When it comes to image quality, the one piece of gear everyone recommends is the tripod. A good-quality tripod is one of the most important accessories you can get for your camera, but with so many new brands and options out there, choosing the right one can be a challenge. For this article, I spoke to the experts at the B&H SuperStore and have put my hands on 10 different full-sized tripods and tripod heads and can share with you my opinions on why they are recommended.
If you aren’t familiar with many of the options or components on a tripod, feel free to get some background in The Tripod Explained. The information contained in that article may help you decode some of the terms I will be using here.
This list of recommended full-sized tripods will span a wide range of costs, and are listed from highest to lowest price (as of press time), but rest assured, regardless of the price, these tripods come highly recommended by the sales staff at the B&H SuperStore for all photographic needs and budgets.
1. Really Right Stuff TVC-33 Versa Series 3 Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod and BH-55 Ball Head
The old expression was that the best of something was the “Cadillac” of its kind. Well, Really Right Stuff supports are the Rolls Royces of the tripod world. The TVC-33 Versa Series 3 Mk2 carbon fiber tripod is a beautiful unit with a diamond-pattern carbon veneer, twist-locks, and rubber ball feet. The RRS TVC-33 Mk2 has a ratcheting system for the leg angle locks that lets you keep your hands free of pinching once you pull out the stop. Nice! Also, the metal parts are made from a CNC milling process from a solid chunk of metal, not from a mold, for extra strength and durability.
The BH-55 Ball Head looks and feels like pure quality. Movements are silky smooth and the base has panning marks for panoramic work, dual 90-degree cutouts for going vertical, as well as a separate tension adjustment. RRS has different clamp options, but this BH-55 has a screw knob to lock the Arca-type-compatible plate. Both the legs and head have a load capacity of 50 lb and reach a combined height of 62.3".
For those who do not need the full 50-lb capacity of the BH-55, the BH-40 Ball Head is a fantastic alternative. Really Right Stuff is all made in the USA. The best part of owning an RRS tripod? You will never have to suffer from tripod envy.
Really Right Stuff TVC-33 Versa Series 3 Mk2 and BH-55 Ball Head
- Load Capacity: 50 lb
- Max. Height: 62.3"
- Min. Height: 7.8"
- Folded Length: 29.3"
- Leg Sections: 3
- Weight: 6.26 lb
2. Gitzo GT2532 Mountaineer Series 2 Carbon Fiber Tripod and GH1382QD Series 1 Center Ball Head
From another premium line of supports, the Gitzo GT2532 Series 2 Carbon Fiber Tripod features 8-layer Carbon eXact legs with a signature Gitzo veneer. The carbon portion of the center tube can be removed, leaving the shooter with a shortened center tube for very low-angle shooting from a minimum height of 6.3". Fully extended, the legs and ball head will reach 69.8" and support 31 lb. The GT2532’s chassis is made of magnesium and is powder-coated—again with that signature Gitzo look. Leg-angle adjustment tabs are spring-loaded and Gitzo placed O-rings on the tops of the G-Lock Ultra leg twist locks for extra sealing from the elements.
The GH1382QD Series 1 Ball Head is a beautiful unit with a unique curving design, Gitzo powder coating, and brushed accents. The metallic ball is coated with a tungsten disulfide. I’m not sure what that is, but it sounds pretty cool and it gives the ball gorgeously smooth movement. A co-axial friction knob allows the main ball control to be adjusted, and there is a separate panning lock. The plate is Arca-type compatible, as well.
Gitzo GT2532 Mountaineer Series 2 Carbon Fiber Tripod and GH1382QD Series 1 Center Ball Head
- Load Capacity: 31 lb
- Max. Height: 69.8"
- Min. Height: 10.7"
- Folded Length: 30"
- Leg Sections: 3
- Weight: 4.8 lb
3. FEISOL CT-3472LV Elite Rapid Carbon Fiber Tripod with Leveling Center Column and CB-40D Ball Head
Another heavyweight option in our lineup, the 33-lb capacity of the FEISOL CT-3472LV Elite Rapid carbon fiber tripod and CB-40D ball head can support a lot of camera. The three-position leg-angle locks are unique to FEISOL and feature a release tab that protrudes from the chassis at the top of the legs. Anti-leg rotation technology keeps the legs tightly in place when the twist locks are tightened down. The twist-locks feature a minimalist design with smooth, but grippy rubber. A leveling center column allows for minor leveling adjustments and it can be removed and replaced with an included mount base to allow shooters to mount the head or camera directly to the aluminum chassis plate.
