Lex Jenkins , Feb 18, 2006; 06:27 a.m.
If you don't need a specialized tripod and head, the best buy in a sturdy tripod is either the Slik 300DX or 700DX. Both legsets are excellent and both include the same tilt/pan head with a simple quick release that is suitable for lightweight camera/lens combinations.
The 300DX is smaller, lighter and shorter but very rigid. For maximum stability I don't fully extend the leg sections. I'll extend the leg angle to the middle or maximum angle. Sometimes I'll adjust the centerpost so that it's lightly in contact with the ground.
While this isn't the most comfortable position for night sky photography it is very stable. There shouldn't be any need for weights or other tricks to dampen vibration.
The 700DX is heavier, can extend to a greater height without resorting to elevating the centerpost (great for taller shooters), but still is of reasonable size and weight. The 300DX legset is comparable to the Bogen/Manfrotto 3001 (which I also own - the Slik is better). The 700DX is comparable to the Bogen/Manfrotto 3021. It's a tossup between the latter two, tho' the Slik is a better buy since it includes a pretty decent head. Heads cost extra with most Bogen/Manfrotto legsets.
BTW, while holding the tripod itself or camera while mounted on a tripod may sometimes be useful for certain situations, such as photographing sports or wildlife, it's not usually the best way to dampen vibration if there's no need to track moving subjects.