Recommended tripods for photography according to use and budget

If you don’t know which tripod to buy, here we recommend some models with a good value for money that can be adjusted to your camera, your type of photography and the use that you are going to give it on a day-to-day basis.

In any case, there are many models on the market, from different brands and there are big differences in price between some tripods and others.

Here we are going to make some recommendations for specific models that usually work very well and have a good value for money.

Tripods for very sporadic use (low range)

In general, I would try to choose a slightly higher-end tripod, but this type of low-end tripod can be an option if:

  • You are going to give the tripod little use or you are going to use it mainly indoors
  • Your equipment (camera + lens) has a weight below 2-3kg
  • You will not be shooting with long telephoto lenses (eg bird photography, etc.)
  • Your budget is very tight

The main limitation of these tripods is usually that the moving parts (in the ball joint, column, etc.) and the blocking elements are made of plastic. This can affect durability, but especially stability when we test its limits a bit: using a little heavier equipment, or outdoors with some wind, or if we try to use telephoto lenses, etc.

Lightweight Amazon Basics Tripod (1.52m) with 3D Head

It is a low-end generic tripod (the same model can be found under other brands), made of aluminum and plastic. The head is 3-way (horizontal rotation, vertical rotation and lateral rotation up to 90º to position the camera for vertical framing)

The legs have 3 sections and the locking is by plastic tabs. The opening of the legs is limited by the bars that hold them to the central column. It has a hook to add extra weight and increase stability.

Max. Tripod Height (column extended): 152cm
Max. Height without extended central column: 120cm
Min. Height (picked up for transport): 65cm
Net Weight: 1.4kg
Load capacity: 3kg

Less positive aspects:
Plastic elements in locking systems and the moving parts of the head. The legs cannot be tilted independently (they are attached to the center column). Small load capacity. Stability outdoors (with little wind) is not ideal, especially when extended at maximum height.

Recommended lightweight tripods

In case of doubt, if you are not very clear about what use you are going to give the tripod and / or you are not going to do a very specific type of photography, I think light or travel tripods are the best option for an amateur or amateur user. advanced.

If you choose a very robust but very heavy and big tripod, it is possible that you will never take it out of the house because of the hassle it entails.

K&F Concept TM2324

A very good option for value for money. It is an aluminum-magnesium alloy tripod. It includes a ball head that is perfectly suitable for equipment (camera + lens) of medium size and weight.

The column can be inverted to position the camera below the crosshairs of the legs, for shots very close to the ground, for example for macro photography.

The ball head is designed for medium equipment, it is robust and includes a quick release shoe ( Arca Swiss compatible , so you can use other shoes compatible with this standard). The kneecap includes a small bubble level (it allows leveling the kneecap without the camera, once the camera is placed the level is hidden by the camera body itself)

The legs are made up of 4 sections to allow reducing the size in transport mode. It is a fairly light and easy to transport tripod (includes high quality canvas carrying bag). The column includes a small hook at the bottom to hang weight and increase stability.

Max. Tripod Height (column extended): 156.5cm
Max. Height without extended central column: 133cm
Min. Height (picked up for transport): 47cm
Net Weight: 1.4kg
Load capacity: 6-8kg ( 10kg according to manufacturer )

In general it is a good option for amateur users and advanced hobbyists . It is not a tripod intended for heavy equipment (large telephoto lenses, etc.)

Less positive aspects:
The 4 sections allow to reduce the size of the tripod at the cost of slightly reducing the stability, especially when it is fully extended (this is the case in all models and brands: more sections mean less stability). Section blocking uses plastic tabs, which can cause problems in the long run with very heavy use.

Manfrotto Compact Tripods (Light / Action / Advanced)

The tripods in the Manfrotto Compact series are primarily intended for travel. They are very light and take up very little space once folded in transport mode.