The all-black CB-40D ball head is a clean design featuring a separate pan lock knob, and a friction adjustment opposite the main knob. The quick-release is Arca-type compatible. With a load capacity of 55 lb, the alternate CT-3342 Tournament Rapid carbon fiber legs give you a larger capacity.
FEISOL CT-3472LV Elite Rapid Carbon Fiber Tripod with Leveling Center Column and CB-40D Ball Head
- Load Capacity: 33 lb
- Max. Height: 74.2"
- Min. Height: 6.84"
- Folded Length: 26.1"
- Leg Sections: 4
- Weight: 6 lb
4. Induro CLT203 Classic Series 2 Stealth Carbon Fiber Tripod and BHD2 Ball Head
The “Stealth” word in the Induro CLT203 Classic Series 2 tripod’s name refers to the fact that Induro has purposely designed the CLT203 to have a very low reflective design—no bling here! The legs feature foam pads and a very cool carbon veneer. The center column is reversible when you remove the weight hook, and a short center column is included as an extra for low shooting. Black leg-angle locks pull out and the legs can be adjusted to three angles. A bull’s-eye bubble level lives on the magnesium-alloy chassis, as does an accessory mounting point with two different threads. A carrying case protects the legs, and a tool pouch holds spike feet and a wrench for adjustments.
The BHD2 ball head echoes the design of the CLT203 legs and it features a separate pan-control knob and co-axial friction adjustment for the main ball. A single notch allows vertical shooting and the top plate is Arca-type compatible with its own bull’s-eye level. Together, the pair allows a load capacity of 35.3 lb and a maximum height of 67.5".
From the Induro line, a sturdier alternative with a 3-way head is the CLT303 with the gorgeous PHQ3 5-way pan head. Also, there is a four-section alternative— the CLT204. And, if height is no object, the squatty brother to the CLT line is the Series 4 Baby Grand tabletop tripod with an incredible 220-lb capacity.
Induro CLT203 Classic Series 2 Stealth Carbon Fiber Tripod and BHD2 Ball Head
- Load Capacity: 35.3 lb
- Max. Height: 67.5"
- Min. Height: 19.3"
- Folded Length: 29.1"
- Leg Sections: 3
- Weight: 4.8 lb
5. Benro TAD37C Series 3 Adventure Carbon Fiber Tripod and V2E Triple Action Ball Head
The Benro TAD37C Series 3 Adventure carbon fiber tripod is very similar to the Induro I discussed above. The primary difference is the Benro is equipped with flip locks for the legs and a solo foam pad for carrying. The Benro leg flip locks may be the best in the business with very smooth action and an attractive design. The center column is locked down by a wingnut collar system and the triple leg-angle options are achieved by pulling out the locking cams to reposition the legs. The leg’s own bull’s-eye bubble level rides on the chassis. Maximum height with the head is 67.7" and the unit’s load capacity is 26.5 lb.
The beautiful Benro V2E Triple Action ball head is elegant and purposeful. A blue ball is enclosed in a smooth black body with blue accents on the main adjustment knob. The friction control is located coaxially on the main knob and a separate pan lock allows right to left movement. The Arca-type-compatible quick release has Benro’s unique P&T (pull-and-twist) Safety System that helps prevent accidentally dropping your gear from the top of the tripod.
