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A good-quality tripod is one of the most important purchases you can make for your camera, but with so many new brands and options out there, choosing the right one can be a challenge. Here, we’ve compiled a list of ten great tripods that are sure to offer something for amateurs and pros alike.
Before we get into the list itself, let’s go over some tripod basics that will help you make an informed purchase.
The first question you need to answer is how much weight does your tripod need to hold? If you shoot wildlife and have a full-sized DSLR with a 400mm lens, you’re going to need a much different tripod than if you shoot with a small compact camera. So you’re going to want a tripod with a load capacity that is more than your heaviest lens-and-body combination.
The next question is, what will your primary use for the tripod be? If you’re a still life or portrait photographer who works in a studio, a lightweight support probably isn’t that important to you. However, if you travel often, size and weight are going to be your main concern. A compact carbon tripod with reverse-folding legs will probably be your best bet.
Manfrotto Compact Advanced Aluminum Tripod
This tripod, available in black or white, is an excellent choice for beginners or for advanced photographers looking for a fairly lightweight (3.1 lb) and versatile all-in-one camera support. It can hold up to 6.6 lb, so it is best used with compact cameras or DSLRs with lightweight lenses. This tripod has a minimum height of 17.5", a maximum height of 65", and folds down to 17.3", making it pretty compact while still extending to be tall enough for most photographers. The attached 3-way pan/tilt head is great for people who shoot stills and videos, as it allows you to make smooth pans and tilts, while also enabling 90° rotation to shoot in portrait orientation. This tripod includes a quick-release plate and a padded carrying bag.
Oben AC-1441 4-Section Aluminum Tripod with BA-111 Ball Head
The AC-1441 can hold up to 11 lb, enough for most DSLR-and-lens combinations. It weighs 3.3 lb and can extend up to 61.6". When its four leg sections are collapsed, it folds down to 21.3" to fit in the included case. This tripod has some convenient features, such as a bubble level and a ballast hook on the center column to add extra weight for added stability. The center column can be split or reversed, making it easy to shoot macro or shots as low as 8.3". The BA-111 is a simple ball head with one locking lever to control the pan and ball movements. It has an additional four bubble levels, ensuring every shot will be accurately level.
MeFOTO RoadTrip Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod Kit
The RoadTrip Travel Tripod Kit is a popular carbon fiber camera support for many travel photographers. It is lightweight at 3.1 lb and very compact, folding down to just 15.4", due to its reverse-folding five-section legs. With a load capacity of 17.6 lb, the RoadTrip is a very sturdy support that can extend to the same height as the Oben AC-1441—61.6". Another great feature for traveling photographers is that one of the legs can be removed and attached to the center column to make a full-size monopod. The included ball head has separate locks for panning and ball movement, and is Arca compatible, so you can use the included quick-release plate, or most other Arca-style plates. This tripod also has a bubble level, a ballast hook, and includes a carrying case with a shoulder strap.
Sirui T-025X Carbon Fiber Tripod with C-10X Ball Head
If The RoadTrip is still not compact enough for you, the T-025X from Sirui takes compactness even further, with the smallest folded length on this list of only 12.2", while still able to reach a respectable maximum height of 54.5". Weighing just 1.7 lb, this carbon tripod can hold up to 13.2 lb. Like most other travel tripods in its category, it also has reverse-folding legs that fold around the included ball head. The head has separate pan and tilt locks, and includes an Arca-type compatible quick-release plate. A removable center column allows the T-025X to get down to just 4.3". A carabiner attaches to a ring on the center column for adding a weight, and the tripod includes a carrying case.
MeFOTO GlobeTrotter Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod Kit
If you need a compact and lightweight tripod, and you also need a higher load capacity than the previous suggestions, the carbon fiber GlobeTrotter from MeFOTO might be what you need. It can hold up to 26.4 lb, while still maintaining a relatively light weight of 3.7 lb and folded length of 16.1". Its five-section legs can raise it to 64.2" high, and like the RoadTrip, one of the legs converts into a monopod. It also has a ball head with separate pan and tilt locks, an Arca-type compatible quick-release plate, ballast hook, bubble level, and comes with a carrying case.
Oben CT-3581 Carbon Fiber Tripod with BE-126T Ball Head
Oben’s CT-3581 carbon fiber tripod is very similar in its specs to the GlobeTrotter, also holding 26.4 lb, while weighing 3.9 lb, and extending to 67.9". It folds down to 16.9", with a removable leg that converts to a monopod, and a reversible center column for low-angle shots. Unique to the tripods on this list so far, the CT-3581 includes retractable spikes in its rubber feet, making it ideal for both hard and soft shooting surfaces. The BE-126T ball head has separate pan and tilt locks, and includes an Arca-type compatible quick-release plate. A carrying case is included to protect your tripod during travel.
Manfrotto BeFree Compact Travel Carbon Fiber Tripod
Manfrotto’s travel tripod, the BeFree, is a compact carbon fiber support that holds up to 8.8 lb, and is lightweight at just 2.4 lb. Like the other travel tripods, it has reverse-folding legs, making its folded length 15.75". It extends from 13.4 to 55.9", and unlike many carbon fiber tripods, it utilizes flip locks instead of twist locks. It has a simple ball head with one locking knob for both the pan and tilt movements. A quick-release plate and carrying case are included with the tripod, and it is also available in a kit with an Advanced Travel Backpack. The backpack can hold a DSLR with an attached lens, two additional lenses, a flash and accessories, as well as a 13" laptop, and an expandable side pocket will carry the BeFree tripod.
Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber Tripod
An upgrade to a classic line of tripods, Manfrotto’s MT055CXPRO3 is best suited for photographers for whom portability isn’t as important as the extensive features that this support offers. It’s a three-section tripod with a load capacity of 19.8 lb and extends from 3.5 to 66.9", with a folded length of 24". This updated tripod features Quick Power Locks, which increase the tripod's rigidity by 50% compared to its predecessor. Its newly designed center column offers "one-finger" operation, and quickly adjusts to be parallel to the ground for unique angles. It has an Easy Link 3/8"-16 attachment for attaching accessories, such as an LED light or a reflector via a compatible arm. Unlike the previous tripods in this list, the MT055CXPRO3 does not include a head, allowing you to choose your preferred head, or attach one you already own.
Gitzo GT1545T Series 1 Traveler Carbon Fiber Tripod
An updated Traveler tripod from Gitzo, the GT1545T uses Carbon eXact tubing for added strength and rigidity over previous models. It is a 4-section support that extends to 60.2" high and has reverse-folding legs that let it fold down to just 16.7". The compact folded height, combined with its light weight of 2.3 lb, space-saving G-locks, and the high load capacity of 22 lb makes this an ideal travel tripod. An included short center column enables a minimum working height of 8.6" for low-angle work.
Gitzo GT3542L Mountaineer Series 3 Carbon Fiber Tripod
By far the most heavy-duty and largest tripod on this list, the GT3542L has a 46.3 lb load capacity, making it ideal for photographers who use heavy lenses or large-format cameras. It extends to a maximum height of 70.1", and folds down to 23.2" for transport. Its center column is removable for Ground Level Set, allowing it to get down to just 6.3". The G-Lock Ultra twist locks have internal O-rings, preventing dust, sand, or other particles from getting between the leg sections. There is a ballast hook on the center column, and the mounting platform has a 3/8"-16 mount for attaching a head.
You should now be prepared to choose the tripod that best suits your needs. Of course, if you have any questions, 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.