How to Choose and Buy a Tripod for a DSLR Camera

Choosing a tripod can be an overwhelming experience, given how many different types and choices we are presented with. On one hand, a tripod is a very simple tool to keep our cameras steady when we use them in challenging light conditions. On the other hand, there are so many different variables that come into play when choosing a tripod: How tall should it be? How light should it be? How stable should it be? What kind of weight can it support? How much should I spend on a tripod? These are just some of the questions that might come up as you look into buying a new tripod.

Manfrotto Tripod

Before getting into the intricate details about tripods, I would like to go over the advantages and disadvantages of tripods and why you might need one for your DSLR.

1) Why do you need a tripod?

So, what is the purpose of a tripod? You might need a tripod for some or all of the following reasons:

  1. To increase sharpness and depth of field in your images by keeping the camera still in low-light environments when using slow shutter speeds.
  2. To rest heavy camera gear such as long telephoto lenses on the tripod.
  3. To increase the quality of the images by keeping the camera ISO low.
  4. To allow more careful composition, while framing the shot exactly how you want it.
  5. To shoot HDR and panoramic shots that require exactly the same framing and precision.
  6. To photograph nighttime objects such as the Moon, planets, stars, etc. as well as painting with light or using available light for landscape and architectural photography.
  7. To do self-portraits with a camera timer.
  8. To shoot extreme close-ups/macro (flowers, insects, etc).
  9. To hold various objects such as flashes, reflectors, etc.
  10. To shoot at difficult or impossible (hand-held) angles.
  11. To shoot vibration-free videos.
  12. To defend yourself :)

I personally use a tripod for one main reason – landscape photography. Shooting sunrises and sunsets can be quite challenging, especially when the light conditions are far from ideal. Although with the recent introduction of ultra wide-angle lenses such as Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0 VR with vibration-reduction technology and DSLR cameras such as Nikon D3s that have very impressive high ISO performance, you are almost no longer required to use a tripod. However, I still prefer to use a tripod to keep camera ISO low (at base ISO) and to frame the shot for HDR and panoramic images. In addition, there are situations where you must use a tripod in order to slow down and blur action, such as photographing streams and waterfalls as shown in the image below. Therefore, if you are into landscape photography, a good tripod is a must and any pro will tell you the same thing.

Mt Rainier NP #11

NIKON D3S + 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 32mm, ISO 200, 6/1, f/9.0

Occasionally, I might use a tripod for wildlife photography (specifically birds), but not during long hikes, due to inconvenience and weight factors.

2) Tripod components – what is a tripod system?

A tripod system is generally comprised of the following parts:

  1. Legs – the obvious. Tripod legs are typically made of aluminum, basalt, steel or carbon fiber.
  2. Head – the part that holds a digital camera or a lens. There are many different types of heads, but the most popular types are ball-heads and pan-tilt heads.
  3. Centerpost/Center Column – a separate leg that runs through the middle, allowing to further raise the tripod head.
  4. Feet – good tripods allow changing tripod feet at the end of the legs for indoor and outdoor use.

The cheapest tripods have legs with an integrated non-replaceable head and feet and sometimes have a centerpost, while the top-of-the-line tripods have a modular tripod system that have replaceable feet and allow attaching a separate tripod head (the head is typically not included).

3) Disadvantages of using a tripod

Tripods are nice and can give you many options to get the highest quality image. However, there are also some significant disadvantages of using tripods, specifically:

  1. They are heavy. Although there are relatively lightweight carbon-fiber tripods out there, once you add a tripod head, the setup becomes quite heavy.
  2. They are inconvenient. No matter how small and collapsible your tripod is, it still occupies space and is often inconvenient to carry around or travel with.
  3. They are difficult to use in crowded environments.
  4. They can be expensive. Good tripod systems can cost over $1,000.
  5. They can take a while to set up, making you miss the best moment.
  6. You can easily damage your camera and lens if you do not know how to properly operate a tripod, or if the tripod system is cheap and unstable.

4) Factors to consider when choosing a tripod

You started your tripod shopping spree and have no idea where to start. What factors do you need to consider when purchasing a tripod? As I have pointed out above, purchasing a tripod can be an overwhelming experience, given how many different choices we are presented with from small and compact to large and heavy. Let’s go through each factor and identify your needs:

4.1) Weight Rating

The first thing I would look at is how much weight a tripod can support. Many photographers make a mistake of buying a tripod that can only support a few pounds and is not made for heavy DSLR equipment. What ends up happening is the obvious – at one point or another the whole thing collapses, destroying the DSLR and the lens. Always make sure that the tripod you want to buy can support at least 1.5 times more than the total weight of your camera and your heaviest lens. I say at least, because I prefer to keep it at around 2x more. Do not forget that you will at times apply pressure on your camera and sometimes even rest your hands on the setup if you are shooting with long lenses, which adds to the weight. You might also add a flash or a battery grip to your camera in the future, so you have to keep all of that in mind.

4.2) Tripod Height

I always recommend buying a tripod that matches your height, so that you do not have to bend to look into the viewfinder. Once you put your camera on a tripod, the viewfinder should be at your eye level. It is OK if it goes higher than your eye level, because you can always adjust the legs to be shorter. However, if it is much below your eye level, you will find yourself bending all the time, which can be a tiring experience, especially when you are waiting for some kind of action and need to constantly look through the viewfinder.

If you are buying a tripod with an attached head, you want the tip of the head to be on your jaw level. If you are buying a modular tripod with a separate head, make sure that the legs end approximately on your shoulder level.

Another factor to consider is tripod height when it is folded for easier travel. Do you need it to fit in your carry-on luggage? Mine barely does diagonally, with feet removed, and I take it with me everywhere I go.

4.3) Tripod Weight and Construction

Weight is a significant factor when choosing a tripod. You do not want your tripod to be too heavy, because you will find yourself leaving it at home, rather than taking it with you on the road. The lightest tripods are made of carbon-fiber material, which is extremely durable, stable and does not rust. While carbon-fiber is the best material for a tripod, it unfortunately comes at a high price tag.

The next best construction material is aluminum, which is heavier than carbon fiber. Most cheaper tripods are made of aluminum today. You can also find tripods made of stainless steel, but those are generally used for video equipment and are too heavy for regular use.

In terms of total weight, try to keep the tripod legs without the head under 5 pounds. Generally, carbon fiber legs are between 3 and 4 pounds, while aluminum legs are between 5 and 6 pounds, depending on the size and how much weight they can support. Basalt lava legs are somewhere in-between both in terms of weight and cost.

Gitzo GT5531s

4.4) Tripod Legs

Tripod legs generally come in two forms – tubular and non-tubular. All carbon-fiber legs come in tubular form and have a threaded twist-lock system to secure the legs, while aluminum, basalt and steel tripods might come in different shapes with a flip-lock. Depending on the maximum height of the tripod, there might be between 3 and 5 sections on tripod legs. The more sections, the higher the tripod and generally a little less stable.

4.5) Tripod Feet

Some advanced tripods will allow you to replace tripod feet for different conditions and situations – they just unscrew on the bottom of the tripod legs. There are different types of tripod feet for indoors (rubber or plastic) and outdoors use (metal spikes). Unless you are planning to shoot in icy, rainy/slippery conditions, the standard rubber feet that come with your tripod should work just fine.

Gitzo Tripod Feet

4.6) Centerpost

Some tripods come with a centerpost – a single leg in the middle of the tripod that allows you to increase or decrease the height of the camera by simply moving the centerpost in upward or downward direction. Although some photographers find it convenient and nice to have, I strongly advice against having a centerpost on a tripod. A centerpost defeats the whole purpose of a tripod – it is essentially the same thing as having a monopod on top of the tripod. It might not be as pronounced if you are only shooting with a wide-angle lens, but once you set up a long telephoto lens, you will quickly understand that using a centerpost will cause too much vibration. If you still want to get a centerpost for whatever reason, make sure that it can fully decline to the same level as where the tripod legs meet. The centerpost should never wobble at its lowest level.

