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Best Complete Tripod Units 2018 – [Buyer’s Guide]Last Updated August 1, 2019
Best Complete Tripod Units of 2018
Come with me. I review the three best complete tripod units on the market at the moment.
I’ve based my selection methodology on customer feedback, the size, functionality, and budget to meet various demands. Customers need to be careful on how they spend their money on these products.
Test Results and Ratings
|Ease of use||
Why did this complete tripod units win the first place?
The product is very strong. Its material is stable and doesn’t crack. The rear part fits perfectly! It is mounted really tight and reliable. I am very happy with the purchase. It is definitely worth its money. The product is top-notch! I don’t know anything about other models from this brand, but I am fully satisfied with this product.
Why did this complete tripod units come in second place?
The material is pretty strong and easy to wash if needed. The design quality is top notch and the color is nice. I like this product. For such a low price, I didn’t even hope it to be any better. It’s decently made. Managers explained me all the details about the product range, price, and delivery.
Why did this complete tripod units take third place?
I hope that the good reputation of the manufacturer will guarantee a long-term work. I liked the design. We’ve been using it for 2 months and it still looks like brand new. This price is appropriate since the product is very well built. It doesn’t squeaks nor bents. Looks great in my apartment.
Complete Tripod Units Buyer’s Guide
If a telescope’s aperture is its most important spec, its focal length comes next. Say you have two telescopes with the same aperture but different focal lengths. The one with the longer focus (that is, a higher-numbered f/ratio) will generally lend itself better to high-magnification viewing. (The f/ratio is just the focal length divided by the aperture.) One reason: you can stick with longer-focus eyepieces, which are easier to use, especially for eyeglass wearers. Another reason: “fast” objectives, those with low f/ratios, are harder to manufacture well, and thus they tend to make fuzzier images unless you’ve paid a premium for top-quality optics.
Sky & Telescope illustration; image courtesy Sadao Nojima
Is Bigger Always Better? “So it’s simple: I should go for the largest, longest telescope I can afford.” Maybe; maybe not! A long focal length is preferable if your primary targets are high-power objects like the Moon, planets, or double stars. And a large objective is a necessity if you dream of viewing numerous galaxies. But if you want to take in large swaths of the Milky Way or sparkling showpieces like the Pleiades in a wide view, then a short, small, scope is called for — one that works nicely at low power.
Sky & Telescope illustration; photo courtesy Akira Fujii. “Why’s that?” Because high power only let you see a small patch of sky at once. With standard eyepieces (those with 1¼-inch-wide barrels), a focal length of 20 inches (500 mm) can provide a 3° field of view — enough to take in all of Orion’s Sword. A scope with a focal length of 80 inches (2000 mm), by contrast, barely lets you encompass M42, the Orion Nebula in the Sword’s center. “What if I want to do a bit of everything?” Don’t worry, there are plenty of midway compromises. Many astronomers think of the 6-inch reflector as an ideal “do-it-all” instrument. But even with that aperture, you still face a tradeoff between a wide-field performance (f/or thereabouts) and high-power performance (optimal at f/and up). And remember that the long-focus unit will be bigger and heavier and so will require a beefier mount — making it harder to carry, set up, and store. Everything’s a tradeoff.
By bringing light to a focus, a telescope forms an image — a little picture floating in the air inside the tube. But you need a way to view the image! That’s what eyepieces are for. Think of them as like little magnifying glasses for looking at the image. Changing eyepieces lets you change a telescope’s magnifying power (which equals the objective’s focal length divided by the eyepiece’s focal length). Every telescope owner should have several.
The reason is that even with its lowest-power, widest-field eyepiece in place, a telescope shows you such a tiny piece of sky that you can’t tell exactly where you’re aiming.
Three ways to take aim at the sky. Left: Lensless peep sights suffice for small telescopes with wide fields of view. Center: Reflex sights project a dim red dot or circle on the sky, improving precision. Right: Finderscopes make more targets visible and enable the most precise pointing. But watch out for tiny, cheap ones with dim, fuzzy views.
Once you warm up a new car and hit the road, you need a map to find your way — especially if you’re in brand-new territory that you’ve never seen before! So it is with a telescope. In fact, even the most expert telescopic travelers use the biggest, best, most detailed sky maps they can get. © Sky Publishing Corp.
You may already own a planisphere, a rotating “star wheel” that helps identify constellations. Certainly you should be adept at using a wide-sky constellation map like this before embarking on telescopic astronomy. However, a planisphere alone will no more get you to the Cat’s Eye Nebula, say, than a map of the Earth will get you to the shoe store at the corner of Park and Elm. To mine the heavens’ riches, you need a set of more detailed star charts.
Most astronomical atlases display all stars brighter than some specified magnitude, along with an assortment of nebulae, star clusters, and galaxies. An atlas that reaches 6th magnitude (the faintest you can see with the unaided eye under a dark, unpolluted sky) suffices for users of binoculars. But an 8th-magnitude atlas like our famous
Sky Atlas 2000.0 (shown at right) better serves a telescope user.
If you haven’t used star charts before, there’s no better way to get started than with binoculars (see our primer on binocular astronomy). Stargazing with binoculars offers two bonuses: views are right-side-up, and the field of view is wide enough to take in recognizable formations of naked-eye stars. The view in binoculars is very much like the view in a good finderscope. “Smart,” Go To Telescopes
Lightweight and Compact
The K and F performs exemplary not only in terms of weight capacity but also on the portability front. This tripod has a folded size of 19.2inches and weighs 4.3lbs only with the head. These measurements mean that you can slide the tripod into your camera bag and carry everything easily.
Comes with a ball head
The best part with the TM2534T camera tripod is that it ships with a ball head in place. However simple this may sound, it eliminates the inconvenience of having to wait a few days longer for a head to be shipped separately.
Versatile camera activity Extreme shooting possibilities
Another thing that I like about this model is that unlike most low-end units, it does not cap your creativity. The metallic ball head, for instance, rotates 360 degrees allowing you to capture stunning panoramic shots.
The center column that supports the head can also be used either horizontally or vertically. In its vertical position, this column allows low shooting angles thereby bringing additional shooting options.
High loading performance
With the ability to support up to 17.pounds of camera weight, the VEO 265AB might be an ideal option if you are looking for the best travel tripod for DSLRs. This loading capacity also means that your telephoto lenses are safe on it.
Macro-photography made possible
This tripod comes with a fluid-like camera head with a quick-release plate that accommodates different types of cameras from various brands. This head’s ability to rotate 360 degrees plus the hexagon-shaped column that makes 0-180 degrees allow you to make special wide-angle shots with relative ease.
Universal ball head design
Despite its low price, this tripod comes ready to use with a universal head that will take about any of your cameras. This universal head coupled with the high weight capacity means that even your future cameras might be supported by this tripod with good care.
All tripods have three legs, but there the similarities end. Most tripods are made from aluminium, but the thickness and strength of the legs varies greatly. Very light aluminium tripods are likely to be flimsy and wobbly, and are best avoided. On the other hand the better quality ones can be quite heavy.
Leg Angle Adjustments
Most decent tripods enable the legs to be opened out at a range of angles right up to 90° to the centre column. This makes it easier to set the tripod up on uneven ground, or to splay the legs wide for low level shooting. With Benbo tripods all the legs can be simultaneously set to any angle via a single lock.
Most tripods come with rubber feet, but if you often shoot in muddy fields you may prefer spikes for a firmer grip. Some tripods offer both, with rubber feet that screw up to reveal spikes.
The centre column enables the camera to be raised a bit higher still, once the legs are fully extended, but its best to avoid using it if possible as it reduces the stability. They can be handy though for turning horizontally like a boom arm, making it easier to point the camera directly downwards towards the ground. Most columns have to be removed and re-inserted to achieve this, whlie most can also be inserted upside down for ground level photography.
Although one might be tempted to believe that bigger is better, the rule doesn’t always apply when it comes to binoculars destined for hunting. A magnification of 7x to 10x is more than adequate for all types of hunting. The higher the magnification, the lower the image steadiness; no one wants to steady a 10x binocular after a long tiring hike.
It is true that there are several large observation binoculars you may wish to choose from if you’re interested in using them for hunting. However, these units almost always require the use of a tripod, which for most users may prove to be tedious in the long run. Zoom binoculars come with a number of disadvantages that are worth taking into account. The vast majority of the manufacturers out there don’t commit to making their zoom binoculars waterproof, and most of the models in the line aren’t made for hard use.
