Tripods are devices with three legs that are used to stabilise cameras and similar equipment. They hold the camera still so that the effects of camera shake are avoided. This makes them extremely useful, especially when using slower shutter speeds for creative or low light photography.
Tripods usually have a centre post on which the head sits. The centre post can usually be adjusted up and down, both for camera positioning and to save space when not in use. The head, where the camera attaches, is adjustable, so the camera can be moved from side to side and rotated vertically and diagonally, at various angles. The camera is usually held in place with a thumbscrew. Three long telescopic legs provide stable support and can be folded back in when not in use.
Using the Tripod: The Tips
Using a tripod for photography involves considerations about size and positioning as well as simply fitting the camera. Here are five tips on how to get the best use out of a tripod.
Tripods are not all the same. They differ with regards to size, design, construction materials, and special features.
Tripods are available in various sizes, from small mini tripods that can sit on a tabletop or low on the ground to tall tripods for use in landscape photography and similar situations. Mini tripods are not necessarily flimsier than larger tripods and some can support a decent amount of weight. They are useful where portability is a key issue.
Quality and Materials
Some tripods are more basic than others. Basic models may not have fully rotating heads or be able to pan as smoothly as better quality tripods. On cheaper models, the head is often fixed to the tripod, whereas on better quality tripods it can typically be removed. This allows the head and tripod to be chosen separately to better suit the photographer's requirements.
Better quality tripods are also sturdier and most robust, more suitable for rough terrain, uneven surfaces, and strong weather conditions. They are recommended if the tripod is frequently used outdoors. It is quite possible to find sturdy tripods that are also lightweight. Several have legs made from carbon fibre, which makes them very light and quite stable, but also expensive. Aluminium is frequently used. Cheaper models can be flimsy and better quality models are quite robust, but they are also heavier than carbon fibre. Heavier lenses will require a tripod with sturdy legs.
The number of interlocking sections in the legs varies, typically from three to four. This affects how quickly and easily the tripod can be assembled, and also how small the tripod can collapse. It is worth checking out the collapsible size of a tripod if it is to be frequently carried in luggage. Leg lock mechanisms vary, most tripods having either a quick release lever system, which is quick, convenient and more secure but also add bulk, or twist action locks, which are slower and more awkward but also more compact. High end tripods may have specialist twist locks. Most tripods have legs that can be extended to 90 degrees. Some have foam covers which make the tripod easier to carry. Tripods typically have rubber feet, but some also have spikes which give more stability in muddy or spongy conditions.
Centre Post Design
While the centre post should only be used as a last resort, once the legs have extended as far as they can, it is still worth looking at. Centre posts can also be used horizontally for photographing the ground, and the mechanisms for removing them and attaching them in this way vary. Some tripods also allow them to be reversed so the camera can be positioned between the legs. A useful feature on centre posts is a hook that can be used to hang extra weight from to stabilise the tripod.
Check out the Head Design
There are two basic head designs: ball heads and pan and tilt heads. Which is chosen depends largely upon the type of photography and also personal preference. There are also panoramic heads which are more specialised. Heavier lenses require sturdy heads that can lock in tightly.
Ball heads, or ball and socket heads, are the most versatile. The camera can be freely rotated and then easily clamped in position. They are, therefore, useful for shots requiring quick composition and/or various adjustments. They are not so suitable for big lenses and long telephoto shots, for example, focal lengths over about 300 mm.
Pan and Tilt Heads
Pan and tilt heads are typically more precise than ball heads. They are more suitable for panning as the camera can be set to not rotate in any other direction than sideways. The camera can also be tilted vertically and, in many cases, also sideways again. Loosening the screws allows the camera to be freely rotated like ball heads. The accuracy possible with pan and tilt heads makes them popular for sports, wildlife and landscape photography, amongst other applications.
Panoramic heads allow precise rotation around a specific point. This is useful for panoramic photography, as the different images can be easily combined together without depth errors. Panoramic heads are typically quite bulky, and the tripod needs to be sturdy enough to support them.
Position the Tripod Stably
To make the tripod stable, use the three legs first to select the height. If these do not provide enough height, then the centre post can be raised, but make sure the legs are stable first. When arranging the legs, bear in mind that the thickest sections of the legs are the strongest and most stable, so only extend the thinner sections if needed.
Take care on muddy and spongy ground. Make sure the feet will not slip, using the tripod's spikes if necessary and the tripod has them. Otherwise press the feet firmly into the ground until the tripod is secure. On rocky ground it can help to keep the legs as vertical as possible.
Weigh the Tripod Down
Once the tripod is positioned as stably as possible, it can also help to weigh it down. This is especially important in windy conditions where the tripod is at risk of moving. If the centre post has a hook, a heavy bag or similar object can be hung from it. Otherwise bungee straps can be used. Be careful with lighter tripods that the weight is not too much for the legs to support.
Use the Special Features
Higher end and more versatile tripods have a range of special features to enable better operation and crisper, clearer shots. These can typically add to the price, so it is worth making use of them when necessary.
Use the full range of angles at which the legs can be extended when necessary. On soft ground, use spikes on the feet if they are available as this can make a big difference to the tripod's stability. On many tripods, the rubber feet simply roll up and there are spikes underneath.
Special features of tripod heads include mechanisms for finer adjustments, spirit levels and quick release plates. Quick release plates enable quick and easy camera attachment and detachment.
Remote shutter releases, which are attached to the camera via a cable, are another useful feature. They help to avoid any unwanted movement from pressing the shutter release on the camera.
