Holding binoculars up to your eyes for a few seconds, or few minutes at a time is no big deal. It takes very little effort, and is part of their being portable. But when you plan to view something with larger, heavier binoculars, or just for longer than a few minutes, a binocular tripod not only comes in handy, but protects your valuable binoculars from being dropped when your arms tire out. Find the one that best suits your binoculars, and your viewing habits.
Most binoculars are meant to be portable. Lightweight, compact models are popular because not many people want the burden of carrying something heavy and awkward when they're hiking, boating, or just sightseeing. But what about those times when you want to observe something in one location, for a long period of time? Maybe you're abirdwatcher and want to train your binoculars on a nest full of eggs on the verge of hatching. Or perhaps you own a pair of astronomy binoculars, and want to be able to enjoy the night sky without tiring your arms out, holding up heavy binoculars for hours at a time. The answer is a binocular tripod.
There are a few types of tripods for binoculars, and which one you choose depends on two factors—the type of binoculars you have, and where the tripod will be set up. Sure, price is also a factor in buying a binocular tripod, but you can easily find one to suit your needs, and not spend a fortune. Save that extra cash for the binoculars themselves.
Types of Tripods
When most people think of a tripod, the first thing that comes to mind is a standard, traditional tripod with three legs (hence, the name), which stands high enough to allow the viewer to see through the binoculars by just bending over at the waist. How far a person has to bend depends on their height, but for the most part, these tripods provide comfortable viewing for just about anyone. The legs on traditional tripods are often individually adjustable, allowing the user to set up the tripod on uneven ground, if necessary, while still keeping the optics level. They're most commonly made from aluminum to be lightweight, usually weighing between two and six pounds. Despite their lightweight construction, they're made to hold things heavier than themselves. One example is the Radian Pro GT Tripod, which weighs 5.8 pounds, but can hold up to 9 pounds. Most traditional tripods also have a swiveling head, allowing the viewer to cover a wide visual range without removing and remounting the binoculars. Traditional tripods range in price from $25 to more than $500, depending on the brand and the features.
Most traditional tripods have telescoping legs that allow for a wide range of height adjustments. If you plan to stand a binocular tripod on a tabletop more often than on the ground, or you just prefer to do your wildlife or sky observing while sitting down, look for a compact tripod. Usually standing about 18 inches high, a compact tripod gives you just as much functionality as a traditional binocular tripod, but it doesn't take up as much room. It's ideal for occasions when long-term observation is required, and you don't want to stand for hours at a time. Set up a compact tripod in front of a comfortable chair, and you're all set. One compact tripod we like is the
3-Way Panhead, which adjusts from 11 to 18.5 inches in height. It has a quick release feature, so if the object you're viewing shifts position for any reason, you can quickly follow it and not lose any observation time. Made from aluminum, it's also lightweight. Compact tripods range in price from $22 to more than $500.
Depending on how your viewing location is set up, a tabletop tripod may be what you need. As the name suggests, this type of tripod sits on a table, allowing for stable, comfortable viewing. They're adjustable, and usually extend from about five inches to 16 inches at the highest center point. A tabletop tripod is easily carried in a small bag or binocular case, and normally weighs less than a pound. Most models can hold almost five pounds, so they're sturdy enough for even heavy duty binoculars. Tabletop tripods range in price from $50 to about $70.
A tripod that isn't really a tripod is a monopod, which, as the name suggests, only has one leg. It's not meant to stand on its own. Instead, the binoculars are mounted onto the monopod, and the entire ensemble becomes portable. When you're observing something that is slow-moving, or you're the one in motion, viewing something from several different angles, you want the images you see to be steady, or you want to avoid fatigue from raising and lowering your binoculars too often. That's when you need a monopod. Binocular monopods have adjustable legs, and they range in height from 7 inches to 65 inches. They're lightweight and easy to carry, folding down to be small enough to fit inside a travel or gear bag. Monopods range in prices from $38 to $140.
Astronomical / heavy duty tripods
If you own astronomical binoculars, you need an astronomical tripod, or at least a heavy duty tripod. Astronomical binoculars are larger and heavier than regular binoculars, so you need a tripod that is built to withstand the increased weight. The last thing you need is for a pair of expensive binoculars to topple over a flimsy tripod and crash to the ground. Astronomical tripods are made from lightweight aluminum, and usually don't weigh more than eight pounds, but don't let that fool you. They're very sturdy and can hold many times their own weight. For example, the
Tripod has a weight rating of 25 pounds. In addition to swiveling back and forth, the mounting head on astronomical binoculars is also adjustable for azimuth, allowing for easy viewing of the night sky. The height can be adjusted to reach anywhere between 32 and 78 inches. Astronomical tripods range in price from $145 to $350.
If you ever plan to use your binoculars for long-term viewing, avoid the fatigue and increased risk of dropping due to fatigue by getting a binocular tripod. Spend a little now to save a lot in the future.
