Which Tripod Should you Buy?
Which Tripod Should you Buy?
Now that you are familiar with all the criteria for selecting the right tripod, you are probably wondering which tripod you should buy for your photography needs. Since I have numerously gone through the experience of shopping for tripods and have seen others do the same, let me tell you what many photographers end up doing. They first look for the cheapest tripod available that will be good enough to hold their first camera, since they have no idea if they really need it or do not know how often they would be using it. The tripod would cost between $75 and $150 for the legs and the head, which is a good price for a simple tool. Next, they purchase a longer and heavier lens and add more weight to the setup. All of a sudden, they find that the cheap tripod is not good enough and they need something more durable and stable. After making the first mistake, they suddenly realize that they need to do more research and they spend countless hours reading about tripods on different websites and forums. Despite all recommendations from the pros, they are not willing to invest on a top-of-the-line tripod with a good ball-head, so they end up getting a popular tripod system for $300-500 with a separate head. Seems like a great investment and the tripod seems to be much better than the previous one. After a year or two, they realize that their last purchase was not that good, because the tripod is too heavy and hard to use, especially for traveling. They realize that they should have listened to the pros in the beginning and bought a solid tripod system. Does this sound familiar? It certainly does for me, because I went through a similar experience and wasted too much effort and money.
Other photographers might have a different story, where they purchased an inexpensive tripod they like in the beginning and they are still happily using it today. All it says about them, is that they are not using their tripods as much and what they have is good enough for occasional use. Anybody who heavily relies on a tripod (especially landscape and architectural photographers) ends up buying two to three different tripods to eventually end up with the best.
It seems that it is hard to avoid purchasing multiple tripods, because it is often impossible to justify the cost of a good system to someone who does not heavily use a tripod. If someone told me that I would eventually spend more than $500 on a tripod system when I just got into photography, I would have never believed them – that’s too much money to spend on a darn tripod! But it all turned out to be true, because I actually ended up spending a lot more than $500 overtime, and I wish I could go back in time and buy the right stuff from the very beginning.
If I recommend someone who has just bought their first DSLR or a mirrorless camera to get the best tripod system that costs between $800 and $1,200, I will almost certainly get a “you are crazy” look, no matter how well I explain my story. Therefore, here is what I would recommend:
If you currently do not have a tripod and you want to buy one, get the cheapest aluminum tripod system with an integrated head for less than $150 total. Why do I recommend the cheapest tripod? Because you first need to understand how much you will be using it. Six months down the road you might end up doing other type of photography that does not require a tripod or you might find yourself on a path of becoming a good landscape or macro photographer. A cheap tripod will give you enough information to understand the real role of a tripod in your photography.
If you already have a cheap tripod and you want to get something better, save yourself a lot of money and frustration and get the best tripod with an arca-swiss quick release system – skip the middle. Some people buy cheaper legs and heads and either find them too heavy or unstable. One common problem with other quick-release systems, is the fact that cheaper plates do not grip well on cameras and start wiggling and rotating relative to the base, making it a nightmare for things like panoramic photography.