Manfrotto Carbon Fiber Legs with Center Column

4.7) Tripod Head

A tripod head is the most essential part of the tripod system. It is responsible for securely holding camera equipment and controlling camera movement. A modular tripod system does not come with a head and you have to buy it separately. When choosing a tripod head, always make sure that it can support at least the same amount of weight your tripod legs can.

Benro Pan-Tilt Head

There are three types of heads commonly available:

  1. Pan-Tilt Head – either with a single handle for horizontal movement or dual handles for both horizontal and vertical movement. This is the most common type of head that is typically built into cheaper tripods.
  2. Ball-Head – compared to pan-tilt heads, ball-heads only have one control that loosens or tightens the grip. They are very flexible and allow very smooth operation while keeping the camera/lens securely tightened.
  3. Gimbal Head – a specialized head for long and heavy 300mm+ lenses. Compared to pan-tilt heads and ball-heads, gimbal heads perfectly balance the camera and heavy lens and are best suited for fast-action photography. They are extremely easy to use in any direction and do not require tightening the head every time the camera/lens moves.

I started out with a pan-tilt head and eventually switched over to a ball-head with a quick-release system (see next), due to flexibility and easiness of use.

4.8) Quick-Release System

Every modern DSLR comes with a thread on the bottom of the camera that allows you to attach it to a tripod or a monopod (heavy lenses also come with a similar thread on the tripod collar). This threaded system makes it extremely inconvenient to attach cameras and lenses on tripods, because you would have to either rotate the camera or the tripod to attach them together. To make it easier and more convenient for photographers, manufacturers came up with a great solution – to attach a small removable plate on the camera or lens, which then can be tightly secured on the tripod head.

Cheaper tripods come with a simple plastic plate that can be attached on any camera or lens, while some of the more expensive tripod heads come with a more durable plate. The best quick-release system, however, is the Arca-Swiss Quick Release System. It has more or less become a standard among manufacturers and it has proven to be a very effective solution for quick and easy operation. Compared to plastic plates, the Arca-Swiss Quick Release System is made of very strong aluminum and allows attaching the camera/lens on a tripod without the need to rotate anything. A quick-release plate is permanently attached to a camera or lens, which then easily slides into a quick-release clamp (pictured below). The locking mechanism is simple, yet super tight for a vibration-free operation.

Arca Swiss Z1 with Plate

The beauty of this system is that some manufacturers like Really Right Stuff and Kirk Enterprises offer not only plates for almost any camera and lens, but also replacement lens tripod collars, flash brackets, L-brackets and other accessories for the Arca-Swiss Quick Release System. The only downside of the Arca-Swiss Quick Release System is that it is not cheap – you also have to purchase separate plates for each camera and lens.

4.9) Stability

A heavy tripod does not always mean that it is stable. There are plenty of tripod systems out there that are heavy and durable, yet lack the much-needed stability when used in various weather conditions. When a tripod is fully set up, it has to withstand not only wind, but also occasional bumps and knocks that might happen in the field. You always need to make sure that your camera and lens balance on a tripod rather than lean towards one direction, because you might end up damaging your equipment if the head is not fully tightened or if the front outweighs the back and everything falls on the ground.

5) Which tripod should you buy?

Now that you are familiar with all the criteria for selecting the right tripod, you are probably wondering which tripod you should buy for your photography needs. Since I have numerously gone through the experience of shopping for tripods and have seen others do the same, let me tell you what many photographers end up doing. They first look for the cheapest tripod available that will be good enough to hold the first DSLR, since they have no idea if they really need it or do not know how often they would be using it. The tripod would cost between $75 and $150 for legs and head, which is a good price for a simple tool. Next, they purchase a longer and heavier lens and add more weight to the setup. All of a sudden, they find that the cheap tripod is not good enough and they need something more durable and stable. After making the first mistake, they suddenly realize that they need to do more research and they spend countless hours reading about tripods on different websites and forums. Despite all recommendations from the pros, they are not willing to invest on a top-of-the-line tripod with a good ball-head, so they end up getting a popular tripod system for $300-500 with a separate head. Seems like a great investment and the tripod seems to be much better than the previous one. After a year or two they realize that their last purchase was not that good, because the tripod is too heavy and hard to use, especially for traveling. They realize that they should have listened to the pros in the beginning and bought a good tripod system. Does this sound familiar? It certainly does for me, because I went through a similar experience and wasted too much effort and money.

Other photographers might have a different story, where they purchased an inexpensive tripod they like in the beginning and they are still happily using it today. All it says about them, is that they are not using their tripods as much and what they have is good enough for occasional use. Anybody who heavily relies on a tripod (especially landscape and architectural photographers) ends up buying two to three different tripods to eventually end up with the best.

It seems that it is hard to avoid purchasing multiple tripods, because it is often impossible to justify the cost of a good system to someone who does not heavily use a tripod. If someone told me that I would eventually spend more than $500 on a tripod system when I just got into photography, I would have never believed them – that’s too much money to spend on a darn tripod! But it all turned out to be true, because I actually ended up spending a lot more than $500 overtime, and I wish I could go back in time and buy the right stuff from the very beginning.

If I recommend someone who has just bought their first DSLR to buy the best tripod system that costs between $800 and $1,200, I will almost certainly get a “you are crazy” look, no matter how well I explain my story. Therefore, here is what I would recommend:

  • If you currently do not have a tripod and you want to buy one, get the cheapest aluminum tripod system with an integrated head for less than $150 total. Why do I recommend the cheapest tripod? Because you first need to understand how much you will be using it. Six months down the road you might end up doing other type of photography that does not require a tripod or you might find yourself on a path of becoming a good landscape or macro photographer. A cheap tripod will give you enough information to understand the real role of a tripod in your photography.
  • If you already have a cheap tripod and you want to get something better, save yourself a lot of money and frustration and get the best tripod with an arca-swiss quick release system – skip the middle. Some people buy cheaper legs and heads and either find them too heavy or unstable. One common problem with other quick-release systems, is the fact that cheaper plates do not grip well on cameras and start wiggling and rotating relative to the base, making it a nightmare for panoramic photography.

6) Best Tripods to Purchase

My tripod recommendations, based on the above, are divided into two categories: “low-budget” (under $150) and “top of the line” (over $500).

6.1) Low-budget tripods (under $150)

Here are the best low-budget tripods under $150 that I recommend:

  1. Sunpak Ultra 7000 – $79.95. Very cheap, weighs 4.1 pounds (1.9 kg) and can support up to 12.3 pounds (5.6 kg) of total weight. This is very similar to the first tripod I bought for myself from a local camera store.
  2. Slik Pro 340DX Tripod (Black) with 3-Way Pan/Tilt Head – $99.95. Although maximum height is too short at only 57.9″ (147 cm), it is very lightweight at 3.5 pounds (1.58 kg) and can support up to 8.8 lbs (4 kg) of total weight. This would be a great tripod to take on long hikes.
  3. Slik Pro 700DX Tripod with 3-Way Pan/Tilt Head – $139.95. Although it is a little heavy at 7 pounds (3.18 kg), it can support up to 15 pounds (6.8 kg) of total weight and can be extended all the way to 74.8″ (190 cm).

