Every now and then I'm asked questions by people getting into photography about equipment.  This page will go over some basics and at give you some advice based on my own experience. 

Tripods....are they necessary?

It depends on what you want to take pictures of.  They're definitely helpful with landscapes, night shots and macro photography.  With landscapes for example, you're often using a smaller aperture the light can vary and you find yourself sometimes using slower shutter speeds.  So unless you have a very steady hand, you'll need something to hold the camera still while you take the shot.  All of us want that tack sharp picture and a tripod definitely helps.  On the other hand, if your taking pictures of a sporting event, tripods aren't extremely helpful.  You're often using faster speeds  here and it will be hard to follow the action with a stationary tripod.

How much you spend on one can vary widely.  As with many things price depends on the material, quality, and size.  For amateurs, I think you can get a decent one for under $200.00 but make sure it's designed to accommodate the weight of your camera.  You'll find the nicer ones come separate from the ball/head that will hold your camera.  Again, price can vary here too.   What you want is something that makes it easy to detach and reattach your camera to and that is simple to move around and lock into place. 

One last tidbit.  You'll find some tripods will have screw type connections between the legs while others have tab-like locks.  I prefer the locks to the screw mechanisms.  They're easier and quicker to work with.  I just didn't have much luck with the other kind.

I took a course from an instructor who never uses a tripod.  Instead he uses a beanbag.  That's right a beanbag.  It's a great tool and it sure is nice to not have to lug around a heavy tripod but sometimes you just need to.