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Mark Sincevich

Professional Photography Expert

Camera Tripods

Featured On:

  • AssociatedPress
  • PCMag
The absolute most important photography accessory is a well-constructed tripod. In fact, nearly all of the Best of the Best tripods are made of carbon fiber materials for use in extreme hot and cold conditions. They also are light in weight. Every tripod reviewed comes with a ball head except for the Gitzo and the Giottos. Before you purchase your first tripod or upgrade to a new one, there are three things you need to consider: magic minutes, tripod height and weight, and the quick release feature. Having the best tripod for you will help you to achieve the greatest impact with your photographs. A tripod will also help slow down your photography by allowing you to think.

Magic Minutes
If you really want to achieve greater impact as a photographer, then you will need to continually pay attention to the quality of light around you. Early morning light or late afternoon light is soft and pleasing to the eye and typically lasts for minutes or what I call the ‘magic minutes.’ While consumer digital cameras are getting more automated with features such as vibration reduction, higher ISO values and automatic face recognition, they will not be able to give you better photographs during the magic minutes without the help of a solid tripod. If you want to take a pleasing landscape photograph of a building for example, then you will need the highest F-stop possible mixed with a very slow shutter speed followed by the lowest ISO value.

Tripod Height & Weight
You will want a tripod with a maximum height of at least 61 inches. The reason for this is taking portraits. One of the best ways to make an impromptu portrait is to have your subject sit on a stool while you affix your camera to your tripod. It’s better to get a tripod with as much maximum height as possible relative to the folded height. The weight of your tripod is also important. If you are simply carrying your tripod in its padded case from you house, to your car, and then to the spot where you are going to take photographs, a few pounds of weight probably won’t matter too much. However, the weight of your tripod will become a big deal when you are carrying it into the woods, hauling it around the city or packing it into your luggage. And you’ll want to hang a counterweight underneath to prevent your tripod from blowing over in a strong wind.

Quick Release
Let’s say you are taking the portrait I talked about earlier, and you spot an interesting character on a bicycle riding past. You probably want to capture this person, so you need a quick release feature with your tripod. With the flick of your thumb, you will be able to unsnap your camera and take the action photograph. Plus, a quick release feature is very helpful if you are often changing lenses on your tripod from a zoom lens to a wide-angle lens. Remember, many zoom lenses will allow you to affix the quick release pad to the lens while the camera will need one separately when used with a wide-angle lens.

All of the tripods reviewed have something called an Independent Leg Spread. This means you can separately bend one leg backwards and balance it on a set of stairs while the other two legs are balancing the tripod below. When you are faced with a tight or crooked optimum photography area, each leg of your tripod can contort separately to help give you great photographs. Another small accessory related to your tripod is a tripod level. If you carry one of these with you, it will ensure that your tripod and then your resulting photograph is even. I highly recommend the Gitzo carbon fiber tripod with the Gitzo G-2272M Magnesium 3-way Pan/Tilt ball head.

Best Camera Tripods by Mark Sincevich

The Best You Can Get

  • Gitzo GT-1540G Mountaineer

    Mark says: Gitzo tripods are considered one of the best brands in the world. They offer carbon fiber materials and low weight. This one is ultra lightweight, extremely durable, and my favorite all around. Remember, you’ll need a separate ball head. I recommend the Gitzo G-2272M Rationnelle Magnesium 3-Way Pan/Tilt ball head that supports 12.2 pounds for $280. This ball head will also fit the Giottos MT-8361. Other ball heads will work too. It has a retractable hook to add a camera bag or extra weight.

    • Max height 62.6”, Folded Height 21.3”
    • Weighs only 2.5 lbs. and supports up to 17.6 lbs.
    • Quick release
    • Must purchase separate ball head
  • Benbo 1 Kit

    Mark says: The Benbo has a unique design allowing the camera to literally focus on objects right above the ground. If you are taking close ups of small objects and need to be very close, this is a must-have tripod for you in a studio-like setting or out in the field. The bottom section is mud/water resistant and has spiked feet for added stability.

