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Best Tripod Heads 2018 – [Buyer’s Guide]

Last Updated May 1, 2018
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Maurice TurnerHi! My name is Maurice Turner. Here are the best tripod heads for 2018 – based on my own expert opinion, feature sets, prices, and overall popularity.

I will go through the main features and what you should consider when deciding which one to pick over the other. Like most products, some outdo others, so use my top three list below to get started on your search for the best tripod heads of 2018.

Best Tripod Heads of 2018

Here are the customer reviews of some of the best tripod heads of 2018. However, after giving you the TOP list, I will also give you some of the benefits you stand to gains for using it.

Many models on the market may be confusing to a person who is shopping for their first time. You must have heard that the best tripod heads should allow you to save money, right? Sure, but that’s not the only reason you should consider getting one.

Test Results and Ratings

Rank №1 №2 №3
Product
Total 4.8 4.5 4.3
Design
4 points
4 points
4 points
Size
5 points
5 points
4 points
Performance
5 points
4 points
4 points
Price
5 points
5 points
5 points
Awards 1
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№1 – Tripod Head Universal Ball Head with Quick Release Plate Camera Tripod Head for Canon Nikon DSLR

 
Tripod Head Universal Ball Head with Quick Release Plate Camera Tripod Head for Canon Nikon DSLR

Pros
The Moman B-10 ball head can support up to 10kg of gear, perfect pro size DSLRs with heavier lenses and with accessories attached. 3/8″ screw thread hold on base for tripod and monopod, and 1/4″ screw thread applied to most DSLR cameras
Featuring separate, ergonomic controls for 360° panning, ball lock, and tension, aligning your camera is intuitive and easy. The tension dial is built into the ball-lock knob, giving you easy access to the friction feel while adjusting the tripod head’s angle independently.
Cons
For such a price and the level of quality it can’t even have any cons, only pick holes.
 
Total:
4.8

Why did this tripod heads win the first place?

I am very happy with the purchase. It is definitely worth its money. The product is top-notch! The rear part fits perfectly! It is mounted really tight and reliable. The product is very strong. Its material is stable and doesn’t crack. I don’t know anything about other models from this brand, but I am fully satisfied with this product.

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Design
4

4star

Size
5

5star

Performance
5

5star

Price
5

5star

 

 

№2 – Neewer Single Handle Tripod Ball Head Three-Dimensional 360 Degree Rotation

 
Neewer Single Handle Tripod Ball Head Three-Dimensional 360 Degree Rotation

Pros
GREAT COMPATIBILITY: Standard quick shoe plate with 1/4 and 3/8 inches screw thread on the bottom,compatible with most tripods, monopods, sliders, DSLR cameras, brackets and light stands
SUPER LOAD-BEARING: With the max load up to 22 pounds/10 kilograms, it can bear most camera devices on the market
Cons
Exterior build could be improved.
Could be more durable.
 
Total:
4.5

Why did this tripod heads come in second place?

The material is pretty strong and easy to wash if needed. I like this product. For such a low price, I didn’t even hope it to be any better. It’s decently made. The design quality is top notch and the color is nice. Managers explained me all the details about the product range, price, and delivery.

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Design
4

4star

Size
5

5star

Performance
4

4star

Price
5

5star

 

 

№3 – Pergear Heavy Duty Photography Camera Tripod Ball Head 360 Degree Fluid Rotation Tripod Ballhead

 
Pergear Heavy Duty Photography Camera Tripod Ball Head 360 Degree Fluid Rotation Tripod Ballhead

Pros
Pergear TH3 Professional 360° Fluid Rotation Tripod Ball head For Photography.
8KG/17.63lb Loading Capacity; Height: 3.7″/98mm; Base Diameter: 55mm; Weight: 14.3oz/406g.
360 Degrees Swivel: 3 knobs for horizontal, vertical, and side adjustment, you are able to set your camera at any angle.
Cons
There is something wrong in the back.
Require more effort to use.
 
Total:
4.3

Why did this tripod heads take third place?

It is inconvenient to use due to the size. I am going to get something different next time. A very convenient model. It is affordable and made of high-quality materials. It doesn’t squeaks nor bents. Looks great in my apartment. I liked the design. We’ve been using it for 2 months and it still looks like brand new.

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Design
4

4star

Size
4

4star

Performance
4

4star

Price
5

5star

 

 

Tripod Heads Buyer’s Guide

If you keep the before points in mind, you can easily go out to the market and buy tripod heads, right? No!

Leg Construction

All tripods have three legs, but there the similarities end. Most tripods are made from aluminium, but the thickness and strength of the legs varies greatly. Very light aluminium tripods are likely to be flimsy and wobbly, and are best avoided. On the other hand the better quality ones can be quite heavy.

Leg Angle Adjustments

Most decent tripods enable the legs to be opened out at a range of angles right up to 90° to the centre column. This makes it easier to set the tripod up on uneven ground, or to splay the legs wide for low level shooting. With Benbo tripods all the legs can be simultaneously set to any angle via a single lock.

Most tripods come with rubber feet, but if you often shoot in muddy fields you may prefer spikes for a firmer grip. Some tripods offer both, with rubber feet that screw up to reveal spikes.

Centre Column

The centre column enables the camera to be raised a bit higher still, once the legs are fully extended, but its best to avoid using it if possible as it reduces the stability. They can be handy though for turning horizontally like a boom arm, making it easier to point the camera directly downwards towards the ground. Most columns have to be removed and re-inserted to achieve this, whlie most can also be inserted upside down for ground level photography.

Tripod Basics

Tripods come in all shapes and sizes but they all adhere to the same basic design: three legs supporting a plate on which to attach your camera and/or lens. The legs are generally extendable via some clever locking mechanism and the better tripods amongst the melee have pivoted legs as well. Pivoted legs allow you to angle them outwards for extra support and help with reaching those awkward spots. Of course allowing the legs to pivot outwards also allows you to lower the level of your tripod and shoot closer to the ground, provided of course that you don’t have a centre column in the way. “A centre column can be a Godsend for certain areas of photography “

Tripods provide more stability than shooting by hand but they can also be unstable if you are not aware of the centre of the tripod’s gravity. By design the mounting plate for the camera and lens is right in the centre of the legs and therefore places the camera right at the centre of gravity.  The weight of the camera and lens is spread out equally through each of the legs and over the ground area between the legs. So having a wider spread of the legs will spread the weight over a greater area and thus increase the stability of the tripod. This is one reason why shooting lower to the ground is much more stable with a heavy camera and lens combination than shooting at maximum tripod height. I have worked with a few professional TV cameramen in my time, and it is interesting to see how they work when shooting. By choice they will always shoot the tripod at its default height; if they extend the legs to shoot higher then they generally place them at a wider angle to spread the weight more evenly.

