Instructables
Picture of String Tripod
This is an old photographers trick - here is my design. Sometimes referred to as a string tripod or string bipod or string monopod. Also known as a chain tripod, bipod, etc... This device is used to stabilize a camera in order to get clearer pictures at a slow shutter speed. With more and more digital cameras coming out with vibration reduction or image stabilization systems, the string tripod has a new life.

Since image stabilization systems work best with rotational vibration, translational vibration can still create blurry pictures. By restraining the up-down left-right and back-front axis, you can lessen this vibration. Since with this design you still have rotational freedom, you can pan and follow something such as a bird or sports player. You can also recompose your shot with little trouble. Of course this technique also works well with non image stabilization systems.

More on VR here

Advantages:
-Cheap
-Easy to make
-No special tools needed (or really any at all)
-Hard to break
-Small
-You can use this where tripods are disallowed (such as museums)
-If the "tripod" gets dirty you can throw it in the wash
-If you misplace it, you can make another
-Rotational movement still available for panning and recomposition

Disadvantages:
-Does not hold as steady as a real tripod
-You can get some looks while using it

 
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Step 1: Parts

Picture of Parts
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The parts you will need are as follows:
1x 1/4 -20 Stainless steel eye hook or eyebolt. 2 inches long or shorter.
1x 1/4 -20 Nut (May come with the eye hook)
40ft Braided nylon and/or poly cord (Parachute cord is recommended)

Optional:
1x Carabiner

All of these can be found at your local hardware store and should be had for about $5 total.

Step 2: Prepare the cord

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Cut your cord to about three times your height (More is better as you can cut off excess later). Make sure you melt the ends with a match or lighter to keep them from unraveling. Next create an "overhand loop" knot at one end as shown below. Pull the knot tight.

Step 3: Connect cord to hook

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Put the loop you just created through the ring on the hook. Then place the loop on the cord behind the threaded portion on the hook. Pull tight and the cord should form a ring hitch.
It should look like what is pictured below.

Step 4: You're done!

You're done with the construction. Now comes installation and use.

Step 5: Camera installation

Picture of Camera installation
Now you're ready to install this on your camera. Simply screw in the hook into the tripod mount at the bottom of your camera. When the hook becomes snug, tighten down the nut to meet with the camera body. You do not need to screw this down with much torque, it is only there to keep the hook from backing out. You can cut the hook to exact length if you want.

NOTE: If your camera has plastic threads, be careful not to cross thread the hook. You should never have to force it in.

Step 6: Using as a monopod

Picture of Using as a monopod
To use as a monopod, take your camera and put it just below eye level. Next take the cord dangling from the bottom and loop it under your shoe. Take the remaining cord and hold it tight in your hand while gripping the camera. Now pull up on the cord to camera eye level and take a picture. The cord should be taut. An advantage to this is that it prevents a rotation axis because you are holding the cord in your hand away from the attachment point.

This is my preferred method when I need to move around a lot or need to setup quickly. If you have the hook already attatched to the camera it will take less than a second to get into position.

You can also tie a large loop at the end where your foot would be using a overhand loop and put your foot through it. You would not have to hold the end in this configuration.

NOTE: For each of these methods it is important that you do not put excess force on your camera. As every camera is designed different, you need to determine the amount of force your camera can take. With that said, I have been using this method for years with many different camera with no problems.


Step 7: Using as a bipod - Step 1

Picture of Using as a bipod - Step 1
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To use as a bipod, take a wide stance and loop cord under both feet. Bring the hook and end of cord to about where they would be when attached to the camera. Once you know this distance, secure the end of the cord into the hook as shown below.

Step 8: Using as a bipod - Step 2

Picture of Using as a bipod - Step 2
You have now created a triangle in the cord. Attach the hook to the camera and pull up tight. If you miscalculated the distance, simply loosen your grip and pull the end of the cord tighter through the hook.

This method is good if you have a little more time on your hands or need a more stable shot.

If you are in a crunch, you can also just skip the last step and hold the end of the cord like when using as a monopod.


Step 9: Using as a tripod

Picture of Using as a tripod
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To use as a tripod, follow the steps to use as a bipod. Then take the left over end of the string and attach it to something. Optionally you can install a carabiner or other device at the end of the string as shown below. When using this method, it is imperative that you keep all parts of the string taut.

