What Is a Camera Tripod?
Any photo enthusiast knows that frustrating feeling when a handheld photo just doesn't come out right because of the slightest vibration that smears the picture and totally ruins the effort. Therefore, photographers often use a special pole with 3 adjustable legs, called tripod, to put their camera in a stable position and get a perfectly sharp shot, unaffected by the trembling hands and other vibrations. Any high-quality architecture masterpiece, nature, macro, and panoramic photographs are done with a tripod support.
Furthermore, tripods are often used in photo studios for getting clear, crisp portraits of a sitter. However, you can also see them used for shooting news reports, documentaries, concerts, and movies. Usually, a tripod comes with a special camera head that mounts on top of the center column. It provides better control of the camera movement flow and can be fixed in certain positions. But more of that below.
So, if you are gearing up your photo studio or getting ready for a long journey with a scenic route, you might also be interested in our review of the best camera backpacks with a strap for a tripod fixing to store and carry your camera kit around. But that's not all. You might also want to check out our pick of the best portrait lenses as well. And for those, who want to know the latest tendencies in the photo industry, we may recommend our fresh selection of the best mirrorless cameras.
What Features to Compare
A few words about Compatibility. Most of the tripods come with a column that has a 3/8" screw for mounting the head. The head has, in turn, a standard 1/4" screw that matches the threaded hole in the bottom of the most cameras. Therefore, you can readily use your DSLR, GoPro or TV camera with any tripod from this review.
So, the first parameter to check out is the Maximum Load a tripod can support. If you don't know the weight of your camera with a lens, just google them separately and sum their weight. If you are worrying that a huge telephoto lens might disrupt the balance, look for a tripod with the counterweight hook at the bottom of the center column. Also, some models come with a leg spreader that has bracket arms for some additional stability.
Weight and Material. The most common materials are carbon fiber and aluminum. The first one is lighter and somewhat better at vibration dampening, though they cost more than the metal ones. A bit heavier aluminum model can be helpful for shooting outdoors where lighter models can be simply kicked over by the wind gust. But carrying a heavy model for several hours can be tiresome.
As a rule, tripod legs have from 2 up to 5 telescopic Sections. The bigger their number is, the more compact it will be when folded. Still, a large number of parts may affect the overall stability of the stand. The center column may also have 1 or 2 sections. There are lots of models with telescopic legs and adjustable center column.
Note, there are several Head Types that define the camera position. The Ball head can be rotated all around and has a very smooth running, yet be careful not to bump it accidentally. The 3-way Pan-Tilt heads are usually cheaper and allow a more precise adjusting. The downside is that they have large handles that always get in the way and also many levers that you have to tighten up or loosen almost every time to move and fix it in a certain position. The Gimbal heads are very specific and designed for holding large and heavy cameras.
There are several Features that can improve the usage of a tripod. For example, if the legs have pointy spikes on their ends, they will stand more securely on the soft ground. For shooting in a photo studio, you might need a taller tripod to take photos at the eye-level. The quick-release mount plate comes handy when you want to quickly change the cameras or when you need to take several handheld shots. By the way, some tripods can be transformed into a monopod that can provide some support for taking stable shots where you just can't unfold a tripod. Additionally, the package may also include some Extra Items like a pouch for the head or a carrying bag for the tripod itself.
Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT Aluminum Tripod Legs
Feel the Difference
Sooner or later, any photo enthusiast comes to the conclusion that some photos just can't be taken right without a tripod. Either it is a breathtaking scenery or a stunning architecture masterpiece, a stable camera support will undeniably increase the overall image quality. So, with this Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT tripod, you can become a professional cameraman like on a movie set, capturing all the awesome moments from all possible angles. On the outlook, the center column looks pretty much the same as everywhere. However, due to the special bracketing system, it freely moves around in all 3 dimensions while its 3-segmen legs firmly stay in the same place. Speaking of them, each leg has a pointy spike on its end to ensure stability on the rough ground and the rubber non-skid feet for slick flooring in the studio or apartment. Thanks to these, you can even position the column parallel to the ground - and the tripod will not turn over. This makes it a perfect choice if you want to take macro photos or standing among the tall building and want to point the camera straight up into the sky. By turning the camera lens down to the ground, you can also take macro shots of the things that you can put vertically: waterdrops, snowflakes, live bugs, grains or seeds. Also, by setting the column straight up and rotating the camera with your hand, you can take panoramic shots, staying behind.