Finding a Tripod on eBay
Tripods can be easily found on eBay. Go to the eBay home page and from the options to the left of the screen select Electronics. A menu appears from which Cameras & Photography can be selected. Then scroll down and click onTripods & Supports. For complete tripods and tripod legs click on Tripods & Monopods, followed by Standard Tripod or Table-top/Mini Tripod as required. Alternatively, this last step can be left which results in a larger number of listings to browse. For tripod heads, select Tripod Heads from the Tripods & Supports page. The different types of head can then be selected.
Alternatively, use the search bar at the top of the eBay home page to search for tripods. Type in search terms such as "camera tripod", "ball tripod head" or "carbon fibre tripod", and press Search to bring up listings.
Tripods are used to stabilise cameras and other equipment. They help to produce sharper shots with more definition than is otherwise possible. Tripods consist of a head, centre post and telescopic legs. On higher quality tripods the legs and heads are often bought separately to allow for more versatility. When purchasing a tripod check out the leg, centre post and head design. When using a tripod, remember to position it stably, weighing it down where necessary, and use any special features that enable better operation and clearer shots.
Microphones generally deliver sounds that need to be amplified, but that is not necessary in a system that uses line-level inputs. Most high-quality interfaces will contain one-quarter TRS jacks for line-level input. Tip, Ring and Sleeve(TRS) jacks are preferred in the professional music industry because they reduce background noise when particularly long cables are needed, such as those on live stages.
MIDI is a simple audio language used by computers to communicate with devices that are connected to it. Such a facility will, for example, allow an electronic keyboard's notes to be played via a computer. This can allow the composition of more complicated pieces without the need for extra equipment and musicians.
The ADAT systems allows for the management of up to 8 individual digital channels at the same time.
One of the major problems to be overcome when recording music digitally is latency; this is the time it takes for analogue sounds to be processed by the interface and computer before being played back to the musician via headphones. Excessive latency can make it impossible for musicians to concentrate on their singing or the playing of their instruments. Direct monitoring completely bypasses the digital system to give the musician the analogue feed directly through a headset.
Sony/Phillips Digital Interconnect Format(S/PDIF) allow for digital music transfers of the highest quality, and they are ideal for the connection of external effects equipment.
FireWire is a super-fast system which can transfer data to and from several different sources. Some computers will come with in-built FireWire ports.
The main advantages of a USB music interface are mobility and convenience. Although they aren't the most efficient of connections available, all new computers and laptops have at least one USB port, so interfaces can be swapped between systems very easily. Mobile studios will benefit from USB interfaces, and they are also ideal for DJs who have to continually set up and dismantle their equipment in different venues.
A PCI interface is usually built into a computer, and it communicates directly with the motherboard. The result is a fast and efficient, high-bandwidth connection that minimises latency.
A PCI express interface is the fastest available, and its top speed of around 4,000Mbps makes it the preferred system in professional recording studios.
Many amateur musicians and DJs will want to expand their system over time, and some interfaces allow that expansion to take place gradually. Some 8-channel interfaces come with ADAT inputs and outputs that can be expanded to 16 with an outboard interface or preamp. Most audio interfaces are sold with their own software packages - known as Digital Audio Workstations. However, not all software supports MIDI, but it is still possible to purchase additional software that provides this facility.
How to Find Audio Interfaces on eBay
The eBay website is the perfect place to shop for audio interfaces as it makes searching and purchasing a simple and quick process. The purchase of sophisticated music recording equipment is a huge investment for most people, so it is important that such a transaction is protected, and that is why eBay's feedback system is so important. Every time someone purchases an item on the site, they get the chance to leave feedback on the service they received and the product they bought. This feedback can be viewed by other potential buyers, and an overall score is displayed. There are also a number of online stores within the site which are hosted by authorised sellers. Buying the latest music interfaces from these stores gives people the peace of mind in knowing that they are dealing with trusted vendors who are experts in their field. Some audio interfaces will be sold as part of a bundle, and that can mean accessories such as mics, headsets, and cables can be picked up as part of the purchasing price.
While many people will choose to use the text-entry box near the top of the homepage to conduct a search, more refined results can be found by using eBay's unique category-based search facility. Any search will begin by clicking the All Categories drop-down menu at the top of the homepage. After the Search icon has been clicked, a list of sub-categories will be presented, and the Musical Instruments Category should be selected. A new page will load which will include a list of further sub-categories on the left of the page. The Pro Audio Equipment link should then be selected, and the Audio/MIDI Interfaces link should be clicked on the subsequent page. At this stage, it will be possible to browse through hundreds of music interfaces and relevant accessories, but selecting the check-box options on the left of the page will narrow the search results further.
The latest laptops and home computers will usually be able to cope with a keyboard or guitar, and it may also be possible to record vocals at the same time. However, expecting any more than that from a standard sound card will be asking for trouble. The main decisions to make when purchasing different music interfaces involve the connection needed and the number of outputs required. The number of sound sources connecting to the interface will dictate how many outputs are necessary. However, choosing the correct connection system will not be so simple. A DJ, for instance, may use a laptop to store and mix music, so a USB connection would provide convenience and mobility. However, a professional recording artist who uses a range of musicians, instruments, and mics will probably need the speed and reliability of a PCIe interface. In many cases, the decision on which type of connection to go for may be taken out of the equation as not all laptops and computers will have FireWire or PCI capabilities. Musicians will have their own preferences when it comes to buying music interfaces, and that will develop over time. The only essential outcome is music of the highest quality, and all the main systems are capable of delivering that.