The number one issue with photography in the field is getting images that are sharp. I have been asked by a number of clients what I recommend in the tripod line and this is some of my thinking. It would be great to hear from anyone who can recommend any particular models that they have found useful?
Gitzo and Really Right Stuff are renowned for great tripods and heads. Wimberley and Kirk are the ultimate brands when it comes to heads. Then comes Manfrotto and the others follow. The ultimate tripod setup with head and body is going to cost more than $1000, but there may very well be other options that I do not know about.
If you know what you want you could also look on e-bay.
What you choose is really a personal decision based on budget, but here are some notes that may be useful to you.
A tripod is going to be useful for
carefully composing landscapes and setup shots so you can consider horizons, etc more carefully
for longer exposures which are often needed for better depth of field and in low light conditions.
for action work when its just too heavy to hold a heavy lens and keep it steady.
doing macro work when you need very small apertures and long exposures.
for panning birds and animals in action
for setting up and leaving you hands free in game drive vehicles and in boats.
When choosing a tripod consider
the weight of the camera and lens that you are using. Most tripod manufacturers will give guidelines about this.
the number of sections in the legs. A four section tripod folds up smaller for travelling but does require more effort setting it up and taking it down than the traditional three section models.
the height it will rise to. For architectural use or shooting in the field it should come to at least eye level. For photographing from a vehicle, or doing macro work, a smaller tripod will suffice.
the weight of the tripod. If you are flying or carrying the vehicle a smaller hiking tripod made of graphite will be much more convenient than larger, heavier models.
the quality of the tripod. Some models are rather flimsy so go for a good make such as manfrotto, gitzo or really right stuff. You can really feel the difference.
When choosing a head consider
the weight lens you will be using. if it isa wide angle or standard lens then you can use three-way lever models which are fairly inexpensive. If it is a heavier lens (300mm 2.8 and up) consider using a sturdy ball head. Kirk, Manfrotto, Gitzo and Wimberly* will all give weight bearing limits.
the kind of photography you will be doing. For action photography, there is little to match a wimberly type head that makes the lens weightless (this sort of head is only suitable for lenses which have rotation collars). For all round usage a ball head which offers a panning ability can give you the options to do both panning, rotating and be suitable for most usage. Note that you can buy an attachment for good quality ball heads that will convert it into a Wimberly system. This is called a side kick and can, if your lens is less than 500mm f4 give you the best of both worlds. there are also tripod heads specially designed for panoramas so that images get perfectly lined.
How it secures to camera. The arca system is quick and convenient and regarded as the best system. You will need to buy plates for your various cameras and lenses.
* I recently purchased a Benro GH-2 head which is a knock off of the Wimberly that is made in China and is about two thirds of the price.
Other tools for stabilising include
A monopod is also very good for stabilising in vehicles and on foot and in some ways is even more convenient. If you do use one make sure that you also buy a head for it or your movement will be seriously limited.
A beanbag is also very stable and useful particularly when you have a good platform to use it. I always have one in addition to my tripod and monopod. Beanbags can be filled in camp — let me know if you need me to arrange beans.
A strap (the kind that secures surfboards on rooftops is ideal) can also be used to secure the tripod to the game viewing vehicle.