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Cameras

Best Tripods

Tripods are invaluable camera companions, allowing for clear photos at longer shutter speeds, eliminating camera shake, and making shooting more comfortable in general. Just as cameras come in a variety of different categories, tripods are available in different types, sizes and builds. Lightweight, inexpensive tripods can be best for point-and-shoot cameras while larger, professional cameras need sturdier tripods with an enhanced weight capacity. For best overall tripod, we considered the product's size in relation to its weight capacity and height range as well as durability and features. Not sure exactly what all those features mean? Get acquainted with tripod basics with our tripod buyer’s guide listed below.

Gitzo GK3580QR Carbon Fiber Tripod

Capable of handling 38 pounds, the Gitzo GK350QR carbon fiber tripod is built to handle professional equipment, yet weighs less than 5 pounds. The ballhead makes precise placement, smooth panning and stable locking easy. The design uses twist locks for faster set up, yet is built to stay put once locked, unlike some cheaper twist lock tripods. Built with carbon fiber, the quality is so exceptional, it may be the only tripod you'll ever need to purchase.

3 Legged Thing - Dave Tripod

The 3 Legged Thing's aluminum alloy tripod named Dave is one of the most versatile in the lightweight category. It reaches up to 64.56 inches yet can be set up to shoot at about 8 inches, thanks to a removable center column, or stripped to be the bare bones for shooting at just under 5 inches. Dave likes to travel — he folds up to under 16 inches and weighs 2.87 pounds. The legs can be set at three different angles to achieve varying heights or to minimize the amount of floor space Dave occupies. The ball head also features pan and tilt locks as well as tension controls. All this is wrapped up in a sleek looking tripod that can hold over 26 pounds.

MeFoto A2350Q2K GlobeTrotter Travel Tripod

Holding up to 26.4 pounds, the MeFoto GlobeTrotter is tough enough to handle professional equipment, yet weighs in at under five pounds and folds down to 16.1 inches. The GlobeTrotter extends to 64.2 inches, which makes it a nice option for taller photographers. The legs can be used at two different angles, so the tripod can be set-up in scenarios where there isn't much floor space. One leg removes to use as a monopod, a rather unique design for two-in-one combos and nice since many monopods that slide into the top of the tripod are difficult to adjust.

Dolica AX620B100 62" Proline Tripod and Ball Head

Dolica's AX620B100 Proline tripod retails for under $70, yet still uses the lightweight yet sturdy aluminum alloy, making it capable of handling 13.2 pounds but weighing only 2.5. The tripod can reach up to 60 inches (Dolica also makes similar 68 inch and 73 inch models) but can shoot from as low as 21.5 inches. Closed, the tripod is 22.5 inches. This budget tripod also has three leg angle positions, panoramic panning a center column and center weight hook. The legs lock in place with flip levers.

Joby GP1 GorillaPod Flexible Tablepod Tripod

The best pick for mini tripods, the GorillaPod's flexible legs can be used to attach a camera to nearly anything the legs can wrap around—making it the most versatile mini tripod on the market. The legs can also be used straight to sit on any surface too. It fits inside a purse and is less than six inches long. It can only handle about 12.5 ounces, but itself weighs only 1.6 ounces. The GP1 GorillaPod is a great companion to a compact camera. There are similar GorillaPod designed for larger cameras too, but at a bit higher price tag.

MeFoto A2350Q2K GlobeTrotter Travel Tripod

Holding up to 26.4 pounds, the MeFoto GlobeTrotter is tough enough to handle professional equipment, yet weighs in at under five pounds and folds down to 16.1 inches. The GlobeTrotter extends to 64.2 inches, which makes it a nice option for taller photographers. The legs can be used at two different angles, so the tripod can be set-up in scenarios where there isn't much floor space. One leg removes to use as a monopod, a rather unique design for two-in-one combos and nice since many monopods that slide into the top of the tripod are difficult to adjust.

3 Legged Thing Evolution 3 Nigel Carbon Fiber Tripod System

3 Legged Thing Evolution 3 Nigel Carbon Fiber Tripod System

Buying a tripod often means choosing between the best support and the most portability, but 3 Legged Thing's Nigel 3 blends the best of both. It can handle 22 pounds (10kg) of equipment in any weather condition and supported by legs weighing 3.5 pounds (1600g). The height range allows photographers to shoot from as low as 4.8 inches, or as high as 67 inches. Designed to withstand harsh conditions, Nigel is built with carbon fiber and includes feet to grip a variety of surfaces. There's also a number of nice accessories including multiple mount points as well a Carabiner and D Ring.

