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The best carbon fiber tripods in 2021: stable but lightweight camera supports

carbon fiber tripods

The best carbon fiber tripods tend to cost more than those made from cheaper materials, but make up for it with superior build quality. In terms of stability, operating height and ability to fold down, carbon fiber tripods simply blow the competition away. Whether you're travelling, landscape shooting, sports shooting or whatever else, a carbon fiber tripod will rapidly become your best friend, and you'll never leave home without one.

So, a carbon fiber tripod has many advantages of over one made from the other most common material, aluminum (or aluminium). Carbon fiber kits tend to weigh about 20% less than equivalent kits made from aluminium, and also tend to be better at soaking up or 'damping' vibrations, which can be all-important when you're shooting a long exposure that could be ruined by even the tiniest jolt of the camera. Additionally, a carbon fibre tripod will be less cold to the touch than aluminum in chilly weather, making them  better for winter shoots. 

Ultimately, you’re best off looking for a tripod that has the features you need and suits your budget. So, with that in mind, we’ve picked out eight of the most attractive carbon fiber tripod buys on the market.

(Image credit: Manfrotto)

1. Manfrotto MT055CXPRO4

A top-of-the-line, all-purpose tripod with the latest Manfrotto tech

Weight: 2.1kg | Folded height, max height: 54.1cm, 169.9cm | Max load (legs): 9kg | Center column: 90-degree pivot | Head attachment screw: 3/8 inch

Excellent pivoting column
Solid and stable
Single-hand setup
Heavier than some

The carbon fiber version of Manfrotto's 055 tripod, the Manfrotto MT055CXPRO4 is designed to marry superior stability with smooth operation. Its redesigned centre column can pivot 90 degrees easily, with redesigned "one-finger" operation that makes the whole enterprise easier than ever to set up.

With a hefty load capacity and impressive working height, the Manfrotto MT055CXPRO4 is designed to satisfy a broad majority of users. Essentially, if you can justify the price, this is almost certainly a solid choice of tripod for whatever type of shooting you have in mind. Its legs are secured by new Quick Power Locks that provide 50% more rigidity compared to its predecessor, and each leg can be positioned independently. 

A bubble level has been set into the top of the centre column, rotating freely around it so you can always position it somewhere you can see it. This allows you to get your horizons straighter than straight. What's more, the Easy Link connector at the top supports the attachment of additional accessories like video monitors or extra lights, further expanding the tripod's utility for a broad swathe of users. 

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2. Benro Mach3 TMA27C

Simple but highly effective: a classy tripod with excellent rigidity

Weight: 1.92kg | Folded height, max height: 72cm, 171cm | Max load (legs): 14kg | Center column: Full + short (stub) | Head mount platform dia: 56mm | Head attachment screw: 3/8 inch

Removable monopod
14kg maximum load
Lacks pivoting center column
Conventional leg stowage

With swing-up legs and pivoting center columns being featured increasingly in mainstream tripods, the Mach3 looks a very traditional affair. It has a very conventional layout of three-section legs that don’t fold upwards for stowage, and a basic height adjustment clamp for the center column that precludes any pivot facility. It’s therefore easy to write off this tripod as being somewhat basic, but the upside is that it’s superbly quick and easy to set up. Look a little closer, and you’ll see that it’s not short of smart features either.

A simple but effective locking mechanism enables use of the legs at three different angles to the center column, and there is a bubble level on both the tripod spider . For low-level shooting, a stub is supplied which can be swapped with the center column, and the kit comes complete with interchangeable rubber pads and metal spikes for the feet. For another bit of trickery, the leg that sports comfort padding can be unscrewed and used as a monopod, in conjunction with the removable center column and ball head.

The Mach3 is one of the most rigid tripods in the group, along with the Manfrotto 055 and the Novo, maintaining excellent stability even at its maximum operating height, with the center column fully extended. Adjustments of the leg sections and center column are silky smooth, and the B1 ball head works a treat. It features independent clamp and friction damper knobs, plus a pan-only release with a calibrated rotation scale and an Arca-Swiss type quick-release plate. All in all, the Mach3 is a simple yet highly effective tripod.

(Image credit: Vanguard)

3. Vanguard VEO 3 GO 265HCB

With monopod conversion and even a smartphone mount, this is versatility personified

Weight: 1.41kg | Folded height, max height: 40.89cm, 166.4cm | Max load (legs): 9.98kg | Center column: Reversible, 2-section | Head attachment screw: 1/4 inch

Lightweight and compact
Bluetooth shutter trigger
Needs extra ballast at full height
Not the tallest

One of Vanguard's newer travel tripods, the VEO 3 GO 265HCB is a carbon fiber model clearly pitched at a lot of different users. So, as well as the standard screw mount for cameras, the tripod also comes bundled with a smartphone mount and a Bluetooth shutter trigger. It's extremely lightweight, and while it's not the tallest tripod you can get, it folds down exceptionally well, and is a perfect choice for travel.

The tripod extends to a maximum height of 166.4cm, and if you're going to be using it at this height, it's recommended that you hang a weight bag on the hook on the central column, as things can get a little wobbly. The central column is also reversible, which is useful for macro shooting. What's more, the VEO 3 GO 265HCB  also has a removable leg that can be quickly converted to a monopod, further cementing it as one of the most versatile carbon fiber tripods around right now.

(Image credit: Benro)

4. Benro Rhino Carbon Fibre Three Series

As tough as a rhino? Honestly it's not far off!