There’s a myriad of hunters out there who are under the impression that buying a 10x binocular is simply better than choosing a 7x one. Regrettably, this isn’t an upgrade at all, and if you are looking to get more magnification, what you need to purchase and use is a spotting scope. The magnification of a pair of binoculars has to be associated with the diameter of the objective lens in millimeters.
The larger the lens, the heavier it is. If you are looking for portability, there’s always the option of choosing a 32mm objective, but it might be counterproductive in the end, as you’ll be able to see just a limited amount of detail. Anything under 30mm might be unsatisfactory, particularly if you ever intend on hunting in low light conditions.
Shortly, the main idea behind choosing the right objective size is that the large ones that can be purchased nowadays are bulkier but let in a lot more light than the smaller ones, which are lighter but less precise.
Field of view
The field of view of a unit is oftentimes expressed as FOV at 1000 yards. In a nutshell, this will be the area in feet that you’ll be able to visualize using your binoculars at a distance of 1000 yards. A small number means that the area you’ll be seeing is narrow. The higher the number, the wider the area. It goes without saying that, as you use the magnification, the picture will become smaller, as will the field of view.
There isn’t a universal rule when it comes to choosing the right field of view. On this account, people who are interested in utilizing their binoculars in wide-open areas might benefit from a higher FOV. Unless you’re targeting fast-moving game, you don’t require a higher FOV.
Image quality is generally thought of as being far more important than the field of view, especially since a standard FOV can be considered more than adequate for the majority of hunting.
Exit pupil and relative brightness index
Both the magnification and the objective size are the two details that determine the size of the exit pupil, of which the role is to allow light through to the eye. The exit pupil is defined by a number that results from dividing the objective size by the magnification factor.
Normally, the higher the exit pupil, the larger the amount of light that you’ll be able to visualize. Since it’s difficult to get the right objective diameter, magnification, field of view, and exit pupil, it might be a good idea to refer to the size of the human pupil. In young people, the eye pupil is capable of dilating up to 7mm, whereas, in the elderly, it can dilate up to mm. In this case, the rule of thumb is to choose hunting binoculars that feature an exit pupil with the same size or larger than the one you have in your eye.
The relative brightness index can be calculated by finding out the square of the pupil. In dim light, an RBI that is higher or equal to 2is traditionally thought of as the best alternative.
Optical coatings are added to the glass surface of the objective in order to reduce or downright eliminate light reflection. Light loss and glare are two things that you might not come across in a binocular with an optical coating, but you’ll definitely stumble upon them if your model doesn’t have any good coating. Brighter and clearer images often come from the quality of the optical coating.
If the model you want to purchase has coated optics, this means that at least one glass surface on at least one lens has been covered with an anti-reflective coating. Other units nowadays are fully coated, multi-coated, and fully multi-coated. FMC might be a tad too expensive for some buyers, but multi-coated alternatives do what they are supposed to do, in that they have received many anti-reflective coatings.
The better the coating, the higher the amount of light you will be getting, so if you are invested in getting the best binoculars for hunting, you might want to consider spending a bit more and getting a pair that is at least multi-coated.
Waist belts are a great option for any photographer seeking a more ‘hands-free’ way of carrying their kit. Simplicity is the key and so you’ll find that there are essentially two main options available to you – fixed-capacity storage and modular arrangements.
Taking the first option, this is exactly what it sounds like. To oversimplify, think of a bumbag design but with great protection for your gear and you won’t be far wrong. Key features include padded internal dividers, a zipped lid and even mesh pockets on the outside. With a main buckle fastening at the front attached to a comfortable waist belt, some models also offer the option to be worn as a sling over the shoulder.
The beauty of modular waist belts is that they work on the ‘system’ principle – i.e. you add whichever pouches you want, essentially creating a setup which is perfectly tailored to your needs. Expect to find additional padding around the belt itself, accessory loops and attachment points, quick removal of pouches via easy-to-use buckles and optional shoulder straps.
Perhaps the biggest selling point of waist belts as a whole is the fact that all of the weight of your gear is transferred to your hips. This means less fatigue on your shoulders over the course of a long day out in the field, not to mention quick access to your kit while on the fly.
The shoulder bag is perhaps the most popular option for many photographers. Tried and tested over the years, its design offers a combination of practicality along with robustness. Usually, there is also great scope for customising the internal compartments thanks to Velcro-attached, non-abrasive dividers, which are generally light and quick to reposition.
Things to look out for in particular include a strong, comfortable strap, durable zips with decent rain flaps and a practical grab handle on the top. Also, take a look underneath to make sure you get some form of ‘feet’ studs which will will do a good job of raising the bag off the ground just enough to keep moisture at bay.
Because this is one of the most popular categories of bag, you’ll find that it is also one of the most variable in terms of design. While a lot of features are shared (multiple pockets for accessories, pull-out waterproof covers etc), the physical appearance varies greatly – so there is bound to be a bag to suit your preference, whether it be a classic travel-reporter style or state-of-the-art ballistic nylon.
The use of photography backpacks has grown tremendously over the past few years, and it’s not difficult to see why. They have the distinct advantage of offering fantastic functionality along with increased capacity – perfect for anyone heading out and about for a photo trip, whether it’s just for the day, a weekend or longer.
As you might imagine, there’s a wide range of sizes available to satisfy all needs. Whether you want to carry a small camera (for example, a Compact System Camera) along with a packed lunch, waterproof clothing and accessories, or a full-on professional DSLR outfit and tripod, you’ll find many shared features which will make your kit carrying experience as comfortable as it can be.
Some backpacks have even bridged the gap into rolling cases, too, with discreet built-in wheels ready to go whenever the need arises – perfect for anyone who finds themselves heading across airport or railway concourses en route to their photography adventures.
Key features to look out for include a comfortable harness system with sturdy waist belt and chest strap, external accessory attachment points and a pull-out rain cover (some of which are detachable). Also consider how quickly you will be able to access your kit, given your intended use; there’s nothing worse than picking a great bag, only to find that there are too many pockets to confuse you when you’re in a hurry to grab your gear!
Ok, so now we’re into slightly different territory. Rolling bags are definitely not going to be for everybody, but they do have one clear advantage – they completely remove the necessity to carry heavy kit on your shoulders. Again, this can make a huge difference over the course of a long day, not to mention if you have pre-existing back complaints.
As discussed above, there are models available which offer ‘occasional backpack’ functionality, and as you might imagine, these sport a tough nylon construction, complete with tuck-away straps. Some rolling bags actually look like traditional shoulder bags, so if this is your design of preference they’re well worth considering.
Because rolling bags are designed for the photographer on the go, it’s typical for their telescopic handles to store away down the back when not in use; this means easy transport in tight spaces such as car boots and train compartments.
Picking a bag for your tripod may not be the most obvious thought when it comes to building a camera system, but there are a number of reasons why it’s a worthwhile purchase – especially with prices starting at around the £mark.
Of course, you get the advantage of easy transportation for your tripod; most bags come with grab handles and/or a shoulder strap, and perhaps a small pocket on the outside. But more importantly, by using a bag you can ensure that your tripod stays in great shape – at least until it’s taken out for use on location.
The more basic tripod bags out there typically feature a single zip running full- or 3/4-length, but these typically do not offer any padding. The other main design to consider is one with a top zip which runs around the circumference of the bag. Some people say this offers quicker access, but it really is personal preference.
As you go up the price range you’ll find that padding comes as standard. Understandably, this can make a great difference to the tripod over the course of its life, protecting it from all manner of unfortunate scrapes with abrasive surfaces. It goes without saying that padding also improves the comfort for the user.
At the more technical end of the scale, some tripod bags are equipped with all manner of features including backpack-style harnesses, accessory pockets, multiple grab handles and even wheels for easy transportation.
While many of today’s cameras benefit from improved moisture protection (thanks to effective seals around certain key areas on DSLR bodies and lenses, for example), when the weather really takes a turn for the worst, it isn’t worth taking the risk of dodging showers and hoping for the best while out and about.
If you’ve ever tried the plastic-bag-over-camera rain cover trick, you’ll know that it invariably has limited success, with water managing to find its way through even the smallest gap. Rather than compromising your valuable gear, why not take a look at a purpose-built cover?
No matter whether you’re using a small DSLR with a standard kit lens or a professional wildlife/sports setup with a 600mm long lens, there’s a cover to suit your needs.
Designs vary, of course, but there are a few features which are shared by most offerings. Typically, the cover will be of a nylon pull-over or zip-up construction, often featuring a drawcord which allows secure fastening around the front of the lens. On some models, you’ll also find a Velcro fastening here too, which does a great job of ensuring maximum protection from running water.
