You can judge how good a bunch of photographers are by what they are talking
Really bad photographers debate the merits of the Nikon F4 and the Canon
EOS-1. Somewhat better photographers debate the merits of the Yashica T4 and the
Contax T2. The best photographers, though, talk tripods, tripod heads, and quick
A tripod is at once a photographer's best friend and worst encumbrance. It
somehow seems that one is forever lugging tripods around and adjusting them and
yet never has the right one when needed. Most serious photographers own several
tripods and heads.
Rule 2 (the standard): you need to use a tripod when your shutter speed is
slower than 1/focal-length of the lens. Thus with a standard 50mm lens, you
should not attempt to handhold shutter speeds slower than 1/60th and with a 500mm
telephoto lens, you will have to keep the shutter speed at 1/500th or faster.
Rationale? Longer lenses magnify the subject but they also magnify any vibration
of the camera.
Rule 3 (for big enlargements): you need to use a tripod all the time. The
standard rule is designed for 35mm cameras and presupposes a certain degree of
enlargement and viewing distance from the final print. If you're going to make
big enlargements and let people get close to the prints, then you need to be more
careful about lots of stuff including camera shake.
Rule 4 (for big cameras): you might be able to handhold a slower shutter speed
because the final image won't be enlarged as much (since the negative is larger).
On the other hand, medium- and large-format cameras are so big and heavy that
most photographers prefer to use them on a tripod if only to avoid muscle
fatigue. Sports photographers often use a monopod so that they don't have to
support the weight of a 300/2.8 or 600/4 lens through an entire football