A camera tripod is a photographer’s best friend. Having a solid support for your camera opens up so many shooting possibilities and new techniques, from smooth horizontal panning to long exposures and traffic trails.
Whether you use a professional DSLR camera or a more lightweight mirrorless camera setup – or anything in between – it’s important to find the right tripod for you. We’ll help you by running through the different types available, and show you what to look out for. And once you’ve got your tripod, don’t forget to pick up a dedicated camera bag, as these will often come with dedicated tripod holders.
The Manfrotto MT055XPRO3 Tripod is an upgraded model of the popular 055 range. It offers a 50% increase in rigidity as well as a brand new QPL (Quick Power Lock) leg lock system that guarantees equipment to be kept fully stabilised in any condition. The most notable feature of this model is the 90-deg centre column that allows for it to be extended vertically or horizontally in order to open up a wider range of photography and video possibilities.
The Manfrotto MT055CXPRO4 Carbon Fibre Tripod delivers maximum rigidity from the lightest components; a masterpiece of engineering designed for photographers who want the best from their tripod and need it to be easily transportable. The 100% carbon fibre tubes and new QPL leg locking system increase the tripod's rigidity and absorb vibrations, stabilizing camera equipment under any conditions. Carbon fibre tubing and magnesium castings also reduce the weight of this tripod when compared to the equivalent aluminium version.
Manfrotto's 290 Light Tripod with Befree Live Fluid Head has been designed with vloggers and mobile journalists in mind. It perfectly caters for small DSLR and mirrorless cameras systems and thanks to the fluid drag system, you can experience smooth and stable panning. The tripod and included fluid head are super-lightweight and portable which is what makes the kit perfect for travelling photographers and videographers, or those simply what to cut down the weight of their kit bag. This is also eleigble for Manfrotto's extended warranty that adds up to 10 years of warranty cover, all accessed via Manfrotto's website.
Manfrotto's Compact Light Tripod is the lightest in their range. It is super-portable with a packed length of 39.8cm and has a max height of 131cm. It will take up to 1.4kg of weight which makes it perfect for small compact cameras and small mirrorless setups. The ball head is built-in and has a single adjustment know that offers quick movement to cater to your surroundings and subject.
Benro's Mach3 TMA38CL Carbon Fibre Tripod is an advanced tripod that offers versatility to all types of photographer. A classic design combined with strong carbon fibre legs, twist locks and magnesium casting results in this tripod being super-light and portable. The TMA38CL also comes with a short centre column which supports close-up macro work, allowing you to capture the finest details of your subject. The tripod is can support up to 16kg of weight which caters to larger DSLR and tele-focal lenses and, it has a maximum height of 177cm allowing for a wide range of applications.
The greatly anticipated Travel Tripod from Peak is here! Raising over $12 million on Kickstarter in 2019, this tripod is ready to shake the photography world. This tripod has gained much excitement due to its sleek and low-profile design. Where other travel tripods would waste space with unnecessary bulk, this tripod packs down to the diameter of a water bottle with zero dead space. Despite the tiny design, it has been optimised for use with full-frame DSLRs and telephoto lenses, but can be used with a whole range of kit including mirrorless systems and spotting scopes. It's weatherproof, impact-resist and with the tiny size of this tripod, there really is no reason not to bring your tripod with you on your next adventure!
Manfrotto has revamped their range of high-performance 190 Go M-series tripods for passionate hobbyists and professionals. The MT190GOA4 is the lightest, most compact tripod in the 190 range weighing 1670g. It boasts a new M-lock system to ensure an extremely fast and precise setup, and its four-section aluminium legs can extend up to 152cm and fold down to 45cm.
Packed full of features to enhance its functionality, the 3 Legged Thing PUNKS Travis tripod is designed for everyday use. It has 4-section legs and a single column, providing exceptional stability. With a load capacity of 18kg, it is perfect for both amateur and professional photographers of all genres. Like all 3 Legged Thing tripods, Travis has a detachable leg that doubles as a monopod.
The 3 Legged Thing PUNKS Patti tripod is the first of its kind from 3 Legged Thing. Unlike other tripods in the PUNKS line, Patti features rugged, hard-wearing flip locks on the legs, rather than the usual twist locks. The tripod centre column can be removed an installed upside down, making it possible to position the camera in some truly revolutionary positions, especially with low-level subjects. Patti also features a maximum load capacity of 10kg.
The Manfrotto Compact Action Tripod in black is the perfect choice for beginners and enthusiasts looking for a first time tripod to match the weight of their entry-level digital SLRs with kit lens attached (max load 1.5kg). The aluminium, 5 leg section design allows the tripod to extend to a maximum height of 155cm (133cm with centre column down) and close down to a travel-friendly 45.3cm. The tripod comes with an ergonomic joystick head with scroll-wheel locking mechanism and comfortable grip, which allows users to make smooth, quick and easy adjustments. The innovative circular quick release plate with 1/4" screw is perfect for effortless camera attachment. Simply close the lever just above the joystick handle to change from landscape to portrait orientation. The Regulating Dial, together with the round QR plate allows you to perfectly adjust every camera to the tripod thereby enhancing its stability.
