Whether you’re a beginner, an enthusiast or a pro, camera supports are essential for eliminating camera shake, shooting scenes in available light without a flash and capturing seamless panoramas. Without solid, stable support, long exposures such as fireworks or night sky photos are impossible to shoot without blur. A dependable tripod makes close-up or macro photography easy, as you can use the slowest shutter speed without worrying about camera movement, as well as for fun, everyday projects like family portraits that include you and food photography. A good tripod is one of your most important investments.
3 LEGGED THING
As a compact and multifunctional tripod system, the 3 Legged Thing‘s Evolution Brian 3 is a versatile option for travel. With counterfolding legs that fold back on themselves, it conforms to airline regulations for hand luggage and easily fits into a camera bag or suitcase. The Brian 3 folds down to 15.7 inches, but it’s able to extend to 72.8 inches and only weighs 3.3 pounds. It owes its stability to Japanese carbon-fiber construction that allows it to support up to 66 pounds. Five-section legs can be independently locked in 23°, 55° and 80° angles with ParaLock twists; one of its legs can be removed and used as a monopod. For low-angle or macro photography, the center column can be reversed to get your camera down to nearly ground level. Estimated Street Price: $499.
Benro’s latest addition to the camera support category is its MoveOver range of sliders for video. The MoveOver4 is an entry-level option for shooters who want to add linear motion to their projects. It supports loads of up to 8.8 pounds and has 23.6 inches of carriage travel. Smooth, quiet gliding along a 1.8-inch-wide aluminum rail is possible, thanks to two stainless-steel embedded rods. The slider can be easily adjusted and leveled with removable and articulating rubber feet. There’s also a bubble level built into the carriage to tackle leveling on uneven surfaces. Estimated Street Price: $199.
For photo enthusiasts looking for a multipurpose, compact camera support system that’s ideal for landscapes, scenics and travel photography, the 3POD P5CFH Tripod is manufactured with industrial-strength carbon fiber and an anodized finish, making it lighter, stronger and more portable than traditional materials. Capable of supporting a hefty payload of up to 20 pounds, the P5CFH is a space-saver without sacrificing stability. It uses an advanced “flat-travel” design that does away with the more bulky and common “round” folding style. A removable two-tiered center column gives added height for high-angle shots. Rubber pads at the base of each leg grip are textured for secure anchoring in grass or uneven ground. Estimated Street Price: $149.
Gitzo has updated its popular range of Traveler Tripods. The Series 2 four-section is the newest addition and the lightest in the range. It features slim legs that don’t sacrifice rigidity due to Gitzo’s new Carbon eXact tubes. With a shortest closed length of 14.4 inches and a maximum height of 48.2 inches, it’s a useful addition to any travel kit. Its 180° leg folding mechanism pioneered by Gitzo, the first in the world, makes efficient use of folded space by allowing room for the center column and head in between the folded legs. The Series 2 supports up to 22 pounds, but weighs only two pounds. Estimated Street Price: $679.
Anansi by Gura Gear can be filled with birdseed, beans, rice or buckwheat hulls, among other items, as a supportive bag that secures cameras in any environment. It cradles lenses and stabilizes tripods, or it can give a light stand or boom more weight as a ballast bag. An hourglass shape is function in design, reducing the amount of fill needed without compromising surface area for stability. There’s a Velcro® divider inside that allows you to fill each side according to your preference. Non-slip coating on each edge makes for durable and convenient support. Available in ranger green and red, Anansi is made in the U.S. with heavy-duty Cordura and can be shipped filled or unfilled. List Price: $35-$45.
Flexible-tripod maker Joby has a great option for SLR cameras with zoom lenses weighing up to 6.5 pounds. Its SLR-ZOOM GorillaPod also works seamlessly with camcorders, mics and off-camera flashes. A stainless-steel mount screw with a 3/8-inch adapter allows for use with any professional ballhead. It has over two-dozen wrappable leg joints, and can bend and rotate 360° for unmatched flexibility, be it around a tree limb, park bench or any convenient mounting area. The SLR-ZOOM GorillaPod’s enhanced stability even in difficult terrain comes from durable German TPE rubber grip rings and high-quality Japanese ABS plastic. List Price: $49.95.
The Manfrotto 290 Xtra is part of its new 290 collection, which includes the 290 Light for beginners and hobbyists, the 290 Dual for advanced creativity and the 290 Monopod for portability. The 290 Xtra was designed to be versatile, as it meets the varied needs of photographers across the spectrum—from portrait and fine art, to landscape and still, and even video shoots. Available in both aluminum and carbon fiber, its solid, rigid body is built for sturdiness. Four new leg-angle positions give the 290 Xtra unique flexibility, and with a removable head for future upgrades, it’s a gear investment that will see you through many photo excursions and projects. Estimated Street Price: $160 (290 Xtra).
