Why use a tripod? The most obvious benefit is that it provides better image sharpness than possible at hand-held speeds. Reality check: As you get older the threshold between hand holding a camera and using a tripod means using higher shutter speeds.
There are just a few basics for a tripod: It must be sturdy but lightweight enough so you’ll actually take it with you! After that it becomes a matter of matching it to how you work. The use of a tripod also enforces a more deliberate approach to making photographs. Having to think about composition before banging off a few frames will improve the quality of your photographs more than you might imagine. And some applications demand a tripod.
If you’re doing close-up work, a tripod is a necessity. The use of small lens apertures to offset shallow depth-of-field of macro work has to be compensated by slower shutter speeds. But just as important is critical focusing of the camera, which can be helped with accessories such as focusing rails.
Some company’s will gladly to sell you a focusing rail set for several hundreds of dollars but for those of us, who only engage in occasional macro photography, something less expensive might be a better choice, even if it’s a gateway before investing in more precision (and expensive) gear if we get hooked on macro. Here’s a couple of choices that won’t break your piggy bank:
Neewer’s Pro 4 Way Macro Focusing Rail Slider ($23.48) is made from aluminum and has a geared drive system with two 6-inch rails that allow movement in four directions, right, left, forward and backward. It accepts 1/4×20 threads and fits most tripods. Its locking knobs assure steady focus. The Neewer camera grip on my Olympus E-M5 Mark I is similarly beautifully manufactured and affordably priced.
Oben’s MFR4-5 Macro Focusing Rail ($99.95) lightweight provides 2.75-inches of front to back movement and 1.25-inches of maximum left to right movement while controlled by dual-level adjustment knobs. The two angles of movement are controlled by top and bottom rails and allow the top rail to be used alone as a front-to-back macro rail. The rail is equipped with an integrated Arca-type compatible quick release clamp and includes an Arca-type plate.