What's the optimum tripod height?

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by prabhu_v, Dec 6, 2012.

  1. I'm almost 5-8. I ordered a Feisol traveler tripod (http://www.feisol.net/feisol-traveler-tripod-ct3441s-rapid-p-38.html), and it seems like I may have to bend a little bit, if I don't extend the center column. I considered getting the tournament tripod, which I believe is 2 inches taller, but I feared that it may be too tall.
    What's the optimum height for a tripod, should it be eye level? Should I get the tournament tripod instead? Any one else who is about 5-8 here, I'd like to know what kind of tripod you use and your thoughts on my dilemma
  2. I don't know this tripod, but extending the center a small amount should not be a problem. If you think that a tripod two inches taller might be too tall, then it seems that the amount of extension would be very small. In the absence of reviews from trusted sources, or being able to try it, I would worry more about the thickness (or, rather, thin-ness) of the lowest leg section, given that this is a light, four-section tripod.
  3. Also, if you had an eye level tripod, it would be positioned to take perfectly dull eye level photos. Everybody sees the world at eye level, show them something different.
  4. Your choice in tripod will be a compromise between price, weight and height. The taller it gets the more expensive and heavier it gets. To get as light a tripod for a given size as possible you'll spend quite a bit (carbon fiber). You need to figure out what your needs are. Are you going be carrying it around for long distances? You'll want something you can comfortably carry. Do you plan on taking long exposure shots with it? You'll need something very stable. And most importantly, what's your budget?
    And as far as extending the center column is concerned, I think your a little too worried about it. Sure, all the way down is more stable, but so is having the legs collapsed. The center column is there for a reason, because it works. I use mine fully extended quite a bit and have found it just requires a little more care in not creating any vibrations.
  5. Thanks for the comments so far. Just to clarify, I already got the 3441, and since it's still not too late to exchange it for the tournament one (and the tournament one isn't that much more expensive), cost -wise I'm good. Just wondering which one will serve me better in the long run.
  6. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    Everybody sees the world at eye level, show them something different.​
    Thats funny. A lot of people I see photographing hand-held seem to want to crouch or get on one knee as a matter of course to take a photograph- whether it needs that or not. I've never worked that one out unless you're photographing something low and close.
    The good thing about a tripod that gets you to eye level (or even a fraction above if you use live view or can find something to stand on) is that it increases flexibility. You don't have to photograph like that all the time.
    Depending on what you photograph, it could well be more significant to get a tripod that can be set low enough rather than just worry about max. height. Then if you fly, the ability to fit the tripod in your baggage is arguably as important as how tall it is with legs extended.
    My Manfrotto 055CX Pro3 allows me to work exactly at eye level with a RRS ballhead/clamp attached. And thats exactly what I want- I don't want habitually to extend the centre column, and find that to use a tripod that requires me to bend a little hurts my neck after a few days on a trip. Fewer than 10% of my photographs are taken at other than eye height and I don't think would be at all improved if I bent, crouched, knelt or lay on the floor. In that context the ability just to extend the legs to the max. rather than have to think about extension or keep adjusting it is very convenient.
  7. Everybody sees the world at their eye level, show them something different. :)
  8. You can always under-extend a tripod, or splay the legs - wanting to shoot from a lower height isn't a reason to buy a shorter tripod unless that's all you'll ever do. Shooting downwards is just as novel an angle, not that I suggest everyone gets the tallest Gitzo. However, bear in mind that even eye level isn't always going to suffice, especially if you like to shoot downhill (with the legs on a lower level than you) or upwards (looking up into the finder). I deliberately chose a TVC-34L over a TVC-33 knowing that I'll usually use it with the bottom leg sections collapsed, because I can extend them if I really need more height. I also have a 055CXPro3, and like David I find it's about the right height with the column down, but it's certainly bigger and more expensive than shorter tripods. With a big head (like the MF393 gimbal) it's arguably too tall, and adjusting the legs to compensate is a pain - if only there was a higher-end Neotec...

    It's not catastrophic to have a tripod that only goes to crouching height - bending over to peer through the finder is normal - but if you have to crouch too much for every shot, you'll feel it in your neck and back. I have to admit that 128cm is pretty short for a "proper" tripod, but it depends what you're hanging off it as to whether you trust the centre column. I've used a Velbon VTP-777 and a Tamrac ZipShot, and for portability they're amazing even if they're only really emergency tripods, so even poor lowish support can be worth it. For the price of the 3441s, I'd probably want something more solid (a list $388 is a lot to spend on the level of stability you'll get if you have the column extended often) and taller (43cm doesn't sound all that portable if you're trying to compromise packing), but if you're shooting for low weight then I've no particular reason to dispute the choice. That said, I don't really buy into the light tripod principle - you need weight for stability anyway, and in my experience the weight of most tripods is significantly impacted by adding a decent head. Carbon fibre seems to be more useful for stability and vibration reduction than for the weight saving, to me.