They are tripods made of aluminum and plastic. Build quality is pretty good. Let’s say they would be low-end tripods but with quality standards of the mid-range and the guarantee of a brand as recognized as Manfrotto.

Of the three models, I think that the Compact Light is only usable with very very light equipment : small compact cameras, mirrorless cameras with light or mobile lenses (with its corresponding tripod adapter). The other models can work with slightly heavier cameras, but they are not tripods designed for equipment with a certain weight, from a load of 1kg they would be a little at the limit as soon as there is wind.

Manfrotto Compact Tripods Features ( Light | Action | Advanced )

Max. Tripod Height (column extended): 131cm | 155cm | 165cm
Max. Height without extended center column: 103cm | 133cm | 140cm
Min. Height (picked up for transport): 39cm | 45.3cm | 44cm
Net Weight: 0.9kg | 1.2kg | 1.4kg
Load capacity: 1.5kg | 1.5kg | 3kg
Type of head:  ball | ball (pistol) | 3-way / ball

In the case of the Compact Action , the head can work in two modes: photography (it behaves like a normal ball head allowing any rotation until it is locked) or video (it only allows horizontal and vertical movements). It is not a video head but for use with light equipment and with a little practice it would allow for smooth camera movements.

The Compact Action pistol head is very easy to use and allows you to frame very quickly and comfortably (always with light equipment as we have commented)

Less positive aspects :
They are tripods very focused on portability, they all have legs with 5 sections, something that affects stability despite their build quality.

The tilt of the legs cannot be adjusted (they only have one tilt position). They are intended for light equipment, I would not recommend them for SLR cameras with medium lenses and of course not for working with telephoto lenses. They have their own quick release system (not Arca Swiss compatible)

Manfrotto Compact or Manfrotto Befree?

If your budget allows it, I would try to go for one of the variants of the Manfrotto Befree (below you have more information). They are more robust tripods and are comparatively not bigger or heavier.

Manfrotto Befree

They are very small tripods in transport mode, very light and that offer very good stability considering their size and weight. They are mid-range tripods, with a high quality of construction and materials.

The Manfrotto Befree series includes up to 5 variants:

  • Befree GT (Advanced GT)
    It is like the Advanced version but a little more robust, reaches more height and supports more weight
  • Befree Advanced
    The standard version of the Befree series. A travel tripod with a good compromise between size, weight and stability.
  • Befree 2N1
    It is a version that allows one of the legs to be removed to turn it into a monopod.
  • Befree Live
    It is a kit version that includes a video head
  • Befree α (alpha)
    It is not a variant as such, it is based on some of the previous models but includes a shoe specially designed to better adapt to the bodies of some Sony cameras, such as the Sony A7 and A9

The legs are 4 sections. Depending on the variant you can find versions with a locking system by tabs and with a locking by thread. There are also versions in aluminum and in carbon fiber .

The legs allow 2 angles of inclination. The center column can be inverted to bring the camera closer to the ground.

So that you have a reference of the characteristics of the Befree Advanced version:

Max. Tripod Height (column extended): 144cm
Max. Height without extended central column: 123cm
Min. Height (picked up for transport): 40cm
Net Weight: 1.4kg | 1.1kg (carbon)
Load capacity: 4kg

Other lightweight travel tripods

I include here other models of various brands that usually have good value for money:

Take a look at K&F Concept travel tripods

Standard tripods for medium equipment

There is no classification that says that one tripod is standard and another is travel… we are always talking about subjective criteria.

For me, a standard tripod is the one that puts more emphasis on the stability part than the portability part.

This type of tripod usually has 3 or 4 sections and a relatively short center column.

The maximum load would be between 3 and 6 kg, including the own weight of the head.

But keep in mind that the maximum load indicated by the manufacturer does not always coincide with the actual load that we can couple for optimal use.

And ultimately it depends a lot on the ball joint and the geometry of the camera + lens combination. There are times when it is not so much the weight but the torque (the lever) that the equipment exerts on the ball joint and on the tripod itself.

