When is a tripod redundant?

Started Jul 31, 2013 | Discussions thread
Scott McMorrow Regular Member • Posts: 366
Re: 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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