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In my article, Be in the Picture, I talk about remote controls you can use to remotely trigger your camera so you can be sitting happily in the picture with your family, but there’s one other important part to this happening easily that I didn’t talk about in that article.  You will need a good tripod!  

Well…unless you can find a convenient rock, shelf, or other flat surface area that is the exact height you need for your photo that you can set you camera on.  It can be done, but it adds one more thing to try to figure out, and it limits where you can set up for your photo…  I started out with the Sunpak 6200PG Tripod.  A very good beginner’s tripod for a basic camera set up.  

When I first got my Canon 5D-Mark III and basically shoot everything with my Canon EF 70-200 Lens, I decided it was time to upgrade my tripod to something a bit sturdier, since my new favorite camera set up was quite a bit heavier than a camera with a kit lens.  I bought the Manfrotto 055 Tripod.  Wow…what an impressive tripod.  Here are a few things about each of them…

The Manfrotto 055 Tripod is amazing!  It has so many extras and hidden treasures in it – – it took me a while to figure them all out and test them. This tripod has a center column mechanism that allows you to extend it up vertically like normal, or horizontally – haven’t used this feature yet, but am excited to test it out soon.  You can extend this center column with one hand, and you don’t even have to remove the camera!

Manfrotto Tripod with Canon 5D-Mark III
I love the fact that you can adjust the legs independently! You can really get some great angles because of this feature.

The legs are very easy to extend and adjust.  It uses Quick Power Lock levers that allow you to open and close leg sections with one hand very quickly.  You can also adjust each leg angle independently from the others with a very easy to use angle selector button at the top of each leg.  

There is a bubble level at the top of the center column if you need it for framing, as well as an Easy Link connector for supporting accessories such as a flash, reflector, or other piece of equipment.   I haven’t used this feature yet either, but it sure makes me want to buy an accessory for my camera so I can check it out.

You can choose a 3-section or a 4-section Manfrotto tripod depending on how much you plan (or need) to extend your tripod. I went with the 3-section tripod, because I am typically using this when taking family photos on a remote, or taking class photos at the local elementary school.

This is the first time I’ve used a Joystick Head.  Seemed kind of strange when I first heard about it, but now that I’ve used it, I can’t imagine anything else. The Manfrotto 322RC2 Joystick Head has a load capacity of 11 pounds!  With this joystick, you can position and lock your camera with one hand.  

There is also a friction control wheel that lets you regulate the power of the blocking mechanism based on what the weight of your camera and lens might be.  Very easy to use with the camera attached.  With this tripod, I’ve found that I don’t have to set it all up before-hand.  Everything is so easy to change/adjust, you can just do it with one hand at the scene of the shoot.

There are many styles of Manfrotto tripods, and they range in price from under $100 to more than $1,000.  Price depends on the material it’s made of and what specials features you are looking for.  I suggest getting a tripod with a head kit, because they can be quite expensive when you buy them separately.  Also, if you buy the tripod with a head kit, you know they will fit together.  You can always buy adapters later if you need them.

You might also want to consider the Manfrotto Tripod Padded Bag.  There are quite a few to choose from.  All very similar.  It makes carrying the tripod around very easy, and you can just toss it in your trunk and keep it there for when you need it.  I like the idea of the bag, because it keeps the tripod and my remote control all in one place!  As long as I can keep up with this one bag, I’m good to go!  Well…and my camera bag of course!

The Sunpak 6200 was an excellent tripod for me to start with!  I got some wonderful pictures of my family using this one.  And I had this tripod before I had my Strato II Trigger set and my Canon RC-6 Wireless remote.  I had this back in the day when I had to set up the tripod, set my camera’s timer, push the button, jump over the tripod legs, and run (just hoping I wouldn’t trip on the tripod leg)!  I’d get in my position right before the camera would click!  In those pictures, I always looks a little bit frazzled!

The Sunpak is an aluminum tripod with a compact pistol grip ball head and quick release. It weighs about 3.5 lb and will support up to about 4 pounds. You can stretch it up to a maximum height of 60.5″.  It has three leg sections with a leg brace for extra stability.  

The pistol grip ball head makes it easy to set up your shot in seconds using the rotating platform.  It has 3 levels of flip lock leg locks with rubber feet on the bottom. If you don’t want to invest a lot of money at first, this is a great place to start. I still have my Sunpak, and I use it for backup sometimes with smaller, mirrorless cameras when I need a second tripod.

Two very good choices depending on what you are doing.  The Manfrotto is so sturdy – it never made me nervous when my camera was attached to it – not even when I had my Canon 70-200 attached to the camera.  And that is a heavy lens.  It never lost its position either – with the Sunpak, the 70-200 was just too much lens – and if you wanted to turn the camera to portrait mode forget it – it had a hard time holding that position with even my small lens.  For straight forward shooting with a regular lens though, this tripod will be fine.

Even with the giant Canon EF 70-200 lens, you can still angle the camera in any direction without any slipping. It holds its position just fine.
Even with the giant Canon EF 70-200 lens attached, you can still angle the camera in any direction without it slipping. It holds its position just fine.  Impressive looking, right?

For our latest Christmas card pictures, I used my 24-70 lens attached to the tripod.  I can set it up much closer to where we are seated, and it’s not such a trek back and forth when I need to check something on the camera.  But…my 70-200 is my absolute favorite lens, so it’s nice to finally have a tri-pod that’s strong enough to hold this lens.  

The Manfrotto website says that they provide “a wide range of photographic kits that include an optimal combination of tripod and heads suggested by Manfrotto. Expertise, quality and dedication to continuous innovation make these products the perfect solution for all photographers and videographers looking for the perfect kit to achieve all their photographic ambitions.

When you opt for a Tripod with Head Kit, you’re getting the advantage of a number of key benefits. You’re sure that the components of both tripod and head are a perfect match for each other, yet in almost all cases, you’ll still be free to swap either the head or the tripod or use it with many other Manfrotto products.

You can choose among different kitted versions, designed to be the perfect solution for specific photographic styles and camera types. Some of the most important things to look at when choosing a tripod kit are materials, weight, dimensions and payload. Each model has its own technical specifications that influence the results you obtain using them.”

Here it is with my 5D Mark III with a smaller lens on it. Not as impressive as the 70-200, but it still looks nice, huh?
Here it is with my 5D Mark III with a smaller lens on it. Not as impressive looking as the 70-200, but it still looks nice, huh?  And this lens takes a great photo too, and much lighter to carry around!!

You can read more about all of their products on Manfrotto Website.  I think you’ll be impressed with their line of products.  So far, I have no complaints!  And there’s so many features – I’m still learning about some of them.  I’m impressed and excited!  And I’m very happy I have this tripod – I’m scheduled to take my son’s baseball team pictures tomorrow.

I think I’ll hook up my remote so I can “fix” their uniforms and get them in the perfect position for the photo – then I can just pop out of the way and click!  Picture done…

I’d love to hear which tripod you settle on, or which one you already use.  If you don’t have one yet, Manfrotto is a great place to start looking.  Goodluck, have fun, and be sure to let me know what you think of your tripod!  Until next time…