Weight: 2.72kg | Folded height, max height: 65.7cm, 174.7cm | Max load (legs): 20kg | Center column: 90-degree pivot | Head mount platform dia: 50mm | Head attachment screw: 3/8 inch

New braided CF build
Strong 20kg capacity
Pretty hefty
Relatively pricey

Released in 2020, the Benro Rhino range of tripods are designed to be as sturdy and hefty as their name implies. This model, the catchily named FRHN34CVX30, is able to support a whopping 20kg of camera kit, making it more than equipped for even the most extravagant of photo or video setups.

It's all down to the new carbon fibre build, which uses new braided carbon fibre tubing to keep the weight down without compromising on strength. The tripod packs away pleasingly small, with reverse folding legs that flip up to surround the head when they're not being used. It's also easy to attach an extra accessory arm for a smartphone or video monitor, further expanding your shooting options. 

This tripod also comes bundled with one of Benro's new VX ball heads, which have been specifically designed to complement the Rhino range. In real terms, this means that they are also strong and lightweight, but there are a few extra features as well, such as the redesigned quick-release plate with a safety catch to prevent calamity resulting from accidentally releasing the camera. All in all, it adds up to an impressive, high-quality setup for pretty much any camera user!

See Benro Rhino FRHN34CVX30 review

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Peak Design Travel Tripod

(Image credit: Peak Design)
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Peak Design Travel Tripod

(Image credit: Peak Design)

5. Peak Design Travel Tripod

Spectacular for both its design and its folded size, but not cheap!

Extended height: 153cm | Folded height: 39cm | Weight: 1.27kg/1.56kg | Feet: Pads (spikes optional extra) | Leg sections: 5 | Max load: 9kg

Supremely portable
Ultra-low-profile ball head
Phone mount and bag included
Not the tallest
Luxury price

It's the first tripod Peak Design has made, and considering the carbon fiber version is one of the most expensive travel tripods around, 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. All the other tripods here will go higher, but the Peak Design will still go to eye level for an average-height person, and it packs down to just 39cm in length. It's designed to cut out the 'dead volume' between the legs and the column when packed, which means it's not just short when folded but very slim too – you could put this IN your camera bag or cabin bag as well as strap it to the outside. The low-profile ball head is simple but brilliant, there's a phone holder hidden inside the center column and, best of all, this tripod feels seriously rigid.

Read more: Peak Design Travel Tripod review

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6. Vanguard ALTA PRO 2+ 263CB 100

A great performer with an excellent pivot system

Weight: 2.1kg | Folded height, max height: 71cm, 172cm | Max load (legs): 7kg | Center column: 180-degree pivot | Head mount platform dia: 58mm | Head attachment screw: 3/8 inch

Excellent pivoting center column
Bubble spirit level
Accessory attachment
Great leg locks
Longer than some when folded
Not as rigid as some rivals

This Vanguard tripod kit stands out from the crowd, with a smart gunmetal grey finish for both the legs and head, rather than the usual black. It plays the numbers game with great success as well, with calibrated markings for rotation on the four-angle legs, and a 7-angle pivoting center column.

The tripod looks relatively slim and, indeed, the diameters of the three leg sections are quite modest at 26/23/19mm. However, the maximum load rating of 7kg for the legs should prove more than sufficient for the heaviest combinations of DSLR bodies and lenses.

With legs that don’t swing upwards for stowage, and have three rather than four sections, the tripod is quick and easy to set up. The same applies to the pivoting center column which, can be locked at various angles through a complete 180-degree arc. Another nice feature is that, as in the Manfrotto tripods, there’s a 3/8 inch threaded socket on the spider for attaching accessories like an LED light or microphone. Bubble levels are fitted to both the tripod spider.

Operation of the twist-locks for extending the leg sections is particularly good, with a quarter of a turn being all that’s needed for smooth movement or rock-solid clamping. The sliders for adjusting the leg angles are similarly well implemented, and the ball head is solid yet fairly compact. 

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7. Novo Explora T20 NV-EXT20KT

Smart design and a mighty maximum load rating

Weight: 2.29kg | Folded height, max height: 53cm, 188cm | Max load (legs): 20kg | Center column: Full + short (stub) | Head mount platform dia: 60mm | Head attachment screw: 3/8 inch

Outstanding 20kg maximum payload
Useful maximum shooting height
Smalls down nice and small
Built-in monopod
No pivoting center column
Not available in North America

Weighing in at 2.29kg, the Novo isn’t quite as heavy as some rivals but has a significantly greater maximum load rating of 20kg than most. The bottom section of its four-section legs is a fairly typical 21mm, but the top section is is a chunky 32mm. With swing-up legs, it folds down nice and small to 53cm, yet has a particularly lofty maximum operating height of 188cm.

Smartly turned out in black and silver, with a matching colour scheme for the head, the Novo certainly looks and feels like a quality item. Everything works with smooth efficiency and there are some smart design flourishes. The leg that features comfort padding can be unscrewed and used in conjunction with the center column and ball head as a monopod. 

Resistance to flexing and vibrations is excellent. The twist-locks for the leg sections require minimal rotation for unlocking and relocking, and the same applies to the twist-lock for the extending center column. However, unlike most competing tripods, there’s no pivot facility for the center column. Instead, the tripod is supplied with a short stub that you can use for low-level shooting.

Read more:

The best tripod for your camera

The best travel tripod

The best ball heads for your tripod

The best pan and tilt tripod heads

Best gimbal heads for tripods

The best panoramic tripod heads

The best geared tripod heads

The best video tripods

The best iPhone tripods and supports