Keep in mind that these tripods are no longer light, stability is more sought after and more robust materials are used. The weight of these tripods would be around 2kg and in some cases it will exceed 3kg if we include the head.

Some models that could fall into this classification:

  • Manfrotto 190 series
  • Vanguard Alta Pro
  • Manfrotto 290 series
  • K&F Concept SA254T1
  • K&F Concept TM2534T

Manfrotto 190 series tripods

They are tripods that would be in a professional / semi-professional range (down from the Manfrotto 055 series ).

They provide great stability, are robust and work well for almost any combination of camera and lens (the load will depend on the head), with a maximum load of about 7 kg.

The 190 series includes models with different combinations: 3 and 4 sections, aluminum / carbon, fixed or decentrable column .

Vanguard Alta Pro / Alta Pro 2+ 263AT / AB 100

The Vanguard Alta Pro series offers robust, high quality and versatile tripods. Specifically, the Alta Pro 263 is a well-known tripod widely used for macro and nature photography.

They would be in an upper mid-range, for professional and semi-professional use.

The Alta Pro 2+ include some minor modifications that improve usability a bit, although the criterion for choosing between the two series I think would be the specific price at which you find one of these models.

We will focus on the 263 AB model (A -aluminum | B -ball head, usually the SBH 100) but you can buy just the tripod (263 AT) and then the head separately. There is also a carbon fiber version (263 CT)

The Vanguard Alta Pro 263 AT is made of aluminum and metal alloy. The legs have 3 sections and their inclination can be locked at different angles:

Alta Pro: 25º, 50º and 80º
Alta Pro 2+: 20º, 40º, 60º and 80º

Basic characteristics of the tripod, with ball joint ( Alta Pro 263 AB 100   | Alta Pro 2+ AB 100 )

Max. Tripod Height (column extended): 173cm | 173cm
Max. Height without extended center column: 142.5cm | 143cm
Min. Height (picked up for transport): 71.5cm | 73.9cm
Net Weight: 2.5kg | 2.3kg
Load capacity: 7kg | 7kg

One of the salient features of these tripods is that the column can be positioned horizontally (actually at different angles to the vertical of the tripod). This feature and the versatility of the legs offer great flexibility for all types of photography, especially macro photography.

Less positive aspects :
Folding in transport mode is quite large, in size and weight almost double that of some of the models that we have discussed in the section on lightweight tripods, but as always it is a compromise between stability and portability, and in this case they bet more on stability.

Manfrotto 290 series tripods

The Manfrotto 290 tripods are intended for an amateur user who will not be working with very heavy equipment. They offer a good balance between stability, portability, build quality, and price. They would be in a mid-range.

The maximum load would be around 4kg, so they are perfect for medium-size SLRs or EVIL cameras. But it is not a recommended option if we have to think large telephoto lenses for example.

The 290 series has many variants, each one designed for a specific type of use and budget:

  • Manfrotto 290 Light
    It is the smallest and lightest version. It would not be considered a travel tripod but within what would be a standard tripod it is quite light.
  • Manfrotto 290 Xtra
    It is the base version of this 290 series. A tripod that provides stability with a good value for money
  • Manfrotto 290 Dual
    It is the version with a decentrable column, equivalent to the Pro of other ranges

K&F Concept TM2534T

The main feature is that the column can be placed horizontally. A slightly smaller and lighter version is the TM2515T . And a version with more height is the K&F Concept SA254T1

TM2534T Features

  • The column is divided into two telescopic sections .
    The outer column can be raised and lowered, and removed for inverted position (to place the camera underneath, between the legs, very low).
  • Inner column can be extended vertically or can be positioned horizontally
  • Can be converted to a monopod
  • Arca Swiss compatible quick release plate
  • Legs with 4 sections. Thread lock

Max. Tripod Height (column extended): 172cm (193cm with inner column extended)
Max. Height without extended central column: 146cm
Min. Height (picked up for transport): 49cm
Net Weight: 2kg (including head)
Load capacity: 6-8kg

The fact that it has a double column provides extra flexibility, for example the possibility of placing the main column inverted (towards the ground) and placing the internal column horizontally.

