View Full Version : What tripod to buy?

November 19th, 2007, 09:46 AM
I know this is a big question and there is masses of advice and opinions out there, I know, I have been reading them:( However, I would value the opinions of my buddies here.

I was going to get a tripod from Santa (not that he knows/knew) but as it is something I really need to research and be involved in at every stage I thought I would get one myself.

I know that cheap tripods are not good investments.

Gitzo appears to be the best, but the prices are rather high to say the least and I am a hobbyist photographer so I really think not necessary to go for such a high quality

I have looked at the Gitzo rip off called Benro, which look good but I have seen some very negative reviews and nervous of getting one.

So what mid-range tripods would offer good quality and value for money?

Btw, the DOF assignment was the motivation to get this now!!!!

November 19th, 2007, 09:52 AM
Hi Linda,

Give me a list of the equipment you use...body through biggest lens and plans for near future lenses and I can make some recommendations. As you mention, there are alot of cheap tripods out there and they simply defeat the purpose of even buying a tripod.

Even though you are a hobbiest, it pays to invest in a good tripod. It will outlast your camera equipment if you buy the right one from the beginning and save you money by not having to upgrade when you realize that the first one, two three,etc you bought are not sturdy enough.

The manufaturers list a max load capacity and I find that they may be right in what a tripod can hold but they miss the boat on stability with that much weight.

I'll give you a range to choose from.

November 19th, 2007, 10:09 AM
Thanks for your reply Laurie.

Yes, I agree, I don't want to make a false economy, if the right tripod for me is really expensive, then that will be the one I will get. What I don't want to do is pay out a lot of money for something I don't need.

At present (and of course this may change in the future) I have a Canon 350D, kit lens, EF70-200mm Canon F4L and of course my Canon 50mm on its way:) That's it. But of course I am building my equipment as I get more involved with this hobby.

Also a major consideration for me is I love hill walking and sometimes go for long walks, and as I am not tall, the weight of the tripod is really important as anything to weighty will not get used.

November 19th, 2007, 10:30 AM
Here's the rig I use, a manfrotto 3021BN tripod and quick release grip head. I've found it very convenient and supports up to 11 lbs I think. You can find good deals on ebay and some online discounters occasionally


November 19th, 2007, 03:21 PM
Here's the rig I use, a manfrotto 3021BN tripod and quick release grip head. I've found it very convenient and supports up to 11 lbs I think. You can find good deals on ebay and some online discounters occasionally


Thanks for the link. Don't mean to cut in on Linda, but I'm in the market for a new tripod also. I have one that is very good but its about 20yrs old and very heavy, I want a lighter one for hiking. I hike a lot in the mountains and the less weight I have to carry the better.

November 19th, 2007, 03:21 PM
I use the Bogen 3001 (replaced by the Manfrotto 190) and a Goitto MH-1000 balll head with the MH 652 quick release. The Manfrotto 3021 is a little sturdier but I use mine when I go hiking and backpacking so I wanted a lighter model. I bought this about 20 years ago and it has held up great with all the hard knocks when hiking etc. They make carbon fiber ones now but that was out of reach 20 yrs. ago. Either one will serve you fine depending on what you do and the weight it has to bear. If it is real windy out I will always use a remote shutter release and hold my finger down on top of the camera to steady the whole thing.

Chuck S.
November 19th, 2007, 03:43 PM
Currently using Bogen 3021 PRO with 488 RC2 ball head. Definitely not for backpacking - it's heavy. 3021 PRO has a detachable center column that can be mounted horizontally as a lateral arm for direct shooting from overhead to the ground.

November 19th, 2007, 04:17 PM
Thanks for that, the Bogen is looking good. I will take a good look at the weights of these, if Chuck thinks the 3021 PRO is heavy, that is a useful guide and benchmark. I could really do with going and looking at some but there are no good stores nearby, so I will be relying on mail order.

I was quite keen on the Gitzo Titanium Traveller (Limited Edition), not only is it very light @ 1Kg, but it comes in a nice leather bag:D. Then looked at the price - EUR 1,999:eek:

Worth a look though http://titanium.gitzo.com/home.html

Eddie, it's reassuring that you have had yours for 20 years, that really does make this an investment purchase.

