All You Wanted to Know About Tripods, But Were Afraid to Ask

While a $20 Best Buy tripod might seem like a good value, that’s not the case when in just a few short years you have to buy 6 of them because they keep breaking on you. I know from experience. After missing enough shots because my tripods kept breaking, I broke down and bought a professional tripod and haven’t looked back since.

Photographer Daniel Norton walks those new to the world of professional-grade tripods through the various options in the video above, for both video and stills shooters. I’ll save you the trouble though and cut to the chase, more than a decade ago I ended up buying the Manfrotto 190XPRO3, and that tripod is still serving me well to this day. Though mine doesn’t look as snazzy as the 2021 models, it’s still as solid as the day I bought it.

While Norton dismisses the benefits of carbon fiber tripods, I ended up spending the extra coin on the carbon fiber version of the tripod as well. My back thanks for me for on those long hikes.

Norton talks about the advantages and disadvantages of ball heads, and how more sections equals more portability. To that end, I’m also a big fan of having a travel tripod handy, and while I had a pretty good impression of the MeFOTO RoadTrip tripod in a review a while back, I keep coming back to my Manfrotto BeFree tripod when I’m on the road. It’s for the simple reason that Norton mentions at the end of the video, which is that having the same quick-release plate for all your tripods makes switching back and forth easier. I’ve made it a point to have a bunch of Manfrotto 200LT-PL plates lying around so I can put my cameras on everything I own easily. Oh, and I hate the twist-lock system on the MeFOTO, but that’s more of a personal preference for lever locks, which I find to be more precise in locking down tripod legs.

While there’s a lot of good advice from Norton for video and still tripods, especially about the different types of heads and legs available, the best advice is the one left unsaid, though clearly implied in the video: Buy a pro-grade tripod, it’s absolutely worth it. These are probably famous last words, but I haven’t had a single broken tripod since buying a “real” one.

Do you have a favorite tripod I haven’t mentioned? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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5 Comments

Bryan Mitchell's picture

I recently was in the market for a new tripod when I fell into an icy river onto my beloved 30 year old Gitzo and snapped it between me and a rock. Ya, it was cold. Anyway, I did lots of research, to much in fact. Was leaning toward Gitzo but didn't want shell out a grand. I went with the FLM CP30-S4 II (https://flmusa.com/product/flm-cp30-s4-ii-carbon-fiber-tripod/) While I like my Manfrotto ball head their tripods where out because I prefer twist to lever. Levers no matter on a tripod, monopod, bike stand, what ever seem to wear out and fail quicker in my experience. I have not had the FLM for long but nice first impressions. Build quality seems real nice, the weight and folded length are right on and height when extended is perfect. After using it a few times the locks are smooth and legs are smooth plus seems nice and stable. Best thing about it so far is I don't have to think about it. It just works the way I need every time.Plus Jason the NA rep was quick to answer all my questions. My 2 cents.

Robert Nurse's picture

I was looking for a travel tripod and was directed to the KingJoy A83: carbon fiber, spikes and case. The center column is removable and one of the legs screws out for use as a monopod! It also shares screw threads with my older, heavier Gitzo aluminum. So I can share the Gitzo long spikes.

Bryan Mitchell's picture

Hey Robert, I've always been curious. Do you find having a removable leg (for monopod) effects the stability of the tripod, or the connection loosens up over time? I've considered a tripod that does this yet have had concerns its an extra connection/area prone to failure or problems. Thanks. -Bryan

Robert Nurse's picture

So far it hasn't. But, I haven't had it long. I usually let that leg be the front leg. The screw-in seems pretty secure.

Bryan Mitchell's picture

Thank you for input.