A Review of the Tripod Brands: Some lesser-known facts

In Gear by Jim Harmer45 Comments

review of tripod companies

The joys of a solid tripod

Buying a tripod is an absolutely agonizing process.  I was reminded of my past experiences in buying a tripod when I listened to a podcast from Marko Kulik this week.  Unless you're an absolute beginner in photography, you already know how important a rock solid tripod and ballhead can be.  If you buy a high-quality tripod, you will likely own it for at least 10 years before needing to replace it, so choosing a tripod can be quite difficult.

To that end, I wrote this post to review some information about various tripod manufacturers that you might find interesting.

Gitzo Tripods

If Gitzo were a car, it would be a Ferrari. Gitzo is widely considered to produce the best tripods on earth, but its tripods come with a price tag that you wouldn't believe!  Many of their tripods start at a price of $800.  The Ferrari comparison is not only fitting to describe the quality and price of its products, but also to point out that Gitzo is headquartered in northern Italy.

Gitzo has established a name for itself through innovation.  It was the first company to create a carbon fiber tripod, and it was also the first company to create a basalt tripod.  When Gitzo makes a move in the industry, others are sure to follow.

My recommendation: If you're made of money, buy a Gitzo.  If you're buying a Gitzo, I particularly like this one that I played with at a camera store once, but have not tested in the field.

Manfrotto Tripods

Many photographers will be surprised to learn that Manfrotto and Gitzo are actually subsidiaries of the same company: The Vitec Group.  In fact, Gitzo tripods are all distributed under the Manfrotto name.

While the two companies may live in one household, they are quite different in terms of features and design.  Manfrotto tripods are well respected in the industry as a quality and cost-effective choice for tripods.

Judging from my own anecdotal experience, I would guess that 50% or more of advanced amateur photographers choose the 055XPROB as their first quality tripod.  This Manfrotto tripod is durable, rock solid, and cost-effective.

Induro Tripods

I have to admit that I'm an Induro fanboy.  I have tried nearly every brand of tripod and have never been more pleased with any other brand.

In my opinion, Induro produces tripods that are of the same or nearly the same quality as Gitzo, but at a reasonable price point.  I also like that Induro tends to include a few more features on some of its tripods than other brands, like bubble levels and carrying cases (that never fit the tripod with a ballhead attached–ug!).  Another reason I like Induro products is that they often produce tripods which are taller than other brands.  While I'm only 5'10” (1.7 meters), I often set my tripod up to a height of 7 feet (2.1 meters) to capture an interesting angle.

If you're looking at purchasing an Induro tripod, you might consider this aluminum tripod if you don't mind carrying a little weight (I don't), or you might look at this carbon fiber tripod if you have money to burn.

Benro Tripods

Like the Gitzo/Manfrotto connection, Benro and Induro are both owned by the same company: the Mac Group.

I have to confess that I don't have any hands-on experience with Benro products.  From looking at their products, it is obvious that they specialize in Gitzo knock-offs.  Reviews online seem to suggest that they do a good job with their knock-offs and they produce good products.  I would be interested to try them out.

If any of you have actual experience with Benro products, I'd love to hear about it in a comment below.  I may end up driving to Tampa or Miami some time in the next few months to check out a few photography stores that have Benro products–just because I'm curious.

The “Other Guys”

A few people in the comments below gave a shout-out to Feisol tripods.  I have never seen one of their tripods in person, but they look good on paper.  They look to be taking all the major inventions from Gitzo (anti-rotation legs, legs fold over head, etc), but the designs seem to be unique to Feisol.  Interesting company.  Maybe I'll buy one so I can review it for the site.

I have sunk my money in several tripod companies in the past that delivered horrific products.  I returned my RocketFish tripod from Best Buy within a few hours of purchase, and I have seen several of my photography students buy the Flashpoint F-1118 and it has to be the most rickety tripod I've ever seen.  Other tripod manufacturers include Slik, Vanguard, and Giottos.  I have not personally seen them produce any tripods that warranted my attention, but I haven't seen all of their product lines.

I found some of this information by reading a post by Roger Cicala at LensRentals.com.  As with all of Roger's articles, it's well worth your time.


About the Author

Jim Harmer

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Jim Harmer is the founder of Improve Photography, and host of the popular Improve Photography Podcast. More than a million photographers follow him on social media, and he has been listed at #35 in rankings of the most popular photographers in the world. Jim travels the world to shoot with readers of Improve Photography in his series of free photography workshops. See his portfolio here.

Comments

  1. MANFROTTO IS MADE IN CHINA
    During a trip to China I often visit manufacturing plants. Once such time I visited a plant in Ningbo a couple of hours out of Shanghai. I saw Manfrotto and other Vitec brands being produced there including Manfrotto carbon fibre legs being laid up.. I do ask the question about the credibility of Manfrotto when they say they are made in Italy. Maybe in part they are assembled but Manfrotto definitely manufactures in China at this plant. To my knowledge this plant took over full manufacture of Manfrotto etc in 2014.

    The owners of this plant is the biggest manufacturer of tripods in the world, they started a plant further south that has better standards of manufacture, production and quality control .It is a newer plant and has the best personnel from Ningbo.

    The plant south of Ningbo manufactures Nest tripods these are a combination of the best of all the tripods. They are not marketed by an overseas company so the prices are excellent. Having seen most tripods , having worked as a photographer and being a fully trained engineer to my knowledge they are the best on the market presently as far as photography tripods are concerned. Far better than what Ive seen of Manfrotto.

  2. I have two Gitzo legs (Series 2 & Series 3) and three Gitzo heads (Series 2 & Series 3) (one is essentially for a good sized view camera). Mine are all Aluminum (no backpacking for me) studio sized, also they are Nineteen Eighties & Nineties vintage and are labeled “France”. Also have a two-year old Manfrotto system legs and head (again two heads). Even though this is again old school aluminum I find it too unstable and the knobs un-tightenable, and am seriously planning to sell it.

    For knocking around and keeping in the car I have a metal “Frankenstein-tripod”; very old Velbon head and Slik legs. The Velbon legs wore out and the Slik tripod was one I picked out of the trash somewhere and the head would not stay tight. So I tossed the bad components and kept the good.

  3. I’ve used a Benro C-298EX carbon fiber tripod since 2011 and it has never let me down. It extends to about 68 inches and is lightweight. My favorite feature is that you can reposition the center column to any angle. It’s a bit more fiddly to use this feature than the comparable and more elegant one on the Manfrotto, but as I recall the Manfrotto version only goes horizontal. My particular Benro isn’t made any more, but at only around $200 new for a carbon fiber tripod was a fabulous deal. I think they were selling off the old stock.

    Anyways a big thumbs up for Benro.

  4. Anyone who has not tried a Benbo tripod should hold off before making their decision.
    The Benbo’s are the most flexible tripod available and long lens solid. I’ve looked at tripods someone has said – feel this it’s solid, that is up to what your tolerance is.
    BENBO is solid flexible and not at all overpriced, as opposed to BENRO – who ripped off the name then ripped off the Gitzo – just a ripoff.
    Gitzo – Great but expensive
    Velbon – lost their way a bit
    Manfrotto very good amateur.
    Benbo – Untouchable really

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