It’s not just professionals who can benefit from using a tripod – hobbyists, new photographers and videographers alike can maximise their camera’s potential by investing in the best tripod they can afford. After all, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve spent serious money on your DSLR camera and lens, or just want to get the best from your compact camera – it’d be a shame to let an unsteady hand ruin your shot.
Buying the right tripod is essential if you’re serious about photography, as it makes it possible to shoot in low-light conditions or use slow shutter speeds. As well as allowing you to keep the ISO low to improve the sharpness and overall quality of your images, a tripod lets you get more creative with your camera – and opens the door to a world of photographic possibilities. Plus, it’s a must-have if you want to shoot from unusual angles or experiment with extreme macro, long-exposure or panoramic photography.
If you’re looking to invest in your first tripod, upgrade to a new model, or simply add another to your collection, we’ve selected five of our favourite tripods from £40 to £500. And if you’re not sure what to look for, then the buying guide below will run you through everything you need to know.
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How to buy the best tripod for you
You’ll be able to narrow down your options straight away based on the type of photography you’ll be using your tripod for, but you’ll also want to consider where, when, and how you’ll be using it, too. These are some of the key features to consider.
What size of tripod do I need?
The height and size of your tripod will most likely depend on where and how you’ll be using it. If you’ll need to carry your tripod on long walks or trips, you’ll want it to be as compact and lightweight as possible. On the other hand, if you mostly shoot portraits or work in a studio, portability won’t be as important as it would be for a landscape photographer. Similarly, if you’re tall, you’ll want to make sure your tripod extends high enough that you won’t need to spend all your time crouching down.
Why does a tripod’s load capacity matter?
Load capacity – which is sometimes listed in manufacturer’s specifications as ‘weight rating’ – indicates how much weight a tripod can safely hold. Heavier tripods do tend to have higher load capacities, but if you’re willing to spend serious money then you’ll find top-end lightweight tripods which can handle even the heaviest DSLRs. Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to buy a cheaper tripod with a lower weight rating than you need – you could end up paying a lot more to replace any broken equipment. To avoid any costly accidents, we recommend choosing a tripod that can hold at least 1.5x the weight you’ll be placing on it.
What types of tripod head are there?
It may be one of the smallest parts, but it’s also one of the most important. The tripod head is the part that your camera connects to – and the part that keeps your camera secure – and comes in many different forms.
The selection here includes tripods with the two most popular types of head: ball head and pan/tilt head. The former is the quickest and easiest type of head to use, but usually costs a premium. The latter is a more affordable option and offers extra precision and adjustability, but isn’t as quick and easy to set up as the ball head designs. These are the two most common types of tripod head and the two that we’d recommend for most photography.
Do I need a carbon fibre tripod?
Most tripods are made from one of two materials: aluminium or carbon fibre. Both are extremely durable, but carbon fibre has the added advantage of being lighter and completely impervious to corrosion. Carbon fibre tripods are pricier than their aluminium counterparts, but their high strength to weight ratio makes them a worthwhile investment for anyone serious about photography – and especially for those who value portability above all else.
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The best tripods to buy
1. Vanguard Alta Pro 2+ 263AB100: The best all-round tripod
Price: £179 | Buy now from Amazon
Just how much tripod can you get for under £200? The conventional wisdom is “not much”, a truism Vanguard appears determined to disprove with its update to the Alta Pro. Since the first version it’s gained twist-lock leg releases – these have a lovely movement, clicking rather than simply twisting tight and leaving you in no doubt as to when they’re secure.
The Alta Pro 2+ keeps the MACC system of its predecessor. Standing for Multi-Angle Center Column, this is a hugely useful feature at this price. Slide the centre column up and the entire base pivots, allowing you to set the tripod and then set the camera at virtually any angle you choose. Those who love to get low down – macro photographers, for example, will love this.
The Alta Pro 2+ has heft, which is a double-edged sword. It’s gained weight since the first version, adding an unwelcome 300g to an already-weighty 2kg kerb weight. On the other hand, that means the Alta Pro 2+ is an unbelievably solid support. Even fully extended, with the MACC at a 90-degree angle and a high-end mirrorless camera on the ball head, the Pro 2+ felt perfectly secure. In windier weather, keeping the tripod a little shorter saw it withstand some pretty gusty weather. It’s rated up to maximum equipment weight of 7kg.
The excellent build quality extends to the various knobs. The sheer number takes a bit of learning – the head can rotate independently for easier controls over panoramas, which comes with its own tensioning knob – but once you’ve locked the head in place it is more or less unmovable. The head itself is Vanguard’s Alta BH-100. Its anodised, knurled finish makes it pretty good looking. More importantly, it locks totally solid without you having to strain at the screws.
