It’s not just professionals who can benefit from using a tripod; hobbyists, new photographers and videographers alike can maximise their camera’s potential by investing in the best tripod they can afford. After all, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve spent serious money on your DSLR camera and lens, or just want to get the best from your compact camera – it’d be a shame to let an unsteady hand ruin your shot.
Buying the right tripod is essential if you’re serious about photography, as it makes it possible to shoot in low-light conditions or use slow shutter speeds. As well as allowing you to keep the ISO low to improve the sharpness and overall quality of your images, a tripod lets you get more creative with your camera – and opens the door to a world of photographic possibilities. Plus, it’s a must-have if you want to shoot from unusual angles or experiment with extreme macro, long-exposure or panoramic photography.
If you’re looking to invest in your first tripod, upgrade to a new model, or simply add another to your collection, we’ve selected five of our favourite tripods from £40 to £500. And if you’re not sure what to look for, then the buying guide below will run you through everything you need to know.
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How to buy the best tripod for you
You’ll be able to narrow down your options straight away based on the type of photography you’ll be using your tripod for, but you’ll also want to consider where, when, and how you’ll be using it, too. These are some of the key features to consider.
What size of tripod do I need?
The height and size of your tripod will most likely depend on where and how you’ll be using it. If you’ll need to carry your tripod on long walks or trips, you’ll want it to be as compact and lightweight as possible. On the other hand, if you mostly shoot portraits or work in a studio, portability won’t be as important as it would be for a landscape photographer. Similarly, if you’re tall, you’ll want to make sure your tripod extends high enough that you won’t need to spend all your time crouching down.
Why does a tripod’s load capacity matter?
Load capacity – which is sometimes listed in manufacturer’s specifications as ‘weight rating’ – indicates how much weight a tripod can safely hold. Heavier tripods do tend to have higher load capacities, but if you’re willing to spend serious money then you’ll find top-end lightweight tripods which can handle even the heaviest DSLRs. Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to buy a cheaper tripod with a lower weight rating than you need – you could end up paying a lot more to replace any broken equipment. To avoid any costly accidents, we recommend choosing a tripod that can hold at least 1.5x the weight you’ll be placing on it.
What types of tripod head are there?
It may be one of the smallest parts, but it’s also one of the most important. The tripod head is the part that your camera connects to – and the part that keeps your camera secure – and comes in many different forms.
The selection here includes tripods with the two most popular types of head: ball head and pan/tilt head. The former is the quickest and easiest type of head to use, but usually costs a premium. The latter is a more affordable option and offers extra precision and adjustability, but isn’t as quick and easy to setup as the ball head designs. These are the two most common types of tripod head and the two that we’d recommend for most photography.
Do I need a carbon fibre tripod?
Most tripods are made of one of two materials: aluminium or carbon fibre. Both are extremely durable, but carbon fibre has the added advantage of being lighter and completely impervious to corrosion. Carbon fibre tripods are pricier than their aluminium counterparts, but their high strength to weight ratio makes them a worthwhile investment for anyone serious about photography – and especially for those who value portability above all else.
The best tripods to buy
Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100: The best all-round tripod
Price when reviewed: £140
If you’re looking for an all-rounder that won’t let you down, you can’t go wrong with the Vanguard Alta Pro. Offering the best of both worlds when it comes to stability and flexibility, the Alta Pro is worthy of a much higher price tag.
The Alta Pro’s standout feature is its hexagonal Multi-Angle Central Column, which allows you to position the camera at almost any angle. The MACC easily moves from 0° to 180° and rotates a full 360°, making low angle, macro and wide-angle shots possible. This is joined by three sturdy legs which provide a choice of 25°, 50° and 80° leg angles and quick height adjustability.
The tripod’s feet come with both a rubber base and retractable spikes, meaning it’s equally well equipped to deal with grass and flat terrain. What’s more, there’s the option to hang more weight from the central column to increase stability yet further. Add to this the vibration and camera shock control, and you have a tripod geared up to deliver the sharpest images possible.
If there’s one thing that lets the Alta Pro down, it would be its weight; coming in at 2kg, it’s far from the lightest tripod on the market. Still, while it’s perhaps not the best option for frequent travellers, it’s hard to find fault elsewhere. Not many tripods combine this level of versatility with above average stability – it’s an especially rare combination in this price range, and you’d be hard pressed to find a tripod of this quality for under £200.
Key specs – Max load: 7kg; Max height: 163cm; Closed height: 63cm; Weight: 2kg; Material: Aluminium; Head: Ball head
Velbon Sherpa 200R with PH-157Q head: The best budget tripod
Price when reviewed: £65
Velbon’s Sherpa 200R is a tripod that will improve your photos without destroying your bank balance. Despite its affordable price, it’s a great everyday tripod for both dedicated amateurs and professional photographers who would rather spend their money elsewhere.