6.2) Top of the line tripods (over $500)

Top of the line tripod systems have separate legs and replaceable heads. Let’s start with the tripod legs. The best legs are made of carbon fiber and manufactured by such brands as Gitzo (top choice) and Really Right Stuff. I cannot really recommend a particular model, because you should choose one that fits your height and weight requirements. If you buy Gitzo, their best and most stable line is the “Systematic” 6x Carbon Fiber series without a center column. I personally have an older version of the Gitzo Systematic legs that I have been happily using for years and they have never failed me once. I highly recommend using the Gitzo Configurator to get the best legs for your gear.

In terms of tripod heads, if you are not shooting with very long lenses, you should definitely go for a ball-head. Here are the best ball-heads available in the market today:

  1. Arca-Swiss Z1 – $389.95. I have been using this ball-head for almost two years and I really like it.
  2. Kirk BH1 – $375.00. An excellent alternative to the Arca-Swiss Z1.
  3. Really Right Stuff BH-55 Pro – $415.00. Another great ball-head that is very similar to Arca-Swiss Z1 and Kirk BH1. Top choice among many professional photographers.

There are also other cheaper brands that manufacture good ball-heads, one of which is Markins. The Markins Q3 costs around $300 and it can actually support more weight than all of the above ball-heads.

If you are shooting with long and heavy lenses, your best choice is going to be the Wimberley Gimbal (top choice) or King Cobra.

One more thing worth noting, is that the latest Gitzo Systematic 6x Carbon Fiber tripods come with a hook under the platform. I would highly recommend to get one if you can, because you can hang your backpack/sandbag for additional stability.

Remember, with tripods you often get what you pay for! Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below.


  1. 1) Pasquier
    April 21, 2010 at 4:39 am

    Nice and useful review of tripods, Nasim.
    A system I have found to very useful is that of Benbo: (
    These have a very unusual system, in that they have a unique, highly flexible main joint, which allows each leg and the centre post to be independently positioned, allowing the camera to be positioned at almost any angle to the subject. This is especially great for macro work. A further advantage is that the legs are completely sealed to the 1st joint, so you can easily use it in snow or water.
    While not suitable for a Nikkor 600mm, I have routinely used Benbo Mr 1 with a Linhoff ball-head or Novoflex Monoball when photographing with a Hasselblad or Nikon + 80-200 f2.8 or Nikkor 300mm f4.
    In fact, I still prefer this unique beast over my Manfrotto carbon tripod, even tnhough it weighs a lot more. It’s just so much more rugged.
    As Benbo, is however, no longer being manufactured by the parent company, I suggest that potential users view a product live, before buying blind over the ‘net:

    • April 22, 2010 at 12:22 am

      Pasquier, as always, thanks for the excellent info. The Benbo tripods look very versatile and they seem to be great for macro and other extreme angle photography. My only problem with these types of systems is stability. As soon as you start moving a center column, the setup becomes somewhat unstable when longer glass and very slow shutter speeds are used. But if proper technique is used (mirror lock-up, remote cable release), those vibrations could be minimized to an acceptable level.

      I’m sure your info will be very useful to other readers!

      • 1.1.1) Pasquier
        April 22, 2010 at 11:45 am

        Nasim, I agree. The Benbo in its contorted extended fashion is great when doing macro with a 105mm lens, mirror lock up etc. This is what it was designed for.
        For longer lenses, I never use an extended centre column, as that is asking for trouble. In this case, the Benbo, non-extended, is rock solid – but it weighs a ton….
        However, as mentioned the company has been “taken over” by Patterson. For an “original” Benbo, one should now opt for the Uniloc variant.

      • 1.1.2) michael fetherolf
        October 8, 2014 at 4:47 pm

        As a previous owner of retail stores (retired) I always stressed the importance of having the facts about the products and the wants and needs of the customer. All photo equipment sales persons should have your abilities. Thank you for a fine article.

    • 1.2) Barbara Shaw
      April 7, 2012 at 11:39 am

      I just bought the Gitzo Series 2, Traveler for my Canon EOS Rebel xsi with the regular canon 18-200mm lens…nothing heavy. I start out with the attachment part for the camera screwed on as tight as I can, then slide the camera in, lock it down, and after about 1 hour of about 10 shots, the camera is loose and that attachment to it is no longer secure. Should I be using a heavy duty screw driver or what am I doing wrong? I’ve already lost one lens when the whole camera fell off and crashed to the floor….that incident might have been because I hadn’t locked it down well enough, but I think I’m locking it down now,but just feel that camera loose and take it off to see that it has indeed loosened. Please advise me. There are no Gitzo people in Houston,TX.

  2. 2) sm
    April 21, 2010 at 5:42 am

    Great article as always. Thanks again.

    I did find Thom Hogan article on tripods a good one too.

    Also, as I was interested in a lightweight travel tripod, I came across this review and it seems to be a great setup for people who want something light and don’t use heavy telephoto lenses.

    This is a combo of Gitzo 1541T Tripod, Markins Q3T Ballhead w/ RRS B2 LR II Clamp.

    This can support lenses upto 300 mm..

    • April 22, 2010 at 12:40 am

      SM, thank you!

      I read Thom’s articles every once in a while, but I have not seen this one yet. Indeed, it is a great article and it is interesting that I wrote in a similar manner in terms of the way photographers typically shop for a tripod. I guess this painful experience repeats itself all the time and almost every photographer becomes a victim of the same bad process.

      Thanks for the link – I completely forgot about the Markins ballheads – they are also very durable and are cheaper than other popular brands. I will add it to the list.

      My only problem is the center column on the Gitzo tripod – that’s why I prefer their “Systematic” series instead. Looks like the center column can be removed, but I wonder how stable the system would be after that…

      • 2.1.1) sm
        April 22, 2010 at 5:20 am

        Thanks Nasim.

        About the similarity between your and Thom’s article, all I can say is great minds think alike. Thom is posting a lot lately. I guess with all these new Nikon lenses and rumors swirling around, he does need to say something.

        I agree about the center column. I am a fairly short person (5-7) and I hope that I don’t need to use the center column too often. However for taller users, this may be a problem. It seems Feisol travel tripods are great for tall guys.


  3. April 21, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Great article. Thanks.

  4. 4) Peng
    April 21, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Thanks. Great article.

    • April 22, 2010 at 12:41 am

      Peng, you are most welcome! Thanks for stopping by and dropping a comment.

  5. 5) tian
    April 22, 2010 at 9:52 am

    Excellent article!!!
    I read it twice.

    • April 22, 2010 at 5:09 pm

      Thank you Tian!

      • 5.1.1) Tian
        April 18, 2011 at 6:54 am

        Tian Sushi Noodle Bar?

  6. 6) Dennis
    May 8, 2010 at 4:41 am

    Thanks for putting up a detail recommendation and sharing your experience. Well I must say it is really tough choosing a tripod. Especially for my tall height. Is difficult to get one without the center column.

    Gitzo is really a choice for many professional. For a start now, I’m looking at Manfrotto 055XPROB. Is aluminium and weigh heavy but it does support my height with center column extended (not full) plus the 8cm distance to viewfinder. Able to support heavy lens of 70-200mm. And it is priced reasonably. I’m still looking at other choices.

    Do you have any experience with Manfrotto?

    • August 18, 2010 at 2:56 pm

      Dennis, I somehow missed your comment, sorry about that!

      I do not know about this particular model of Manfrotto, but I definitely know the brand – it is a very good company and I use their products all the time. If you think the 055XPROB is good for you, go for it, I’m sure it is a good tripod for your needs. There seems to be a rebate on it as well at B&H…

      • 6.1.1) Phil Wells
        February 6, 2012 at 6:19 pm

        I am in the same position as Dennis. At 6’10” NOTHING fits me including cars, beds, and tripods. As a rookie, I bought a Manfotto 190xPROB but now I find > 1 online article suggesting the 055xPROB instead as it’s taller at 56′. But with my eyes at around 80″, it’s kinda moot. This listing of tripods over 70″ by price: I don’t know about Three-Legged-Thing as a brand but they have an aluminum 3.3lb unit that holds 17.6 lbs and sells for < $200. I my need to unload this 190 because the past few days at Death Valley had me squatting or bend much of the time.

