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The best video tripod in 2020: camera supports with fluid heads for videomakers

The best video tripod in 2020
(Image credit: Getty Images)

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.

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.

Best video editing software

The best video tripod in 2020

YouTubers & vloggers

(Image credit: Manfrotto)

1. Manfrotto BeFree Live Lever Kit – aluminum

A small and light tripod that’s ideal for travelling or compact cameras

Material: Aluminium | Extended height: 151cm | Folded height: 40cm | Weight: 1.75kg | Leg sections: 3 | Maximum load: 4kg

Folds into a compact package
Fast to set up and use
Light weight
Only takes a payload of 4kg
No Pan and tilt drag adjustment
No counterbalance adjustment

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. 

(Image credit: Velbon)

2. Velbon DV-7000N with PH-368 Fluid Head

It’s a budget tripod but one that can handle a decent payload

Material: Aluminium | Extended height: 162.5cm | Folded height: 57cm | Weight: 3.47kg | Leg sections: 3 | Maximum load: 6kg

Decent pan and tilt performance
Good maximum height of 162.5cm
Wind-up center column fast to adjust
Cork top looks very old school
Quick release plate not the best quality
No counterbalance adjustment

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. 

(Image credit: Vanguard)

3. Vanguard VEO 2X 265CBP

The carbon fiber tripod that packs up small but has a big payload

Material: Carbon fibre | Extended height: 151.1cm | Folded height: 40.9cm | Weight: 1.59kg | Leg sections: 5 | Maximum load: 12kg

Carbon fibre gives light weight
Packs down to a compact size
Can be used as a monopod
Compromise design
No fluid drag or balance adjustment
Arca Swiss head is unusual for video

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.

Indie filmmakers

(Image credit: Libec)

4. Libec TH-Z T

The traditional-style video tripod with no frills but at a great price

Material: Aluminium | Extended height: 161cm | Folded height: 79.5cm | Weight: 3.49kg | Leg sections: 3 | Maximum load: 4.99kg

Traditional video design with spreader
Fast to set up and use
Comes with a carry case
Not very compact to carry
No drag or counterbalance adjustment
Head quality is not as good as the legs

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. 

(Image credit: Benro)

5. Benro A373FBS6Pro

A single tube-style tripod with an advanced tripod head

Material: Aluminium | Extended height: 163cm | Folded height: 40.9cm | Weight: 4.25kg | Leg sections: 3 | Maximum load: 6kg

Modern design tripod and head
Very low minimum height of 31cm
Adjustable pan and tilt drag
Five-step counterbalance adjustment
Great looks with blue anodized details
Not the highest payload for its weight

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.

Best video tripod: 3 Legged Thing Mike Carbon Fibre with Quick Leveling Base and AirHed Cine Arca Head

(Image credit: 3 Legged Thing)

6. 3 Legged Thing Mike Carbon Fiber with Quick Leveling Base and AirHed Cine Arca Head

A funky newcomer with great specs and interesting tricks up its sleeve

Material: Carbon fibre | Extended height: 147.5cm | Folded height: 66.7cm | Weight: 1.65kg | Leg sections: 3 | Maximum load: 14kg

A triumph in cool design
Very low minimum height of 13.5cm
Very Large payload for its weight
Not the highest reach
No counterbalance adjustment
Fixed pan and tilt drag

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.

Best video tripod: Manfrotto MVK502C-1 Pro Video Carbon system

(Image credit: Manfrotto)

7. Manfrotto MVK502C-1 Pro Video Carbon system

Cool carbon fibre legs and a well-proven head make for a solid system

Material: Carbon fibre | Extended height: 185cm | Folded height: 87.5cm | Weight: 6.6kg | Leg sections: 3 | Maximum load: 7kg

Carbon fibre legs
Easy to adjust fluid damping
Reaches a good height
75mm ball head
Not the lightest or most compact
Fixed counterbalance

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.

Best video tripod: Manfrotto 635 Fast Single Leg Tripod with Nitrotech 608 head

(Image credit: Manfrotto)

8. Manfrotto 635 Fast Single Leg Tripod with Nitrotech 608 head

A super-quick new way to set up your tripod with a feature-packed head

Material: Carbon fibre | Extended height: 171cm | Folded height: 87.5cm | Weight: 5.6kg | Leg sections: 2 | Maximum load: 8kg

Carbon fibre fast-adjust legs
Easy damping adjusters
Adjustable counterbalance
Latest Nitrotech head
Comes with padded carry bag
Not a budget option

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.

Cinematographers

Best video tripod: Sachtler 4585 Flowtech 75 MS

(Image credit: Sachtler)

9. Sachtler 4585 Flowtech 75 MS

A totally new leg design to be easy to carry on the shoulder

Material: Carbon fibre | Extended height: 153cm | Folded height: 68cm | Weight: 2.9kg | Leg sections: 3 | Maximum load: 20kg

Quick-adjust carbon fibre legs 
Designed for easy carrying
75mm bowl head fitting
Big payload
Not the most compact
Doesn’t come as a kit

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. 

Best video tripod: Miller 3780 CX18 Sprinter II

(Image credit: Miller)

10. Miller 3780 CX18 Sprinter II

The Rolls Royce of traditional-style twin-tube carbon fiber tripods

Material: Carbon fibre | Extended height: 168cm | Folded height: 85cm | Weight: 5.8kg | Leg sections: 3 | Maximum load: 16kg

Incredible quality 
Super-smooth pan and tilt
Large 100mm bowl head fitting
High quality carrying case
Minimum height a lofty 57cm
Very pricey

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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