Benro TAD37C Series 3 Adventure Carbon Fiber Tripod and V2E Triple Action Ball Head
- Load Capacity: 26.5 lb
- Max. Height: 67.7"
- Min. Height: 19.3"
- Folded Length: 29.1"
- Leg Sections: 3
- Weight: 5.1 lb
6. 3 Legged Thing Equinox Leo Carbon Fiber Tripod with AirHed 360 Ball Head
Fairly new to the tripod pond, but splashing in with splashy colors is the 3 Legged Thing Equinox Leo carbon fiber tripod and AirHed Switch ball head. The Leo is one of the most uniquely designed tripods in the lineup, due to its color combinations and leg lock grip design alone. The leg locks have oval-shaped grips and are very pleasant to adjust. One possibly unique feature is that the leg locks have a secondary locking system that prevents you from loosening the locks and completely removing a leg section. Many photographers new to twist-locks often have anxiety filled moments when they accidently disassemble the tripod while trying to extend it! Also, the legs have anti-rotation fittings to keep them from spinning while extending and retracting. Rare for a full-sized tripod, the legs can fold to the inverted position for more compact storage. Need a monopod or heavy-weight selfie stick? One of the Leo’s legs detaches and can serve a multitude of purposes. A maximum height of 55" and a high load capacity of 66 lb makes the Leo ready for many chores.
The curvy contours of the AirHed Switch 360 ball head are designed to allow the inverted legs to fold close to the head to minimize girth while being transported. The AirHed Switch 360 features a dual-pan design that makes it faster and easier to level the unit. Both panning adjustments have separate locks. The quick release plate is Arca-type compatible.
7. Oben CT-2381 Carbon Fiber Tripod with BE-126 Ball Head
If you are looking for a flip-lock-equipped carbon fiber tripod with a respectable 25-lb maximum load, check out the Oben CT-2381 with BE-126 ball head. A super-versatile center column allows for inverted shooting, or can be split into two sections to allow very low-angle shooting. To keep the two-section center column together, simply tighten the Allen screw when you don’t need the shorter column. The leg-angle locks are of similar design to Benro and Induro and work perfectly—holding the legs at three prescribed angles of 24, 55, and 80 degrees. The rubber feet retract to reveal spikes for anchoring your setup on softer ground. The unit comes with a padded bag and tool kit for keeping your rounded flip locks tight and shortening the center column.
The BE-126 ball head is all business. Arca-type compatible, single 90-degree notch, and a separate panning lock knob are standard features. Innovatively, there is one bull’s-eye level on end of the quick-release locking knob for getting your kit level when shooting horizontally in the notch. Another bull’s-eye is mounted off the quick release plate.
Oben CC-2381 Carbon Fiber Tripod with BE-126 Ball Head
- Load Capacity: 25 lb
- Max. Height: 67.9"
- Min. Height: 10.2"
- Folded Length: 28.3”
- Leg Sections: 3
- Weight: 4 lb
8. Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 Aluminum Fiber Tripod with MHXPRO-3W 3-Way Pan/Tilt Head Kit
The latest in the 055 line of Manfrotto tripods is the MT055XPRO3 with the MHXPRO-3W 3-way pan/tilt head kit. With a 72" maximum height and a weight capacity of 17.6 lb, this setup has some unique Manfrotto features, as well as a modern look—sporting black with red and brushed-aluminum accents. The leg locks hold the legs at one of four different angles, and the lock levers are large and an easy-to-use press-to-release affair. The flip-locks have the hinge position at the 1/3 point on the locks, instead of at the end. This appears to allow the photographer to get better leverage on the lock—pushing and pulling simultaneously—for ease of actuation. The center column can extend and then rotate (with its own ball-head-type design) to the 90o position for lateral shooting. Housing a rotating bull’s-eye level, the head is oblong-shaped and cleverly integrates the Manfrotto logo into its top. The chassis’ EZ Link 3/8"-16 access thread allows numerous accessories to be mounted on the side of the unit.
The MHXPRO-3W head is another example of Manfrotto design and thoughtfulness. Helping to keep the overall size compact for travel, the two handles retract and fold—very cool. While not quite as compact as a ball head, here you have the convenience and precision of a three-way head with a much reduced footprint. Also, there are friction adjustments for two of the axes. Cleverly mounted on one corner of the unit are three bubble levels—one for each axis.
