Looking for a tripod? There’s no wonder. A tripod might be the signal most important tool for photographers and videographers, other than the actual camera, because it opens up a world of creative opportunities. It’s great for nighttime, landscape, wildlife and sports photography, or basically anything shot with a telephoto lens, plus it provides the much-needed stability for long exposures, hyperlapses and panoramas. And then there’s the relief aspect; photographers just don’t want to hold a heavy camera for that long.
So what kind of tripod should you buy? It depends on what type of photos you’re looking to take, as well as what kind of camera you’re shooting on (DSLR, mirrorless, point-and-shoot or even smartphone), but ultimately, here’s what you need to know: a big and heavy tripod is gonna do a much better job stabilizing the camera, which is why most professional studios you large full-sized tripods, but most people are willing to give up some of that stability for a tripod they can pack in bag.
Manfrotto 5-Section Compact Action Tripod
Best Tripod Under $100: Manfrotto makes some of the best and most popular tripods that you’ll find. This one, the 5-Section Compact Action Tripod, is great because it’s surpisingly durable and sturdy, plus it comes in at well under $100, making it a solid-buy for budget-conscious photographers. It has a joystick head to help you adjust the angle of your camera. And it’s really lightweight – less than three pounds – and compact. It’s an ideal tripod for photographers using an entry-level DSLR with a standard lens or a compact travel camera.
Manfrotto 500 Fluid Video Head with 190X Video Tripod
Best Video Tripod: Videographers shooting in 4K tend to need heavier, more supportive tripods because they are typically better at eliminating vibrations. This one by Manfrotto, for example, is over seven pounds and it’s sturdier than any other tripod on this list. It has a number of key features for video, too, like an innovative head with fluid cartridges on both pan and tilt axes, a leveling column and a five-pound counterbalance; all of which allow the photographer to move their camera smoothly and accurately. There are admittedly more moving parts in the system, but this Manfrotto tripod still manages to be pretty intuitive to use.
CamKix Premium 3in1 Kit
Best for Action Cameras: This is a simple, affordable and pretty great impulse buy for anybody with an action camera (or even a compact camera or smartphone). The tripod has a socket-ball mount with a locking switch that allows you to rotate the camera a full 180 degrees. And there’s a telescopic pole attachment, which you can use to achieve better height on your shots, or just use it as a glorified selfie stick. It’s worth pointing out that while compact cameras and smartphones can be attached directly to the tripod, your GoPro needs to be housed in a GoPro mount.
MeFoto Globetrotter Travel TriPod
Best Travel Tripod: As the name hints, the MeFoto Globetrotter is one of the best travel tripods. It’s compact and lightweight (less than four pounds), and it’s carbon fiber frame is strong enough to support larger systems (up to 26 pounds). It has five leg sections so you can set the camera to stand over five-feet high, and the cushioned legs actually come together to convert the tripod into a monopod, which is neat. This is an ideal travel tripod for anybody shooting DSLR or mirrorless.
Peak Design Travel Tripod
One for the Future: Peak Design’s first tripod is, as you’d expect, designed for adventurers and outdoor photographers. It’s super compact and packable, about the size of a water bottle, and everything on the tripod is designed to be efficient and intuitive. For example, there are latches instead of annoying twist locks, to quickly extend the legs; to adjust the orientation of the ball head, there’s a single adjustment ring instead of a series of knobs; and small levers let you spread the legs wider to help you take low-angle photos. It’s available in aluminum or carbon fiber, the latter being the noticeably lighter (and significantly more expensive) model.
The Peak Design Travel Tripod is available for pre-order today. It’s expected to ship in January 2020.