For this week’s Gear Tips I want to talk about an accessory that goes everywhere my camera goes, my table top tripod. There are a bunch of small tripods on the market, but with a number of accessories a basic table top tripod can do some really incredible things. In this article I’ll share a quick review of my personal table top tripod and the accessories I’ve used over the years to get some of my favorite shots.
Why a Table top Tripod?
If you’re wondering how useful a table top tripod is then let me put that to rest early in this gear tip. Anything you can use to keep your camera still will give you sharper images. If you want images with lower noise then you need to use a very low ISO setting on your camera – this can mean a long shutter speed and that means keeping your camera from moving. Some places (museums, for example) may not allow a full-sized tripod in but I’ve never been told my small tripod can’t go with me. Here’s a look at my personal table top tripod – the Oben TT-50:
There’s nothing special about the table top tripod itself. It has a basic ballhead (I’ve seen some that don’t include one) with a pretty basic 1/4 20 thread that will fit any camera I’ve ever seen or owned. If all you buy for yourself is a small tripod like this then you’re good to go. Just attach your camera, point it at your subject and press the shutter release button.
note: it’s best to use a wired remote like this Sony remote I use. If you don’t have a remote set your camera for a delay (I like the 2 second delay mode), press the shutter release button on your camera and move your hand off the camera. This delay ensures there will be no camera movement that will make your shot look blurry.
If you shoot bracketed sets (for shooting HDR images) then using a tabletop tripod is a must. All you need to do is find a place to set up your tripod, like a table or a garbage can, and you’re ready to go. This shot of the Disney World fireworks was captured using my camera mounted to my table top tripod which was placed on top of a garbage can:
My camera was set to a shutter speed of 4 seconds for the shot and believe me – there’s no way on Earth I could hold a camera steady for 4 seconds and even the best image stabilization wouldn’t have helped. Without my table top tripod there’s no way that shot happens.
Accessorize Your Table Top Tripod
If there’s one accessory you really should own for your table top tripod it’s a quick release system. I prefer the Arca/Swiss compatible ones because they work great with most “L” brackets. Here’s a look at my table top tripod with a quick release clamp:
If you’re not familiar with “L” brackets they’re used to quickly change your camera from landscape to portrait mode. When you use a quick release plate and an “L” bracket you can shoot your camera in portrait orientation with the center of gravity directly above the center of the tripod. Without the “L” bracket and quick release plate your camera would look like this:
It works fine – but it’s center of gravity is considerably off to the side and that could cause it to tip over pretty easily. Here’s a look at my camera when I use a quick release plate, “L” Bracket and my table top tripod:
With the camera centered over the tripod it’s considerably more sturdy – and it gives you a lot more freedom of movement to get a great composition.
Additional Uses for your Table Top Tripod
A good solid table top tripod can be used for more than just long exposure shots and getting bracketed sets for HDR. You can use a table top tripod for holding an off-camera flash. With a simple screw-on cold shoe adapter you can put a flash or an LED video light on the tripod and use it to aim the light where you need it. This is great for product and macro photography photography.
And cold shoes are not just for flashes and LED lights. Any accessory that mounts to a cold shoe can be mounted to your table top tripod. For example – my Rode Video Micro microphone mounted on my tabletop tripod lets me record audio for voice over work, podcasting and even video calls on my computer. Here’s a look at my Rode Video Micro mounted to my Oben tripod with a very inexpensive cold shoe adapter:
Pretty much any accessory with a 1/4 – 20 mount can be used on a table top tripod. I’ve mounted items like my Tascam audio recorders to my table top tripod to make it easier to use when I’m at home, for example. Pretty much every piece of audio, video and photography gear I’ve ever seen uses a 1/4 – 20 mount ( or a cold shoe mount) so just about any accessory that you’d want to use should be compatible with a table top tripod. Here’s a look at my Tascam DR-22WL mounted to my table top tripod:
Gear Tip #3: Get yourself a table top tripod and some accessories to let you get longer exposure shots when a full size tripod won’t do
I hope this gear tip helped you make the decision to get a table top tripod of your own.
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