Not that many people put in the time to think about a “cheaper” purchase that has to deal with their digital cameras. But the time that you put into finding the perfect tripod for your use will save you a lot of headaches and pain later. Let’s take a look at the specifications that we need to think about when purchasing a new or your first tripod.
The first thing you need to think about is whether you ever want to take video. This factor greatly changes the kind of tripod that you will want to purchase. If you want to take great video then you need a fluid head tripod. This will allow you to get those nice smooth pan and tilt shots like you see in hollywood. And if you get a fluid head tripod with a bowl mount, similar to a ball and socket concept, then you can easily adjust the tiniest amount to make your shot perfectly level without spending 30 minutes adjusting each leg of the tripod. The average cost for an entry level fluid head tripod is $125.
If you do not need to take video or will not be doing video with very many panning shots then you can go for a classic ball head. Ball heads are similar to a bowl mount on a fluid head because they allow you to easy balance out the tripod for a nice level shot. They are also generally quite a bit lighter, and the starting price for an entry level ball head tripod is around $80.
Lastly I want to tell you about pistol head tripods. They are a combination of a ball head and a pistol. They give you a nice easy to you handle to change the composition of your picture quickly, but do not give you the smoothness of a fluid head.
After looking at the options above I recommend a ball head tripod to most beginning photographers, or to a parent who is looking to get a nice product for a very affordable price.