Posted on January 14, 2019
After hours of research, I finally selected the 6 best photo tripods, from more than thirty models available on the market.
The choice is difficult, but I would say that my favorite is the Benro TSL08AN00: a light and compact model, ideal for beginners or travel, less than 80 euros.
At the end of this article you will also find a shopping guide to better navigate the jungle of choosing a tripod. Features can be hard to distinguish, and your requirements vary based on usage, so I try to help you clarify all that!
The best cheap photo tripods
Entry-level models can range from mini-tripods for small devices to light-weight, low-cost versions of tripods for experienced photographers.
Benro TSL08AN00: the best cheap
Some sacrifices for the sake of lightness
The Benro "Slim" TSL08AN00 is a lightweight tripod that is compact and versatile, at a very reasonable price. Objective succeeded!
It comes in two versions, aluminum or carbon fiber, for a maximum weight of 1.2 kilo, and a length of 51 cm folded. It has a capacity of 4 kilos, but it seems a little exaggerated, I would hesitate to go up to this weight. For me, this tripod is especially ideal for compacts, hybrids and small SLRs.
The feet have an easy mechanism to lock and unlock them, for a total height of 146 cm with the center bar extended, which is high enough for such a lightweight tripod. This is why Benro has equipped the central bar with a hook, which allows adding a ballast.
In contrast, this central bar is reversible, so you can stand near the ground, at a height of at least 40 cm.
Appreciable detail, each foot is independent of the others. So you can adjust them individually, to adapt to the most rugged terrain. In addition, the presence of a spirit level makes sure that the installation is horizontal.
However, as I said in the introduction, it is a lightweight and compact foot, so choices had to be made in this direction. For example, the 3D swivel and the panoramic rotation are unlocked by a single lever, which can be embarrassing.
But overall, the lightness of the model does not detract from its solidity, thanks to a good quality manufacturing. With its excellent performance, and with its moderate price, the Benro TSL08AN00 is a great starting point for seriously starting photography, or serve as a tripod complement or travel to a more experienced photographer.
Manfrotto Pixi Evo: an ultra-compact mini tripod
Wide variety of settings
I will now tell you about a newcomer of the Italian brand Manfrotto: the Pixi Evo. It is a lightweight and compact mini tripod with a weight of 260 g and a footprint of less than 21 cm once closed.
It will therefore fit in a small photo bag! The design is neat, and the range offers several colors, white, black and red, and anthracite.
Level adjustments, first know that the adjustments are quick and easy, the feet like the patella are adjusted accurately and are maintained well. Rare for a mini-tripod, the ball allows the device to tilt 90 degrees in portrait mode.
The feet, in addition to adjust in height, have two possibilities of angulation, which makes it possible to adapt to all the surfaces, or for example to be placed at the level of the ground by widening the spacing.
The only downside is that the lightness of this foot "mini" is accompanied, quite logically, a weight limit quite low (2.5 kilos). With a lens too heavy, you run the risk of seeing the camera lean forward, or that the feet deviate slightly after adjustment.
The portrait position can also become inaccessible if the case is too imposing. In the same way, if you want to use a long-range telescope, it will be in a supine position.
The Pixi Evo is therefore ideal for a compact camera, a hybrid or even a SLR with a relatively light lens. It is also perfect for smartphones, you just have to buy the adapter provided for this purpose.
In short, the companion dreamed to travel light, or do his shoots at home!
The best mid-range photo tripods
With the tripods mid-range, we begin to get to the heart of the matter: tripods that can be used in professional SLR cameras, but at still affordable prices.
Joby Gorillapod 5k: the best midrange
Pretty heavy in handle mode
I will now tell you about the Joby Gorillapod 5k, a small, flexible tripod, to which you can add an optional ball and quick release. With this kit included, it has a weight of 739 g, and a length of 38.5 cm.
Despite this small footprint, the tripod is sturdy and well designed. With a weight limit of 5 kilos, he can theoretically support a professional SLR.
This flexible tripod aims to allow three configurations: not only in classic tripod, but also in handle, for example for vlogging, or hooked, thanks to its flexibility.
On this last point, do not worry, the feet cling firmly, they even ask a little strength to settle them. It is a good thing to avoid any fall of your device!
On the other hand, with a device or a really heavy objective, it is at the level of the head that you will sometimes undergo a subsidence of a few degrees after adjustment, according to the positions. But as a rule, the rigidity of the set is a real asset: you can film and change the orientation of your device very fluidly.
For the vlogging, the handle is practical even if its weight can be a little tiring for long periods.
In terms of materials and finish, plastic and steel are of very good quality.
In summary, an intermediate tripod of good quality, very versatile and secure. It does very well all that is expected of a flexible mini tripod.
Benro FGP28: a complete travel tripod
The tripod Benfro FGP28, travel version aluminum, is a complete tripod that is yet relatively compact and transportable. It displays a maximum load of 14 kilos, which is huge!
