Lights, camera… tripods! Camera operators wouldn’t get very far without a way to hold their cameras steady, and the humble tripod has been doing that since people first started shooting. Designed to lock a camera solidly in place on all different terrain, tripods also employ a variety of heads to help create sweeping pans, smooth tilts, and other dramatic moves to follow the action and make movies more exciting. Tripods can also include a few bells and whistles designed to expand their utility. Some shrink down small enough to fit into luggage for traveling shooters, others transform into monopods for people who like to shoot and move, and some even employ flexible legs to grip surfaces other tripods only dream about. Tripods, in all their forms, are indispensable tools of a camera op’s trade, and one of the few pieces of gear you should never do without.
Aluminum frame and a variable fluid head. Amazon
Larger cameras can quickly overwhelm small, light tripods, but the Manfrotto MVH502A accommodates up to 15 pounds of equipment. That should cover your camera, microphone, a light, your external monitor, and larger battery packs with ease. The aluminum legs feature a center-spreader for additional stabilization, and can extend from 17 to 66 inches. The tripod has a high-performance head with variable fluidity and a counterbalance setting for smooth tilts and pans, giving your footage a slick, professional look without needing a Hollywood budget. The tripod includes an extension grip and a carrying case.
The center bar transforms into a monopod. Amazon
Bigger isn’t always better, and if you travel a lot to shoot you’ll appreciate a tripod that folds into a more compact configuration. More than that, having the flexibility to move with the camera will open up a variety of shots, whether you’re exploring a city or climbing a mountain. Neewer’s aluminum tripod extends from 22 inches to 70, and drops down to 20 inches when folded. It has a capacity of up to 26 pounds. It’s real trick, however, is the removable center bar, which converts into a monopod for mobile shooting that won’t tire out your arms. A fluid-drag pan head makes for easy camera moves, and a quick-release plate lets you go from locked down to hand-held on a moment’s notice.
Flexible legs can wrap around branches and pipes. Amazon
The GorillaPod holds cameras in place with legs that wrap around objects like banisters and guardrails, branches, fences, or pipes. It’s perfect for shooting in unusual places, or you want to attach a second, smaller camera off to the side and you don’t have room for a full tripod. The maximum capacity is only 6.6 pounds, so it’s best for mirrorless cameras and smaller DSLRs that aren’t outfitted with too much extraneous equipment. But the tripod is small and lightweight, making it easy to stash in a bag for on-the-go shooting. A fluid head allows for pans and tilts, and extra attachment points fit the included Gorilla Arm to hold small external lights or microphones.