We wanted to mention a few more characteristics of this awesome model. First of all, it's made of aluminum but you can buy a carbon fiber model too. The joints seem to be pretty durable. After tightening its clamp, the column holds the camera firmly in place. The tripod is designed to hold up to 15.4 lbs and you can also hang a counterweight on the hook on the other side of the column. Each leg has a release lock at the top to change its angle to one of the fixed positions - at 25°, 50°, and 80°. Other adjustments are straightforward, too. Each leg is telescopic and features 2 flip locks for quick realignment. The soft foam grips on them also come in handy when you need to carry your tripod from one place to another. Since it's made of aluminum, it's a great choice if you love winter photography, as you can safely grab it with a bare hand.
Don't Lose Your Head
Note, this Alta Pro 263AT model comes without a head. That way, you can mount your camera on its round shock-absorbing rubber plate with a standard 1/4" screw right away or use the head of your own choice thanks to the included 3/8" adapter. Another option is to check out its page on the Amazon and find the headed configuration that suits you best.
Concluding, at 4.4 lbs, Vanguard Alta Pro 263AT might lose the weight contest to its carbon fiber competitors. And yet, it's one of the lightest models made of aluminum. Though it comes without a head, you might not even need it in most cases due to the unique multi-angle column system. Therefore, we readily recommend this heavy-duty camera tripod to any photo enthusiasts - beginners and pros alike.
ZOMEi Z669C Portable Carbon Tripod Monopod
Take Me With You
Beginner photographers might be unaware that they can drastically improve their photography skills and image quality with such a simple thing as a tripod. How many times have you seen a person leaning on a post or placing the camera on a handrail to get steady shots? We've seen enough to positively recommend this compact Z669C model by ZOMEi.
In our opinion, it's an awesome device for indoors and outdoors photo shooting. See for yourself: at 3.4 lbs weight without a camera and a compact 14" length when folded, this is a great purchase if you are looking for a tripod to take with you on trips or to the nearest park for a quick photo shoot. It's made of the black carbon fiber that is hard and weather-resistant. Each leg consists of 5 sections with 4 rubber switch locks. The gilded verges on them give the tripod an expensive look. However, the price is still relatively attractive.
Fast and Easy
The portability is not the only ace that ZOMEi Z669C has up its sleeve. You can transform it into the monopod by detaching one of the legs and screwing the center column on top of it. Use it for instances like when you have to get a quick stable shot on a busy street or at the motor rally where you may need to quickly change your position. Even more, the center column can be unscrewed and attached upside down when you need to take a close-up macro photo low to the ground. The ball head has a built-in tiny spirit level and the graded scale ring at the base - essential features for scenery and panoramic photography. The tripod comes with a wristband to quickly pull it up and a bag for safe transportation.
Considering all the said above, this multifunctional, compact camera tripod can lend you a steady hand simply anywhere where you might need it. A great choice for photographers who like to travel a lot.
More Products to Consider
Instead of using a simple plastic bag to protect your camera and tripod head from the rain and dust, buy a professional 2-pack Rain Covers by Allura and shoot like a pro. Also, check out our review of the best camera bags as well.
Ravelli APGL4 New Professional Camera Tripod
Either you are big on photography or not, the tripod purchase is just a question of time - and the time has come. With Ravelli APGL4 you can shoot videos and photos like a pro with your camera right away. In our opinion, this model has the right balance between price and material quality. The aluminum parts are durable but add to the weight - at 8 lbs clear it would take its rightful place in a photo studio rather than in your backpack during long travels on foot. Keep in mind, that this heavy tripod would also be harder to knock over on a windy day.
Anyway, the 3-section legs end with the threaded metal spikes. You can put the rubber feet on them for better stability on the flooring or even switch them with any other of your choice. As for the leg section fixators, there are standard flip locks that offer a quick and precise adjustment at the same time
Shoot for the Sky
The pistol grip on the ball head is worth mentioning as well. By pressing a trigger, you can adjust it any way you like. When you release it, the heads stays firmly in the same position. There are also 3 spirit levels on it for leveling the head in all 3 dimensions - handy for shooting panoramas and scenery.
With the Quick Release system, you can swiftly take the camera off the tripod to take a couple handheld shots or even switch the cameras. Just loosen a big silver knob at the top part of the head to do so. The set also includes a carrying bag for transportation and the Allen wrench to loosen or tighten the tension screw of the pistol grip whenever you might need it.
