Saturday, December 04, 2010


With the capabilities of the new wonder-cameras, one might forget the old remedies, like the humble tripod.
By funny coincidence, Ray has been testing this for his super-zoom camera at the same time as I did (and we both used Manfrotto tripods).
Conclusion: with a long zoom or telephoto, the average sharpness of your photos will really improve markedly.

When I tested the remarkably economical 18x super-zoom camera Fujifilm S1800, I concluded that it's a fantastic camera for the price, only downside being that most pictures at longest zoom (like 500mm-e, traditionally considered un-hand-holdable) were not sharp, even with modern shake-reduction. I wondered also if it had focus issues.
But now I have tested it with a tripod, and suddenly all the image were sharp. No focus issues. So people getting a super-zoom camera should be given the caveat: don't use the longest zoom, or use a tripod.


Alex said...

I did start flirting with "video stills". I want to take video snippets that I can loop for scenes like waterfronts, flowers bobbing in the wind etc. But I found even with a fence to lean against I couldn't hold the camera still enough.

My tripod got damaged in-flight a few years back. I seriously think it's time to replace it.

I also really need lightweight (but not so light that the camera is too heavy for it), have you any thought or experience with monopods?

eolake said...

I tried a monopod once, but it did not seem to make much difference for me, oddly, though I know it helps some.

A Gitzo carbon-fibre tripod may be the ticket. Not cheap though.

Anonymous said...

I am a fan of macro and long lens photography and a sturdy tripod with a cable release is a must.
Sadly my truck was broken into and my solid/tall tripod was lifted. I just replaced it with tall Induro legs and a big ball head. Heavy beastie, but I have a smaller Slik when I have to trek.
The only way I find monopods useful is from a seated position. Standing only slightly better than handheld.

Philocalist said...

Errm ... think I said something along these lines on the original post for the camera, or are we talking at cross purposes here Eo?:-)

Pat McGee said...

Going in a completely different direction, the first photo reminded me of some of the art of Bev Doolittle. When I look at it, I see the face of a dog or coyote.

...........................Ray said...

About Monopods and Tripods:

Because of the furniture near one window, spreading the three legs of the tripod is sometimes awkward, so I tried just extending one leg of the Manfrotto, and using it like a Mono, and it works maybe better than the mono might, because there's more substance to it, and more weight, so it is steadier. The shot Eolake has shown here, however, was taken while using all three legs of the tripod.

Alex said...

Remember when a cable release was just a stiff wire in a sleeve, and had a set screw for long exposures.

Just checked, for my camera, the digital cable release is $36. The old fashioned type I have lying in my draw free, but would still cost $26 from Nikon.

I'm sure an electronic signal is much more accurate then something the presses the shutter button on your behalf.

eolake said...

Alex, yes I had one of those, and the cheapest too! Stiff as hell.

Philocalist: yes you did, and right on. The odd thing was just that some of those pictures in the post, like I said look much more like serious out-of-focus than bad camera shake. No streaking.

...........................Ray said...

@ Pat McGee -

Yes, pat, I've noticed that 'face' too and it looks spooky after a fresh dump of snow on that area.
The hill to the left of that one also has features that look a bit like the face of a clown or etc.,
and that's a bit odd too.

During my time at a remote hydro dam years ago, in the northern part of our province, the horizon across the river from the housing area had an outline that looked just like a giant woman laying on her back with her face looking straight upward, and a nice side-boob view of her chest area,
and all the way down to her feet with upward-pointed toes. I have a
photo of it somewhere, but not handy, so I can't post it just now.

eolake said...

It looks like the skull of a "Predator", or something from the Cerebus comic book.

Or the Phantom's cranium cave.

Bronislaus Janulis said...

Monopods do work; if you brace them against your foot. Proper technique. I use the self timer instead of a release; allows the camera and tripod to all settle down before the shot. Giottos makes a nice line of tripods, at a far more reasonable price than the over priced Gitzo. They are smoother than the Gitzo, as well.

Monopod sits under the car seat; double duty as a handy truncheon.

Bronislaus Janulis said...


Get a small ballhead for a monopod, far more "usable" than the single axis head touted as the best solution. This allows the pod to "lock" against the forward foot, and a full range of movement of the camera.

Alex said...

Thanks guys, now I know what to look for.

RonC said...

Eolake, whatever happened to the 'sling' you told us about a while ago? I think you wore it around your neck/upper body to tension the camera: do you still use that, and is it better than a monopod ?

If 'yes', may we have a link, please?



eolake said...

Hmm, I hardly recall. I may have talked about something like that, but I don't have any.

Alex said...

I remember you talking about the string you stand on.

Best Buy had some Rocketfish (one fell apart while a customer was looking at it), some SunPak which felt a bit rickety, and some Manfrotti which cost $200+, and one of them looked store damaged. Since I lost my first tripod to irreparable damage as checked luggage I'd like something that could at least survive a sales floor.

eolake said...

Haha. One would think that would be minimum. :-)

Maybe a good used one would do it. Any faults are likely to be only cosmetic.