This method takes the most time to setup and requires something in the environment to attach to. Also, front to back movement is not as bad as left to right or up and down. Personally, I hardly use this method but it is always an option.

Step 10: Tips & Tricks

Shutter Speed:

Using the right shutter speed is essential, you should always use the maximum speed possible.

The rule of thumb for absolute minimum shutter speeds for a hand held camera is 1/focal length. For example a 135mm lens with a 1.5x crop factor (On an SLR) makes it 202.5mm. So hand held you should expect somewhat clear pictures starting at 1/200 or 200 shutter speed. It also matters how far away the subject is, the farther away - the faster the shutter speed needed. The third factor is how far the tip of your lens is from the camera, the further it is - the more it will amplify the vibration.

The string tripod requires a bit of practice and getting used to. I did not notice much of a difference at first, but after a while it really helped. After some practice, it should improve the minimum shutter speed to 1/2 or 1/3 that of hand held. With VR or IS and the string tripod, you should get 1/4 or 1/6 that of hand held.

So, if you are first starting out I would not go any slower than 1/100 with a string tripod at that focal length. As you can see in the chart I made in the instructable, after practice and with VR I can get clear pictures at 1/2 sec shutter speed at 300mm equiv at 10 feet.

With all of this said, it is extremely hard to generalize these numbers and each person is different. There are limitations on this design and those limitations will be different with each person. If you have not determined these limitations for you, leave the camera on P or Auto - this should optimize the shutter speed. Keep experimenting and don't give up, it will be worth it

Technique:

To take steady pictures in general do the following:

-Get a good footing
-Compose your shot
-Keep your elbows tucked in
-Take a breath and hold it in
-Slowly depress the shutter
-Keep the camera at your eye for a few seconds after the picture is taken

Step 11: Conclusion

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For $5 and a little work, you too can have a tripod in your pocket.
Below shows some tests done (Taken with a D200 and 18-200mm VRII)

Following that chart are three pictures taken at 135MM (202MM equiv) at 1/15 sec.
-The first is hand held no string tripod or VR.
-Second is with string tripod no VR.
-Third is with string tripod and VR.

Each of these is directly from the camera with no alterations.

The last picture was taken in real life with the string tripod. Tripods were not allowed in this aquarium.

Step 12: Whats next?

Next I will show how to make the string tripod a little more fancy and how to use it to create proper panoramic pictures.
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Very, very cool.

Definitely, very cool.

Syncubus11 months ago
You should never screw the bolt all the way into the bottom of your mount. If it breaks through, it could damage your camera. Always screw it in and use the lock-nut.

A wingnut (screwed on 'backwards' obviously) will be a little more finger-friendly (especially in gloves, etc.) than a regular hex-nut, even though a lot of tightening isn't necessary.

Typical camera mounts are 1/4-20 UNC threads, which are VERY common in typical (American) hardware departments. Check your local store (hardware and plumbing). There should be plastic parts that won't be as likely to cross-thread if you have a plastic mount.

As a side note, the 'finials' that hold lampshades on are commonly 1/4-20 threaded.  If you need a tripod and have a lamp with a shade on it, twist off the finial and screw your camera on. It'll do in a pinch.
If I'm understanding this right, a figure-eight on a bight would work just as well, and in my opinion is easier to untie.
True, a figure-eight (or bowline) are easier to untie , but there is functionally little difference. A small carabiner for the eyebolt would also function well.

