Guide

The Tripod Buyers Guide

Regardless of how cheap or expensive a tripod was, regardless whether it wobbles or is crooked, old or new: Having an “imperfect” tripod is definitely always better than not having one at when you need one. But let’s be honest, having quality equipments that up to the task at hand is always better than something using something thats not quite right and frustrating to use.

If you’re on the market for a new tripod, but unsure at what you should be looking at, we’ve made this guide just for you. We explain and highlight all the important aspects of what you need to consider when buying a new tripod. We hope this guide will be of use.

Looking for the best Travel Tripod? We’ve got you covered! Click on this link and check out our Best Travel Tripod selection.

What are you planning on using your tripod for?

If you’re looking at the tripod market for the first time, it can be a confusing place. There are monopods, tripods, table tripods, gorilla pods, walking sticks with tripod threads, bean bags and ball pods, small and large versions and much more.

When looking for the right tripod, you should always consider when and where you want to use the tripod or think of a scenario in the past where you felt that a tripod could have really helped.

For example, if you’re an outdoor photographer, there is a chance that you would be better off with a special tripod as an alternative to the classic monopod or tripod. Gorilla pods and bean bags allow you to capture photos from interesting perspectives. The intended use also has a massive impact on factors such as weight, size and tripod head.

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Tripod Weight and Foldability

If you read one segment, make it this one

Tripod manufacturers always like to market their tripods with low weight and small folding sizes. Quite a few people will argue that these factors are only really relevant if you lugging your tripod around with you all day – and to be frank, if you’re looking for a Travel Tripod these are the two most important factors. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a tripod that you’re going to be using in a studio or fixed location all day – you’re not really going to care about (light) weight and foldability.

All tripods are transportable, but in almost all cases their stability is related to the weight: Tripods with a high load capacity are of course larger and heavier than those that have to handle little camera weight.

You should take a close look at your equipment: Which camera is used where – and do you even need a full tripod when you’re out and about?

For many photographers, a lightweight compact tripod is totally fine. They can stash it in their Camera Bag and carry it around all day. Other Photographers need a tripod that can handle +4 pounds of weight. Foldability is not a concern, but steadiness is.

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Tripod height

The tripod height is an often overlooked factor which many beginners will regret quickly if ignored. Bar macro-photographers who due to the nature of their subject will have no other options than to crouch behind their camera – you don’t want to be curving your back behind your tripod and camera. If you’re working with a tripod, you generally want to have a working height where you can stand comfortably and look through the viewfinder without bending your back unnecessarily or excessively.

The ideal working height is not the maximum tripod height. You can easily work it out with this simple formula: The maximum height of a tripod should be at least as tall as you minus about 7 inches. So if you are 6ft tall, your tripod should be at least 5,4ft tall (or 63 inches). But be warned, the taller your tripod, the more wobbly it becomes.  

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Tripod leg locks

There are basically two types of leg locking systems for tripods: The clip lock and the twist lock.

The clip lock allows the tripod to be adjusted very quickly, while the twist lock ensures more stability and has a certain degree of damping that prevents the camera and tripod from falling over. When you buy a tripod, you basically have to choose between speed and safety: The clip lock is quick, but a bit risky: If a clip comes off, the tripod simply falls over. The twist lock, on the other hand, is essentially bombproof – provided all rings are tightened.

tripod leg locks

But this is also one the biggest disadvantage of the twist lock. Depending on how much you want to extend the tripod to, you’ll have to unscrew and screw up to 5 twist locks per leg. Thats a very lengthy assembly time.

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Tripod Feet

tripod feet

Tripod legs have a variety of “feet” available to them. The most common one you’ll see is a simple rubber bump at the end, giving somewhat of a grip. Some tripods have the luxury of interchangeable feet, so they can swap out the foot for another one depending on the situation. Common options are spikes, clawed feet and different types of rubber bumps – each designed to give the tripod and camera support in different elements.

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Tripod load bearing capacity

An essential point when choosing a tripod is the load-bearing capacity: A point and shoot camera requires significantly less tripod stability and quality than a Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with a telephoto lens attached. In addition, the tripod shouldn’t wobble with every breeze.

