Product Reviews

The Camera Tripod Buying Guide For Beginners

Joel Lee 15-04-2014

If you don’t have a tripod, you’re only hurting yourself. Tired of camera shake ruining your photos? Want to take time-lapse shots or long exposure photos? How about the ability to be inside your own photos? Tripods allow for all of these, so if you don’t have one, why not?


Tripods don’t have to be expensive and they don’t have to be an inconvenience. Are you ready to set aside your iPhone camera Beginners Guide To Using The iPhone Camera If you haven't used the iPhone Camera app much, or if you’re a new user of the device, you may not realize just how close the app is to literally being a point-and-shoot camera, and... Read More and take some real photos? Here’s what you need to know about buying a tripod as well as a few recommendations to point you in the right direction.

Camera Tripod Specifications

There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the right tripod for your needs.. Here are the factors that you need to consider:

  • Height: Minimum and maximum height are both important and the right choice will depend on what your photography entails.
  • Weight: It should be obvious that the heavier the tripod, the more difficult it’s going to be to carry around.
  • Load and Stability: An unstable tripod is pretty much worthless. It should be able to bear the weight of your camera at maximum height on a windy day. There’s nothing worse than a destroyed camera due to a fallen tripod.
  • Head Attachment: Tripod heads come in two main varieties: pan-and-tilt, which tend to be cheaper but less flexible; and ball-and-socket, which can be annoying to operate but provide lots of flexibility in camera movement.
  • Leg Locking: How do the legs of the tripod lock? Does it require twisting and screwing? Or is it a flip-lock mechanism? Go with the option you feel most comfortable using.

Tripods For Portability


Pedco UltraPod II ($17): If you need a tabletop tripod that’s lightweight and quick to setup, there are few better than the Pedco UltraPod II. It weighs 4 ounces and measures down to 7 inches at its most compact. It’s sturdy and durable with a load capacity of 6 pounds capable of supporting digital SLRs, making it quite worthwhile for the price.



Vista Traveler ($20): The Vista Traveler by Davis & Sanford is an affordable non-tabletop aluminum tripod that weighs 2 pounds with a height range from 20 inches to 53 inches. It can carry a max load of 4 pounds, which should be enough for most hobby travel photography.


GorillaPod SLR-Zoom ($50): Ready for an atypical tripod? The GorillaPod by Joby is a flexible-leg tripod that can be bent in various ways to cling onto uneven surfaces, making it fantastic for extreme outdoor photography. It weighs less than a pound, can accommodate a load of up to 6.6 pounds, and reaches a maximum height of 9.8 inches.

Tripods For General Use



Dolica GX600B200 Proline ($55): Need a full-sized tripod on a budget? This tripod by Dolica fits the profile with its 60-inch height (there’s also a 65-inch variant) and ball head. It only weighs 2.5 pounds and can handle up to 15 pounds with its aluminum flip-lock legs. Will it suffice for professional photography? No, probably not, but it’s a great entry-level tripod for the skilled hobbyist with its built-in level, center column with counterweight hook for extra stability and flip leg locks


SLIK Sprint Pro II ($90): This tripod by SLIK has a quick-release convenience feature on its head, which makes it great for frequent use. Though it weighs less than 2 pounds, it’s a full-sized tripod that can reach a height of 64 inches and withstand a max load of 4.5 pounds.



Benro A2970F Versatile ($155): With a considerable surge in price comes a considerable jump in quality. The sturdy Benro Versatile reaches a max height of 69 inches and can support up to 22 pounds, which pushes it above the average hobbyist’s tripod. It folds down to 26 inches and weighs 4.5 pounds, so it’s not ideal in terms of portability; otherwise, it’s a wonderful purchase.

Best of the Best Tripods


SLIK PRO 700 DX ($170): This tripod is made from a special alloy material called AMT (aluminum magnesium titanium) which purportedly increases it strength-by-weight ratio by 40 percent. With a max height of 75 inches, max load of 15 pounds, and an all-metal 3-way pan head, the SLIK PRO 700 DX a reliable piece of equipment that’s suitable for most occasions. It’ll be hard to beat based on value alone.



VANGUARD Auctus Plus 283AT ($380): The price might scare away a lot of hobbyists, but for semi-professionals or those serious about photography for the foreseeable future, this tripod is a great buy. This solid tripod comes with unique all-terrain feet that’ll hold its ground on dirt, sand, and rocks. Its twist-lock legs can extend up to 67 inches, and Extreme Support Height Positioning Wheel System allows you to easily secure and adjust 31 pounds of gear to set up big shots.


