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. How about the Sirui’s ? they produced OEM for Gitzo and get good reviews , so ever used them ? or tested ?

    1. Very surprise too that Sirui hasn’t been mentioned. The local pro shop likes them too. I’ve used Gitzo, Manfrotto and most recently, Bogen in the past, but really like my current Sirui N1204 4-section 8x carbon fiber tripod with K-20X 38mm Ballhead for backpacking. Light & very sturdy. I do a lot of bird, wildlife, mountain with lakes photography.

  2. I am only 5’1 . I have recently purchased a Tamron 150 600 mm…I also recently had shoulder surgery, so I need advice on what would be best for me to be able to handle.

    1. Lisa,
      At 5’1″, you will be able to probably use a medium sized tripod and be able to get the extension a larger tripod provides a taller person. If there is only one tripod you can have, then I recommend the Manfrotto 190 series. It’s the ideal size and weight for all occasions and uses. It’s my Goldilocks tripod….not too big and not too small. The others are for special conditions. The flip lever locks allow fast and sure deployment. Comes in 3 or 4 extension models, and in aluminum and CF if weight is a factor.
      The original Manfrotto 190 was their wilderness/safari tripod. The ideal portable workhorse model. Still is.
      There is no one tripod for all situations, but the 190 comes close.

  3. I own a few tripods, as mentioned above I bought a few cheap ones before I realised I need something that performs well. The gitzo I use is fabulous, it’s been in sand, sea and mud and still is top notch, I did however break a leg clamp at one point, I emailed gitzo to see if I could buy a replacement, they just sent me a new one! Great to see these days that companies still hold ethics, I would look gitzo before any other brand (my system cost about £180 -£230, can’t quite remember but I guess about $300 will get you sterling tripod and head)

  4. Agree. I have a vintage Davidson Star-D, probably 6 lbs, and it is fab. 5$ at an estate sale. I’ll never buy new. I have three different tripods, for different occasions. Of course, vintage always look the coolest as well.

  5. Avoid vanguard at all costs. I purchased one of their carbon fiber tripods thinking it had nice features and seemed solid, especially at the price point it was at (just under $300). It started falling apart within a couple months and is now all but useless. You can actually see the flex ion in the legs when weight is put on it–they curve pretty dramatically. And if you try to stabilize it with more weight, it fails and collapses.

    Pure junk.

  6. You mention only a single price point for the Induro. You don’t mention the other price points or show demand curves nor say why Induro shared that information with you – it’s usually proprietary. I wonder if you’re confusing the term price with price point. I know recently people have been saying price point when they mean price out of a desire to sound more intelligent or fancier. If you mean price there is good news, you can just say price.

    1. Benro is the brand It is not the highest price but the quality is outstanding . I have sold Gitzo ,Manfrotto , Vanguard,Velbon
      and Sirui but the best overall quality and price is the Benro They have a big range and a quality product They will cover any other brands and still have some over. They other thing I like is the ball heads with the Arca Swiss plates .. Their range is excellent and the video heads are also extremely good Then for good measure they have a comprehensive range of monopods regular and with feet… Benro cover the tripod field with excellence,and also have an excellent back up for parts .

  7. Michael J. Zaporowski



    1. Agree. This column should be updated to include RRS. The name Really Right Stuff is really true…

    2. I don’t think he forgot it. If you read his mention on the Gitzo he states, “My recommendation: If you’re made of money, buy a Gitzo.” Well, being that RRS and Novoflex start out at about $1,000.00 it was left out for good reason. This article was intended for the 99% of us who want a quality tripod at an affordable price. Induro, Benro, Manfrotto and Feisol are all the best that you can get for the money. I personally would not trust any other brands.

  8. I agree RRS should be mentioned. I believe Gitzo has been passed up as the standard for tripods. I have used a RRS and preferred it over Gitzo. I landed on a Novoflex as my go to tripod and consider it much nicer than the Gitzo. I used it side by side with a Mountaineer GT1542 and a Traveler GT2542T and chose the Novoflex hands down. It’s not cheaper, but it’s better.

  9. You left out Vinten… that’s like the Rolls Royce of tripods… all these others don’t even match up

    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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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

  14. No mention of Sirui, which have been mentioned in the same sentence as Gitzo, by a pro revier. I have a Sirui W2204 carbon fibre travel tripod, with Sirui K10x head, which easily holds my D810, with a 70-200 2.8 lens. It is solid as a rock, without any creeping. Check reviews of owners on Amazon, I seem to remember reading that their tripods have more layers of carbon fibre, than even the Gitzo’s. Worth a look, from my experience, of just over 50yrs.

  15. Must agree with you, on Benbo, which are really untouchable, but a little heavy to carry around, especially when you own the big one, which is like an imovable object, once set. Mine was actually an original Kennet Engineering monster.

  16. I own a Benro TMA28A Mach3 Aluminum Series 2 Tripod, 4 Section, Twist Lock, Monopod Conversion I have taken several pictures with it and My acratech GP Works like a charm for slow shutters peeds

  17. Thanks Jim, I have been contemplating buying an Induro GIT 404L. It’s a lot of money, but like you, I have gone through several cheaper models and not been satisfied. I mainly use my Canon 500 on my tripod. Seeing an Art Morse video endorsing the Induro, I started to look into them more. Thanks for your unbiased comments. Think I’m going to purchase the Induro

  18. Buy cheap, buy twice. Read that somewhere in the past three years as I got brave and moved from my point & shoot digital camera to the big boy DSLR world.

    It took me three tries to get what I needed in tripods. A $20 Vivitar from a local big box store was an absurd rookie mistake. Second try… so crummy, I’ve blocked out the name. Can’t remember it. It couldn’t take Oregon Coast winds… then, the ball head pooped out on the Oregon High Desert during Milkyway ops. For a once in a lifetime shot… a stable shot… I sucked it up and bought a Gitzo GT2542. And a Benro B3 ball head. I like the Benro head… easy on my achy fingers… especially at night trying to snug down the head. The Benro head seemed a more reasonable expense at the time. The RRS heads come well recommended. Gitzo heads… nice, but I’d already spent all my allowance on the legs. I was headless.

    I may lug a bit more weight in gear, but my Milkyway photos are proof I made a great choice in a Gitzo. I also bought a hammock dealiewhopper that attaches to my Gitzo’s legs. I can pick up a big rock as needed for more stability in wind. The GT2542 rates up to 50 lbs, I think it is… so it can handle a 15 lb rock, and my camera gear.

    I only shoot with a Pentax K-3 II at present, the Astrotracer on board is enough for now. Eventually though I’ll add an equatorial mount and other astrophotography doodads. My Gitzo is the foundation piece in my night photography hobby empire. Haha!

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