Don’t Make These Mistakes in Choosing a Camera Tripod

Don’t Make These Mistakes in Choosing a Camera Tripod

I'm Rob, the editor of Light Stalking. I try to keep this ship on course.

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My New Tripod

Photo by Giorgos.

As anyone who has bought a cheap tripod knows, skimping on this important piece of equipment usually isn’t worth it. That’s not to say that a tripod should cost you your first born, but there are quite a few things you should take into account when you are buying one. We once again hit up the Light Stalking twitter community to tell us their top things to consider when buying a tripod and once again they didn’t disappoint. Here is a list of things you should take into account when buying a tripod.

(Twitter: mylifeinfocus Web: MyLifeinFocus) Get a good ball-head. Make sure you can carry your camera safely while it’s mounted to the tripod.

(Twitter: @mgerpe Web: MGerpe) Rock the Promaster 6400 tripod! It’s kind of bulky but its good for outdoor and landscape shots. It’s a quality build and not bad for $99 or less.

(Twitter: eligray Web: Gray Images) Make sure to get one that you can see yourself carrying at all times because if its too heavy you will never take it!

(Twitter: @TLWH Web: The Long Way Home ) Carrying a tripod when travelling is essential. But it’s a pain to carry. A light weight aluminium under 500gms is just right.

(Twitter: @lavapixcom Web: LavaPix) Lighter isn’t always best. My Manfrotto 3021BN and 488RC2 midi ball head handle windy conditions very well. Strong and steady!

(Twitter: @Chanfa Web: Fallon Chan) Make sure you try out the tripod at a store. You might think it is light or tall enough but might turn out to be too heavy or too short

(Twitter: @Chanfa Web: Fallon Chan) I almost bought a Manfrotto 190xprob thinking 4lbs was okay but it’s a good thing that I tested it before ordering because it was too heavy!

(Twitter: @davefitch Web: ISO200) Thom Hogan’s article on support (tripods/heads/clamps) is really great

(Twitter: @Ippso Web: Spasi) Go for Carbon-tripods. They´re light-weight, but still sturdy. Benro makes a range of great ones.

(Twitter: @alangraham Web: Alan Graham) Spend more than you’d be comfortable with – you’ll replace the cheap one anyway.

(Twitter: @gavinseim Web: Seim Studios) Think solid. Get a good set of legs with a removable head so you can upgrade and grow.

(Twitter: @davefitch Web: ISO200) Make sure it’s easy to adjust. It must have a good head – especially with heavier cameras/lenses the head is much more important than the legs.

(Twitter: @luulooPhoto Web: Loretta Ayeroff) Keep the tripod head loose and dance with it until you find your spot then lock it in!

(Twitter: @PeterDixie Web: Peter Dixie Photography) Weight, strength, rigidity, stability – avoid plastic parts in the head – these tend to be too flexible. I use Slik and Benro.

(Twitter: @Shepy Web: Shepy) I use a Manfrotto 785b, 43cm folded, 150cm unfolded, drop 2" from floor, independent legs, ball head which is ideal for urbex.

(Twitter: @illtempered Web: Jakov Cordina) Look for portability and rigidity. I have two Gorillapods for "let’s go out without carrying Manfrotto days" and a Manfrotto.

(Twitter: @tracymacy Web: Tracy MCL) Look for portability, I’m getting the Gorillapod!

(Twitter: @IlanBr Web: Ilan Bresler Photography) Look for strength of build and material. A tripod used outside should be strong and heavy enough to hold DSLR weight in winds and uneven ground.

(Twitter: @MrPhotographic Web: ClickClick Baby) Look for lightweight and for the legs to lock at different angles, horizontal capability, hook for weight beneath and a strap / bag to carry it with!

(Twitter: @stuherbert Web: Stuart Therbert) Look for a tripod with a spirit level, variable adjustable legs, shoulder carrying strap and light weight.

As you can see, there are a few different opinions on getting the right tripod, but a few recurring themes stick out. For starters, most people prefer a solid build so that the tripod doesn’t move in windy conditions. However, if you’re likely to be carrying the tripod a long way, then weight can be an issue so make sure you consider how you will be using the equipment. Manfrottos and Gorillapods seem to be the winners in terms of which ones to buy.