The thickness and weight of the tripod legs comes into play too. In general the thicker the legs of your tripod, the more they will dampen the vibrations from the shutter, but thicker legs mean heavier tripods. Lighter tripods have less contact with the ground than heavier ones so will not only be more prone to vibration but also to external conditions like the wind. “If you want better flexibility and stability, choose a tripod that has a base plate and a mounting screw for an external head “

This is one reason why manufacturers give a maximum support weight for their tripods; this is the maximum weight that they recommend having on the tripod to ensure decent stability at the default height. For most DSLR users with standard / zoom lens and camera combinations these support weights are pretty irrelevant as the maximum weight of your gear will be less than 2KG but for users of long telephoto lenses (i.e 200-400mm, 400mm f2.8, 500mm Fand above) or those with large format cameras, it is essential to choose a tripod that matches your kit.

Aluminium

A few years ago no one had heard of carbon fibre and metal tripods were the norm. The decent ones were made from aluminium, as it is lighter than steel. Then some bright spark invented carbon fibre tripods and their lighter weight (albeit at a higher price) meant that the sales of aluminium tripods crashed. Then, realising that there is a place in the market for decent aluminium tripods, manufacturers like Gitzo re-invented them with lighter and stronger aluminium composites. These days it can be hard decision whether to go for a decent aluminium tripod or shell out some extra cash and get a carbon fibre alternative. On the positive side aluminium tripods are generally cheaper than the competition as they are far less expensive to manufacture. Being slightly heavier, they are, on paper, more stable. On the negative side, as I have already said, they are heavier than the alternatives so you need to decide if you are happy to carry it around with you. Also, if you are going to use it in cold weather you will only make the mistake of holding you aluminium tripod without gloves once.

The Manfrotto 350MVB, with a maximum load capacity of 20kg is ideal for large video cameras, but would be over kill for most DSLRs.

Some people report that aluminium tripods do not dampen vibrations as well as carbon fibre tripods, but I have used a Gitzo Pro Studex aluminium tripod for a long time and I have never found much difference. Here it is a question of the quality of aluminium tripod that you go for. Most TV camera crews use aluminium tripods like the Manfrotto 350 MVB to support heavy TV cameras, as they are so stable. Admittedly for a small camera and digital SLR combo this would be complete overkill, but for a photographer with heavy kit, aluminium tripods are more than just a viable option.

Centre column

Personally, I have always hated tripods that come with a centre column as they can introduce a lot of instability in an otherwise stable environment. All is ok whilst you have the centre column at its lowest and locked tight, but as soon as you start to raise it up the locking becomes a bit dodgy. At that point vibration is not dampened as it should be and the enemy of every photographer, Mr Camera Shake, appears on the scene. “Each leg can move independently of the other, allowing the tripod to be set in some weird and wonderful positions “

Another problem with centre columns is that they do not permit you to shoot low to the ground, again a limitation for all types of photographer. Of course a centre column can be a Godsend for certain areas of photography, such as macro photography where fine adjustment is necessary. These days there are some very clever centre columns for macro photographers that allow horizontal and vertical shooting. In this case a centre column will be invaluable and vibration will not be so much of an issue as you are generally working with light equipment. I tend to choose tripods without a centre column or one that has the capacity for the centre column to be removed to give me as much flexibility as possible. In my experience most tripods that come with centre columns have them fixed so be aware of this before you buy.

Independent legs

Most tripods have the ability to set the angles of the legs in two or three positions that for most of us works fine. Some areas of photography, macro for one, require a more flexible and creative approach. Uniloc and Benbo make tripods that allow each leg to move independently of the other, thus allowing the tripod to be set in some weird and wonderful positions. A single lever controls the movement of the legs; when you want to move the legs you undo it, set them and quickly tighten the lever again. Some photographers swear by them, I swear at them. The problem that I find with these is that if you are not careful the tripod can collapse when the legs are unlocked, which will send all your equipment crashing into the ground. I should know, it happened to my 500mm lens and after that I took the saw to the legs.

The Uniloc 1600 tripod is the lightest in the Uniloc range. Once you get the hang of the leg hinges, you can position the camera virtually anywhere.

Like I said some photographers absolutely love them and if you are a macro photographer they are of great use to you; everyone else stay clear!

Extras

If your tripod comes with a spirit level then this will be useful although be aware that they can smash quite easily, so it is often better to buy an external one. Some tripods come with a hook that you can use to support a bag of rocks underneath. This might sound ridiculous, but for those of us working in very windy conditions or in water, it is amazing how this technique can vastly increase the stability of the tripod.

Before I go any further, a small word to the compact camera users who are reading this. Most tripods that are suitable for a digital SLR will almost certainly be overkill for your needs. I would choose a Joby Gorillapod as they are very small, light and flexible yet stable enough to easily support a compact camera. The only downside is that they sit very low to the ground so if you want a higher shot you will need to put it on something – and this is what the Gorillapod’s bendy, gripping legs are designed for. If you are desperate for a traditional tripod then choose the cheapest and lightest you can find, as you won’t need anything else!

Choosing The Right Head

Slik SH-736HD: This fluid-effect three-way pan head with quick release is all metal, and features pan-and-tilt drag controls separate from the pan/tilt handle locks. This allows the photographer to fine-tune the tightness of the movement based on the weight of the camera and lens. Weight: 1.lbs; load capacity: 1lbs.

Smith-Victor GH-100: This is a double-action pistol grip with full panning capability and tension control. It features a dual-locking quick release, as well as a bubble level. It is made from high-impact polycarbonate with aircraft aluminum ball head and platform assembly. Weight: 1.lbs; load capacity: lbs.

Sunpak Compact Pistol Grip Ball Head: Made of lightweight aluminum and magnesium, with a rubber gripping surface, this pistol grip features a quick-release platform with double activated quick-release lock, and full 360˚ rotation. It also comes with three bubble levels and one bull’s-eye level. Weight: 0.7lbs; load capacity: 15.lbs.

Pistol grip head: Also known as a grip-handle head, this variation on the ball head greatly simplifies operation of the head by providing an oversized squeeze trigger that releases tension on the ball to allow movement in any direction, while letting go of the trigger locks the ball in place. The panning function, where provided, may be primarily intended as an aid to composing stitched panoramas. Even though the camera/lens appears balanced when the friction knob is loosened somewhat, it’s safest to set it to the maximum/locked position (unless there’s a separate locking function) to prevent creep or a drop. Some pistol grips require strong pressure to release the ball joint, which may not be suitable for arthritic hands or a weak grip. I would limit use to lenses no larger than 70-200mm f/with a tripod mount.

Gimbal head: This type of head, somewhat odd looking and usually costly, is relished by bird, wildlife, and action enthusiasts. In contrast to typical tripod usage, you never actually let go of the camera when shooting because the whole idea is to enable you to better and more smoothly track a flying bird or other fast-moving subject, owing to ultra-smooth panning movement in the head and the freely swinging camera seated or suspended in the mount. However, a gimbal head does require time to set up properly, as the camera/lens combo must be correctly balanced so that the head will remain stationary whether level or tilted. Head manufacturers may offer a gimbal conversion head that attaches to any top-quality ball head with an Arca-Swiss-type quick-release mount. work because the three-way geared movement is ultra-precise. What’s more, the head doesn’t need to be locked down, as the geared movement does that automatically.

