A tripod is the go to device for photographers who want to stabilize their shots. The three adjustable legs do a great job at keeping a camera supported and in one position. However, these three legs create a huge problem when shooting in a small kitchen or busy restaurant. Let me share with you a piece of equipment that will stabilize your camera with no legs at all!
The Manfrotto 131TC Tablemount Geared Column with Clamp is something that I bring with me when I know I’m shooting in a small kitchen or a busy dining room. Like a tripod, the camera connects to an adjustable center column through a ball or panning head. Unlike a tripod, this 131TC uses no legs to hold your camera in place. Instead of legs, the 131TC clamps to the edge of a table.
The geared column raises and lowers using a smooth geared crank. The column gives you about 2 feet of height adjustment. Here is a look at 2 pictures taken from two different heights.
Clamping to a table is impractical for portrait, sports, or landscape photography, but for food photography this is an amazing tool! In a kitchen or dining room, there is always a table to attach the 131TC to. When shooting in a kitchen or restaurant, you will often find yourself in narrow spaces with servers, cooks, and other staff running back and forth. A tripod’s third leg sticking out in a busy kitchen or dining room is a huge problem. A busy server can accidentally bump the 3rd leg and mess up your shot. Even worse than an out of focus shot, a server, chef, or customer could trip and seriously injure themselves. Removing the third tripod leg will remedy this potential problem.
Above shows the difference between a tripod and the 131TC adjusted at the same height. The tripods leg sticks out about 18 inches. This may not seem like much, but in a cramped kitchen or a busy dining room, this can make a difference between someone tripping or not.
If you are shooting on a restaurant’s table, place a washcloth around the table’s edges before clamping the 131TC in place. This will prevent you from scratching the tabletop.
What I like:
- Creates a small shooting footprint that won't get in the way
- Easy to setup and carry in my gear bag
- Price (around $180)
What could use improvement:
- Without a towel it could scratch a nice tabletop.
- If shooting on a flimsy table, you may want to use a remote or delayed shutter to avoid camera shake.
Have any of you used the 131TC or a similar mounting solution for your food or product photography? For tips and tricks on food photography lighting check out issues 1-8 of photographing FOOD.