The Best Tripods & Ball Heads

Experienced landscape and wildlife photographers know that the tripod is the #1 most essential piece of gear. Although most photographers know how important a tripod is, far too many photographers foolishly put off the purchase of a professional tripod for years and instead buy 5 junkers before finally choosing to buy something of good quality. Once you buy a professional tripod, you’ll be amazed at the difference in sharpness of your images. Trust me… the tripod is essential!

However, not every photographer needs an expensive tripod. For example, when I shoot portrait photography, so I rarely shoot on a tripod. Other than portraiture, I use a tripod 100% of the time.

If you’re interested in tripods, you’ll probably like this article where I explain the pros and cons of each of the major tripod brands.

 

Good Much Better Jim’s Dream Tripod

Manfrotto 7322YB
$95
BUY HERE

Improve’s Review:
This is a great tripod because of price and quality. It’s semi-stable and will do you well for the first year of intense tripod use. The recommended ball head for this isn’t as strong for bigger cameras and lenses. Entry-level cameras will do great on this tripod!


Induro AT-313
$187
BUY HERE

Improve’s Review:
This is, by far, the best tripod I’ve used that costs anything near this price point. At $187, this tripod is an absolute steal! It’s tall, very sturdy, and durable. If you’re ready for a professional tripod, then this one has my whole-hearted recommendation


Feisol CT3442
$399
BUY HERE

Jim’s Review:
For my personal preferences in a tripod, this is the best tripod ever made. It’s very light weight, has no center column so it gets down very low, the legs fold over the ballhead for compactness, comfortable height, and it’s of course rock solid. I consider this tripod more durable than even the Gitzos.

 


Not sure what a ballhead is? Click this link to find out all about ball heads. Pro tripods need a head of some kind to attach the camera to the tripod, and the ball head is the most popular choice.

Good Better Best

Vanguard SBH-300
$94
BUY HERE

Improve’s Review:
This is an INCREDIBLE ball head for the price. I used this ball head with a 600mm lens and it did a great job without any creep. I have also did exposures of several hours for night photography and still saw no creep. You will not find any ballhead that can compete with this piece of awesome.


Sirui K10X
$117
BUY HERE

Improve’s Review:
This ballhead has one significant advantage over the Vanguard–weight! The Vanguard is very solid and durable, but this head is SIGNIFICANTLY smaller and lighter while providing the same strength. A pro tripod is not light, so you’ll want the weight advantage of a nice light ballhead.


Really Right Stuff
$450
BUY HERE

Improve’s Review:
If you have the money to spend on the best ball head that money can buy, then you’ll want something from a company called Really Right Stuff. Their gear is top notch. For $500, it’s fantastic!

Comments from the I.P. Community

  1. Lamar Smith says

    I purchased the AT-413 tripod (for additional height) and Sirui K10X ball head this past January (2014). I’m absolutely thrilled with the purchase. The quality of the construction for both items is impressive. Smooth movement of the tripod legs and the head locks in place without having to apply a lot of pressure on the knobs. When releasing the head pressure the camera doesn’t flop over. The Sirui head also features a safety button that protects the camera from sliding off the mount when releasing the pressure. I highly recommend it.

  2. Jeremy says

    What about monopods…

    I have the Induro tripod and the vanguard ball head and I love them both. I wish that I would not have bought so many cheap big box store tripods.

  3. Mohammad Khozaei says

    Hi Dear
    can u please help me to choose one of these tripods ?
    1. BENRO A1350Q1
    2. Vanguard Alta 263AP
    I’ve check your website, you recommended Manfrotto 7322YB
    but I couldn’t find it in market.
    thank you :-)

  4. says

    Thank you for your advice!

    I have a BENRO A500F tripod. It seems to be a solid tripod with a ball head. Have you ever worked with such or similar tripod? Do you believe it is a solid one?

    Thanks,

    Morpho

  5. Tatsiana says

    Jim
    I’m sorry if it sounds silly, but will the recommended Vanguard SBH-300 fit your recommended Manfrotto 7322YB or Induro AT-313. Also, will it support D700 with 70-200mm lens or will it be too heavy?
    Thank you very much!

  6. Cherie Keane says

    I’m traveling in September to Greece and the Amalfi Coast in Italy, I want to take sunrise, sunsets etc. but am conflicted about what to bring as a tripod. I have a Manfrotto tripod and monopod but they are both too big and heavy. Suggestions? Have to pack LIGHT. Thanks…

  7. Samantha says

    What if you’re a super broke amateur? I need a decent tripod that isn’t expensive. I know you recommend going for one that will last me a lifetime, but I don’t have the $190 for the ball head and tripod.

    Any reclucant suggestions?

  8. Jordan says

    When I first read these recommendations, I turned away from them for awhile, because of the price. But the tripod I had then couldn’t even hold my camera steadily! So, out of desperation, I researched and researched, read reviews, got recommendations, and ended up coming back to this page. I now have the Induro AT 313/Sirui K10X combo. Couldn’t be more satisfied! Way taller than I need, Way more sturdier than I need, and can go even shorter than my old one! It is possible with this tripod to remove and flip the centre column, so your camera is right next to the ground, upside down. You can’t beat that. Also has a hook for sandbags, and spiked feet with the kit. I bought from BH Photo, and my shipment arrived in three days. (I’m from Canadia.) I’m very confident this tripod will be able to hold a 70-200 f2.8, with a tripod collar. The only thing I don’t like, but I also know it’s not the tripod’s fault, is the fact that I have a battery grip on my camera, which makes the camera way less sturdier when on a tripod. This is just nitpicking, and that is the only thing I can think of. This tripod/head setup is AMAZING.

  9. Kirk says

    Hello,

    i want to buy a tripod system, i have D810 with 70-200 f4 nikon and 18-35mm nikon. I had following combination in mind

    Feisol CT-3472
    Sirui K-40X ballhead

    What do you think about this combo? And should i take CT-3442 instead of CT-3472? 3442 is much lighter and cheaper. So if it can also carry the load i have, i would prefer to travel lighter.

  10. Brian says

    I bought the Feisol CT3442 tripod. Does the Sirui K20X fit this tripod and work well? The reason I ask it the K20X is 38mm wide and the tripod mount is 80mm wide. I’m not sure if they need to be the exact same size.

    Thanks!

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