At the camera end, you have a choice of a drawcord fastening (which allows the camera back to be exposed if you so wish) or a completely tight seal, thanks to a compatible eye-piece which essentially allows the user unobscured use of the viewfinder. An alternative option here is also a simple clear cover arrangement which, although it falls over the front of your camera’s eyepiece, does offer a good level of protection.
As for controlling the lens/camera controls, some covers offer more flexibility than others. For example, as well as the main ‘body’ of the cover, some models feature sleeves for you to put your hand/forearms through; both elastic and drawcords are typically used for creating the weather-proof seal.
With some designs offering a modular approach (you can attach different lens covers to the body cover, for example), there is also an option for those who might want to venture out with a flashgun attached to your camera. Again, this component tends to be of a one-piece, see-through construction, so there is no loss of light output when the flash does fire.
As you can probably tell by now, once you have chosen your bag, very often the personalisation process doesn’t simply stop with arranging your kit into the various pockets and compartments of the base unit. Rather, there’s a whole host of accessories available which will allow you to customise everything from the type of straps you use to additional pockets which seamlessly fix onto designated attachment points.
If you choose a shoulder bag, for example, some manufacturers offer systems whereby you can remove the whole of the interior in one go – dividers and all – and switch it for another. This is especially handy if you shoot with two systems.
If you decide to take the hard case with foam-padding route, for example, there are replacement foam sets available. As I highlighted above, you really need to be sure of what’s going in that box before you start pulling out the padding; that said, sometimes it’s just not possible to future-proof your decision.
Those either heading abroad or into crowded areas might like to consider security products such as buckle locks; these are great little devices for deterring would-be opportunists. Equally worth considering if you’re using a photo rucksack (though not as secure) are replacement rain covers; these come in a range of colours from black through to camouflage and fluorescent yellow!
Laser levels were designed to speed up the setting up process in the workplace. Using this device is quick, easy and reliable. The accuracy over long distance is far more superior to that of a simple spirit level, which is suitable for shorter distances, but will give less accurate results for longer distance leveling.
These tools offer more functions such as plumbing and distance measuring, making it a multipurpose tool which saves money, saves room and is all around more convenient for the buyer.
A rotary laser sends out a 360-degree spinning laser beam creating a highly accurate “chalk line” or leveling line from which to work.
This is very useful for a wide range of jobs including tiling, aligning and plumbing a wall, leveling floors, aligning kitchen units, any type of basic survey work, site layout, calculating grades and much more.
Once acquired, you will need to set up your rotary laser using the manual. The most beneficial way to set up the level will be using a tripod, so it is essential that you purchase a set or buy one separately.
Next you will need to turn the device on and begin leveling. It is ideal to purchase a self-leveling laser as you won’t need to calibrate the measurement – allowing you to get much more accurate measurements. Once this is complete you can begin measuring by pointing the laser where you need it to be.
Our recommended rotary lasers would be our GPR R9H, which is a red beam laser, and GPR-G9, a green beam laser level. Both are extremely quick, automatic laser levels. A bestselling rotary laser to also consider would be a TopCon RLH4C. Considered the best on the market with excellent features including up to 100 hours of battery life, an electronic horizontal self-leveling feature and much more. It is an expensive investment but will almost certainly save you money in the long run.
Grade lasers are accurate and reliable rotating lasers that can be used for applications that require precise grade. There are single and dual grade lasers available and so can be used wherever required.
These instruments perform a wide range of tasks including laying out a construction site, collecting height and angle data, aligning concrete forms or complete site preparation and earthworks.
The clue is in the name, pipe lasers (also known as utility construction lasers) are used for work in pipes. This can be above the ground, in manholes or in the pipes themselves.
Our recommended pipe laser is the Leica Piper 100. Powerful and compact, the Leica Piper is the only pipe laser that fits inside a 100 mm (four inch) pipe. It is built with solid cast-aluminium housings, and is loaded with features that will improve productivity and minimize downtime on the job-site.
Line lasers allow the user to establish a horizontal or vertical plane by projecting a beam, or line, of light usually around 180 degrees horizontally and vertically. However, there are some line laser levels that can project a beam 360 degrees.
This device is particularly useful for anything needing horizontal or vertical leveling.
To use a line laser, you will need to set it up on the flattest/level surface available – tripods are the best way of achieving this. You can then make sure the laser is level, either manually or automatically, depending on whether you have a self leveling laser or not. The measuring and marking process can then begin and once you have your level line you can use it for reference.
The Leica Lino 2+ is a top selling and affordable line laser that projects exactly, quickly and easily – allowing you to concentrate on the job in hand.
A Dot laser is very similar to a line laser but instead of projecting a line it produces a dot. Usually these lasers will project a dot, or multiple, which will appear once the laser is level. When showing multiple dots, they are seen at exactly the right angle to one another.
We recommend our Leica Lino PDot Laser Level, which is affordable and simple to use. It’s self levelling and comes in a rugged, job site ready body. You might also want to consider the Leica Lino L2PLine and Dot Laser Level. It combines all the advantages of the lino dot lasers meaning you’ll be well equipped for any alignment or levelling task.
The Leica Lino Pprojects laser beams, which are exactly at right angles to one another.
How to spot a good tripod
The first step is to throw out that horrible plastic thing you got for free with your camera—it’s more frustrating than it is useful. What you should look for is a tripod from a well-known brand with excellent stability and good extras that hits the right price. The Vanguard Alta Pro meets all those criteria.
Let me take a moment to talk about what your tripod should be made out of, which is a tricky thing. Plastic probably won’t serve you well in a traditional tripod. Right now, the most popular materials are aluminum, carbon fiber, and, somewhat surprisingly, wood. Choosing the right kind for you is one of those common compromises. Pick two of the following three: weight, price, or vibration dampening.
Wood is pretty affordable and extremely good at absorbing vibrations, but it weighs a ton. Carbon fiber is light and stable, but you’ll certainly pay for it. Aluminum is affordable and fairly light but prone to channeling vibrations.
The other problem with carbon fiber is its fragility. It’s especially light, which makes it excellent for traveling, and it absorbs vibrations quite well. However, compared with many other materials, it lacks in sturdiness: Whereas aluminum might dent and bend from a sudden shock, carbon fiber can snap dramatically. In addition, its lightness isn’t always an advantage, as that makes for a generally less-stable platform to work with.
We also ignored wooden tripods because they’re too heavy to be practical in most applications.
Okay, so you’re all set on looking for an aluminum tripod. Where do you go from here?
Its reception was good enough for it to win the TIPA award for Best Accessory in 2009.
We found a shortage of reviews from larger publications but encountered a handful of decent reviews from photographers. The people at Camera Dojo praise how easily the user can adjust the center column to different angles, writing, “With one simple movement, you can easily and securely reposition the center column while maintaining it’s stability.” For an idea of how the column adjustment works, check out this photo review at Photography-on-the.net, which shows it off pretty well. In an older review, Kirk Norbury approved of its light weight and the flexibility of the center column, but he dinged it for being a little too long.
When the Vanguard Alta Pro series debuted a few years ago, its reception was good enough for it to win the TIPA award for Best Accessory in 200That’s a fair few years ago now, but tripods age gracefully. (As an aside, the winner of that same award in 201was another Vanguard product, the Vanguard BBH-200 ball head.)
Long-term test notes
If you shoot with a small camera and don’t need anything big, I don’t think I can recommend the Joby GorillaPod strongly enough. There’s a reason GorillaPod designs have been so widely and repeatedly imitated—for cameras that aren’t too heavy, they’re fantastic. You can twist their legs to cling to just about anything, they’re small and light enough to carry around easily, and they’re perfect for use in bizarre situations.
The carbon-fiber legs will provide better vibration dampening than aluminum ones at a fraction of the weight—but at a higher cost, and with arguably worse toughness. But people who spend a lot of time lugging camera gear will appreciate the substantial weight savings.
A high-end ball head will offer significant, tangible benefits, too. It will offer better construction, last longer, allow smoother repositioning, lock tighter, and disturb your composition less when you adjust it.
For a slightly more pricey take, your other option is to look at variants of any of the aluminum tripods we’ve discussed here. Most of the manufacturers sell a carbon-fiber version of all of their legs, so if you run across a specific model that sounds really good, chances are pretty high that you can find both carbon-fiber and aluminum versions.
The lesser competition
It’s surprisingly hard to choose from the lineup of good midrange tripod legs. Frankly, any of a dozen very similar, excellent tripods would do the job well. In the end, the decision comes down to which models are missing certain features that our pick, the Vanguard Alta Pro, has. Sometimes it’s just a matter of one or two pieces of plastic.