I will give Robert White's a call tomorrow (http://www.robertwhite.co.uk/ ) and get some more advice on the Bogen. They may not be the cheapest around, but they are helpful and mainly deal with serious photographers - like me:p;)

November 19th, 2007, 05:17 PM
I'm using the same tripod and head as Chuck, the Manfrotto 055Pro and 488RC2 head. I do find it heavy as well but it has never let me down with positioning from Macro to Landscape and I can rely on its sturdiness to stay put. I'm really happy I made the investment; it's a popular, reasonably priced combo. I'll cart it short distances but for the few hikes I've done, I bring my husband and he carries it bless his heart! I'm on the tiny side and would not be able to carry camera equipment and this tripod.

What works well for me is having a lightweight Manfrotto monopod which I keep in my car - holds about 15lbs of camera and lens. I use it a lot.

Another option you might want to consider Linda is a swivel, grip head; I have the Manfrotto 322RC2 and find I'm using it the most now for my tripod as well. Really convenient to use. I got a deal on Ebay for both the monopod and this head that I just couldn't pass up and it serves me well.

I second the advice that a good tripod and head is a priority early investment.

Chuck S.
November 19th, 2007, 06:45 PM
I will give Robert White's a call tomorrow (http://www.robertwhite.co.uk/ ) and get some more advice on the Bogen. They may not be the cheapest around, but they are helpful and mainly deal with serious photographers - like me:p;)

Linda, I believe the Bogen name is only used in the US. The underlying brand is Manfrotto, as mentioned in Pat's last post. Excellent quality; I have an older one that's going strong as well.

Happy shopping!

November 19th, 2007, 07:22 PM
I did not start this thread but have followed everyone's comments and advice and I appreciate all you guys taking the time to post your comments. Its nice to hear what tripod everyone prefers and the pros and cons.

November 19th, 2007, 09:58 PM
Great input from everybody. There is no one tripod for all people which is why there are so many choices.

I'll address the Bogen/Manfrotto tripods first....
Both the 3001 and the 3021 will work for the equipment you (Linda) currently have. Definitely compare the specs because the 3001 won't raise to my full height (5'4") and that can be a problem. They are both heavier than the Gitzo Carbon Fiber tripods but, much less expensive. Both have center columns which I am not a fan of because people tend to use them and they reduce stability. Plus, they hinder you from getting down close to the ground. Some will let you remove the center column and place it crosswise to get lower to the ground and that works ok if you are careful but, again, it reduces the stability. You want the camera centered over the center of the tripod for maximum stability.

The Bogen/Manfrotto 488RC2 ballhead is an excellent option for these tripods.

As for Gitzo, it is the best built carbon fiber tripod on the market. As you found, the Benro was not nearly as sturdy or well built. The new 6X Gitzo tripods are hands down the best tripods you can buy...at a price. For your system, I'd look at models that can support at least 12+ pounds even though your sstem does not weigh that much. They will be sturdier and will allow you to grow your system without outgrowing your tripod.
Some have a center column and some do not. That is a decision you will have to make for yourself.

Another good ballhead is the Gitzo G1377M.

And the ballhead which all others are compared to is the Really Right Stuff BH-55 which is hands down the best ballhead (an most expensive) that I have ever used.

November 20th, 2007, 11:22 AM
Linda, I believe the Bogen name is only used in the US. The underlying brand is Manfrotto

Thanks Chuck, yes you are right, I have been using this link which takes you to a conversion sheet - really useful and others might find it so as well:


November 20th, 2007, 11:29 AM
Laurie, thanks, I certainly have enough to go on now. I am going to be patient and wait for Santa after all. I think the best thing to do is not mail order but to travel to a large supplier where I can actually see and handle the tripods. I am certain that it will either be a Manfrotto or a Gitzo. At present I am leaning towards the Gitzo (no pun intended:)).

I have found a supplier that is in the south and we will be traveling down at the weekend and again mid-December.

Charlotte, I would be interested to hear what you end up with when you do purchase.