Panoramic head/base: It could be as simple as a basic rotating platform for stitched panoramas. Etched markings indicate detent positions and may represent degrees or lens focal lengths, as applicable.

Leveling head and leveling ball/base: This device assists in leveling the camera, regardless of the terrain, thereby avoiding the need to splay the legs unevenly and possibly destabilize the tripod. It is especially handy for stitched panoramas.

Compact Tripods

The Manfrotto Compact is a good choice if you’re just starting out. There are three models to choose from – Light, Action, Advanced – each offering different features around a base tripod, designed so you have no excuses to leave your three-legged friend behind. At just 800gr and 39cm when folded, the Compact Light is Manfrotto’s most portable solution ever, a tripod which will be a good companion for a smaller compact camera, a mirrorless device or an entry level DSLR with a medium lens.

While the Light model only extends to 131cm, the Advanced version takes your camera up to 167cm and offers an Advanced Ball Head, which is the perfect match for your DSLR camera with standard zoom lens and high-level CSCs. In between the two models is the Action, extending to 155cm, offering a special head that is good for both photography and video.

Manfrotto’s Compact series is a good starting point to discover tripods. Choosing which model to buy might not be easy, so let me give you a suggestion: if you’re starting with a compact camera but think you’ll move over to bigger cameras, buy the Action or Advanced mode, if you’re willing to carry the extra weight. If you know that a Smartphone or a compact will be your camera all the time, then the Compact Light is a good choice.

Travel Tripods

Travel photographers always have to think about carrying less, so it makes sense to look for the lightest, most stable tripod you can find. Manfrotto’s Befree series is a good option, even more so when it offers the choice between carbon fiber and aluminum. The carbon fiber version features 100 percent carbon fiber legs that ensure great lightness, transportability, and rigidity – all in one product. This is a good choice for landscape photography, because so many landscapes are associated with travel. This is also the reason why the Befree is considered both a travel tripod and one of the best tripods for a DSLR.

The Befree carbon weighs just 2.4lbs. (1.kg), extends to 55.9in (14cm) and when folded has 15.7in (40 cm). The aluminium version weighs only lbs. (1.kg), and it’s 15.in. (40 cm) when folded, extending to 56.7in (14cm). For extreme portability, choose the Befree One, which folds to 12.6in (3cm) weighs lbs. (1.kg) and extends to 51.18in 130 cm.

Professional Tripods

Many advanced and professional photographers choose a similar set up: the Manfrotto 05with a X-PRO 3-Way Head. The 05is available in carbon fiber versions providing extra camera stability and maximum transportability, thanks to increased rigidity and reduced weight, or in aluminium, which may be a more logical choice if you do not carry your tripod around many times. For reference, the carbon version of the section tripod weighs 70.5oz (2000 g) while the aluminium version goes up to 88.1oz (2500 g). This is for the tripod alone, without the head.

The 05series has some features that make it a versatile companion for your adventures, either in the studio or on location. The center column extends vertically but can also be used horizontally, opening a wide range of framing and shooting possibilities, and of which can be done with the camera attached. The Quick Power Lock levers responsible for blocking and unblocking each leg section are easy to open and close, even with gloves on. With just one hand, they allow for the fast and precise setting of the individual height of each leg.

Furthermore, the 05allows each leg to be independently and solidly set to any of the preset angles, again allowing considerable positioning freedom. From close to the ground, all the way up to its full extension, this is a working tool that will never let you down.

A rotating bubble level on top and an Easy Link connector, which allows using photo or video accessories on an extending arm or bracket, make this tripod a must have accessory if you are after a versatile support for your gear. To better support your camera, nothing beats the 3-Way Head added to the 05The X-PRO 3-Way Head is a unique head with retractable levers, which make it ultra-compact. The levers, when extended, allow for fine control of the head’s position, and the tripod also features new friction controls on the portrait and tilt axes, to help balance the weight of camera equipment. This ensures fine framing adjustments can be made with the locking knobs open, only locking everything down once the shot is ready.

The 05is available with and sections, a difference that is worth mentioning. While many may prefer the section, as it is usually said to be more stable and less prone to mechanical problems, there is one advantage to the section: with the legs folded the tripod has 21.2in (5cm) against 24.in (6cm). Obviously, the lower section has a smaller diameter, which may – according to some – introduce less stability, but the tripod’s length may still be an important factor when packing your gear. This is also a travel tripod, if you’re willing to carry it, and is a great support for landscape photography with either a DSLR or a CSC camera, as well as when you’re using long lenses.

It does not matter how many tripods you have, there will always be a time when a single leg will be all you need. A monopod is a great solution and the XPRO Monopod+, in aluminium and with section legs, is your best choice. A professional monopod, designed so it supports long lenses, this product is ideal for sports and nature photographers. The XPRO Monopod inherited features of the 190 and 05collections of tripods and offers the same Quick Power Lock (QPL) system that strongly locks the lever on the flat face of the tube, reducing unwanted jerky movements. Paired with a photo monopod head 234RC on top, it reaches a maximum height of 180cm, making it one of the best platforms for when you need a fast and versatile support to carry along.

Studio Tripods

Contributing to the 475B’s stability is the center brace system, which can be operated in a symmetric or asymmetric way. This allows for a fast positioning of all the legs with the same spread or, if needed, individual setting of the angle for each leg, something that may be desirable when you need to reduce the tripod’s footprint. The telescopic center braces offer two “click stop” positions that allow you to find the position for the legs.

Video Tripods

Although you can use different tripods for video, sometimes even going for a compromise, if you’re both a photographer and videographer, or if you’re into professional video, you may need a different kind of tripod. It is time, then, to look at the Manfrotto MVK502AM-1, a traditional 2-stage, aluminium twin-tube video tripod that has professional features, yet is designed to be intuitive, user-friendly option that is suited to lightweight applications.

The Professional Fluid Video System/Aluminium/Telescopic Twin Leg, as it is referenced in Manfrotto’s catalog, is a professional fluid video system named MVK502AM-and comprised of the fluid video head (75mm half ball) MVH502A and the telescopic twin leg tripod MVT502AM.

The MVH502A is designed for use with HDSLR cameras and latest interchangeable lens cameras. It offers professional features, such as high-performance variable fluidity and a counterbalance setting, designed to match the weight of the most popular cameras and their accessories, such as external monitors, lights or microphones. Featuring two Easy Link connectors for placement of an external monitor, alongside other equipment, the head has a pre-set counterbalance of 4kg (8.lbs), but is able to support equipment of up to 7kg (15.lbs).

