Some photographers, like portrait and sports photographers, never or rarely use tripods; however, anyone who wants to shoot landscape, night, or wildlife photography rely heavily on a solid tripod.

Frankly, most tripods are absolute junk.  I've purchased about 9 tripods while moving up the ranks of photography.  Some of them simply weren't sturdy enough, others were too heavy or inconvenient, some weren't durable, and some were fantastic.

I spent several thousands of dollars on different tripods trying to find a “deal” until I finally realized how many junkie tripods I had bought and money I had wasted. I finally invested in a high quality tripod, and it has lasted the test of time.

This page is full of the information I wish I had back then.  I've spent the last few years testing and reviewing dozens of tripods and putting them through their paces, and these are the absolute cream of the crop.  But “cream of the crop” doesn't have to mean expensive.  I've found lots of great tripods that are reasonably priced that are actually better than the expensive stuff.

I'll recommend several tripods to you below and let you pick the one that best fits your situation.

This post was updated on October 18, 2017.

Best Tripods

About $200 – Sirui T-025X Tripod and Ballhead Combo

If you have only $200 to spend, then I can highly recommend the Sirui T-025x Tripod and Ballhead combo on Amazon.com.  Yes, I know it has a weird name.  It's pronounced “Soo-ray”, and it's a Chinese company that makes extremely high quality tripods and ballheads for very reasonable prices.

It's incredible that you can buy this carbon fiber tripod for under $200.  Usually, carbon fiber tripods cost a lot more, but Sirui has always had great prices.

Another thing I like about the head on this combo is that it's Arca-Swiss compatible.  That means the little quick release plate that screws onto the bottom of your camera is a standard shape and size so you can buy an l-plate for your camera and much more easily attach the camera in portrait orientation.  Read more about L-Plates here, and GET ONE for your camera!  You won't regret getting the L-plate.  Every serious photographer I know uses an L-plate.

feisol-tripodAbout $400 – Feisol CT3442: My favorite tripod

The Feisol is like a dream.  It's incredibly lightweight with its carbon fiber frame, it has no center column so it can get down right to the ground, it's a tall enough height to comfortably reach to the eye line of most adults, and it's priced reasonably if you compare it to the competition.

The Feisol is my favorite tripod of all time.  It's lasted many many airports, being dunked in salt water, dragged over the black sand beaches of Iceland, falling in the water in China, etc.

I've compared the Feisol to all the top tripods.  The Really Right Stuff Tripods are amazing, but significantly heavier than the Feisol that I like.  The Gitzos are hit and miss with durability, but have great features and specs.

The Feisol usually runs around $400, but you can check the current price on Amazon here.  Read Jim's full review here.

Selecting the Right Tripod Height

Your HeightIdeal Tripod Height
5'2" (157cm)48in (121cm)
5'4" (162cm)50in (127cm)
5'6" (167cm)52in (135cm)
5'8" (172cm)54in (138cm)
5'10" (178cm)56in (141cm)
6' (183cm)58in (147cm)
6'2" (186cm)61in (155cm)
6'4" (193cm)63in (160cm)

Ballheads

Not sure what a ballhead is? Click this link to find out all about ball heads.  It's the piece that attaches the camera to the tripod.  Pro tripods don't include both pieces generally.

I promise it'll be worth it to buy a nice ballhead. You can certainly find many inexpensive ballheads, but I promise they'll eventually wear out over time and break on you.  I think I bought 6 or 7 ballheads before I finally wised up and bought a pro quality head.

Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 10.10.39 PMInexpensive Ballhead (About $120): Sirui K10X

There is only one ballhead I'd recommend that does a really nice job at a budget price range.  It's called the Sirui K10X.  “Sirui” is pronounced “Soo-ray” (I know–weird).

When I teach workshops, about half of my students show up with this ballhead.  Great budget option.  It's still not cheap, but it's the cheapest one that will last you for several years without issue.

Sirui makes this head in several different sizes.  If you have anything other than a full frame camera (very heavy), then I'd recommend getting the K10x.  If you shoot a large full frame camera with big lenses, then I'd recommend getting the Sirui K40x (affiliate link to Amazon).  It's just a larger size of the same head.

Pro Ballhead: Really Right Stuff BH-40

I'm currently shooting a RRS BH-40 ballhead.  It has been super reliable, strong, and reasonably lightweight; however, it really has no cool features.

If you're buying a new ballhead today and you want one that will last you forever and that will definitely perform for you, I'd buy the Really Right Stuff BH40 Ballhead with lever release and full-size clamp.  It's definitely pricey, but if you want the very best, I think that's it.

L Plates: My Favorite Camera Accessory!!!

If you're purchasing a ballhead, I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend you also get an L-plate.  The good news is that an L plate is very inexpensive, but they will make your ballhead much more useful.  I wrote a complete post about what an L Plate is, where to buy one, and why I never shoot without an L plate.

Screen Shot 2016-06-25 at 10.07.40 PMMonopods

I haven't tested nearly as many monopods as I have tested tripods, but the one I bought four years ago is still going strong, is remarkably sturdy even with sideways pressure like when holding flashes, is lightweight, and collapses very small.  I'd definitely recommend it.

It's called the Sirui P-326.  It's a 6-section so it collapses really small.

