The tripod is one of the most important pieces of gear for any photographer.
My pick for the best tripod overall is the Mike from 3 Legged Thing.
There are so many tripods to choose from. They range from the cheap, mostly plastic, tripods that are bundled with your camera at that big box store to $1000+ tripods that can withstand even the most grueling of conditions.
Here’s how the rest of the top options break down.
Exceptionally well built and designed.
Once you move past the humorous naming convention of 3 Legged Thing tripods, the quality is as good as any on the market. Their Mike model is the tripod that every photographer should own.
3 Legged Thing is an interesting company and certainly has taken an alternative approach to branding and marketing compared to its more conservative competitors. But don’t be distracted by that, these are some serious professional tripods and the Mike model by 3 Legged Thing is my top pick for just about any photographer.
First, let’s talk about stability. Mike is designed with 3 section legs. That means less joints and more stability. Of course, because of this, it does not fold as compact as some travel models, but unless you travel a lot and need to fit your tripod into a carry-on, that isn’t as important as overall stability.
It reaches a maximum height of 58″ (1.48m) and a minimum height of 5.3″ (13.4cm). That’s not the highest tripod out there, but its high enough for almost any situation. The lack of a center column is something that I always look for in a tripod because it only gets in the way and extending it only serves to ruin any stability the legs give you.
Mike also has a leveling base system which can be a huge help when shooting landscapes. Instead of having to adjust the leg height to level the base, you can quickly set up the tripod and level the base itself. This allows you to shoot better panoramas or even use the tripod for video.
The leg locks are also incredibly well designed. They are the O-ring type instead of the latch type (which is typically easier and faster to use as well as more secure). They are also metal for strength with rubber pads for better grip. This makes them easy to use in any condition, even if you are wearing gloves.
If you are just getting started and 3 Legged Thing tripods are a little out of your price range, then try this budget-friendly recommendation…
Best Budget Tripod | K&F Concept
The K&F Concept SA25471 is much less expensive than our top pick but not “cheap.” It will give you years of moderate use and provide the functionality you need to get the shots you want.
While it doesn’t have the durability or the leveling head of my top pick, it comes in at about 1/3 the price. It’s made with strong aluminum which will last a long time and give you good stability, although it is a little heavier than carbon fiber.
What I like about this tripod as a budget-friendly option of a beginner tripod is that it is versatile. At a max height of 67.7″ its max height is taller than the Mike above and it also has a detachable leg that can form a monopod in case you wanted to shoot sports or some other activity where a monopod can come in handy.
It does have a center column and I would recommend not extending it if you want maximum stability, but the column can be reversed to get your camera down low for macro photography or low-angle landscape photography.
Note: If you are tempted by the really low-budget tripods, like the ones that get bundled with cameras during holiday sales at electronics stores, avoid them at all costs. They aren’t even worth the time it takes to open the box they came in. Anything more than a once-a-year family photo on those tripods and they’ll fall apart.
It can actually be cheaper in the long run to get a decent tripod like the Mike From 3 Legged Thing, which will last years than it would be to buy a cheap one that has to be replaced on a regular basis.
Best High-End Tripod | Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Series 2
If cost is no object to you and you want a tripod that may last longer in the harshest conditions than you might…then Really Right Stuff is the brand you should be looking at. I don’t recommend them to everyone because of the price, but RRS has been the industry standard for a long time.
The Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Series 2 model is a great all-around tripod for photographers.
It has all the features that I think are important in a tripod for general use. On top of that, this tripod will easily last you 10 years or more with proper care. Think of it as a long term investment rather than a single purchase and it seems like a much better investment
Really Right Stuff gear doesn’t come cheap, but you can be confident that you’ll get your money’s worth if you are taking your tripod out on daunting adventures regularly.