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

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.

57 thoughts on “A Review of the Tripod Brands: Some lesser-known facts”

  1. I wouldn’t discount Feisol tripods. I have been using one of their carbon fibre tripods for a few years and am very happy with it.


    1. Hello I own a Benro it’s a lighter model Tab27C 8x c/f the cost is around $300. It work very well for me, I added a Benro B2 Ballhead it’s very smooth to use again it fits my needs. If when the need arises I will purchase their tallest model it 6″2′ carbon fiber one for around $550 it a 9x c/f tropod. I do agree they look a lot like Gitzo but that’s okay too.

  2. I use a Benro tripod myself and I really love it so far. Never worked with a Gitzo myself, but if Benro is such a Gitzo imitator, I can only imagine they’re doing a real fine job!

    1. Good point. I neglected to mention Really Right Stuff. Perhaps the oversight is because they are known more for their INCREDIBLE ballheads. The prices of their tripods are very high (STARTING at $800), so they haven’t caught on as much for their tripods. Do RRS tripods offer anything that Gitzo doesn’t?

  3. Yep, I’m the proud owner of a 055ProBX. With a 498RC2 Ball Head on top, it can be a heavy son of a gun. The girth can’t be beat for stability, though, and it’s worth hauling around a few extra pounds for keeping my camera still.

    1. I own Benro A-500EX and I’m 100 % satisfied. I have never tried a tripod of any other brand, but this one has everything I need. I can recommend it. It’s built well and has a good value for money.

  4. I just got a Manfrotto 190CXPRO3 (that is, the carbon fiber version). I find it’s a fantastic combination of size / weight / height / price.

  5. A few months ago I got the top of the line Vanguard Alta Pro 294 CT. It was fairly cheep when compared to Gitzo and on par with Manfrotto. This has some REALLY slick features which have come in handy more than a few times. The feature that’s been the most impressive and handy has been the variable angle and rotatable center mast. It lets me angle my camera and lower it quickly to an inch from the ground for great macro, landscape, or just plain tough angles.

    I took a gamble and got a Vanguard SBH-250 ball head (their second best). There was less reviews of this product, but the specs looked solid. This head is magnificent. SUPER solid.

    As a testament to this set ups endurance, I [stupidly] fell into the white water rapids at Yosemite in the hunt of a unique shot. Other than a few scratches on the head, there was no other damage at all. I also took it to the Mesquite Dunes at Death Valley and no sand made its way into the legs despite the wind. The tripod itself won the 2009 TIPA Best Accessory Award.

    So far it’s one of the best purchases I’ve made.

  6. Hey Guys,

    I’m am new to photography and i’m looking for my 1st tripod for my Canon 7D. I’m on a tight budget, $200 or less. I’ve been eyeing up the Induro AKB1 kit ($181 on Amazon). I plan on shooting mostly landscapes and birds or wildlife if I can find some but also need it for occasional amateur sports and portraits. Can anyone make any suggestions?

  7. What about Vanguard tripods? I have one (it only supports 11 pounds) and when I bought it I put my entire camera bag on a scale with all of my gear in the bag. 60D body, three lenses 10-22mm ultra wide zoom, 70-200mm zoom, 18-135mm kit, kenko extention tubes, 430EX speedlite, and a host of cleaning junk weighed in at just over 10 pounds. I figured since I will be shooting with just one lens and the body I can weigh down the tripod with the cam bag if needed. anyone’s thoughts?

  8. I think Erika Napoletano is especially spectacular at pulling this off. She’ll talk about some awesome/shitty/outrageous that happened to her or someone she knows and leads with what happened and then shows you what you can learn from it.

  9. Never, never think budget when planning to purchase a tripod & head. Decide how much you can afford to spend today. Add 20% to that amount and then save until you have the added 20%. Plus a second 10 to 15%. Then purchase your tripod. You will save big bucks in the long run and not end up with 3 or more tripods laying around unused. If you want a tripod to support 8 pounds purchase one that will support 16. After several purchases I have finally purchased a RRS TVC-33 & BH-55 Ball Head. I now wonder what took me so long to make this purchase. One of the best buys I have ever made.

    1. You are espousing a $1500 tripod kit. Get lost! I’ve bought several benros, manfrottos, and mefoto, USED, for dirt cheap – got a $200 mefoto for $44 because it was used and pink. 5 minutes with a can of plastidip will solve that, and I got a stupid light fold flat carbon benro used for $170 by looking diligently through ebay postings.

    2. RRS is fantastic, but trying to argue that it’s the right purchase for everyone is an epic fail. Few people need a $1k+ tripod. We get to. You spent the $$$. We aren’t impressed.

  10. just say me which is the best one among
    SLIK Tripod F153
    i would like to buy one among them

  11. I own a vanguard alta pro 284CT carbon fiber tripod, the quality you get out of this reasonably priced tripod, makes me really happy.

  12. I’ve been a photographer for over 40 years and have covered most of what there is to cover but the last 12 years of my career was in Higher Education and in that position, I used the Benbo system exclusively.
    I found it to be one of the most versatile and reliable mobile units I’ve ever worked with. I’m sure you would love the simplicity of this system if you were to give it a try.

  13. I like Benro tripods, I have been using them for twenty years, there are a type of tripod you love or hate. They are ideal for use in the field, the extending legs have the wider secession on the lower end, that way there is less chance of dirt working into the joints and locking rings. The legs and central pole all swing through the main locking point, the legs can point anywhere and also the camera. When the centre lock is free I hold the head as everything can and will move, this gives you ability to position in any angle you can imagine. I have had two legs spread on the ground with the third on the top of a wall, and the camera angled down to a flower at the base of the wall; it is this freedom of movement I like.

    1. I think you are talking about classic Benbo tripods; this writer is talking about Benro tripods which are (rather good, actually) copies of Gitzo, and nothing like the Benbo or Uniloc bent-bolt based tripods (which are great too especially for macro)

  14. After over 40 years as pro photog and having used almost all of the brands of tripods at one time or another, it is my belief that the best tripod is the one you have with you. In other words, analyze exactly how and when and where and for what equipment you will be shooting with and get a tripod/monopod that matches the event and USE IT!
    I really enjoy your articles and the totally excellent and accurate detailed information you include. The pics are great also… 🙂
    Thank you.

    1. This is probably the best reply I’ve read and the most insightful. I’m not a pro, but from my decades of photography and in other arenas, your advice is the most useful and accurate.

      People must not get hung up on brands. They are tools, and one must have the right tool to do the job well.

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