The 8 Best Tripods to Buy in 2018 for DSLR Cameras

Find the Right Tripod for Your Photography Needs

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The Rundown

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100
Courtesy of Amazon.com
5

Released in 2010, Vanguard’s Alta Pro 263AB 100 aluminum tripod kit offers an exceptional value and feature-set that still feels new years after its original release. Weighing just 5.38 pounds, the Alta Pro extends to a maximum height of 69.12 inches (with a folded height of 28.12 inches when fully compacted). With a large maximum height, stability is crucial, and the Alta Pro delivers in that department, offering outstanding stability and payload capacity up to 15.4 pounds. Additionally, its 26mm three-section aluminum alloy legs adjust to 25, 50, and 80-degree angles to ensure photos can be captured from a multitude of angles, including extremely low angle photography.

Vanguard claims the Alta Pro is the “most versatile tripod in the world” and they nail it with a hexagon-shaped central column that adjusts anywhere from 0 to 180 degrees. Additionally, the Alta Pro adds a slew of extras such as a quick-flip leg lock, non-slip spiked rubber feet and an instant swivel stop-and-lock (ISSL) system that allows quick repositioning of the central column with just one movement. It also has a magnesium die-cast canopy, an anti-shock ring, and even comes with a carrying case for added protection.

Best Stability: Vanguard VEO 265AB

Vanguard VEO 265AB
Courtesy of Amazon.com
4.9

The bigger brother to the Vanguard VEO 204AB, the 265AB brings everything that makes its smaller sibling so great for travel and also offers additional stability. The high-loading performance boosts the maximum payload to a terrific 17.6 pounds, which helps take the 265AB out of consumer DSLR territory and into the professional photographer space. Weighing 3.7 pounds, the 265AB offers a maximum height of 59.1 inches and a height of 15.4 inches when compacted. The 26mm five-section aluminum alloy legs offer three separate angle positions that can convert from rubber or spiked feet depending on the surface you’re capturing on.

When it comes to true stability, the multi-action TBH-50 ball head offers a large and ergonomically friendly main locking knob, a bubble level for determining how stable the tripod is on the surface and an Arca-Swiss quick release plate. Additionally, there’s a low-angle photography option with the included low-angle adapter. The 265AB also adds a soft rubber handle that’s designed to stand up to the elements with an unbeatable grip in any weather. And to ensure maximum protection, Vanguard also includes a carrying case for transporting the tripod while on-the-go.

Best Lightweight: Manfrotto MKBFRA4-BH BeFree

Manfrotto MKBFRA4-BH BeFree
Courtesy of Amazon.com
4.6

Whether you’re a longtime professional photographer or just entering the business, Manfrotto is a name that needs no introduction. The MKBFRA4-BH BeFree compact aluminum travel tripod was released in 2013 but still excels with its light and compact design that offers exceptional value. Designed to support a payload of 8.8 pounds, the BeFree weighs 3.1 pounds on its own and offers a maximum height of 56.7 inches. When compacted, the BeFree is just 15.8 inches tall, so it's easy to store in luggage or a backpack.

While its design may be engineered for a lightweight feel, the BeFree doesn’t sacrifice sturdiness or image quality. An aluminum ball head is solid and quick to operate, so a photographer can quickly align the camera for a shot. A patented leg angle allows the BeFree the option of two separate leg positions, each offering versatility for camera positioning. Manfrotto also includes its own padded carrying case to protect and store the BeFree from any accidental damage while not in use.

Best Splurge: Gitzo GK3532-82QD Series 3 Tripod

If you’re looking for the best tripod that can stand up to heavy use, the Gitzo GK3532-82QD is the right choice. Weighing only five pounds, it’s standard three section build is easy to transport. Fortunately, portability doesn’t sacrifice build quality as the Gitzo is highly durable. With Carbon eXact tubing, modulus carbon fiber legs and larger leg diameters, it’s stable on flat or uneven ground.

A maximum height of 68.9 inches and a minimum height of 7.09 inches also make it a highly flexible option. Leg angles can be transitioned from 24-, 55- and 82-degree positioning. Locking each leg into place is easy via G-lock Ultra twist-locks.

The ball head rests on a 2.36-inch DSLR camera base. Independent friction and panning controls make it easy to maneuver and change positions. Tilting between -90 and +40 degrees, there’s rarely a shot the Gitzo won’t help capture. A quick-release adapter assists with popping off the camera for moving to a new position. 

Runner-Up, Best Overall: GlobeTrotter

GlobeTrotter
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Released in 2013, MeFoto’s carbon fiber globetrotter travel tripod/monopod is an outstanding choice for professional and budding professional photographers looking for an option that has all the bells and whistles. Weighing just 4.2 pounds, the GlobeTrotter converts into a 64.2-inch tripod and monopod that can then adjust and fold back to a more travel-friendly size of 16.1 inches. Offering two separate leg angle positions, the GlobeTrotter supports five extendable leg sections to hit the maximum 64.2-inch height that offers support for a payload of 26.4 pounds.

