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Camera Tripod Buying Guide

Camera Tripod Buying Guide

 photo by0804Creative via iStock

The best camera tripod…

Is there really such a thing?

Well, that depends on what your budget is, the type of work for which you need a tripod, and various other factors. 

In this article, I’ll break down a few good choices that will guide you in selecting the right tripod for you.

As I’ve said before, it’s a good idea to max out your budget when it comes to buying a tripod. You want something solid and durable that will last you for years and years to come. In that regard, selecting the right tripod can become a great long-term investment.

Table of Contents

Best Camera Tripod Under $100: Dolica Proline Tripod With Ball Head

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If you're looking for an inexpensive tripod that's not short on features, the Dolica Proline is a great choice.

Priced under $50, this tripod offers a maximum load capacity of 13.2 pounds and a maximum height of more than 62-inches.

It's super lightweight, too, making it an excellent choice for landscape photographers and travel photographers alike.

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At this price point, you don't usually find a tripod with an included ball head. You certainly don't usually find one with a quick-release plate and a bubble level, either.

This tripod has quick-release legs for easy setup and takedown, and they are thick, too, meaning they offer more stability for your shots.

There's a center-column hook for adding ballast when the wind kicks up, a reversible locking center column, non-slip rubber feet, and foam grips on the legs as well.

All this in a package that weighs just 2.9 pounds and folds down to under 23-inches in length!

Learn more about the Dolica Proline Tripod With Ball Head

Best Camera Tripod Under $100 Runner-Up: Benro Slim Tripod Kit With Ball Head

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This tripod Kit from Benro is lightweight, has a slim profile, and folds down to a compact size for easy carrying. 

It features twist leg locks that make deploying its legs a quick process, a grooved center column that prevents twisting, and a center-column hook for adding ballast in windy conditions.

It has a load capacity of 8.8 pounds, three leg positions for uneven terrain, and a removable ball head too.

Learn more about the Benro Slim Tripod Kit With Ball Head

Bonus Option Under $100: Octopus.Camera OctoPad

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Okay, okay...I know the Octopad isn't a tripod. But this thing is so incredibly useful and works so well that I had to include it on this list.

Its size makes it far more maneuverable than even the smallest travel or tabletop tripods. But don't let its small stature fool you.

Its weighted non-slip mat design offers an incredible amount of stability - far more than more conventional mini tripods or suction cup mounts.

I typically use my OctoPad to stabilize my GoPro. I even sit it on my dashboard in my car and use my GoPro as a dashcam - even offroad!

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This thing doesn't slip or slide, it doesn't tip over or collapse under the weight of my GoPro, and the ball head clamps securely. Just what you need out of a solid support device for your camera!

Add in a standard 1/4-20 bolt for attaching your own accessories, a cable strap to keep your camera cables organized and out of the way, and a handy clip grommet to secure the OctoPad with a lanyard or carabiner, and you have the makings of a small, portable, functional, and useful stabilization device for your action cam, smartphone, small camera, light...you name it!

And at $26.95, the OctoPad is the least expensive option on this list!

Learn more about the Octopus.Camera OctoPad

Best Camera Tripod Under $250: Manfrotto Element Traveler Tripod

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This is a big tripod in that it extends up to 65-inches, yet Manfrotto has worked its magic so that it’s lightweight and stable to provide your camera with the support it needs to capture clear, sharp images.

Like the Geekoto tripod described above, this one also offers both tripod and monopod functionalities.

You can enjoy a compact design that’s ideal for traveling, yet still have the support necessary to provide a stable base for a big DSLR with a big lens.

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It has three leg angles to give you versatility in the shots you take, a telescoping center column for a little extra height, an aluminum ball head with an independent pan lock, and 5 leg sections with easy twist-lock mechanisms.

It’s also priced well below the $250 threshold - at the time of this writing, you can pick this tripod up for just under $150. That’s a great value for a tripod that can handle 17.6 pounds of gear!

Learn more about the Manfrotto Element Traveler Tripod

Best Camera Tripod Under $250 Runner-Up: Vanguard VEO 2 264AB 

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Vanguard tripods have always gotten high marks for their quality of construction and functionality, and the VEO 2 264AB is no exception. 

Not only is this tripod easy to set up, but it also has an innovative central column that enables quick setup of the tripod - just 15 seconds total. That rapid setup is also helped by easy twist-lock leg locks that enable you to extend the four-section legs and lock them in place in mere seconds.

Like many other tripods on this list, this unit also has multiple leg positions and angles, a center column hook for ballast, and a ball head. It’ll support nearly 18 pounds of gear too!

Learn more about the Vanguard VEO 2 264AB

Best Camera Tripod Under $500: Peak Design 5-Section Aluminum Travel Tripod

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Peak Design is one of the premier tripod companies in the world, and it’s obvious why this is the case when you look at one of their tripods. 

This 5-section aluminum tripod was designed from the ground up to be small, lightweight, and super strong.

When folded down, it’s about the size of a water bottle, making it one of the most portable tripods on this list. Yet, despite its tiny size, this thing can accommodate a whopping 20 pounds.

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It’s also lightning-quick to setup and takedown, so you don’t have to worry about missing critical shots while you’re getting your gear in place. That’s due to the fast-locking, low-profile leg cams and rapid-deploy legs that extend, rather than flip over, like traditional travel tripod legs.

It has non-slip rubber feet, a center column hook, low and inverted modes for low-angle shots, and an omnidirectional ball head as well. It’s also backed by Peak Designs’ lifetime guarantee. Nice!

