I have owned a couple of tripods since I started out in photography. Having a sturdy, yet lightweight, tripod and ball-head is very important when creating images. They keep the camera from moving with camera shake, breaking from a fall, and composing at different heights consistently. Good tripods also come at a cost though… they are very spendy!
I started out with a flimsy travel tripod from Manfrotto which was ok for the time, but it didn’t go very high and wobbled in the wind. After buying a full frame Nikon I purchased a larger Manfrotto that went a bit higher and was more sturdy, but it weighed quite a bit as it was made of aluminum. My most recent tripod is a Benro made of carbon fiber and goes very high, is lightweight, and has a sturdy base that goes low. The problem is that I spent about $500 on the setup!
I have made a habit of going through a tripod once every couple years so far, but having spent a significant amount more on this tripod I can’t keep doing that. I still take my tripod in many different environments including mud, sand, and salt water. These elements take a toll on the various components and the joints can get damaged easily if not cared for. Neglecting the tripod can be costly not just for the tripod but also for the camera body and lens attached to the top. I have had a very expensive day in a river after an overlooked ball-head piece failed and dropped everything right into the water!
After a recent trip to the Oregon coast, I noticed one of the legs that had been 2-3 feet in the water was jammed with sand and salt spray. My previous Manfrottos met a similar fate because I didn’t pay proper attention when these symptoms first appeared. Corrosion is a coastal photographer’s #1 enemy! Luckily, most of the joints in my new tripod are a combination of plastic and carbon fiber. The downside is that if I don’t clean it out regularly, the sand can quickly wear out the tightening components making the legs unstable and possibly dangerous!
Learning to take apart your tripod and clean it properly might be the best thing you can do to avoid expensive replacements in the future. I found my tripod easy to clean and take care of which was very nice. I have zero complaints about this Benro tripod and hope to keep using it long into the future! Had I not taken the time to disassemble and wash out pieces I doubt it would take too many trips to the coast. So, learn how to take care of your tripods and they will take care of you!