    Not that I've any experience of Feisols, or claim to be a tripod expert, so take this as my $.02.
  9. I personally can't stand to bend over to use a tripod. Many people don't seem to mind, however.
    I've shrunk to 178cm (5'10") in my old age and most tripods are too short for my taste.
    You can always shorten any tripod.
    Start extending the middle and you start to lose the reason you're using a tripod in the first place.
    When I need support (not a truss), I use a monopod with a Manfrotto grip ball head much more than I do my tripods.
  10. You have to accept the inherent compromises when choosing a 'travel' tripod and prioritize. This is not your 'go-to' tripod, presumably. (Nobodoy's 'go-to' tripod should have 4-section legs and a 2-section column;) How much use will it get?
    Grab the nearest tape measure and do some math. Consider the increased height from what lies between the viewfinder and tripod's shoulder, e.g. body size, vertical grip, bracket, clamp, ballhead. Often overlooked but very significant.
  11. I'm 6-something (1,90) and a Manfrotto 055DB with markins ballhead is nicely eye level without using the centre column - I much appreciate that. Setting up the tripod at a lower height isn't going to harm stability. Having to use the centre column to make it longer will.
    As far as I care - the higher without centre column, the better.
  12. I would say that the ideal tripod is one that, with the column down, puts a camera at eye level when the legs are dropped fully open. If you want higher, the column can go up, and if you want lower, you can lower the legs. What I find a bit annoying is one that goes too high automatically and always requires lowering for normal use, or one that goes way too low and always requires stooping or column extension.
    I think I'm basically in the same camp as JDM von Weinberg here, except that I'm a couple of inches shorter. I had to shorten the bottom legs on my Manfrotto/Bogen 3225 to be comfortable.
  13. When the subject is far away, the best height is eye level when the legs are fully extended and the column is not extended. (When the subject is far away, the height has very little effect on the point of view)
    When the subject is close, the best height is the one that gives you the point of view that you want. This could be eye level, or 2 feet high. I am tall, so if I shoot a portrait at eye level of a normal height person, it isn't going to look right.
  14. A good rule of thumb is your height minus 14 inches with no column extension. Good hunting.
  15. Edward gives a good reference number. Since the camera sees a little bit more above and below our normal vision, putting a camera at "eye level" will make it appear much taller than it really is. If you're five feet tall, that works fine - but if you're six feet tall, your photos will look a little odd.
    That said, I prefer my tripod to be taller when I am using a long lens, since it's much more comfortable, and the 'extra height' effect isn't noticeable on those lenses. When shooting portraits, I almost always position the tripod at the subject's eye level. And when shooting with a waist-level finder, or a flip-up LCD screen, I generally set up the tripod so the camera is about sternum height, again for comfort.
    Then again, when I go out shooting around town, I tend to adjust the height of my tripod every-other shot or so.
    The proper, but inconclusive answer, is that the correct height is the one that gives you the photo that you want, and is the most comfortable to work with. If you're lucky, that's the same height.
  16. It all depends on what you are photographing. Shooting portraits is quite different to landscapes etc. With portraits it also depends on whether the subject is short or tall as well...too many variables.
  17. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    good rule of thumb is your height minus 14 inches with no column extension.​
    Coming back to the thread I saw this, which may or may not be useful depending on your tripod and the head you put on it. The viewfinder on my 5Dii is 6.5" above the top plate of my Manfrotto. So 14" less than my height is going to be lower than I want to use most of the time, or maybe the person coming up with this number had one hell of a forehead.
    Clearly, it would be helpful if a measurement took place from at worst, the top plate of the head and ideally would take into account the distance from base of camera to viewfinder. For me, given my ball-head and camera the right number is 12", which also suffices for vertical shots using an L plate and allows for the slight loss of height occurring when you lean towards the camera so you're not touching the tripod.
    Sounds nit-picky; but the OP's stick or twist dilemma is over the same 2"
  18. I like that my tripod can put my camera at my eye level, when I need or want it there. I'm 6'1", I use a Manfrotto 055XPROB, with either a 496RC2 head, or the 393 "gimbal" head. But it takes a bit more than just the tripod legs to get there!
    When measuring, don't forget:
    • It is almost always easier to make a tripod shorter rather than longer. You don't have to extend the legs fully all the time.
    • The viewfinder of the camera does not sit directly on the top of the tripod! measure your camera and add that to the tripod height for the viewfinder. Don't forget the grip, if you use one!
    • The head you choose adds height to the tripod.
    • The quick-release may also contribute to the height, especially if it is not an included part of the head.
    • The "height" of the viewfinder can change as you tilt the camera! If you need to shoot down, you may need to be taller than the tripod so you can see down (of course, the legs adjust to help this...), or you may need to crouch somewhat when shooting up.
    With my gripped 7D, the 055XPROB and 496RC2 combo just about put the viewfinder at eye level when I'm standing. If I need to shoot down, I have to make adjustments. Same with the 393 head and my 100-400 zoom mounted. Actually, it's almost a little tall in that case, but since most of what I'm shooting (birds) is higher than me, it works out.
  19. One extra thought: If the viewfinder is at eye height without stooping, it's difficult either to look over the camera when checking your subject (yes, you can look around, but that tends to change the composition more for a lot of scenes and can be annoying if you're still strapped to everything for security) and it's a pain to look at an LCD on the top of the camera (you can usually uses an info button of some sort, but it's more intrusive). There's something to be said for a lens axis at chin height so you can peek a bit. The head usually has a large (though not unlimited) range of comfortable motion, so fixating on a couple of inches difference is probably overkill. Besides, I have different tripod heads that differ by more than that much. Just some extra musings...
  20. "Also, if you had an eye level tripod, it would be positioned to take perfectly dull eye level photos. Everybody sees the
    world at eye level, show them something different."