For under £200 smackers the Alta Pro 2+ should be near the top of just about everyone’s list. Packed with features normally found on more expensive models and with no corners cut in terms of build, it feels like it could survive a bomb blast. The weight is worth being cautious of – this isn’t a tripod for those who hike miles every time they take a camera out, but for those who love a photo spot close to a car park they don’t come much better.
Key specs – Max load: 7kg; Max height: 1,734mm; Closed height: 739mm; Weight: 2.3kg; Material: Aluminium; Head: Ball head.
2. Velbon Sherpa 200R with PH-157Q head: The best budget tripod
Price: £65 | Buy now from Amazon
Velbon’s Sherpa 200R is a tripod that will improve your photos without destroying your bank balance. Despite its affordable price, it’s a great everyday tripod for both dedicated amateurs and professional photographers who would rather spend their money elsewhere.
The Sherpa 200R has been built with convenience as a priority. It’s simple to set up and can be ready to use in an instant, making it easy to rattle off a quick job as painlessly as possible. Its head is equally intuitive to use and the left-mounted handle leaves your right hand free to operate the camera. It also features a useful one-touch handle, making it possible to lock both pan and tilt movement with a single twist.
Given the low price tag, the Sherpa 200R is surprisingly stable. The rubber feet give it added support in any condition, even if at 3.5kg it’s a little too heavy to make it a good tripod for travellers and photographers on the move. That said, the Sherpa 200R is a brilliant budget option for anyone looking for an easy-to-use tripod that works in most situations, including low-level macro shots.
Key specs – Max load: 3.5kg; Max height: 167cm; Closed height: 62cm; Weight: 1.9kg; Material: Aluminium; Head: Pan and tilt head
3. MeFOTO GlobeTrotter Convertible Tripod: The best tripod for travel
Price: £335 | Buy now from Amazon
The MeFOTO GlobeTrotter is the photographer’s ultimate travel companion. Its compact size and super light weight make it easy to take anywhere – and it doesn’t compromise on function, either. Despite the svelte design, the GlobeTrotter converts to a monopod without the need for tools, so you can make sure every landscape looks as breathtaking in the photos as it does in real life.
It’s impressive that MeFOTO hasn’t had to compromise stability to achieve the GlobeTrotter’s all-in 1.7kg weight. The carbon fibre construction provides maximum sturdiness without adding bulk to your travel kit; the twist lock legs are both weather and dust-resistant and the choice of two leg angle positions makes it possible to get the winning shot in even the trickiest of setups. Another nice touch is that its centre monopod leg features a foam grip which is comfortable to hold whatever the weather, and you can hang extra weight from the centre column for extra peace of mind.
Admittedly, this performance comes at a price, but the GlobeTrotter is also available in aluminium for £60 less if you don’t mind carrying an extra 400g of weight around. Whichever you choose, MeFOTO’s GlobeTrotter is a true traveller’s tripod designed to take unpredictable conditions in its stride.
Key specs – Max load: 12kg; Max height: 163cm; Closed height: 42cm; Weight: 1.7kg for carbon fibre/21.kg for aluminium; Material: Carbon/aluminium; Head: Ball head
4. Manfrotto Befree Advanced GT Carbon Fibre: An excellent carbon fibre tripod
Price: £371 | Buy now from Manfrotto
Travel tripods have a tough brief to fill. On one hand, they have to be small and light enough to fit neatly in, or on, a small camera bag, without weighing down a photographer who might also be carrying a few cameras and a good handful of lenses. On the other, they’ll often be placed in very tough environments where lightweight build quality will be tested to the limit.
So thank goodness for the qualities of carbon fibre, as demonstrated by Manfrotto’s budget Befree Advanced GT tripod. ‘Budget’ is a bit of a misnomer, but for a carbon fibre tripod this is about as good as it gets. Elevating to a maximum height of 1.6 metres, thanks to its four-section legs, yet weighing a smidge over 1.5kg, the Befree is a light-but-tough tripod that will suit general purpose photographers down to the ground. Rated to a maximum of 10kg – and therefore probably a bit more for the brave – this is a tripod capable of everything from astrophotography to high-end wildlife and sport.
It might use space-age materials but it’s a fairly simple affair. The legs are secured with twist locks – these are big and chunky and easy to manhandle even if you’re wearing gloves. The ball head at the top of the tripod has a single, large twist release, with a friction adjuster on the other side, while the centre column can be loosened, tightened or removed completely with a screw adjuster on the underside of the tripod.
