Choosing the best tripod can mean spending a little more money or being a bit clearer about the kind of photography you shoot. The humble tripod provides secure and stable support for your camera, allowing you to capture images with slower shutter speeds than would be possible when using the camera handheld. Effects like long exposures, traffic trails, and smooth panning – all require the rock-solid support of a tripod.
In this guide, we're focusing in particular on tripods for photographers – video shooters will want to check out our guide to the best video tripods. But photographers have different needs.
Some tripods are lightweight and others are heavier, some are budget-priced while others are premium, high-end models. We've included tripods from all the major manufacturers, including Manfrotto, Vanguard, Benro, Gitzo, and others.
If you need more information before you decide, check out our how to buy the right tripod explainer, where we run you through the basics. In brief, the key things to think about are the size and capacity of the tripod, i.e. how tall you need it to be, and how much weight you need it to carry.
Then there's also the construction material to consider: carbon fibre is lighter and stronger than aluminum, but also more expensive. So that's the next question... how much should you spend?
Read 7 ways video tripods are different from regular ones
It varies. Tripod kits that comprise a set of legs and a head can range in price from around $15/£10 for a flimsy, often unbranded option, to about $1,500/£1,250 for a top-of-the-range tripod.
We reckon, generally, that decent tripods start at around $150/£150, but that it's often worth paying extra for better materials (carbon fiber), better engineering, better maximum height, or better portability (travel tripods). You might change cameras every year or so, but a good tripod will be with you for a long, long time.
Keep in mind that some tripods are sold as legs only, while others are sold as a kit with a tripod head included. If you don't have a tripod head already, check to see if the tripod you have your eye on has a head with it, and if not you will need to order ahead too.
We've picked out ten tripods we think to represent the best buys you can make right now. Including budget models and more premium choices. You CAN save money on cheaper unbranded tripods, but we don't recommend it.
The best tripods in 2023
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3 Legged Thing is a UK-based manufacturer with a deserved reputation among photographers for making attractive, ultra-sturdy tripods. The Winston 2.0, one of the most recent models, is particularly impressive, able to extend to almost 2m in height, but also fold down to 61cm.
Smartly design with clever engineering, the Winston 2.0 is quick to deploy and has a solid build designed to resist flexing and vibration. Its leg and center-column sections are constructed from 8-layer carbon fibre, making them lightweight but solid, and the leg diameter is thick all the way down. Pair it with 3 Legged Thing's AirHed Pro and you've got a truly exemplary tripod support system on your hands.
The 3 Legged Thing Winston 2.0 is small and light enough to be useful as a travel tripod, while also being strong enough for even the heaviest of professional camera setups.
Read our full 3 Legged Thing Winston 2.0 review for more details
The Vanguard Veo 3+ 263AB is a full-size tripod with three sections, so it doesn't fold down that small but it's quick to set up and reaches a good height. It doesn’t feel that heavy for an aluminum tripod, and if you want to shave off a little weight, there is a carbon fibre (CB) version that’s only a little more expensive.
The design and build are first class, the angled column works brilliantly and all the controls and adjustments have a smoothness and precision that you would expect to cost a lot more than this. If you don't need portability but you do need height, adaptability, rigidity, and quality, this is ideal
Read our full Vanguard Veo 3+ 263AB review for more details
It's the first tripod Peak Design has made, and the carbon fiber version we looked at costs more than practically any of its rivals except a Gitzo, so it had better be good. There is an aluminum version that's a massive 40% cheaper, however, which has all the same design features but just a little less vibration resistance.
The Peak Design Travel Tripod isn't just useful for travel. It packs down to just 39cm in length, so it's easy to carry on outings and when hiking across the country, but it also extends high enough to work as a regular everyday tripod, and it has all the rigidity of a regular tripod too. The low-profile ball head is simple but brilliant, there's a phone holder hidden inside the center column.
It's certainly no bargain, even the aluminum version, but for its combination of design finesse, compactness, and rigidity, the Peak Design Travel Tripod is out on its own.
Read our full Peak Design Travel Tripod review for more details
The Benro Rhino FRHN34CVX30 is at the top of the size spectrum for a ‘travel’ tripod, but its simplicity, rigidity, and ease of use mark it out as a top choice for landscape shooters, hikers and any outdoor photographer who needs to travel light but still have the best support possible – and Benro’s VX ball head with its additional pan axis is just brilliant.
If you need to pack a small camera support for city breaks and street photography, take a look at the Peak Design travel tripod, or the smaller Benro Rhino FRHN05CVX20, but if you need a portable tripod that doesn't sacrifice height or rigidity, the Rhino FRHN34CVX30 is the bee's knees.
Read our full Benro Rhino FRHN34CVX30 review for more details
The ProMediaGear TR344L is a really expensive and very impressive tripod that’s been made to suit the needs of dedicated landscape photographers. Sure, it’s way over most budgets and it’s over-specified for what it is for most photographers, but if you’re going to be spending the next decade outdoors in all kinds of weather and you don’t want to spend your time cursing an awkward or heavy tripod then the durable and quick to set-up and pack-up TR344L is worth the investment.
