There’s one photography accessory that’s existed as long as the camera has, and it continues to be the best and most important accessory in a photographer’s kit: the tripod. While camera bodies are utilizing increasingly more sophisticated image stabilization systems, sometimes you need a little more than what’s built in to your model. If you use high focal length cameras, a good tripod is a necessity, but it’s a huge convenience even for those not working in celestial or nature photography.
But what constitutes the best tripod? That depends on your circumstances, but we’re here to help you find that out. Our review guide covers 10 of the best tripod models and provides you with the knowledge you need to shop smart.
- 10 Best Tripods
- 1. AmazonBasics 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod
- 2. Vortex Optics Pro GT Tripod Series
- 3. Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod
- 4. Mactrem PT55 Lightweight Aluminum Tripod
- 5. Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 Aluminum Tripod
- 6. Davis & Sanford EXPLORERV Vista Explorer 60” Tripod
- 7. Polaroid 72″ Photo / Video ProPod Tripod
- 8. TACKLIFE 55″ Lightweight Aluminum Tripod
- 9. Ravelli Lightweight Aluminum Tripod
- 10. Victiv 72″ Camera Tripod
- Camera Tripod Buyer’s Guide
10 Best Tripods
1. AmazonBasics 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod
AmazonBasics offers an incredible price on a tripod, and it gets even better if you decide to invest in the two pack. And it's delightfully not as basic as the name would have you believe. Constructed from solid aluminum, it's sturdy enough to handle even heavier DSLR and mirrorless cameras despite being delightfully lightweight in design. The legs are fully adjustable, and the rubberized feet offer a substantive sense of grip.
Two separate levels are built in for helping you find the best angle to position the legs, and the mounting plate employs a quick release feature so you can transition easily from shooting while mounted to shooting by hand if you need to. The legs themselves can shift from between 20 and 48 inches. The locks themselves are smooth, so transitioning from between different heights is a more or less painless affair.
2. Vortex Optics Pro GT Tripod Series
Vortex Optics has turned convenience into an art with their Pro GT tripod. This tripod includes some of the best build quality around and a huge range of movement for better capturing the moments you need when you need them. The pan head can slip easily between vertical and horizontal alignment for some of the best range photographers will find in a tripod, and panning and tilting with your camera is incredibly easy to perform.
The range here is great too. Between the maximum and minimum heights of 67.1 and 24.6 inches, you have a lot of range to capture a variety of different shots, and the new rugged redesign for this tripod has resulted in one of the best models in terms of durability. There's even a balance hook for keeping this tripod best grounded in windy or stormy conditions.
3. Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod
Looking for something a little more compact than the tripod models we've listed so far? The PIXI by Manfrotto is lightweight and compact, but it's also light on your wallet with a price tag of less than $20. This is one of the smallest tripods you'll find available today, making it one of the best choices if you have limited space in your photography bag, but it's also one of the best all around. Despite its compact frame, it can work with everything from cell phones to point and shoots to heavy duty DSLRs and mirrorless cameras.
The Manfrotto PIXI offers both a front and lateral tilt of 35 degrees in any direction, so you don't have to constantly worry about readjusting it while you're capturing your shot. Just keep in mind that it has a set min and max height of 13 centimeters, so its value will be more situational than larger, more adjustable tripods.
4. Mactrem PT55 Lightweight Aluminum Tripod
Despite weighing a mere two and a half pounds, the PT55 by Macrtrem has a maximum weight capacity of 11. It's one of the best travel tripods around and a sensible choice even if you find yourself carrying a particularly heavy DSLR with you on your work trips. It even comes with its own carrying case so you can easily stow it away when you don't need it and get through airport security without stress.
And the Mactrem PT55 will be best equipped to help you in whatever tricky environments you find yourself. The tripod legs offer four section leg lock features so photographers can set this tripod up even in the most rocky and uneven environments, and they also come with rubber tips to create the best sense of stability when you find yourself in less than ideal situations. A quick release plate lets you attach and detach your camera quickly.
5. Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 Aluminum Tripod
If you're looking to line up the perfect shot, the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB offers you the best variety in a tripod. The aluminum alloy tripod legs can be adjusted for 25, 50, and 80 degree angles, allowing you to achieve tricky low angle photography that most tripods can't achieve, and the leg locks can be quickly activated for stable and incredibly fast performance. And then there's the rubber grips on the feet of the Vanguard Alta Pro that are accompanied by metal spikes for quick and easy mounting on uneven ground.
The Vanguard Alta Pro is available as either an aluminum or carbon fiber tripod, but both models come with a hook that can be used to hang camera accessories and give you a stronger sense of stability in windier circumstances. The center column on the Vanguard Alta Pro utilizes a unique hexagonal design that allows the tripod to easily rotate between 0 and 180 degrees.
6. Davis & Sanford EXPLORERV Vista Explorer 60” Tripod
The ExplorerV is one of the best budget priced tripods on our review list. It can't compete with the features and options in many of the more sophisticated tripods we review here, but you're not going to find a better model for $20. The combination of quick release leg locks and a pivoting three way pan head make this an incredibly easy tripod to set up and break down, and it even comes with an adapter for your phone.
David & Sanford's model uses a geared center column that makes adjusting the height incredibly easy, and it offers a substantial range of movement for shooting in a variety of different ways. It may not be the best option for photographers, but it offers a lot to love if you're a more casual camera owner who just wants a tripod that will work well and not cost a fortune.
7. Polaroid 72″ Photo / Video ProPod Tripod
Polaroid has created an incredibly affordable tripod model, but it's also surprisingly one of the best choices around in any price range. Despite standing a confident 72 feet tall at its highest point, this model still employs a leg angle that offers a great sense of stability, and it's made of industrial grade materials to ensure that it maintains its stability regardless of what situations you put it in. And despite its imposing size, it stands less than two and a half feet tall when fully folded.
The rubber feet are heavy duty, offering a level of traction that nearly matches spikes without damaging the surface of your floors, and the locking center column is well braced to support even the heaviest of cameras and supplementary equipment. It may be one of the cheaper models we've highlighted, but it's easily one of the best for travel use.
8. TACKLIFE 55″ Lightweight Aluminum Tripod
This model from Tacklife may be a little shorter than most users would ideally ask for, but the $20 price tag and genuinely cool set of features still make it an appealing choice. The three way head makes use of a larger plate for a greater sense of stability for your camera, and that's only complemented by the shorter max height, which allows for leg angles with a better center of gravity. You can even find an optional mount for your phone.
But the really cool feature here is the presence of a laser measure and level. It's a nice alternative to more traditional bubble models, and it will surely appeal to less experienced photographers who are looking for an easier way to make sure that their camera is appropriately lined up with the horizon. But with a maximum capacity of 6.6 pounds, it's not the best choice for professionals.
9. Ravelli Lightweight Aluminum Tripod
Users who need a tripod they can bring with them just about anywhere will find plenty to love from the Ravelli. The pan and tilting motion here feels perfectly natural, and slipping between portrait and landscape mode is incredibly simple. This model comes with its own dedicated phone mount and makes use a traditional quarter inch mounting screw so you can count on it to be compatible with just about any camera you can imagine.
This is a $20 model, so it's not the best choice for pros, but it's more than enough for most amateurs and even hobbyists. And it will work great even in dubious outdoor conditions thanks to the lever locks that keep the legs secure and the presence of sturdy rubberized feet to reduce the risk of slippage. It also comes with its own carrying bag for easy storage.
10. Victiv 72″ Camera Tripod
Victiv's model is tall. Its max height of six feet is a nice change of pace among the much shorter models that are so prevalent, but it really distinguishes itself from the competition with a truly unique feature: the ability to transition from a tripod to a monopod in a simple matter of seconds. If you find yourself working in cramped environments where the legs of a traditional tripod can get in the way, this is a great alternative.
The swivel head moves as smooth as butter, and the inclusion of an Arca Swiss mounting plate lets you to swap easily between any camera you have in your collection. The legs themselves are thicker than usual, and that facilitates an exceptional level of stability that's further bolstered by their aluminum design. A tilt range of 90 and 60 degrees and an included bubble level allow for more precise shots.
