When is a tripod redundant?

Started Jul 31, 2013 | Discussions
De Michael
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When is a tripod redundant?
Jul 31, 2013

Question says it all.  At what point is a tripod redundant?

Let's say, if using a 24-70mm 2.8 at 70mm it is obvious that you need to use a tripod with 1/2 second exposure.

But at what point would a tripod be useless?

125th second?  250th second?  500th second? 1000th second.

Just curious as to others thoughts.

reginalddwight
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Re: When is a tripod redundant?
In reply to De Michael, Jul 31, 2013

More appropriate for General Techniques Forum, no?

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Onetrack97
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Re: When is a tripod redundant?
In reply to De Michael, Jul 31, 2013

It depends upon your technique, which camera you have (like a D800), and how large it will be viewed.

I use a tripod a lot for portraits outdoors but not 100%.  The other advantage of using a tripod or camera stand for portraits is that you can leave the camera while you setup or adjust lights, reflectors, backgrounds, clothing, hair, etc.

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anotherMike
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Re: When is a tripod redundant?
In reply to De Michael, Jul 31, 2013

It's never useless. I'd probably say it's usefulness is diminished if I'm at shutter speeds faster than 1/1000 of a second with a wide to normal lens.

-m

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Stevequad
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Re: When is a tripod redundant?
In reply to anotherMike, Jul 31, 2013

If it is available, I use. No matter the speed. I just do not always bring it with me.

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JP Scherrer
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Never !
In reply to De Michael, Jul 31, 2013

...as in ANY CASE, a tripod -meaning a GOOD STURDY one- will allways help stabilize any camera/lens ! Period !

...although I confess I do not allways use one ! Sometimes one hasn't got time to set it up, or can't really bother carry it around !

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LMCasey
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Re: When is a tripod redundant?
In reply to De Michael, Jul 31, 2013

A tripod is never redundant, although at 70mm (and assume a D800 and a desire to print big), you will see fewer and fewer benefits when you have an exposure of less than 1/200 second. A tripod does help you zero in on the best framing though; I find that sometimes the framing I obtain is not as careful when handholding the camera.

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RomanJohnston
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Ok...Ill bite. When?
In reply to De Michael, Jul 31, 2013

What's the punch line?

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PaulF2
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Inverse focal length rule.
In reply to De Michael, Jul 31, 2013

The old inverse focal length rule says to handhold no slower than 1/focal length, ie at 24mm no slower than 1/24 of a second (btw my experience with D800 is that you need to be a bit faster than this).

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De Michael
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Re: Ok...Ill bite. When?
In reply to RomanJohnston, Jul 31, 2013

RomanJohnston wrote:

What's the punch line?

Roman

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" " " Just curious as to others thoughts." " "

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De Michael
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Re: Never !
In reply to JP Scherrer, Jul 31, 2013

JP Scherrer wrote:

...as in ANY CASE, a tripod -meaning a GOOD STURDY one- will allways help stabilize any camera/lens ! Period !

...although I confess I do not allways use one ! Sometimes one hasn't got time to set it up, or can't really bother carry it around !

J-P.

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"Never"

Not meaning to be argumentative but could a photo shot at 1/1000th @ 70mm with a tripod be any better than shot without a tripod?

I mean doesn't there have to be a point where a tripod doesn't add to image quality.  Forget the staging, framing, being able to remove yourself from the camera viewfinder etc.  Just the image quality?

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Scott McMorrow
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Re: Never !
In reply to De Michael, Jul 31, 2013

"Never"

Not meaning to be argumentative but could a photo shot at 1/1000th @ 70mm with a tripod be any better than shot without a tripod?

I mean doesn't there have to be a point where a tripod doesn't add to image quality. Forget the staging, framing, being able to remove yourself from the camera viewfinder etc. Just the image quality?

This is actually an interesting question. Why not start with the question in reverse?

In what cases does a tripod improve image quality?

A tripod improves image quality only when it reduces camera "shake" to less than 1/2 pixel at the image sensor. This is accomplished through two methods. The first is by providing a "stable" platform that does not allow the body to move. The second is by providing the ability to use mirror lockup prior to exposure, which removes mirror slap vibrations from causing the camera to "shake".

If mirror slap is causing images to have blur, then a tripod and mirror lockup will always improve image quality.

If hand held technique is causing shake, then a tripod will improve picture quality.

As for when the crossover occurs ... I'm not sure. Mechanical shake or vibration translates into an angular displacement of the image at the sensor. A smaller pitch sensor will be more sensitive to vibration, since the 1/2 pixel distance is much smaller. As will a longer focal length lens. The answers to this can be proven experimentally.

