How to Choose the Best Tripod for Bird Photography
Choosing the best tripod for bird photography is cumbersome if you do not know what to look out for. In the end, it might become a love and hate relationship between you and your tripod if you do not choose carefully.
The best tripod for shooting birds is, actually, different from one photographer to another. It all depends on their needs.
However, there are certain aspects that photographers need to check in order to get the best out of their money.
That being said, here are some of the things you need to watch out for when choosing a tripod for bird photography. These things apply to wildlife photography and other photography genres as well.
1. Maximum Load Capacity
Telephoto lenses, either for DSLR or mirrorless cameras, are heavy. Some lenses can go from 2.2 lbs. and up to 13 lbs. That is for the lens alone. Add the weight of the camera's body and other accessories and the weight goes higher.
This is the reason why you need to check the weight capacity of the tripod that you are getting. You would not want your tripod to fail, would you?
It is best to weigh your gear and get a tripod with at least 1.5x or twice the total weight of your gear. Tripod manufacturers include the weight rating on their product pages so it is not easy to miss.
In the end, it is best to get a tripod with the highest weight limit you can afford. This keeps your gear safe and you are confident that it would support any setup that you have.
2. Tripod Material
There are two common types of tripod material - aluminum and carbon. Aluminum is more affordable and lightweight. However, carbon fiber tripods are more durable and lighter at a higher cost.
So which tripod should you get for bird photography? Will you go for an aluminum tripod or a carbon fiber one?
Again, it depends on your budget. If you are a beginner or if you have a limited budget then get the best aluminum tripod that fits within your budget.
Because getting an aluminum tripod worth $600 is better than having a carbon fiber tripod at the same price point.
The reason is, the $600 aluminum tripod have better build quality and features compared to an entry level carbon tripod. The only advantage that the carbon fiber tripod has, at this price point, is its weight. But when it comes to durability, the aluminum tripod takes the cake especially if it is from a reputable manufacturer.
Cheap carbon fiber tripods might be from an unknown supplier, which has little-to-no quality control. They mass produce these tripods and in the end the product quality is a hit or miss.
Now, if you are a seasoned photographer and you have the money to spend, get the best carbon fiber tripod you can afford.
These carbon tripods, like the ProMediaGear TR344, are priced at around $1000 but you are getting an excellent camera support that lasts a lifetime.
The greatest benefit of having a carbon tripod is its weight. You can bring it on hikes and travels without straining your back or arms carrying it. The lightweight build does not reduce its stability and maximum load weight too so it is perfect for any setup.
In summary, it is better to get a top-end aluminum tripod from a reputable brand than an entry-level carbon fiber tripod from an unknown brand that you can find in Amazon or eBay. But if you have the money, get a high-end tripod such as the ones from ProMediaGear as they are built to last.
3. Number of Leg Sections
The number of leg sections determine the folded size of a tripod. The more leg sections it has, means that it can fold smaller and fits better in a small carrying bag.
But there is a disadvantage to a higher number of leg sections too. The smallest section might be too thin and it cannot support heavy setups.
The best balance between folded size and max load is three leg sections. With this setup, the legs fold small without sacrificing leg diameter size.
Five leg sections or four leg sections are fine. It just depends on your setup. If you know that you are using a 500mm telephoto lens and is really heavy, then do not go for a compact five section tripod as the last section is too small.
4. Leg lock type
The two most common tripod leg locks are flip-locks and turn-twist locks. With a flip-lock, you only need to open the locks and slide the tripod leg out to unravel.
On the other hand, turn-twist locks open by rotating the leg locks and sliding the legs down.
Both lock types have their own advantages. But for quick shooting in the wild, turn-twist locks saves a lot of time because with one motion you can already unlock all the leg sections of a tripod.
On the other hand, you need to flip each flip-locks individually to unlock each tripod leg and this takes longer compared to twist-locks.
This is not as important as the first three. It all boils down to personal preference.
5. Warranty and support
Bird photography requires you to be outside most of the time and unexpected weather conditions happen. Unbalanced terrain or murky trails sometimes welcome you on-site. With that, there is a possibility that you will encounter a problem while shooting.
The main reason why major tripod brands are more expensive than others is the warranty and support that you get after purchasing a product.
So why is it a consideration when choosing the best bird photography tripod?
Well, you would not want to be left hanging if ever your product fails. There are reports that some users are left behind by knockoff companies after failing.
That being said, companies such as ProMediaGear offer a 5-year warranty on their carbon fiber tripods. Replacement parts are also available.
Buying a tripod from a reputable company ensures you that you are covered should you encounter any failure - hopefully you do not.
The best bird photography tripod available is the one you can afford but there are certain things worth considering before getting one - load capacity, material, leg sections, leg lock type, and warranty.
Choose the best one that fits your needs based on these features. With this guide you are sure to get the most bang-for-the-buck tripod available to date.