Tripods – Which one should I buy?
Buying a tripod is one of the most difficult tasks for a budding photographer. The tripods came in several models and price ranges that it becomes a chore for the user to actually select one and buy it. Here are a few points to remember while you make your purchase
- Invest in a good tripod, they usually outlast your camera!
- Pair a tripod with an appropriate head for best results.
- Carbon fiber tripods are sturdier and lighter than aluminum ones.
- Choose your tripod depending on the type of photography, like travel tripods need to be compact and lightweight.
For more tips on what to look for when buying a tripod, please click here.
Now it's time to make the selection, we have narrowed down some of the best value tripods currently available on the market to help you make an informed decision. These selections were made on features and cost ratio, so they should offer you the best value for your money. Hope you find your next tripod here!
The Manfrotto Range
Manfrotto 190XPROB 3 Section Aluminum Pro Tripod
This is a 3 section aluminum tripod from Bogen/Manfrotto and is one of the best selling models currently. The tripod weighs in at 4 pounds, has very good build quality and provides sufficient stability for most photography situations. Comes with quick action leg locks that are easy and sturdy providing the required safety and stability for digital SLRs. The center column can also be tilted to a complete 180 degrees, providing great comfort in shooting macros. The included bubble-level is a nice add-on to adjust the tripod on uneven locations. The unit does not ship with a head though is compatible with several popular heads from Manfrotto and third parties. The Manfrotto 190XPROB retails for about $160 and is one of the best purchases for the money spent.
Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro
The 055xProB is yet another best selling tripod model from Bogen/Manfrotto. It is very much similar to the above mentioned 190xProB with a few exceptions. The unit weighs around 5.3 pounds and provides some improvements on the centre column usage. The quick lock legs can be set at different angle allowing great dexterity in composition. The Manfrotto 055xProB retails for about $180 and can be found for less if you have to the time to search around.
Manfrotto 190CXPRO3 3-Section Pro Carbon Fiber Tripod
The Manfrotto 190CXPRO3 is a 3 section tripod made of carbon fiber. This is the elder cousin to 190xProB model that we talked about before. The carbon fiber frame provides a sturdier build to the tripod as well as efficiently dampens the slightest of vibrations. The unit has almost all the features of the 190xProB. The tripod can be extended to a max. height of 57.5 inches and can hold a load of 11 lbs. The tripod weighs about 2.8 lbs and the legs makes use of the Manfrotto flip lock system. The center column provides complete flexibility of movement. There is a bubble level for correcting placement positions and the magnesium coated tubes make the movement of the legs a breeze. The tripod is a wonderful purchase for anybody looking to get into the world of light weight carbon fiber tripods. The significant change in weight is noticeable. The tripod is available from Amazon for $300.
Gitzo GT3531 Series 3 6X Carbon Fiber 3-Section Tripod with G-Lock
This a higher end carbon fiber tripod from Gitzo. Gitzo makes use of its patented G-lock system which keeps the tripod legs firmly fixed at whatever height you lock them into. The 6x carbon fiber provides the tripod with a solid structure and great feel. This thing can literally even hold if you stand up on it! The tripod weighs about 3.5 lbs and can hold a weight of almost 40 lbs. The gitzo tripods have the option of being extended by adding accessories to it and this tripod as well allows for this extension, making it ideal for both video and still photography. The Gitzo GT3531 Series 3 tripod is more suited for outdoor semi-professional shooters who are willing to spend a pretty penny ($674 on Amazon) on their camera supports. The current model replaces the GT3530S which is also a great buy if you can get it at a suitable price.
Giottos MT-9360, 4 Section Aluminum Series
The Giottos MT-9360 is a 4 section aluminum tripod. It reaches a maximum height of 63.4” and can hold a maximum load of 17.6 lbs.
The legs make use of a pull/push release lever, comfortable to operate and position the legs. The center column can be moved around flexibly at multiple angle including a 180 degree turn. Great maneuverability and dexterity while composing shots is a product of the flexible center column and the adjustable legs. The aluminum build is solid and the unit will easily outlast your camera! The tripod weighs around 5.5 pounds and retails for $174 on Amazon.