    • Max height 66”, Folded Height 37”
    • Weighs only 8.23 lbs. and supports up to 27 lbs.
    • No quick release
    • Includes ball head
  • Hakuba HG-504MX

    Mark says: The Hakuba supports more weight than the Gitzo. It is also made of carbon fiber materials and has four sections that can expand to a decent maximum height for portrait taking. The center column is reversible and the legs have urethane covers for increased stability. If you want your Hakuba to extend to a height beyond 70 inches, try the HG-503MX.

    • Max height 63”, Folded Height 22”
    • Weighs 3.9 lbs. and supports up to 25 lbs.
    • Quick release
    • Includes ball head
  • Slik Pro 614 DX

    Mark says: The Slik Pro 614 DX is an ultra lightweight carbon fiber tripod that is idea for travel purposes. Together with the included ball head, it weighs less than three pounds! This is idea for most digital cameras with lighter weight lenses. This is a good mid-range travel tripod. It features a tension controlled center column and has a three-way pan and tilt head.

    • Max height 64.1”, Folded Height 20.8”
    • Weighs 2.5 lbs. and supports up to 4.5 lbs.
    • Quick release
    • Includes ball head
  • Giottos MT-8361

    Mark says: The Giottos is an ultra lightweight, carbon fiber tripod, yet it can support 22 pounds. The legs of the tripod have spiked feet and the center column has a hook underneath for a camera bag or weight to increase the tripods stability. Also, the center column can be used as a lateral arm with an angle adjustment like the Benbo, which is perfect for nature and macro photography.

    • Max height 64.5”, Folded Height 26.8
    • Weighs 5 lbs. and supports up to 22lbs.
    • Quick release
    • Must purchase separate ball head

You will be happy with any of these

  • The Slik Able 300DX

    Mark says: The Slik Able 300DX is extremely well made. It has D shaped leg extensions for zero twist and a more solid construction. It has an omni-directional quick release for mounting or removal of your camera in four different directions. The 300DX includes a pan and tilt ball head for ease of movement and rubber leg tips for great traction and stability.

    • Max height 61.3”, Folded height 27.8”
    • Weighs 5.5 lbs. and supports up to 11 lbs.
    • Quick release
    • Includes ball head
  • The Slik Pro 330DX

    Mark says: The Slik Pro 330DX is a true travel tripod for the Best Value category. It can accommodate a good weight for today’s digital cameras and lightweight digital lenses. The 330DX features a rapid sliding center column that is tension controlled, and controls to move the panhead in three different directions.

    • Max height 63”, Folded Height 23.6”
    • Weighs 3.31 lbs. and supports up to 6.63 lbs.
    • Quick release
    • Includes ball head
  • The Benbo Trekker Mk2

    Mark says: Benbo tripods are known for being able to adapt to unusual terrain. The Mk2 is a great Best Value tripod for the ultimate close-up on the ground. The ground is the minimum height! The bottom sections are highly mud and water resistant and there is a hook underneath the center column for a heavy weight to stabilize the tripod.

    • Max height 64.2”, Folded height 34.2”
    • Weighs 5 lbs. and supports up to 17 lbs.
    • No quick release (but you don’t want one for this type of tripod use)
    • Includes ball head
  • The Slik Pro 500DX

    Mark says: The Slik Pro 500DX is more of a full-size tripod extending to almost 65 inches. It is made of a material called Tri-titanium for reduced weight and added durability. Tri-titanium is made of aluminum, magnesium and titanium. It is rated 40% stronger than other tripods in its price range. The 500DX includes a three-way pan and tilt head with a locking leveler for the quick release to prevent accidental release.

    • Max height 64.2”, Folded height 27.4”
    • Weighs 5.4 lbs. and supports up to 11 lbs.
    • Quick release
    • Includes ball head
  • The Bogen Manfrotto 728B

    Mark says: The Bogen/Manfrotto is lightweight and very compact to support the latest generation of DSLRs. The tripod is made of tubular aluminum with quick flip lever locks. The lever locks allow for a fast set up and break down. The ball head is the three-way pan and tilt variety and it has a reversible center column.

    • Max height 64.8”, Folded height 20.3”
    • Weighs 3.9 lbs. and supports up to 7.7 lbs.
    • Quick release
    • Includes ball head

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