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Next to your digital camera, a reliable tripod is the landscape photographer's best friend. And here's the good news: You don't have to spend a fortune to get one.
My own tripod is a $4 thrift-store special, with a $15 pan head added on. With shipping for the pan head, I still spent under $25 for my tripod, and it's perfect for all my needs.
Of course, you may not want to troll thrift stores for your equipment. Still, you can buy a good tripod for a lot less than you might think. Here's what you need to know.
* Forget plastic. Aluminum and carbon fiber are the best tripod materials. If you're not wealthy, aluminum is much more affordable.
* Cross-braces are a must. Those little cross baces - the thin metal bars that connect the uppermost section of your tripod's legs with the center post - are an essential brace. They add stability far beyond the small amount of weight and cost they add. Don't buy a tripod that omits them.
* Go with a quick-release head. They're only a few dollars more, but quick release heads are worth their weight in gold. If you ever need to get your camera off - or on - the tripod quickly, you'll bless the day you spent the extra $10 or so.
* Go tall. Your tripod's cetner post is probably it's most unstable element. Choose a tripod that allows you to shoot most often with the center post extended half-way or less.
If you love landscapes, your tripod will quickly become your best friend... or a thorn in your side. Take your time in choosing the right tripod for you needs. This is one piece of equipment I definitely recommend buying from a camera store. Like an expensive suit, you don't want to buy a tripod you haven't "tried on" first