        I'd like to take your advice and go for a $500 carbon-fiber unit but I just don't have it right now!

        Thanks for the very well written articles.


        • Phil Wells
          February 6, 2012 at 6:22 pm

          PS: Shooting D5000, Sigma 18-200 3.5-6.3 HSM, SB-700, Slik 1100e grip ball top

        • David Meyers
          June 13, 2014 at 1:00 pm

          I know it’s a bit late to reply to this, but I was just browsing the site and came across this article. I’m “only” 6’3″, so I can only imagine the problems you have at 6’10”, but I was in a similar quandary a few years back. I ended up buying a Gitzo 2542L (current version is 2543L), which is a 4-section, carbon-fiber tripod, where the L denotes “long”. It extends to about 70″ with the center column all the way up and about 60″ with it all the way down (which is the only way I ever use it). Even at 5′, the ball head (RRS BH-40) adds about 3″, and then the camera (Nikon D800) adds another 4″ or so, and, of course, your eyeballs are not at the top of your head, it gets me pretty close to eye-level.

          However, having said all that, what I find I do most of the time when using a tripod is to shorten it considerably and use a right-angle finder, which means looking down instead of horizontally to look through the view-finder. Of course, it depends on what you’re shooting. The RA finder wouldn’t be so good for moving wildlife, I guess, but it’s fine for landscapes, architecture, and so on.

  7. 7) Faiz
    August 4, 2010 at 10:53 pm

    Tthanks for this so much helpful info Nasim
    I’m gonna buy Slik Pro 340DX Tripod (Black) with 3-Way Pan/Tilt Head this weekend!!!

  8. 8) steven ross
    August 6, 2010 at 7:02 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    I have read numerous posts on your site over the last week and recently ordered my first nikon d5000 with the assistance of all your information. I am very interested in landscape photography and was curious what you think of the rocketfish 65″ carbon fiber tripod. What are the pros/cons to this tripod and do you think its a good one to start out with. I can pick it up for about 100 used or 150 new.

    Thanks for any help,

    • August 18, 2010 at 2:58 pm

      Steven, $150 sounds like a killer deal for a carbon fiber tripod. I honestly do not have any experience with Rocketfish tripods to comment though…

  9. 9) Amit
    September 6, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Hi Nasim,
    I have Nikon D90 + 18-105vr + 35mm f1.8. In future I might purchase a few more lenses but I don’t think I will ever buy a heavy lens like 70-200 f2.8 or 300 f4 hence the overall weight of my camera plus lens would not go more than 2 KG. I am thinking of buying a tripod. My budget is around $200. I am considering the following:

    Benro A-600EX tripod legs (Weight: 1.77 KG, Load capacity: 8KG):
    And Benro BH-2 ballhead

    I can also consider Manfrotto’s basic model 055XPROB (Weight: 2.4KG, Load capacity: 8KG) with Manfrotto 496 RC2 ballhead.

    Marfortto’s tripod and ballhead will cost me approximately twice that of Benro’s. Do you think that I should spend that extra amount and buy Manfrotto’s system? What is your overall impression of Benro?

  10. 10) alejack
    January 23, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    What about monopods it would be great to hear your opinion about that

    • February 23, 2011 at 12:00 pm

      Alejack, I personally don’t use monopods as much, although I have one from Manfrotto. Just make sure that whatever monopod you are buying can handle the weight you are putting on it and you will be good to go. Carbon fiber monopods are obviously preferred due to lighter weight, but will be more expensive.

  11. 11) jayh1285
    June 4, 2011 at 8:07 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    I am in search for the holy grail of tripods and hope you can help me out. I am looking for a tripod that is 1) sturdy (I have the D7000 and the 16-85mm, looking to buy a telephoto lens sometime in the future), 2) portable (preferably with folded length < 22'' so it can fit inside my carryon when travelling and also so it fits well on my Kata 3n1 (thanks for the suggestion it works perfectly!)), and 3) have a relatively tall max height since I am 6 feet tall. I know I will probably have to sacrifice max height in order to meet the portability requirement and I don't much hunching over a little bit. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks! Please keep posting these how-to guides, I've learned so much from reading your website.


  12. 12) Dinesh Maskeri
    July 10, 2011 at 9:41 am

    Hello folks,
    I just glanced upon this site and this article. I recommend and second getting the best tripod your money can buy. In the long run you will save money rather than climbing up the tripod ladder and having a whole bunch of lesser tripods no one will take off your hands.

    Also consider Feisol legs – carbon fiber, twist locking legs, swivel base, bag and accessories included in the kits. A terrific competition to the infamous Gitzos. I have a Fiesol I’m using extensively and its terrific. You’ll save about 40-50% on a comparable Gitzo and there is not much difference that you’ll find and for that price they are all steals. Here’s the site:

  13. 13) Amartya Mukherjee
    July 18, 2011 at 7:49 am

    Hi Nasim,
    Useful article as always – your website is ‘heaven sent’ for image makers across the globe!

    A specific question: I now use a Nikon D7000 and lens up to 200mm and have not had to use tripods legs so far for the street / people photography I have been doing. For an upcoming wildlife trip I am procuring a long lens (200-400mm F4 VRII) and seek your valuable suggestion in terms of the best tripod system for the same in terms of legs, head, anything else you may suggest . [Manfrotto is available in my city and I would prefer lighter carbon fibre legs.]
    If I had to also get a monopod what would be your suggestion pls (some safari vehicles in India are small and we do not always get space for tripod)?
    Thanking you,
    Photographically Yours,

    • October 26, 2011 at 2:24 am

      Amartya, I apologize for such a late response, I hope your trip was fruitful. For the 200-400mm, I would get a Gitzo CF tripod without a center post with a gimbal head from Wimberley or Jobu Design (plus arca-swiss adapters). Either one will work great. That’s the ideal setup. As for a monopod, any metal or CF monopod should work. You will probably have to purchase a separate head for that, since using a gimbal on a monopod is not going to work.

  14. 14) FR
    August 1, 2011 at 4:58 am

    Hi Nasim,
    I love your reviews. They are helping me a lot to get started in a very exciting new hobby! After a few months reading them, here I go with my first comment/question.
    I am about to buy my first tripod and I want to do things right. I want it to be my tripod for ever. I know that I will not be shooting on lenses of more than 300 mm. The main advantage of carbon fiber tripods is the gain of weight, but I do not see this issue to justify the very high extra value that it commands. This is why I am going for an aluminum tripod. I like the GT2341L but it is not a Systematic and it thus has a center column. I am thinking that if I keep it down, it should be the same as having no center column at all. Am I right? What disadvantages do you see on this tripod?
    Also, I would like to know your opinion about Gitzo’s ball-heads. To my mind, it seems logical to get such a ball with a Gitzo’s tripod but experts mostly talk about Arca-Swiss. I would like to have your point of view on this too.
    Thanking you very much!

    • October 26, 2011 at 2:28 am

      FR, I apologize for a late response – somehow missed your comment. I personally would not get a tripod with a center column. I know some people will swear by their gitzo tripods that have a center post, but from my experience, it is just another variable that can potentially introduce camera shake. I would get a systematic for the most stability, especially when using gimbal-type heads.

      Don’t get tripod heads from Gitzo. Your best bet is to get a ball-head from Arca-Swiss (Monoball Z1 is the one I use and love). You will have to buy arca-swiss adapters for your cameras and long lenses, but it is totally worth it.