November 20th, 2007, 12:00 PM
Linda, I have been using the bogen aka Manfrotto 3021(I had the center column cut short to go flat to the ground) for 15yrs and it's still in great shape. That having been said, I am planning to get a carbon fiber for travel(probably gitzo) and long hikes as I also am on the petite side and I find the bogen somewhat heavy for anything longer than a couple miles round trip.

November 20th, 2007, 12:47 PM
Thanks Chuck, yes you are right, I have been using this link which takes you to a conversion sheet - really useful and others might find it so as well:


Thanks Linda for the site. Finally realized that my Manfrotto 718B digi has a 3 way head. Has served me well for the last 2 years. GeoR

November 21st, 2007, 11:45 PM
In the local paper is the Manfrotto 3021 with an unspecified ball head which they will sell to me for $80. I just have a point and shoot and ought not to spend money but is this as good a deal as it seems?

November 22nd, 2007, 08:33 PM
$80.00 is a good deal for just the legs. If the head is decent, you will have a great deal.
However, it may be overkill for your point and shoot. While it's very sturdy, it's also fairly big and heavy.

November 22nd, 2007, 08:49 PM
Thanks Laurie, I think I'll get it and when I move to a dslr I'll be ready.

mom to 4
November 23rd, 2007, 12:46 PM
My .02 .......

I bought a cheap monopod in Sept. 06. I didn't spend more than $15. for it at walmart. I wasn't sure if I would like it. I had heard mix reviews but I wanted to try it out at the football games and didn't want to "invest" in one at that point. Well that cheap one is still going strong. I unfortunately got tackled :eek: at the second game of the season, and the tripod got SLIGHTLY bent, but the joys of being short ....I was able to reconfigure it and it is still straight and not even opened out all the way.

Now, if I were to buy another one, I would 'Invest" in one that had a ball head and would be a bit better. But for $15 and lasting through 2 football seasons and several "hits, I figure I more than got my monies worth. Less than 68 cents per game ... and it still is in working order....:D

November 24th, 2007, 05:59 AM
Great idea...now, that's planning ahead. :)

November 24th, 2007, 01:10 PM
Apparently the Bogen Manfrotto 3021 is now called the 055XB. See here (http://www.canogacamera.com/SearchResult.aspx?KeyWords=Bogen+Manfrotto+3021+Tr ipod&All=True&gclid=CJ757t2W9o8CFR-RIwodp2DeGw).

Note that the link is to a camera store which I am not particularly endorsing one way or the other (I have bought from there, though, and prices were good and service reliable :)).

December 21st, 2007, 05:55 AM
Decision made!! At long last.

I have held out until now to get a tripod, which I really, really need. The reason for the delay was I wanted a Gitzo. This is an investment buy and I only wanted to buy it once. However, the cost is so high, I couldn't justify that at the moment. I then revisited this thread and after taking all of your advice and opinions I have decided on, and more to the point, ordered the Manfrotto 055Pro with the 488RC2 ballhead. I feel really comfortable with this decision and want to thank you all for your help.

Really looking forward to it arriving - guess what I am doing over Christmas;)


Chuck S.
December 21st, 2007, 07:04 AM
Linda, very nice combination - I think you'll really like it!

Chuck S.
December 21st, 2007, 07:07 AM
By the way, for those still considering a tripod purchase, I strongly recommend a ball head. I shot some Christmas light photos for a friend, and I grabbed my old tripod when I left the house; it has one of those horizontal/vertical tilt and pan heads (not sure what the proper term is). Anyway, I had a devil of a time getting the horizontal lines straight in the viewfinder; had to keep fiddling with the tripod legs, and had to go through a hassle every time I moved my vantage point. That head is officially retired now...:mad:

December 21st, 2007, 09:37 AM
...it has one of those horizontal/vertical tilt and pan heads (not sure what the proper term is)...

Pan & tilt head or, sometimes, pan/tilt head or tilt/pan head...

Chuck S.
December 21st, 2007, 10:36 AM
Pan & tilt head or, sometimes, pan/tilt head or tilt/pan head...