The thing I like about this one is how sturdy it is.  I've shot with a 600mm on this monopod–no problem.  It also is strong enough to be used as a light stick for flash photography.  Many monopods aren't strong enough to handle the sideways pressure of holding a flash extended with a heavy modifier, but this one handles it well.  Highly recommended.

Check the current price of the Sirui P-326 on Amazon.

Comments

  1. 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…

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. Best ball head money can buy is the Arca Swiss Z1 derived from the Arca Swiss B1 much copied by many companies including Really Right Stuff which its slightly cheaper than. For more heavy duty cameras / lenses there is the larger Z2

  7. Can anyone provide some insight on the T3i? I bought it recently and cannot find a single comment or review about it. Everyone seems to be talking about the T5i or 60D. Is it because the T3i is a bad camera or because it is an older version. If it is older why is it more expensive than the t5?

    Thanks!

    1. Hey ther Pablo. I am the Hobbyist Editor here at improvephotography.com and a Canon shooter. The Canon T3i is great. I own one along with a 60D and the images that come from both are identical because the sensor inside the T3i, T5i, and 60D are all identical. All 18 megapixel APS-C. The difference between the camera models is mostly around the number of buttons that provide direct access to features. There are also differences in the processor that makes the camera work a little faster meaning the 60D can take another shot a little faster than the T3i.

      The models without the “i” in them do have a different sensor in them that is not as good. The T5 is still a much better camera than any phone or point-and-shoot, but it isn’t as good as the models with the “i” after them.

      If you are looking to get started in photography on a tight budget, the T3i is a fantastic option that I highly recommend. Keep watching the improvephotography.com website for articles that I am publishing with recommendations on how to get started with gear and making improvements in your photography. You can see an article here on how to choose your first camera:

      https://improvephotography.com/30537/beginners-dilemma-choosing-first-camera/

      And this one helps with how to pick which SD card(s) to buy:

      https://improvephotography.com/30635/beginners-dilemma-2-which-card-to-buy/

      Good luck to you!

      1. Thank you very much for your reply Jeff! Your answer and insight means more than you know. Great website and info. I actually took one of your recommendations already from one of your videos (on the flash and radio transmitter) and they just came in today. I am looking forward to testing them out tomorrow! Again, THANK YOU!!

  8. You have a GREAT show, thanks for all the training. I have a question about a ‘L’ bracket. I don’t remember hearing Jim speak about this. I have an older Manfrotto 486RC2 ballhead on a Manfrotto tripod. I’m on a budget and I want to get more into landscape photography. I’m an enthusiast photographer. Would your recommendation to spend the money a get a newer ballhead or spend the money to buy a ‘L’ plate for my camera. Thanks again for all you guys do for the photo community.

  9. Jim,

    When was this article written? Do you have any updates on equipment? There are some new materials being used and I wondered your opinion.
    Thanks for all the information you provide!~

  10. Hi Jim!
    I’m looking for a good travel tripod suggestion. I’m hoping for a reasonable price, lightweight, stable, and able to hold a DSLR. I don’t have large, heavy lenses. Any suggestions?
    Thanks

  11. Hey, Jim, I sprung for your “much better” tripod and ballhead and think both are of exceptional quality. However, I find myself not using the tripod that often because it is simply too heavy to be lugging around all the time. What is your recommendation for a lightweight tripod? Thanks.

  12. I currently have a RRS BH-55 PCR ball head and I am looking for a good light weight travel tripod that is still sturdy. I am wondering, the Feisol CT 3442 looks like a good choice and I am wondering if it can handle the RRS ball head or whether that would be too large for the Feisol? Thank for any help. If it is not a good choice, can you recommend one?

  13. Hi Jim,

    I am looking for a travel tripod for my Canon 550D and Tamron 150-600mm lens gear. Could you please suggest me which will be best option for if I want to buy separate ball head mount and tripod? Thanks

  14. Jim’s recommended tripod is too tall for me (I’m 5’4″). The Induro AT-013 comes in several heights. Which size should I get for my height?

  15. I’m a real estate photographer with a Canon 70D and am beginning to look at offering videos in addition to stills. I have 2 Targus tripods which work well for stills but will probably transition those for use with my slider rails. I’m looking for a tripod & ballhead setup. Do you also do videos? If so, any recommends for 3-way ball heads and tripods? If not, can you recommend where to look? THX!

  16. I am lugging around a very heavy, stable tripod and head (not ball) but when I check prices I have a heart attack. I am a senior and can’t do hand hold very well, so tripod is essential. Also, I do a lot of traveling. So I read your review and have a couple questions. (By the way, I have a Nikon 7100, 7000 and also use a 500 mm some). Can you tell me the weights of the tripods you recommend, Feisol CT 3442 looks good, and the weights of the two ball heads (better and best). I am not a professional though I do sell some images, and I do a lot of landscapes. Appeciate your thoughts and info. Thanks. ML

  17. any suggestions on table top style tripods? I know they aren’t used a lot but ive had a few times it would have come in handy to have a small tripod I could put really close to the ground. Most of the ones ive seen cant seem to take any kind of weight over that of a point n shoot. thanks

  18. Hi,

    I purchased your lightroom course but my laptop died and I lost all the information including the downloaded files and the download link.

    Please can you resend to the above email address.

    Thanks

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