The best video tripods have some important adaptations compared to a regular tripod. Although you can just lock your camera down on a regular photo tripod when you start experimenting with video, it doesn’t take long to recognise the need to invest in a tripod that’s designed specifically for moving images.
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Video is all about capturing motion, and although this can happen with a camera locked off on a tripod, it’s often necessary to pan or tilt the camera with the action. Even the best tripods (for regular stills photography) aren't very good at this. A stills-style ball head or pan and tilt head just won’t cut the mustard. You really need a head that has a smooth and ideally adjustable amount of fluid damping to control the movement. And it’s better to have a longer control arm on the tripod head to control the pan more precisely.
To help your camera stay balanced and avoid it tipping forward or back, most video tripods have a longer top plate for more adjustment and to help balance the camera. Many have an adjustable counterbalance system – something that’s key if you end up using long lenses or big video cameras with all the accessories like monitors or mics.
And one of the most crucial elements of shooting video is to keep the horizon straight. You can do this by adjusting the leg length on a stills tripod but it’s far better to use a video-specific set-up that has a quick-adjust head with a spirit level (or a 'levelling head'). To speed things up even more, some high-end tripods come with a ‘spreader’ between the legs which lets you instantly open up the tripod to make them as quick as possible to operate.
Just as there are many different types of photographers, there are also many different types of filmmakers. From the latest crop of vloggers and YouTubers typically using small mirrorless cameras, to indie filmmakers with larger set-ups to full-on cinematographers with the biggest budgets and cameras, there is no one tripod that’s perfect for all. And although many tripods are sold as a kit with a head, the higher-end ones are often sold with the legs and head separate to allow a full custom kit to be bought. So vloggers, for example, could combine a regular travel tripod with a video-orientated fluid head.
So check out our guide to some of the very best and latest tripods to check out for different users at a range of price points.
The best video tripod in 2020
YouTubers & vloggers
Manfrotto is one of the market leaders in tripods with something to suit all users and budgets. The BeFree Live Lever-Lock tripod kit uses three-section aluminum legs that are clamped down using lever locks. There is a different version available using twist-lock legs, too. And even a lighter carbon fiber version but that costs significantly more. The aluminum BeFree Live Lever-Lock tripod offers the best balance of weight, price and features, and can be packed down into a very small package. The ball head isn’t the best quality and there is no pan or tilt drag adjustment, but it’s still smooth and gives great results.
If you want an entry-level tripod designed for video and aren’t bothered about the distinctly old-school looks, the Velbon DV-7000N Video Tripod with PH-368 Fluid Head is a decent bit of kit. The three-section legs are braced from the center column to keep the tripod from twisting, which adds to the traditional looks. The head has separate locks for pan and tilt and the damping is adjustable, although the knobs are a bit tricky to get hold of. But the movement is surprisingly smooth and well-damped for a budget tripod. With a load capacity of 6kg, it’s more than enough for a mirrorless camera, lens and mic, and even a small monitor too.
The Vanguard is light, folds down incredibly small and has a high payload of 12kg. That’s because it’s made out of carbon fiber instead of aluminum, but comes without the usually high premium price the material commands. It can also have the center column removed and used as a monopod. However, the Vanguard is not really a specific video tripod but a multi-use tripod. This is due to having a ball head that can be locked off for tilt, then the friction knob used to slow down the pan movement. It does come with a pan handle that can be fitted to aid smoother movements. But there’s no fluid drag at all.
The Libec TH-Z tripod kit is traditional-style video tripod, made by a Japanese company that has lots of experience of making tripods for filmmaking. It has a twin tube leg set-up, which is fast to use and stable, as well as a mid-level spreader to get it set up quickly. It’s not too heavy and takes Manfrotto-fit tripod plates which are very popular. It’s the relatively basic head that’s the limiting factor in both maximum payload of just 5.99kg and its basic design. The pan and tilt movements are good, but the drag is not adjustable and there’s no counterbalance adjustment. The tripod is a 75mm bowl fitment, so putting on a better head in future is a good plan.
Benro has packed lots of modern technology into its good-looking tripod kit which mates the A373F aluminum single-tube tripod with a 75mm half bowl fitting to the newest S6Pro head. The head is impressive as it has a five-step counterbalance system to keep your camera from tipping forwards or back, and adjustable drag for pan and tilt with large and easy to use adjuster knobs. The camera plate is long for easy adjustment, too, and the pan bar can be fitted to the left or right. The tripod reaches 163cm in height but can go as low as 31cm, which is a unique benefit for such a burly bit of kit.
If you can get your head around the unusual and very long name for this British-designed tripod and head system, you’re left with a fantastic bit of a kit at a decent price. It uses three-section carbon fibre legs to keep the weight down, and these can be detached to form a monopod/ boom arm or splayed out very wide to get the head incredibly close to the ground. You can even buy accessories to use the head as a hi-hat style tripod just 13.5cm off the deck. The head has an Arca Swiss style plate, and a variety of feet are available to avoid damage to floors.
Manfrotto’s Pro Video carbon system matches the three-section carbon fibre MPRO 535 legs with the well-trusted MVH502A head, in a kit that comes complete with a padded carry bag. The counterbalance is not adjustable, but the important pan and tilt is easy to dial in thanks to large adjusters. The movement is smooth and well controlled. The head has two 3/8in threaded connectors so you can attach accessory arms right to the head. The legs can be splayed out to three different angles to get you lower to the ground, and the maximum height is very impressive at 185cm.
Setting up your tripod may only take a few seconds, but that time can seem like an eternity when you’re in a rush and don’t want to miss the shot. Manfrotto’s new Fast system allows you to release the locks on the top and bottom leg sections with a single twist. So you’re up and running – or packed down – very quickly. These new legs are mated to Manfrotto’s new and revised Nitrotech 608 head – all top-of-the-line stuff. The head uses an adjustable gas piston counterbalance system, as well as easy-adjusters for the pan and tilt movements. The long camera plate now clicks into place, and there are mounting points for accessories. All the bells and whistles.
The Sachtler Flowtech 75 MS Carbon Fibre Tripod with a mid-level spreader is very different to the regular single or double carbon fiber tube designs as it has very wide, almost flat legs. Each leg features a single clamping lever that locks and unlocks the sections, so you can set the whole lot up with just three locks which all sit together at the top of the tripod. Each leg extends independently, and when detached from the spreader, each leg can pivot without affecting the other legs. It’s designed to be comfortable to shoulder-carry, too. Of course, you need to budget for a suitable head, such as the Sachtler Ace XL or FSB 8 T.
When your tripod and head costs more than many people’s whole camera and lens systems, you know you are buying the very best that will perform impeccably and last for a very long time. The Miller kit is a dream buy for many, but if you are shooting big-budget productions on an expensive cinema camera with lots of accessories on it, you want something that is up to the job. The counterbalance has 15 different levels of resistance and the pan and tilt are adjustable, too. The kit doesn’t offer significantly more technology than other tripods, but it’s the way it handles the movements that sets it apart. Silky smooth with no judder at the end of the pans or tilts gives your films a totally professional edge good enough for Hollywood.
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