Unless you know off hand how much your camera weighs, you can either weigh the camera and lenses, or just simply look up the weight online. Add the weight up (in a camera configuration that you would use) and voila – you’ve got the minimum load bearing capacity that you tripod needs to be able to support. Its best to include a little +/- in these calculations as newer lenses might not always be lighter than their predecessors.

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Tripod Heads

Tripod heads come in many shapes and sizes – though they all have the same initial purpose: attaching your camera to the tripod. Where they do differ is how they allow you to reposition the camera so you can get the best shot possible. The price of a tripod head will vary significantly depending on what the tripod head allows you to do.

Heres a quick look at the different tripod heads available:

3 Way / Pan and Tilt Head

3 way pan and tilt tripod head

The most common type of tripod head is the 3 Way Head, also known as the Pan and Tilt head. As its name implies, the 3 Way Head has three control arms which allow you to adjust the vertical, horizontal, and panning axis individually.

Ball Head

The Ball Head is essentially a ball shaped camera mount. When you loosen the tightening known you can move and fix your camera in the desired position. This type of head is quite popular as its compact and incredibly quick to reposition your camera.

Pistol Grip Head

pistol grip tripod head

The Pistol Grip Head, named after its pistol grip style head, is a variation of the Ball Head Grip. Instead of having to tighten a knob like on the Ball Head, all you need to do is squeeze the grip. A comfortable and effective variation of the Ball Head.

Geared Head

geared tripod head

The Geared Tripod Head is a variation of the 3 Way Head (or Pan and Tilt Head), but instead of having to twist the handles to change the axis, the Geared Tripod Head has a set of gears that move the axis allowing for super fine precision movements.

Gimbal Head

gimbal tripod head

Unless you are a using an extremely large and heavy telephoto lens, the Gimbal Head is going to be a rear occurrence. The Gimbal Head isn’t actually attached to the camera, but to the tripod mount of the telephoto lens. The Gimbal Tripod Head is designed to allow rapid movements of the lens to track fast-moving subjects. When set up correctly, the camera will remain steady even when not being held by the photographer.

Quick Release Plates

tripod quick release plate

If you want to use multiple cameras with one tripod, it is worth buying a tripod with a head that can accommodate a quick release plate. This way, you save yourself the annoying and time-consuming screwing and unscrewing of the camera on the tripod. Instead, you only have to attach a quick release plate on all your cameras. The disadvantage of quick-release plates, however, is that they often block the camera’s battery and SD card compartment, meaning that if you want to change the battery or SD card, you’ll have to unscrew them.

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Material

Tripods come in all shapes and sizes as well as materials. Depending on what your intended purpose is, some materials will have clear advantages (weight, durability, size etc.) over others. Here is a handy chart to break down to pros and cons of each tripod material.

MaterialProsCons
Wood▪ Vibration absorption
▪ Ecological
▪ Non-conducting
▪ Temperature tolerant
▪ Durable
▪ Corrosion resistant
▪ Weight
▪ Does not fold to compact size
 
 
 
 
Aluminum▪ Good strength-to-weight ratio
▪ Durable
▪ Value
▪ Cold to touch when cold outside
▪ Hot to touch in hot environments
Corrosion
Carbon Fiber▪ Good vibration dampening
▪ Excellent strength-to-weight ratio
▪ Temperature tolerant
▪ No corrosion
▪ Expensive
▪ Not as durable to impact
 
 
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FAQ

What is tripod used for?

In the context of photography, a tripod is used to mount a camera to give the photographer more stability and steadiness while taking a photo.

Do tripods fit all cameras?

No. Not every tripod will fit every camera. There are 2 main things that need to be considered. Most cameras have a 1/4 inch female thread at the bottom, but some tripods have a 3/8 inch male thread. Another factor to consider is weight. Not every tripod is rated to carry heavy camera gear.

What size is a camera tripod screw?

Most tripods / tripod heads have a 1/4 inch tripod screw, while some more expensive variants have a 3/8 inch screw, that comes with a 1/4 inch adapter.

Are tripod heads Universal?

No. Most manufactures produce tripod heads that only fit their tripod models.

How much does a tripod weight?

Roughly 90% of tripods weigh less than 9lbs. The Majority of every day use tripods weigh around 5 lbs.

  1. […] To further enhance creative possibilities, there are Multiple and Long Exposure features, a tripod mount and a cable release […]

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