With the two columns extended vertically, it reaches a height of more than 190cm, although it is a very unstable configuration and not recommended except in exceptional situations.

A good balance between stability, flexibility, portability and price has been sought in this tripod. It is a relatively light tripod, stable, with good height and with the plus of the decentrable column.

Less positive aspects :
It is a 4 section tripod, in general it will be a little less stable than a 3 section tripod.

Standard tripods for heavy equipment

In this category we would have tripods designed to provide maximum stability with heavier camera and lens combinations.

In many cases it would work with a tripod that we have discussed in the previous section, but if we want to go one step further:

  • For working with large telephoto lenses and heavier SLR cameras
  • If we plan to use it in very windy conditions or more adverse situations: water currents, very unfavorable terrain …
  • For long exposure photography if we want an extra stability
  • For studio photography or if we need very stable tripods with a good maximum height

Keep in mind that they are heavy tripods and that they take up more volume (especially compared to lightweight travel tripods).

Recommended tripods for these types of situations:

  • Manfrotto 055 series
  • Manfrotto 190 series
  • Vanguard Alta Pro

Manfrotto Series 055 Tripods

They are the tripods of the Manfrotto professional range for photography (for video they are also a good option but Manfrotto also has dedicated studio tripods for video)

The Manfrotto 055 are real tanks. They provide great stability and are very robust.

Their maximum load is 9kg (it will ultimately depend on the load that the kneecap supports) and they are widely used in all types of photography.

The standard version is 3 sections and has variants in aluminum MT055XPRO3 and carbon fiber MT055CXPRO3

All versions of the 055 allow the central column to be removed and placed in a horizontal position.

Tripods for macro photography

What would you ask of a tripod for macro photography?

  • Make it very stable
    Any slight vibration or movement can cause the resulting image to lose focus or shake. In addition, in some cases we will work with a focus rail, which can put extra effort on the ball joint (the rail goes on the ball joint and the camera on the rail, adding more lever)
  • That it is very flexible in its configuration of legs, column and head
    Many times the tripod (and the photographer) has to adopt very strange positions to achieve the appropriate framing, for example the tripod must allow to place the camera very close to the ground and the legs They have to adapt to the terrain (imagine for example a flower in a crevice in a rocky area). An interesting feature is that it allows the column to be decentred to place it in a horizontal position or at different angles with respect to the vertical of the tripod.

With regard to the kneecap, each photographer has his preferences.

In general, the ball head is the most versatile as it allows very fast framing. And for static scenes it can be combined with a focus rail.

Other photographers prefer zip-head heads , which allow for very fine and precise framing adjustment. By cons they are more bulky and heavy (also more expensive)

If you are going to do macro photography in the field and you have to carry the tripod in your backpack, you will have to assess which feature is most important to you: stability or portability.

Some recommended models, with decentrable column:

  • Manfrotto 290 Dual
    An option with very good value for money
  • K&F Concept SA254T1
    Very versatile, reaches a huge height, good value for money
  • K&F Concept TM2534T
    Also very good value for money
  • Manfrotto 190 series (PRO versions)
    A good option if you are going to use a slightly larger equipment or want that extra stability and build quality
  • Vanguard Alta Pro
    Similar to 190 series
  • Manfrotto 055 series
    It’s a safe bet but it’s the heaviest and bulkiest of all

Recommended tripods for product photography

In general, the characteristics of a tripod for product photography can be very similar to those of macro photography. As always, it depends a lot on the preferences of each photographer, especially when it comes to the kneecap.

If you are only going to use the tripod for this type of photography, that is, indoors: in the studio or at home, portability will not be such an important feature .