Thanks, Lee - at least I was close....:o

December 21st, 2007, 04:10 PM
I thought I would throw in my two cents based on my recent tripod search. I concur with the advise to buy quality...sort of an insurance policy for your gear, plus cheap tripods aren't user friendly and don't instill much confidence, as a result mine sits in the corner of a closet except when I use it for my tiny DV camcorder. I went middle of the road based on how much usage I planned (spent just over $200 for legs and head, Giottos 9251 legs w/Giottos 1001 ball head).

One of the challenges I faced was, even with the advice I found on this forum and others, was the sheer number of choices, even after narrowing down the list of manufacturers...it was as bad as trying to decide which cold medicine to buy. My advice is, if you have a decent photo store in your town, stop in and check out their tripods. Play with all the adjustment mechanisms. Each manufacturer uses a slightly different mechanism for adjusting leg angle, for releasing the column and for extending the legs. Decide which design suits you, for example do you prefer the flip style or twist style leg locks. I swore I'd never buy anything with twist leg locks because those on my cheapy tripod are so hard to grip, especially in the cold. But the more expensive units have accounted for that. Additionally, check the height adjustments, does it work for you based on your own height, shooting posture etc...

Put some weight on the tripod, take in your own gear or borrow similar at the store...does it seem stable all loaded up? Fold it up and sling it over your shoulder, if you have your gear, load it up too. Hows the weight? This test is a little tough because standing in place isn't the same as a three mile hike, but if it's too heavy from the onset, you may want to go with a lighter (albeit more expensive) material.

I think the hands on test is really important if you are able to get into a good shop that carries a good selection. It gives you a chance to check the fit, feel and finish and make sure everything is to your liking. Even if you plan to buy online, where you'll often find lower prices for new or used, if you can play with it first do it. It changed my decision on what to buy. I bought at the store, because I wanted new and luckily they were having their Christmas sale, which made them very competitive with the online sellers, affording me instant gratification. I like to support my local stores when I can because there are so few good ones and I know they need the business.

BTW - I think the forum group is awesome. I just joined recently for the Elements element, but there's a lot of other valuable information and experiences shared here as well. I've had element v3 and v4, and just upgraded to v6, but barely tapped the surface of what the application is capable of, so am hoping to learn some things from you all.

December 22nd, 2007, 10:47 AM
Great input Patrick,
As I mentioned in the last post, there is lot's of advice out there and we all can share our personal likes/dislikes and experiences but you have to be comfortable with your purchase...budget, stability and ease of use.

Patrick's advice was very solid...if you can get into a camera store and try out some tripods, do it. If you ge a helpful salesperson even better. I would even quiz them on what they use for the type of photography they do and why.

December 22nd, 2007, 01:54 PM
Patrick, Sounds like good advice. I particularly agree with buying locally and supporting the smaller businesses. Sometimes the chains have good staff, but so often they don't. Thanks so much for your input.

As we don't have any photography shops near us (I can hear my hubby breathe a sigh of relief, otherwise I would be there all the time, trying, buying etc:)) I bought online from a small business who were extremely helpful and informative. I thought I would be paying a premium for their service, but I did a quick check to make sure I wasn't paying too much over the odds, and found they were also competitive. So for any Brits reading this post, I can highly recommend www.robertwhite.co.uk

Laurie, I like the advice to ask what they use. I will remember that one.

In the end, I decided that weight wasn't a major issue as I can always use the girly cry "this is too heavy, can you carry it for me":p:D

December 30th, 2007, 11:30 PM
Well, I had gone to the Photo Store nearest me. I also believe in shopping at the Local Smaller store.

I wanted a new Camera Backpack and picked up the Tamrac Adventure 7 and while I was there I brought in my old Star D tripod to see if I can put a Ball Head on it. No go, the head is not interchangable.

I ended up buying a Manfrotto 3001BD or on there site its called a 055xB (its the same price I paid and it also looks exactly the same) and I also bought the Manfrotto Ball Head 486RC2 and now I'm in business.

http://www.bogenimaging.us/Jahia/product_main_page/site/bius/cache/offonce/lang/en_US;jsessionid=A11EBB2E17C64F65501C7C9B7E0004EF. worker2

So all I have to do is find my old Flash Bracket, still cant find that piece LOL so I can now test bed my 283 and get an idea of the exposures.