  15. 15) Vicki
    October 22, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Thanks for a well written article, I certainly have a better idea of what to look for in a tripod that will suit my needs. I just need to save some more $$$ now :)

  16. 16) Patrick
    October 31, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Hello Nasim,

    Thanks for your excellent and systematic review. It’s very helpful to me in making a first selection as indeed the number of tripods on the market is overwhelming!

    I especially take your recommendation to buy the right stuff from the very beginning, rather than upgrading from a $100 to a $300 and eventually buying the one I really need…
    My current equipment is not yet that heavy (Canon 50D+grip, heaviest lens is a 70-400/4), but I want to take eventual future heavier lenses into account when buying the tripod.

    Based on the above, I’m considering 4 gitzo models:

    1. systematic GT3541XLS: 3-series, 4 leg sections, height 78’’, weight 4.3 lbs
    2. systematic GT5541LS : 5-series, 4 leg sections, height 60.2’’ weight 6.3 lbs
    3. mountaineer GT3541L : 3-series, 4 leg sections, height 59.1’’, weight 4.7 lbs
    4. systematic GT3530LS : 3-series, 3 leg sections, height 58.3’’, weight 4.0 lbs
    (I won’t purchase or use a center column for stability reasons)

    From practical experience, could you give your opinion on the following aspects of these tripods? Unfortunately still I have no experience with this myself.

    a. Considering my own length: eye level at 6 feet / 72’’, minus the height of the camera and ballhead I would need a tripod of at least some 65’’ in order to be able to stand straight up. Hence, with tripod options 2, 3 and 4 I would always have to bend down at least a bit. My questions:
    – In how far is it really a problem to have to bend down? So how important is it really to be able to have the camera at eye level? Back- / neck problems? But isn’t it in most cases the composition that determines the height of the camera rather than eye level? Thus: would I actually really use the extra height of the XLS model in practice?
    – would it be possible that the XLS is less stable than the shorter models, because of its longer legs?
    – Or would it simply be enough for me to select one of the shorter models?

    b. The choice between the 3-series models and the 5541LS:
    – Is a 5-series only needed for the heaviest super-tele’s? Which are considerations for selecting a 5-series versus a 3-series (or vice versa)?
    – The 5-series is heavier and thicker than the 3-series. In how far do you experience this as a disadvantage on e.g. long walks?

    c. 3 or 4 leg sections?
    – Are tripods with 3 leg sections really more stable than those with 4 sections? I could understand this from a theoretical perspective, but who can comment on this based on practical experience?

    Thanks for your comments!

    Regards, Patrick

    • October 31, 2011 at 2:01 pm

      Patrick, easy choice as far as I am concerned – get the Systematic GT3541XLS. It is pretty close to your height and don’t forget, once you put a tripod head on it with a camera, it will be above your eye level. Don’t buy anything shorter, because you will get tired very quickly due to neck and back pain, especially when shooting landscapes and wildlife. The GT3541XLS supports 18 kilos, which is most likely more than you need…

      And don’t worry about stability – 4 legs does not necessarily mean that your tripod will be less stable. You will get more shake from you pressing the shutter button than from tripod legs. I shot with both 3 legs and 4 legs and I could see no difference in performance. Those carbon fiber legs are very tough!

      As for 3 vs 5 series, the difference is in how much each can handle. The 5 series can support up to 25 kilos of weight, which is way more than any long super teles like the 600mm f/4.0 (approx 5 kilos). Add a heavy tripod head and your hand on top of the lens and lets say you have a total of 10-15 kilos – that’s still less than what the 3-series can support. So in your case I would go with the first choice :)

      • 16.1.1) Patrick
        October 31, 2011 at 4:19 pm

        Hi Nasim,

        Thanks for the extremely fast and clear reply!

        This is really useful as I have no experience with it. It takes away several of my doubts about the XLS – also in relation to the other options.

        So this is a leap forward in my decision process. I think I indeed wil go for the XLS. Will go to a store tomorrow to actually try it, and let you know the outcome :).

        Best regards,

  17. 17) Niclas
    November 1, 2011 at 6:18 am


    a good article on that topic – along with many others I have read so far. Go on! :)

    Currently I am using a Novoflex Magicball Ballhead, which is easier to get here in Germany as it is produced here (so far it works just fine for me).
    So just out of interest: Have you ever tried one of these and do you purposely not recommend it?

    Best regards,

  18. 18) Patrick
    November 2, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Just bought the XSL. It’s huge and very sturdy!

    The 5-series is a beast… quite heavy and think (but REALLY stable), and indeed, as you suggested, much more than I woudl really need.

    Thanks again for the advise. Great site AND support!

    Best regards,

    • November 2, 2011 at 11:25 am

      Nice Patrick! Glad you like the XSL – you cannot go wrong with Gitzo! That tripod will last you forever. Careful about the replaceable feet – I lost those a couple of times, just make sure that they are tight at all times :)

      • 18.1.1) Patrick
        November 3, 2011 at 2:40 am

        Thanks Again Nasim, for the advise on the feet. I’ll keep an eye on that!

        And for the ballhead I think of an Arca Swiss Z1. Alternative would probably be the RRS BH 55, but that’s about 20-25% more expensive than the Arca (here in The Netherlands).

        Any thoughts on this choice?

        Thanks, Patrick

        • Patrick
          November 3, 2011 at 12:13 pm

          Well… scrolling up on this page I found your answer…. just forgot about that :)

          Went to the store today and compared the Arca with the BH 55. The latter seems also quite good to me, but I went for the Arca.

          Now I have a rock-solid set!

          Thanks for your comments; great site – great advise!


  19. 19) Chris
    November 15, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    Great Article Nasim! I would be one of those people who disagree with you about being able to change the feet of a tripod. It is nice to be able to use the spikes when I am shooting in a mossy or wet surface where the feet tend to slide on me, and then use the same tripod with out spikes the next day on a hardwood floor without damaging the floor.

    • January 18, 2012 at 2:59 am

      Chris, I guess it depends on where you shoot primarily and in which conditions. If I lived in Washington state where it is rainy/mossy/slippery, then I would definitely get myself some spikes. For most of my photography (in our dry climate), the standard rubber legs work just fine :)

      I went back and modified the article a little though!

  20. 20) Michael
    December 19, 2011 at 6:23 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    Thanks very much for your fantastic site. Lots of extremely important information here. I was one that started with an under $300.00 tripod/head support system and saw the light rather quickly. I didn’t make the same mistake twice. My new system is a Gitzo GT3541LS MAGICA wish is available through the Photo Pro Shop

    MAGICA is an acronym for Markins – Gitzo – and CArbon Fiber. The systems consists of the Gitzo Systematic of your choice with a Markins TH-300 Anti-Vibration plate to replace Gitzo’s supplied hub,
    Leg wraps, Titanium spikes, Markins Ball head of choice “I chose the Q-20” and a protective cover for the ball head.

    This system is a dream. The sweet spot on my Markins Q-20 is a joy to use. Once dialed in, the camera/lens remain where you point it, no wobble, no slip, unlike my previous system.

    It was well worth evey penny.

    Thanks again for a wonderful site.

    • January 18, 2012 at 2:54 am

      You are most welcome Michael! You got yourself a very nice pro system that will last forever.

  21. 21) Jeff
    December 26, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    Great article Nasim!

    I took into account what you said and ended up getting a Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100. It was on sale for $100 bucks (normally priced twice that). Even though its not CF, the aluminum structure including the ball head weighs only 5.38 lbs. This is a great starter tripod for a newbie like myself.