Manfrotto 055CXPRO3 ($400): As one of Manfrotto’s sturdier offerings, the 055CXPRO3 oozes quality. It has a carbon fiber and magnesium construction and weighs only 3.6 pounds while extending to 69 inches. The spring-loaded legs featured in the 055CXPRO3 are easy to set up and take down. Although the head is sold separately, this tripod can support a max load of 17.6 pounds, and the overall look and feel of it is hard to beat.

Are you a complete newbie just getting into the swing of things? Or maybe a long-time hobbyist who’s looking to improve? In addition to using a tripod, check out our guide to digital photography A Beginner's Guide To Digital Photography Digital photography is a great hobby, but it can be intimidating, too. This beginner's guide will tell you everything you need to know to get started! Read More and our top 5 photography tips 7 Key Photography Tips for Absolute Beginners These photography tips will help you take better photos, whether you're a beginner or have some practice already. Read More to kick your photos up a notch.

Whether newbie or professional, we want to hear what’s on your mind. Which tripods would you recommend and why? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

Image Credits: Eric May Via Flickr

Related topics: Buying Tips, Photography.

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  1. Anonymous
    June 23, 2015 at 9:00 pm

    It is worth noting that these cheap Chinese tripods are easily broken down - should avoid such and choose always something better

  2. EdB
    April 17, 2014 at 9:43 pm

    Does anyone know of a good how-to-use-a-tripod tutorial? I have a cheap pan and tilt which I'm always struggling with. I'd like to figure out how to use it properly before I invest in something better.

  3. Jimbo
    April 17, 2014 at 7:41 am

    I have gone through a number of tripods in my career. The most reliable is the one I've used for the past six years on my heavy Nikon setups. It is the Ravelli APGL4 and is available on Amazon for $93 dollars. It is super study. In portrait mode, you just need to tighten the screw to keep it in place. If you shoot that way often, you would want to use an L plate for any tripod imo.

    • Joel L
      April 22, 2014 at 2:00 am

      Nice, I'll have to look into that. If it's as good as you say for $93, that'll be a real steal. Thanks!

  4. Matthew
    April 16, 2014 at 10:03 pm

    If you want to tripod mount a phone camera, you can do it with a clamp that attaches to the standard tripod fitting.

    I keep a clamp mount attached to a tabletop minipod for mine, a lot better than trying to prop the phone on edge.
    PS. The minipod is a real cheapy - the phone clamp cost more, but for the light weight, and as I'm usually firing it on self timer, jog resistance is not a problem.

    Actually, even on sturdier tripods, you really want to be shooting "hands off", using timer, cable or cordless remote.

    • Joel L
      April 22, 2014 at 1:59 am

      I didn't know there were phone clamps. That sounds awesome, actually!

  5. Douglas M
    April 16, 2014 at 7:03 am

    Thanks for the tips!
    I actually look for a tripod for video projector. I am not sure these can help but it's good to know how to choose when you're looking one for camera!

    • Joel L
      April 22, 2014 at 1:58 am

      You're welcome! I don't have enough experience with video projectors, sorry I can't be much help there.

  6. rflulling
    April 15, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    the worst you can do is to get a tripod with a flip up attachment to let you turn your camera at 90 deg. Why is this an issue? because cheep tripods never sit the camera level and the attachment is to blame as it will refuse to ever sit flat. Always a few mm off.

    • Tony
      April 16, 2014 at 2:45 pm

      What's your solution for portrait mode on a tripod? I know...expensive tripod. However, the problem you mention can usually be corrected in post production.

    • rflulling
      April 16, 2014 at 3:09 pm

      Tony, the flip up itself usually works fine. It's when it is in the down position and should be resting flat that it NEVER does. Cheep stuff. Better tripods have machine cut parts, they never fail. That said I have never hand an issue with any other tripod type, regardless of how cheep.

      Solution? Don't buy a cheep tripod with that flip up part. It's junk.

      Alternative? Turn camera sideways 90 deg so the off angle effects forward looking not side to side TITLT of the picture.

      Post process? Really? I don't Photoshop my pictures. The most Crop, and white balance. A good picture is never retouched for any reason.