Learn more about the Peak Design 5-Section Aluminum Travel Tripod

Best Camera Tripod Under $500 Runner-Up: 3 Legged Thing Punks Brian Carbon Fiber 5-Section Travel Tripod

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Like the Peak Design tripod outlined above, this model by 3 Legged Thing is stuffed full of innovations.

Not only can it support up to 30 pounds of gear, but it has a tri-mount plate with hollowed spurs that allow you to use clip-on devices. The D-Ring and Toolz assembling allow for traditional spring hooks as well.

There’s a detachable monopod, multiple accessory options, a precision-engineered leg lock system that offers improved stability and rigidity, and an Arca-Swiss compatible quick release plate.

Add to that multiple spirit levels, a super ergonomic grip, and ultra-strong carbon fiber legs, and you have the makings of an excellent tripod.

Learn more about the 3 Legged Thing Punks Brian Carbon Fiber 5-Section Travel Tripod

Best Camera Tripod Under $750: Peak Design 5-Section Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod

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This tripod is the same as the previous Peak Design tripod I featured above, the only exception being that this one is made of carbon fiber.

You get all the same goodies, including the same 20-pound load capacity, but with the added bonus of having ultra-durable carbon fiber construction.

Learn more about the Peak Design 5-Section Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod

Best Camera Tripod Under $750 Runner-Up: 3 Legged Thing Winston Carbon Fiber Tripod System

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The Winston model from 3 Legged Thing sports precision-engineered aircraft-grade magnesium alloy construction that supports up to 22 pounds of equipment. In other words, it’s supremely strong and lightweight.

Its modular design means you get the benefit of being able to shoot photos from virtually on the ground up to 73 inches, and with its Paralock System, accidental disassembly is prevented while also adding further stability for the tripod. You get better grip too.

Furthermore, 3 Legged Thing designed this unit with a detachable leg to use as a monopod, a microphone boom, a camera boom, or a selfie stick.

Learn more about the 3 Legged Thing Winston Carbon Fiber Tripod System

Best Camera Tripod Under $1,000: Gitzo Mountaineer Series 2 GT2542 

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If you have the budget for it, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a tripod under $1,000 that’s better made than the Gitzo GK2542-82QD.

Sure, it’s name sounds more like an android from Star Wars, but this tripod is no gimmick - it means serious business.

This tripod and ball head kit is specifically designed for shooters that use a DSLR with a long lens (up to 300mm). As such, it is extremely sturdy and well-balanced with carbon fiber legs that offer excellent stiffness.

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As a result of this impeccable build quality, this tripod supports up to 40 pounds of gear.

The included ball head offers ultra-smooth and precise movements so you can get the exact shot you want. It has a quick-release adapter and is designed to work with other plates as well.

Learn more about the Gitzo Mountaineer Series 2 GT2542

Best Camera Tripod Under $1,000 Runner-Up: ProMediaGear Pro-Stix 34 Series

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ProMediaGear makes some truly incredible tripods, and as a result, they’ve built a reputation as one of the best in the business.

Their Pro-Stix 34 Series tripod was built with professional photographers and videographers in mind. It’s tough, rugged, and can support up to 60 pounds.

The apex plate has a ⅜-16 mounting thread so you can add video heads or ball heads, sliders, or gimbals, just to name a few.

Its carbon fiber legs are constructed from 10 individual layers, meaning they are supremely strong. Add in tension-adjustable leg mechanisms, stainless steel foot spikes, and multi-adjustable leg angles, and you have the makings of a tripod that is strong, durable, and highly adaptable to your needs as well.

Learn more about the ProMediaGear Pro-Stix 34 Series

Best Camera Tripod Over $1,000: ProMediaGear Pro-Stix 4-Section Long Carbon Fiber Tripod

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Like the 34 Series tripod from ProMediaGear I outlined just above, this 4-section carbon fiber tripod was designed and built with professionals in mind.

This particular model is rated up to 125 pounds, so there is ample leeway for adding tons of gear to this rig.

The apex of this tripod has an interchangeable flat plate/bowl mount with several ¼-20 holes to add accessories. There’s even anti-rotation pin slots to add further gear to the tripod.

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The legs are made of carbon fiber for strength and have three adjustable angle positions that lock, that way you can adjust the tripod to suit virtually any shooting situation. Additionally, each leg has ¼-20 threads on the top collar for adding even more accessories.

With stainless steel foot spikes, you can use this tripod on slippery or uneven terrain without worry that it will slide around. That’s the peace of mind you want if you have 125 pounds of gear on it!

Learn more about the ProMediaGear Pro-Stix 4-Section Long Carbon Fiber Tripod

Best Camera Tripod Over $1,000 Runner-Up: Manfrotto 608 Carbon Fiber Tripod With Nitrotech Fluid Video Head 

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If videography is your game, this is the tripod for you.

Specifically designed for video work, the Manfrotto 608 holds nearly 18 pounds of gear and includes a fluid video head for precise control during shooting sequences.

The variable continuous fluid drag system offered by the video head enables ultra-smooth and judder-free pan and tilt movements while filming. The head also has a ⅜-inch easy link system with an anti-rotation system that allows you to add Manfrotto arms for adding accessories to your setup, like an external monitor.

The legs have multiple angle selections and four leg sections so you have good flexibility regarding the shooting angle and height.

This tripod even comes with its own carrying case for easy transport! 

Learn more about the Manfrotto 608 Carbon Fiber Tripod With Nitrotech Fluid Video Head

 



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