So you finally broke down and succumbed to the temptation to buy one of the latest, greatest new “super zoom” digicams. You know the ones I’m referring to – the cameras advertised with anywhere from 10x to 18x optical zoom. As an example, Retta’s newest digicam features 18x optical zoom, and an amazing 28.7x extended optical zoom, which is about an 800mm telephoto focal length (in 35mm film equivalency).
The extended optical zoom feature of digicams is not the same as digital zoom. For a good explanation of how extended optical zoom (called extra optical zoom in Europe) works, see the excellent Flash presentation here.
The rule of thumb regarding shutter speed for hand-held exposures states that the shutter speed should be faster than the reciprocal of the lens focal length (I.E. an 800mm focal length lens requires a shutter speed of 1/800th of a second, preferably faster). Any slower, and blurred images invariably result. The shutter speeds recommended by this rule of thumb would only be possible in the brightest of light, and are rarely encountered while using a long telephoto lens in the field.
You may notice while comparing specifications of these super zoom digicams that many (if not most) of them now incorporate some form of image stabilization (IS) or vibration reduction (VR) systems into the camera. This is an attempt by the camera manufacturers to mitigate the blurring which would otherwise occur in hand-held, slow shutter speed photographs. There seems to be a consensus among those testing the image stabilization systems of differing cameras that the IS systems are quite effective in reducing blur, at least to a certain extent. But there comes a point when hand-holding a camera, even with image stabilization, is impractical and ineffective at stopping blur. In these situations, a tripod is the appropriate tool to ensure a sharp, crisp image.
Ah, the tripod. You do own one, don’t you? If one were to ask me what I thought the most utile and valuable photographic accessory is, I would be compelled to answer “a tripod”. It is amazing how much the regular use of the unexciting, “low-tech” tripod will improve the results of your photography, even when using cameras with an image stabilization feature.
And yet, ironically, if you were to ask me what the most neglected and underused photographic accessory was, I would also answer “a tripod”. My hunch is that most people do not use a tripod for two basic reasons. First, tripods are generally bulky, heavy pieces of equipment (relative to the size and weight of the camera), and second, it is usually a time consuming pain in the … to attach and remove the camera from a tripod whenever it is needed. But there are simple solutions to these two problems that deter the use of a tripod.
To address the issue of the time consuming attachment/removal process, the following clever device is available from several sources. It is called a QuicKonnect, marketed by Sima Products Corporation.
The QuicKonnect is universal and can be used with any camera or video camcorder with a standard threaded tripod screw insert located on the bottom of the camera body, and with any standard tripod.
The QuicKonnect consists of the two pieces pictured above. The part on the left connects to the bottom of the camera, while the part on the right connects to the tripod.
The base attaches to the tripod, as pictured above.
The mounting bracket attaches to the bottom of the camera body, as seen in the photograph above.
To attach the camera to the tripod, simply tilt the camera to the proper angle, lower the camera into the base, and lock it in place with the spring-loaded cam (see red arrow in the photo above). Nothing could be quicker or easier!
So the Sima QuicKonnect solves one of the impediments to tripod usage, the hassle of attaching/removing the camera from the tripod. But what about the other impediment, namely, the bulk and weight of a tripod?
A lightweight, portable monopod, as seen above, solves the problem of weight and bulk. You do own a monopod, don’t you?