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How to choose the right tripod for your shooting style

It's a great time to be a photographer. You likely have a quality camera in your smartphone. Perhaps you've bought a DSLR or SLR camera because you want greater control over image quality. To get the most out of your camera, though, regardless of its type, you need to invest in a tripod.

In this article: Amazon Basics 50-Inch Lightweight Camera Mount Tripod, Victiv Aluminum Tripod for DSLR and Manfrotto Befree Advanced Tripod.

What can a tripod do for me?

The primary reason to buy a tripod is that it creates a stable platform for your camera, which greatly expands the types of shooting you can do. With a stable platform, you can experiment with longer exposure times without creating a blurry image. This lets you capture quality photographs even in low light and can be used for astronomical photography.

With a fixed vantage point, you also can create a greater depth of field in your images and you better control your composition. Panoramic shots become clearer as you record from a fixed position, and group photos and selfies using a timed shutter are easier to frame.

Types of tripods

The two most common types of tripods are defined by the mechanism they use to maneuver the camera.

  • Pan-tilt tripods: A pan-tilt head has independent controls for moving the camera left, right, up and down. This system makes fine adjustments simple once you have carefully leveled your tripod but isn’t the best for moving subjects. Pan-tilt systems are easy to identify, as they typically have levers poking out from beneath the tripod’s release plate.
  • Ball head tripods: Ball head tripods replace the levers with more compact dials. They use a ball bearing to position the camera quickly at any angle by loosening and tightening a couple of knobs. Ball heads can get scratched or can dry out, though, making them more challenging to use.

Issues to consider before buying

After you decide what kind of head is best for your needs, think about how and where you plan to use it. If you want to take it on your next hike, look for models that can collapse or fold and are not too heavy.

Most lightweight tripods employ either aluminum or carbon fiber for the legs. Both materials offer solid support without the weight of old-fashioned wood, but carbon fiber legs are considerably more expensive. Aluminum legs get very cold in low temperatures and are slightly heavier than carbon fiber ones.

How tall should my tripod be?

Tripods, like people, come in all heights. Tiny ones that fold to fit in a pocket may be enough for a smartphone, but you will need something more substantial for a bigger camera. If you are tall, be sure to buy a tripod that matches your height so you don’t have to bend over to focus and shoot.

Best tripods under $50

GPX 42-inch Aluminum Adjustable Tripod

Collapsible telescopic legs and nonslip rubber feet make this basic tripod a good choice for beginning photographers. It stands 42 inches tall and has a standard quarter-inch mount.

Sold by Home Depot

Ktaxon Professional Aluminum Alloy Camera Tripod Lighting Stand

Legs of aluminum alloy that resist corrosion and a resin release plate make this a versatile option. You can shoot vertically and create 360-degree panoramas with this tripod that measures 55.1 inches when fully extended.

Sold by Wayfair

Winado Professional Camera Tripod Monopod Panhead

The quick-release knob on the release plate saves time when changing equipment and this tripod’s lever-locked legs can create a stable mount in any terrain. Adjust the legs for heights between 18.5 and 55.1 inches. 

Sold by Wayfair

Aureday 74-Inch Camera Tripod with Travel Bag 

You can support cameras, smartphones, ring lights and even projectors with this capable model. A widely compatible phone holder adjusts from 2.3 to 4.5 inches, and it can be attached in minutes with a single screw. This tripod extends to a height of 74 inches and can support up to 8.8 pounds.

Sold by Amazon

Amazon Basics 50-Inch Lightweight Camera Mount Tripod Stand With Bag

This 1.22-pound pan-head aluminum tripod includes a quick-release plate and a three-way tilting head capable of landscape and portrait photos. It measures 16.5 inches when collapsed and up to 50 inches when extended.

Sold by Amazon

Neewer Portable Aluminum Alloy Camera 2-in-1 Tripod Monopod 

This tripod has a three-way swivel pan head that easily converts into a monopod to get a stable shot when space is limited. Each leg has three locking buckles and a rotatable plastic foot for improved stability. It measures 20.9 inches when closed and 69.7 inches when fully extended.

Sold by Amazon

Best tripods over $50

Victiv Tripod Camera Aluminum Tripod for DSLR with 360-Degree Ball Head 

You'll get the most out of your DSLR, tablet, smartphone or projector with this tripod that can support up to 30 pounds. A large 1.4-inch ball head allows for smoother movement and the built-in bubble level helps you line up your shots. A padded travel bag and a smartphone holder are included.

Sold by Amazon

Manfrotto Befree Advanced Tripod with Lever Closure and Ball Head

This tripod’s aluminum ball head and three independent axis controls get your equipment into position quickly. Its release plate works with Arca-Swiss and Manfrotto head attachments. The adjustable locking legs are made of carbon fiber and the entire tripod weighs 3.5 pounds.

Sold by Amazon

Geekoto Compact Aluminum Tripod with 360-degree Ball Head

You can attach DSLR cameras, telescopes and projectors to this bigger model made of aluminum and metal. It stands 18.6 inches tall at its shortest usable height and extends to 62 inches. The 36-millimeter ball head gives smooth control and large knobs make fine adjustments easy. 

Sold by Amazon

ZoMei Carbon Fiber Portable Tripod with Ball Head 

This tripod has a bubble leveler and five-part telescoping legs, and works as a monopod as well. Its legs can be locked at various heights for working on uneven ground, and though it weighs only 4.4 pounds it can safely support up to 33 pounds. 

Sold by Amazon


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Robin Allday writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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