DIY Camera Tripods

10 Sep
  • A typical camera tripod. source


I’ve been wanting a reasonable camera tripod for a while now. There’s a huge variety of shots I’d like to take that really need the stability of good support.  However, the net is rife with warnings about putting expensive cameras onto cheap tripods and the nasty things that can result from this unholy combination.

Browsing around, it’s clear that there are three key variables – price, stability, and weight. Clearly, each different photographer applies their own weighting factors to their choices. If you’re into backpacking into the wilderness then weight becomes critical. There’s plenty of variations on the advice “a tripod that’s too heavy gets left at home and then it’s exactly zero use.” Conversely, if you are a penurious student then price becomes all important. What sort of photography you are into has a significant impact as well – with long exposure, night-time, or tricky macro work all requiring plenty of “not-movingness“. Age, strength, and size all play a part as well. I’m too old and feeble to tramp into the mountains for fun, but not too weak that I need a light-weight tripod, and at 180cm (about 5′ 10”) I don’t want to be bending down to a low tripod all the time.

Since I have a workshop full of tools, building my own tripod sounds like a great idea. A google around on “diy tripod” or “home-made tripod” should provide plenty of inspiration. NOT.

  • A couple of very solid tripods for telescopes. source source

Surprisingly, there’s very little indeed in the way of home-made (large) tripods. Plenty of DIY versions of the “gorillapod”, home-made versions of car mounts, panagraph mountings for commercial tripods, and replacing parts of old tripods. One DIY tripod I found looked interesting but was clearly intended for suspending people (in bondage gear) rather than holding cameras.

There were a few genuine home-made tripods to be found. Unsurprisingly, almost all of them made from wood. Unfortunately, they also tended to fall into two categories – (a) very solid non-adjustable tripods being used for holding astronomical telescopes, or (b) tripods that were adjustable by means of tricky sliding joints.

  • A couple of good, and well documented (as always at the woodgears.ca site) wooden tripods. source

However, long before I started my surfing, I knew of one wooden tripod design which, in my opinion, trumped all the others by a huge margin. Several years ago I happened across The Mighty Manfred/Manfrotto Tripod as described by homo ludens photographicus. This tripod is particularly solid, very flexible, relatively cheap, and (as built by Manfred in Chilean “Lenga” wood and brass) rather pretty.

  • The Manfred/Manfrotto extended.

  • With two legs folded and one extended.

  • A view of one locking joint.

The singular thing about this design is that the legs fold, rather than sliding. That makes the joints rotary (easy) rather than sliding (hard). It does come out rather heavy and doesn’t shrink down as small as telescoping aluminium tubes allow, but I can cope with that.

Alas, I doubt my tripod will be as pretty when completed.

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2 Responses to “DIY Camera Tripods”

  1. tokyohamster September 19, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

    awesome! i never thought about diy-ing my own tripod, but it could make sense! and would make for a great photo. 🙂

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