The Sherpa 200R has been built with convenience as a priority. It’s simple to set up and can be ready to use in an instant, making it easy to rattle off a quick job as painlessly as possible. Its head is equally intuitive to use and the left-mounted handle leaves your right hand free to operate the camera. It also features a useful one-touch handle, making it possible to lock both pan and tilt movement with a single twist.
Given the low price tag, the Sherpa 200R is surprisingly stable. The rubber feet give it added support in any condition, even if at 3.5kg it’s a little too heavy to make it a good tripod for travellers and photographers on the move. That said, the Sherpa 200R is a brilliant budget option for anyone looking for an easy-to-use tripod that works in most situations, including low level macro shots.
Key specs – Max load: 3.5kg; Max height: 167cm; Closed height: 62cm; Weight: 1.9kg; Material: Aluminium; Head: Pan and tilt head.
MeFOTO GlobeTrotter Convertible Tripod: The best tripod for travel
Price when reviewed: £335
The MeFOTO GlobeTrotter is the photographer’s ultimate travel companion. Its compact size and super light weight make it easy to take anywhere – and it doesn’t compromise on function, either. Despite the svelte design, the GlobeTrotter converts to a monopod without the need for tools, so you can make sure every landscape looks as breathtaking in the photos as it does in real life.
It’s impressive that MeFOTO hasn’t had to compromise stability to achieve the GlobeTrotter’s all-in 1.7kg weight. The carbon fibre construction provides maximum sturdiness without adding bulk to your travel kit; the twist lock legs are both weather- and dust-resistant; and the choice of two leg angle positions makes it possible to get the winning shot in even the trickiest of set ups. Another nice touch is that its centre monopod leg features a foam grip which is comfortable to hold whatever the weather, and you can hang extra weight from the centre column for extra peace of mind.
Admittedly, this performance comes at a price, but the GlobeTrotter is also available in aluminium for £60 less if you don’t mind carrying an extra 400g of weight around. Whichever you choose, MeFOTO’s GlobeTrotter is a true traveller’s tripod designed to take unpredictable conditions in its stride.
Key specs – Max load: 12kg; Max height: 163cm; Closed height: 42cm; Weight: 1.7kg for carbon fibre/21.kg for aluminium; Material: Carbon/aluminium; Head: Ball head
Manfrotto MT057C4 057: The best tripod for DSLRs
Price when reviewed: £499
The Manfrotto 057 isn’t the lightest of tripods – and it’s certainly not as light as other carbon fibre tripods on the market – but it sure is robust. Equally suited to both professional photographers and amateur photographers looking to upgrade their equipment, you’ll struggle to find another tripod as sturdy as this without forking out twice the amount.
The Manfrotto 057 is a tripod purpose-built for maximum performance and adjustability. With a vast amount of adjustable settings, the tripod reaches higher than you’ll likely ever need it to, yet maintains its rock solid stability even while at full extension. In most cases, extending just three of the four sections will be more than enough, without the need to bring the centre column into play.
The Manfrotto 057’s legs are crafted from super-stiff carbon fibre and provide the flexibility of three angle positions, while handy extras such as the bubble level (that’s a miniature spirit level if you’re not sure what we’re talking about) do their bit to guarantee a perfectly aligned shot. The tripod also comes with a ground level adaptor so you’ll never have to worry about reaching the right height – high or low.
Key specs – Max load: 12kg; Max height: 205cm; Closed height: 40.9cm; Weight: 2.1kg; Material: Carbon; Head: Pan head
Joby GorillaPod SLR-Zoom Compact Action: The best pocket-sized tripod
Price when reviewed: £40
The Joby GorillaPod proves that the best things really do come in the smallest packages. This unconventional little tripod is surprisingly strong despite its pocketable size and toy-like appearance. With a maximum load of 3kg, it’s stronger than many full-size tripods and capable of supporting most entry-level DSLRs and lenses.
The high-quality Japanese ABS plastics, durable German TPE rubber grip rings and custom stainless steel camera screw pack a reassuring level of robustness into this small but mighty piece of kit.
That said, the GorillaPod isn’t designed to be the sturdiest tripod out there. Where it really excels is in exactly what it was built to do: offering maximum portability and flexibility, without the need to carry huge pieces of kit. It does this with its super-flexible 360° leg joints, which make it possible to position your camera in the most unusual places, and the rubber feet and ring grips make sure that it’s held firmly in place.
Although there are now several similar models on the market, the GorillaPod trumps the lower priced models with its superior construction quality. The clincher is that the leg joints maintain their firmness over time, meaning your camera is always well-supported – and that’s well worth paying a premium for.
Key specs – Max load: 3kg; Max height: 25cm; Closed height: 25cm; Weight: 190g; Material: Plastic; Head: Ball head