If you’re a videographer looking to stabilize your shots on your next adventure or you’re just thinking about getting a new tripod to take into the mountains to shoot glorious landscapes with your DSLR camera, a camera tripod can be an essential bit of your kit. However, trying to find the best tripod for your needs can be confusing, time-consuming and, let’s face it, dull.
That’s why we’ve done all the hard work for you and picked our top camera tripod choices, whether you shoot landscapes, macro, stills, video, whatever. You’re welcome.
We’ve tested all the models on this best tripod list and chose each one as a great example of its category. We took into consideration factors like maximum height, the folded height, load capacity, the ease of using the tripod mount and so much more to ensure that we’re only including the best of the best. We’ll be updating this list over time as new models arrive and manufacturers update their ranges.
The 3 Legged Thing Bucky is a super tripod for almost any photography situation. Its carbon fiber construction means it’s light enough to comfortably strap to a backpack, it packs down small but its maximum height of over 6.2 feet (191cm) makes it extremely tall too. I’ve found it brilliant for landscape photography as it’s no trouble to carry out into the hills, but I can still shoot at eye level.
Its ball head is secure enough to hold even the weightiest DSLRs with a big zoom lens attached, its legs can be detached to use as monopods, and its solid construction means you don’t need to worry about it taking a few knocks on the road. It doesn’t come cheap, but photography enthusiasts in any genre are well catered for here.
Affordable, lightweight tripods often have a trade off in stability, but not so with Manfrotto’s latest Element II tripod. Its twist-locking legs are strong and can be splayed out wide for further stability in strong wind. The ball head had no trouble supporting our Canon 5D MkIV with 24-105mm lens — those of you with even lighter mirrorless cameras will have no trouble here.
Its 3.5lb weight means it’s light enough to comfortably carry on a backpack for a few hours and despite its more affordable price, it has a reassuringly burly feel to it that doesn’t give any cause for concern about its longevity. If you’re after a light weight travel tripod with a more wallet-friendly asking price than carbon fiber models then the Element II is worth a look.
The exceptionally light weight of Benro’s Rhino tripod is immediately noticeable as soon as you pick it up. Made from carbon fiber, it weighs only 2.7lbs, making it the best choice if you’re planning all-day photo hikes and you’re trying to save every ounce you can. Such a light weight does mean it’s more susceptible to being shaken by the wind, but a built-in hook under the center column allows you to hang a weight off it (your kit bag, or a shopping bag full of rocks you’ve found always works in my experience) to add support in particularly blustery conditions.
Despite its light weight, it’s more than capable of holding our Canon 5DMk IV and 24-105mm lens with absolutely zero movement from the ball head. Despite the legs being almost pencil-thin at their ends, the carbon fiber construction means they’re extremely rigid while the burly, rubberised twist-locks keep them solidly locked in place.
With its 3-way pan and tilt head, Manfrotto’s BeFree 3-Way Live is an excellent choice for both photographers and budding videographers who don’t want to splash out on a dedicated video tripod head. Its fluid head makes getting smooth panning shots very easy while the panning and tilting arms fold away to make it easier to transport.
Its aluminium legs are sturdy and while it’s not as light as others on this list, it’s perfectly comfortable to carry on a backpack for at least a couple of hours at a time — and certainly a lot lighter than most dedicated video tripods. My one small complaint is that the knob to tighten the camera plate is very small and can prove quite fiddly, especially if you’re wearing gloves. I might be nit-picking here though as the 3-Way Live is a great all-round tripod for anyone wanting to add videography into their workflow.
The 290 Xtra’s tall maximum operating height of 165 cm makes it great for wildlife photography or for landscape photographers who want to shoot at eye level, but its sturdy tripod build means it can also work well in a studio. The carbon fiber legs keep the weight to only 3.4 pounds (1.43kg), without a tripod head attached.
Speaking of which, I tested the tripod with Manfrotto’s MH804-3W three-way head that uses different handles to control pan and tilt. I didn’t love it, though, as it can be difficult to make accurate adjustments — particularly when you’re trying to get your horizon absolutely straight. My advice? Pair the 290 Xtra with a ball head like the XPro ball head. You’ll have a lightweight, tall and sturdy tripod that’s well suited for most genres of photography.
At only $50, the Manfrotto Compact Light is one of the cheapest full-size tripods money can buy. It has a ball head with a built-in screw thread (rather than a detachable plate), which can be fiddly to attach in the field, but it helps keep cost down. It’s a light and compact tripod, too, weighing only 1.8 pounds (840g), so it’s great for strapping onto a backpack and heading off to search for photo opportunities.
The small ball head can’t take a lot of weight — it couldn’t support a 5D MkIV with 70-200mm lens, for example — but it’ll work well with smaller, lighter mirrorless cameras like the aforementioned Canon EOS M50 or a Fujifilm XT20. If you’re new to photography and looking to tentatively experiment with tripods, the low price of the Compact Light makes it a low-risk option to consider. It’s also well worth keeping in mind as a second tripod — perhaps for the YouTubers among you who want to set up an additional fixed camera for filming.
Peak Design is best known for its range of stylish camera backpacks, but it recently launched its first tripod. The Travel Tripod, as it’s known, is best for exactly what its name suggests: traveling. The carbon fiber version I tested weighs only 2.8 lbs (1.27kg) and packs down to only 15.4 inches (39.1cm) long, making this portable tripod easy to chuck in a backpack or camera bag. The aluminum tripod model weighs 3.4 lbs (1.5kg).
Its ball head is quick and easy to use, it’s sturdy enough to hold a Canon 5D MkIV DSLR with 24-70mm lens and it comes with its own grip so you can mount your phone on the tripod that tucks away inside the central column. It’s all extremely well thought-out and feels reassuringly sturdy — I certainly have no concerns about its ability to handle a rough-and-tumble life on the road.
The Jay’s transforming design allows it to convert from full-size tripod to monopod in moments. Getting down low? Take each tripod leg off, add the optional feet and it becomes a tiny tabletop tripod. It has a leveling base that makes it quick to get a straight horizon, while its compact carbon fiber design makes it both exceptionally portable and an extremely lightweight tripod.
We reviewed the Jay with the Cine video head, which makes the Jay perfectly suited for videographers wanting to shoot smooth panning shots. It happily supported our Canon 5D MkIV DSLR with 70-200mm lens, while the friction-free motion of the fluid head makes it easy to get buttery-smooth results.
It doesn’t come cheap, but this is a real quality piece of kit that’s beautifully put together and will suit traveling pros and enthusiastic amateurs alike.
This tripod’s headline feature is its center column, which can tilt 90 degrees to a horizontal position. This aluminum tripod allows you to get your camera to only 9 cm above the ground and lets you shoot directly down, making it a useful tool for macro photographers. Food photographers also will love getting those top-down shots of beautifully presented meals.
Its legs are easy to extend thanks to the twist lock design, the ball head holds a Canon 5D Mk IV and 70-200mm lens without issue and its 4.4-pound (2kg) weight means it’s fairly easy to carry attached to a backpack.