The tripod supporting the head, with the reference of Manfrotto MVT502AM, has telescopic aluminium legs for improved compactness and reduced weight; its innovative ellipse-profile tubing with redesigned leg locking collars gives it excellent levels of rigidity and stability. Featuring a Variable Fluid Drag System on PAN and TILT movements, counterbalance system on TILT movement, a sliding plate for the fastest camera connection and set up and leveling bubble for easy setup, the tripod comes with a rubber strap to ensure easier, safer transport, as well as coming supplied with a padded carrying bag.

Camera Tripod Specifications

There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the right tripod for your needs.. Here are the factors that you need to consider:

Height: Minimum and maximum height are both important and the right choice will depend on what your photography entails.

Weight: It should be obvious that the heavier the tripod, the more difficult it’s going to be to carry around.

Load and Stability: An unstable tripod is pretty much worthless. It should be able to bear the weight of your camera at maximum height on a windy day. There’s nothing worse than a destroyed camera due to a fallen tripod.

Leg Locking: How do the legs of the tripod lock? Does it require twisting and screwing? Or is it a flip-lock mechanism? Go with the option you feel most comfortable using.

José Antunes

Tripods are essential for photography. But buying a tripod that you’ll really use is not easy. This little guide intends to help you choose a tripod that you’ll take with you most of the time.

Tripods can be a photographer’s best friend, unless when they’re left in the car trunk. It does not matter if your tripod is short or tall, light or heavy, leaving it behind will not do much to improve your photography. And there’s no excuse, as I usually hear, that it’s too heavy. You bought it (I guess) so you should have defined exactly how much you were willing to carry before investing in something that you seldom use.

So, this guide is for you, if you want to start it all over, and buy a tripod to USE. Also, if you’re buying a tripod to offer someone, this guide may help you to understand what is at stake when you buy a tripod. Beware, though, when buying a tripod for someone else. Try to find out if what you buy fits into the plans of the receiver. Tripods should be bought as one buys a shirt; it has to fit perfectly.

You’ll find multiple opinions when it comes to tripods, and that does not make it easier to choose. Some people will tell you that tripods with four sections legs are best, others will tell the three section ones are sturdier and less prone to mechanical problems, as there are less moving parts. Both may have a point, but usually outdoor photographers prefer the four section tripods, because they are smaller when closed, and that’s important when you backpack and hit the road. Or the winding path up the mountain!

Tripods with four section legs also go, sometimes, closer to the ground when closed (obviously, as the legs are shorter), so bear all this in mind when you go out shopping. Also remember that some tripods do not have a center column. I frequently find people who tell me the center column should never be extended, as the tripod loses stability. Yes it does, but if the center column exists, please use it when you reach the maximum height with the legs extended and you need a little bit extra height. That’s the reason why the center column exists. Furthermore, in some tripods, like the Manfrotto 190 series, for example, the column can be moved to a horizontal position, opening new options in terms of works, especially if you like to work close to the ground. So, you see, everything as a purpose, and once you follow the rules you’ll be able to use tripods for what they offer you: stability.

So, having said all this, let me suggest you some options in terms of tripods, mostly for photographers on the move, and leaving aside those big studio tripods. As you’ll understand from reading them there’s no “one size fits all” solution, and sometimes the best thing to do is to have two or more different tripods, according to the type of photography you do each time you go out. I believe you’ll agree with me once you reach the end of this guide.

A POCKET Tripod

Conceived as an emergency solution designed for people who take a lot of photos and need a lightweight and unobtrusive support, the Manfrotto Pocket has two versions, one for small compact cameras and a bigger one that can support up to an entry level DSLR. This is not a tripod for everyone, but can be a choice for people doing, for example, street photography and night long exposures in urban environments, willing to use whatever support is available, from walls to tables. The POCKET tripod is available in multiple colours for compact cameras and in black and grey to DSLR. The DSLR model has a safety payload of 1.kg.

One PIXI to Rule Them All

Long exposures look amazing, but you need a stable base or you’ll find everything is blurred once you open the image in your computer. With a PIXI you enter a new realm when it comes to long exposures, anytime, anywhere. A mini tripod has never been so versatile. Thanks to its quality construction and universal attachment PIXI is compatible with most devices. From the iPhone (with KLYP) to compact cameras, from Compact System Cameras to (small) DSLR’s with short lenses.

The new 190 Series

Light and compact the 190 is the most classic and popular tripod in the Manfrotto range. The family is continuously evolving over the years and the new 190 series offers a unique tripod that holds compactness and more transportability together with incredible stiffness. Available in aluminium and carbon fiber, with three or four section legs, the new 190 offers a versatile platform for photographers from hobbyists to professionals looking for a portable solution that offers them stability and a wide range of choices. It is a good “do it all” tripod for backpackers and nature photographers carrying their own gear.

How to spot a good tripod

The first step is to throw out that horrible plastic thing you got for free with your camera—it’s more frustrating than it is useful. What you should look for is a tripod from a well-known brand with excellent stability and good extras that hits the right price. The Vanguard Alta Pro meets all those criteria.

Let me take a moment to talk about what your tripod should be made out of, which is a tricky thing. Plastic probably won’t serve you well in a traditional tripod. Right now, the most popular materials are aluminum, carbon fiber, and, somewhat surprisingly, wood. Choosing the right kind for you is one of those common compromises. Pick two of the following three: weight, price, or vibration dampening.

Wood is pretty affordable and extremely good at absorbing vibrations, but it weighs a ton. Carbon fiber is light and stable, but you’ll certainly pay for it. Aluminum is affordable and fairly light but prone to channeling vibrations.

The other problem with carbon fiber is its fragility. It’s especially light, which makes it excellent for traveling, and it absorbs vibrations quite well. However, compared with many other materials, it lacks in sturdiness: Whereas aluminum might dent and bend from a sudden shock, carbon fiber can snap dramatically. In addition, its lightness isn’t always an advantage, as that makes for a generally less-stable platform to work with.

We also ignored wooden tripods because they’re too heavy to be practical in most applications.

Okay, so you’re all set on looking for an aluminum tripod. Where do you go from here?

Pull Quote

Its reception was good enough for it to win the TIPA award for Best Accessory in 2009.

We found a shortage of reviews from larger publications but encountered a handful of decent reviews from photographers. The people at Camera Dojo praise how easily the user can adjust the center column to different angles, writing, “With one simple movement, you can easily and securely reposition the center column while maintaining it’s stability.” For an idea of how the column adjustment works, check out this photo review at Photography-on-the.net, which shows it off pretty well. In an older review, Kirk Norbury approved of its light weight and the flexibility of the center column, but he dinged it for being a little too long.

When the Vanguard Alta Pro series debuted a few years ago, its reception was good enough for it to win the TIPA award for Best Accessory in 200That’s a fair few years ago now, but tripods age gracefully. (As an aside, the winner of that same award in 201was another Vanguard product, the Vanguard BBH-200 ball head.)

