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Old May 30th, 2010, 02:20 PM   #1
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Inexpensive tripod for student projects

We'll be using a Canon HF S100 for some very simple student video projects.

I'm looking for a decent camcorder tripod, that is also inexpensive- less that $100.

I understand most here use more professional equipment, but would really appreciate any insight you could share with cash strapped novices.

I'm narrowing down low-end choices to models ranging from $30 to $70 from Velbon (VideoMate 607/F, DF-40, CX-570), Sunpak (Ultra Tripod), and Dolica (ST-600, ST-650.)

Thank you in advance.

Last edited by Lars McCall; May 30th, 2010 at 07:53 PM. Reason: specificity
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Old May 31st, 2010, 02:12 AM   #2
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No such thing, Lars...............

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lars McCall View Post
I'm looking for a decent camcorder tripod, that is also inexpensive- less that $100.
It's a complete waste of anyone's time telling you otherwise.

Go for whatever you fancy and just get on with it, at the level you're looking, they'll all be pretty rubbish but with a bit of luck the camera won't end up on the floor (which is, strangely, the best tripod of all in some ways!)

Really, if you want quality, you need to multiply those figures you're quoting by 2, then 10, which you can't, I fully understand.

When you get down to "ground zero", which is where you're looking, it's pretty slim pickings indeed when it comes to "decent" (no, belay that, think "Houston, we have a problem" and multiply it by 10).

Good luck.


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Old May 31st, 2010, 03:01 AM   #3
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Well the HF S100 is a pretty tiny camera. I used to mount a much bigger, heavier Canon Hi8 camera on a Velbon (a 7000, I think it was) many moons ago.

The camera will not fall off, it's not heavy enough - its weight is practically zero for tripods. It'll be fine for locked-off still shots, but you will probably have a hard job getting real smooth pans and tilts.

I borrowed a similar Canon mini camcorder from work and put it on my big Sachtler tripod at home. Unsurprisingly it wouldn't balance well, and it looked totally hilarious up there, I wish I'd taken a photo. It did get very smooth pans though.

But if your camera budget is $700, I don't think you'll be shelling out $2000+ for a tripod any time soon!

As an aside, we have a new ASDA store open here and a colleague told me there were some really good tripods I should look at. 30 Hama "pro" tripod. Jeez. Then I showed him my Sachtler and he just boggled at it. "That is a 'pro' tripod," I told him. "And even that is only a fraction of the price of the ones the BBC use!"
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Old May 31st, 2010, 07:00 AM   #4
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The models you've mentioned are basically cheap tripods with a two-way head, they call them video tripods because they don't have a three-way head.

At less than $100 you're looking at a cheap stills camera tripod that will at least hold a small camcorder steady. The two-way pan and tilt head is fine - ignore anything with a three-way head as you don't need it (just an extra screw to come loose at an inconvenient time). But generally a cheap tripod and head will give you cheap results - avoid panning and tilting if possible.

Although it's probably twice your budget, I'd recommend a Manfrotto 190 or 255 with a two-way head, then replace the standard centre column with a video levelling column (there is a specific column for each). This gives you something that is much easier to level if you're not on flat ground.
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Old May 31st, 2010, 07:13 AM   #5
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One thing to consider is that a good tripod is really only necessary if you need to do pans and tilts, otherwise it's basically just a camera stand.

If you can get your moving camera shots using a shoulder mount, such as the Spider (about $59), then you can get by with a cheapie tripod. Otherwise, a cheap tripod will produce jerky pans.

Adding weight to the tripod bottom with a sandbag can make a light tripod more stable.

Also, using some rubber bands to pull the handle can help smooth your pans.

I've always had trouble breaking the psychological barrier of buying an expensive tripod. Not to mention the economic barrier.
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Old May 31st, 2010, 11:16 AM   #6
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Thank you all for the replies. I will go cheap for the first tripod, and look into the Manfrotto when and if it becomes necessary.

First use of the tripod will be to film birds in a bird bath. In order to keep the birds from perching and pooping on the camera, I'll cutout a shoebox and put it over the camcorder.

Again, thanks for the replies; all are very helpful.
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Old May 31st, 2010, 11:51 AM   #7
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I'm reconsidering. If I buy a cheap $40 tripod, it may break and before I know it I'll be spending more money.

So, I found a Manfrotto 190XDB 3 Section Aluminum Tripod with Manfrotto 390RC2 Pan & Tilt Head for $115. Couldn't find it with just a 2-way head.

Is this still too low end to be of any real benefit over a cheapo tripod? A wise purchase for someone wanting just a basic fix? It would be nice to buy something that will last- that I won't need to re-purchase.
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Old May 31st, 2010, 04:41 PM   #8
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Lars,

The heads you're looking at are photography heads. They aren't made to pan or tilt with motion at all. Take a look at this:
Manfrotto | 055XDB Tripod Legs (Black) with 700RC2 Mini Video

That would be what I would consider the bare minimum requirement for a decent result. With using a small camera you can get some pans and tilts out of it if you're steady. Not "pro" moves, but fine for a student project. It's stable and built well so it won't break during the shoot.

I would recommend you take some of the money from the camera budget and move it to the tripod budget to afford something like this. And think about this: if you buy the cheap $90 tripod you'll use it a few times, it won't give you good results, and eventually (rather fast actually) it will break and you'll be out ninety bucks. If you buy the manfrotto setup you'll get the results you want, it will definitely last for not just this project but many more, and if you finish the shoot and don't need it you can sell it here on Dvinfo's classifieds. You'll get $150 or $160 out of it. So you'll basically pay a $50 rental fee on a proper tripod, or you'll pay $90 for something that leaves you no room to grow and limits you're camera work.

Hope your shoot goes well. What school are you with?

Also, Annie and Paulo had good advice. With a leveling head it saves a ton of time and there are lots of ways to make a low-budget item work well.
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Old May 31st, 2010, 08:19 PM   #9
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Thanks for the advice, Ben.

That looks like a good system, I'll probably get it.

Meantime, I'm going to use some books to rest the camera on, and point it at the birdbath and feeder. The low angle might turn out to be the most effective angle.

The grad program I'm in is Instructional Design & Development at UGA. We learn how to use technology for ID, and video is one method of delivery we learn. This first video is a test to see if I can shoot and edit a short video.

I like the idea of something that will last, and since most of my videos will involve fixed shots while I present an idea, this setup will be satisfactory. This thread has helped me realize I should get a quality tripod and head, and I'll be OK using low tech methods until I save up for a better tripod than what I originally thought I'd need. Thank you all for the helpful advice.
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Old June 5th, 2010, 01:21 PM   #10
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My Manfrotto 190B has taken nine years of abuse with various stills and video cameras and telescopes, and visiting four continents. It's about to be replaced with another one of the same. But not for use with my Canon XH-A1, now that I have two proper video tripods with levelling heads that take the weight properly.
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Old July 5th, 2010, 04:47 PM   #11
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For what it's worth, I'm eyeing this for some of our stuff: http://www.amazon.com/Ravelli-AVTP-Professional-Camera-Tripod/dp/B00139W0XM/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1278364357&sr=1-9 I've never used it, but it might work. MIGHT.
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