Read our full ProMediaGear TR344L Pro-Stix review for more details
The Vanguard VEO 3T+ 264CB is pitched to those who want a travel-friendly tripod but don't want to compromise on features and functionality. Might seem like a pipedream, but this relatively small tripod does a good job, with loads of useful features like its multi-angle center column, and the bundled VEO MA-1 multi-mount, which allows you to attach other accessories or even another body.
All this is wrapped up in a tripod with seriously high-quality construction, as you'd expect from Vanguard, and it comes at a pretty competitive price. The only real downside is that despite its "travel" billing, the VEO 3T+ 264CB is still pretty hefty. It's 48cm long when folded and the whole ensemble is 2.275kg, so it's not exactly something you could carry around freely.
Read our full Vanguard VEO 3T+ 264CB Review for more details
Make no mistake, the 3 Legged Think Nicky is a professional-level tripod for a discerning audience. Made for photographers and videographers working with heavier kits, it’s strong, straightforward to use, tall, and adaptable. It’s a base, not a kit, however, so unless you have these things already (many photographers will), you’ll also need to budget for a head and, for video, perhaps a leveling bowl too
It's probably worth repeating this key thing about the Nicky. It is a tripod to which you add your own head, leveling bowl, or other accessories – it's not complete in itself. It’s ideal for photographers and videographers who already have these things and just want a better tripod, but if do need all these extras too, then you’re going to need to get your wallet out – and keep it out..
Read our full 3 Legged Think Nicky review for more details
Vanguard states its VEO 3T range "includes everything you’d expect in a high-quality travel tripod, with additional features that help anyone get the best result for their video with a camera or smartphone." Beefier models in the range can support an impressive 12kg, but we reckon this 235CBP version with its 8kg load rating is more than up to the job.
The lower capacity also results in a more compact 41cm closed length, while carbon construction keeps total weight down to a reasonable 1.6kg. The included head has a removable pan handle to allow greater control while filming, and a new Arca-compatible quick-release plate can hold a camera or smartphone up to 85mm wide, plus there's even a Bluetooth remote control for IOS or Android.
Read our full Vanguard VEO 3T 235CBP review for more details
This four-section Manfrotto 190XPro4 ball head kit is a full-sized tripod with an XPro ball head included. It's got everything you need and is going to be suitable for a huge majority of photographers.
Reaching a full operating height of 175cm while also shrinking down to a modest folded height of 57cm, the Manfrotto 190XPro4 is great for all situations. It's a relatively recent refresh of a popular Manfrotto model and has a 90-degree pivot facility which means it can be swapped to a horizontal boom mode within seconds. The leg sections also use a new innovative locking lever design that allows them to be released from either side.
Sturdy as a rock, even when at its maximum height, the Manfrotto 190XPro4 is the archetypal photographer's tripod; it's very difficult to imagine the kind of photographer for whom this would not be suitable. Its XPro ball head is also state-of-the-art, with an adjustable friction damper. There are cheaper tripods on this list, but if the Manfrotto 190XPro4 is within your budget, we can recommend it without hesitation.
Sometimes, only the best will do. The Gitzo GT5563GS is not going to be for every photographer – or even, arguably, for that many photographers. But it is the best and biggest tripod you can get right now, and if you need the maximum in terms of height, this is your buy.
The Gitzo GT5563GS is nicknamed “Giant” for a reason. It extends to an absolutely whopping maximum height of 278cm, which is taller than anyone alive and can carry a humongous 40kg of camera gear. This is more capacity than anyone could conceivably need – really it’s more than double what anyone could conceivably need.
The tripod isn’t just a one-trick pony though; it’s also smartly designed, with a carbon fibre build and incredible flexibility. The lowest height it can work at is as small as 10cm! The carbon fibre build keeps it lighter than you’d expect for a tripod of this strength and complexity, and the quality throughout is just top-notch – as reflected by the price.
Read our full Gitzo GT5563GS Systematic Series 5 Carbon Fiber Tripod (Giant) review for more details
The Leo is no ordinary tripod. It folds down to just 35cm in length but opens out to offer a maximum height of 146cm and a huge payload capacity of 30kg. It has a detachable monopod leg which can also be used as a microphone or camera boom, a Tri-Mount system for adding accessories, and an innovative two-section center column.
You can buy the legs on their own but we’d recommend getting it as a kit with 3 Legged Thing’s new and improved AirHed Pro Lever ball head. We love (we LOVE) the optional Vanz kit, a set of three replacement feet/legs.
You unscrew the regular legs and screw these in to get the toughest, gnarliest table-top mini tripod you've ever seen. The Leo 2 is not the smallest travel tripod you can get, and not the cheapest, but its ratio of folded length to maximum height, combined with its all-round versatility, make it one of the best.
See our full 3 Legged Thing Leo review for more details
When it comes to folding down small for compact carriage, the Sirui NT-1005X reigns supreme. It’s definitely designed to be as small as possible, not only featuring five-section legs with a swing-up facility but also incorporating a two-section extending centre column. The result is a generally adequate maximum operating height of 150cm, and a particularly tiny folded height of 36cm. That’s only about half the folded height of the Manfrotto 290 kit. And despite its aluminium build, the Sirui is only 10g heavier than the Novo carbon kit.
