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Best Camera Tripods

Updated June 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 50 Models Considered
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 123 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best camera tripods

    Last Updated June 2018

    In the days before smartphone selfies, photographers who wanted to take photos that included themselves had one option: use the self-timer feature on a camera affixed to a tripod to hold it  steady and secure. Camera tripods can do much more than satisfy your desire to post selfies on social media, however. These handy photography tools allow you to create amazing photographs even in tough shooting conditions. If you’re serious about photography, your camera bag should include a tripod.

    At BestReviews, we pride ourselves on the detailed research we perform on many different products – products that we buy ourselves so our selections and reviews are free of bias. We give you the important and trustworthy information you need to make wise purchasing decisions.

    To better understand the key features of camera tripods, continue reading our shopping guide. When you’re ready to buy a tripod, look at our five picks in the matrix above.

    Tripods are especially handy for holding the camera steady when shooting photos in low light with long shutter speeds.

    Camera tripod heads

    The tripod head is one of the most important components of a camera tripod. It’s the area where the camera connects to the tripod, and its function is to sturdily hold the camera in place. It also controls how quickly you can remove the camera from the tripod or adjust its position on the tripod.

    Some photographers carry several tripod heads in their camera bags, each with particular features. Most camera tripods allow you to change the head as needed.

    The four most common tripod head types are the ball and socket, the panorama, the pan and tilt, and the three-way.

    Ball and socket tripod heads

    • Allow you to quickly adjust camera position

    • Enable multi-directional movement

    • Are lightweight

    Most cameras have a screw hole in the bottom to connect to a tripod’s plate screw.

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    Panorama tripod heads

    • Simplify panorama shooting

    • Accurately move the camera horizontally 360°

    • Must be calibrated and set up properly

    • Aren’t suitable for everyday photography

    • Are heavy

    Pan and tilt tripod heads

    • Allow horizontal or vertical camera movement

    • Enable tiny adjustments of camera position

    • Take longer to adjust camera position

    • Require separate adjustment of horizontal and vertical axes

    Three-way tripod heads

    • Add diagonal movement to vertical and horizontal

    • Take longer to adjust for each direction

    EXPERT TIP

    Inspect the ground where you’ll use the tripod, making sure it’s as level as possible or the tripod may wobble. Carry a level with you, or buy a tripod with a built-in level, to be sure your camera is level when it is attached to the tripod.


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    Camera tripod legs

    Camera tripod legs are usually made of of plastic, aluminum, or carbon fiber.

    Plastic

    Only the cheapest and smallest camera tripods have legs made of plastic. Plastic is rigid, but it is far too brittle to give your camera a great deal of support.

    Some small tabletop tripods have plastic legs, but these only need to be several inches long.

    A tripod is sturdier if you spread the legs wide apart. While rubber feet are common on tripod legs, some tripods have spiked feet that dig into the ground for even more stability.

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    Aluminum

    Aluminum tripod legs are hollow. The thickness of the aluminum varies, and the thickness determines the strength of the legs. Thicker aluminum means a sturdier camera tripod.

    A lightweight aluminum tripod will be easier to carry over long distances than a heavier tripod, but it is also less durable.

    Carbon fiber

    The sturdiest yet lightest tripod legs are made of carbon fiber. These are rigid, very strong, and extremely durable. Carbon fiber is an excellent choice to use with expensive cameras, where stability is paramount.

    EXPERT TIP

    If your goal is to own a high-quality tripod, look for one made of as little plastic as possible.


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    Camera tripod prices

    The cost of a camera tripod varies depending on the material and features. Amateur photographers probably won’t need an expensive tripod. Professional photographers who carry a variety of expensive cameras will want the security of a more expensive tripod.

    Carefully consider your photography budget. If you skimp on the quality of your tripod, it could collapse under the weight of your camera.

    Under $30

    You can find plenty of low-priced camera tripods made of plastic in this range. Cheap camera tripods work fine for inexpensive, lightweight cameras or smartphone cameras, but these models aren’t suitable for use with high-priced, heavy camera gear.

    Newer camera tripods often have telescoping legs, which collapse to make the tripods easier to carry. Remember to lock the legs in place after extending them so the tripod doesn’t slip when you place your camera on it.

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    $30 to $150

    Most people can make good use of an aluminum camera tripod in this price range. Novice and intermediate photographers will find the sturdiness they need, as well as ease of use.

    $150 and up

    Only high-level amateurs or professional photographers will need the most expensive camera tripods. These carbon-fiber tripods can stand up to extremely heavy equipment. They keep a camera balanced even when you use a long telephoto lens.

    If your camera gear is particularly heavy, a tripod will make taking photos easier by supporting the weight.

    FAQ

    Q. Why should I use a camera tripod?

    A. A camera lens opens for a fraction of a second to allow light to strike the image sensor. If your camera moves during that time, the image will be blurry. A tripod keeps your camera much steadier than a human hand.

    Q. What are some tricks to keep my camera tripod more stable?

    A. Your camera tripod will be more stable if the legs are not fully extended. Also, extend the center post as little as possible. Always be sure to lock all parts of the tripod in place. Finally, the tripod may wobble if you’re working in windy conditions. You can hang a heavy bag from the center post to help hold the tripod in place.

    Q. Can a tripod help me shoot a series of photos more quickly?

    A. It can, depending on the subject matter. If you’re shooting a series of portraits of different people in the same location with the same background, a tripod helps ensure a consistent perspective. The camera remains in place and ready to shoot while the people move in and out of the frame. If you need to shoot a series of photos for a stop-motion movie, the tripod keeps the camera in the same place while you adjust the objects in the scene.

    Q. What is the best type of lock for the camera tripod legs?

    A. After you extend the legs of your tripod, you must lock them in place to stabilize your camera. The preferred type of lock is a quick-release lever, which gives you a handle or lever to grab so you can easily unlock the leg, adjust the length, and lock it again. Another option is a twist lock, which is a large ring on the leg that you twist to lock and unlock. The twist lock takes longer to adjust than the quick-release lever.

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