All in all, this formidable professional camera tripod is reliable and surprisingly inexpensive. Therefore, it is a perfect match for professionals with a photo studio and beginners who want to get a crisp, bright, undistorted picture with their DSLR or TV cameras.
More Products to Consider
AmazonBasics Lightweight Camera Tripod with Bag
The AmazonBasics is a terrific inexpensive model made of the pretty high-quality materials. By looking at its selling rates and positive reviews on Amazon, we've set to check out what makes it so special. The key materials here are the sturdy, lightweight aluminum and a common durable plastic. The maximum height is 60", which is considered to be sufficient for a standard photography. Each 3-section leg has with 2 flip locks that help quickly change its length. We liked the fact, that you can quickly extend the center column up with a special lever. That way, the unfolding and adjusting it take less than a minute. As you already know, the large counterweight hook on the bottom is also designed for storing the included tripod bag to keep it away from your feet. The pan-tilt head allows a lot of freedom to adjust the angle, turn the camera around or just fix in a needed position. But there's a little catch to it.
In Favor of Pan-Tilt Head
One of the most popular questions people ask when they are choosing a tripod is about the head type to use with it. Although a lot of votes go to the ball type, the pan-tilt head still has its own advantages. One of them is that you can perfectly move it up-down or turn it around for a panoramic photo perfectly aligned with the horizon. You can often find pan-tilt heads used in the TV studios too as they allow to safely fix the camera in a steady position and let go of it with no fear that it would tilt to the side. The downside is that it has a lot of levers, required to be turned to simply readjust it. However, this is still an greate choice if you are looking for a device to get a stable, crisp photo.
As a result, this is an excellent small camera tripod that you can buy for a very low price and use it at home studio or for photo sessions in the park or nearest forest.
More Products to Consider
This and other tripods in our review are compatible with any camera that has the 1/4" screw hole. But if you want to take a stable shot with your smartphone, you can find special tripod mounts for the smartphones.
Neewer Carbon Fiber Camera Tripod Monopod
When the Lights are Low
As you might now, the tripods are indispensable tools for shooting at long exposures in dim lighting, especially with the telephoto lenses. For example, things like lightning storm, highlighted night city, beautiful starscapes or exploding fireworks are hard to capture right without a steady support for your camera. This Neewer carbon fiber tripod will universally help you in any of these situations. Even more, you can readily buy this model for a photo studio as well.
The tripod can be set at up to 66.1" length to take pictures at the eye-level or even higher position. You can switch the center column upside down to get the camera as low to the ground as possible - great for the macro photography. Each leg has 4 sections with 3 twist locks for height adjustment. The key material here is the lightweight carbon fiber that is strengthened by 8-layer laminating. Therefore, it can withstand staggering 26.5 lbs load! Additionally, this material is great at absorbing small vibrations, so feel free to use it with large lenses. When doing so, you might want to attach a counterweight to the special hook on the other side of the center pole in order to keep it steady.
The 360° ball head boasts the quality that is far above the average. We have noticed, that it moves wonderfully smooth when shooting a video. The head has a graded scale and a built-in spirit level. So, when you use it to get a panoramic photo, the result is nothing short of a miracle, as the picture turns out perfectly leveled along the whole length.
Transform and Rock Out
Another great feature is that you can unscrew one of the legs, then attach it to the center column instead of a hook to get yourself a monopod. Although most of the photographers would rather use a tripod, it can provide a valuable support for shooting quickly moving objects like racing cars or a flock of birds. By screwing the rubber feet further up the leg, it will expose a small metal spike that can provide additional stability in the grass or soil.
As for the transportation, the tripod is only 18" long in folded position. The included carrying bag can be hung on the column hook to get it out of the way. By filling it with something heavy, you can get yourself a counterweight for your camera. We also got a soft pouch for the head that wasn't mentioned in the product description - a pleasant bonus nonetheless.
Concluding, this lightweight camera tripod by Neewer is a considerable choice if you are looking for a universal model to use anywhere under any conditions.
More Products to Consider
The tripods are used for not only when you need to get a static picture, but also for stabilizing the camera with the long zoom. Therefore, if you are interested in birdwatching or wildlife portraiture, you can take a look at our picks from the best ultrazoom cameras as well.
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