Build quality is very good: the Sirui feels solid and robust, despite its lightweight construction. It remains rigid and steady even at the maximum operating height, with all five leg sections fully extended and both sections of the centre column at full reach. Three locking leg angles are available, and there’s the usual facility to remove one leg and the centre column for use as a monopod. And there are no retractable or interchangeable metal spikes for the feet, but the rubber pads are of good quality.
Set-up on the NT-1005X/E-10 is quick and easy, from the non-slip feet to the ball head with its Arca-Swiss compatible quick-release plate. All adjustments are smooth but lock solidly – although the head lacks an independent friction damper – and the swing-up legs can be locked at three alternative angles. The maximum operating height is a little meagre, but the carrying size is incredibly small. If ultra-compact carriage is high on your priority list, the Sirui is a very desirable tripod indeed.
How we test tripods and what we look for
When we test tripods for review we take note of the manufacturer's specifications for payload, working height, and folded length, but we carry out our own subjective assessment of rigidity, stability, ease of use, and design. Over the years, we've tested many, many tripods, either for standalone reviews, for group tests in magazines, or while working on a tutorial or how-to articles, so by now we know exactly what we're looking for and which features count most.
Here are just a few:
Aluminum vs carbon-fiber: These are the two most common materials used for tripod legs. Aluminum tripods are cheaper but weigh more. They’re ideal if you want the maximum stability for your money. Carbon-fiber tripods cost more but weigh less and absorb vibration better. They’re good if cost is less important than weight – but the price premium can be substantial.
Leg sections: Tripod legs may have three, four, or five sections. A larger number of sections means the tripod is shorter and more portable when it’s folded, but it will usually take a little longer to set up and may well not be quite as stable.
Leg locks: These come in two main types: twist locks and flip locks. Twist locks take up less space and are generally a little quicker to use – you can often unlock all the leg sections in a single movement when you’re setting the tripod up. Flip locks are operated individually and may be a bit slower. Try both types to see which you prefer.
Head types: Sometimes the tripod head is included, sometimes not. You can change one head for another depending on how you like to work. Ball heads and three-way heads are the most common types. Ball heads are compact and quick to use, but not so good for small, controlled movements. Three-way heads are larger but allow precise adjustments for each axis independently.
You can also find other, specialist heads. Geared heads allow you to make fine adjustments to camera angles. Gimbal heads are designed for use with long, heavy lenses – which can otherwise can unbalance a tripod. And then there are specialist heads for panoramas and video too.
Folded length: The weight of a tripod is important if you’re going to carry it any distance, but so is its folded length. If it’s too long to strap to your bag, and it’s unwieldy in trains or climbing over stiles, then it’s going to put you off taking it anywhere. Many so-called ‘travel’ tripods have legs that fold upwards for storage and completely enclose the head. This makes them smaller and neater when folded and easier to carry around.
QR (Quick Release) mechanisms: Most tripods are sold with heads, and most heads have a quick-release plate so that you can detach the camera in moments for handheld shots. These days, the Arca Swiss-compatible plate is by far the most common and the most useful. Some makers, notably Manfrotto, make their own bespoke QR plates, but this can be a nuisance if you have two or more tripods from different makers.
Detachable monopod legs: These sound really useful – a detachable leg you can then screw into the center column to make a monopod. In practice, we find these often lack the rigidity of a 'real' monopod unless you're starting with a particularly substantial tripod.
Min and max height: How high and low do you want your tripod to go? Shots aren’t always improved by shooting them at eye level (lower often works best), but it’s also about getting a comfortable working height. Check the height without the column being extended, if you can.
Center column: Not all tripods come with a center column, but most do. You can extend this upwards to increase the height of the camera, although this introduces extra wobble. On some tripods, the centre column can be rotated to produce an angled boom, which is perfect for overhead shots, macro work, and tabletop photography. Using the centre column does reduce the stability of the tripod, however, so is best avoided with long exposures.
Leg angles: Most tripods have legs that can be angled independently – which is particularly useful when working on sloping sites or in cramped areas. The standard leg angle will be fine for regular use, but it’s often useful to splay one or more legs outwards on uneven surfaces or to rest them on walls, say. Splaying out all three legs will allow you to shoot from a much lower angle.
Types of feet: Rubber feet are fine on most surfaces but best on carpets and wooden floors, where you don’t want to cause damage. Metal spikes are good for soft and uneven ground. Some tripods have rubber feet, which can be screwed back to reveal spikes.
Horizontal boom arms: Most tripods have vertical center columns, but a few have a mechanism that allows you to rotate the column to make a horizontal or angled boom. This is extremely useful for tabletop work, overhead nature shots, flat-lay compositions, or document copying/archiving work.
Bowl base: This is a video-specific feature that allows you to get the base level without having to make a whole series of tiny adjustments to the leg length. A level base is essential for a video where you want to make panning movements, and the best video tripods come with bowl or leveling bases as standard.
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