Camera Tripod Knowledge Base

You don't need a tripod until the shutter speed is long

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Choosing the right tripod can be an overwhelming experience; there are so many choices! Aluminum or carbon fiber? Lightweight or heavy? Three leg sections or four? Buy for the equipment I have now, or for the equipment that I might get down the road?  Here are a number of things to consider when choosing a new tripod.

Since many cameras and lenses have image stabilization you no longer have to use a tripod in most cases. Having to carry one is a pain and As a result cripples creativity. Digital has all but Killed The Tripod.

Only use a tripod for still subjects either at night or when you need long shutter speeds of about 1/60 or slower.

You don't need a tripod until the shutter speed is long. Today VR OS and IS lenses also help obsolete them. Long shutter speeds only occur at night, you have a cheap lens, or if you are at f/22 for a lot of depth of field.

Bring out a tripod and everyone thinks you're a professional photographer and then crowd around you as if you somehow have the only good spot from which to make a photo.

Tripod Leg Types

• Aluminum – Most common – 3-section more stable than 4-section

• Carbon Fiber – Lightweight – More easily damaged – Expensive • Wood – Special purpose (large format) – Dampens vibrations well Tripod Leg Manufacturers

• Most popular for pros and serious amateurs: –
– Gitzo
• Many others are more concerned with gizmos and gadgets than making a solid tripod Tripod Legs • Bogen/Manfrotto 3021N – Good aluminum legs for all-around use – Heavier tripods are available for studio only use – Lighter tripods are available for serious hiking • Gitzo GT2330 – Gitzo has many other models – Talk to a Gitzo user

Tripod Bonus Features • Leg angle adjustment – Legs splay out to get tripod low to the ground • Remove ˝ of Bogen 3021 center column to get lower • Built-in Level • Padded Legs – Option for many tripods – Cheap: pipe insulation & duct tape – Won’t freeze your hands in cold weather – Can rest your tripod on your shoulder when carrying

If you are serious about landscapes, architecture photography, long telephoto shots or low light and night photography, a quality tripod and an even better tripod head may represent your best digital camera accessory. The importance of a good tripod can not be underestimated when you demand the ultimate image quality.

Number of Leg Sections Tripods with 3 leg-sections over 4 leg-sections are best for most applications. Let's consider two equivalent Gitzo® mid-range models: the 3 leg-section GT2530 and the 4 leg-section GT2540. The top tube diameter is the same for both models. But since each leg section has to telescope into the previous section, the fourth and final leg section of the GT2540 is quite narrow. In practical terms, the final leg section of the GT2530 is about the width of your thumb, while the final leg section of the GT2540 is about the width of your index finger. Lastly, tripods with 3 leg-sections have only two joints per leg. In general terms, the fewer joints, the better the support; the fewer joints, the less hassle.

But there are times when a tripod with 4 leg-sections is a good choice. If travel and portability are premium considerations for you, tripods with 4 leg-sections always collapse into a shorter closed length. This can often mean the difference between fitting in that carry-on suitcase and leaving your tripod behind.

Aluminum or Carbon Fiber?

Carbon Fiber

  • Greatest weight to stability ratio; today's high-performance models deliver excellent stability even when ratio of head-to-leg mass drops to about 1.5.
  • Easier to handle in extreme cold since the leg sections do not get as cold as aluminum.
  • Dampens vibration faster than aluminum.
  • Typically half the weight of a comparable aluminum model.
  • Typically twice the price of a comparable aluminum model.


  • Typically half the price of a comparable carbon fiber model.
  • Typically twice the weight of a comparable carbon fiber model.
Height & Center Columns Remember that this means maximum height and minimum height. Want to have your viewfinder at eye level? Choose a tripod that can extend at least to within about 6-inches of eye level (that remaining 6-inches will be taken up by your ballhead and camera). Want to be at ground level? Choose either a tripod without a center column, or one of the Gitzo Mountaineer models with removable center columns.

Choosing a tripod with or without a center column is a matter of personal choice. Some shooters prefer the Gitzo Systematic series that come with no center column (but they accept a range of Systematic accessories, including optional center columns). Others prefer the versatility that a center column delivers; it sure is handy to just raise the center column a bit when you need that extra inch in height rather than adjusting each leg section. Note that if you do choose a tripod with center column, you'll Best Prices for the best support when your center column is not fully extended (so choose a tripod that is tall enough without the center column fully extended).