    Thanks for all the info…

    • January 18, 2012 at 2:53 am

      Jeff, sounds like you got a good tripod at a great price, congratulations!

  22. 22) Ravin Sardal
    January 8, 2012 at 10:50 pm

    Hey Nasim,

    I wanted to ask what tripod should I buy for my d7000 with an 18-200vrII lens.
    I originally bought a $20 tripod for my d5100 with the 18-55kit lens but now i feel that is too flimsy for my d7k with the 18-200.
    My price range is at most $75.

    • January 18, 2012 at 2:52 am

      Ravin, I believe I have provided recommendations in the above article for picking a tripod based on your budget.

  23. 23) Michael Costello
    January 17, 2012 at 3:10 pm

    Nasim, thank you very much for taking the time to produce this excellent article. I am looking at purchasing a new tripod and would appreciate receiving your recommendations on a unit that lies between the $150.00 and $500.00 categories. I want a “good” all purpose tripod that will accommodate diffent type of photography including landscape, portraiture etc. I am 7 foot 7 1/2 inches tall and currently have a tripod with a centre post. My current tripod has snap down clamps to hold the three different lengths to the legs but I find now that some of them tend to sliip. Mind you the tripod is over 20 years old so I really have nothing to complain about. Your recommendations would be truly appreciated.

    Thank you for reading my post.


    Michael J.

    • January 18, 2012 at 3:14 am

      Michael, I am afraid my recommendation would fall out of your price range…most tripods under $500 will be very similar to what you have right now, with a center column.

      • 23.1.1) Arun K Singh
        August 13, 2012 at 2:43 am

        Dear Nasim
        I am in a great dillema over Benro A2970/80F + Manfrotto 496RC2 and Vanguard Alta Pro 263 AB/GH 100.
        Please advise (considering that Benro comes with a 10kg load capacity and Vanguard is a TIPA awardee).

        Thanking you in advance.


  24. 24) Ravin
    January 17, 2012 at 9:14 pm

    Wow u are so lucky to be that tall!!

  25. 25) Rahul
    February 1, 2012 at 6:10 am

    Hello Nasim.
    Great article. What I was wanting to ask, is your view on the tripods and ball heads from vanguard, particularly the Alta Pro series. I particularly likes them because they have a tilting central colum and also provide low angles for shooting. Since I do a lot of macro nature shots of insects, spider, flowers etc, I was considering that tripod.
    Would like to know your thoughts on it and if you would recommend it.

  26. 26) David Greenaway
    February 6, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    I’m looking to purchase a tripod for my DSLR at the moment and I found your article very useful. After reading it, I have decided I would like to buy a tripod without an extendable centre column. The problem is, I’m having trouble finding one that is tall enough. The height at my chin is approx. 165 cm. Would you be able to recommend a good tripod that would suit my height?

    Many thanks,


    • 26.1) Rahul
      February 17, 2012 at 1:19 pm

      Hi David.

      I happened to read your comment. 165cm is not an issue.
      You have some great tripods from vanguard and manfrotto that have a maximum height of 165cm +

      For example, manfrotto 055xprob has max. height of 178cm. And vanguard alta pro 263at has a max height of 168cm.

      On top of this you shall obviously mount a head, probably a ball head which roughly adds 5-7cm of height .. and upon you mounting the camera, the effective height increases by a total of 12-14cm above the max height if the tripod. You should easily be able to look through the viewfinder without having to bend.

      • 26.1.1) David
        February 17, 2012 at 8:30 pm

        Hi Rahul,

        Thanks for your advice. I ended up getting a tripod from 3 Legged Thing which easily matches my height. It’s only since getting a DSLR that I’ve fully appreciated how useful a tripod is and how important it is to get the right one.


  27. 27) Charles
    February 19, 2012 at 5:01 am

    Hi Nasim,

    I just came across your website researching tripods and I am excited to learn more from your well composed articles. I am a semi pro and this will be my second tripod, my first being a very cheap Dolica which has treated me well. I am considering purchasing the Manfrotto 055xProb for a product shoot job that I recently acquired. I chose the 055xprob due to the horizontal arm, price, and reputation of the Manfrotto brand. I am using a Canon 7D with 100 mm 2.8f Macro Lens. If you have any advice I would be pleased to hear from you.

    On a second note, what is the advantage of ball heads in your opinion? I have only used a pan head before but I have not really developed a preference. I would appreciate a head recommendation for the 055xprob as well. Thanks for your time and keep up the good work!


  28. 28) k.beers
    March 9, 2012 at 7:31 am

    A really good, logical presentation of the basic information needed to choose a tripod. I have tried to expand on this information at where I am gathering a product database, reviews, and news related to choosing and using a tripod. Please check it out!

  29. 29) Kathryn Abbruzzese
    March 22, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    WOW, great info about tripods, wish i knew this two tripods ago. But where do you purchase these products. Best Buys and local camera stores don’t stock these brands mentioned. I have a Nikon 300mm lens, and a heavy Nikon camera too. Thank You for the great info.

  30. 30) Jesse R
    March 27, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Thank you for the reviews. I have a tendency to read and trust your reviews more than anything else on the website. I especially like that you keep your content current. You recommend several tripods. At this point, I don’t know how much I will use the tripod so am leaning toward buying a basic setup to start and once I know how much I will use it, upgrading. Specifically, you like the Slik700DX and the Oben 1410. They are nearly the same price and both come with a head. Which do you think is the better option? Ease of use is the most important factor with stability a close second. I don’t see myself hiking with the tripo and instead using it at home to take pictures of my family. So weight is less of a concern at this point. I would have bought the SLIK based on your recommendation, but then recently you bought the OBEN foryouself which confused me! Thanks!!


  31. 31) Jeff Skory
    April 1, 2012 at 6:32 pm


    Thank you for yet another incredibly informative article. Of all the ones I have read so far on choosing tripods (quite a number), yours by far is the best one in terms of giving me great advice.

    I learn something from your website just about every day. Thanks again for sharing your vast knowledge!


  32. 32) sorav
    April 7, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Hello Nasim,
    I just read your excellent article on tripods. May I ask you for helping me out. I am looking to use the tripod for 400mm 5.6L lens primarily. I will use it mostly for wildlife. Which one you suggest. I am an amateur trying to be semi-pro.

    I own a Canon 7D, 11-16mm, 18-55mm, 70-300mm, 400mm lens. I also have a light and medium tripod ( Dynatran, i bought it on ebay for 6 bucks in 2005 ).

  33. 33) Harry
    April 24, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Hi, Nasim! I like your review. I would like to buy my first tripod. Do you have a suggestion for Sony A77? Do you suggest getting a monopod? Last year, I went to an air show and monopod seems good in that scenario.

  34. 34) Nish
    May 4, 2012 at 3:39 am

    hi dear, i have little money around $80. can you please advise which tripod can i buy. i have a d3100 and 50-200 lens.

  35. 35) Jeff
    May 16, 2012 at 10:55 am

    Hi Nasim,

    Thanks for the great article! I was wondering if you had any suggestions for a tripod to take hiking for photographers over 6 ft(I’m 6’3″)


  36. 36) Neil Foster
    May 27, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Hello Nasim, I am at my wits end. I purchased a Nikon 400/2.8VR lens from Australia (pre used),try as I might is is very difficult to obtain crisp images. I feel the culprit is my old Benbo alloy tripod.
    I have a Wimberly gimball and use the best technique but still a softness with my images. Should I get myself a GitzoGT5531s . If I touch ny setup I can see it vibrating wildly so I feel the tripod is not supporting properly. As always I value your imput. Regards Neil Foster (New Zealand )

  37. 37) kiko
    June 6, 2012 at 10:45 pm

    Hello Nasim ,thanks for the great article ! Ipurchased a sony A700 i am planing to buy a tripod but i am a beginer i do not know much abut the tripods .will i be abel to use any tripod for my camera or do I have to buy a specific one . I wonder the same for ball heads .
    I was wonderin if you can help me .


