The best video tripods are different to photographic tripods in a number of key ways. While a photo tripod will do the basic job of keeping a camera still for video, using a dedicated video tripod and head combo will open up your filmmaking in many ways, some of which you may not have thought about.
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Take panning and tilting. Video is a dynamic medium, and while there's a place for a locked-off shot, you hardly want it to be the only option available to you. Having a video head that is smooth to move, with an adjustable level of fluid damping to assure precise control, makes a world of difference. A video tripod will also provide you with a longer control arm that'll allow you to be very precise with your movements.
There's more. Video tripods also tend to have longer top plates than photo tripods, which allows for more flexibility with camera positioning and weight distribution. This makes a lot of sense when we consider the more piecemeal, uneven nature of video setups, with long lenses and extra accessories. Video tripods are also more likely to have an adjustable counterbalance system, which helps even more when you're shooting with a big video camera and telephoto lens with a monitor attached and a mic on top. All that bulk adds up!
Video setups also tend to have a quick-adjust head with a spirit level, which helps you keep your horizons straight. This is especially critical in video as it's much more difficult to correct than it is in a still photograph. Some of the tripods for video will also come with spreaders between their legs to help you open them up quickly and evenly; you'll see a few of those mentioned in this guide.
We're aware of course that there are many different types of filmmaker out there, and not everyone has the same kind of needs. Some people are vloggers and YouTubers using small, affordable cameras or smartphones, while there are also indie filmmakers who are likely using more involved setups. Then at the step beyond that we start to see pro cinematographers, who have the biggest budgets and the cameras to match. We've included sections for each of these categories of video user, with our top current recommendations in each one.
So check out our guide to some of the very best and latest tripods for different users at a range of price points.
The best video tripod in 2021
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.
It's good to see the entry-level end of the video market being catered for, and this video tripod from Libec is pitched for exactly that. Released in 2020, this is a lightweight, straightforward tripod that's designed for light setups weighing no more than 3kg. Its industry-standard sliding plate is broadly compatible with widely used heads from the likes of Manfrotto and Sachtler, and its one-touch flip locks are designed to allow the user to make quick adjustments to the height. Only having two leg sections to play with does hamper versatility a little, but it's still a solid tripod for a fantastic price, making for a great addition to any vlogging setup.
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.
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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