Other Factors Remember that selection of a support system stems from three inputs: personal bias, load, and surroundings. Your goal is to have a solid support system that is more than the sum of its parts. A well-crafted support system is built from the ground up with quality components that enhance the genuine needs and preferences of each shooter. Tripod legs, head, quick-release clamping system, camera and optics—a well chosen combination, used properly, will yield the finest results with every use.

A tripod is only as good as the head that sits on top of it. Arguments over which type of head approach the Mac vs. Windows level of fervor at times, with ball head fans swearing that three-way panning heads can’t touch them, and the reverse. Well, you’ve got plenty of choices no matter which way you go, but ball heads are clearly gaining in popularity with many more new options on display.


Full size Tripod prices run from $8.95 for the Zeikos ZE-TR26A 50-Inch Full Size Tripod to the Manfrotto 519,542ART Video Kit with 519 Head, 542ART Tripod legs and MBAG100P Padded Tripod Bag (Black) at $2,809.90  


Look for a tripod that will, with the tripod head and camera attached, be tall enough for your height without extending the center post. The Bogen 3221/3021 is a good choice if you're less than 6' tall.

Get a tripod that will go to ground level. This is important for close ups and for landscapes.

Make sure your tripod has independent leg movements. In other words, no braces between the legs. The legs should also be able to swing out 90 degrees (or close to that)

A tripod, especially for outdoor work, is nothing to scrimp on. A tripod that is perfectly adequate for indoor work on a flat surface can be a challenge to use in an outdoor environment where the ground is seldom flat and solid.

Suggested Tripods

Bogen/Manfrotto 3021/3221. Same tripod 3021 is silver, 3221 black. $140-187, depending on features.
3001 Shorter, different leg locking mechanism. $87-140 depending on features

Gitzo Very good, expensive. Carbon Fiber and aluminum tripods.
GT3530LSV, G1325—carbon fiber, tall enough for a 6’ person, three leg sections 1320—aluminum, tall enough for a 6’ person, three leg sections
GT3540LS, GT3540LSV. G1348 --carbon fiber, tall, 4 leg sections.
GT1530, GT1540, G1257 and G1258—carbon fiber. For shorter people, 3 and 4 leg sections

A light, flimsy tripod with you is miles better than a big, heavy tripod at home. I have a reasonably nice "professional" tripod, which I very rarely use because it's too big to lug around on foot, and only barely fits into a fairly large suitcase. Knowing what I know now, I might as well not have bought it; the light ones I have get the job done almost as well and they're with me a lot more. So if you're not sure of what you want, go for the smallest and lightest tripod that could possibly work. You can always add a heavy one later if you need it -- and you will almost certainly use the light one as well.

Tripod Brands

Benbo Tripods
Benbo - Stability linked to versatility and weight is the prime consideration when choosing a tripod. For nearly 40 years Benbo tripods have offered photographers a unique combination of these factors. 
Benro Tripods
Benro - (23) - Originally founded in 1996 as a cooperative tripod manufacturer, Benro developed and began marketing its own brand name - Benro Professional Tripods and Heads - in 2002.
Berlebach Tripods
Berlebach - In 1994 thet Berlebach-Stativtechnik appeared on the international world-wide exhibition "photokina" for the first time and presented its latest range of newly developed and improved ash wood tripods. 
Bogen Tripods
Bogen (see Manfrotto) Bogen Imaging Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Vitec Group, . Bogen Imaging import and distribute the brands  by the Photographic Division of Vitec; Gitzo, Manfrotto, Avenger, Kata and National Geographic
Bower Tripods
The Bower name is synonymous with quality products at affordable prices with a vast selection of photographic accessories. such as lens adapters, filters, light flashes, tripods
Canon Tripods
Canon's Deluxe 200 Tripod is made for medium-sized 35mm cameras with up to a 75-300mm telephoto zoom lens attached. 1" wide maximum diameter leg tubing assures stability,
Carson Tripods
Carson -
Carson manufactures a wide variety of Tripods that range from table-top Tripods, to full-featured full-sized Tripods. Carson's full-sized Rock™ series Tripods are sold in intuitive retail packaging   
Celestron Photographic/Video Tripod
They build tripods, computerized telescopes and manual telescopes, binoculars, spotting scopes and microscopes for serious and amateur astronomers and hobbyists."
Cullman Tripods
Cullman - a major manufacturer of prosumer tripods for digital, still and video applications, as well as many niche needs where sturdy equipment support is needed. noted for their outstanding stability and ease of handling
Davis & Sanford Mini Traveler Tripod with Ballhead
Davis & Sanford  Over the past 75 years, they have built up a diverse line of well-engineered, sturdy tripods from low-priced, high value tripods for the weekend image taker to versatile, rugged tripods  and everything in between. 
The TP-TR62 62-Inch tripod from Digipower is for use with digital cameras, D-SLR's & camcorders
Digital Concepts Tripods
Digital Concepts Sakar International, Inc. is a 30-year old consumer electronics manufacturer. Their mission has always been to deliver great product at affordable prices
Dolica Tripods
Dolica Knowing the demand and the uprising of digital equipments, they’ve begin developing the ultimate accessory solution for all consumer and amateur photographers with competitive pricing, reliable products
Dynex Tripods
Dynex (3) Dynex focuses on computer and entertainment accessories such as storage media, data and power cables, webcams, and office supplies
Flashpoint F-1428 Carbon Fiber Tripod, 4 Section Leg Set
Flashpoint Carbon Fiber Tripods are yet another fine example that follows in the Flashpoint tradition; high quality tripods that can go the distance. Made to Adorama's specifications
Flip Tripods
Flip Video The Tripod is an ultra portable mounting device for your Flip. Set it up almost anywhere and record anything - even yourself. Comes with 5 sets of colorful interchangeable feet to match your camcorder
Fromm Works Tripods
Fromm Works
See Quik Pod

