A tripod is a must-have accessory in a photographer’s life for a variety of reasons. There are so many choices on the market and it can be difficult to choose the right one. If you are looking for your first tripod or the new one, here’s our roundup of 5 solid performers.
Best Camera Tripods
Here are our picks for the best camera tripods:
- Best Overall: Vanguard Alto Pro 263AB
- Great for Travel: Velbon Ultra TR263M
- Most Versatile: Manfrotto BeFreeMKBFRA4-BH
- Light Weight: Cullmann Mundo 525M
- Carbon Fiber Choice: Benro Travel Angel FTA18CV0
Vanguard Alto Pro 263AB
The Vanguard Alto Pro is a perennial winner in the Technical Image Press Association awarded for the best tripod. It has several innovative design features like Multi-Angle Central Column and Instant Swivel Stop-n-Lock System outshines the competition with its competitive mix of features.
This is one of the best overall choices for most photographers. Let’s see why:
- Multi-Angle Central Column (MACC)
- Instant Swivel Stop-n-Lock (ISSL) System
- Hexagonal center column
- Bubble spirit level
- Three quick release leg sections
- 25, 50 and 80-degree angle legs
- Hook and stone bag that provides ballast
- Spiked / rubber feet
Handling and performance
Considering its aluminum and non-carbon build, the Alto Pro 263 AB is surprisingly light. It has some interesting design features that are making it easier to handle compared to some similar tripods.
One of the most important features is Multi-Angle Central Column that allows you to raise the center column and to swing around 180 degrees. Thanks to that you can get the camera in just about any position around the subject. It is highly versatile and can be used for macro photography, but the table top photography too. Its locking mechanism is a little shabby but luckily you get an Allen key with the tripod, which can tighten the locks and leg releases too.
With the height that it extends to, you wouldn’t expect this tripod to be as sturdy as it is. It has a hook that can be very useful for you to hang your camera bag (or anything you want, really) which doesn’t only keeps it from the ground, but the weight on the tripod makes it even more stable and it stops any movement.
There is also a stone bag with Velcro straps that you wrap around each leg and put rocks in it to add ballast and make the tripod more stable.
Models with a circular column are less rigid than this one with hexagonal shape but you still have to be careful that it is balanced correctly when the bag or hook isn’t used. Otherwise, it can overturn when you attach the camera.
Alto Pro 263 – Pros
- Multi-angle central column
- Solid hexagonal center column
- Excellent maximum height
- Good position of the angle leg locks
Alto Pro 263 – Cons
- An unusual Quick Release plate
Check Price of the Vanguard Alto Pro 263AT on Amazon.
Great for Travel
Velbon Ultra TR263M
A tripod that packs up to small carry and extends to good working height must be an ideal tripod for most of the photographers. That is exactly what TR263M offers along with the low weight which makes it a perfect travel tripod.
The main feature of this tripod is its size and weight. It competes with many larger tripods with its solid construction and 6 lb weight capacity, but it is a lot more compact when closed.
- Ball Head
- 28cm up to 153cm extension level
- 6 Section Leg extension
- Detachable and reversible center shaft
- Ideal max load: 4kg
Handling and Performance
This tripod isn’t the one you would rather leave behind. It is so small that it can fit into your backpack or camera bag and you will be happy to carry it with you.
It has an innovative leg extension system that uses knurled locking rings that you just twist and pull to extend and close the leg sections. The legs contain 6 sections.
Each leg can be spread individually making it more stable on different surfaces, and the rubber points on the feet make it easier to control when used on a smooth surface.
When the legs are spread out at the maximum angle you can split and use (at a short length) the friction adjusting center column that this tripod has.
The accepts cameras with the common 1/4 in thread.
The main purpose of a tripod is to tightly support your camera while allowing you to adjust to the best position. There are some kinds of photography where you would even like to close to the ground level and that is something that you can do with ease, with this tripod. Ability to do low shooting is one of the key features when it comes to Ultra TR263L. The minimum height is 28 cm.
Tripods in general have either a few levels or ring leg locks with friction extensions this one has knurled twist locks for adjusting the legs. Each leg section locks separately which might be a little confusing if you don’t twist right to secure the legs.
However, after a few goes when you get used to it you’ll see that legs are opening and closing with ease, going from collapsed to extended in just a few seconds. This ability to adjust each leg individually allows you to shoot with a tripod on some uneven surfaces or more versatile angles.
The tripod feet are rubber coated which prevents from sliding around on smooth surfaces making it really rigid and solid support even at full height.
Velbon TR263M – Pros:
- Lightweight and compact
- Extends quickly
- Allows you to shoot at a relatively low level
- Case is included
Velbon TR263M – Cons:
- Legs can be hard to extend
- Lacks 3/8″ camera mount
Check Price of the Velbon Ultra TR263M on Amazon.
Manfrotto BeFree MKBFRA4-BH
The Manfrotto BeFree is another compact, light and portable tripod, obviously designed for those photographers who like to travel, especially because it fits into a backpack. The unique folding mechanism allows the legs to fold around the head which gives it the length of only 40cm in the closed position.
The maximum load that you can put on this tripod is about 4kg, so it can be used even with longer zoom lenses. Most importantly, its small size and portability don’t compromise the tripods sturdiness.
It is a stylish tripod with a compact design and excellent build quality and it’s really easy to use.
