Best tripods 2018: 10 supports to help you get sharper shots

Best tripods 2018

The type of tripod you pick will depend on your specific needs, from a simple table-top option you can sling in your bag to large, heavy-duty supports. We've picked out the 10 best options to suit a range of budgets and needs.

1. Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 + XPRO ball head

Italian design flair and rugged dependability

Material: Carbon fiber | Leg sections: 3 | Max load (legs/head): 9/10kg | Max height (with head): 182cm | Folded height: 73cm | Weight (with head): 2.5kg

Very rigid, even at maximum height
Fabulous ball head
Quite tall when folded
Supplied without spiked feet

Sold separately as a set of carbon fiber legs and a magnesium alloy ball head with quick-release plate, the MT055CXPRO3 + XPRO ball head really is a winning combination from Manfrotto.

Upgrades in this latest edition of the longstanding and highly popular 055 series include easy-action ‘Quick Power Lock’ levers for the leg sections, which operate with speedy simplicity. However, in the aluminum version of the 055XPRO3 legs, which costs about half the price, the leg sections drop out a little too freely for our liking, when the clamps are released.

The mechanism for locking each leg at any of four available angles is quick and intuitive, as is the 90-degree pivot system for the center column, which enables you to use it as a horizontal boom.

The ball head is an absolute joy (sold separately), complementing the rock-solid performance of the legs and combining equally high-end build quality with smart features that include an independent friction adjuster, pan-only release and bubble levels.

2. Benro GoPlus Travel FGP18A + B0 ball head

A not so heavy metal design

Material: Aluminum | Leg sections: 4 | Max load (legs/head): 10/8kg | Max height (with head): 165cm | Folded height: 46cm | Weight (with head): 1.95kg

Folds down small for carrying
Detachable leg to use as a monopod
Maximum height could be better
Carbon version twice the price

Beautifully crafted from aluminum and magnesium, the Benro GoPlus Travel FGP18A is a seriously good set of legs. A carbon fiber version is also available, but it’s more than twice the price and doesn’t add to the performance. The metal edition is the better buy, and it’s not particularly heavy at 1.95kg, including the B0 ball head (sold separately).

Despite being billed as a travel tripod, the Benro has a respectable if not overly generous maximum operating height. It also has a hefty load capacity, and is extremely rigid. Following the latest trend, the legs swing upwards around the head to enable a small carrying height of just 46cm.

Clever tricks include a pivoting center column that can be locked at angles in small increments through a full 180-degree arc, and three lockable leg angles. Bubble levels are featured on both the legs and the head, while the head itself has independent locking, panning and friction knobs.

The kit includes interchangeable screw-in spikes and rubber feet, and everything’s wrapped up in a smart padded soft case. And to save traveling with extra kit, one of the legs can be unscrewed and used as a monopod.

3. Gitzo Mountaineer Series 3 Tripod Kit GK3532-82QD

Grand designs don’t come cheap

Material: Carbon fiber | Leg sections: 3 | Max load (legs/head): 21/18kg | Max height (with head): 175cm | Folded height: 77cm | Weight (with head): 2.65kg

Spectacular build quality
Super-smooth operation
Fiendishly expensive
Center column doesn’t pivot

Gitzo is legendary for building super-tough, professional-grade tripods that are designed to take the knocks of harsh daily use and abuse. The company is also notorious for its high prices, and typically this GK3532-82QD kit is supplied as a robust and rugged kit of legs and head, with a hefty price tag. Not just good at heights, the Mountaineer quickly and easily adapts to low-level and even ground-level shooting.

The Series 3 is the most rigid of the Mountaineer tripods, with a massive load capacity of 21kg for the legs and 18kg for the ball head. The three-section legs are made from Gitzo’s high-performance Carbon eXact tubes, which have an optimized composition for each leg section diameter. The result is excellent rigidity at all operating heights, while revamped G-lock Ultra twist-locks operate smoothly and efficiently. 

The same goes for the ball head, which includes independent friction and panning controls, plus a specialized tungsten disulphide coating to avoid any jerkiness. The original Mountaineer launched back in 1994 as the world’s first carbon fiber tripod, and this latest-edition model is a worthy successor.