Long-term test notes

If you shoot with a small camera and don’t need anything big, I don’t think I can recommend the Joby GorillaPod strongly enough. There’s a reason GorillaPod designs have been so widely and repeatedly imitated—for cameras that aren’t too heavy, they’re fantastic. You can twist their legs to cling to just about anything, they’re small and light enough to carry around easily, and they’re perfect for use in bizarre situations.

Higher-end options

The carbon-fiber legs will provide better vibration dampening than aluminum ones at a fraction of the weight—but at a higher cost, and with arguably worse toughness. But people who spend a lot of time lugging camera gear will appreciate the substantial weight savings.

A high-end ball head will offer significant, tangible benefits, too. It will offer better construction, last longer, allow smoother repositioning, lock tighter, and disturb your composition less when you adjust it.

For a slightly more pricey take, your other option is to look at variants of any of the aluminum tripods we’ve discussed here. Most of the manufacturers sell a carbon-fiber version of all of their legs, so if you run across a specific model that sounds really good, chances are pretty high that you can find both carbon-fiber and aluminum versions.

The lesser competition

It’s surprisingly hard to choose from the lineup of good midrange tripod legs. Frankly, any of a dozen very similar, excellent tripods would do the job well. In the end, the decision comes down to which models are missing certain features that our pick, the Vanguard Alta Pro, has. Sometimes it’s just a matter of one or two pieces of plastic.

The Manfrotto 055XPROB is extremely popular, but it lacks some of the features of the Vanguard. Its center column doesn’t lock to as many angles, and it omits a gear hook. The 055XPROB comes from the most popular tripod brand around, but it simply doesn’t offer the benefits that it should at its price. In its favor is a maximum height of 70.inches, but it’s also a bit heavy at 5.pounds.

Another strong competitor is the Benro A2970F. It supports an impressive maximum gear weight of 2pounds, though the hook on the center column doesn’t retract. It also has everything else you might like, including a carrying case, spiky bits to screw into the feet, and an adjustable center column that goes to just about any angle.

Legged Thing is a relatively young British company worth keeping an eye on. It primarily focuses on making carbon-fiber bodies, but it has also produced a range of magnesium-alloy options such as the X1.Adrian. The Adrian’s legs are a curious set, considering that the company is trying some interesting things with style and color, but it has too many leg segments, and reviews of Legged Thing products are mixed.

Lacking features but coming in at a lower price is the Slik 700DX. It won’t do anything fancy: The column doesn’t swivel or tilt, you get no fancy extras, and it’s a bit heavy at almost pounds. However, for the price you get an incredibly good, simple, stable tripod. Slik has a reputation as being the way to go if you’re seriously on a budget but in need of something that will serve you well through thick and thin. The 700DX has a great maximum height of 70 inches, and it will probably survive the apocalypse.

Another option seriously worth considering is the Oben AC-2320LA. However, despite sending multiple requests for a review unit, we weren’t able to get our hands on one during our previous round of tests. We’ll look into Oben’s offerings again when we next update this guide, but for now it isn’t a pick.

The Giottos YTL line is neat because it offers a redesigned central column that allows the legs to bind in closer. It’s a bit more expensive than our pick, though, and we’ve seen some complaints about quality. While it’s a bit bigger and heavier than our current pick, it’s also capable of growing a fair amount taller and holding heavier gear. However, if you want to use spiked legs for uneven terrain, you have to pay extra for pieces to swap them out, which tacks a substantial amount onto the price.

In the end, the only other tripod we could truly test our pick against was the Giottos MTL9360B/MT9360. The MT variant has a twist lock and a carrying case, whereas the MTL version has flip locks and no case; otherwise the two are nearly identical. The Vanguard Alta Pro and these Giottos models are extremely similar, so I pit the MT9360 against the Alta Pro.

On a feature-to-feature basis, the tripods are nearly identical. Both have the all-important spring-loaded hook and adjustable center column. The Giottos model has a better carrying case, but it also has twist locks on the legs, which I don’t like as much since they’re slower to deploy than flips. If you want flip-lock legs on a Giottos tripod, you have to get the MTL version, which doesn’t come with a carrying bag—a bizarre exclusion. Both brands’ products come with tools for making adjustments to your tripod. The Giottos model features spiked feet, but to get at them you have to remove the rubber tips using a special tool. However, it also comes with a specially designed miniature alternate central column, which you can swap out with the main one to lower the whole rig closer to the ground.

In my mind, the major differences between our pick and the Giottos are twofold: The Vanguard Alta Pro has fewer leg sections, which means it’s sturdier and faster to set up—and it’s only inches longer when collapsed. All in all, I found the Vanguard easier to handle, the legs simpler to adjust, and the configuration of the tripod generally more straightforward. I liked having separate controls for extending and panning the center column, as well as seeing the way they handle adjustments of the central column’s angle. To me, anyway, the Vanguard is easier and more comfortable to use all around.

Vanguard announced Alta CA tripods in 201Although they are similar in name to the Alta Pro, they are markedly inferior. They lack the retractable gear hook and the tilting central column that we like so much about the Alta Pro, so we don’t see these models as being real competition to the version we prefer.

Both the Manfrotto 190 series and 05series lack gear hooks and convertible feet, so they don’t bring quite as much to the table as our main pick.

In March 2014, Giottos announced a productwide renaming scheme, as well as a new line of tripods called Air. But as of April 2016, neither the new names nor the new models seem to have surfaced.

The models in the Gitzo Mountaineer line and the Benro Combination Series are all carbon fiber, so we skipped them for the reasons I discussed earlier. They also lack a swiveling center column.

The 3Pod Orbit Section Aluminum Tripod (sold exclusively through Adorama) offers an almost identical feature set to that of the Vanguard Alta Pro, for a very similar price. But it lacks the Vanguard’s retractable gear hook, an incredibly useful tool for stabilizing your tripod further.

The head

The SBH-100 is a well-regarded ball head and one of the more affordable models to feature a pan lock, which allows you to rotate the camera horizontally while it’s otherwise fixed. It can also handle 2pounds of gear, which is a lot. This way you’re limited only by what the tripod can hold, not the head. It also includes two spirit levels for easy alignment with the horizon in each direction.

Instances where a tripod is essential include

What to look for when buying a tripod for nature photography

The requirements of a good tripod for nature photography are more stringent than buying a tripod for use in a studio. The tripod must be light in weight to be carried into the field, it must withstand a wide variety of environmental conditions and for macrophotography must be able to be positioned close to the ground. The tripod should also be quick to set up, easy to use and not alert your presence to wildlife (i.e. legs should be black, green or camo). The legs should be able to extend flat on the ground and each leg should be able to move independent of the other legs for work on uneven terrain. An important part of your tripod is the head used to attach and maneuver the camera (discussed later). Also the legs should attach to the tripod using a strong simple connector with reinforcement posts for greater stability (e.g. Gitzo) no springs or gears. The leg locks should be quick to set up (twist type or clips) and should be usable when the tripod legs are immersed in water. The tripod should ideally come to your chin in height so it’s comfortable to work with standing up. The legs should be lightweight, rigid but strong so they don’t break if the tripod falls over or someone steps on it.