- Unique folding mechanism
- Max payload – 4kg
- Patented leg angle selectors
- Aluminum ball head
- QR plate with dual locking system
Handling and performance
This tripod comes in a nice stylish bag that has a rubber grip on the strip to prevent sliding from your shoulder. The tripod fits neatly inside of it with its legs folded 180 degrees.
The tripod itself feels quite well built. At the top of the legs are angle sections which are quite easy to use. Each one has a label which is great for you to know how the control operates so you can easily setup, use and put away the tripod without looking for the instructions in the instruction manual.
For landscape and portrait mode you have one main knob to control the position of the ball head. When released, the main knob allows the rinsing of the head, but be careful to ensure that the position of the ball or the camera doesn’t change.
If you need to, you can remove the head so you can replace it or just take it off the tripod. When removed, you will see that underneath is a 1/2’’ thread.
A standard feature on the Manfrotto is the top quick release (QR) which features a dual locking system that assures that you don’t accidentally release your camera from the tripod.
Another securing feature is a rubber ring that protects your equipment if you somehow accidentally let the center column drop while still having the equipment on it. There are also rubber feet on the bottom of the legs that prevent the tripod from slipping.
On tripods where the legs are closer together, it’s quite easy to quickly release all legs at the same time. The Manfrotto, however, has the distance between the leg releases which makes it a little tricky to release them all at the same time, but once you get used to the position, it becomes really easy to unfurl the tripod.
There is the silver knob at the top of each leg that controls the angular position of the legs. If you twist the knob once the legs will click into what’s called a standard angle or first position. twist it again and the legs will spread further apart. If you turn it to the original position you will be able to fold the legs into the tripod and pack it up.
The tripod can fully extend to the maximum height of 144cm and it performs very well. However, it might be a little too short for you if you are taller than 180cm unless you can tilt the screen on your camera.
Manfrotto BeFree – Pros:
- Excellent build quality
- Compact size and lightweight
- Great quick release plate (same as other Manfrotto tripods)
- Really easy and quick to deploy
Manfrotto BeFree – Cons:
- No tightening tool included
- Could feel a little short for taller people
Check Price of the Manfrotto BeFree on Amazon.
Cullmann Mundo 525M
With its weight of 1.65kg, Cullmann is the lightest of the tripods. It is really large, but quite compact when folded down and it can also be a monopod which makes it really flexible for lots of shootings. It can hold a maximum of 8kg which makes it suitable for mid-sized DSLRs.
The Cullmann Mundo is really easy to set up and it’s very well made so that it feels like a premium product. This highly versatile tripod is available in black, blue, orange and silver.
- Aluminum build
- 8kg max load
- 45.5cm length when compacted
- 159.5cm max height
- 4 leg sections
- Ball head
- Spirit levels on quick release plate
- Detachable monopod
Handling and performance:
The legs are smooth and well muted which makes the tripod easy to set up and with the addition of the grippy rubber rings you can adjust the legs to the wanted length before tightening them.
You can easily remove the camera base plate if you need to and put it back as easily. Below the ball head is the pivot that allows the smooth movement which is ideal for capturing panoramas. The subtle movement is made with an ease and you won’t have to worry about your kit crashing thanks to the amount of friction.
The leg center column that adjusts the height is a great feature with a nice design. The fins are quite easy to turn, you just need to be careful while adjusting it because it goes from secured to loose really quickly, so make sure to hold the head.
The tripods minimum length is 17.5cm which gives you plenty of options for shooting in different angles.
The Cullmann Mundo 525 M offers a good value for the money with its numerous features and a clean and stylish design plus the 10-year warranty.
Cullmann Mundo – Pros
- Premium look and feel
- Monopod included
- Smooth and well-damped operation
- Stylish look
Cullmann Mundo – Cons
- Relatively Heavy
Check Price of the Cullmann Mundo 525M on Amazon.
Carbon Fiber Choice
Benro Travel Angel FTA18CV0
Lightweight and compact, made from carbon fiber, Benro Travel Angel, folds down to only 44cm which makes it a travel style photo tripod.
It is stylish with a classic look and it comes as the complete package with a tool for tightening bolts, optional spikes for the feet and all in a nice carry bag. Overall, this is a quality product.
- 4 leg sections
- 3-way ball head
- One leg can be a monopod
- Height adjustable center column
- Dust resistant construction
- Carbon Fibre construction
Handling and performance:
The bag that comes with the tripod is ideal for transporting or just to put it away when you aren’t using it. It looks nice and it is really good quality.
You can easily unfold the tripod and to lock the legs in place you have the lock on the top that you just have to push into a place at the wanted angle. The design allows you to just easily bring the legs further in to make it taller and if you want to bring the tripod back into a folded position you only have to pull out the leg lock and voila – you can move it again.
It has three angles in which the legs can be spread which give you a lot of variety for shooting in different angles. If you need more grip, there are three spiked feet that you can screw into the bottom of each leg. It is quite easy to unscrew the tripod leg which then becomes a monopod.
You get the wooden kit and the camera mount (that you can screw the top plate on) with the tripod.
The tripod itself is a little chunky but that makes it easy to grip. It has knobs on the three-way ball head which are rubberized and smooth to turn. The head moves with ease and you can adjust the amount of adhesion there will be while moving, which allows you to position the camera just as you want to.
Benro Travel Angel – Pros
- Well-made and solid
- Spiked Feet
- Carry bag is included
Benro Travel Angel – Cons
- Leg locks can be a little confusing at first
Check Price of the Benro Travel Angel on Amazon.
Tripods are an essential piece of gear for photographers. We hope this roundup helps you choose the best tripod for your shooting needs.