For slightly more flexibility, make the initial loop large enough to pass through the eyebolt and over the entire camera. This allows easily removal/attachment of the string without removing the eyebolt (or pulling the entire string through the eye).
I was thinking the same.
dtska1 year ago
Awesome idea, and nice pictures
ravelgrane7 years ago
very clever. tripods are so big and heavy I hate carrying them around. is it easy to adjust for size, like if you hand the camera to your friend to take a shot of you, and they are very short? I guess they could just widen their stance a bit, so the answer is yes.
Tripods aren't necessarily "so big and heavy". They come in a wide variety of sizes, weights and materials. Some are so small they'll fit in one's jacket pocket.
shoeBlade (author)  ravelgrane7 years ago
When you release your grip, the string should be able to be pulled through the hook and shortened. Either estimate their hight or have them adjust it themselves. Widening your stance is the best way to make minor height adjustments.
kouker7 years ago
Hmm. Looks like it's not properly implemented for bipod and tripod style. It must be a platform under the camera and two/three rope hooks on its sides to hold the camera any better than in monopod mode. The main cause of shaking is rotation of the camera when depressing the shutter release. The directional camera movements (left/right, up/down, forward/backward) have very little effect, compared to rotational. So the best place for the top end of the monopod rope would be right under the shutter button. The platform would help here too. Otherwise this system works only because it provides a reference for your sight and body helping to hold it more steadily. And there is no much difference if it's one rope or five here - you have only one hook in your design. The best tripod replacement system (IMO) is a long rod with heavy weight on the bottom end and camera on the top.
shoeBlade (author)  kouker7 years ago
I am not sure what you mean by "not properly implemented". The monopod configuration will prevent up-down movement. The bipod configuration will prevent left-right movement. And tripod will prevent all three. So it does matter how many strings there are as each will restrict one degree of freedom. Also, I do not agree that pressing the shutter creates the most rotation, if you slowly squeeze it with your finger there should be no reason for the camera to rotate. While it is true that this design does not directly restrict rotational movement, by steading your shot with it, it is easier for you to keep it from rotating. The design also takes the point of rotation away from the center of the camera and moves it below the camera to the rope attachment point. This does create an appreciable difference in up-down rotational movement as the center of rotation no longer lies on the image plane and the tip of the lens will move less for the same amount of rotation. The only rotational axis that is not limited in some way is the horizontal axis - left-right rotation. This rotation is still centered on the image plane. Additionally, if you follow the tips I give, when you tuck your elbows in - the only way for the camera to rotate is if you move your wrists or whole body. To do so in that manor you would need to pull the cord tighter and the tension prevents it.
Assuming there's no hurry, one can also use the self-timer in the camera to trigger the shot, completely avoiding the need to press the shutter button while one concentrates on holding the camera steady.
nagutron6 years ago
I just came across a video that complements this Instructable well:


Oops. Well, here's the link, anyway.
It ain't there anymore. The video was removed from Metacafe.
pcooper22 years ago
shoeBlade, why does your photo show TWO eyebolts? I've scoured your write-up, but it seems to only call for ONE eyebolt to implement the String Tripod. This should be fixed. Otherwise, this Instructable is very well done.

Also, consider using a taut line hitch on the eyebolt knot. This type of knot can easily be slid up and down the standing part of the line, but grips tightly when let go. This would allow the user to make a fixed loop for one's foot and perform a quick one-handed adjustment of the knot below the camera just before the shot, then hold the camera with both hands while shooting. The only problem might be that the taut line hitch tends to fall apart when it's not under tension, but once one learns to tie it, it can be recreated in a few seconds. If that's a serious issue for those who are challenged by knot tying, the taut line hitch could be replaced with a mechanical line tensioner, such as shown in another Instructable, http://www.instructables.com/id/Simple-Line-Tensioners-for-Camping-and-Backpacking/
mherst2 years ago
this is awesome. i would actually also use this for dancing it off of something and later flipping the picture/ video. i think it would be awesome if you had a waterproof camera and actually dangled it under water!
tylercard2 years ago
Thanks for the tip. I am making one today.
arpruss2 years ago
How about reducing the weight and size of the tripod even further by using a very short 1/4-20 bolt with a hole drilled through the head, and then a thin line, e.g., a kite line? Maybe a plastic bolt for ease of drilling.
ilpug2 years ago
I have also seen this dome by clipping the end of the string to your belt.
EPIC! 5*
CementTruck3 years ago
Interesting and clever.
Wasagi3 years ago
I love it!
zigzagchris3 years ago
IF you could have 2 points of contact on the camera, aka what you have plus a brace to another on the other side you could eliminate the yaw movement.

L_________l
S S
Awesome, I can imagine shocking people with this...

"Who has a tripod?"
"I do!"
*brings out string tripod*
"WHAT IS THAT?!?!"
"A tripod?"
crayzclown13 years ago
This is perfect for the flip, it has no image stabilization.
exactly. or for underwater photography!!
hollasch7 years ago
Nicely illustrated instructable. I went out this morning and bought the eyebolts, and then used my green paracord (just like yours!) to complete the rig. Went out in the back yard and tried some full telephoto shots (135mm on Nikon D80) at various speeds, from 1s to 1/15s.

