Tag Archives: tripods

Camera Accessories for Traveling

It’s summer and time for vacation traveling. If you’re flying to your destination and renting a car, getting your photo gear packed efficiently can be a major concern. Having just returned from such a trip, I’ll pass along some info regarding what I took with me.  First of all, I took just one lens with a wide zoom range for my SLR and left the specialty lenses at home. Since I was in scenic areas, I made sure to take along a circular polarizer. This is essential in producing deep, dark skies and reducing reflections. This is the one filter that you need for every lens in your bag.

I shot 90 percent of my photos with the SLR, but also took along a compact point and shoot for times that I didn’t want to carry a bag.

I brought a Quickpod, which is a small, boom-style extending mounting pole which enables you to mount your camera and extend it away from you to take self-portraits in front of whatever view you like. Using this, you won’t have to ask a stranger to take your picture again! Mine is light-weight, so can only be used with a small camera. It has a small mirror, so you can frame your shot with it, however I found that feature to be useless. You have to use trial and error and practice with it to get your head in the shots. Mine was around $20, but you can spend up to $50 for one that can handle a two pound DSLR.


I also took along a remote wireless shutter release for my DSLR. I decided to get one for doing long exposure photography (to prevent camera shake when tripping the shutter) and to take shots of wildlife where I can be away from the camera. But it also is great for doing self-portraits. I set up my tripod and my wife and I climbed up on a rock in the middle of a creek to get shots that I couldn’t have done otherwise. Phottix makes a variety of these for $25 -$45, which is a fraction of the cost of one made by the major camera companies like Canon or Nikon. The pro units usually work only on IR, but these cheaper ones use radio waves which give you a much longer range. I chose the Phottix Plato which uses the broader 2.4 GHz frequency, so I can be hundreds of feet away if I wish. They come from China and are a bit flimsy, but mine worked flawlessly at a cost one quarter of what the pro companies ask.

Phottix Plato

Another little tripod is called the Gorillapod and is marketed by a company named Joby.  These are extremely light-weight, flexible tripods made of many articulating ball-and-socket joints which enable the user to wrap the legs around things like poles or tree branches.  They also can be stood on a table and used like a normal small tripod.  Mine is made for a small point-and-shoot and cost around $18.  They have sturdier units that can handle cameras and camcorders up to 11 pounds.


For serious photographers who want to make an investment in a tripod, you may want to look into one of the units made by Vortex. 


These are very compact, extremely light weight professional tripods designed for hikers and mountain climbers.  They have as many as 5 leg sections which allow you to fold it to under 15 inches and to extend it out to nearly 5 feet.  I saw these couple of weeks ago while browsing at Fry’s Electronics and was very impressed.  They range from $80 to $300 for a light-weight carbon fiber model…love the carbon fiber, but guess I’ll be sticking to my old steel  legs for now.

Pistol Grip Tripod Heads

 As the quality and feature sets of consumer cameras escalate and people aregetting more bang-for-the-buck on their camera purchases, there is a natural progression for shooters to get more serious about their photography.  Getting great enlargements from your 12 MP camera often requires the use of a tripod.  Most people have some sort of a tripod, but it’s probably stored away and gathering dust in a closet.  One of the reasons for this is that the style of the tripod head is most likely a “twisty-stix” type, one that has a couple of handles for making vertical and horizontal adjustments.

Pan and Tilt Head

These are called pan and tilt heads and by the time you get it set up, your lighting or subject may have disappeared.

A great addition to your photo gear might be a replacement tripod head called a “pistol grip” or a “joystick” depending on the manufacturer.  Although not new in the marketplace (I’ve had mine for around 30 years), I don’t see a lot of them in use.  Many people may think of them as a luxury or gimmick, rather than as a tool, but the beauty of the pistol grip head is that it just takes a moment to squeeze the trigger and aim it at your subject.  Then you release the trigger and your camera is locked down either horizontally or vertically.  The one I acquired many years ago was made by Bogen which is now sold under the Manfrotto label (model 222 Joystick Head).

Man frotto Joystick 222

It’s all aluminum with no plastic parts and screws onto just about any tripod made by Bogen/Manfrotto as well as most other brands, so you may not have to replace your existing “legs”.  It’s pretty heavy-duty and can support a large digital SLR and telephoto lens like those made by Nikon and Canon.  The street price is around $115.

There wasn’t much else available back when I got mine, but there are many more choices in several price ranges now.  Slightly less than the above unit, is the Slik AF-2100, which is also heavy-duty and sells for about $100 street.

Slik AF-2100

If you prefer to not make this big of an investment, the Sunpak Pistol Grip Ballhead may be the ticket for half the price ($50).  With a six pound load rating, it can still handle the larger cameras as well as the pricier models.

Sunpak Pistol Grip

For those with cameras smaller than DSLR’s such as advanced point and shoots or Micro four thirds, the Manfrotto 785B Modo Maxi might be a possibility.  This unit includes the tripod with the head and sells for about $70.

Man frotto Joystick 222

It’s rated at 2.2 pounds capacity and might be a little flimsy at the top of that weight range, but should work fine for any point and shoot and could work in a pinch for larger DSLR’s.  The head is not detachable from the legs, so it must be bought as a package.  A big advantage for this model is that it weighs just over 2 pounds and collapses to 17 inches, so it’s extremely portable and light-weight.

All include quick release plates and all but the Modo Maxi have a bubble level to help keep your horizons straight.  In making your decision, just be sure to check manufacturer information or with your camera store to ensure compatibility of the tripod and the head.  I think the speedy operation of the pistol grip will certainly enhance your photographic experience as well as the quality of your photos.