High 5: Tripods

These innovative tripods will keep your shots steady in all kinds of positions and conditions.



High 5: Tripods


1. Gitzo GT2330

Decades come and go, but the timeless Gitzo aluminum tripods change little. So it's a big deal when Gitzo makes major changes as it does in its new Series 2 tripods: a brushed, matte-black surfacing; light, but tough, basalt center column; and a new system for getting to ground-level. (To go low, unscrew the head plate from the column, and reattach it to the leg yoke.) The result: center-column-free shooting. The 3.9-pound GT2330 ($300, street; $462 with G1277M Magnesium 2 head, as shown) also has a retractable center-column ballast hook, spring-activated leg releases, and a wide selection of accessory feet. (www.gitzo.com)

2. Induro CX213

This is one of the few tripods to offer both the lightweight convenience of carbon fiber and horizontal center-column capability -- making it useful for nature close-ups, copy work, or any other job that requires shooting straight down. Unlike many horizontal columns, though, this one locks at all intermediate positions between horizontal and vertical. Other highlights: nonrotating leg sections; a retractable, spring-loaded center-column ballast hook; and dust- and moisture-sealed rubber-grip leg locks. Rising to 63.6 inches, the 4-pound CX213 ($397, street, $602 with DM-12 head, as shown) claims a load capacity of 17.6 pounds. (www.indurogear.com)

3. Manfrotto 190XPROB

While several tripods have center columns that swing both ways, horizontally or vertically, none makes the transition as smoothly as Manfrotto's 190XPROB ($145, street). You extend its center column completely and it flips sideways and locks horizontally-. The 190XPROB also accepts accessory heads (shown here with the 804RC2: $213, street, for head and tripod together), offers foam leg warmers, rises to 62 inches, and weighs only 4 pounds, while boasting a load capacity of up to 11 pounds. (www.manfrotto.com)

4. Slik Pro 580 DX

If you're a photographer who shoots exclusively in manual, crops only in-camera, and spends weekends memorizing depth-of-field tables, Slik has your tripod. The simple, straightforward, and gimmick-free Slik Pro 580 DX ($200, street, with head) is a solid, no-frills workhorse that will probably outlive you, even if your name is Methuselah. Unusually light for a metal tripod, it's made of an aluminum, magnesium, and titanium alloy, steady enough to support a DSLR and 300mm f/2.8 rig, but weighing less than 6 pounds. Want more? Slik's equally rugged 780 DX costs just 10 dollars more, yet rises over a foot taller (to 77 inches) and has a 15-pound load capacity. (www.thkphoto.com)

5. Sunpak 9002TM

Heading out to shoot and can't decide whether to bring a tripod or monopod? With the 3.3-pound Sunpak 9002TM tri/monopod, you get both. Its center column pulls out to become a five-section monopod -- perfect for spaces too tight for a tripod and situations requiring the extra mobility of a monopod. Other features: three-way pan head with quick-release plate and bubble level; D-shaped, nonrotating leg sections joined by a central leg brace; and rubber leg tips with retractable spikes. The 9002's most remarkable feature? Its street price: $43. (www.sunpak.com)