The Manfrotto 055XPROB is extremely popular, but it lacks some of the features of the Vanguard. Its center column doesn’t lock to as many angles, and it omits a gear hook. The 055XPROB comes from the most popular tripod brand around, but it simply doesn’t offer the benefits that it should at its price. In its favor is a maximum height of 70.inches, but it’s also a bit heavy at 5.pounds.
Another strong competitor is the Benro A2970F. It supports an impressive maximum gear weight of 2pounds, though the hook on the center column doesn’t retract. It also has everything else you might like, including a carrying case, spiky bits to screw into the feet, and an adjustable center column that goes to just about any angle.
Legged Thing is a relatively young British company worth keeping an eye on. It primarily focuses on making carbon-fiber bodies, but it has also produced a range of magnesium-alloy options such as the X1.Adrian. The Adrian’s legs are a curious set, considering that the company is trying some interesting things with style and color, but it has too many leg segments, and reviews of Legged Thing products are mixed.
Lacking features but coming in at a lower price is the Slik 700DX. It won’t do anything fancy: The column doesn’t swivel or tilt, you get no fancy extras, and it’s a bit heavy at almost pounds. However, for the price you get an incredibly good, simple, stable tripod. Slik has a reputation as being the way to go if you’re seriously on a budget but in need of something that will serve you well through thick and thin. The 700DX has a great maximum height of 70 inches, and it will probably survive the apocalypse.
Another option seriously worth considering is the Oben AC-2320LA. However, despite sending multiple requests for a review unit, we weren’t able to get our hands on one during our previous round of tests. We’ll look into Oben’s offerings again when we next update this guide, but for now it isn’t a pick.
The Giottos YTL line is neat because it offers a redesigned central column that allows the legs to bind in closer. It’s a bit more expensive than our pick, though, and we’ve seen some complaints about quality. While it’s a bit bigger and heavier than our current pick, it’s also capable of growing a fair amount taller and holding heavier gear. However, if you want to use spiked legs for uneven terrain, you have to pay extra for pieces to swap them out, which tacks a substantial amount onto the price.
In the end, the only other tripod we could truly test our pick against was the Giottos MTL9360B/MT9360. The MT variant has a twist lock and a carrying case, whereas the MTL version has flip locks and no case; otherwise the two are nearly identical. The Vanguard Alta Pro and these Giottos models are extremely similar, so I pit the MT9360 against the Alta Pro.
On a feature-to-feature basis, the tripods are nearly identical. Both have the all-important spring-loaded hook and adjustable center column. The Giottos model has a better carrying case, but it also has twist locks on the legs, which I don’t like as much since they’re slower to deploy than flips. If you want flip-lock legs on a Giottos tripod, you have to get the MTL version, which doesn’t come with a carrying bag—a bizarre exclusion. Both brands’ products come with tools for making adjustments to your tripod. The Giottos model features spiked feet, but to get at them you have to remove the rubber tips using a special tool. However, it also comes with a specially designed miniature alternate central column, which you can swap out with the main one to lower the whole rig closer to the ground.
In my mind, the major differences between our pick and the Giottos are twofold: The Vanguard Alta Pro has fewer leg sections, which means it’s sturdier and faster to set up—and it’s only inches longer when collapsed. All in all, I found the Vanguard easier to handle, the legs simpler to adjust, and the configuration of the tripod generally more straightforward. I liked having separate controls for extending and panning the center column, as well as seeing the way they handle adjustments of the central column’s angle. To me, anyway, the Vanguard is easier and more comfortable to use all around.
Vanguard announced Alta CA tripods in 201Although they are similar in name to the Alta Pro, they are markedly inferior. They lack the retractable gear hook and the tilting central column that we like so much about the Alta Pro, so we don’t see these models as being real competition to the version we prefer.
Both the Manfrotto 190 series and 05series lack gear hooks and convertible feet, so they don’t bring quite as much to the table as our main pick.
In March 2014, Giottos announced a productwide renaming scheme, as well as a new line of tripods called Air. But as of April 2016, neither the new names nor the new models seem to have surfaced.
The models in the Gitzo Mountaineer line and the Benro Combination Series are all carbon fiber, so we skipped them for the reasons I discussed earlier. They also lack a swiveling center column.
The 3Pod Orbit Section Aluminum Tripod (sold exclusively through Adorama) offers an almost identical feature set to that of the Vanguard Alta Pro, for a very similar price. But it lacks the Vanguard’s retractable gear hook, an incredibly useful tool for stabilizing your tripod further.
The SBH-100 is a well-regarded ball head and one of the more affordable models to feature a pan lock, which allows you to rotate the camera horizontally while it’s otherwise fixed. It can also handle 2pounds of gear, which is a lot. This way you’re limited only by what the tripod can hold, not the head. It also includes two spirit levels for easy alignment with the horizon in each direction.
Horizontal VS Dual-Beam Lasers
Horizontal lasers emit only laser beam, and are useful for checking floor leveling. It has the capacity to highlight irregularities in the work surface, its applications are limited, but can also be cheaper compared to dual beam lasers.
Meanwhile, dual beam lasers emit two beams – one horizontal, and one vertical. Most dual beam laser levels have individual buttons for the two beams so they can be used separately, hence allowing greater flexibility.
This type of laser can be used simultaneously as plumb and level reference lines. It is best used for throwing lines onto floors and walls at 90 degrees, hence ensuring the squareness of a surface.
Some dual beam lasers project a cross line instead of individual horizontal and vertical lines. These types of dual beam lasers are perfect for installation of much bigger wall fixtures as well as partitions and drop ceilings.
Rotary lasers are also dual beam lasers in that one beam is a plumb up dot on the ceiling and the other is a horizontal line around the room.
This kind of laser level works best if you want to check the leveling of the walls and if you have to install a wainscoting or cabinetry that spans the entire room.
IP stands for “Ingress Protection” and refers to the quality of sealing of a product and its effectiveness at preventing the intrusion of foreign bodies (such as dirt and water) to the product core.
The first digit of the IP rating refers to the size of objects that can intrude the product, while the second digit refers to the capacity of the product to repel or protect against moisture.
Mounting options are important because there are certain applications when we want the laser level to be stable.
Most laser levels can be mounted on a standard tripod, while others require a special mounting device.
The Most Important: What Do You Want To Do With a Laser Level?
As I have pointed out earlier, the most important consideration for choosing the best laser level all depends on what you want to do with it.
In this way, the Dewalt laser in the line laser level reviews above do not compete with each other.
Each one can be used for certain applications, with each newer model capable of more applications as the older ones.
Single beam lasers: best for checking leveling of walls or floors before tiles or heating vents are installed
Dual beam lasers (simple horizontal and vertical lasers): can be used to transfer points on the floor to the ceiling, easy installation of lighting, plus the benefits of the single beam lasers
Dual beam lasers (cross line lasers): best used for layout and installation of electrical and plumbing systems, walls and doors, as well as the fitting of tiles onto walls. It is also useful for when you need to install a long row of wall fittings and cabinetry.
beam lasers or layout lasers: has all the benefits of horizontal and vertical lasers, plus the third plumb line checks for squareness of walls and floors. It is best for cabinetry and jobs that involve lots of 90 degrees and 4degrees measurements.
Rotary lasers/line lasers with laser detectors: these lasers work best for job sites located in well-lit areas, as well as those spanning more than 50 feet.
It’s what’s known as a prime lens, one that doesn’t zoom at all. The magnification it captures is close to what the human eye naturally sees, so as big as something is in your normal vision, that’s about the size it’ll be in the photo. Prime lenses are also good tools to get you more comfortable with your gear, since they require you to think a bit more about framing and moving yourself around — zoom with your feet, as the saying goes.
The converse is also true. If you are too far away from your subject, their features become compressed in appearance. I find this look far more attractive than the big nose look and often prefer to use longer focal lengths for my people subjects (celebrities often prefer this look as well) but be aware of what is happening in your images. Being too far from your subject makes communication difficult. Physical obstacles (such as a wall) can also inhibit the use of longer focal length lenses.
Conventional teaching is that the 85-135mm focal length range is ideal for portrait photography.
HD PENTAX DA 70mm F2.Limited
The HD PENTAX DA 70mm F2.Limited offers a medium-telephoto perspective and its extensive range of apertures makes it ideal for many applications including portrait, landscape and still-life photography. The focal length means that it is perfect for things like concerts in small venues. With an overall length of only 2.6cm, this highly portable lens offers high-performance optics with edge-to-edge sharpness, and depth of field control
Short Telephoto Lenses
The workhorses of many photographers bags, the short telephoto can be used for group shots, wide angle landscapes, weddings, and even for some sports. While they don’t get as much attention as the big telephotos do, they earn their keep by being sharp and usable in less then ideal situations.
