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I've recently developed (due to some super cool offerings from lomography.com) an interest in vintage photography. Using an analogue camera without a flash is pretty tricky, you have to keep the shutter open for just the right amount of time to allow sufficient light in to the lens to expose the film and create a picture. To keep the shutter open for a sufficient amount of time (sometimes up to a minute!) you need to have a very steady hand or something to rest on. My first roll of film actually came out under-exposed because I'd not allowed anywhere near enough time to expose it. My second roll of film was a little better, though some of the shots I took were wobbly and a little blurred. For my third and fourth rolls I decided it would be an idea to invest in a Tripod.
My Dad's also, of late, taken up amateur photography and has the digital 'gear' so I decided to ask his advice on buying a Tripod. As with everything I go to my Dad for, I had a mini ulterior motive, thinking he might lend me one of his and I'd avoid parting with money, but as with everything I go to my Dad for he surpassed all expectations and GAVE me one he'd found in a Charity Shop which cost him £1.
The Tripod he gave me is a Vanguard MK-2 Tripod which you can pick up on Amazon and some online photography specialists for around £30-£35. It's a pretty old product and you can buy more recent MK models (3,4,5 I believe), but this was free and I am a complete novice - so I wasn't complaining. The other significant point to note is that if it is purchased new, a carry bag would be supplied with it - the Charity Shop shockingly didn't offer the same service, so my bag is MIA.
To begin with I think that a Tripod looks scary. There are just so many things to adjust and change to get it in to the right position. But it's all pretty simple really. The Vanguard model is made of lightweight aluminium and has black rubber feet to avoid slips, black plastic handles and clips. There are (obviously) three legs which are supported by a brace to improve stability. The legs spread widely to ensure a firm footing and are adjustable / telescopic, so you can set the height depending on requirements. Once adjusted the legs are secured with black plastic clips which are tight and make for a sturdy setting.
Once the tripod legs adjusted and locked in to the correct height the head can be adjusted, using the elevator gear. This is the black plastic handle which looks like a car window winder. Inside the Tripod tubing there are plastic teeth which grip the gear and push the head up as the elevator gear is wound then, once it's in place, it's locked in using a black plastic screw. The trouble is it's a metal gear, gripping plastic teeth. On the model I used the teeth had worn away making the elevator gear redundant. But you can still unscrew the lock, lift up the head manually and then relock the screw. The total maximum height of the Tripod is 142cm / 4' 7" - which is perfect for my 5' 6" frame. I don't know how easy it would be for someone over 6' to stoop down and use it - but with a digital camera it would probably be ok as you don't need to actually look through the view finder as you do with an analogue.
After the Tripod is set to the required height, the head can be adjusted using the long thin black plastic handle - unscrew it and re-angle as needed. And the head can also be rotated so it can manage panoramic shots. Then there is an ability to move at a right angle from landscape to portrait orientation without removing the camera. These three adjustment options are labelled a 3 way pan head. In case you like the tech terms!
So, I got to this stage and my Tripod was fully set up. The next bit to do is to attach the camera. This can also seem slightly intimidating to begin with. When I came to this part I was a bit worried because my camera, as I've mentioned, is analogue and I wasn't sure whether it may be outdated and that Tripod threads wouldn't be generic - but they are and the Tripod features a quick release shoe which is removed from the Tripod, then attached to the camera using the generic screw in thread - securing it with a coin or flat edged object to screw it in. Then all I needed to do was replace the shoe (with my camera attached) back in to the head of the Tripod and I was ready to shoot.
The final feature is the bubble level (spirit level). It's situated on the head of the camera and it really accurate. It's perfect if you want to take a balanced, level shot - and can also help if you know you want to take a shot at a slightly warped angle. I even experimented using a warped angle set by the spirit level and an edgy alternative angle set by the orientation adjuster.
Having a Tripod made a massive difference to my pictures and produced clear, images - without compromising on the ethereal effects you get with a Diana F+ camera. It was useful too for 'waiting' for a picture opportunity - sometimes you wait for something to happen and if you're not poised correctly you miss it! It folds up really neatly too to a tiny 56cm and with it being aluminium and therefore very lightweight it's easy to carry about on my photography travels. The Tripod can hold up to 3lbs of camera equipment too. In case you have a vintage VCR / video camera... And because it's from a trusted brand and looks so great anyone can get away with going to popular photography groups or spots and instantly fitting in - even if they've never used a Tripod before! I highly recommend this item - if you can pick one up cheaply (Thanks, Dad!) as they are older stock now, then all the better, but even at £31.95 this is still a great value product!
The MK series is a great tripod series at even better pricing. Special to this series is an aluminum column and a horizontal leg brace.