those three legged thingies

Leica Table Tripod 14100 c1970

Toronto. Tripods predate photography. All of the 19th century and into the 20th century the sensitive media (paper, glass plates, and film) were too slow for hand held shots – until near the end of this period when bright sunlight was enough to record an image on dry plates or film at speeds fast enough to allow hand held cameras.

Even into the 21st century and the final transition to digital with its far faster media, tripods were a popular accessory. Indoor shots, relatively slow colour films (negative and transparency), and any need for consistency, like video or movies, or slow shutter speeds demanded a tripod.

The earliest tripods were wooden devices with a camera supporting platform. The legs telescoped so the height could be changed. A telescoping central post allowed more precise height setting for the camera without resorting to adjusting the legs. Tilt and pan heads allowed the camera to be levelled and carefully panned across the scene for motion film, video, a panoramic series, or an HDR series. Less than three legs was too tippy, although monopods had some following. More than three legs risked instability unless considerable care was taken.

Studio cameras usually had four wheels on a solid base to roll over a flat surface. The tripod was by far the most economic idea and a wide variety of tripods were manufactured and sold. For closeup work indoors, a special copy stand was often used. Optionally spider-legs were used with extension tubes or closeup lenses. Closeups outdoors almost always demanded a tripod, as did some indoor closeups. Often the camera could hang down under the tripod by reversal of the central post making closeups easier.

You can find lots of different tripods and heads at our auction and fair this spring.

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