In this photo I am in the middle of a river taking a panorama using a Velbon Sherpa Pro tripod and QuickPan Spherical tripod head from Kaidan. Some tripod legs (older Gitzo carbon fiber models) locked up when wet because they used leather bushings in their construction. If you purchase a tripod with twist locks and you plan to use it in water make sure it does not use leather bushings – newer Gitzo tripods now use plastic bushings. Photo by Karl Berdan.

Gardner Creek and waterfall, BC photographed from the middle of the stream using a x camera and tripod. Exposure secs at F4on Fuji Velvia ISO 50 film. A small dipper is sitting on the center boulder. I often shoot from the center of a creek or stream so a tripod and ballhead that functions when wet is essential to me.

Tripod feet

Many tripods have plastic tips on the end of their legs. Better feet have rubber that twists to reveal spikes. If your tripod has plastic you can purchase rubber feet at most hardware stores and some tripod manufacturers sell a variety of different tripod feet (e.g. Manfrotto). Spiked feet are useful in dirt, on ice and under windy conditions. If you shoot in the snow the tripod legs can sink. Some manufacturers offer flat feet you can add to the bottom of the legs and some photographers use plastic plates or frisbees to support the tripod legs in deep snow. In deep snow I simply pack the snow down with my feet or let the legs sink in.

Materials used to build the tripod are important

Tripods are made of: wood, plastic, carbon fiber, aluminium and steel. The bulk of most tripods are the legs and the materials used for the legs are: wood, steel, aluminium and carbon fiber (graphite, basalt). Rubber is sometimes used for the twist locks and feet. Steel is often use to connect the tripod legs to the top of the tripod. Below is a brief description of the materials used in making tripods and their benefits.

Steel – is a metal alloy whose major component is iron. I own Gitzo tripods with steel legs, a Gtizo 4and smaller mountaineer, both are rock solid and strong, but also heavy. Steel provides very little vibrational damping and transfers cold to your hands readily. You can prevent this by covering the metal legs with rubber or foam insulation as described below. I also use a heavy steel tripod to support my telescope.

How to Make your own sturdy wood tripod. If cost is an issue and you have wood working skills you might consider making your own wooden tripod. Most early photographers in the Canadian Rockies used wooden tripods (e.g. Byron Harmon and NIcholas Morant).

Aluminium – is lightweight and strong. For years most of the tripods I used were aluminium and made by Manfrotto. Aluminium is lightweight, strong for its weight, inexpensive, but transmits vibrations readily. Aluminium also shrinks or expands with temperature and the shinny legs can ward off some animals.  Aluminium tripods appear to be the most popular material used in tripod leg construction though I am seeing more photographers switching to carbon fiber.

Carbon fiber  – or graphite fiber is material consisting mainly of small 5-micron (1\1000 of a mm) long fibers bonded together as crystals. Carbon fiber is difficult to work with and expensive to manufacture.  It’s main advantages include high tensile strength, high temperature tolerance and low thermal expansion and its very lightweight. It has a very high strength to weight ratio, can be extremely rigid though can be brittle. It dampens vibrations more quickly then aluminium (see below) and is one of the best materials for the construction of tripod legs.  My first carbon-fiber tripod from Gitzo used to coat my hands with black dust when I handled the legs with bare hands – they have fixed this feature on the newer models. Carbon fiber tripods are more expensive then aluminium tripods, but as more companies make carbon fiber products their cost has come down a little and its nice to see a wider variety of brand names using carbon.

Carbon fiber is one of the lightest, strongest materials and it also one of the best materials to dampen vibrations.

Free Lens Resolution Test Chart from Cornell University – downlod the PDF and print it, tape it to the wall and test your lens and tripod combination. Vary your cameras ISO setting and shutter speed to learn how they affect sharpness.

How sturdy is your tripod

Testing how sturdy your tripod and lens combination is easy once you own the equipment. I use a test target or I simply tape an old newspaper to the wall. I take a series of shots at different shutter speeds with my lens at its widest aperture by varying the ISO speed. This type of test usually reveals a loss of sharpness between 1\1and 1\second. The higher the shutter speed the sharper my pictures. However, it the image is not sharp at higher shutter speeds, your tripod or camera support may not be adequate to support your lens. In the field wind will can also cause or magnify camera vibrations. You can try adding weight to the top of the telephoto lens, rest your hand, or add a bean bag on top of the lens to see if this improves the sharpness of your images.

The shutter speed used to capture this lunar eclipse was sec – in order to get a sharp photograph I found it was essential to increase the ISO speed to 800-1600 and I used the camera’s mirror lock up and an electronic cable release.

Many new photographers on purchasing a telephoto lens often find that initially their images are not sharp, in most cases it is due to poor technique and \or an inadequate tripod or tripod head. If you suspect the tripod is the problem, try shooting with the tripod legs at their shortest height. If you suspect your tripod head is the culprit – try and rest your camera on a bean bag and take some shots to see if they are sharp. Also make sure you are not using a slow shutter speed around 1\1sec – even with a tripod vibrations caused by mirror slap are often noticeable between 1\and 1\sec – try a faster ISO speed. Also try using your self timer to take the shot. Getting sharp pictures with large telephoto lenses requires good technique in addition to a good tripod and tripod head.

My favorite tripod gear

This foggy night time image was taken using a small pocket tripod by placing it on the ground and using my self timer to fire the shutter.

Any tripod would work in this situation, but I needed one I could carry in my pocket on this trip.

Tripod leg locks

In general there are two types of tripod leg locks: twist type and clips. Different photographers have different preferences. Clips are faster, but I find they often need tightening and come loose especially when subjected to temperature extremes like shooting in winter. On the other hand the twist type can jam sometimes, especially after getting them wet. The older Gitzo carbon fiber tripods used leather bushings that would swell when wet and lock the legs. Newer Gitzo tripods use plastic bushings and so far they seem to work fine after getting them wet. The twist type locks are also more sensitive to sand and ocean salt. If you use your tripod legs in salt water you should rinse them with fresh water at the end of the day. Some twist locks require several turns to tighten, others only a half or quarter turn. I prefer twist locks because they are more secure and I have never had one slip. When you are in a camera store you can test a leg lock by simply extending the leg and then after locking it try to push the leg in. If you can push the leg in or pull it out when it’s locked it either needs to be tightened or you need to look at different tripod.

Two types of flip locks and two types of twisting locks. Flip locks are faster, but often need to be tightened and are not as strong as the twist type locks. Test both types to see which ones you prefer.