Giottos GB Series Black Pro Classic
This GB Series Black Pro range of tripods are designed with amateur photographers in mind, but brings in the same manufacturing quality of the Pro range of tripods from Giottos. The range consists of three tripod each differing in their height and total load capacity. There are two 3 section tripods in this range and one 4 section tripod. Again the legs come with the push/pull lock system from Giottos. The center column is flexible for multiple angle placements. The legs also can be adjusted to different angel with the provided flip lock adjustment. The center column also comes with a hook to which a bag accessory can be attached. The tripod series is one the best purchases for entry level tripod enthusiasts who get great value for their money in terms of the features and build quality. The 4 section tripod is available for about $85, the 3 section tripod with a max. height of 54” & load capacity of 9.9 lbs costs $116 and the 3 section model with a max. height of 72.6” and load capacity of 26.5 lbs comes in at about $220.
The Gorillapod & Giottos MT 8361
Giottos MT-8361, 3 Section Carbon Series
The Giottos MT-8361 is a 3 section carbon fiber based tripod. It resembles the Giottos MT-9360 in appearance but surpasses it in build quality. The carbon fiber frame as expected makes the tripod light weight as well as rugged for rough use. The tripod can support a maximum load of 8kg and extends to a maximum height of 64.6 inches. The 7 pound unit handles itself with the same dexterity of the MT-9360 and also allows to lift a camera about an inch higher than the MT-9360. The legs, as expected, come with Giottos push & pull lock system and the center column offers the flexibility of positioning. The tripod is a solid piece of manufacturing and if you are on the look out for a carbon fiber based tripod, definitely give this one a try. The MT-8361 is available for $344 on Amazon.
Joby GP1-E1EN Gorillapod
I guess there isn’t much I would have to say about the Joby Gorillapod since it has had a terrific word of mouth campaign going around. But, here are a few words for posterity. The gorillapod is a revolutionary tripod that would come in handy in situation where neither a normal tripod nor a monopod can help you. The flexible legs of the gorillapod lets you mount your camera in the most awkward but interesting positions and have complete compositional freedom. The GP1 is starter model and goes well with point & shoots and smaller camcorders. Here is review that should give you an idea about the Gorillapod GP1.
Joby Gorillapod Focus GP8 Flexible Tripod
The GP8 Focus is the most recent model from the Gorillapod series. This unit is absolutely suited for loading
up your semi-pro or professional SLR with a heavy zoom. The build quality differentiates the GP8 from its cousin the GP3 which will also support digital SLRs with zoom lenses. The GP8 gorillapod legs are made of reinforced aluminum making them solid and they hold on to supports very firmly. Likewise the build quality also increases the weight of the unit from 8 ounces to a bit more than a pound, however its definitely worth the cost. The unit will hold a load capacity of up to 11 pounds, which is a significant load for a tripod of this category. The tripod can also be mounted with video cameras. The build quality definitely provides the confidence to load up the tripod with heavy and costly camera gear. The gorillapod GP8 is a definite must have for travel and other photography enthusiasts as it can make the difference between a “just another shot” to a “magnificent capture”. The Gorillapod GP8 retails at a list price of $100 but if you look around you can definitely get a great price on the unit.
Manfrotto 709B Table top Tripod
The Manfrotto 709B is a table top tripod that is originally intended towards point & shoots, however the solid build quality easily allows this tripod to be used for macro shots. The mini tripod is very compact and can easily be carried in your pocket. Since most macro lenses are heavy and large, the tripod can easily support the weight of a dSLR and the macro lens. The tripod provides great flexibility in composing table top macros by providing a solid support for the camera as well as comfortable ball head that allows a panoramic rotation of 360 degrees (although the 360 degrees might not be usable once a dSLR and a macro lens are loaded). The tripod retailing at $40 on Amazon is a wonderful purchase both for your point and shoot as well as occasional macro shooting with your digital SLR.