    If the pictures someone takes at eye level, whether they are up on a ladder,standing on your own two feet, squatting,
    sitting, or lying on your belly, are "perfectly dull" -- the problem lies with the photographer and not the height of the
  21. "Also, if you had an eye level tripod, it would be positioned to take perfectly dull eye level photos. Everybody sees the
    world at eye level, show them something different."

    If the pictures someone takes at eye level, whether they are up on a ladder,standing on your own two feet, squatting,
    sitting, or lying on your belly, are "perfectly dull" -- the problem lies with the photographer and not the height of the
  22. Thanks to all of you for all your responses. I've decided to return this tripod and get a taller one.
  23. To me the taller the tripod the better. I'm only about 5' 9" so I don't need a very tall tripod , but when I shop for them these days, I want something that is at least 65 inches in height, or taller. The reason is that 65 inches is the equivalent of 5' 5" meaning I would only have to raise the center column by 3 or 4 inches to reach eye level.
    If I needed something shorter I could just recess the legs. With short tripods you are stuck because you can go shorter, but you can't go any taller.
    I don't like bending down too much to take pictures especially when the camera is in the vertical position. Taller tripos allow you to shoot taller subjects and even shoot down at shorter subjects. They give you more flexibility and stability.
    The only problem is that that they are usually heavier and more expensive and harder to come by, but being light-weight is not the only option to consider when buying a tripod, unless you have a bad back. There are other options such as as height and weight bearing load. I learned this the hardway after purchasing tripods that are now collecting dust in the closet.
  24. The camera and head adds over 6" to the tripod, and it's more comfortable to stoop just a bit to see through the finder. A tripod measuring 52" is probably adequate for routine photography. Mine is 55", and I often lower it just a bit for comfort. I have one that is 78" tall, without a column, that I use for video to reach over the heads of an audience, and another monster at 96", which also has its use, if you carry a 4' step ladder too.
    The 78" tripod is a Gitzo GT-3541XLS, which is much too tall for landscapes, although it is not particularly heavy. When I mount a video camera, I have to stand on a chair to reach all of the controls or load tape. I use the shorter, GT3541LS model for routine photography, using only two of the three leg extensions. I'm 5'9" and shrinking.
  25. Thats funny. A lot of people I see photographing hand-held seem to want to crouch or get on one knee as a matter of course to take a photograph- whether it needs that or not. I've never worked that one out unless you're photographing something low and close.​
    I only wish that bolded statement was true. I never see people spontaneously put one knee on the dirty ground to get a good perspective. Frankly if my dad did that he may not be able to get up!
    Seriously though have you ever worked with medium format cameras? A lot of them have waste level finders. Did you ever wonder why pros doing high dollar fashion shoots would use a waste level finder if eye level was the best perspective? As someone mentioned the camera's field of view will include a large area above your eyes if you hold it straight, especially in portrait orientation if you are shooting 35mm. So to maximize your negative and do things like full body shots without tilting your camera you have to drop it below eye level. Nothing screams amateur like distracting keystoning in all your pictures. No perspective is perfect but if you are a >6'er like me shooting everything from the perspective of God begins to look a bit amateurish after awhile.
  26. pvp


    Optimum tripod height is exactly that height needed to place the camera where you want it. Preceding responses make clear that this will vary from person to person, and from photo to photo.
    I suppose it's true that a tripod that is taller than you can work with, might be overkill.

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