Happy, Healthy and Safe New Years everybody!!!

January 5th, 2008, 10:06 AM
I use the Manfrotto 3221 tripod as I am tall and the extra height is nice. When you buy a tripod buy one that is rated at twice the weight you plan to put on it. Tripod manufacturers tend to exagerate. Also buy one that is tall enough for you to use without raising the center column as doing this greatly decreases the steadiness of the tripod. As far as a head, I prefer ball heads and I use one made by Kirk Photo. If money is no object go for the Gitzo as that is definitely the best around and it will last a lifetime

January 9th, 2008, 08:50 PM
I spend 3 weeks gathering info on tripods. i am 6.1 and didn't want to bend over. i ended up going to b&h and purchased and Giottos Lava gimt7370 and a bogen head. i am really happy with it. just a little heavy, but i like the functions and how its made.:)


January 12th, 2008, 06:31 AM
It's important to not only get a tripod that can support the equipment you put on it ( I agree with lowbone about getting a tripod rated for significantly more weight than you plan on putting on it.

Also, as Richard mentions...look at the specs or test a tripod to see how tall it ill extend and...how low to the ground it will go for a lower perspective.

January 29th, 2008, 08:28 PM
I've been looking for a tripod as well. Gitzo looks good and the Really Right Stuff ball heads look really nice (but $$$), their site has a lot of good information about making a selection. I'm not too sure about the Basalt tripods. Are they good? Will they last as long? They are lighter than aluminum without the huge price increase of the 6x carbon fiber. My pick right now would be a GT2931 with a BH-40.

January 29th, 2008, 11:04 PM
The Gitzo is expensive, but like the cameras you have to see if the Tripod is comfortable for you. The weight, is it light enough for you to lug around? Is it high enough for you to setup your camera without bending over? Can it go low enough for you if you want to shoot anything at that level? Are the legs easy enough for you to extend and then retract very fast if you really have to move? Can the Tripod support the weight of a much larger lens, w/Flash and bracket? When I purchased my Manfrotto, the salesman asked what lens I was interested in the future. He already knew what I had since he sold it to me a few weeks prior. He then said that the Tripod I was looking at wasn't enough and then got me a heavier based tripod.

Even though you don't want to get a new Mortgage on a new Tripod you still want to get something you can live with for a long, long time. My old Star D has seen a lot. I've had it since the late 70's. I've had a much heavier Bogen for my old 4x5 w/levels and I can't even remember what head I had. But, alas!!! Its been gone a long time, an argument with a woman and it was left at her house along with my Poloroid back for that camera as well. Never did get another back?? Way, way before I was Married so don't laugh too much. :cool: Dont even remember why I had some of my equipment there. I wasn't living there, but she had a big house. LOL

January 31st, 2008, 10:15 AM
We spend alot of money on our camera equipment and then want a tripod that can support it for little to nothing. ( I know, I have been there) Invest in a good tripod and you will save money in the long run because you will not have to upgrade it when you find that the first 1,2 or 3 models you bought are not sturdy enough for your needs.

Unlike cameras, you don't need to upgrade tripods very often, if ever. A good tripod will last years and years and help you to capture crisp, sharp images.

James, the combination you are looking at is a good setup but, not knowing what you are putting on it prevents me from saying "go for it!" Make sure the tripod can hold at least twice the weight you plan on mounting to it. The same goes for the ballhead. The BH-40 can hold a fair amount of weight but it's overall footprint is quite small. I would consider it for say a Rebel, D40X, D70, D80, etc. If you have a higher end body, I'd go with the BH-55 instead.

January 31st, 2008, 07:59 PM

I have a Canon 40D and my largest lens is a 70-300IS. I can see one day having maybe a 70-200 f/2.8 or a 100-400. I'm trying to find a tripod/head combination that will work for just about every application because I don't want to have to buy 2. i.e. light enough for travel but sturdy and tall enough for everyday use indoors or outdoors.
What do think of the basalt tripods in comparison to the aluminum and carbon fiber?

Thanks, James