With ultra-to medium-telephoto coverage, this versatile lens can be used in a wide variety of applications including landscape, snapshots and portraits. The tightly sealed, weather-resistant and dust-resistant construction enhances durability for use in both rainy and dusty conditions, making it a perfect companion for the weather-resistant PENTAX DSLR bodies like the Pentax K-50 and K-II.
HD PENTAX-D FA★ 70-200mm F2.8ED DC AW
One of Pentax’s most anticipated lenses, the HD PENTAX-DFA★ 70-200mm F2.8ED DC AW lens offers outstanding performance in the mid to telephoto zoom focal range. It really is a much needed addition to the Pentax lineup with the launch of their full frame K-1. The lens will significantly enhance sporting (when attached to a Pentax K-II or another crop body), portraiture and wildlife photography in any weather environment.
All In One Telephoto Lens
They may not be as sharp or as fast focusing and some of the primes or sports lenses but these all in one lenses offer unparalleled versatility. If you are going on a trip with no room to pack extra lenses, these are the ones you want. They are great for exploring a city with or for going out with your family and not knowing what to expect on your walk. It’s a lens that every photographer will want to have in their bag
An all-in-one zoom for APS-C cameras, the Sigma 18-300mm f/3.5-6.DC MACRO HSM Contemporary Lens provides users of Pentax K-mount cameras with an extremely versatile focal length equivalent of 27-450mm.
Long Telephoto Lenses
If you are shooting sports or wildlife, you need a long lens. Starting at 300mm and going up to 450mm’s, these lenses get you close to the action no matter where you are standing. smc PENTAX DA 55-300mm F4-5.ED
With its wide coverage over medium- to super-telephoto ranges, the smc PENTAX-DA 55-300mm F4-5.ED is perfect for a wide range of telephoto applications, including portraits, sports and landscapes. Incorporating two ED (extra-low dispersion) optical elements, it offers superb optical performance, with minimal chromatic aberrations over the entire zoom range.
The advantage to the 55-300mm is its huge zoom, which is something that a lot of photographers who are new to SLRs miss from the point-and-shoot days. If you had a 20x zoom on your pocket camera, the 3x on a kit lens feels a bit anemic. Throwing the 70-300mm lens on the front of your camera gives you that reach you miss, and is fantastic for sports photography, wildlife and all sorts of touristy stuff (like capturing landmarks from a distance.)
HD PENTAX- D FA 150-450mm F4.5-5.ED DC AW
The HD PENTAX- D FA 150-450mm F4.5-5.ED DC AW is the longest zoom amongst all PENTAX lenses. With its 3-times zoom ratio, capturing a variety of distant objects is made easy. Along with impressive mid to super telephoto capabilities, the HD PENTAX- D FA150-450mm lens offers outstanding operability at an affordable price. Your photography will not be jeopardized due to unforeseen weather with high build quality, and weather-resistant construction. With a total of 2seals throughout its body, changes in the weather will not be an issue during your outdoor photography. Focusing on your subject has never been easier with the all-new Preset Button, developed to record a focus point and save it.
Wide Angle Lens
In photography a wide-angle lens refers to a lens whose focal length is substantially smaller than the focal length of a normal lens for a given film plane. This type of lens allows more of the scene to be included in the photograph, which is useful in architectural, interior and landscape photography where the photographer may not be able to move farther from the scene to photograph it.
Another use is where the photographer wishes to emphasize the difference in size or distance between objects in the foreground and the background; nearby objects appear very large and objects at a moderate distance appear small and far away.
For the purpose, there are a couple of options available for Pentax users. Each have their own strengths.
The official definition of a macro lens is that it should be able to reproduce a life-sized image of an object on the recording medium – in this case the image sensor. True macro lenses offer a magnification factor of 1.0x or 1:at its closest focus setting. Fit one of these lenses to a DSLR like the Pentax K-II, and a standard postage stamp will fill the whole frame. That might not sound particularly impressive, but when you consider that the 24Mp sensor in cameras like enable very large format prints, the potential for creating massive enlargements from shots of tiny objects is really quite astonishing. smc PENTAX-D FA Macro 100mm F2.WR
The smc PENTAX-D FA Macro 100mm F2.WR lens is designed for digital and film SLR cameras. It utilizes curvature and positioning of optical elements to virtually eliminate flare and ghosting for clear, high-quality images. Achieving life-size (1:1) magnification, it features our acclaimed multi-layer coating to lower surface reflection, reduce ultraviolet rays, and deliver clear, high-contrast images. PENTAX SP (Super Protect) coating keeps the elements at bay, while the Quick-Shift Focus System allows for instant switching from auto to manual focus. The aluminum construction with weather resistant seals offers excellent reliability in damp, inclement conditions. At 100mm, it is long enough that you can stand back a bit and not have to crouch to get all of the shots you want.
Reducing VR Associated Motion Sickness
As new applications are released, new techniques are being implemented into the applications/games to reduce the motion sickness. One new technology is implementing a virtual nose and it seems to help! Hopefully this will be a thing of the past in a few years!
Cuisinart EPC-1200PC 6-Quart Electric Pressure Cooker
The well-known Cuisinart graces a pressure cooker list again with their EPC-1200PC quart, a mid-priced option for the consumer that wants a premium product without the high price tag. This is another of the digital line of pressure cookers being pushed out to the market, with easy push button controls on a clear digital display that doesn’t overwhelm users with unneeded buttons. Multiple settings are at your fingertips and don’t require a PHD to operate, like simmering, browning, warming, pressure cooking and sautéing options.
The built in timer is a blast to use since it is so straightforward, as Cuisinart really went out of their way to ensure that this simple pressure cooker didn’t turn into the starship enterprise in terms of complexity. To add to the great features it is also dishwasher safe and has cool touch handles while in operation, to prevent users from burning themselves and dropping the entire pressure cooker while moving it. As a safety precaution the lid will stay locked until the pressure is released, protecting both the pot and the user. This is just about as close as you can get to an expensive pressure cooker without spending the price, and it only gets better.
You’ll get years on the warranty, so it’s a pretty solid buy all around and is intended to last for years. Some of the tastier recipes that can be prepared with this model are actually dessert dishes, which come out well and require few ingredients and little cleanup. Cheesecake and custard dishes will be the easiest when using a pressure cooker setup, and with the included manual and recipes users will be well on their way to a slice of heaven. Up to 9minutes can be allocated to the built in timer, which will more than handle the bulk of your dishes that you throw at it.
The build is a sturdy brushed stainless steel that only weighs 1pounds in total, and includes a dishwasher safe trivet in case you want to set the pressure cooker on it. Considering that this is 1000 watts you’ll get plenty of power, all without draining your electricity bill for the worse. Only one downside to this model is that it isn’t powerful enough to can, but even so it is still very much a great unit to own. If looking for something that will last for years and give optimal quality then you can’t go wrong with this pressure cooker.
Secura 6-in-Electric Pressure Cooker 6qt
Second to last on the list is this mid-priced Secura 6-in-Electric Pressure Cooker 6qt, which has the capability of replacing your rice cooker, slow cooker, food steamer, browning/sauté pan, soup maker or even an older pressure cooker. What’s so interesting about this product is that it is an all in one unit that doesn’t require the use of a stove, which is a departure from a lot of units on this list.
So how does it stack up against the competition, especially as a lesser known brand? For quality sake, they didn’t skimp on the materials with a stainless steel dishwasher safe pot and stainless steel lid. Both the handles and lid are cool touch so you won’t burn yourself during or after cooking. As this is an all in one unit with a computer chip built in to gauge temperatures, it’s actually more energy efficient than any other item on this list. The tradeoff is a rather weak PSI, but that can be overcome with a variety of methods. The control panel is easy to use but has some drawbacks when choosing certain functions, most notably when trying to brown.
For fans of the 2hour delay system it returns with this item, which is a much loved but not yet integrated feature in enough pressure cookers. Accessories include a rice spoon, measuring cup, standard recipe book and user’s manual. It is recommended to read the user’s manual from the first page to the back in order to understand the many features of this unit. As a hybrid, there are a lot of quirks that may require some easily missed tips if you don’t educate yourself on the use of the product. If buyers like the original purchase they can shell out a little extra for optional accessories like the steam rack, non-stick cooking pot and stainless steel steam basket.
