tripod Case
Weighs just 26 ounces (1.6 lbs/740 grams) and folds to 14.1 inches, it has a maximum height of 43.3 inches, speed release leg locks, gearless center column, can easily handle a camera up to 3.5 pounds and has a 3-year warranty. Priced about $60.

Slik Sprint Tripod - Silver Finish - with Ball Head & Case
The SLIK SPRINT is a compact model with features that compact digital photographers are looking for. A maximum height of 63.1 inches reaches eye level yet the SPRINT folds to an impressively compact 17.9 inches, weighs 1.9 lbs for easy travel, speed release leg locks, gearless center column and can hold a camera up to 3 lbs. Price is about $70.

Slik Sprint Pro Tripod - Silver Finish - with Ball Head & Case
a maximum height of 64 inches reaches eye level yet the SPRINT PRO folds to a compact 18.9 inches and weighs in at 1.95 lbs for easy travel, has speed release leg locks, gearless center column and can hold a camera up to 3.5 lbs. It has 3 position adjustable angle legs for easy set up on uneven ground or steps. The adjustable legs angles can also be used to lower the tripod. When used with the built-in short center column, (the included center column unscrews into two pieces) the camera is just 6.4 inches off the ground for extremely low angle or macro photography out in the field. Another way to get the camera low is to reverse the center column which could be used for macro photography or copy work. It sells about about $80.

Sunpak DigiPro 4B Tripod with Ball Head
Features: Versatile Quick Lock Ball Head, Flip Lever Leg Locks, Grounder with Split Center Column, Free Nylon Carry Bag w/Shoulder Strap, Load Capacity up to 3.3 lbs., Extends to 55.9 inches, Ultra Light Weight at 1.8 lbs. Sells for about $60.

Sunpak 3300 PRO Tripod
Manufactured from Tritanium, an alloy of Titanium, Magnesium and Aluminum substantially increases the overall strength-to-weight performance of the 3300 PRO. Able to support equipment weighing up to 11 lbs., the 3300 PRO is incredibly lightweight, at a mere 2.7 lbs., while its dual groove leg design adds additional strength without adding any extra weight. With an operating height of 62.9", the Sunpak 3300 PRO tripod has three leg sections, with integral quick release lock levers, and features multi-angle leg adjust-ments for use on uneven terrain or for extreme low angle photography. With "grounder" capability, the Sunpak 3300 PRO can operate at a minimum height less than 11", without need for a short center column, and folds to a compact 23.2". Price is about $70.
3. Alternatives to Tripods
There are some alternative solutions for steadying your camera if you don't have a tripod or don't want to carry one. I have an old (clean) sock filled with rice that acts like a beanbag to steady my camera. You can use it just about anywhere, on a rock, a ledge, car window etc. You could also take an empty sock and fill it with gravel or dirt when you get where you are going if you don't want to haul rice around. You can also use your pack or a bag of your clothes to steady your camera. If you must take a handheld photo, try to use a shutter speed of at 1/60 second or higher. The longer your lens the faster your shutter speed should be.

Here is a nifty alternative to a tripod that beats rice in a sock all together! The POD Camera Platform ( Bean Bag ) with YELLOW Base, 3.75" Diameter, 2" Thick, has A 1/4 x 20 Screw Thread for Securing Your Camera. You can plop this on a rock, post, stump or even the ground for low shots. I will post my review after I get it and try it out.

I've never tried one of these but the idea is sound. Here's the write up: Novoflex's Chestpod is a great way to lend support when shooting with long lenses in scenarios where monopods and tripods would be impractical or prohibited. It begins as a comfortable neckstrap, which articulates to a wide rubberized base that rests on your chest. Attached to this base is an arm that ends with a swiveling plate that has a 1/4"-20 screw for attaching the tripod collar of the lens.

Bogen-Manfrotto Self-Standing Pro Monopod, Black Anodized A monopod is another alternative to the tripod. It can serve double duty as a hiking pole. All the features of the 681B Professional Monopod with the handy addition of three retractable legs. The 682 is a black anodized aluminum three-section monopod featuring sure rubber grip, wrist carrying strap, quick action lever leg lock system with 45į flip, large 2.3" camera/head platform with plastic cover and dual 1/4-20" - 3/8" camera screw. Weight is 2.4 pounds.

Last but not least, there is the the car window pod. Perfect for unexpected opportunities where getting out of the car could ruin your shot. A car can work well as a blind for wildlife shots. Don't forget to turn the car off to eliminate shake. There are many brands but for maximum versatility, a ball head works best.
If you follow the advice in this article you will be more likely to bring your tripod and ensure sharp photos without breaking your back or your bank account.
Roberta Hochreiter is an avid photographer, hiker and backpacker with 5 years experience in nature photography. This article gives new photographers advice on how to chose photographic equipment that is lightweight and portable. For more information please to to for information on: tripods

Roberta Hochreiter is an avid photographer, hiker and backpacker with 5 years experience in nature photography. This article gives new photographers advice on how to chose photographic equipment that is lightweight and portable. For more information please to to










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