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. Hi guys! I’ve seen some decent prices and reviews for the ZoMei Z818 – any thoughts on those tripods?

    I primarily shoot architecture off my existing (crappy) tripod, but am wanting to get into more landscape – have a Grand Canyon trip coming up this year…

    Thanks for the help!

  2. The VANGUARD ALTA PRO 263AB WITH BALLHEAD is awesome Jim !!

    I’m so glad I got. After I saw the vibrations and ball head movement when zooming in doing macro with my cheap Dolica I went back to your site for your recommendations and got the Vanguard263AB. I love it!!

    Thanks!
    (I used your Amazon link to buy it!)

  3. When I bought my 1st crop-sensor I also was lucky to stumble across Vanguard tripods. Thought it was a bit heavy at the time, but I didn’t know anything… luck me. This tripod is VERY stable and great cost-benefit. I will eventually look for something lighter, but it is still years away.

  4. Picked up the Sirui K10x and the Feisol CT3442 a few weeks back and have been giving them the test. Man, both of these pieces of kit are amazing. Both are solid and the ball-head, once locked down has no drift at all. The tension adjustment is tops and makes using it so easy and customizable to the gear you have on it. The tripod is solid and super light. I do have some reservations about the tripod though. I think that the legs could extend a bit further when in the locked position, sometimes it feels like it wants to tip, just needs a bit lower center of balance and the legs locks take some getting used to. These are both minor however and I wouldn’t let them hold you back, I love both of these pieces. Thanks guys!

  5. I have D5 MarkIII , bought a Manfrotto MKBFRC4-BH . Used once than the ball head could not stay put . Any suggestion beside the Vanguard 263 . Would
    Vanguard VEO 265AB Aluminum Tripod with TBH-50 Ball Head, 17.64lbs Capacity, 59.06″ Extended Height, 15.35″ Folded Height, 26mm Leg Diameter, Black is better with just 10$ xtra . The most heavy lens I would use is 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM +extender 2x . Thx so much , love your review .

  6. Has anyone found a good clamp replacement for the Vanguard 263AB recommended above in order to get it Arca-Swiss compatible? The SBH 100 ballhead that comes with it isn’t compatible, and I’m looking for a better option than switching out the entire ballhead. Great tripod so far otherwise. Thanks!

  7. Hi Guys – Thinking about getting the SiruK40 ballhead – but I use a Nikon D800 with my collar mount on my 70 – 200 f 2.8(heavy)
    lens a great deal of the time . How would I mount the lens to this ball head ? Do I need another adapter ?
    Or would I just mount the camera . My old ballhead did not hold the weight so I always mounted it from the Lens collar.

    Any help is much appreciated !

  8. This is too funny. Been shooting with that very same Feisol tripod and Acratech GP ballhead for two years now. Met my new best friend on a photo shoot when I saw he was shooting with the exact same combination. Oh, and hearing your stories about switching to Fuji gave me the courage to switch from my Canon 5D Mark III to the Fuji X-T1 full time and then to the X-T2. My X-T2 is named Nayana and I love her for how she is able to realize my artistic vision so completely.

    1. Oh…and I just recently tore the Feisol apart to give it a thorough cleaning. Ordered a set of spacers from Feisol and now it’s like having a brand new tripod. It’s insanely easy to take this thing apart and put it back together again.

  9. I am in the market for a tripod (my first that isn’t an inherited piece of junk). For now, the heaviest load it would carry is a Nikon D300 with battery grip and a Nikon 80-200. I was just about ready to spring for a Feisol CT-3472, or perhaps a CT-3372. With B&M camera stores so rare these days, I am having a hard time committing to something I can’t try out. I would rather not spring for a Gitzo or RRS, but I see the “prevailing wisdom” is that you buy one of those, and they last.

    In light of Nick withdrawing his recommendation for his high-end Feisol on the Improve Photography podcasts explicitly, where does that leave the CT-3442? Does it not suffer from the same faulty design on the angle locks that was described? Is this recommendation going to be pulled as well? I know Feisol worked with him to fix the problem, but what was the ultimate resolution?

    Many thanks.

  10. I have been doing some side work as a real estate photographer for over a year now. I am now wanting to expand my knowledge and start a business. I would like to offer virtual tours and am just wondering what equipment is necessary to do so. I will be purchasing the FEISOL tripod, and SIRUI K10X ball head as well.

  11. Something to mention after I purchased this tripod is that it is not compatible with typical arca Swiss L-brackets which is disappointing. I’ve been looking at switching the clamp on the head, but the bolt securing the clamp has been glued on, so you need to carefully heat the bolt before removing it.

    I thought this would be important to mention given how great it would be to have an L-bracket.

  12. I was looking a buying the FEISOL, but it’s needs an additional 15 cms for me (I’m 188cm). Can you recommend anything with this length?

  13. I have an older Bogan/Manfrotto 190 ff23 tripod with a 3262QR ball head. Nothing wrong with it & barely got used, mostly because of the weight & bulk of it. I am not new to photography, but still only an amateur. I am looking for a less weighty, but sturdy tripod that isn’t cheaply made, but my budget is rather low. I enjoy romping through unexplored areas but being a small woman, I definitely don’t want to carry anything bulky or heavy to get my shots. I am known to stop by the side of the road when I spot something of interest & would like something easy to grab from my car.
    Now realizing I already have a capable tripod & ball head, wondering if you’d advise me to either sell it to help fund my new purchase or keep it & get something which suits my current needs better. I would even consider selling only the tripod base & using my existing ball head on a better tripod base. I would appreciate your advise.

  14. What tripod do you need to handle the Nikon D5300 with the AF-S Nikkor 15-140 lens? And can you tell me the cheapest one that will do the job and not harm the camera?

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