With all of the items that this one pressure cooker can replace then it would be a no brainer to collect the compatible accessories. Not just purists have problems with electric pressure cookers, some every consumers have noticed some things that they may not agree with as far as comparing taste and ease of use. This is an incredible product to own if you take the time to fully master all of the available functions. But if you are just in the market for a premium pressure cooker alone, then it is best to stay away from this item and go for the real thing.
Cuisinart CPC-600AMZ 1000-Watt 6-Quart Electric Pressure Cooker
Last on the list is another medium priced Cuisinart electric pressure cooker, that’s about quarts in size and comes in new and improved packaging. If you’re shipping to a faraway place then this little tidbit of package information may matter to you, as it was built to better protect the contents in the box. The digital design of this unit is another one made from the ground up for ease of use, allowing users to do push button meals.
Along with the accurate digital thermostat, all that is required for the bulk of the dishes is a button press and walking away. There are separate settings for sautéing, browning, cooking, warming and simmering. Besides being dishwasher safe the included trivet is as well, and with cool touch handles that is one less thing for you to worry about when transporting your food from one part of the kitchen to another. One of the big advantages of using a digital setup is when setting the timer, which gains a lot more use than the other functions and has a low learning curve. As great as the push button cook functions are, more experienced cooks will appreciate the manual option not only being available but being a joy to use.
Some of the more straightforward features like the browning, low pressure and high pressure lights on the front are very well done. Some of the more aggravating features like the lid locking can be a bit of a hassle the first few times until you get used to it. To avoid gasket wear and tear never keep the lid tight while storing, as this can also void your warranty. There are helpful tips and a cooking guide included that will not only get users started with the included recipes, but serve as a way to convert your recipes for use with this pressure cooker.
It’s a very useful guide and it is highly recommended to check it out before trying your own recipes, as you may find a lot of useful information inside to keep you from ruining a meal. Even though the automatic keep warm feature last an incredible 1hours, care should be taken so that food isn’t dried out or scorched on the bottom of the pot in the process of a long wait. The hefty 16.pounds won’t make it a lot of friends, but this is one of the few good and reliable electric pressure cookers on the market. It’s a nice buy that will look well and perform well in any kitchen it is put in.
Good for the Environment
Go green! As I did mention here above, pressure cooking will use up to 70% less electricity, gas and water so it is evident that pressure cookers are far more efficient at getting the most out of the energy than any other cooking method. This energy efficiency resembles the power benefits of using energy-saving light bulbs instead of the old light bulbs that used to skyrocket your electricity bill. Therefore, if you have already changed the light bulbs in your own home to avoid wasting energy, it is now the perfect time to upgrade your kitchenware as well.
Very Easy to Use
All you have to do is to add water and monitor the cooking until it reaches pressurized level. Using a pressure cooker is kind of like traditional cooking apart from the fact that you need to use a little bit more of water and much less time. The moment you understand how your pressure cooker works, you’ll hardly need to monitor the pressuring process on stove-top cookers and with electric cookers, there is no monitoring required whatsoever.
If you have a stove-top pressure cooker then you need a spring valve. This type of valve include the most recent pressure level regulating innovation available today and the good thing is that they will not overwhelm your kitchen with annoying noises of steam pouring out of the lid or the noise of even more annoying metal wiggling up and down rapidly. Therefore, if your pressure cooker has a spring-valve then you can rest assured that it will hardly make any sound at all.
This is the Spring-Valve version, but for electric pressure cookers and it’s just as silent and energy conserving as the spring-valve. However, on the electric pressure cookers, the float-valve doesn’t control the pressure level inside the pot because there is no need for it as all electric cookers have automatic heat regulator that adjusts the heat accordingly.
NO non-stick Coatings
This is a feature that you should try to avoid because non-stick coatings will scratch quite easily and with time won’t serve its purpose and will basically become dangerous if the scratched aluminum gets into direct contact with your food.
Although pressure cookers are designed to last, you will reach a point where you will need to replace parts that have worn out. As an example, silicone ring in the lid is designed to last around 2months or so. The safety valves have their time also and need to be replaced after certain time period. With that being said, you need to invest in a pressure cooker that is manufactured by an established company that has excellent reputation and leading customer support that will sort out any issues that you might encounter. Also, you need to select a well-known brand that will have all the replacement items available when you need.
As I did mention here above, the best option for you is to choose a pressure cooker that has high quality stainless steel coating. Stainless steel pressure cooker will last you for many years come, they are durable, distribute heat evenly and are very easy to clean. The fact is that stainless steel is not just stainless steel because there are different variants of stainless steel available. You need to check the information label at the bottom of the cooker and make sure that it says 18/stainless steel.
If your desired pressure cooker is labeled 18/10, it means that it is a mixture of 18% chromium and 10% nickel. By having chromium and nickel constructed coating will give the benefit of having stain and corrosion resistance. To be considered stainless, the unit has to have minimum of 10.5% chromium and therefore for more durability, manufacturers apply more quantity. To make the coating shiny and enhance the protecting covering even more, nickel is added to the construction process.
The Ideal Size
This is probably the hardest decision to make. You’ll probably be scratching your head and wondering if you should go for the quart, quart, quart or even 1quart pressure cooker. All this depends on your cooking needs. Thinking about size, it is always better to go for a little bit bigger unit rather than having a small unit and wishing you had bigger one. You can always make a small meal in a big pot, but you can’t make big meal in a small pot so this is something that you need to carefully think about. There are several points you need to consider, for how many do you cook daily? How much storage do you have? What is your budget?
As you have noticed by now, it can be very challenging to determine what size to go for. The size is not indication of how much food you can cook. As I did point out here above, it has to be filled 2-thirds and half way through when cooking foamy food like grains and beans. Then there is another problem, those pressure cookers that are made for European and Asian standards will be sized in liters and therefore their size is rounded down to the nearest quart so the buyer can have an idea about the capacity. Although they are rounded down, they are in fact bigger than US standard manufactured units.
To determine the perfect size, there is one rule of thumb that you can follow. You can expect quart (or liter) to be sufficient for one person. Therefore, if you go for quarts, expect to be able to feed people, quarts will feed family members etc. Of course they can feed fewer but remember, for mid-sized family you should go for or quarts.
I have been mentioning family sizes and household members from 5-I’m perfectly aware that you might be living alone, renting with your best friend or just couples living together. If you are single or live with your couple, you obviously don’t need quart pressure cooker. But just have in mind how would you cook if your friends’ family would come for dinner, or your parents? To minimize the need for cooking in many batches, the absolute minimum sized pressure cooker that you should go for is quarts. Pressure cookers today are extremely compact and even though you live alone, a quart cooker will not take much space in your kitchen.
It all boils down to how many people you need to cook for and how often you need to cook. Just have in mind the rule of thumb and choose your pressure cooker accordingly:
Electric pressure cooker
Here’s an option for those who might feel unsecure about having to manually switch and set the heat level. With an electric unit, you just set-it-and-forget-it, everything is automated and no guess-work involved. Another major benefit of an electric pressure cooker is its ability to replace your other kitchen gadgets, such as the rice cooker, yogurt maker and your slow cooker. Since everything is automated, this option is perfect for those who prefer pre-set timers where they can just program the cooking method, hit play, and return to the kitchen when cooking is finished. You are able to program the cooking to fit your needs and schedule and the best part is, you don’t even have to monitor the whole process.
For those of you who are single out there and couples, this will be ideal choice for those with limited space in the kitchen. You will get more complete multi-task unit that is able to replace most of your current kitchen tools. With electric pressure cooker you are able to get sometimes up to different functions in just one compact unit. So you can basically have up to appliances in just one unit. Those features include the ability to brown, steam, keep food warm, pressure cook and more. The chefs at the big restaurants are more and more going electric because of versatility, and sometimes they are using more than one unit at the same time. That said, an electrical pressure cooker will be a fantastic extension to your kitchen regardless of your cooking experience.
You should treat your pressure cooker purchase as an investment, actually a long term investment rather than just a kitchen tool upgrade. There are so many different manufacturers out there and the prices are just as different as the companies. There will be something out there for any budged. Like with everything you buy, you get what you pay for. Have in mind to invest a little bit more than your desired pressure cooker, it will pay off eventually. As I have been pointing out in this buying guide over and over again, it is better to go a little bigger than smaller. Pressure cookers are getting so compact these days that sometimes it’s just more worth it to upgrade to the next size above. Simple, easy to use and cheap pressure cooker might be the perfect choice for you or sophisticated, durable and expensive quality cooker might be your ideal choice. Whatever you end up paying, make sure you will find one that fits your budget and your cooking needs.