4. Kenro Karoo Travel Tripod Kit 104C

Not just one for the road

Material: Carbon fibre | Leg sections: 4 | Max load (legs/head): 8/6kg | Folded height: 47.5cm | Weight (with head): 1.44kg

Removable leg to use as a monopod
Rubber and spiked feet
Not the smallest when folded
8kg payload not the highest

With carbon fibre legs, the option of rubber and spiked feet, the possibility to use one of its legs as a monopod and a carry bag thrown in too, this compact travel tripod kit certainly ticks many boxes – particularly at this price.

Sure, its 8kg payload isn’t as generous as some of the other option here, although this is still more than sufficient for the majority of camera and lens setups. Similarly, other options fold down smaller, but not to the extent to make that a deal-breaker.

Look a little deeper and you see it’s full of useful touches. For example, you get two centre columns, the smaller of which means it can be adapted easily for low-level shooting, with three separate leg angles available for you to position it precisely. It’s also been designed with a hook on the underside to allow you to hang a bag for greater stability.

This would also be a fitting option for anyone needing to shoot over crowds, thanks to the monopod’s lofty 173.5cm maximum height. Its lengthy six-year warranty should gives you extra peace of mind, however you plan on using it.

5. Manfrotto MK190XPRO3-BHQ

Something of a modern classic

Material: Aluminum | Leg sections: 3 | Max load (legs/head): 7/10kg | Max height (with head): 172cm | Folded height: 67cm | Weight (with head): 2.5kg

Quick and easy to use
90-degree pivoting center column
No retractable spikes in rubber feet
No carrying bag supplied

The latest in a long line of much-loved Manfrotto 190 tripods has been revamped for greater ease of use and compactness. There’s a wide range of three-section and four-section 190-series models to choose from, in both aluminum and carbon fiber, with and without supplied heads. 

This complete three-section aluminum kit with XPRO ball head can’t compete with most ‘travel tripods’ for folding down to a small size, as the legs don’t swing upwards for stowage. However, set-up is quicker and the folded height is 7cm shorter than that of its predecessor, mostly thanks to a redesigned pivot joint. This enables the center column to be rotated vertically through 90 degrees for use as a horizontal boom.

The multi-angle leg mechanism is similarly streamlined and straightforward, enabling four lockable angles rather than the usual three. Up on top, the kit includes the latest XPRO ball head, which is simply superb and, unlike in most previous Manfrotto designs, includes an independent panning release. The level of build quality is up to Manfrotto’s usual high standards, and the Manfrotto MK190XPRO3-BHQ is a good compromise between rigidity and lightweight compactness, at a competitive price.

6. Vanguard ALTA PRO 2+ 263AB 100

Updated and uprated, the ‘2+’ raises the stakes

Material: Aluminum | Leg sections: 3 | Max load (legs/head): 7/10kg | Max height (with head): 173cm | Folded height: 74cm | Weight (with head): 2.3kg

Very versatile
Excellent build quality
Spiked feet an extra
Relatively tall when folded down

Finished in smart grey, this aluminum ‘2+’ edition of Vanguard’s ALTA PRO 263 tripod builds on the success of the original, with the flip locks for the three-section legs replaced with twist locks that are a little quicker and easier to operate.

Rigidity is very good throughout, including the hexagonal cross-section center column, which can be rotated vertically through +/- 90 degrees in small 15-degree increments. The legs can be locked at four different angles, adding further to the tripod’s versatility. An additional 3/8-inch threaded connector enables the attachment of articulated or flexible arms, ideal for adding lighting accessories for either photo or video applications.

Build quality is convincing throughout all components of the legs, and is carried through to the BH-100 ball head that’s supplied as part of the kit. This includes a friction control and dedicated panning lock, along with two bubble levels for precise positioning. The kit comes complete with a carrying bag and ‘all-terrain’ rubber feet; spiked feet are available as an optional extra.

7. 3 Legged Thing Punks Corey with Airhead Neo

Small but tall, light but strong

Material: Magnesium alloy | Leg sections: 5 | Max load (legs/head): 14/18kg | Folded height: 34cm | Weight (with head): 1500g

Excellent size-to-capacity ratio
Option to use as a monopod
Design won’t be to everyone’s taste
Not the tallest when extended

The Punks Corey is as unconventional on the spec sheet at it is to the eye: a five-leg-section travel tripod whose legs can support a very generous 14kg, yet it folds down to just 34cm. So it very much lives up to its ‘micro travelling tripod’ billing, being petite enough to slip inside even carry-on luggage.