One important thing to mention about Manfrotto and Gitzo tripods: Manfrotto and Gitzo make all their parts available for purchase. So, if one part of your favorite tripod wears out or fails, you can replace just that part and keep on shooting.
For carbon fiber lovers, you can substitute the MT055CXPRO3 tripod. Ball-head fans might consider the MHXPRO-BHQ2 XPRO ball head with 200PL quick-release plate. It has a separate lock for panning and a friction adjustment with detents.
Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 Aluminum Fiber Tripod with MHXPRO-3W 3-Way Pan/Tilt Head Kit
Load Capacity: 17.6 lb
Max. Height: 72"
Min. Height: 3.5”
Folded Length: 29.1"
Leg Sections: 3
Weight: 7.7 lb
9. Slik Pro 700DX AMT Tripod with 3-Way Pan-and-Tilt Head
“Tall and sturdy” is how the Silk Pro 700DX AMT Tripod with 3-Way head was described to me. And, at a maximum height of 75", it is one of the taller tripods on the market. All three A.M.T. (aluminum, magnesium, titanium) legs sport foam pads and allow three-position angle adjustment. The blended metal legs offer a 40% strength gain over standard aluminum. The center column has a dual-lock system and is designed so that it cannot rotate accidently and it can be shortened for low-angle shooting. Most flip-locks have hex bolts that can be tightened if the locks loosen over time. This Slik has riveted flip-locks that cannot be adjusted, but the 700DX that I handled has been abused in the store for more than three years and the flip locks show no signs of being anything but tight. This is a very solid piece of kit, suitable for any photographer, and it has a 19.8 lb load capacity.
The three-way head is characterized by a simple and straightforward design, but the round quick-release plate is unique in the world of tripod heads. The advantage to the circular plate is that you can attach your camera or lens at any horizontal angle—there is no need to turn the head (or tripod) to get the camera to face the correct way. All you need to do is point your camera in the direction you want, and click it into place.
Slik Pro 700DX AMT Tripod with 3-Way Pan-and-Tilt Head
- Load Capacity: 19.8 lb
- Max. Height: 75"
- Min. Height: 16.1"
- Folded Length: 29.9"
- Leg Sections: 3
- Weight: 7.1 lb
10. Oben AC-1351 3-Section Aluminum Tripod with BA-113 Ball Head
Versatility is one of the hallmarks of the Oben AC-1351 3-Section Aluminum tripod and BA-113 Ball Head. The black legs are standard, with easy to operate flip locks. The unit’s versatility comes to the fore when we look at the center column. The column is telescoping, but can be removed entirely, and the BA-113 head attached directly to the chassis for low shooting and maximum stability. The gear hook at the bottom is removable and the entire column reverses for extreme low-angle shooting. Up top, the BA-113 ball head has a single lever control for fast operation. The quick-release plates are proprietary, and the head has a special safety lock to prevent accidental release of the plate (and your gear!).
The ball head has a nice, smooth feel, and the top plate is adorned with three bubble levels (two tubes and one bull’s-eye) for leveling on any axis. A single notch allows 90-degree rotation of the head. Both the legs and head have matching load capacities of 13.2 lb, and the unit extends to 65.3". Also, the kit comes with a padded storage/transport bag and the two of the legs are padded.
A four-section alternative to this kit would be the Oben AC-1451 legs and the BA-113 ball head.
Oben AC-1361 3-Section Aluminum Tripod with BA-117 Ball Head
- Load Capacity: 13.2 lb
- Max. Height: 65.3"
- Min. Height: 9"
- Folded Length: 27"
- Leg Sections: 3
- Weight: 4.1 lb
Are you ready to get the full-sized tripod that best suits your needs? Of course, if you have any questions, post them below or feel free to stop by the B&H SuperStore in New York, speak with a sales professional on the telephone at 1-800-606-6969, or contact us online for a Live Chat.