Camera Tripod Buyer’s Guide
A tripod is arguably the most important camera accessory you can invest in. The best models allow you to shoot photographs from practically any angle without having to worry about the image quality being affected by shake, and they can help lighten the load of having to carry a heavy camera around with you all the time. But even the smallest tripod can take up a decent amount of space in your camera bag, so you want to make sure that the tripod you invest in is really worth the price.
Our guide can help you find the best choice for your needs. We’ll cover all the important aspects of construction as well as features to look for in a tripod so you can improve your photography game and understand the factors you should pay the most attention to when shopping for a tripod. The main guide below will provide you with general tripod shopping advice, while the review section above will help you understand the advantages of each of our models at a glance.
The Value of a Tripod
Before we start getting into the important specs. features, and other options you need to consider when shopping for the best model of tripod, you need to ask yourself whether you actually need a tripod and why. Once you have this figured out, you can more accurately determine what features you should prioritize and what value they’ll serve to you. At its most basic, a tripod for camera serves two principle purposes: providing you with stability for shooting in environments with low lighting or at longer distances and to reduce the weight of carrying around a heavy camera like a DSLR.
Those brand new to photography often think their hands are perfectly steady only to find their expectations quickly shattered as soon as they try shooting in a tricky environment. There are two situations most prone to sabotaging the integrity of your shot based off of camera shake. Dim lighting can quickly have a dramatic impact on the quality of your shots, and that’s especially true if you’re trying to maintain the depth of field and sharpness of your photo. Since that requires maintaining the highest settings for two elements of the exposure triangle, maintaining the results you want necessitates the use of slow shutter speeds that are hard to maintain by hand, especially with a heavy DSLR.
Additionally, even the best photographers can have trouble maintaining a steady shot when trying to shoot subjects at a distance. The great thing about a tripod is it allows you to steady your shot without having to worry about maintaining your pose, and that makes it the best choice (and practically a necessity) for performing macro photography on subjects like insects and plants or trying to capture celestial objects.
Tripods are great for situations where you’re relying on natural lighting or looking to capture time lapse footage of the same panorama at different times of the day. They’re also the best and only reasonable choice if you want to capture full family photos without having to enlist the help of others. Of course, how serious you are about your photography will effect the build quality you need to look for when shopping for the best camera tripods. They can also allow you to capture shots at angles that are tricky or even impossible to accomplish by hand.
Finally, tripods serve the purpose of taking a load off your back. If you’re a professional nature or street photographer, your backpack is bound to be loaded down with your DSLR or mirrorless camera, multiple lenses, and a variety of other gear. A folded tripod tucked into your bag may add a little more weight as you hike to your destination, but it also provides a sort of makeshift work station where you can hang the rest of your gear without having to carry it on your back.
Specs and Features
So what do you need to look for when shopping for the best tripods? That all depends on how professional you are and what sort of photography you plan on performing, but the following specs and features should all weigh in on your decision making process.
Maximum and Minimum Height
Most, but not all, tripods you’re going to find on the market today support adjustable heights. If you want the flexibility to capture photos at a variety of different angles, that range of height adjustment is going to be important. But the biggest factor to consider (and something that should matter to everyone) is the max height. You want to find a max height that places the viewfinder of your DSLR or other camera directly at eye level. One of the biggest advantages of a tripod is that it allows you a more comfortable experience, and having to bend over to peer down the viewfinder defeats that purpose entirely. For that reason, you need a max height that’s at least as tall as your eye line.
If you regularly find yourself trying to capture tricky shots, the minimum height will be just as important as the max height for you. Keep in mind the kind of angles you regularly find yourself shooting, and consider both the minimum height and the head design to see if it can accommodate your needs.
If a range of height adjustment isn’t that big of a deal to you, you may want to consider a mini tripod like the Manfrotto PIXI. These have a max height of only about a foot or two tall and are made of one component part instead of sections, and that makes them great for photographers who want a portable and lightweight travel solution that they can take with them anywhere.