  38. June 22, 2012 at 8:18 am

    You pretty much nailed all the aspects of tripod selection – great job! I like the advice of starting cheap as you don’t know how much you will use it. It will also highlight the particular shortcomings that you want to fix with an upgrade, whether that is the weight, the head movements, etc.

  39. 39) Sam
    June 24, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    Great article.I read the article on my i phone on way for shopping a tripod for my D-90 and that 30 minutes of travel to the mall changed my mind in terms of features, specs,brands & budget of a tripod for me .I couldn’t accept a single piece there and returned home for a fresh approach on the buy at an appropriate showroom.Thanks Nasim for saving me from the frustration of an underperforming Tripod.

  40. 40) Ricky
    July 8, 2012 at 4:37 am

    Hi Nasim!
    I just brought a 7D and now I wanna buy a tripod.Budget-$300 suggestion plz:)

  41. 41) Dinesh Agrawal
    July 24, 2012 at 3:21 am

    Nice and very useful review for me.

    as i am thinking to purchase a good tipod for my camera.

  42. 42) Photographer
    August 13, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Great article!

  43. 43) Vijayakumar M
    October 4, 2012 at 6:43 am

    Nasim : Your write up was extremely good. I use a Rollie Carbon Fiber Tripod with ball head and quick release system as shown in your article. The problem with this one and many other I have seen is, if I want to take photo in portrait mode, the camera starts slipping down (drooping down) due to weight of the lens. This happens to me mostly when I use my D800E with 24-70 lens. I can use my 70-200 lens comfortably. The plate of Arca-Swiss Z1 Tripod head shown in your article above is having two stoppers on one side, which will prevent the camera from drooping down while in portrait mode. I would suggest you to include this point for whoever reads this article and decide to go in for a tripod. Reading this article and seeing the mentioned plate , I realise that a remedy is available for the problem I am facing, and now I will go for this particular ball head, if available in Singapore.
    Thanks once again.

  44. 44) Julie
    October 9, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    I just purchased my first DSLR and I’m looking for an inexpensive tripod, so I can take our own family pictures. I would like a tripod with a remote. Are there any you can recommend?

  45. 45) Allan
    November 10, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    What do you think of the 5 section carbon fiber travel tripods? These are some I have seen advertised:

    Gitzo GK1580TQR5 Series 1 6 X Carbon Fiber Traveler Tripod Kit for Cameras ($750)
    ProMaster SystemPRO T525P Platinum Series Carbon Fiber Tripod ($300)
    Vanguard Alta Plus 225CT 5-Section Compact Carbon Fiber Tripod Leg Set ($260)

    The only one I was able to see in a local store was the ProMaster. It is very compact and appeared solid.

  46. 46) James Aguinaldo
    December 19, 2012 at 12:13 pm

    Just the article I was looking for. I plan on taking your advice as I am an amatuer photographer who takes lots of landscape and architectural photos. Since this is my passion have choosen the high end vs low end when it comes to the equipment I use.

  47. 47) KB
    January 3, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    Thanks so much for the info, I’m spending so much more time looking for a suitable tripod, than compared to buying a new camera! Your article clarify so many things I’m confused about when it comes to what makes a good tripod, so thanks again!

  48. 48) anonymous
    January 5, 2013 at 2:03 am

    Hi, i am currently thinking of getting a tripod for my camera. I have a sony NEX F3 camera and i am currently traveling. So a tall tripod is pretty much out of the question. I have seen tripods that can be clamped but not sure if i could trust them?

    What options to i have. Its a sony nex f3 so it’s not the size of a DSLR. Great articles thanks

  49. 49) Henry
    March 3, 2013 at 8:21 am

    Hi Nasim

    Thank you for yet another great and very article – wish I had read it much earlier, that could have saved me a lot of money.

    Now I have a GT3541L, a Kirk BH-1 and a Wimblerly sidekick coming my way, after a trip down the trial and error road..

    One thing I would like to mention, although I have not yet verified it yet myself.
    The center column can be removed and replaced with a plate, that means you can get the best from both
    worlds – so you can use the center column with short lenses and for macro if you like, and remove the center column for long lens usage.

    That is pretty handy and supposed to work without using tools for the change.

  50. 50) Patrick Lynch
    March 15, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    Hi Nasim,

    Thanks for a great article and great advice. NOW I feel ready to go buy a tripod. Best Wishes.

  51. 51) Tina Landolt
    March 17, 2013 at 7:52 am

    Hello :)

    Thank you for sharing all these knowledge, its priceless! :) I have quite a few questions though… I’m just starting with photography. I have Nikon D7000 and have been playing with it a lot and reading a lot too!!! But I’m excited for my trip to Morocco on the 28th and have been looking for a tripod that I can bring with me. Were travelling by motorbike from Geneva and will use it too when hiking… Please if you can advice me of which tripod would fit my needs and as a beginner. I’m all dizzy and confused now with all the articles I’ve been reading! I don’t even know if all tripod heads are compatible with all cameras :(( Although, I was looking at Induro AKP1 :) Thank you very much in advance!!! :))

  52. 52) Bruce Randall
    March 24, 2013 at 12:53 am

    Hi Nasim,
    I like your generous and informative articles. I am a little surprised that you or anyone else have not mentioned the “INDURO” tripods and ball heads or gimbal heads. They are just as good or even better quality than even Gitzo. While they aren’t cheap,price wise, they cost much less than Gitzo. Check out the (carbon fibre) CT314 tripod with the BDH3 ball head and Benro short column for supporting a D700 w/battery grip using a 70-200 2.8 VRII or the 300 F/4 lenses for someone who is 5’9″ in height. I would like to hear your thoughts on that? Thank you.

    Bruce Randall

  53. 53) Nicole
    April 7, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    This article was very helpful! I was interested in your opinion on the Kirk BH-3 vs the BH-1. Do you know what the differences are? The obvious one I saw was the weight capacity. I plan on sticking with the same camera body for a while and my lenses that I do have so far do not weigh much. I cant see myself going over the 15 lbs anytime soon. Do you think the BH-3 would be a good alternative for me? Save a few bucks?



  54. 54) srinivas
    April 18, 2013 at 4:56 am

    Hi Nasim,
    I would like to invesr in a Tripod and head for Bird photography.
    I need you guidance and it should be a good on and not costlier.
    My equipments are Nikon D4 + 200-400f4.
    Looking forward to here from you.

  55. 55) Michael
    June 18, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    You wrote a very good article on tripods. I was looking up something for my sister overseas and I believe yours will explain things quiet well. On another note, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the top-notch cinematographers while working in Film and also worked as a pro photog and shared stories with some top photogs as well. One thing I remember early on is asking them questions to see if what I had studied at university was in agreement with what they believed in and practiced–this info attained from film professors and photo professors. When it came to landscapes they did seem to agree with one thing: the best angle for a landscape (and all other shots when possible) is certainly not at your eye level, even if you’re only 5 feet tall, it is lower. I was very surprised that you, saying you love landscape photography, would say such a thing. Take a look at some of Ansel Adams photos and you will see what I mean. Once again, well written article. Thanks

  56. June 21, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    I stumbled across this article while reading the Nikon 70-200 f4 review. Thought I would mention the tripod I have that I understand B and H now sell. Its called Three Legged Thing and their range is named after rock guitarists. Mine is a 3LT x2 Eddie ( as in Van Halen).