Alex said...

That Manfrotto had twist cams at the top of each leg so you could have the legs lock out at the traditional angle, or a very shallow angle that dropped the overall height significantly.

My last tripod was a gift, and was actually an entry level video tripod bought for me by a non photographer. The ease of movement seemed like a blessing and a curse. I may be using a small camcorder as well as the DSLR. I guess the answer is a tripod system and switch heads between modes, but really I'm a low cost photographer, and such expensive kit scares me.

eolake said...

Yeah, I suspect that since tripods are so mechanical, they are not subject to the usual price falls, and they are very much subject to weight/price being pretty proportional to usability/quality.

I mean, my gawd, some of the top-level ball-heads alone are a couple of kilos, both in grams and dollars!

eolake said...

(Odd, in recent days some comments appear on the page much later than I get my copy as email...)

How do you place your foot and monopod, Bron?

TC [Girl] said...

Alex said...
"...have you any thought or experience with monopods?"

Hey, Alex...just spent the afternoon at our local marine center where flash is not allowed. I prepared for this trip by including my monopod and...well...the images aren't perfect but...there are still many that I'm quite pleased with!

I had overcast outdoor lighting coming in, from above, and the usual indoor fluorescent to work with - some areas darker than others - so was quite excited to see the diff between what I usually get and what I ended up getting, today, using the monopod. Keep in mind that everything I was shooting was either swaying/moving, in water, and/or behind thick plexiglass and not in the most pristine water, either; not your "ideal conditions!" :-/

The monopod allowed me to move around people, quickly, and to also not be too much in the way. LOVED having the ball swivel; I'da been SCREWED without that, as I would have had to have been a midget (set up for kids and disabled. Lots of things to touch, in the "tidepools.") to, comfortably, have taken these shots at "eye level."

eolake said...

Thanks for the report. Nice pics.

TC [Girl] said...

You're welcome and...thanks. :-)

Alex said...

TC, Lovely shots. Most aquariums I've been to have had a strict no flash, and no tripod policy. Constraints like that almost mandate a monopod. I've given up on photography at those places, opting for gift shop postcard or a good wildlife DVD. Seeing your successes, I am now inspired to try again.

I did get a new tripod just before the UK trip, and have not had a chance to use it. I still couldn't bring myself to go professional grade, but this on at least

Alex said...

at least is has an interchangeable head, and has some heft to it. I still need to do some shooting with it, just haven't had a chance with life being so busy.

TC [Girl] said...

Alex said...
"TC, Lovely shots."

Thanks, Alex! I had a BLAST taking them! I LOVE marine life! :-P

"Most aquariums I've been to have had a strict no flash, and no tripod policy."

Unless I was going to be doing a professional-grade shoot, I couldn't see myself hauling a tripod anywhere like that but...thought I'd give my [never used, up until this point!] monopod a whirl w/the low light situation! The last time I was in an [unexpectedly] low light situation (no flash allowed there, neither), I was in the Capitol buildings, on a school tour, and I had such a rotten time trying to get anything decent in some of the rooms, I was SICK of myself for not having brought it!

I have to be honest with you: the way everyone is *so* "worried" about anything that looks like it might be able to do harm to anyone (think terrorism or other crazy public harm done in the news, lately!), I was quite worried with whether they would even let me bring it in and use it, there; and...then there's that awkward "do I bring the subject up or will someone stop me, after I get started?" so...I asked if they had any problem with it. Fortunately, they were cool about me bringing it it. Just gotta be careful to not trip anybody with it, if you have to lean in, like I had to; hence, why I held my foot at the base of it...also to brace the camera, for less shake! :-D

"Constraints like that almost mandate a monopod. I've given up on photography at those places, opting for gift shop postcard or a good wildlife DVD. Seeing your successes, I am now inspired to try again." really should! I just had it collapsed and "threaded" through the handle of my camera they knew that was what I was going to use it for (of course). soon as I had gotten into the place, I attached the [quick release] base and went to work! Who knows; it might have been "smarter" to have just brought the camera/monopod combo in, already assembled! When they see the camera on the top of it, you'd think that they would cut a person some slack!

Using the monopod has, completely, opened up a whole "new [natural/low light] world," for me, Alex; you really otter try it! :-D (truthfully, I'd be heading to Monterey Bay Aquarium, if I were still down there! I would absolutely LOVE to "nail" a shot of one of those GORGEOUS jellies! They had some, here, but...let's just say that that is *quite* a CHALLENGE! That blue fish was challenge enough, for me! I've got a LOT of learning to do, still! :-)

Alex said...

After low light shooting on the Taiwan trip, I fell in love with my friends Lumix, (think it was a DL5 or some such). The low light was better than my D80. Still, borrowing a fast prime also helped.

Alex said...

The Tripod I got was a Vangard Alta

eolake said...

Yeah, I'm always torn. I love the flexibility of a zoom, but a prime is either smaller/cheaper, or two-three stops faster.