Shooting Low With a Tabletop Tripod

As cameras have gotten smaller, so have the support accessories that allow them to be used creatively in production shoots. One interesting area is tabletop tripods, which are very light in weight but can often support fairly robust cameras.

Basically, tabletop tripods are an extension of the full-sized tripod, the most useful and universal video accessory ever conceived. Compact tabletop tripods that can slip into a jacket pocket or small camera bag offer a good alternative to shooting handheld, especially in an extremely low position.

Good, pro-quality tabletop tripods can stand atop a brick wall, a picnic table, a fence post, a tree or any other flat horizontal surface to allow the videographer to shoot sharp, shake-free video in low light. Their ball heads adjust to the optimum shooting angle and some have extendable legs that let the user set them up on uneven surfaces. Adjustable center columns allow for height adjustments.

Some even come with window clamps for attaching them to a car windows or foldable legs that allow them to grip just about anything.

Manfrotto PIXI Evo 2

Manfrotto PIXI Evo 2

One of our favorite mini tabletop tripods is the Manfrotto PIXI Evo 2 ($44.99). It is made of high-grade aluminum and features two-section slide-out legs that can be adjusted in five intermediate steps to improve stability on uneven surfaces and provide a larger footprint. The design is well thought-out.

This Manfrotto has a robust ball head with a cutout providing a full 90-degree tilt for vertical compositions. Best of all it is very compact and weighs only 9.4 ounces. Yet, it can support cameras and a wide range of devices weighing up to 5.5 pounds. It’s maximum height is 7.7 inches and minimum height is 2.4 inches.

Leica Tabletop Tripod

Leica Tabletop Tripod

Another model, though more expensive, is the Leica Tabletop Tripod ($119.95.) Leica’s classic design has not changed in decades and it remains popular because it is built so well and offers remarkable stability.

The Leica has three solid legs that rotate together in their closed position. When folded, it is flat. It can be used by itself with it’s standard ¼” x 20 screw or with an optional head. Leica sells a matching Ball Head for $199.99, though it works with any head. It weighs only .55 pound, but can support a whopping 15.4 pounds.

Sirui 3T-35K Tripod

Sirui 3T-35K Tripod

Another interesting choice is the Sirui 3T-35K Aluminum Tabletop Tripod ($64.94). This tripod can support video cameras weighing up to 8.8 pounds and its two-section center column extends to 13.4 inches for shooting over crowds.

The support legs fold down for additional reach (minimum height is 4.5 inches), or to use as a grip. It includes a ball head with a quick-release plate that can be mounted directly on the legs for low-angle shooting and added stability when using long lenses. The tripod, which weighs 15.2 ounces, comes with a carabiner to attach the tripod to a loop for easier carry. It has six-year manufacturer’s warranty.

Finally, Joby makes a classic series of camera support products. The Joby GorillaPod SLR Zoom Tabletop Tripod w/ BH1-01EN Ball Head ($48.99) is a combination with a perfectly-matched ball head capable of supporting the weight that the legs can hold well. It can support 6.6 pounds.

The GorillaPod was first, but has been extensively copied. Its flexible joints allow the GorillaPod to wrap around fences, tree branches, fence posts — just about anywhere that offers support. The ball head has a quick release system and a bubble level is located at the base of the quick release adapter.

For heavier cameras, Joby makes the GorillaPod Focus/Ballhead X Bundle ($127.00). It can support cameras up to 11.1 pounds. It is intended for professional camera rigs with large zoom lenses.

This is just a tiny sample of the huge array of camera support devices available for low shots. There are clamps, suction cups, bolt-down and window mounts of all kinds. Many of these work well to keep your camera steady for short video clips. Depending of the type of production being done, a kit of light weight support can save the day and make your shots jump out

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