Collimate w ith a homemade tool
Get an old plastic film canister and pierce the base in the centre with a 1-2mm drill bit. Put a paper-reinforcing ring on the exact centre of the telescope’s main mirror.
Take out the eyepiece and replace it with the collimation tool. Adjust the set of screws on the secondary mirror that aren’t on the back of it so that the paper ring is in the centre of the view, seen through the tool.
Make sure that the secondary mirror appears circular, not slightly elliptical, when seen through the collimating tool by adjusting the same screws on the secondary mirror.
Centre the main mirror by adjusting the screws on the back of the mirror holder. Look directly through the collimation tool. The view should look like the third image above, with the hole in the collimation tool in the middle of the paper-reinforcing ring. Your scope is now collimated.
Assessing Your Lighting System Needs
In putting together your lighting system, it’s useful to consider what you want to achieve. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Regarding the last question, if you’ll be handling your own lighting during performances, features such as remote control, foot pedal control, and programmability will be important considerations.
LED vs. Conventional Lighting Fixtures
Inexpensive LED fixtures typically have smaller, low-power LEDs while larger, high-end fixtures are equipped with one-watt or three-watt diodes for much more impact. Smaller LEDs are often designated by their sizes—typically 5mm or 10mm. A 10mm diode is proportionately much brighter than a 5MM LED.
Light-emitting diodes or LEDs have revolutionized all kinds of lighting fixtures from those used in autos and homes to even the humble flashlight. For many good reasons, the LED’s impact on stage lighting and effects has been huge. Major acts such as Radiohead have recently toured using LED lighting exclusively. Let’s look at LED lighting’s advantages and disadvantages in comparison with traditional lighting:
Strobe and Laser Effects
Strobe effects use a pulsing white light beam to create a visual stuttering effect similar to viewing old-time films. They’re very popular in dance clubs and are available with both traditional filament bulbs as well as LEDs in a range of power levels to match various venues. You can choose from standalone models or DMX-controlled strobes that can be programmed with custom patterns. Sound-activated models can create a particularly exciting ambience on the dancefloor. Note that many LED PAR cans and effects lighting fixtures include strobing functions that may be adequate for your needs.
Laser effects produce very intense single-color beams and often include built-in display programs as well as sound-activated functions using a built-in mic. Motorized units allow scanning and burst effects, and the inclusion of gobos can create patterned laser beams. More advanced laser effect fixtures can produce 3-D effects and detailed backdrops, skyscapes, and much more. Lasers are especially effective when used in conjunction with fog machines.
Black Lights and UV Lights
These fixtures are a simple, low-cost way to add a special ambience to performance spaces and other venues. They enhance the appearance of white and fluorescent colors in darkened spaces creating a ghostly glow. Black lights are available in standard fluorescent tube and incandescent bulb formats that use standard lighting fixtures as well as newly developed LED fixtures.
PAR Can Lighting Fixtures
These lights are a staple of stage and live-sound lighting. These basic fixtures have a metal housing, mounting bracket, reflector, and socket that can accept a variety of different lamp types. They’re often used in large numbers to illuminate certain performers or stage areas and are usually mounted on overhead trusses. They do not offer a true hard-edge beam; the width of the beam is determined by the shape and positioning of the PAR can’s reflector.
PAR cans come in a wide range of sizes and are identified by their diameters in eighths of an inch. A PAR64, for example, has an 8″ diameter (because 6eighths of an inch equals 8″). Most include a holder allowing colored gels to be mounted in front of the lens.
Note that PAR3lamps are sometimes designated as simply SP (Spot) or FL (Flood).
The power requirements of PAR cans with incandescent lamps can add up fast. Those for smaller stages are typically in the 75-150 watt range. PAR3cans typically run between 50-150 watts. PAR46s usually have 200-watt lamps, PAR56s usually range from 300-500 watts, and PAR 64s range from 500-1000 watts. This is where the LED technology really shines (pun intended). They not only use a fraction of the power required by incandescent fixtures, but also reduce the number of fixtures needed in order to create a wide range of color options.
A common lighting setup for bands involves the use of a pair of light trees on either side of the stage, each holding enough PAR3cans with spot lamps and amber or light pink gels to light each frontline band member. Drummers are usually lit from the back and sides. Mounting the light trees to the tops of your main speakers is a space-saving strategy.
PAR cans and other lighting fixtures that have a double-yoke support system are something to look for if you want maximum placement flexibility. Double yokes allow mounting the fixture from a truss or placing it on a floor, speaker, or stage without a separate mount.
Today, many PAR fixtures are equipped with LEDs instead of traditional incandescent bulbs, giving them multi-color and color-mixing options. As noted above, PAR cans with LEDs generate much less heat, require far less power, and don’t require the use of dimmer packs.
The Thinpar6from Venue uses 100 bright LEDS to generate intense static or pulsing colors plus sound-activated and automated programs with master/slave or DMX-controlled operation.
Dimmer and Switch Packs
PAR cans with incandescent lamps require dimmer packs to control them. They operate in the same way household dimmer switches function, allowing you to set the relative brightness of connected lights. Most small bands and DJs use satellite dimmer packs with several channels that are typically mounted to the T-Bar or truss holding the PAR cans. The cans are plugged into the dimmer and they’re connected to a DMX controller. Dimmer packs are available with various numbers of channels, and some include built-in programs or chases.
Some units offer both dimmer and switch capabilities. Switches only provide on/off functions, and should be be used on LED and non-DMX effects fixtures to avoid shortening their life.
Lighting and Effects Packages
On the Musician’s Friend website you’ll find affordable lighting and effects packages that range from economical multi-PAR can packs to full systems that include a complete set of stage lighting and effects fixtures plus a controller, stands, and cables—everything needed to light your show. Aside from the savings these packs offer, you can be sure each fixture is compatible and designed to maximize the overall visual impact of your performance.
Non-DMX lighting fixtures have their own on-board controllers. Many such fixtures are designed to react to sound picked up through an internal microphone. Sound-activated fixtures usually include settings allowing the unit to create effects when insufficient or no sound is present.
Selectable, built-in programs allow you to automate non-DMX fixture operation—an advantage for bands and DJs who handle their own lighting. Fixtures in this category with incandescent lamps are often manufactured to operate for a specified period of time before they must be turned off, which may make it necessary to use multiple fixtures to create a continuous show. Look for the duty-cycle specification to determine if a specific model makes sense for your needs. This is another advantage of LED fixtures—they have no duty-cycle limitations. Examples of common non-DMX lighting include beam effects, flower effects, and gobo projectors.
DMX Lighting Fixtures
Also called intelligent lighting, these fixtures can be controlled via DMX-51controllers or interfaces. A DMX controller allows you to program stage lighting and effects remotely, ideal when you want complete control of the look and timing of lighting effects. DMX fixtures offer more control attributes or “traits” than non-DMX fixtures.
DMX-51is the communication/cabling protocol that most entertainment lights and controllers use to communicate with each other. DMX acts like a post office. For control, you assign an address between and 51However, unlike your house, which only has one address, your fixture needs a number assigned to each of its channels. A 6-channel DMX fixture uses addresses, or channels on a controller. Each channel on the fixture handles a specific control attribute such as pan, tilt, color, etc.
Controllers run the gamut from simple non-DMX switchboxes and relay packs that allow you to power multiple lighting and sound channels to highly sophisticated DMX units that provide control over every aspect of multiple lighting systems composed of hundreds of DMX-compatible fixtures. Some simpler controllers have a dedicated purpose such as controlling specific effects such as strobes or fog machines. Some controller models allow foot control—a great feature for solo acts and small bands who control their lights in realtime during performance.
The basics of DMX controller operation are generally quite simple. Each slider on the controller corresponds to a channel on the fixture being controlled. DMX fixtures have specific values that correspond to their various control settings such as color, gobo, pan, tilt, strobe speed, etc. By moving a slider on the controller to a specific value, the fixture follows suit. The various control values of each button or slider used to create an overall effect can be saved into a “scene”, which triggers the specific action or state you set. The scene is then saved into a memory bank. Numerous scenes can be combined into an entire program, which, for example, can be synchronized with cues for a show. This is called a “chase.” Chases can be adjusted via a myriad of input functions, depending on the controller being used. Examples of control triggers include MIDI and clock/calendar events.
Software-Based DMX Control
As with software-based audio recording and performance functions, there is a revolution in progress involving a shift in lighting control from hardware-based controllers to PC software and mobile device apps. That said, also as with audio functions, there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches.