Dolica CX700 Professional Carbon Fiber Tripod

With 100 percent carbon fiber legs, the Dolica CX700 can handle up to 25 pounds of gear, but only weighs about four pounds itself. Taller photographers will appreciate the tripods 70 inch maximum height though the tripod can shoot from as low as 20 inches too. When folded, the legs reverse so it fits in a smaller space. The sturdy and tall CX700 also includes a detachable monopod and a quick release plate.

Vanguard Abeo Pro 283AGH Aluminum Tripod Kit

For the photographer that shoots in all kinds of weather conditions, on all kinds of terrain, the Vanguard ABEO Pro 283AGH is an excellent buy. The feet are spiked for traction, or the photographer can add the optional sand/snow shoes. There are three different leg angles which allow for a wide range of height flexibility, all the way up to 70.25 inches. This tripod also includes a pistol-style grip that also has a conveniently built-in shutter release. Capable of folding down to a compact 33.25 inches, it's not bad in the portability department. While this selection is a little heavier at around 7.3 pounds, it’s capable of holding up 13.2 pounds of gear.

Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 CF Tripod

Professionals often have to worry about supporting more than just their camera as there's often extra lighting equipment to consider as well. The Manfrotto 055 tripod can help with an attachment arm allows for the placement of something like a slave flash for example. This tripod is also pretty versatile, with four different leg angles and a height range which extends from 3.54 to 66.93 inches. The center column also rotates which provides photographer for even more positions to shoot from. Constructed with carbon fiber and a new rigid locking system, the tripod doesn't sacrifice stability in any way to maintain its lightweight design. This support system will hold nearly 20 pounds of equipment, but the legs themselves weigh only a mere 4.41 pounds.

Dolica AX620B100 62" Proline Tripod and Ball Head

Dolica's AX620B100 Proline tripod retails for under $70, yet still uses the lightweight yet sturdy aluminum alloy, making it capable of handling 13.2 pounds but weighing only 2.5. The tripod can reach up to 60 inches (Dolica also makes similar 68 inch and 73 inch models) but can shoot from as low as 21.5 inches. Closed, the tripod is 22.5 inches. This budget tripod also has three leg angle positions, panoramic panning a center column and center weight hook. The legs lock in place with flip levers.

Davis & Sanford Vista Voyager Lite Tripod

Not very many budget tripods have the weight capacity to handle an entry-level DSLR, but the Davis Sanford Voyager can hold up to eight pounds. It can also shoot from levels as low as nine inches and reaches up to a lofty 63 inches in height. This budget tripod also includes  a center column for quick adjustments plus a hook for your camera bag or adding weight for increased stability. Made from sturdy, lightweight aluminum, it weighs a mere three pounds and folds up to 21 inches. The tripod also includes nice extras including a quick release plate, carrying bag, and a built-in compass.

Manfrotto MKC3-P01 Compact Photo Kit

Manfrotto's Compact Photo kit is small when folded, but doesn't sacrifice on height when extended. It reaches over 60 inches, yet can shoot from as low as 16.1 inches along with a center column that reverses to make it even more compact when stored. Weighing only 2.2 pounds, it's perfect for travel because when folded up it can easily fit in a suitcase or large bag and there’s a built-in quick release plate for faster setup and tear down. Capable of handling a little over 3.3 pounds, it's a nice companion for the compact camera user, but DSLR users will want to look for something with a much higher weight capacity.

Vanguard Espod CX 203AGH 3-section legs Tripod with GH-20 Pistol Grip Ball Head

Inexpensive tripods tend to increase the number of leg sections, which actually decreases stability. However, this budget tripod from Vanguard has just three leg sections and can handle over seven pounds of gear. It includes a ball head with a pistol-style grip for comfortable panning, plus the quick release plate makes it easy to get your camera on and off. The Espod will reach a height of 61 inches or shoot from a minimum of about 48 inches. Folded, the tripod is just over 23 inches and weighs just 2.6 pounds.