This high figure, however, is not a guarantee of stability: in positions a little complex, be obviously careful if you do not want to unbalance your device.
With a height of 39 to 165 cm, it covers a wide range of shooting, from the macro to the landscape. It is therefore a real tripod suitable for professional photography, very stable in normal conditions.
To reduce clutter, this travel version has 4-section legs, which allows it to reach a size of 49.5 cm when folded, for an intermediate weight of 1.92 kilos.
It is not a light weight, far from it, but it remains transportable relatively easily. In addition, Benfro has not skimped on the cover, well reinforced, with many compartments and accessories easy to store.
I mention the presence of course a central column, movable and removable, with individual adjustment for the ball joint and panoramic rotation, and spirit level. The settings and markers are numerous and practical.
The tripod can also be used as a monopod.
The overall quality is excellent, plus a manufacturer's warranty for 5 years.
This tripod is therefore very complete, versatile and reliable, but it should nevertheless be noted that, despite the efforts made in this area, congestion remains significant. Everything will depend on your use.
The best high quality photo tripods
The products in this category are intended for photographers who are not ready for the slightest concession on the quality of their tripod: the quality of the shooting above all!
Manfrotto MK190X3-2W: the best high end
For me, the Manfrotto MK190X3-2W is the most complete tripod of the selection. With its 2,750 kilos, it is far from being a featherweight, and its closed 69 cm do not rank it in the compact category. But when you want the best, you have to accept these disadvantages!
This tripod is catching up on … everything else. Given the weight and strength of the whole, its maximum load of 4 kilos is perfectly realistic, which allows to adapt any type of camera, including a spyglass. This is the perfect tripod for animal vision.
Thanks to a detachable column and an angle selector, the minimum shooting height goes down to 9 cm. And the maximum height of 170 cm is ideal, especially for video. Speaking of video, the patella offers perfect fluidity, which can even be adjusted according to the effect you are looking for.
Spirit level and quick turnaround are of course at the rendezvous. The feet are adjustable in three sections, individually. On the subject of feet, I've seen rare users report sustainability issues, but the Italian brand is rather accustomed to quality finishes.
To summarize, I consider this tripod as an excellent support, versatile and successful, for the photo as for the video … if you are ready to put the price.
Finally, the only real flaw that I find him does not directly concern its use: it is the absence of a cover. For this price and this level of service, we would be entitled to expect one.
But when it is the only fault that can be found in a product, it is a proof of its quality, right?
Manfrotto Befree Live: a compact video tripod
Finally, I come to a tripod a bit special, the Befree Live Manfrotto, declination for video Befree plebiscite. Very compact, with a length of 40 cm folded, it is clearly intended for transport.
Direct consequence of its compactness, I advise you to consider the maximum weight of 4 kilos weighted by the column. The tripod itself weighs 1.8 kilos, which is quite high for a compact tripod, but it's also a good thing: it gives off a real impression of strength and stability, we are really in the top range, which is seen with the rest of the benefits.
I said it is a version intended for video: everything is in the ball delivered with the tripod, which can also be found separately. The sliding plate allows a better balance, a spirit level has been added, and the steerable handle is very fluid in use, allowing shooting very stable in motion.
The minimum height is 43 cm, and 151 cm maximum. It is clearly a travel tripod, as we had already seen with its size and weight tolerated.
For me, Manfrotto has found a very good compromise between the mobility and features needed to film in good conditions.
Of course, if you give more importance to the stability of big cameras, or the height of shooting, it will turn to other products … while keeping in mind that you will certainly sacrifice mobility!
The products of my selection on offer for the moment
No products from my selection are on sale for the moment.
Essential accessory for the professional photographer, the tripod can also be a useful investment for beginners!
Whether you want to take group pictures or improve your shots, there are a wide range of tripods, from mini-tripods for smartphones to heavy professional tripods, as well as all possible combinations. Hence the difficulty of choice!
What weight are you ready to lug around? For what size?
Which settings are the most important, and what are the essential accessories? And for all that, what price are you willing to pay?
Do not panic, we'll see all this together.
The use of the tripod
First, what's the point? Well, a tripod can be useful in many situations, to improve the quality of your photos.
Some areas of photography are even totally inaccessible without this accessory! This is for example the case of celestial photography, where it will be very difficult for you to hold the long exposure time by hand without moving.
For group photos
For starters, a tripod can of course take pictures without having the camera in hand, for example if you want to take a group shot: the tripod allows more precise settings than placing the camera on a table or a chair.
Even for a simple selfie, if you use a large SLR camera, a mini-tripod that can be converted into a handle will facilitate your task (a selfie stick is only enough for a smartphone).
You may also want to photograph an animal: maybe you will have to position the device in advance and move away to make the animal deign to approach (in this case, a remote control will be useful to trigger the shooting from a distance ).
