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How to Choose the Right Tripod for Your Camcorder

written by: Kumara Velu•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 7/1/2011

Steady hands and the image stabilization feature in your camcorder are usually sufficient to produce steady shots. However, some video projects demand the use of a tripod. Here are tips on how you can go about choosing a suitable model..

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    Introduction

    A tripod never goes out-of-date. It’s a maintenance-free tool that every camcorder user needs at some point or another. Apart from considering your budget, here are some questions you would like to consider before buying a tripod.

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    The Nature of Your Project

    Examine the nature of your project. If you need a tripod to shoot a wedding video, you would look for a light but sturdy tripod because you would need to carry it around quite often. If you are shooting a short movie, you would need a tripod which offers smooth panning and tilting. If you’re shooting interviews or speeches then you may need nothing more than an entry-level tripod because all you’re looking for is something stable for your camcorder to sit on.

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    Frequency of Use

    How often will you be using your tripod? Most camcorder users do not fancy using tripods as it is an extra burden to carry around. Entire weddings could be shot handheld and yet produce satisfactory results. Still you may need a tripod for an occasional long continuous event where you may want to record a speech or seminar. If you’re not going to use a tripod other than that, you could go for an entry-level but stable tripod.

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    Your Camcorder Weight

    If you own a bulky camera you will need a stronger tripod to avoid your camera toppling over easily if someone accidentally knocks the tripod. Ideally, choose a tripod suited to your camcorder’s weight.

    Here are tips for choosing a tripod that is right for you.

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    Tripod Head

    If you already have a tripod you use for still photography, it may not be suitable for video. Chances are it may not have a smooth head movement. One thing you notice about entry-level tripods is that they don’t offer smooth panning or tilting movements.

    If you would like smooth movement for your video camera, you could opt for a tripod with a fluid head. It offers excellent panning and tilting. This will cost you extra but if you’re involved in serious video projects or are doing commercial projects, it would be a good investment of your money.

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    Quick-Release Plate

    If projects demand that you switch from tripod to handheld shooting, you could opt for one with a quick-release plate. Some good entry-level tripods have this feature.

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    Centre Pole Hook

    Does the tripod have a hook at the bottom of the centre pole? You could hang a heavy object like a rock or a bag of sand to stabilize the legs of the tripod especially when the tripod is light and is on an uneven surface.

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    Legs

    You have to concentrate on the strength of the tripod legs. Are the legs made of sturdy or flimsy material? The heavier the material of the legs, the more stable your tripod will be. Sturdier legs will also offer protection against vibrations. If you plan to shoot on a grassy surface, you could opt for spikes on the legs.

    How long can the legs be spread out? You would also want to find out how low your tripod could go in case you want to take low-angle shots

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    Sony Camcorder Users

    If you own a Sony camcorder, then you can go for a remote control Sony tripod -VCT-80AV - a sturdy but lightweight tripod. With the help of a LANC connection, you could start/stop recording and zoom from the tripod handle without having to fiddle with the buttons of your camcorder. The tripod costs in the range of $120. If you have the budget, this is an ideal tripod.

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    Test Drive Before Buying

    Bring your camcorder along to the tripod store. Mount your camera and get a feel of the tripod. Especially important is trying out the panning and tilting movements. See how stable the tripod is when standing on the floor. Will the lightest of knocks or a strong wind topple it?

    Go for the best tripod your budget allows you with the view of accommodating camcorder models you wish to purchase in the future.