 The Quik Pod Explorer is a boom-style hand-held camera mounting pole that lets you properly frame and photograph yourself  without having to ask strangers for help
Giotto's Tripod Heads
Giotto's Professional Head Systems, Light-duty Tripod Systems, Professional Monopod Systems, Pro Mini Tripod, Portable Mini Tripod Systems, Professional Digital Support Systems, and more
Gitzo Tripods
Gitzo Gitzo S.A. manufactures Photographic accessories, including bags, but specializing in tripods and supports.
GlideCam Camera Stabilizers
Glidecam Industries Inc. offers a wide variety of camera stabilizers (camera stabilization systems) for use with motion picture cameras, video cameras, and video camcorders.
Hakuba Tripods
Hakuba Hakuba USA sells tripods under its own brand name, and is the exclusive U.S. distributor of Velbon, the world's best selling tripod Together, the Velbon and Hakuba represent one of  most complete selections of tripods
Induro Tripods
Induro INDURO. ROCK SOLID, NO MATTER WHAT – these are the perfect words to define the performance that today’s Pros demand of Tripods, Heads and Support Accessories.
Joby Tripods
Joby - They go ape for tripods!
Joby develops innovative accessories for the photography and personal communications markets. Joby was launched in 2006 as a single-product company with the Gorillapod
KOdak Tripods
Kodak Keep your camera steady in any situation—Kodak has a variety of tripods sure to meet your photography needs.
Made Products
Made Products Founded in 2006 to focus on making unique and patented accessor making highly differentiated, “sandbox revolutionary” products for photographers is a lot of fun to them.
Manfrotto Tripods
The Vitec Group a UK company acquired the Manfrotto brand in 1989  manufactures both camera supports and lighting stands.
Miller Tripods
Miller Tripods Designing and delivering professional fluid heads and tripods for film and television since 1954. A holder of the first patent for fluid head design for film cameras in 1946,
Monostat Tripods
Monostat The Monostat-RS is a must for steady motion picture shooting. Due to the friction-bearing design of the foot, involuntary movements around the longitudinal axis of the leg are prevented while obtaining smooth motion
National Geographic Tripods
National Geographic National Geographic brings a world of experience to photographic accessories. They have teamed up with Manfrotto  to produce an innovative line of photo and video supports.
Nikon Tripods
The Nikon Full Size Tripod is a fully featured tripod designed to offer Nikon binocular and scope users a steady and sturdy support system.
Opteka Tripods
Manufacturers  converter lenses and filters for digital point and shoot cameras as well as high magnification telescopic lenses for 35mm SLRs include tripods, flashes, power grips and digital picture frames.
Pedco Tripods
Pedco Products that offer a unique selection of support devices for cameras, spotting scopes, binoculars, and other optical devices. Strong, compact, and lightweight, these products are ideal travel companions
Quantaray Tripods
The Sunpak Quantaray 9002DX is an economical full-size tripod that's ideal for still and video cameras of all stripes.  distinguished by such features as an oversized leg diameter of 1 inch,
Quik Pod Hand Held Tripod
Quik Pod
Expandable handheld tripod. With the QuikPod DSLR Tripod, you can capture excellent self-portrait images or videos. All you need to do is hold the extended QuikPod with a camera attached
Ravelli Tripods
The Ravelli AVT is constructed of pressure treated aluminum and is unrivalled in stability. This geared tripod incorporates a unique center brace strut system, reliable quick-action
Sachtler 0475 FSB-6 Tripod
A manufacturer of film and video camera support products and reporter lighting equipment. Founded in 1958 and was integrated in Great Britain’s Vitec Group plc. in 1995.
Samsonite Tripods
Shoot photos and videos like an expert with this 54-inch Samsonite Camera/Camcorder Tripod. It's just the accessory you need for shooting that next family portrait!
Sima Tripods
One of today's leading innovators of consumer electronic accessories. Now nearly a hundred Sima products are sold in more than 20 countries worldwide.