The Gitzo GK1545T-82TQD Series 1 Traveler Carbon eXact Tripod Kit consists of the portable, 4-section carbon fibre tripod, Arca-type compatible centre ball head, short centre column and a shoulder strap. Capable of supporting up to 10kg, the kit should be used with 135mm lenses or max 200mm lenses. The kit delivers a balanced, versatile, smooth and precise experience.
Manfrotto 190XPRO4 Tripod is a 4-section, aluminium tripod with advanced features and excellent build quality. newest feature is its Easy Link connector which enables attachment of photo or video accessories that feature a 3/8" male attachment. 190XPRO4 continues success of 190XPROB range with enhancement of easier Quick Power Lock levers and ability to extend to an increased height of 160cm. Quick Lock system allows a more comfortable and stronger one-handed grip, enabling a quicker setup time than previous models. 90-degree centre column mechanism allows column to be extended vertically, or horizontally to open up a wide range of framing and shooting possibilities. Shooting in horizontal position gives you freedom to shoot low to ground which is great for macro work.
A tripod is, quite simply, a three-legged device that keeps a camera steady. It attaches to the camera via a mount that screws into the bottom, also referred to as the “thread”. The standard thread size on consumer camera equipment is 3/8-inch, while some larger systems use a 1/4-inch thread.
Tripods tend to be used in conjunction with tripod heads, and often will be bundled with one. Heads come in different varieties, including ball heads, pan-tilt heads and more, and they allow the camera to be set at different angles, independent of the position of the tripod.
There are also two key categories of tripod – photography tripods and video tripods. They are broadly similar, with the difference that video tripods tend to be designed to make it easier to move the camera. They’re built around allowing smooth pan and tilt, and tend to have a sturdier build quality. This all means they also tend to be both heavier and more expensive.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are tripods used for in photography?
Being able to stabilise the camera opens up all sorts of photographic possibilities. A key one is long exposures – i.e. having the camera shutter open for long periods, which isn’t possible shooting hand-held as movement will cause the image to blur. This allows for the creation of long-exposure effects like traffic trails or smooth water, and also makes it easier to shoot in low light, as longer exposure times mean more light on the sensor.
- Who makes the best camera tripods?
There are loads of fantastic manufacturers out there! Manfrotto, Gitzo, Joby, Calumet, Leofoto, Vanguard, Velbon, Benro, 3 Legged Thing, Peak Design – all of them make fantastic tripods for users at all levels.
- How do you clean tripods?
It’s worth cleaning your tripod every so often to make sure nothing is stuck in the moving parts, particularly if you’re an outdoor photographer. Carefully take it apart – keeping track of which piece goes where – and use soapy water to clean each component.
- Where can I buy tripods in the UK?
If you want to get a feel for your tripod before buying, visit one of our stores around the UK. Our staff will be happy to help you find the right tripod for your camera.
What are camera tripods made of?
Tripods tend to be constructed from one of two materials, each with its own advantages.
Carbon Fibre Tripods
Carbon fibre is known as the premium material for tripods to be constructed from. It’s lightweight, but also strong and rigid. This makes it easier to get images that are as sharp as possible, without the small imperfections caused by minuscule movements of the camera.
It’s worth bearing in mind that using a lightweight tripod can cause problems in windy conditions, as it will be more susceptible to being blown over or knocked about. Usually a good solution is hanging a weight on the bottom, and many will provide a hook for exactly that purpose.
The other key disadvantage of carbon fibre is that it is a more expensive material, so will tend to come at higher price points.
Aluminium is the other key construction material. It’s heavier than carbon fibre, which can make it more difficult to carry around for long distances. It also doesn’t have quite the same rigidity, and is more susceptible to corrosion over the long term.
However, aluminium tripods tend to be more affordable than their carbon fibre counterparts. So if you’re a newbie photographer, or just working looking for a budget tripod, aluminum can potentially be the smarter choice.
What to look for when buying a tripod?
Here are a few key specifications to keep an eye on when shopping for a camera support.
How high the tripod can reach with its legs fully extended.
How small it packs down. Useful if you’re planning on carrying it long-distance, or need to pack it in a suitcase.
How much gear it can safely carry. This can vary hugely, and if you’re using a lightweight camera and lens, you can potentially save money by getting a tripod with a lower carrying capacity.
Some tripods have a centre column that is fixed in place, while others have one that can be slid through the chassis to vary height, or even removed entirely. Reversible centre columns make it easy to get close-up images of subjects at ground height, which can be very useful for macro photography.
Different models have different feet. Simple rubber feet are common, especially on cheap camera tripods, and some will have a retractable spike that can dig into soft ground. In some cases, the feet will be interchangeable for different shooting situations.
Tripods with more leg sections can reach higher heights and tend to be more stable, while compact tripods with fewer tend to be more lightweight and easier to pack down.
The leg sections are secured with individual leg locks, allowing for different legs to be set to different heights – useful for uneven surfaces. Some are twist locks, while others have a spring-loaded flip catch. The flip catch is easier to secure, but can sometimes trap the fingers of a careless user!