Supplied with the bright blue Airhead Neo ball head, the tripod’s somewhat loud styling might not be for the photographer that prefers to travel and shoot discretely, but it’s difficult to argue with just what it offers for the money. You can invert the centre column for low-level shooting, splay the legs out close to ground level and even use one leg as a monopod if you need to.

The tactile finish of the leg locks also makes releasing and unscrewing the legs (and centre column) effortless, while the head features panoramic markings and a bubble level, the latter joining a further level on the legs. All of this, combined with the supplied carry bag that makes transpiration simple, makes it excellent value for money.

8. Nest Traveller NT-6294CK Carbon Fibre Tripod Kit

What price a carbon kit?

Material: Carbon fiber | Leg sections: 4 | Max load (legs/head): 20/15kg | Max height (with head): 166cm | Folded height: 45cm | Weight (with head): 1.85kg

Compact when folded
Strong and sturdy
Center column doesn’t pivot
Only two locking leg angles

With no hint of flimsiness, the chunky Nest Traveller NT-6294CK carbon fiber kit has load ratings of 20kg for the legs and 15kg for the ball head. It’s beautifully made, yet undercuts many comparable aluminum kits on the market for price.

Despite its Herculean load-bearing abilities, the complete kit tips the scales at just 1.85kg. The maximum operating height is respectable for a travel-oriented tripod and, with legs that swing up over the head, the folded height is an easily manageable 45cm. One leg is removable for use as a monopod but, as with many ‘travel’ tripods, there’s no pivot mechanism for the center column. 

Up on top, the ball head is a good match for the legs. It’s finished in carbon-alike grey, and features adjustable friction damping and a pan lock/release knob. The inclusion of a posh padded soft case is a surprise, given the kit’s budget-friendly price tag.

9. Novo Explora T-10 Carbon Fibre Professional Tripod Kit

High and mighty for a travel-friendly tripod

Material: Carbon fiber | Leg sections: 4 | Max load (legs/head): 15/15/kg | Max height (with head): 174cm | Folded height: 48cm | Weight (with head): 1.8kg

Generous operating height
Integral monopod
No pivot facility for center column
Bubble level is obscured 

Although the word ‘travel’ doesn’t feature in the name of this tripod kit, the Novo Explora T10 nevertheless has a swing-up design for the legs, each of which has four sections, enabling a compact folded height of 48cm. Unlike many similar designs, however, there’s no skimping on the maximum operating height, which is a satisfying 174cm. The kit is only available in carbon fiber, weighing in at a modest 1.8kg yet boasting a hefty maximum load rating of 15kg, for both the legs and the ball head.

The legs feature smooth twist-action clamps and three lockable angles. As we’re seeing increasingly in recent designs, one leg is removable and can be used as a monopod. The ball head features an adjustable friction damper built into the main locking knob and two pan release locks, one at the base and another in the camera platform, both with scales marked in degrees.

The kit is supplied with interchangeable rubber feet and metal spikes, and a smart padded soft case. Overall build quality and performance are excellent, with impressive rigidity even at the maximum operating height.

10. MeFOTO RoadTrip Air Tripod Kit

A true takeaway tripod

Material: Aluminum | Leg sections: 5 | Max load (legs/head): 6/6kg | Max height (with head): 156cm | Folded height: 28cm | Weight (with head): 1.1kg

Ultra-compact and lightweight
Integral selfie stick
Relatively limited load rating
Bottom leg sections are quite spindly

It won’t quite fit in your pocket, but the MeFOTO RoadTrip Air shrinks to just 28cm when folded, and weighs barely more than a kilogram. It’s relatively painless to carry anywhere and everywhere, and is quite the fashion accessory, available in a wide selection of different colours. Even so, it stretches to a reasonable maximum operating height of 156cm, thanks to having five sections in each leg and an extending center column.

There are no external locking clamps for the leg sections. Instead, you simply hold the foot of each leg and progressively twist to release successive clamps for each section, then twist in the opposite direction to lock them. The center column has four telescopic sections that work on the same principle. 

You can remove the center column and use it with the supplied smartphone holder as a selfie stick. The kit even includes a Bluetooth remote control that you can pair with your smartphone. Back in camera mode, the small ball head features an independent panning lock. Despite its ultra-lightweight construction, the tripod doesn’t feel flimsy and is reasonably resistant to flexing, although the maximum load rating of 6kg seems a little ambitious.