The Tripod Number - Science Comes To The Aid Of Art

on May 10, 2015

A paper has just been read to the Royal Society expounding a new mathematical discovery in the field of optics. Formerly the question of the photographic tripod has been the subject of rumour and folk legend - we now have a proper formula to explain it.

Sir Isaac Newton is popularly portrayed as forming his theory of the force of gravity by getting hit on the head by and apple - this is nonsense of course, but in the case of the tripod number this was indeed occasioned by a fall. Someone's 5D MkIII and 600mm lens tilted over and hit the mud when the owner attached it to a $ 49 plastic tripod and then let go...

Briefly, the Theory of Tripod Numbers assigns a complex number to each camera type:

Compact camera or phone with no tripod socket = 0/0

Compact camera with tripod socket = 1/1

Mirror-less system camera = 2/8

Consumer DSLR = 3/12

Professional DSLR = 4/16

Medium Format camera =5/45

Further to this, types of tripods are also assigned simple numbers:

Plastic cheapie = 1

Metal legged tripod = 2

Carbon Fibre legged tripod = 3

The last factor in the equation is the cost of he tripod:

Bargain bin = 1

Regular stock line = 2

Premium eye-wateringly expensive line = 3

Here is how the mathematics work:

A. If you have a camera with no socket you multiply 0 x 0 x 0 and get 0. You don't need a tripod - you just need to drink less and stand still.

B. If you have a mirror-less system camera you need to multiply its number - 1 - by the tripod number and then multiply that by the price factor. ie

2 x 2 x 2 = 8

The 8 that you obtained is the least number that will be successful and allow you to keep your camera up off the ground. If you try to cheat and get a little plastic tripod, you'll end up with:

2 x 1 x 1 = 2

You can expect Sir Isaac's discovery to eventually overcome yours and disaster will ensue.

C. Follow on - try the mathematics with an consumer's DSLR for yourself:

3 x 2 x 2 = 12............and you are safe.

3 x 1 x 2 =6...............and wait for the crash.

If you achieve a higher number than the minimum one required for your camera - ie choose a carbon fibre from the boutique rack and put it under your mirror-less:

2 x 3 x 3 = 18

You are as safe as houses - might have paid a bit more, but you have that reserve of goodness in case you get a bigger camera.

Next month we are going to present a paper that demonstrated the correlation between the weight carried by the adventure photographer and the value of the results. There is still a little work to be done in factoring in the cost of the chiropractor's charges but this should be finished in time for the meeting.