    It fits into my cabin luggage by removing the head, it is not as tall as me but I like to take my shots at the lower angle to help differentiate my work. One neat feature is that the leg assembly can be adapted so that one of the legs may be used as a monopod.

    Nasim, great site keep up the good work.


    I have had the tripod for 18 months. It been to Utah canyons and up to Yellowstone. I had an issue with it after the first year and was delighted to discover it had a 5 year warranty in the UK. Not sure about warranty in US. The UK based company fixed and returned it to me in about a week.

  57. 57) mar cohn
    June 28, 2013 at 2:45 am

    I have always used Manfrotto tripods , they have an excellent build quality, and can take a few knock and scrapes, there are loads of reviews of tripods on

  58. 58) Tim
    October 30, 2013 at 1:07 am

    Nasim – Do you have any experience with the Acratech Ballheads, in particular their GP series that you can convey any information on? Has anyone from Photography Life tried or tested them. They quite interest me and I am interested to know if anyone has had positive experience with them. Thanks for any info you can provide.

  59. 59) Chas C Shellian
    November 8, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Yes, nice article with plenty of thoughts, to consider. Interesting and helpful info.
    I recently made a major investment in a new Nikon DSLR camera & equipment and needed a better solution to the tripod dilemma. The D800 with telephoto lens and SB-910 speed light is pretty heavy.
    Making hand held photography nearly impossible, at least for any length of time.

    I found the Vanguard line of tripods and grip heads to be pretty cost effective, especially now, with plenty of new stock being delivered to the stores.
    At the time I write this, there is a great Fall Promo sale on, at, when
    buying certain tripods, you get a free ball grip head.
    I ended up buying a tripod that came with a complimentary head, and for a measly $15.99 handling, fee for a mail in, you get a free second ball grip head free.
    I find the Alta Pro 263AB 100 with their GH-300T pistol grip ball head with trigger release to be exactly what I wanted. Buying this ball grip head, it also came with a gift… Timing is everything
    Such high quality manufacture and awesome designed products. I feel very confident my expensive photography gear will always be safe and free from danger of getting knocked over or blown asunder by the spirited wind gusting freely between her sturdy legs.

    Enjoy which ever safe and sound stand you decide to plant your trusty photo gear upon.


  60. 60) Priya
    November 21, 2013 at 12:28 am

    Hi Nasim,
    I need your help in buying a tripod which would suite my point & shoot as well a DSLR.
    Looking forward for your valubale suggestions.


  61. 61) John Barclay
    December 24, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Hi Nasim. I found and read your review of tripods which is very helpful. I have purchased a Nikkor AF-S 400 mm F2.8G VR for my Nikon D300 which is a heavy lens, and quite large, for wildlife photography. My current tripod is too small to support the lens. Would you recommend the Wimberley Gimbal or King Cobra still, and what tripod legs would be best for a lens like this? I might hunt around in eBay.
    Many thanks
    John Barclay

  62. 62) Alois
    January 10, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    I read your article and enjoyed it. I had a couple questions. Do you have an opinion of the Acratech brand? And I am interesting in using my DSLR for video as well and wondered if there is a ball head that would work best for both photography and video? Thanks, Alois

  63. 63) Kit McGurn
    April 19, 2014 at 3:01 pm


    Thanks so much for this info, very helpful for beginner photographers. Im curious if you have any thoughts on the MeFoto tripods, specifically their globetrotter series which seems appropriate for backpacking as well as supporting heavier equipment/lenses/etc. Thanks for any info,


  64. 64) Percy
    May 28, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    Would the Sunpak Ultra 757TM Tripod work for my canon rebel dslr camera?

  65. 65) Carlo Francis
    July 28, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    What brand of tripod is the best benro or vanguard? How I can buy the good tripod? I have DSLR canon eos1100d, lens ef-m 18-55, lens ef 75-300 and flash speedlite 270 exII. Please help me and give some advice for the quality of the tripod.

  66. 66) Katie G
    September 7, 2014 at 10:06 am

    As a new photographer who just spent the last 5 hours scouring all possible forums on the internet to try to understand the best advice in this whole tripod business…. your review is a godsend. Thank you for spending the time to write a detailed description and recommendation… VERY helpful.

    • 66.1) Viswa
      October 10, 2014 at 6:11 am


      I always refer to your videos on youtube and forum for any clarity on photography.

      Thanks for all your help and support.

      All the best and good luck

  67. 67) Suki
    November 21, 2014 at 6:09 am

    Hi Nasim
    I am an enthusiastic amateur who shoots with a Nikon D800, with both wide angle and telephoto zooms. I mainly do landscapes, and birds as well.
    Which combination of tripod and ball head would you recommend?
    Thanks for your support

  68. 68) Luc Poirier
    January 11, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    Hi Nasim
    Even if I have a center post on my Manfrotto 0055CL / L806, I can take it out and use the bottom plug of that center post to install it to replace the center post on the tripod. I also have a very good Gitzo ball head GH2780QR ser 2 MAG centre BALL HEA QR (435$cdn + taxes). My main problem is how to carry such gears for 4-5 hours ? Can you recommend any bags

  69. 69) toxictabasco
    February 6, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    Great informative advice for tripod seekers. Thank you for taking the time to explain it all. I totally agree, having a stable ridged tripod is the key to great images. Funny thing is, only serious photographers will get the best tripod, and the masses are content with the less expensive offerings. I myself always use a tripod whenever I go out shooting. It’s not the most expensive, nor is it carbon fiber, but it gets the job done. And, I tested the camera flat out on the concrete with weight over the camera, and the image quality was no different than using the tripod.
    Nevertheless, there’s a current trend of lightweight compact tripod on the market. Seems a lot of people go for the light weight & compact, and will pay $200 to $500+ for that convenience. However, I have yet to find any of those compact travel tripod (with 4 or 5 section carbon fiber legs) that can reasonably support a DSLR with wide angle lens when extended to barely 5 feet. They all seem flimsy.
    The question I have is, does anyone have experience using the 3 Legged Thing Tony tripod. It only has 3 aluminum leg sections and is rated to support 26 lbs. I know it’s not the “BEST” tripod. But, it’ll fit my photography needs. Thanks.

  70. 70) Leona
    May 17, 2015 at 1:31 am

    Thank you for writing this! Its heaven sent! I have no idea what to get! I do travel and hike, I’m quite a small person so i can only carry so much. I have been looking at Vanguard carbon fibre legs. Could you perhaps tell me what kind of head i could attach to Vanguard legs?Thank you!

  71. 71) msdanie85
    June 17, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    Super Helpful Post!!!! Thanks so much for this! I was definitely lost on buying my first tripod for my Nikon D610 and this post has provided me with everything I need to make a good choice!

  72. 72) Sheikh Kabir
    June 24, 2015 at 12:22 am

    Hi Nasim

    Thanks for a great article. I have two concerns.

    One is Don’t you think Center-post/Center Column is also important to the photographers for studio work, macro-close up kind product photography and any kind of “COPY WORK” (copy from album photo, book) because there you can use that center column as a horizontal position (not as usual vertical position) to keep camera sensor plane horizontal to the table/flat surface. also helps to do macro work in ground field that need top view.

    Second is you didn’t mention Brand Manfrotto. is it not good? currently i am using two Tipod. One Heavy other Lightweight.

    Heavy one is Manfrotto 055XPROB Tripod LEG with professional ball head Manfrotto Proball 468RC2 . what is your comment about this

    Lightweight one is Sirui T-025

    Sheikh Kabir

  73. 73) DSLRBeginner
    July 6, 2015 at 10:37 am

    I love the way you organise your thoughts and experiences in such simple way. It is definitely easy to follow and won’t require much effort to read as compare to some other articles. Very helpful advise!

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