A tripod is an invaluable tool for the professional and novice photographer alike and will help you take better photos. No one wants to spend money on a tool or product that isn't going to work or that might break easily, so the wise consumer will do research and learn from experience of others.
Top Rated Tripods
Whether you need a mini tripod to slip into a camera bag or a full sized tripod, there are many options on the the market. The following is a list of some of the best camera tripods for the money on the current market.
The explosion of compact digital cameras has given rise to a cottage industry of mini tripods, including these top picks that sell for less than $50:
- Pod Bean Bag Tripod: The colorful unconventional tripod measures 3.75-inches in diameter and has a camera mount screw in the center. Basically it is a beanbag, which can be placed on any number of non-smooth surfaces to give you a steady base for your camera.
- JOBY Gorillapod Flexible Tripod: This funky tripod looks more like an alien than a photo gadget, but it performs extremely well. It comes equipped with three bendable legs than can be positioned to stand like a tripod, or even wrapped around a bar or railing to position the camera where you want it.
- Slik Mini-Pro V Tripod with 2-Way Pan/Tilt Head: This table-top tripod features a 2-way pan head that also has a panhandle. This makes moving the camera easy and smooth. The tripod features a suction cup at its base so it can be attached to a window or another smooth surface.
- Pedco UltraPod Lightweight Camera Tripod: The Pedco is designed to securely support up to three pounds and features three fold out legs. It can be attached to a fence or other rail by its Velcro strap. It comes with a lifetime warranty against manufacturing defects.
Traditional Size Tripods
While mini tripods work well for tiny digital cameras, if you have bulkier equipment like a digital SLR camera or a standard size camcorder, you're better off with a larger, sturdier professional quality tripod, such as these models that sell for less than $400:
- Manfrotto 190XPROB 3 Section Aluminum Pro Tripod: This is a three-section aluminum tripod from Manfrotto is one of the best selling models on the market. It weighs a mere four pounds, but provides sufficient stability for heavy cameras. Standout features include quick action leg locks and a center column that can be tilted to a complete 180 degrees, which provides great comfort when shooting in macro mode.
- SLIK PRO 700DX Professional Tripod with Panhead (615-315): This particular model folds up to 27 inches and can extend up to 63 inches. It also comes with a three-way panhead with quick release plate, making it easy to pop off your camera in an instant.
- Ravelli APGL4 New Professional 70" Tripod: This tripod provides professional quality for under $100. It features a stable head and an all-aluminum construction and over-sized plates which can easily hold a camera with heavy or bulky attachments.
- Cullmann Magic 2 Tripod with Ball & Socket Head: The full-size Cullmann tripod is loved by many for its compact size that folds down small enough to fit easily into most camera bags. It weighs a mere 2.5 pounds and can easily be converted into a mono-pod.
What to Look for in a Good Tripod
Heavy vs. Light
Generally speaking, the heavier your tripod the better your photos. This is because a tripod's main function is to anchor the camera. Therefore, a heavy tripod offers more stability than a lighter model. This is especially true if you are shooting in windy or bumpy conditions. A heavy tripod protects a camera from vibration and other factors that can cause it to shake while you are framing your shot.
However, if you are shooting with a lightweight digital camera you're able to get away with using a lighter tripod. If your tripod is able to adequately support your camera outdoors, in a moderate breeze, then it should suffice. What's more, lightweight tripods offer the added bonus of being extra-portable. If your tripod is too heavy you are more apt to leave it at home. The key is to find a tripod that is light enough to carry long distances, but not too light that it is unable to sustain the weight of your camera.
You will want to have a nice, fluid ball head. This will help to have a ball that is easy to move when you have to make adjustments. You will also want to make sure that the ball head will lock into place securely.
Ease of Use
A good tripod should be sturdy and rigid, yet it should also set up and break down quickly. Most tripods feature quick-release hinged latches that let you open and close the legs rapidly. The latches are valuable assets when you are shooting on the run and need to extend the tripod's legs in a flash. However, they can't support as much weight as screw-type leg locks.
The bottoms of the tripod's legs matter as well. Some tripod feet have pins or spikes that dig into the ground while others have flat bottoms with rubber pads that grip both indoor and outdoor surfaces.
Making the Final Choice
Buying a good tripod will help you take clear, crisp photos. There are good models at every price-point, offering a variety of styles and options for every photographer. Doing some research, including asking friends and fellow photographers about their favorite tripods, can help you choose the perfect equipment for your photographs.