The Novoflex TrioPod continues to adapt to each photographer’s unique needs. With a modular support system that can be customized, the configurations address a range of professional or hobbyist camera support setups. It starts with the TrioPod base, which can be paired with aluminum or carbon-fiber legs, mini-tripod legs or a three-legged hiking stick. The base allows for four leg angles of 20°, 40°, 60° and 90°. Estimated Street Price: $585 to $930 (varies, depending on configuration).
h4> Small, light and easy to pack, tabletop tripods are perfect travel companions. Oben‘s TT-300 is an ideal option for positioning your camera on any flat, raised surface for group pictures, or even on the ground or floor for stable low-angle, close-up macro shots. Turn it sideways to brace against a wall for increased stability. A twist lock allows the extension of its center column, with a height ranging from 9.5 to 17.3 inches. To store the TT-300, fold the legs for a retracted length of only 11.5 inches. It comes with a mini-ballhead that pairs with most cameras, and can support up to six pounds. Estimated Street Price: $62.
REALLY RIGHT STUFF
The TVC-33 is Really Right Stuff‘s standard-height Versa Series 3 carbon-fi ber tripod. At only 4.3 pounds, it’s capable of supporting 50 pounds of gear, making it lightweight to carry while offering rock-solid support of 600mm telephotos, gimbal heads and large-format cameras. The SureGrip Apex Lock combines a solid aluminum apex with a high-strength stainless-steel ring that mechanically locks into place with set screws. The large-diameter, teardrop-shaped rubber ball feet keep contact with the ground at virtually any angle, while keeping the leg sidewalls from touching the ground even at the lowest settings. The TVC-33 reaches a maximum height of 58.6 inches, a minimum height of 4.1 inches and a compact folded length of 25.6 inches. List Price: $925.
Professional photographers will appreciate the ultra-heavy construction and reliability of SLIK‘s 924 CF 4-Section Carbon Fiber Tripod. Designed for use with a DSLR and 35mm still camera with long telephoto/zoom lens, or large- and medium-format cameras, it can easily support up to 26.5 pounds. Its maximum height extends to 70.5 inches, and it folds down to a compact 21.8 inches and a manageable weight of 5.1 pounds. Rack-and-pinion-type center column elevation makes it easy to achieve fine adjustment. Four leg sections can be adjusted with twist locks at three angles, independently of each other. Neoprene grips and rubber feet complete the rugged features. Estimated Street Price: $599.
On-the-go photographers will find the VEO AM-264TR monopod from Vanguard indispensable. It has three retractable legs, each fitted with an anti-slip rubber foot, to quickly stabilize shots from one moment to the next. It fits easily in a carry-on with a folded length of 22.25 inches, and can be used for video, photo or even as a walking stick. Reaching its full height of 64.1 inches and able to support up to 13.2 pounds, it complements any camera in the field. Its ball joint is essential for smooth pans and tilts, and weather is no challenge with a soft rubber handle that provides unbeatable grip. List Price: $99.
Just as important as a solid tripod is a quality ballhead. Providing a stable platform for smooth pans and tilts, ballheads give you accurate control and solid support.
The Acratech GP has a unique design that allows it to function as a ballhead and a gimbal head, as well as a leveling base. Considered a “best buy” for its practicality and versatility, this midsized ballhead eliminates the need to carry a separate leveling base; used upside-down, you can create accurate stitched panoramas by panning parallel to the horizon even when using your tripod on rocky or uneven terrain. Full movements allow any camera position. The GP weighs only one pound and has a 23/8-inch base diameter, and is fully designed and manufactured in California. List Price: $399.
Building on the popularity of their B-series ballheads, the Z-series Monoball Z1 sp (single-pan) ballhead by Arca-Swiss includes the “Arca”-style quick-release system to quickly mount and dismount cameras. A unique feature that differentiates Arca-Swiss ballheads from all others is their shape, an ellipse rather than a sphere, which means unparalleled tension modulation for exacting photographers. The Monoball Z1 sports optimized materials and coatings, and can withstand an incredible 130 pounds off-axis. A tension adjustment thumb-dial is built into the indexed friction control knob. Estimated Street Price: $379.
Extremely balanced and versatile, the GH1382TQD from Gitzo pairs well with Series 0 and 1 Traveler tripods. It uses an independent pan lock, as opposed to a friction control knob. Weighing 0.86 pounds, with a load capacity of 24.25 pounds, it’s the slimmest in the range. Its Ws2 coating means it doesn’t compromise in ball smoothness, and it has excellent durability in both external and internal components. It comes with the Arca-Swiss-compatible plate and fits most Arca-Swiss-style plates from other brands. List Price: $319.
The Novoflex ClassicBall 5, available as an upside-down version, has a panorama panning base with 360° laser-engraved scaling at the bottom of the housing. For the panorama function, the upside-down ballhead allows 100% accurate leveling to avoid a sloped horizon in your panoramas. An integrated bubble level is useful, as well as three vertical 90° openings for the ball neck. The ClassicBall is made to last, with an all-metal design that incorporates advanced polymer materials and an attractive matte titanium finish. It supports up to 26 pounds. Estimated Street Price: $599.
REALLY RIGHT STUFF
A recent slight redesign has made Really Right Stuff‘s BH-40 better than ever. Its weight has been reduced from 13 ounces to 11.9 ounces. Previously limited to a clearance of 2.7-inch platforms, the main lock knob has been raised and slightly shortened, so it’s now able to clear any platform. The new load capacity is 18 pounds, with a 45% stronger lockup. The BH-40 is a perfect general-purpose ballhead, and with a smaller profile because of the lack of protruding handles, it’s much easier to carry and pack. List Price: $375.