I would value stability more and for example that the column can be placed horizontally, I think it is a very interesting feature since it makes some zenith shots much easier and allows the camera to be closer to products placed on a table.

  • Manfrotto 290 Dual
    An option with very good value for money
  • K&F Concept SA254T1
    Very versatile, reaches a huge height, good value for money
  • K&F Concept TM2534T
    Also very good value for money
  • Manfrotto 190 series (PRO versions)
    A good option if you are going to use a slightly larger equipment or want that extra stability
  • Vanguard Alta Pro
    Similar to 190 series
  • Manfrotto 055 series
    It’s a safe bet but it’s the heaviest and bulkiest of all

If your budget is lower, the tripod should not be a limitation for this type of photography.

Almost any tripod can work for you initially as conditions will be very controlled (no wind, level ground, etc.)

You will have to use inventiveness to cover the limitations of your team. But if you can save a little, keep in mind that in the end you will surely end up buying a tripod of a certain quality that allows you to work more comfortably and quickly.

Choosing a tripod for nature and landscape photography

There are many factors to take into account here, I don’t think there is a perfect option that covers all needs and serves as a general rule for everyone.

Ideally, a very stable tripod would be:

  • For example, if we are going to take panoramic photography, a stable tripod will make our work much easier.
  • If we do long exposure
  • For working on difficult terrain and in windy conditions
  • If we are going to use medium telephoto lenses for landscape

But on the other hand it depends a lot on how we are going to move with the tripod.

If you are going to go hiking or you are going to move with the tripod in your backpack, the weight of the equipment is noticeable after a few hours.

I would look at the models made of carbon fiber to try to save a few grams from here and there.

And another option would be to choose a lighter tripod, which has a good balance between stability and portability.

In the end it is a personal choice. Some models that could be a good compromise:

  • Manfrotto Befree GT 
  • Manfrotto Befree Advanced
  • Some of the standard tripods for medium equipment
  • Some standard tripod for heavy equipment

Architecture / Real Estate Photography

For this type of photography there would be at least two scenarios:

  • For outdoor photos you often have to play with perspective and a tripod that reaches a great height and is stable is very useful
  • For indoor photos we sometimes have to move in very narrow spaces and a very large tripod can become a hassle.

On the other hand, the priority would be in the part of stability. Normally the weight of the tripod is not going to be a characteristic that affects us too much.

The decentrable column I think would not be an essential feature either. Perhaps in some shots from more unusual positions, but situations of that type do not occur to me.

If you are going to do professional projects or a little more serious I would recommend a heavy tripod:

  • Manfrotto 055 series
  • Manfrotto 190 series
  • Vanguard Alta Pro

In very confined spaces, photographers use a monopod with a small base (actually a small tripod, located at the base).

This allows the camera to be glued as far as possible to the wall for a more angular framing of the room.

With a normal tripod we can play with the inclination of the legs to stick the camera to the wall, but it can be a bit cumbersome and perhaps it would not always be possible. It’s more cumbersome, to say the least.

Tripod for long exposure photography

In general we would look for a tripod as stable as possible.

As we have commented throughout this article, in practice, a balance should be found between stability, portability and price.

If you are going to do a lot of long exposure photography, I think it would be worth prioritizing stability (more robust and heavy tripod), but in the end everyone has to assess and decide.

  • Some standard tripod for heavy equipment
  • Some of the standard tripods for medium equipment
  • Manfrotto Befree GT 
  • Manfrotto Befree Advanced

Astrophotography tripod

In this section we are going to refer only to astrophotography with a ‘normal’ camera and without a tracking system or motorized tracking.

The criterion would be similar to that of long exposure photography.

In many cases we will be able to work with the tripod in a lower position (without unfolding the thinnest section of the legs) to increase stability.

  • Some standard tripod for heavy equipment
  • Some of the standard tripods for medium equipment