A good tripod is essential equipment for any serious videographer. No matter how steady your hands are and how advanced your camcorder manufacturer claims its Extra-Super-Duper Image Stabilization feature is, you cannot match the rock-solid stability of a tripod. Of course, tripods vary in stature, features and price. They range from under $100 for lightweight models to over $1,000 for heavy-duty professional rigs. Regardless of what you plan to spend on a video tripod, there are some important features to consider when you go shopping.
Head Type – A fluid head allows smooth pans and tilts. Be wary of "fluid action" and friction heads, which are not the same as true fluid heads.
Mount – Mounts come in two styles: flat or bowl-style. A bowl mount lets you level the head without adjusting the tripod’s legs.
Quick Release – If you need to get your camera on and off the tripod quickly, look for a mounting plate that attaches and releases with a quick-release lever.
Bubble Level – A fluid-based level indicator is the best way to make sure your tripod isn’t tilted.
Weight – Light tripods are easy to carry, but tend to be less stable than heavier ones. You decide which is more important: your back or your shots.
Maximum Height – A tall tripod is important for high-angle shots or shooting over the heads of a crowd.
Minimum Height – How low can you go? You may need to know.
Maximum Weight Capacity – Make sure your tripod is strong enough to hold your camcorder.
Collapsed Size – Storage space and portability of your tripod can be a crucial consideration.
Feet – Either pointed metal feet or padded rubber material.
Leg Lock – Rather than turning to tighten and loosen the legs, some tripods have quick-release systems.
Carrying Bag/Case – Some tripods include bags or carrying cases.
Spreader – A feature for quickly spreading the tripod legs.
Your specific needs and your budget, of course, will help guide you to the right choice for you. Use our sampling of tripod manufacturers to help you with your search.