Remember the days when low light night photography was the province of professionals and dedicated amateurs loaded with bags of equipment and that one piece of essential photo gear—the tripod. In the not too long ago days of film hand holding a night shot was virtually impossible. How times have changed.
Is the Tripod Obsolete?
Digital cameras with high ISO sensitivity, image stabilization and smaller sensors make it possible to hand-hold the camera in just about any lighting situation. The Sony A7s Mark II has noise-free sensitivity and stabilization that make it a marvel in low light. This is a high end camera with a price to match, but even a consumer level DSLR has low light capability that makes hand held night shooting a definite possibility.
Do modern digital cameras make the tripod obsolete? Yes, at least for some. The vast majority of photographers refuse to tote a bulky three-legged support. Nearly everything can be shot hand held. Why lug around a heavy tripod all day for the few shots that might benefit from tripod stabilization? Setting a digital camera on a tripod in broad daylight simply looks foolish.
So should serious photographers completely abandon the concept of camera stabilization? Not by a long shot. While nearly all photographs can be hand held with modern cameras, certain subjects and situations demand stabilization for one definite reason—time. Take moonlight for example. This shot of a moonbow on Lower Yosemite Falls could never be taken hand held.
Some Subjects Need Time Exposure
Time is an essential element for other subjects, and not just to accommodate low light exposure. This shot of street traffic could be taken hand held, but a shutter speed fast enough to avoid shake would have stopped the cars in their tracks. The traffic trails require several seconds—not an exposure that can be hand held. Flowing water is another subject that benefits from long exposures that require camera stabilization.
Until there is a technology that will stabilize hands for seconds, camera stabilization is not obsolete and the tripod is not dead. But if you still want to avoid lugging around a heavy, bulky tripod, consider a pocket sized, four-ounce tripod alternative like HandlePod instead.