Along with a strap, camera case, and high-quality flash, no photographer’s kit is complete without a handy tripod. While modern tech helps a lot, the best images require a steady grounding, and that’s doubly true at night. A tripod with strong, steady legs provides that firm grounding, and it’s key to getting the most out of your kit.
But the most expensive, feature-packed tripod isn’t the best choice for everyone, and if you only break out the camera on the weekend, you might want some more reasonably priced. The best tripods on our list have a variety of price points, so you can find one that best suits your budget and photography needs.
Peak Design Travel Tripod
If you ever needed an indication of how valuable a tripod is to photographers, just look at the Peak Design Travel Tripod. This Kickstarter-funded product raised over 12 million dollars soon after it was announced. Backers waited in anticipation as they had been promised a top-quality travel tripod that’s unlike any other. The first batch came out in late 2019, and as expected, Peak Design didn’t disappoint. The positive reviews rolled in, and the demand continued, ushering the company to make more available to those who want to be part of the party.
In both aluminum and carbon fiber versions, the major selling point of the Travel Tripod is how compact and versatile it is. Unlike traditional tripods, the center column is more triangular in shape, allowing the three legs to be packed tightly against it, eliminating any dead space in the process. Despite its small size, it has been designed to hold DSLRs and telephoto lenses — big and heavy gear — so you can have peace of mind when attaching your equipment to it.
On the flip side (literally), a phone mount hidden in the bottom of the center column means you can also use the Travel Tripod with your smartphone — because it’s 2020, after all.
The next batch looks set to ship in April 2020. You can preorder one now from Peak Design.
Read our Peak Design Travel Tripod hands-on review
Manfrotto Pixi Evo
Manfrotto might be better known for its larger tripods, but the company has struck all the right chords with its Pixi Evo series. Designed for smartphones, point-and-shoots, action cameras, and even mirrorless cameras, this little tabletop tripod is built like a tank, but packs down small for the sake of convenience. Perfect for travel and outdoor adventures, the ball head lets you easily level your camera even when the tripod is placed on an uneven surface. It can also be used as a hand grip for holding your camera when shooting video.
MeFOTO RoadTrip Classic Leather Edition Tripod
There’s something about leather that oozes class and sophistication. But don’t worry, this offering from MeFOTO isn’t just a gimmick to mask a lack of quality. The standard RoadTrip Classic is made from traditional aluminum, but those who are prepared to pay a little extra may want to invest in the carbon fiber edition. It comes with an Arca-type Q1 triple-action ball head that offers superb stability. Because of this, both DSLR and Mirrorless shooters will be pleased to know it’s able to hold cameras up to 17.6 pounds in weight. The leather material not only highlights your sense of style, but it’s also comfortable to hold and adds further protection to the tripod.
Joby Gorillapod SLR-Zoom
If you’re looking for flexibility, Joby’s iconic lineup of GorillaPods will give it to you — literally. Its legs are basically a series of interconnected ball joints, allowing them to articulate in any direction so the tripod can grip anything it can fit its legs around. GorillaPods come in a variety of sizes, too. This particular model, for instance, is capable of holding up a DSLR with a decent-sized lens. For smartphone stability,might be right up your alley, while mirrorless users might find the more appropriate for medium-weight applications.
Slik Sprint Pro III
The Slik Sprint Pro III is a great travel companion. It’s light, at only 2.6 pounds, and versatile, making it perfect for shooting in a range of environments. The Sprint Pro III has four-section legs and extendable center column that expand to a height of 63 inches. Compared to others on this list, it’s not the strongest, capable of holding just 4.4 pounds, but that is still enough to support your mirrorless or DSLR with a standard zoom lens attached.
What really sets this Slik apart is its price. This is simply one of the most affordable full-size tripods you can buy, making it great even for casuals users who may not need a tripod very often.
Vanguard Alta Pro 263AGH
Tripod heads come in all shapes and sizes. Vanguard’s Alta Pro 263AGH offers one of the more unique styles, however, amounting to a pistol-style grip that rotates on a ball head. The three-section tripod features an uncommon three-position angle adjustment, allowing you to set the legs at a 25, 50, or 80-degree spread to go from a standard upright position to an extremely low one. Combined with a 13.2-pound weight limit, this tripod has a lot to offer, especially when you consider the relatively affordable price.
If you’re looking for a nimble tripod that can handle both still shots and video work, you should opt for one with a fluid head, and Manfrotto has some of the best options out there in terms of bang-for-your-buck. The Manfrotto MK190X3-2W is one of the company’s mid-tier options, yet it still offers impressive performance despite its compact design. The fluid head makes it easier for you to employ pans and tilts for a nice and smooth result while recording video. This tripod is unique in that it’s actually a still photo tripod with a video head attached, and it uses the same quick-release plate as Manfrotto’s other still photo heads. Consequently, the MK190X3-2W makes it easy for you to swap out a ball head when you need it. This tripod may be a good choice for hybrid still/video shooters.
Gitzo GT3533S Systematic Series 3 Carbon Fiber Tripod
Although this tripod comes with a hefty price tag, it also comes with a lot of premium features and high-quality construction to make it well worth the extra cost. It was created with the professional in mind, as this carbon fiber tripod scores highly when it comes to weight, durability, and unshakeable stability. This tripod starts at a minimum working height of just 3.5 inches in low-angle mode, but it actually extends to a maximum of 51.2 inches. If you work on tougher terrain such as dirt, sand, or mud, you can easily replace the feet with metal spikes to give you better stability on even the toughest surfaces. If hauling a heavy tripod around doesn’t sound appealing, Gitzo has you covered because this one’s relatively lightweight at less than 5 pounds (it’s actually 4.3 pounds if you want to be exact). Even better, as light as it is, this tripod can still support a payload of up to 55 pounds, which is more than 12 times its own weight.
MeFoto Classic BackPacker Travel Tripod
Compact, colorful, and capable, the MeFoto BackPacker Travel Tripod is one of the more interesting tripods on the market. Like most of MeFoto’s products, this particular tripod is available in a rainbow of colors, ranging from silver to purple. As you may be able to guess from the name, this compact tripod is meant to fold down easily to fit comfortably inside almost any backpack for easy portability. The MeFoto Classic BackPacker Travel Tripod may be compact, but it still manages to hold an upwards of 8.8 pounds on its ball head mount. If you like the look and brand but want an even lighter tripod, you might want to check out the Air version of the BackPacker.