To avoid blur
A tripod also prevents any movement, and even vibrations that can ruin a photo when the exposure time is a little longer than normal. In general, these are pictures in a poor environment, hence my reference to the celestial photo.
But not only: you can also try to create a style effect, like long-exposure photos, for example to capture the movement of the water of a waterfall (you may also need a cache to darken the water. 'objective, because it can enter too much light).
It can also be close-ups and zooms, where the slightest movement can generate a blur. Again, to minimize the risk of movement, a remote control can be useful.
Simply pressing the shutter button on your device can cause motion.
To keep the same framing
A last example of use for the road: a tripod makes it possible to make the best use of landscape photos or panoramas. How?
For example by taking a picture exactly the same, but changing other settings (speed, exposure, etc.). You can then choose the best. Or even, to achieve some style effects, superimpose the photos.
A variant of the same principle will allow you, with a tripod, to attach very regular landscape photos to achieve a panorama.
The types of tripods
The first question to ask yourself is what type of tripod you are looking for. For example, if you just want to take group shots, or use only lighter cameras, you can probably settle for a mini-tripod.
On the other hand, if you are looking for more complex photos, with more advanced (and therefore heavier) cameras, you may need a real tripod. And there is still a whole range of possibilities.
As their name suggests, these are small tripods, for use with the lightest devices, such as your smartphone, a compact or a hybrid, or even a light SLR. They are not meant to be deployed to take pictures of landscape or the sky.
Compact tripods, or "tripods", promote weight and bulk, but often at the cost of losing some functionality. And if all the features are there, it's the cost that will be higher.
The flexible tripods are designed to wrap their feet around the objects of your choice, allowing you to shoot at very specific angles anywhere. Of course, the feet can also be deployed in a straight line, for use as a conventional tripod.
Some tripods are specially designed for video, with adjustable heads and spherical heads to change the orientation of the lens smoothly.
Finally, tripods for professional photography are often the most bulky and heavy, to support the most imposing devices, and offer the most advanced features and accessories.
The tripods are usually made of aluminum, which offers a good compromise between lightness and strength. There is, however, a still superior material, carbon fiber. But carbon fiber tripods are logically more expensive.
Be careful to distinguish the useful dimensions and those in storage position. Folded, a mini-tripod can measure only about twenty cm.
Compact tripods can measure little more (say 40 cm), and reach quite honorable dimensions once deployed, up to 150 cm maximum height.
A professional tripod, it will easily reach the 160 or 170 cm of useful height, while having perhaps the versatility to also go down to the ground. Because yes, the minimum height is also a criterion!
But once folded, a big professional tripod will have a hard time falling below the 50 cm mark.
We could consider that the lighter it is, the better. But beware, the better stability is usually associated with greater weight … especially if you use heavy equipment.
The weight criterion is therefore especially crucial if you intend to travel a lot, or if you are already loaded with other accessories.
The weight supported
It is also necessary to avoid confusion with the maximum weight supported by the tripod. For example, in our selection, the mini-tripod only supports 2.5 kilos, when a higher-end tripod announces up to 14 kilos.
But above all, be careful with the conditions of use: in some cases, a lightweight tripod deployed at its maximum height, supporting a device close to its weight limit, may be too sensitive to wind or vibration …
The head (or patella)
This is the part at the top of the tripod, on which is fixed the camera. There are several types, the most common being the 3D patella and the patella ball.
The 3D ball joint is adjusted using three levers for horizontal, vertical and position of the housing (until tilting in portrait mode).
The patella-ball, more and more used, works as its name indicates thanks to a ball. With a single lever, it directs the patella at will all around the ball.
A very useful accessory at the tripod head is the quick-release plate: it screws onto your device (and stays there), allowing it to attach easily and quickly to the ball joint.
The stability of the tripod is a fundamental element since it is directly associated with the final rendering of the photos. The more stable a foot is, the easier you will avoid blurring, even in difficult conditions, with heavy equipment.
Stability depends on the quality of the construction, which can be difficult to judge, but also on concrete elements such as load capacity. Another important detail is the design of the feet themselves.
For example, the more telescopic sections a foot has, the more susceptible it is to vibrations.
So let's talk a bit about the feet. In addition to the number of sections, other criteria are important. For example, can they adjust independently of each other?
Can we vary their enlargement? Does the builder provide tips for planting the feet in soft surfaces (turf, sand)?
The tripods can be equipped with various accessories: a hook to ballast the central column (to improve the stability), markings inscribed on the feet or the head, a level with bubble …
Elements that can be very useful depending on the situation, but not essential before reaching a certain level in the photo!
The important thing is that you find the best compromise between the price, the size and the features available on your tripod. A mini-tripod can suffice in many situations.
Globetrotters will obviously favor compact tripods. And if you want to tackle more technical photos, like a magnificent rendering of the Milky Way, do not hesitate to invest!
I hope that with this selection and this guide, you get to see a little clearer. AT