In short, there’s not much to go wrong, but once you tighten up what’s included it all holds together really nicely. This is a secure, tough-feeling tripod that feels like it should be able to handle more or less whatever you throw at it.
Pretty much the only thing that does go wrong is the price, which at the thick end of £400 makes this a tripod for the well-heeled. However, that ultra-low weight and top-notch build quality also make it one that will do a serious number of miles without weighing you down.
Key specs – Max load: 10kg; Max height: 1620mm; Closed height: 430mm; Weight: 1.55kg; Material: Carbon fibre; Head: Ball head
Buy now from Manfrotto
5. Joby GorillaPod SLR-Zoom Compact Action: The best pocket-sized tripod
Price: £40 | Buy now from Amazon
The Joby GorillaPod proves that the best things really do come in the smallest packages. This unconventional little tripod is surprisingly strong despite its pocketable size and toy-like appearance. With a maximum load of 3kg, it’s stronger than many full-size tripods and capable of supporting most entry-level DSLRs and lenses.
The high-quality Japanese ABS plastics, durable German TPE rubber grip rings and custom stainless steel camera screw pack a reassuring level of robustness into this small but mighty piece of kit.
That said, the GorillaPod isn’t designed to be the sturdiest tripod out there. Where it really excels is in exactly what it was built to do: offering maximum portability and flexibility, without the need to carry huge pieces of kit. It does this with its super-flexible 360° leg joints, which make it possible to position your camera in the most unusual places, and the rubber feet and ring grips make sure that it’s held firmly in place.
Although there are now several similar models on the market, the GorillaPod trumps the lower-priced models with its superior construction quality. The clincher is that the leg joints maintain their firmness over time, meaning your camera is always well-supported – and that’s well worth paying a premium for.
Key specs – Max load: 3kg; Max height: 25cm; Closed height: 25cm; Weight: 190g; Material: Plastic; Head: Ball head
6. Manfrotto Befree GT XPRO Aluminium: Best tripod for mobility
Price: £270 | Buy now from Amazon
Macro photographers have a unique set of needs when it comes to kit. A macro lens, obviously, but possibly also a set of ring lights, remote flashes and triggers, and that’s before you think about camera support. A normal tripod won’t cut it as you’ll often want to be directly over or beside your subject, which requires a support capable of all kinds of photographic yoga poses.
The GT XPRO Aluminium has all of Manfrotto’s hallmark engineering. Its M-Lock grips to hold the legs at your chosen length work well, and the 496 ball head is solid, rugged and will hold up to 10kg. Extend it all the way and it reaches an impressive 164cm. And, while its aluminium build makes it heavy compared to its carbon fibre brother, the £371 Manfrotto Befree Advanced GT Carbon Fibre – 2kg to the more expensive tripod’s 1.55kg – it sat resplendent and unmoving even in pretty stiff winds. Fold it up and it packs down really neatly to just 43cm with the tripod head sitting nestled inside the folded legs to make it more compact.
So what about macro photographers? Look at the bottom of the centre column and you’ll see a small tooless ring – push the button at the bottom and a half-ball and socket arrangement inside the tripod lets you swing the centre column out so that it extends parallel to the ground. This does mean you need to be careful to make sure one of the tripod legs extends in roughly the same direction to avoid over-balancing, but it works really well and has applications for those who shoot food, for example.
Get it set up right and this is a really solid tripod, capable of holding a little more weight than others in its class. If you want a bit of flexibility when it comes to framing, this is an obvious one for the shortlist.
Max load: 10kg; Max height: 1640mm; Closed height: 430mm; Weight: 2kg; Material: Aluminium; Head: Ball head
7. Manfrotto Compact Action: Best affordable, lightweight tripod
Price: £47 | Buy now from Amazon
It’s not as sturdy as some pricier models in this list, but we love the lightweight, easy-to-use design of the Manfrotto Compact Action. Weighing just 1.16kg, it’s a great option for hikes and city breaks where you don’t want to be weighed down.
The tripod’s unique joystick-style head is a particularly nice touch – its circular quick-release makes mounting your camera an absolute cinch, while a switch lets you choose between stills and video mode. The latter stops the head from moving in all three axes, making it easier to capture smooth panning shots.
With a load capacity of just 1.5kg, it’s important not to use anything too heavy on the Manfrotto Compact Action, but if you’re looking for something to use with a compact DSLR, smartphone or GoPro, this is a great option that doesn’t break the bank.
Key specs – Max load: 1.5kg; Max height: 1,550mm; Closed height: 440mm; Weight: 1.16kg; Material: Aluminium; Head: Joystick