Slik Tripods
Slik Some companies simply slap their brand name on a cheap copy to make a quick buck. One company even went so far as to list SLIK's model number on their copy's hanging tag.
4 Sections Pro Carbon Fiber Tripod Sirui N2204
Sirui Tripods
Ffounded in 2001, from which it collaborated with a renowned international photographic company in the early years, producing high-end photographic equipments of superior quality.
Smith-Victor 700436 CF5 Carbon Fiber Tripod with BH8 Ballhead
Smith-Victor photo and video products Smith-Victor is prospering as part of the Promark International family of brands, which includes Photogenic Professional Lighting (
Sony Tripods
Designed for easy operation, Sony has a video tripod that includes a counterbalance mechanism, smooth pan handling and tilting option to  Now, you can start producing beautiful works of art.
SunPak Tripods
SunPak • Digital photo frames • Flash units •  Video lights • Tripods & Heads • Media cases • Camera straps and grips • Filters • Step-up/down rings • Conversion lenses • Professional studio lighting systems • Photo batteries
Swarovski CT 101 Carbon Fiber Tripod w/ DH 101 Head
Swarovski - ailored to your birdwatching and nature observation needs and are designed to be used with SWAROVSKI OPTIK spotting scopes.
Targus Tripods
Targus A manufacturer of accessories mostly related to mobile computing. The company has 45 offices worldwide and distribution points in 145 counties. They are a private company owned by private equity firm Fenway Partners.
The Pod
The Pod
The advantage of a bean bag support with the security of a camera mount. Versatile soft camera supports, extremely affordable, lightweight and portable.
Trek Tech Tripods
Trek Tech The founders identified a market need based on personal outdoor experience: a sturdy, lightweight, convenient, multi-purpose device with the functionality of both a tripod and trekking pole/hiking staff.
Tiffen Tripods
Tiffen Manufactures filters for photography, and other professional film and photography-related products. Founded in 1945, by Sol Tiffen (Nat's older brother
Vanguard Tripods
Vanguard offers an extensive range of high quality products in a wide range of categories that include, binoculars, spotting scopes, soft bags and cases, tripods and TV wall mounts.
VariZoom VZ-ZG-T100M ZeroGravity Tripod System
Manufactures wide range of precision video and photo tripods, dolly & track systems, pedestals, and the unique Zero Gravity™ tripod head.
Velbon Tripods
Velbon (Velbon Tripod Co., Ltd.) is a manufacturer of photographic accessories, specializing in tripods.
VidPro Tripods
Has been revolutionizing the quality of aftermarket accessories. In fact, VidPro has been consistently recognized as a world class supplier, and is acknowledged as an innovator.
Vinten 3819-3 Pozi-Loc Aluminum Tripod Legs
Vinten Tripods
A wide range of lightweight, studio and outside broadcast camera support equipment  Here you will find information on all Vinten pan and tilt heads, tripods, and pedestals.
Gitzo GK2380VQR Vintage 4-Section Aluminum Tripod
Vitec Group is an international group serving customers in the broadcast, photographic and military, aerospace and government (MAG) markets. Companies include: Genesis Camera, Gitzo, Manfrotto Group, Sachtler, Vinten
Vortex Summit Pro-GT Tripod
The finest in rugged optics when it comes about by paying attention to detail in every aspect of our business. They are fanatics about doing things right.
Wimberly Tripod Heads
Wimberly Tripod Heads
Things once thought of as impossible with a ballhead are nothing short of mundane with a Wimberley, Point the rig where you want and take the hand away, and it stays where you put it.
Zeikos Tripods
A budget electronics and photography accessories company headquartered in New York. They offer a wide range of products for who they consider “professionals”.

See also

External Links You may want to consider browsing the following manufacturer websites for detailed information about their tripod offerings. Their websites may offer more information, including product data sheets, than what is available on product packaging. Note that this list is for informational purposes only: