Choosing the Best DSLR Tripod
For Enthusiast Photographers
A tripod is an essential camera accessory which allows you to pursue your creative aspirations, countering challenges from the elements of nature and the physical limitations that one is bound by and yet come through with stunning imagery worth sharing.
A tripod beyond your camera body and lens is the next most important tool for most types of photography. For landscape photographers, a sturdy tripod is indispensable. There is also a range of best tripods for DSLR video shooting, which is made for smooth tilting of your digital camera.
Starting out as a photographer you will soon realize that your hands cannot be always trusted to keep the camera steady when you are making an exposure.
Call it the limits of physical abilities or anything else but you can never hope to keep a camera steady at slow shutter speeds. Yes, you may try the age old trick of using a shutter speed faster or equal to the inverse of focal length, faster aperture or even faster ISO, but true creativity demands something extra.
This is where the importance of a tripod is realized!
Which DSLR Tripod should I choose?
The answer to that question, in one line, would be, anything that allows you to steady your camera and take images using long shutter speeds. In reality, however, the process of picking a tripod is not that easy. If for nothing else you will be lost for choices. There are simply too many and honestly, it can be confusing.
We have made a selection of the best DSLR tripods available (to see the current price move your mouse cursor over the Amazon “Shop Now” icon on the images).
These are the parameters and the choices that fit those parameters.
The best DSLR tripod may vary according to your needs!
1. Low Budget: Sunpak 5200D Digital
I figured if I can get the most obvious thing out of the way first up we can move on to the most technical requirements in deeper detail.
So, here it goes, for those who are on a tight budget, the Sunpak 5200D Digital Tripod retailing at just under ten bucks is probably the cheapest tripod there is.
It supports 1.5 kilograms of gear (your camera, lens, filters, hot-shoe mounted speed lights etc. all taken together).
It comes fitted with a three-way pan head and weighs less than a kilo.
Is it good for you? Well if you really have a super tiny budget, yes. Otherwise: No!
Because when you want something to hold your camera steady you don’t want it to be wobbling around at the slightest pretext. That’s what the Sunpak 5200D does. It certainly does not have the build quality for supporting professional gear.
2. How to End the Wobbling: The Vanguard Abeo Pro 283AGH
So, realistically speaking don’t look for tripods that are under $200. In the long run, you will regret the decision of having bought something that you can’t use.
The Vanguard Abeo Pro 283AGH is a great tripod in that sense to start off this discussion. It comes with the GH-300T grip head and AirHed 1 Ball head.
It has everything that you need for indoor and outdoor shoots. It comes with customizable feet. You could choose to use spikes or rubber feet depending on the terrain that you are shooting on. The maximum height that the tripod reaches to is 70.25” and the central column can pivot 180 °. It has a ball head mechanism that also sports a quick release plate.
The whole package comes at a shade under $275.
3. Top Build Quality: Vanguard Alta Pro 283 CB 100
That brings us to the next point – build quality.
Now, there are a number of good brands such as Oben, Vanguard, Benro and Manfrotto which make excellent tripods for professional photographers.
Most of them make carbon fiber tripods as well, which are preferred by most photographers for their light weight and sturdiness.
The Vanguard Alta Pro 283 CB 100 is a good tripod to start your search with. It comes with a ball head instead of a three-way pan/tilt head that gives you better flexibility than the Sunpak 5200D. Additionally, the carbon fiber construction gives it sturdiness and makes it lightweight at the same time. When extended, the tripod reaches a height of 5.83’.
This is exactly the kind of tripod that you would like to plug on your shoulders when hiking in the woods.
It weighs just about 2.1 kilos and supports up to 8.1 kilos of camera gear. Additionally, it has spiked rubber feets designed never to lose grip on slippery surfaces.
4. Best DSLR Tripod for Indoor Shooting: Manfrotto MT190CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber
Speaking of spikes and grip this is our next topic of discussion. This end of the tripod is known as the feet. Now, feet of your tripod can be either made of rubber, spikes or custom designed.
Spikes are ideally suitable for outdoor locations where the ground is soft and there is a chance of the tripod to wobble around without an additional grip.
They are also suitable for slippery surfaces such as a riverbank, rocks and so on. If you are shooting in a studio environment or basically on a concrete floor, you don’t need spikes. Rubber feet with an anti-slip design is good enough.
The Manfrotto MT190CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber tripod is a good choice for indoor shooting requirements. It comes with 498RC2 Midi Ball Head Kit. When fully extended it reaches a height of 67.9”, enough for a person of 5’8” to conveniently use it without having to stoop low.
This tripod allows one-handed operation, freeing your other arm to hold the camera. The central column can be used as a boom which gives it extended capabilities allowing you to conveniently compose top angles of products, flowers or other such small items or for holding lights when you are shooting hand-held.
Pro Tipp: Central Column & Hook Attachments
Speaking of a flexible central column, this is a great feature to have on your tripod. Good tripods not only have a flexible central column that can double as a boom, but they offer other features as well. E.g., there are hook attachments from each leg that allow you to hang a cloth and put some rocks on it for added stability.
5. Size Matters: 3 Legged Thing X1.1 Brian Evolution 2
When it comes to tripods size has its advantages. If you are a tall person you must opt for a tripod that can extend as much as your height. Else you will always have to stoop in order to compose your shots. If you have a bad back that may not be advisable. The 3 Legged Thing X1.1 Brian Evolution 2 is a highly rated tripod made out of carbon fiber. It reaches a height of 78.7” when fully extended and folds down to only 16.5”. If you are over 6’ and want something to keep your back in one piece try this one for size.
But size is not the only advantage here. Take off two of its legs and it becomes a convenient monopod. The included ball head comes with a quick release plate it is extremely advantageous allowing you to switch from tripod to hand-held when you need extra flexibility. Overall weight is just a shade under 3.5 pounds making this a truly great tripod for everyday shooting.
6. Get Rid of Space Problems: Joby Gorillapod Focus/Ballhead X
For really small spaces such as when you are doing table-top work and cannot hope to use a big tripod (even when it is folded), you need table-top tripods. These cute little support systems make sense when you are cramped for room but need a secure platform nevertheless for professional quality work. Joby makes some wonderful tripods which are really flexible and can support several pounds of camera gear.
Joby Gorillapod Focus/Ballhead X bundle is a good package to look at, especially for all your macro lens works. Don’t go by its small size. The weird alien looking legs can comfortably support up to 5.3 kilograms of camera weight.
The greatest advantages however that the legs can bend and rotate in any direction. It comes with a ball head allowing you that much more flexibility for composing from the acutest of angles.
This is the best DSLR tripod when it comes to price: It retails for under $100.
If you could not find the best tripod here, maybe you want to check out the best monopods for DSLR cameras.
Join Our Newsletter & Get a Free eBook
10 Most Common Photography Mistakes & How to Avoid Them!
Wanderlust at heart and a shutterbug who loves to document his travels via his lenses; his two passions compliment each other perfectly.
He has been writing for over 6 years now, which unsurprisingly, revolve mostly around his two favorite pursuits.