  • dan:

    This could be entirely summed up as “buy a manfrotto or gitzo”.

    July 5, 2009 at 5:34 pm

  • Stevo:

    Great advice. I’m looking for a new tripod. Sirui Tripods, a Chinese company, is an up-and-comer. One line of tripods offers a leg that unscrews to become a monopod.

    July 12, 2009 at 11:52 am

  • Joyce:

    Very nice share! Thanks much! :)

    July 17, 2009 at 12:35 pm

  • Barb:

    great I have just bought a tripod and yet too use it looking forward to finding the time to try it out

    August 9, 2009 at 8:38 pm

  • Tony Anastasi:

    get the heaviest tripod you can carry with you, the heavier the better – that’s the way it is.. lighter is useless, you get ground vibrations and movement from wind, so then that makes it useless. IF you have to go light, then get one with a hook on the middle column and hook your gear bag to it to try to stabilize it. Ever been in a pro studio ? they use those massive heavy columns on wheels, the heavier the more stable the platform the better the images are. ( disclaimer : I also sell tripods to pro studios )

    August 10, 2009 at 12:37 am

  • Avatar of LightStalkingLightStalking:

    @Tony – Hey nice tip on hooking up your pack to a light tripod!

    August 10, 2009 at 3:18 am

  • Barb:

    Great tip I am sure my tripod will be heavy enough as I have a reasonably light camera. I am looking forward to using it by the ocean in November this year. Summer hear down under

    August 10, 2009 at 3:08 pm

  • Jim:

    I bought a Velbon carbon fiber with magnesium head. Weighs way less than my canon, and is solid as a rock. Gets tall, or very short for those macro shots of insects…love it. Soft padded leg warmers and a stone bag included (you can also hook your gear bag to it with some ingenuity). Was about $200. Has a replaceable head for when I need fluid or horizontal swing arm. Sweet deal.

    August 18, 2009 at 10:57 pm

  • Paul Sveda:

    I am not a brand loyalist and my affinity for Nikon is simply due to investment. I think researching the model / brand you buy is a first step. Then visiting a store to get a feel for the quality is important. There are a lot of opinions from twitter without validating the camera in use in my opinion.

    I have some heavy lenses mounted on a heavy D200 or D700 with extended grip / batter pack. I need a relatively heavy tripod and a head that can handle 12lbs or more. I would also suggest, for people who seriously want to get into long exposure work a three axis head over the single ball or grip heads out there. The level of fine control is greatly improved.

    Thanks for the article.

    August 24, 2009 at 7:36 am

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  • Ross:

    I used to have a relatively cheap tripod but when I switched to a Manfrotto I saw the difference immediately. My advice is “Don't skimp on your choice of tripod”.

    March 17, 2010 at 3:26 pm

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    March 21, 2010 at 3:02 pm

  • Pineze:

    Just to think:

    Sometimes the tripods are not guilty. But when we are not prepared for something we want to do is the real cause of a not successful adventure with equipments.

    Some soldiers carry more than 35kg and they dont blame the guns, the food, the medicines, etc.

    I prefere the haviests tripods. If i feel some dificult the problem is not the tripod, or the camera, or my bag, but my lazzy body that didnt the homework. The gym is missing me and now im missing some great photos.

    My opinion… rsrsrsr

    December 2, 2010 at 5:34 pm

  • Scott Ferguson:

    Another brand to consider that has the quality but not the price is Vanguard. I picked up the amazon deal for the one with the SBH-250 ballhead and i couldn’t be happier.

    Only ~$140 if i recall correctly. Nice heavy duty ballhead and solid legs. Holds a camera grip D90 with a 80-200 2.8 and a flash without breaking a sweat.


    February 10, 2012 at 9:12 pm

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  • Ciara:

    Hey i’m looking to buy a tall lightweight tripod to take away to Iceland in October. Are there any you can reccomend which are fairly cheap? :)

    February 11, 2013 at 1:17 pm

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