Recently I purchased Imatest and a huge 72" wide test chart for measuring lens/camera resolution. This is the perfect way to experimentally test for the above questions, starting with the question of "At what shutter speed does mirror slap impinge on D800 performance." Then asking the question, "How poor is my hand held technique?" It's on my "to do" list.

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larrywilson
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Re: When is a tripod redundant?
In reply to De Michael, Jul 31, 2013

A tripod is never redundant, it slows a person down, eliminates camera shake and enables a person to think before releasing the shutter.  Better to shoot static subjects at low iso and slower speeds with a tripod.

Larry

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AllOtherNamesTaken
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Buy a 16-35VR
In reply to De Michael, Jul 31, 2013

The wider the lens with VR, the slower you're going to be able to shoot.

I can get sharp photos handheld no problem at 1/4 and 1/8 second on my 16-35VR. Maybe not a 1/2 second like in your example, but close. For hiking or places where it isn't possible or convenient to bring a tripod, that is a HUGE advantage. I routinely get photos I simply would not be able too because I am somewhere where a tripod wouldn't be usable. It's good enough for proper waterfall shots as well as long as the water is moving at a reasonable rate. Some people say VR is useless on wide angle but it was a main selling feature for me, and I use it often.

Obviously for long exposures, absolutely critical sharpness, macro, proper panoramas, etc. a tripod is very necessary. However in scenarios where you are unable to carry a tripod, you can get by pretty well with the right lens.

On the other end of the spectrum, I would say after around 2-3 X your focal length you don't need VR. For example if you shot at 75mm, 1/160 would probably be OK but 1/250 or 1/320 would be almost guaranteed OK.

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Kaj E
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Re: Depends on shooting style
In reply to De Michael, Jul 31, 2013

A long time ago when 8x10 glass plates was the norm tripods where the absolute norm. With the event of 35mm the freedom of shooting without a tripod generated a new genre of photography.

Whether you want to shoot with or without a tripod is determined by your shooting style. I have never seen a street photographer shooting with a tripod. Most truly dedicated landscape shooters use tripods. Some studio photographers always use a tripod, some never.

In addition to your subject style it depends very much on your psyke. Do you prefer to shoot slow and nitpick with framing until you press the trigger or do you prefer to move around and click away when the image feels right, and go with the flow.

You will find great master (both past and present) of photography in both camps. Choose what suits your style.

If you are a handheld shooter pay attention to and develop your technique. How good you are at handholding and how detailed and sharp shots your style requires determines the max shutter speed for handholding. In addition to a tripod there are many other techniques to allow for longer exposure time; monopods, beanbags plus any other improvised and/or temporary methods of stabilizing you and/or your camera.

I personally hate tripods because of the bulk and how they slow me down. I am a handheld shooter and use a tripod very rarely only for long exposure, low light shots. Even then I prefer handheld if I  can get away with it.

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Tony Beach
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Re: When is a tripod redundant?
In reply to De Michael, Jul 31, 2013

De Michael wrote:

...at what point would a tripod be useless?

125th second? 250th second? 500th second? 1000th second.

There are too many intangibles in your question.  At what focal length?  How much are you enlarging the photo?  Which camera?  VR on or off?  How steady can you hold the camera, or do you have something to lean it on?  Are you using flash?

As a general rule, for handheld photography, I go for 2 to 3 times the focal length (e.g., 200mm would be 1/500 or 1/640) if I want lots of enlargement, and for anything slower than 1/250 regardless of focal length to avoid blur from mirror slap I use MLU or Exposure Delay.

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Scott McMorrow
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Re: When is a tripod redundant?
In reply to Tony Beach, Jul 31, 2013

Tony Beach wrote:

and for anything slower than 1/250 regardless of focal length to avoid blur from mirror slap I use MLU or Exposure Delay.

Tony, do you use Exposure Delay when hand held?  I find it disconcerting.

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Tony Beach
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Re: When is a tripod redundant?
In reply to Scott McMorrow, Jul 31, 2013

Scott McMorrow wrote:

Tony Beach wrote:

and for anything slower than 1/250 regardless of focal length to avoid blur from mirror slap I use MLU or Exposure Delay.

Tony, do you use Exposure Delay when hand held? I find it disconcerting.

I have used it, but I prefer to use MLU with a tripod so I can pull the trigger and get the shot without any lag.

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user_name
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When is a tripod redundant? When you have two tripods.
In reply to De Michael, Aug 1, 2013

No substitute when you need long exposure time and/or want to get maximum resolution.

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Scott McMorrow
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Re: When is a tripod redundant? When you have two tripods.
In reply to user_name, Aug 1, 2013

user_name wrote:

No substitute when you need long exposure time and/or want to get maximum resolution.

All would agree about long exposures.  However, it's an interesting question as to whether one can obtain maximum resolution with a D800 handheld.  And if so, what are the limits.  This is a question that is fully testable with image quality testing software like Imatest.

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