Dimensions and Weight
A tripod is meant to be carried with you, and that means that you need to pay attention to how large any given tripod model is when it’s folded. Check the weight capacity of your camera backpack to ensure that your tripod can fit comfortably, and be especially diligent in evaluating your tripod’s dimensions if you plan on traveling with it. The last thing you want is to get through the security checkpoint at the airport just to find that your tripod won’t fit in overhead baggage compartment.
The load capacity here is just as important. A lightweight tripod is far easier to deal with if you’re a nature photographer who regularly finds yourself traveling to a destination. And if you find yourself carrying macro photography lenses and a ton of other gear, even a few extra pounds can become a huge hassle to lug around with you. The dimensions we list refer to when the tripod is folded into sections, so you can easily evaluate how easily it’s going to fit in your bag right away.
There are a number of materials that a tripod can be constructed from, and which one you choose to invest in can have a dramatic impact on its weight, durability, and sense of balance. You should pay especially close attention when considering what materials to take into consideration because a poorly constructed tripod can cause some serious damage to your camera, particularly if you’re using a heavy model like a DSLR.
Many tripods have a max load capacity listed, so you can easily evaluate if they’re capable of meetings your demands. Keep in mind that you’ll sometimes be applying weight to the tripod when adjusting your shot, so we recommend that you invest in a tripod that has a weight capacity one and a half to two times the load of your DSLR camera and any telephoto lens you may be using. If that requires investing in a carbon fiber tripod, just reflect on how costly it would be to replace a DSLR camera.
- Plastic models are the cheapest but also the least durable options. We mostly recommend plastic tripods for amateur photographers and those who plan on just using their phone or more lightweight cameras. They often don’t have the load capacity to support a heavy DSLR.
- Aluminum is the most common choice and also one of the best. Aluminum is both sturdy and lightweight, and it can normally support a decent load capacity capable of holding a DSLR and even some additional gear. An aluminum tripod isn’t quite as durable as a carbon fiber tripod, but it should meet the needs of most photographers.
- A carbon fiber tripod is hands down the best option in our opinion. It’s both more durable and stable than an aluminum tripod, and you don’t have to worry about a carbon fiber tripod rusting. In addition, a carbon fiber tripod is also more lightweight than its aluminum contemporaries. The one disadvantage here is that a carbon fiber tripod is going to cost you more than any other material.
- Wood tripods aren’t particularly common these days, but they’re sturdy frame makes them the preferred choice for many nature photographers who aren’t worried about carrying around a heavier and bulkier tripod.
The head refers to the section of the tripod that extends from the center column and holds your camera, and it’s arguably the most important point of articulation on a tripod. The quality and design of the head determines how easy it is for you to find the right angle for your image, and that makes it one of the most important features to take into consideration when shopping for a tripod. There are two main styles for tripod heads as well as a couple of more specialized designs, but we’ll focus our attention on the former for this list.
- Since they’re the cheapest to produce, pan-tilt heads are the most common design incorporated into a tripod. The cheapest models contain a single handle for horizontal adjustment, but the best pan-tilt designs are known as 3-way because they contain separate levers for vertical and horizontal angle adjustment as well as one for panning in a full 360 degrees. They’re versatile and precise, but they aren’t quite as intuitive as ball heads.
- A ball head tripod is smaller and more lightweight, and it’s also more intuitive in design. They facilitate movement at all conceivable angles without the need for distinct levers, so you can just adjust the angle of your camera by hand. These heads are quicker and more natural than pan-tilt models, and they’re the best choice for professionals and anyone who prizes the ability to adjust their camera naturally.
One final thing to consider when evaluating the head of a tripod is how easy it is to mount or release your DSLR or other camera from the head. Many models come with a cool quick release design that can release your camera with the simple press of a button or pull of a lever. You may want to test out the release system in store before making your purchase so you can determine if it’s a comfortable fit for you.
Tripods are practically all legs, so it stands to reason that they’re one of the most important sections to pay attention to when shopping for the best model of tripod. For the most part, we’ve outlined what factors to look for in the legs above. The material will help you minimize the risk of rust and determine the weight capacity of your model, and the load capacity of the legs has a major impact on whether your DSLR can fit onto it. That leaves the question of how your legs release from folded to standing.