Sunpak PlatinumPlus 5858D Tripod

The Sunpack 5858D may not be our top pick but despite its budget status, it will hold up to eight pounds of camera or video equipment. This tripod features a panning head which makes it possible to use for videography as well as still shots. Weighing less than two pounds and folding down to about 22 inches, it is pretty portable as well. You can shoot from as high as 58 inches or as low as about 21 inches with this model. Throw in a quick release plate, a neoprene grip, and rubber feet, making it a feature-heavy piece of equipment for the price you’re paying.

Manfrotto MHXPRO3W X-PRO 3-Way Head with Retractable Levers and Friction Controls

Tripod heads designed to support big cameras are usually large themselves, but that's where Manfrotto's X-Pro 3 Way Tripod Head is a game changer. While still being able to handle 17.8 pounds (8 kg), it only weighs 2.2 pounds (1 kg), thanks to the aluminum alloy construction. Where this head really gets unique is that the levers can be retracted for easier transport, so it will slip right inside a camera bag, taking up about a 5.3 inch cube of space (13cm x 13.5cm x 13.5cm). But a compact size is nothing without a bit of function; this head moves three ways, with friction control for smoother panning. Three bubble levels and a price under $150 seal the deal.

Induro GHB2 Gimbal Tripod Head

For photographers with large telephoto lenses, Induro's GHB2 Gimbal head is the best option. The head supports lenses up to 800 mm, yet the suspension system makes even the heaviest gear feel weightless. The gimbal head allows for quick panning and tracking subjects, like in sports or nature photography, while the locking knobs ensure the camera stays steady. The platform is also adjustable and includes a scale for returning to the best settings consistently. The head adds 3.2 pounds to a tripod leg system, and is compatible with a wide range of legs.

Manfrotto 410 Junior Gear Head

Geared heads allow for smooth adjustments, yet don't require locks to stay steady. The trade off is that they’re a bit heavier but the Manfrotto Junior Geared Head weighs less than three pounds, and with an 11 pound capacity, this tripod head is sturdy enough to handle medium format gear. Made from aluminum, it includes a quick release plate and secondary locking mechanism for added safety. The gear head also has 360 rotation and tilts from -90 degrees to 30. Extra features include a bubble spirit level and two screw attachment types.

Vanguard GH300T Pistol Grip Ballhead

Vanguard's GH300T Pistol Grip Ballhead is one of the most innovative of the bunch, with a shutter release button and bulb switch built right into the handle that allows for operating both the tripod and camera with one hand. The included cables make the shutter release comparable with about 80 percent of DSLRs, though some users may have to purchase a separate cable. With two panoramic axis, the ballhead adjusts to a variety of different positions. Additional features include eight handle positions, two levels, several screw adapters and a 17.5 pound capacity. The product was originally recalled, but Vanguard resolved the issues midway through 2013. There's a little too much resistance in the panning, but the integrated shutter release button still makes it a good option for consideration.

Induro BHD2 Ballhead Tripod Head

Induro products have made it on our best lists in the past and the new BHD2 tripod head has even more to love. The load capacity has been increased to nearly 40 pounds (18 kg), yet it weighs just 1.32 pounds (.6 kg). The knobs are large and comfortable to use, while the adjustable drag and tension control gives photographers and videographers more control. The magnesium alloy construction means this tripod head can comfortably withstand a range of shooting conditions as well. There's also a quick release plate which allows for easy set up too.

3 Legged Thing Punks-VYV Magnesium Tripod with Airhed Ball Head

At just over a foot when folded, 3 Legged Thing's Vyv offers ultimate portability and even comes with a travel case. Weighing just 2.8 pounds, it can still support up to 22 pounds of equipment. Three different leg angles are available which helps the tripod reach a minimum height of 8.2 inches. Wider angles are also sturdier, a plus for lightweight tripods.

One of the magnesium alloy legs detaches to become a monopod, there’s a ball head for smooth adjustments, and a quick release plate is also included for easy set up. VYV reaches a maximum height of 56.7 inches but taller photographers may want to opt for 3 Legged Thing's Keith, which is just as compact but doesn't include a monopod.