Tripod costs

I would suggest if you are new photographer with limited equipment start out with lightweight or medium sized tripod. If you start out with a light weight tripod, it will still be useful in the future if you upgrade to larger model especially if you need something lightweight for traveling, hiking, kayaking, biking or anytime you need to keep weight to a minimum. The heavier sturdier tripods only become essential when you invest in large telepho-lenses (e.g. 300 mm F2.8) or bigger. So my advice is to start small and think big if you add a large telephoto lens.

Christopher positions my Gitzo 4steel tripod with Arca Swiss Ball head to photograph a Calypso orchid. This is the biggest and heaviest tripod I own and for macro photography its overkill. What ever tripod you buy, the ability to flatten the legs down to the ground is essential for macrophotography. Trying to attach your camera to the bottom of the center post and shooting between the tripod legs just doesn’t work in spite of what some advertisements suggest. I sometimes use a bean bag (blue) for shooting on the ground – its not as good as tripod but its easy to make (see my article on window mounts). A few tripods(e.g. Benbo) have a center tube that can be adjusted horizontally, and while some folks like this feature, I don’t.

Tripods optimized for video

Maximizing the stability of your tripod with large lenses

If you have a lightweight tripod you can increase its stability by not extending the legs and sitting down on the ground and using the tripod in this position. It’s not always a viable option, but when it is – it works. Other things you can do is to hang a weight from a bottom hook attached to a center column (as shown above) or from a base plate hook found on the bottom of some Gtizo tripods. When using long lenses you can also rest your hand on top of the lens to add a bit of weight, alternatively you can grasp the lens handle attached to the tripod and add some of your body weight as shown below by Dr. Wayne Lynch. If it is windy you can also remove the lens hood from a large telephoto lens provided the sun light isn’t shining into the front lens element. Some photographers like to use a cable release or the self timer. I find this is helpful for macrophotography and astrophotography but not very practical for shooting wildlife. If your subject is not moving you can use your camera mirror lockup feature if available. It doesn’t hurt to practice if you own a big lens either.

Dr. Wayne Lynch using a Gitzo Carbon fiber tripod a really right stuff ball head, Nikon 600 mm Flens attached to Nikon D300 camera. This tripod outfit is reasonably lightweight and can still support this big lens. However, never leave a big lens attached to a tripod unattended as it could fall or be blown over. By holding onto the lens attachment and camera Wayne is also adding some of his body weight to the stability of the tripod. For consistently sharp images with a large lens like this a sturdy tripod is essential along with a heavy duty ball head. Good technique is also important in order to get consistently sharp wildlife phtotos (see Dr. Wayne Lynch’s web site to view his wlidlife photos).

When you need extra stability – sit down, shorten the tripod legs and your tripod will be more rigid. This works for example in the photo above where the photographer (Judy) is resting on an Esker over looking the tundra.

How not to attach your lens and camera to your tripod. In this photo the photographer has attached the camera to the quick release plate on the bottom of the camera body. If a lens has a tripod collar its best to attach the quick release plate to the collar for better balance and performance. Also avoid elevating the center post as this will significantly reduce the overall stability (Manfrotto Carbon fiber tripod and ballhead, Canon 7D with Canon 100-400 mm lens).

Using a lens collar offers better balance and performance on a tripod

If you are shooting with a telephoto lens or some macro lenses (e.g. Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x Macro) and it has a lens collar – use it. It will not only provide better balance, but also allows you to rotate your camera into the vertical position. With both macro and large telephoto lenses try to use long quick release plates so you can adjust the position of the lens forward or back for better balance. The quick release plate on the 300 mm F2.below is too small – a longer plate would be better and provide more stability.

Telephoto lenses equipped with tripod collars and quick release plates. Some telephoto lenses work better on a tripod with VR ON others with it OFF – so test your lens, tripod and monopod combination to know for sure.

Some telephoto lenses work better with VR ON and others OFF when placed on a tripod

Note that some telephoto lenses have better performance on a tripod with image stabilization turned OFF because the lens continues to drift up or down on the tripod in the absence of movement (e.g. Nikon 80-400 mm lens and my Canon 300 mm F4), other lenses like my Nikon 300 mm F2.seems to work fine on a tripod with image stabilization on – the bottom line is read your lens manual and then carry out some tests in your backyard mounting your large lens on a tripod and turning image stabilization ON and OFF and comparing the results. That’s the only way to be sure.

Nikon 70-200 mm F2.lens showing focus limiter and VR (vibration reduction) mode button.

L-brackets for landscape photography

The humble L-bracket is a gift from the gods for landscape photographers. This incredible accessory is an L-shaped bracket that attaches to the bottom of your camera, effectively creating a tripod plate running along the bottom of the camera and up one side. This means you can switch from landscape to portrait format in an instant, all while maintaining full use of the tripod head. Shooting with the camera in portrait format without an L-bracket reduces manoeuvrability compared with shooting in landscape format. L-brackets are available in a universal fit or for specific cameras, although it’s worth noting the latter are often more expensive.

Special feet for different situations

Every tripod will come with a standard set of rubber feet, but some feature runner feet that twist to reveal small spikes for added grip in certain situations. You can also get feet designed for use on snow and sand, and spikes of varying lengths to make sure your tripod is as stable as possible on softer ground.

Plamp for holding subjects or a reflector

The Wimberley Plamp may have a strange name but this accessory is extremely useful, especially for macro and close-up photographers. The Plamp attaches at one end to a tripod, and the clip at the other can be used to hold a subject (such as a flower) still when shooting. Alternatively, the Plamp can be used to hold up small backgrounds or reflectors to even-out lighting.

Macro focusing plate

If you’re a macro and close-up photography enthusiast, a macro focusing plate is an essential piece of kit. The plate attaches to the tripod head as your camera normally would, and the camera then goes on the plate. Now, when you set your macro lens to its minimum focusing distance for a 1:ratio, you can focus with ultimate precision by turning a knob on the plate that moves the camera backwards and forwards to bring the subject into sharp focus.

Series Link

This is one in a series of articles that will guide you to the best of all things photographic. The rest are here: Buyer’s Guide: Recommendations For The Best Photography Equipment, Software, Books, Magazines, DVDs, Online Photo Labs and More.

Lightweight and Compact

The K and F performs exemplary not only in terms of weight capacity but also on the portability front. This tripod has a folded size of 19.2inches and weighs 4.3lbs only with the head. These measurements mean that you can slide the tripod into your camera bag and carry everything easily.

Comes with a ball head

The best part with the TM2534T camera tripod is that it ships with a ball head in place. However simple this may sound, it eliminates the inconvenience of having to wait a few days longer for a head to be shipped separately.

Versatile camera activity Extreme shooting possibilities

Another thing that I like about this model is that unlike most low-end units, it does not cap your creativity. The metallic ball head, for instance, rotates 360 degrees allowing you to capture stunning panoramic shots.

The center column that supports the head can also be used either horizontally or vertically. In its vertical position, this column allows low shooting angles thereby bringing additional shooting options.

