May 24

4 comments

The Best Tripod (Is the One That’s With You)

By Dan

May 24, 2011

Ok, so I borrowed the theme of this blog post from Chase Jarvis and his Best Camera idea, but the guy is right on about this. The best thing is always the one that’s with you, whether it’s a camera, a beer, companion of the opposite gender, a bicycle or a pizza. Or a tripod.

Sure, we’d all love to own the Gitzo GT1542 Traveler, which provides rock solid support, even though it weighs as much as a feather and folds up so small that it fits inside a matchbox, or the Manfrotto 161 MK2 Super Pro Tripod, which extends to 17-feet and supports a camera lens combination of 239 lbs.

However it means nothing to having the world’s most bitchin tripod if you don’t have it with you all the time. You can’t shoot steady, sharp landscape photos or nighttime street shots if your tripod is in the car or at home because it’s too heavy, too big or too nice to drag into the dirt.

The reason that Chase’s Best Camera idea is so successful is that we all have our camera-equipped smartphone with us at all times. In this day and age, we’re never without a camera when creative moments strike. Can you say that about your tripod? Probably not. I know you don’t keep one in your pocket but, you can at least get yourself a small, compact set of legs for those moments when you don’t have your bigger tripod with you.

Small = Handy and Handy is Good.

For years, I’ve always had a couple of Bogen 3001’s, (now the Manfrotto 190X Pro) but for running around outside in the mountains or heading off on the bike with minimal camera gear, I take small, lightweight units that I can strap onto the side of a small backpack. They’re not the sturdiest support, but I have them, and that’s what counts.

So, whether you get yourself a Gitzo Mountaineer, the super light, ultra compact Tamrac ZipShot, or a Gorillapod, anything will be better than nothing when it comes to going light and fast, (and here’s the kicker) as long as you have it with you at all times. Even if you already have a good tripod, you should seriously consider getting yourself a second lightweight model. I guarantee, it will pay off.

About the author

Hi, I'm Dan Bailey, a 20+ year pro outdoor and adventure photographer, and official FUJIFILM X-Photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska.


As a top rated blogger and author my goal is to help you become a better, more confident and competent photographer, so that you can have as much fun and creative enjoyment as I do.


  • Eagerly awaiting your review of the 732 since I’m considering it to back up my 055 for trips longer than dayhikes.

  • Do you mind if I quote a few of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your site? My blog is in the very same area of interest as yours and my users would genuinely benefit from a lot of the information you present here. Please let me know if this alright with you. Regards!

  • […] Everyone knows that a tripod holds your camera steady and allows you to shoot at lower shutter speeds and smaller apertures without incurring camera shake. However, the simple act of setting up and using a tripod forces you to slow down and contemplate your subject matter more thoroughly and methodically. It forces you to more carefully consider how to compose and capture your subject in the best way. Get a tripod. Use it. Even if it’s a small one. Remember, the best tripod is the one that’s with you. […]

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    Terry Bourk

    I have read you new book “Behind the Landscape.” I could not “put it down” meaning that I kept at it because each photo you presented/analyzed was interesting and informative. I am trying to develop an eye for composition (both the scene and the light).

    Thank you! The examples you present and the suggestions are very helpful. Purple Mountains, McKinley River and Wonder Lake are fascinating.


    Roger Sinclair

    You have done it again! Another triumph.

    Your generosity to share, the clarity of thought and concise explanation thereof is brilliant. Perhaps I should also mention the beautiful photos and the talent necessary to produce them.

    Thank you, Dan.