The speed of your leg sections in standing up has a bigger impact than you might initially consider. but these legs locks make it far easier to get up and running in less time. Legs on modern tripods employ two types of locks for legs: flip locks and twist locks.
- Leg sections with twist locks are preferred by professionals, but these locks can be a little tricky to master at first. It’s all about learning the “quarter rule” where in you twist the leg sections a quarter of the way to either release or lock up the legs. The simplicity of this design means these locks never need to be tightened for maintenance, and they do a great job of protecting the joints of the legs from the environment. These leg sections are also the best if you find yourself in messy environments and regularly need to clean up mud, dust, or water.
- Leg sections with flip locks are the natural choice for amateurs, but they’re preferred by many professional photographers as well. They’re simple and intuitive to use. All you have to do is flip the lock to extend the legs and flip it back to return them to folded position. But flip locks require occasional maintenance, and they can’t be weatherproofed in the way that legs with twist locks can.
If you want to keep your expensive camera safe, you need to ensure that your tripod offers the best stability, and keeping the feet firmly planted on the ground means investing in well designed feet. This is double true for nature photographers who might regularly find themselves in uneven environments. While leg angles are important, what the feet are constructed from can have a dramatic effect on stability. Legs that extend to rubberized grips are a common choice, and they’re an adequate choice for most controlled and indoor settings.
But if you’re regularly shooting outdoors, you’ll want the best stability around. For nature photography, the best choice is a tripod with metal spikes at the end of the leg sections. This allows you to get better grip in dirt, mud, or practically any other extreme environment. Many models come with both non-slip rubberized grips and spikes to provide you with the best of both words. As you might expect, legs with spikes tend to cost more than their relatively more simplistic rubberized contemporaries.
Some tripods come with a bubble level built in. This type of level is a great way to ensure that your camera is properly aligned with the horizon, and it’s a feature well worth splurging for if you have the money to do so. That said, some cameras come with their own levels built in, so if that’s the case with you, a bubble level may not be much of a necessity for you.
Leg angle as well as a number of the factors listed above can have a major impact on the stability of a tripod, but if you find yourself working outdoors regularly, you may want to search out a model that come with a hook hanging from the center column. This can be weighted down with other accessories or gear to provide a greater sense of stability for the legs, particularly in windy and otherwise treacherous environments.
Unfortunately, price is going to be an issue for most people, but it’s important to recognize that a tripod with weak legs or notable deficiencies in other categories could be worse than no tripod at all. After all, you’re going to have to lug this tripod around, and if it fails you, it could cost you some serious money if your camera ends up broken. Fortunately, there are some good models available for less than $50. But if you’re carrying around an expensive, fragile camera or you want the best image quality around, it’s probably going to be worth saving up and splurging on a better designed and more lightweight model.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best Manfrotto Tripod?
There is no definitively best Manfrotto tripod. As one of the most prolific tripod manufacturers around, they offer a ridiculous range of tripods designed for a number of specialized purposes. But we’re partial to the lightweight and miniature PIXI which you can find in our review list above.
How Do You Pick a Good Tripod?
The main factors you should look for when choosing a tripod are the stability of the legs, the dimensions both folded into sections and standing upright, and the design of the mount. But that’s just scratching the surface of the qualities to look for. Our guide above goes into greater detail about the important options to look for.
What is the Best Tripod for Photography?
There is no singular best model of tripod for photography because there are a number of factors that are going to vary depending on your needs. Any of the 10 tripods on our list should be suitable for your needs, and you can use our guide above to help you determine the most important features you should look for.
What Tripod Height is the Best?
The best height for a tripod is one that will be at eye level with you. While you may want to minimize the height settings for shooting at a specialized angle, comfort is the most critical thing to keep in mind. You want to find a tripod that won’t require you to hunch over to see the image through the viewfinder.
Everyone from nature photographers who regularly find themselves on uneven ground to studio photographers who have precise control of the situations in which they’re shooting can benefit from a good tripod. We hope that between our main shopping and review guides that you can find the best tripod for your needs, and we encourage you to check out our main review guides to the best camera backpacks if you want an easier way to carry your new tripod with you.