Unfortunately, I couldn't tell any difference between using a single leg, two legs, and no string tripod. I was shooting an image of distant small brances to really test the effect.

In practice, even with two feet anchoring a loop of string, you still have four degrees of freedom (camera body forward/back), plus free rotation about the pivot point at the eye bolt.

In addition to that, if the rope has any elasticity, you have to deal with spring effect as well.

This trick sounds great, but I couldn't tell any difference whatsoever.
shoeBlade (author)  hollasch7 years ago
Thanks for your message. I should have included a tips section - I will now. The rule of thumb for absolute minimum shutter speeds for a hand held camera is 1/focal length. Your 135mm lens with a 1.5x crop factor makes it 202.5mm. So hand held you should expect somewhat clear pictures starting at 1/200 or 200 shutter speed. It also matters how far away the subject is, the farther away - the faster the shutter speed needed. The third factor is how far the tip of your lens is from the camera, the further it is - the more it will amplify the vibration. The string tripod requires a bit of practice and getting used to. I myself did not notice much of a difference at first, but after a while it really helped. After some practice, it should improve the minimum shutter speed to 1/2 or 1/3 that of hand held. With VR or IS and the string tripod, you should get 1/4 or 1/6 that of hand held. So, if you are first starting out I would not go any slower than 1/100 with a string tripod at that focal length. As you can see in the chart I made in the instructable, after practice and with VR I can get clear pictures at 1/2 sec shutter speed at 300mm equiv at 10 feet. I will try taking pictures equivalent to your setup and see if I can determine a difference (I will post them). With all of this said, it is extremely hard to generalize these numbers and each person is different. There are limitations on this design and those limitations will be different with each person. If you have not determined these limitations for you, leave the camera on P or Auto - this should optimize the shutter speed. Keep experimenting and don't give up, it will be worth it.
I never saw this reply when I wrote my original comment. As this has been recently modified, I scanned through the comments, thinking in my head that this tip just doesn't work. Your excellent reply, however, neatly explains the factors involved. Put simply, my testing was with shutter speeds that were far too slow to reveal the incremental improvement. An while the string tripod only improves the situation 2-3x, that still means 2-3x more light available for a steady picture, which is fairly significant (equivalent to the factor you get from an expensive VR lens). I will definitely have to give this technique another shot.
shoeBlade (author)  shoeBlade7 years ago
The tests have been added.
Julito074 years ago
Fantastic, I'm going traveling out Barcelona soon, and this is the solution for not carry my monopod... congrats for the idea
buttersnake4 years ago
I really wish I would have thought of this before I took my family to Cathedral Cavern cave this past fathers day! I used a rear sync flash and still got some decent photos. I hate using it on auto and having the flash just flatten out everything. Using the rear sync flash gave the pictures great color and depth but I still got some blur some pictures because the shutter is still open for about 2 seconds.
Papagiorgio5 years ago
could this work for a video camera?
yes, as long as it can have the thing screwed in the bottom
Effinref5 years ago
Great job! One small tip- I often make a loop at the end of the line (when making snelled hooks for fishing). Instead of a single, overhand knot, I pass the end of the loop through twice. When you pull the loop, the knot forms a figure-eight. The loop then lies straight with the line, instead of forming a bend at the knot. This is a neater and stronger loop. Try it.
aspa00005 years ago
The "string-pod" is a brilliant. My thanks to the original inventor. I tripped over its video a couple days ago and I had to make one. Yeah, it's nice. But wait, there's more... Two strings in tension and one column (monopod) in compression create a freestanding tripod. The little hook thing (See picture.) comes with various clothing and is 1.4 mm thick, approximately one thread turn for a standard camera mount
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l96470fps5 years ago
great idea but if your using para-cord, i no its for a completely different use, but you could feed some 6 guage copper wire through the middle?
Kryptonite5 years ago
Favorited and 5/5. I'm thinking of making it Even more Stabler by using a pipe which will run from the bottom left side to the bottom right side of the camera, attached to the tripod hole thingy. Then I'll run the string through that to do the bipod. This should make it more stable than any of your's (no offence :D).
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