Sirui T-025X Carbon Fiber Tripod

The Sirui T-025X's carbon fiber legs fold up, so the entire tripod can fold to 11.8 inches for storage while a quick release plate is ideal for fast set-up and tear downs. Weighing at just 1.5 pounds, it's easy to tote around and can handle 13.2 pounds so it's a great fit for most consumers. The center column is removable, so the T-025X can achieve low profile shots that other tri-pods can't. Reaching a height of 54.5 inches, this lightweight tripod is ideal for many photographers.

Dolica GX600B200 Proline GX Series 60-Inch Aluminum Tripod

The lightweight Dolica GX600B200 aluminum tripod weighs just 2.5 pounds, yet can hold up to 15 pounds and retails for less than $80. Reaching a height of 60 inches, this tripod can be used as short as 21.5 inches without the center column. The Dolica is made with aluminum alloy and includes comfortable grips and the quick release plate features a safety catch to prevent your camera from falling over. This plate also allows for 360 degree panning and tilts up to 90 degrees. When closed, the tripod is 23 inches and while some of our other picks are a bit more compact and have greater load capacities, they’re also pricier.

MeFoto RoadTrip Tripod

The MeFoto RoadTrip weighs in at 3.6 pounds yet can support up to 17.6 pounds. When folded, the Roadtrip tripod is just under 15.5 inches and also reduces your equipment load by doubling as a monopod; one leg detaches and screws into the head, so you won't have to pack both items. The legs can be set at two different angles, allowing for shorter shots at wide angles or less floor space at narrower angles. With an included 360 degree pan-enabled head, the RoadTrip is a good option for videographers too.

Manfrotto Befree Carbon Fiber Tripod with Ball Head

Folding up to less than 16 inches, the Manfrotto BeFree is an excellent tripod for travelers. The Carbon Fiber version weighs just 2.4 pounds while budget-minded individuals can pick up the aluminum version, which weighs just slightly more. The carbon fiber legs are sturdier than aluminum, which is particularly important with lightweight-options.

Two adjustable leg positions allow for a wider stance for a sturdier set-up. The legs themselves fold up around the ball head to enable a very compact folded length, while the included bag is an added perk for traveling. While this tripods 8.82 pound weight limit isn't the best, this model is still suitable for a variety of different set-ups.

Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 CF Tripod

Professionals often have to worry about supporting more than just their camera as there's often extra lighting equipment to consider as well. The Manfrotto 055 tripod can help with an attachment arm allows for the placement of something like a slave flash for example. This tripod is also pretty versatile, with four different leg angles and a height range which extends from 3.54 to 66.93 inches. The center column also rotates which provides photographer for even more positions to shoot from. Constructed with carbon fiber and a new rigid locking system, the tripod doesn't sacrifice stability in any way to maintain its lightweight design. This support system will hold nearly 20 pounds of equipment, but the legs themselves weigh only a mere 4.41 pounds.

Sirui T-1205X Five-Section Carbon Tripod

Sirui's T-1205X Five-Section Carbon Tripod weighs less than two pounds but handles up to 22 pounds of gea, making it one of the best models for the weight to capacity ratio. The legs reverse fold for storing, making the closed length about 13 inches. The Sirui also includes not one, but two center columns (a short and long one) to achieve shorter shooting heights which can go as low as 5.1 inches. The legs can also reach up to 55.4 inches and can be set at two different angles.

Induro Carbon CT314 Carbon Fiber Legs

Some tall photographers can't work with a 55 inch tripod and while others have camera equipment weighing over 20 pounds. The Induro Carbon Fiber CT314 tripod legs will handle almost 40 pounds of equipment, plus reach up to 74.21 inches in height. With a carbon fiber build, it still only weighs five pounds; the weight is a bit heftier than some, but the tradeoff is better height and weight capacities. The Induro folds to about 24 inches and can shoot from as low as 6.73 inches. Additional features also include a rapid center column, removable spiked feet, and three leg angles.

Gitzo GT1542T Series 1 6X Carbon Fiber Traveler 4 Section G-Lock Tripod

Lightweight is the name of the game for Gitzo's Traveler Series GT1542T four section tripod legs. Weighing just 2.2 pounds, it's one of the lightest options on the market, yet is capable of handling over 17 pounds of equipment thanks to the carbon fiber construction. The center column allows for fast adjustments, or can be removed or inverted for shots low to the ground (as short as 8.66 inches); the tripod legs can also reach a height of about 58 inches. Features also include a center weight/camera bag hook and tough leg locks.

