Many photographers think a tripod is a tripod, a necessary evil if you want to get sharp pictures when using long lenses or long exposure times. But a tripod is more than a camera-steadier, and tripods vary greatly in design, features and versatility. In addition to preventing camera movement from blurring your photos, a tripod locks in your composition so you can study it, and so you won’t accidentally change it as you squeeze off the shot. Here’s a look at some of the top models on the market today. 

Adorama Flashpoint Carbon-fiber tripod legs are much lighter than aluminum, more stable and dampen vibrations better, but they’re generally costly. Enter Adorama’s Flashpoint line of three carbon-fiber tripods. The three-section F1128 model extends to 55 inches, compresses to 18.5 inches (making it ideal for travel) and weighs just 2.64 pounds, yet can support almost 10 pounds. The intermediate F1228 model employs a slightly wider-diameter leg (7?8 vs. 3?4 inches), has three sections, extends from 20 to 60 inches, weighs 3.3 pounds and can support 17.6 pounds. The top-of-the-line F1328 model uses a one-inch leg diameter, extends from 21.5 to 63 inches, weighs less than four pounds and can support up to 24.2 pounds. All feature rubber double-grip twist locks that can be adjusted for friction and bubble levels atop their magnesium-alloy top leg mounts. Estimated Street Price: $169 to $299.

Benbo Trekker MK3. The latest in Benbo’s unique line of “bent bolt” tripods, the Trekker MK3 is a lightweight version of the popular Benbo No. 1 tripod. The legs and center column can be swung through 360 degrees, making it possible to mount the camera steadily just about anywhere. A geared main joint ensures secure locking of the legs. The drawn-aluminum MK3 extends to 61 inches, collapses to 33 inches and weighs 4.5 pounds. List Price: TBA.

Berlebach Model 8043C and 8023C. Camouflage Berlebach’s wooden ash tripods offer solid support and terrific vibration damping. They’re also easy to handle in hot and cold weather, and look great. The new Camouflage models are painted in a forest green camo pattern for better concealment in the field. The Model 8043C extends from 20.5 to 68.9 inches, can support up to 17.6 pounds and weighs 6.17 pounds. The Model 8023C extends from 20.5 to 69.3 inches, can support up to 22 pounds and weighs 6.2 pounds. Both are three-section tripods that come with center columns and leg locks that can be used in mud, sand or water. List Price: $315 to $390.

Cullmann Universal 3150 XXL. The Cullmann Universal 3150 XXL Tripod, available from R.T.S., provides extra height for subjects like weddings, wildlife and commercial photography. It extends to seven feet and includes a removable 3030 tripod head. A self-clamping screw provides easy camera-height adjustment and prevents the center column from free-falling, while a cobalt gray anodized finish means reflection-free shooting. Trapezoidal legs provide stability and are sealed against water, dirt, sand and the like. List Price: $189.

Giottos MT III Series. The unique center column of the Giottos MT III tripod series can be used upside down, reversed or even as a lateral arm for shooting down and close to the ground. It revolves in a complete horizontal 360-degree rotation and swings 180 degrees in the vertical. The three-way universal head is included, and the series features a removable rubber foot with an internal metal spike for more secure grounding. A bubble-level and retractable hanging hook add balance. The anti-twist locking system of the hand-assembled carbon-fiber legs is designed to be sand-proof, and the legs come with nonslip neoprene sleeves for comfort in handling in all temperatures. List Prices: $110 to $250.

Slik Sprint PRO EZ. Easy to use and eminently portable, the Slik Sprint Pro EZ extends to 64 inches, yet compresses to 18.9 inches and weighs just 31.4 ounces. Slik speed-release leg locks, a gearless center column and three-position adjustable four-section legs make for easy setup even on uneven ground or steps. The top half of the two-piece center column and the adjustable-angle leg locks allow positioning the camera eight inches above the ground. The Sprint Pro EZ can support up to 4.5 pounds, and comes with a stable, all-metal, multi-action pan head with easy-to-use quick release. You can remove the head and attach a different head, if desired. The legs can handle up to 8.8 pounds of properly balanced equipment. List Price: $139.

Induro CarbonFlex CX214. The Induro CarbonFlex CX214 features four-section legs of eight-layer carbon-fiber tubing that’s 60% stronger than conventional carbon-fiber material. It has a center column that can quickly be positioned from vertical to horizontal, and reversed, so you can put the camera just about anywhere. A closed-cell foam grip provides comfortable handling in hot or cold conditions, and each leg lock features specially designed dust- and moisture-resistant seals. The tripod extends to 61.2 inches, weighs 4.1 pounds and can support up to 17.6 pounds. Estimated Street Price: $407.

Joby Gorillapod SLR-ZOOM. Certainly not your conventional tripod, Joby’s Gorillapods feature legs consisting of many fully articulating ball-and-socket joints, allowing them to be bent and twisted into any shape, and wrapped around handy objects to maximum flexibility in camera placement. Soft rings and rubberized feet keep the Gorillapod from slipping. The Gorillapod SLR-ZOOM is the heavy-duty model, capable of supporting up to 6.6 pounds-not bad for a 9.8×2.4×2.4-inch unit weighing just 8.5 ounces. List Price: $54.

Manfrotto CX-Series. The new Manfrotto CX-Series consists of three models, each of which is highlighted by significant ergonomic improvements. The tripods are as functional as they are stylish, especially the 190CXPRO3 and 190CXPRO4, as they feature Manfrotto’s award-winning Q90º center column, which allows the shooter to effortlessly switch the column to a horizontal position all in one motion. CX tripod leg tubes are made of 100% carbon fiber. The 190CXPRO3 and 190CXPRO4 also have all-carbon-fiber center columns; the simpler 190CX3 has an aluminum column and top plate. All three models extend to 57.5 inches (center column raised); the PRO models go as low as 3.15 inches, the CX3 to 2.36 inches. All weigh less than three pounds. Estimated Street Price: $325 (190CXPRO4); $300 (190CXPRO3); $250 (190CX3).

Velbon El Carmagne 530. Carmagne means three-section carbon-fiber legs combined with magnesium components for a light, strong, steady
tripod. The 530 extends to 64.7 inches, provides a minimum height of 10.2 inches and folds to 24.8 inches for storage/transport. It weighs 3.8 pounds and can support up to 25 pounds. The unit includes a three-way pan head, neoprene grips for comfort, rubber feet for grip, effortless lever-lock legs, a stone bag and accessory hook. Estimated Street Price: $299.

Vista Attaras Grounder. The Vista Attaras Grounder tripod from Tiffen is a sturdy yet lightweight aluminum model that extends from 11 to 63 inches, weighs 4.6 pounds with included fluid head and can support up to nine pounds. Equally at home indoors and out, it features a nonglare black anodized finish, independently adjustable three-section 26mm legs with quick-release locks, an easy-glide two-section center post and a 10-year warranty. List Price: $129.


(Paterson Photographic)
(HP Marketing Corp.)
(800) 735-4373
Cullmann (R.T.S. Inc.)
(631) 242-6801
Flashpoint (Adorama)
(800) 223-2500 |
Giottos (HP Marketing Corp.)
(800) 735-4373
Gitzo (Bogen Imaging Inc.)
(201) 818-9500
Induro (MAC Group)
(914) 347-3300

(888) 569-JOBY
Manfrotto (Bogen Imaging Inc.)
(201) 818-9500
Slik (THK Photo Products)
(800) 421-1141
(630) 830-9200
Sunpak (ToCAD America)
(973) 627-9600
Velbon (ToCAD America)
(973) 627-9600
Vista (Tiffen)
(800) 645-2522

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