How to Choose the Right Tripod

If you don't use a tripod, you're doing your photography a great disservice. But how do you know which tripod is best for your particular needs and circumstances?

Not so long ago, I wrote an article here on Fstoppers asking if people typically overpay for tripods. I looked at three tripods I currently own and compared them all and carefully examined the key differences between them. The article generated a lot of comments about all types of tripod-related things, but what wasn't in question by anyone was how absolutely necessary and beneficial tripods are. Regardless of whether you shoot landscapes, portraits, flowers, architecture or a combination of them all, tripods are one of the key components to getting consistently high quality images. But how do you know which tripod is best for you and how do you confidently choose the one that will suit your needs most? In this video by Dave McKeegan, he runs through six quality tripods from three different manufacturers and discusses the different qualities and features that make a good tripod. Equally as important is his opinion on what you really don't need that some tripod manufacturers might try to sell you on.

Personally, I don't think you need to spend that much on a tripod, but give this very informative video a look and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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12 Comments

Paul Lindqvist's picture

Kind of futile test, not taking into account the different heads, also only entry-level tripods and calling the 055 a beefy tripod shows it's more a guide with specs of small cheap travel tripods.

As for what you need to spend, that depends entirely on what you shoot and how just as with any other photo gear like camera and lenses.

Alan Klughammer's picture

Several years ago I downgraded to the 055. It is a good overall tripod, but I would not call it "beefy" rather I would call anything less stable as flimsy.
but to each their own I guess

Paul Lindqvist's picture

I think the definition of high-quality tripods are very loosely used here, especially when you set the bar as low as a Manfrotto 055 or befree series which both the author of the video and Ian Stanley do in his previous article.

Many of the Chinese manufacturers of CF legs match and surpass Manfrotto offerings, which isn't really that surprising as Manfrotto CF legs never been considered that good to begin with, when they first started there were hardly any weight difference between their ALU and CF models, still isn't a huge benefit (not last time I checked anyway)

Larry Chism's picture

If you are looking for tripod reviews see Fstoppers Benro tripod review in 2017 and Thomas Heaton's review of his current 2019 tripod.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

Larry Chism Not sure if the reply was meant for me or not. If it was.. Considering Thomas Heaton (which is an excellent photographer, and vlogger) have used a Manfrotto ball head to quite recently I think his demands and needs are quite low compared to mine so I would not take his opinion on heads and tripods as gospel for my use. .-)

Larry Chism's picture

Paul, not replying to your post. However, I have had similar problems with a Manfrotto tripod and ball head.

Paul Lindqvist's picture

Yeah, Manfrotto ball heads are very coarse and not very precise, and their QR systems leave a lot to be desired. My first ball head was a Manfrotto 468mg about 15 years ago which was quite good, but it did lock up occasionally. From there they really haven't improved, I tested one of their later designs the 057 a couple of years back, for a permanent mounting on in the office. even for that basic use, it was too coarse to give you any precision, finding a sweet spot was a pita.

Their Geared heads 410 and 405 are ok, 410 not very precise and over time becomes sloppy in the gears. 405 Is huge but have some QC issues with its quick locks as well as it's built-in spirit levels.

Their tripods range from quite good, i.e their studio 058B Triaut studio tripod to their tripods with center columns that shift once you lock them down and flip locks that snap. (like 190 and the new befree)

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

How to pick the right tripod? It’s the one on the right, isn’t it

If you don't use a tripod, you're doing your (wedding/event/sports/family/newborns/lifestyle/corporate) photography a great disservice. Do I?

Will Murray's picture

I use a tripod when necessary, and otherwise I do not.

It's no longer the 1970s, where we shoot Kodachrome 64.

Carlos Teixeira's picture

Start by not buying any Manfrotto tripod.

John Nicholson's picture

Yeah, a video titled 'choose the right tripod' and you only feature 3 brands (and not even include one of the best in the industry) it's pretty pointless.