Oben AC-2361L 3-Section Aluminum Lateral Tripod Legs

If the price of our other top picks has you gasping for air, the Oben AC-2361L is a little less shocking price-wise, yet still has enough features to qualify as a best pick. The three-section legs with flip locks mean enhanced stability while the 90 degree center column allows for versatile shots; it can shoot from as low as 8.3 inches or as high as 68.2 inches. The Oben comes in at about half the cost of our top pick because it's constructed with aluminum versus pricier carbon fiber. While aluminum is still durable, it’s just a bit heavier but more than capable of supporting three times its own weight with a load capacity of 17.6 pounds.

Joby GP1 GorillaPod Flexible Tablepod Tripod

The best pick for mini tripods, the GorillaPod's flexible legs can be used to attach a camera to nearly anything the legs can wrap around—making it the most versatile mini tripod on the market. The legs can also be used straight to sit on any surface too. It fits inside a purse and is less than six inches long. It can only handle about 12.5 ounces, but itself weighs only 1.6 ounces. The GP1 GorillaPod is a great companion to a compact camera. There are similar GorillaPod designed for larger cameras too, but at a bit higher price tag.

Manfrotto MTPIXI-B Pixi Mini Tripod

The design of the Manfrotto Pixi Mini allows for easy set up, yet folds down enough to easily fit inside a bag. The ball head allows for tilting and panning while a push lock let’s you keep shooting angles firmly in place. In a closed position, this mini tripod could also be used as a camera grip as well. The Pixi weighs about a half pound and can  support a little over two pounds worth of equipment weight. Manufactured with stainless steel, the sturdy Pixi is five inches wide when the legs are extended and closes up to about seven.

Pedco UltraPod II Lightweight Camera Tripod

The Pedco UltraPod II is a solid leg mini tripod that, with a cinch strap, can be attached to a post or tree limb like a flexible tripod. The ball head allows the camera to be positioned at any angle while the fold-out fiberglass legs are capable of supporting up to six pounds of equipment weight. This mini tripod weighs a mere four ounces and measures seven inches long when folded up for transport. This affordable unit also comes covered by a lifetime manufacturer’s warranty which makes it a steal.

Vanguard VS-82 Tabletop Mini Tripod

The Vanguard VS-82 tabletop tripod extends out to almost 10 inches and can handle 5.5 pounds of equipment making it ideal for use by videographers. Manufactured from quality aluminum, it also features a two way panhead and handle along with sturdy, non-skid feet. When folded up, this mini tripod comes close to about nine inches, making it not quite as compact as some models. However, the pan head and handle features is hard to come by in this tripod category making it worth your consideration.

Giottos QU405 U-Pod Mini Tripod

Giottos QU405 U-Pod Mini Tripod

The Giottos QU405 isn't just an excellent mini-tripod, it can also be used as a slave flash stand or mini monopod. While it only weighs 11 ounces, it can support an impressive 11 pounds of gear, allowing it to be used with many DSLR and lens combos. Three legs keep it stable and allow for shooting from a height of just 2.2 inches, or the center column can be added for a height of 17.3 inches. You also have the option to remove the legs and just use the center column as a camera grip or mini monopod. It folds down to 11 inches making it a bit larger than our other picks.

Buyer's Guide

 

Tripod Buyer's Guide

Tripods are inexpensive, yet beginners often overlook this essential piece of photography equipment which can make shooting more precise and comfortable. Tripods make it possible to shoot with slow shutter speeds without blur. They also allow for still life pictures in dim conditions to be taken at low ISOs. They assist in creating a panning affect and are also handy for using the self timer to take a selfie that doesn't actually look like a selfie.

As versatile as a tripod is, there are quite a few features to consider. Check out the weight capacity, height, weight, and length of the unit when folded, the construction, the number of leg sections and the type of head, as well as extras like a center column and adjustable leg angles. Weigh the options with the type of shooting you do most—for example, if you travel you may want more leg sections so the tripod fits in your carry-on, but if you always shoot near home, you may choose fewer leg sections for more stability.