High loading performance

With the ability to support up to 17.pounds of camera weight, the VEO 265AB might be an ideal option if you are looking for the best travel tripod for DSLRs. This loading capacity also means that your telephoto lenses are safe on it.

Macro-photography made possible

This tripod comes with a fluid-like camera head with a quick-release plate that accommodates different types of cameras from various brands. This head’s ability to rotate 360 degrees plus the hexagon-shaped column that makes 0-180 degrees allow you to make special wide-angle shots with relative ease.

Universal ball head design

Despite its low price, this tripod comes ready to use with a universal head that will take about any of your cameras. This universal head coupled with the high weight capacity means that even your future cameras might be supported by this tripod with good care.

The Tripod System

Along with the legs and head, tripods also have feet which are at the bottom of the legs. The feet help grip the floor. Most tripods have built-in feet, but some advanced options include swappable shoes to adjust based on what surface the tripod is resting on, offering extra stability for icy or slippery conditions.

Leg sections

In order to reach a small folded height, the legs are often divided into more sections. So more leg sections are good, right? Well, not exactly. In general, fewer longer leg sections offer more stability, where tripods with 5-leg sections tend to be more susceptible to wind, introducing small amounts of camera shake. So choosing often becomes a matter of whether stability or portability is the most important factor, though some tripods with three leg sections can still be quite compact.

Tripod Head

To avoid taking several minutes to attach the camera to the tripod with the screw and threading, look for a head that has a quick release plate as well. This feature allows the camera to be taken off (and put back on) with a quick lever.

Sunwayfoto XB-52

Really Right Stuff BH-5*One spec you won’t find affecting the ratings or general reviews is the often-quoted “maximum load capacity” of each head. This is not a standardized measurement among manufacturers, and therefore could mean how much weight the head can hold at some angle, or before a critical component fails, or even what it takes to shatter the head into shrapnel. Without a standard, this (sometimes extreme) marketing number loses much of its weight.

A tripod is essential for night photography

Painted with light image taken with over 1images layered together, not possible without a tripod.

Nighttime HDR image composed from multiple bracketed images and exposures over minutes long, also not possible without a tripod.

What to look for when selecting a tripod

There are so many factors involved in choosing a tripod it depends on what you want to use it for, and what equipment you own. I actually own tripods, and use each for a different purpose.

I have one for portrait jobs that is quite heavy and solid. It has a strong tripod head that angles in three directions (3-way head) which is better for that type of job than a ball head, in my opinion. Next I have another, lighter one, made of carbon fibre that I use whenever I’m walking any distance or traveling by car. I don’t want something super heavy if I’m walking miles, so finding a good balance between sturdiness and weight is necessary. Lastly I have a small bendy one that is great for travel, fits in my suitcase easily and most locations will allow it’s use.

Tripod legs

When choosing a tripod there are generally two types. Ones that come as a one piece package with the legs and head combined, and ones that you can select the legs and head separately. I recommend the latter as you can mix and match (even from different manufacturers), or buy multiple parts and change the legs or head for different types of photography.

Within the legs alone there are also several choices: tubular legs with a twist lock vs ones with flip locks; how many sections are the legs composed of; maximum height of the tripod fully extended; and what material the legs are made from (steel, aluminum, carbon fibre or basalt). Let’s look at each choice individually.

Tubular versus other shapes and flip locks

This is basically a personal preference, but if you choosing one with the flip locks take a good look at the construction of them. If they are light weight plastic they may be easily damaged or broken off, or come loose frequently and need tightening. Try the both out at the store and see which feels easier to set up to you. Test it to make sure the legs lock tight and don’t slip if you put some of your weight on it (don’t break it in the store, they frown upon that).

Note: This is a good reason why you want to go to a store and not buy online as well. Something may look like a good deal, and have great features on paper but if it’s doesn’t stand up to the lean test and is clumsy to set up you’ll end up hating it and back at square one looking for a new one.

Number of leg sections

This will usually vary between three and five. More sections doesn’t necessarily mean the tripod will extend higher. There are several types that use smaller sections which allow them to fold down to a smaller size, more compact for putting in a backpack or suitcase. Look at the options and see which is the best fit for you taking all the factors into consideration.

Weight and construction material

Once again you will want to choose the legs based on what you will do with this tripod most often. If you do a lot of hiking into the bush, you’ll probably want to look at legs made of carbon fibre as they will are much lighter than the other options. It’s also extremely durable and doesn’t rust. Carbon fibre however, does come at a premium price and they are usually the most expensive options and will weigh in somewhere between 3-pounds. Aluminum is next most popular but heavier than carbon fibre, averaging 5-pounds. Basalt is becoming more common and popular as it weighs in between the other two but carries a lesser price tag than carbon fibre usually. Shop around, but go to the store and feel the difference for yourself by picking a few up to compare. Get the one that is best suited to your needs and your budget.

Centerpost

Some tripods have a centre or additional column in the middle of the tripod that you can raise for added height. I don’t recommend using it to gain added height as it seriously limits stability. Imagine using a monopod and putting on top of a tripod, that’s what it’s like. When a centrepost comes in handy is when it’s reversible so you can mount the camera facing down, for those low to the ground shots.

Extend to a reasonable height

When stretched out, it should extend to atleast 50 inches before the center column is stretched out (preferably 60 inches when the head is mounted). This will let you extend the tripod to an average eye level height of around 60 inches without necessarily needing to extend center column.

The importance of not needing to extend the centre column comes down to stability in windy conditions. It’s worth noting that the tripod will be least stable when the center column is fully extended and more stable when all the components have not been stretched out.

Mounting head that you can trust

The included ballhead which comes with the Manfrotto Befree

For most people photographing with a micro 4/3, mirorless or light DSLR setup, the head which comes with a travel tripod will be more than sufficient. For those looking to shoot with a DSLR and telephoto or other heavier setups, you may want to consider a different head which is more sturdier and able to confidently hold the extra weight. With that said, if you’re looking at photographing with a heavy setup then maybe a travel tripod isn’t for you.

Having a sturdy tripod is essential if you’re planning on getting your feet wet!

For those looking for something a bit more capable and the feel of a regular tripod then I would recommend the Manfrotto Befree Aluminium compact tripod which folds down to just 15.inches and weighs 2.4 kg (5.3 lbs)

 

 

 

 

How to save up to 86%? Here is little trick.

You must visit the page of sales. Here is the link. If you don’t care about which brand is better, then you can choose the Tripod Heads by the price and buy from the one who will offer the greatest discount.

 

 

Final Word

First of all thanks for reading my article to the end! I hope you find my reviews listed here useful and that it allows you to make a proper comparison of what is best to fit your needs and budget. Don’t be afraid to try more than one product if your first pick doesn’t do the trick.

Most important, have fun and choose your Tripod Heads wisely! Good luck!

So, TOP3 of Tripod Heads

 

 

Questions? Leave a comment below!

Chatting about Tripod Heads is my passion! Leave me a question in the comments, I answer each and every one and would love to get to know you better!



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