Dedicated hardware lighting controllers with physical sliders, buttons, switches, and legible displays offer intuitive and tactile control and workflow without delving deeply into menus and mastering steep software learning curves. On the other hand, software-based lighting control offers enormous control potential with nearly unlimited creativity in designing elaborate lighting programs. Software may also be more affordable route.
The compact Chauvet Xpress 51Controller and USB Interface works with Windows or Mac computers and gives you powerful software-based control over an unlimited number of shows.
Many hardware lighting controllers come bundled with their own proprietary software and/or are compatible with other lighting software. Deciding which approach to lighting is right for your needs comes down to the complexity of your lighting and your willingness to master sophisticated lighting programming.
The Elation Show Designer 2CF DMX Controller offers 102channels of controls and has a huge fixture library for simplified effects programming.
DMX Controller Features and Specs
Here are some features and specs to look at when shopping for a DMX Controller:
Number of channels: Much like calculating the connections needed on an audio mixer, count the number of devices and each device’s number of channels in coming up with an adequate channel count. You’ll of course want to allow some additional capacity for future needs too.
Number of channels per fixture: Some fixtures have many control attributes or parameters. If you plan to include such fixtures in your lighting system, a controller that can handle up to 3channels per fixture will make sense. However, if your system will be largely comprised of simpler effect fixtures and PAR cans, a smaller, DJ-type controller is likely to be adequate.
Number of programmable scenes: As noted above, a scene is a set of control values or slider positions that can be saved for instant recall. Some controllers allow scenes to be saved on external memory devices while software-compatible controllers offer scene storage and editing on external computers or tablets.
Number of programmable shows: A complete sequence of chases and other settings that comprise a complete performance that can be saved and recalled.
Number of universes: Each DMX network is called a “universe” and has up to 51channels. Smaller controllers usually have a single OUT connector allowing control of a single universe. More complex lighting systems may be composed of several networks or universes thus requiring multiple controllers, or a single controller with multiple OUT connectors.
Fixture libraries: These collections of fixture profiles streamline the process of setting attributes and functions.
Tap/sync: This function allows the operator to sync lighting effects with the music by tapping in the tempo.
Joystick/trackball controls: These make tilt/pan and other positional functions easier to control.
Keyboard input: Allows connection of a computer keyboard for faster programming and naming of scenes, chases, and shows.
MIDI I/O and control: Allows control of the lighting system with a MIDI-enabled pedalboard, keyboard or other controller—a valuable feature for performers and DJs who control their lights in realtime. MIDI in and out connectors also facilitate programming on external computers and other MIDI-compatible devices.
USB Connectivity/Software-based DMX control: A USB connector plus MIDI implementation opens up a world of control possibilities using PC software and/or mobile apps to program and control your lighting.
Wireless operation: Some DMX controllers are compatible with wireless adapters so as to deal with situation where very long cable runs would otherwise be needed. Such systems have a wireless transmitter at the controller and receivers located near lighting fixtures. These systems convert DMX control messages to radio frequencies at the transmitter then convert the signal back to DMX signals at the receivers which are connected to the fixtures.
Each fixture produces output at a specific beam angle, which denotes the width of beam being produced. Assuming that you have two fixtures with the same wattage lamps, the fixture with the smaller beam angle will appear brighter. This is because the same amount of light is being focused into a smaller area. In addition, because a smaller beam angle creates a more focused and intense projection, the light can be placed further from the subject being illuminated. The larger (wider) the beam angle of a fixture, the larger the area that can be covered by the unit.
Fixtures should also be placed in proximity to the subject based on output. Lights that have a lower output need to be placed closer to the subject than a high-output fixture in order to be perceived as having the same brightness.
Having a combination of wash and spot fixtures illuminating an area will greatly enhance the look of any show. By using contrasting colors, the spots will pop out more, appearing brighter within the wash effect than if used alone.
Assigning Effects and Programming Shows
The key to good lighting design is to mix and match fixtures and tones to create a desired mood and effect. When programming, use color schemes that complement or contrast with one another, depending on the mood you want. Using a wash to create an ambient light in a color that will complement your spot, or effect, will make it appear brighter and richer. Clean, crisp complementary colors, along with fluid movement and symmetry produce an air of professionalism. Contrasting colors add high energy and drama to a venue. The best way to increase your design skills is by visiting different venues and shows to see what other designers have done. Note the elements that struck you as the best, and attempt to emulate and improve on them.
Connecting a Controller to Lighting Fixtures
A DMX signal begins at the controller and follows the path of the cable to the first fixture and then to each fixture in line down the cable run. The following diagram shows the proper method and order for connecting multiple fixtures to a single controller. The DMX line pictured here runs from the controller to the “DMX In” connection on the first fixture. From the “DMX Out” connection of the first fixture, a cord is connected to the “DMX In” connection of the next fixture in the line, and so on until all units have a cable connected to the “DMX In” connection. The last fixture in the line should have a DMX terminator installed to maintain the quality of the DMX signal.
Method for connecting DMX lighting fixtures to the controller
When setting up your lighting, you need hardware that will safely and securely position and hold your fixtures where you need them. Raising your lighting fixtures increases their coverage and keeps them safe from accidental contact and damage caused by vibrations. Musician’s Friend offers a broad selection of clamps, mounting brackets, and safety cables to accomplish this.
If you perform in a variety of venues, it’s likely you’ll run into challenges in setting up your lights. Having an assortment of lighting stands can help make setup simpler. Basic T-bar stands with tripod bases make a good all-around lighting support. A pair of such stands with an integrated truss affords more positioning options, support, and stability. Read specs carefully to make sure that the light stand or truss system you choose is rated for the weight of your fixtures.
The fixtures you select will determine the cables required to connect your system. In general, you will need one power cord per fixture, along with the appropriate extension cords (if needed). In addition, if you are connecting your fixtures via DMX cable, you will need one DMX cable per fixture. DMX cables use XLR connectors and come in 3- and 5-pin varieties. Check the user’s manual of your fixtures and controller to determine which type will be needed for your application. It’s a good practice to have extra cables on hand to deal with failures and venues requiring longer cable runs. That goes for extension cords, switchboxes, and AC power strips too.
Attribute » a controllable parameter on a fixture such as gobo selection, color, tilt, pan, etc.
Barrel scanner » This effect fixture, also called a rolling mirror scanner, has a moving mirror that rotates around a drum with a beam that can be panned across its axis
Beam angle » The width of a beam of light, often designated by the number of degrees; the greater the number the wider the beam. Sometimes designated with qualitative terms such as narrow, medium, and wide.
Chase » A sequence of lighting effects or on and off sequences. A simple example is the apparent movement of theatre marquee lights along a string, caused by the rapid sequential illumination of each fixture.
CMY » System of light color mixing using Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow. This system entails the use of colored gels or filters to create a wide palette of colors. Also see RGB.
Color temperature » A measurement of how relatively blue (“cold”) or amber (“warm”) a given light is.
Color wheel » A circular metal disc containing colored glass filters and is motorized to rotate in front of a light source.
DMX51» The protocol used to control lighting systems and individual DMX-compatible effects.
Fixture » In lighting systems, any lamp or lighting effect is considered a fixture.
Focus » A qualitative statement of how relatively hard or soft a gobo’s projected image is. The hardness of a projected image is largely a function of the distance that the beam is projected; the greater the distance, the softer the image. Focus may also refer to the X/Y position of a moving light in relation to the performance space or stage.
Gel » Also called a color gel or color filter, it’s a transparent colored polyester or polycarbonate sheet used in stage lighting in front of a light beam to alter its color.
Gobo » A usually spherical glass or metal template containing patterns that are projected by light sources mounted behind or within the gobo.
Gobo wheel » A disc within a moving light fixture that has several gobos placed around its perimeter. A motor steps through each gobo pattern in sequence, or fixtures may be programmable to select custom sequences.
Joystick » A device that allows control of a moving light’s pan and tilt functions. See trackball.
Kelvin » The measurement of a lamp’s color temperature. Incandescent lamps typically range between 600-3200 Kelvin. Arc and discharge lamps range 6000 and 9000 Kelvin. The sun has a temperature of 577See color temperature.
Moving head fixture » A lighting fixture in which the entire optical system, including gobo wheels, lamps, prisms, etc. move with the emitted beam(s).
Moving mirror fixture » Often called scanners, these lighting fixtures employ a mirror to animate and project beams of light. They typically offer faster movement than moving head fixtures.
First of all thanks for reading my article to the end! I hope you find my reviews listed here useful and that it allows you to make a proper comparison of what is best to fit your needs and budget. Don’t be afraid to try more than one product if your first pick doesn’t do the trick.
Most important, have fun and choose your Complete Tripod Units wisely! Good luck!
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