A binocular tripod is an excellent tool for keeping binoculars steady, and providing relief from holding heavy binoculars for long periods of time. But not all binoculars or tripods come with tripod mounts, which is what attaches the binoculars to the tripod. Which type of binocular tripod mount you buy depends on what kind of binoculars you have, and what you want to view. Read on to find out which one is best for you.
When buying a binocular tripod, you may find that not all of them include a mount. This is an adapter needed to secure the binoculars to the tripod. Mounting a pair of binoculars to a tripod is a great way to create a viewing post if you plan to observe something stationary for a long period of time. It also allows you to see something from several vantage points while maintaining a steady view. Binocular mounts are important, and you'll find that not every mount fits every pair of binoculars. There may also be times when you need or want to view something from a vehicle.
A drive-through safari is one example, or perhaps you're surveying a large tract of land. Or, if you're a hunter, you need to be able to set up your binoculars on the edge of a blind, or even on a tree stand. In this case, a window mount can come in very handy. There are also specialized mounts for night sky viewing, and to help you avoid neck and body strain. Which type of mount you choose depends on your viewing habits and goals.
It's fairly simple to attach binoculars to a tripod using a mount, and doesn't require any alteration of the binoculars since most binoculars have a tripod screw socket. The mount has a plate that attaches to the tripod with screws, keeping it securely fastened and providing a stable point for the binoculars. At the top of the mount is a screw that is threaded through the tripod screw socket on the binoculars. It is tightened with a large knob, holding the binoculars firmly in place for viewing and short-distance transporting of the binocular tripod assembly. Most bracket tripod mounts will fit onto most tripods, and work with most binoculars, but check to ensure your brand of tripod and binoculars are compatible before purchasing the mount. Bracket tripod mounts range in price from about $20 to $26.
Some bracket tripod mounts are made by optics companies specifically to work with that company's binocular lines. One example is theSwarovski Tripod Adapter for EL binoculars (42mm only). It works much the same way a standard bracket tripod mount does, except that it's meant to be used only with that particular binocular. If you're as particular about your accessories, then a brand-specific tripod mount is the way to go.
Window mounts are like miniature, self-contained tripods. They have top plate to which an adapter can be attached in order to hold a pair of binoculars. On the bottom is an adjustable, padded clamp that can be attached to the window frame of a vehicle, a standard window sill, a railing, a tree stand, or any other slender edge that will fit between the clamp. The top part of the mount swivels, and has an extended handle for easy turning to follow a moving object, or simply change the viewing area. One we like is the
PH-304 All-Metal Window Mount with Tree Mount because it accommodates a wide range of uses and locations. Tripod window mounts range in price from about $40 to $60.
Viewing the night sky through a pair of astronomical binoculars is a great way to spend an evening. But astronomical binoculars are very large and heavy. Your arms will quickly tire from holding them up for long periods of time, and your neck will strain from holding a tilted-back position. A mirror mount eases both those issues. Mirror mounts have a standard bracket mount at one end, and a flat, mirrored panel at the other. When the binoculars are attached to the mount, the lenses face the mirror at about a 45-degree angle. The tilt of the mount is controlled at the base with a lever. You line up what you're viewing in the mirror, then look down into the binoculars to see it. The tripod holds the binoculars, saving you from arm fatigue, and because looking downward puts less stress on the neck than looking up, you won't suffer any muscle strain from looking up at the stars. Mirror binocular mounts range in price from about $170 to about $220.
This unique mount is also for large binoculars, and helps reduce strain, but it also makes it easier to view objects while standing or sitting. Parallelogram mounts attach to the tripod at the center, and will usually swivel from that point. The binoculars are attached to one end of the mount, either with a bracket, or a screw for binoculars with vertical mounting posts. At the other end of the mount is a counterweight. You must ensure enough weight is attached to the front end of the mount to counter the weight of your binoculars, and keep the entire assembly from tipping over. By simply adjusting the tilt of the assembly arm, you can comfortably view while standing or sitting, and you won't suffer any arm, back, or neck strain from holding up heavy binoculars and tilting back to see the object you're viewing. Parallelogram mounts range in price from about $180 to about $630.
If your binoculars don't have a tripod screw socket, don't worry. You don't have to try to drill into the binoculars, risking cracking the case, or worse, the lenses. All you need is a universal tripod mount like the
Binoc Binoculars U Mount. It looks like a little like a bracket tripod mount, but without the top part that would be threaded into the binoculars' tripod screw socket. Instead, a fabric cradle with adjustable Velcro straps is attached to the top of the mount, allowing you to attach just about any type, brand, or size of binoculars to the universal mount. There are sure to be exceptions, so check the measurements of your binoculars before you purchase this type of tripod mount. The Nikon Binoc sells for $56.95.