The Center Column is my attempt to document the search for the ideal tripod. The internet is alive with well documented testing of cameras and lenses, but there is not a cohesive set of information on the performance of tripods and heads. In fact, I couldn’t find any set of repeatable measurements on the stiffness and damping characteristics of the currently available set of camera support equipment. In the mottled set of reviews across the web, reviewers give a qualitative impression of performance or state that vibration dies off in a certain number of seconds. While this has generally been good enough to figure out that carbon fiber is better than aluminum, it hasn’t been enough to challenge the claims of manufacturers or help photographers get the most out their equipment and budgets. My aim in this blog is to develop a set of tests that are quantitative, repeatable, comparative, and directly relates to the real world performance of the tripod. I hope you enjoy.
The Center Column was born on a cold windy morning on a hillside in Patagonia. I was on the trip of a lifetime and dawn had just broken on the first clear day of the trip, illuminating the glacier carved peaks. To my dismay, I couldn’t get a sharp photo because my tripod let me down. It is difficult to properly express the frustration of incredible images getting ruined after I had pinched pennies on what is one of the least expensive pieces of gear in my kit. Those who have experienced this frustration are all too familiar and have already upgraded their tripod.
Upon return, I began experimenting with tripods in my garage, trying to find one with the best combination of height, weight, and stability. After a significant amount of trial and error, this eventually led me to the testing process documented on this site. And, after realizing that others would be interested in the information I had gathered, the site itself. Now, The Center Column is a ongoing exploration into the most effective ways to get the most out of your tripod and camera. Please enjoy, and I hope you find the information presented here useful.