Tripod Types

Professional
As their name implies, professional tripods are used by photography experts. They're the best of the best, but also have a price tag to match when amateurs and enthusiasts can get away with using less expensive models. Expect to see high quality construction, a high weight capacity, and lots of extra features.

Budget
Tripods don't have to be $500 and many consumers can spend less than $100 and still buy a tripod to meet their needs. These tripods are often heavier with fewer features but typically get the job done.

Lightweight
These tripods are designed specifically to travel well, being lightweight and typically fold down well within most airline's carry-on requirements. By using sturdy, lightweight materials like magnesium alloy, many of these tripods can still hold heavy equipment despite weighing less themselves.

Mini
Also called tabletop tripods, these products help keep your camera steady for macro or product photography images. They can't be used in a wide variety of shots, but they're inexpensive, extremely portable, and for simple product photography, they’re really all that's needed.

Versatility

Weight Capacity
Not every tripod is suited for every camera. Each one will list a weight limit so before you buy one, make sure your camera plus your heaviest lens and accessories don't exceed the tripods specified weight limit. If you have a bulky, full frame camera and a large telephoto lens, you'll need to find a tripod with a high weight capacity. If you shoot mirrorless or with a simple point-and-shoot, you can probably save some cash by choosing a model with a lower weight capacity, though you could still work with a higher one just as well.

Height
Most consumers realize a tripod has a maximum height, and if you're tall you'll obviously want a taller tripod for using your camera at eye level. But tripods also have minimum heights listed as well. Scenarios like shooting macro or photographing while sitting on the ground all would require the tripod to fold down to a lower height. The greater the difference between the minimum and maximum height, the more versatile the tripod is, allowing it to be used for a variety of different shooting positions.

Portability
The biggest downside to using a tripod is it’s often a bulky piece of equipment to carry around. But, many manufacturers have worked to create fully functional tripods which can fit in tiny spaces. If you do a lot of traveling or on-site photography, check and see how much weight the tripod will add to your load. You should also consider the folded length as many are designed to fit inside carry-on luggage or right in a large camera backpack.

If, on the other hand, you own a studio and won't be traveling with the tripod, it's unnecessary to spend more for a portable model. Just like for cameras, manufacturers often charge a higher price when packing the same features into a smaller package.

Material
Not all tripods are created equally stable. Cheap tripods aren't as stable as their professional counterparts. The material the tripod is constructed from determines the durability, as well as some of the stability. Carbon fiber tripods are usually the best, because the material is lightweight but also stable. Aluminum is the next best thing, although heavier.

Number of Leg Sections
A tripod is made with a number of leg sections which allow it to fold up. Typically, 5-6 sections allow the tripod to fold into a more compact space. However, the more leg sections the tripod has, the less stable it is. Dividing up the legs into sections takes away some of the stability so look for an option with three or four leg sections, especially if you commonly shoot in windy conditions.

Extra Features

Tripod Head
The head of the tripod, or the part the camera sits on, can be one of three types.

A pan-tilt head is the cheapest option, allowing the camera to pan either horizontally or vertically.

A ball-head allows for more flexible panning than simply straight horizontal and vertical motions.

Gimbal heads are perfectly balanced for following fast action with a long, heavy lens.

Also consider whether the tripod head includes a quick release plate, which prevents you from having to screw the camera in every time you want to use the tripod.

Center Columns
Essentially posts that the tripod head sits on that can be used for faster height adjustments. While the faster height adjustments are nice, it's also the most unstable part of the tripod, and using a long center column could introduce camera shake.

Bag Hook
Keeps your camera bag off the ground and uses the bag as a weight for added stability.

Interchangeable Tripod Feet
Allow you to get the most stability no matter what surface the tripod is sitting on.

Adjustable Leg Angles
Permit more height versatility. While wider angles will be more stable, they will also take up more floor space.

Hillary K. Grigonis
As a former photojournalist, I love taking pictures and staying up-to-date on camera trends. I'm now both a freelance writer and photographer, and when I'm not taking pictures for clients or writing about photography, I'm probably taking snapshots of my family. My first camera was a Canon but my DSLR is a Nikon. I'm a fan of the Sony point-and-shoots, but I also like the quirkiness of smaller brands like Pentax.
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