The GlobeTrotter also features twist lock legs that work with an anti-rotation system to allow for fast repositioning. The GlobeTrotter legs can also be locked at separate angles to enable shooting on irregular or uneven ground. The balance plate itself is a precision-matched Q series ball head with Arca-swiss compatibility and bubble level to prevent uneven pans and camera head movement. The tripod also has a recessed spring-loaded center column hook that allows for the hanging of additional weight for even more stability. Not to mention, the GlobeTrotter can be converted into a monopod by screwing together the removable separate column and a tripod leg.

Best Budget: BONFOTO B671A

BONFOTO B671A
Courtesy of Amazon.com

The BONFOTO B671A aluminum tripod offers an outstanding value and comes with many features you’re likely to find on far more expensive options. Weighing 2.9 pounds, the payload capacity of the BONFOTO is 17.6 pounds, which is excellent for the budget-friendly price tag. Capable of extending to a maximum height of 55 inches and a compact folded height of 15 inches, the BONFOTO is perfectly sized for both travels, as well as landscape and portrait capturing.

Featuring a ball head, the BONFOTO offers three lock knobs as well as 360-degree panoramic panning for full field view. If you’re interested in changing things up, the tripod offers something a little different by easily converting to a monopod with the removal of one leg. That may be useful in a variety of different positions or locations the tripod can’t access or stabilize with all three legs. Additionally, there are dual bubble levels for steady positioning, as well as four-section legs that lock in with a twist knob for additional stability. A padded carrying case is also included for protection.

Best Design: Patekfly Flexible Tripod

As a photographer, it’s all about getting the best angles to achieve the perfect shot. The Patekfly Flexible Tripod is designed to bend and flex around all kinds of surfaces to help you get shots from even the toughest angles while reducing wobble. Attach it to a lamppost, a chair, or even a tree branch to get a secure and stable spot no matter where you are. Ideal for everything from nature photography to family gatherings, this sturdy tripod is made from high-quality aluminum and silicone, which gives it good grip and makes it easy to clean. Use this tripod with any SLR camera, including those made by Nikon, Sony or Canon, motion cameras such as the GoPro Hero 5/4/3 or even your Android or Apple phone.

Best for Portability: Vanguard VEO 204AB

Vanguard VEO 204AB
Courtesy of Amazon.com

Vanguard’s VEO 204AB aluminum travel tripod with a ball head is an exceptional choice for photographers looking for something compact and easy to unfold. With a rapid column rotation for easy transportation and setup, the VEO offers excellent results without spending a fortune. The high-loading performance offers a maximum payload of 8.8 pounds, which is generally more than enough for most standard DSLR shooters.

When it comes to stability, the multi-action TBH-45 ball head offers a bubble level and quick release plate to maximize steadiness before a shot. The 20mm aluminum alloy legs offer three different leg angle options and extend to a full height of 53.1 inches, and when folded, the VEO compacts to a travel-friendly 15.6 inches.

Tested by

How We Tested

Our reviewers spent 49 hours testing three of the most popular DSLR tripods. They used them in different settings with various cameras to find out what the strengths and flaws really were. We asked our testers to consider the most important features when using these tripods and we've outlined them here so that you, too, know what to look for when shopping.

What to Look for in a DSLR Tripod

Portability - DSLR cameras are already a bit bulky compared to their point-and-shoot brethren, so if you’re a photographer who’s constantly on the go, you’ll want a tripod whose legs collapse as compactly as possible. Also look for a tripod that isn’t too heavy; you should be able to find a quality one under 5 pounds.

Budget - No matter if you’re a hobbyist or a professional, you shouldn’t need to spend a lot on a tripod. There are plenty of choices available that you can buy for around $150 and still retain some fancy features. If you want to splurge, though, you can spend up to $1,000, which gets you extremely light but high-quality legs that fold down to about a quarter of their length.

Durability - The long, telescoping legs of a tripod can break if you’re not careful, so if you’re out shooting in the wilderness, you’ll likely need something very durable. Tripods come in an array of materials, but carbon fiber or aluminum are the most reliable.

Test Results: Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 (Best Overall)

5

What We Like

  • Affordable but has adjustable features

  • Durable and stable

  • Carrying case helps portability

What We Don’t Like

  • Bulky

Overall, our testers gave the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 glowing reviews with one person saying, “It’s a great overall tripod for the price that you pay. It comes with a bag for travel, lots of features, and is lightweight enough for short distance travel.”

Lifewire reviewers described the tripod as versatile, durable, affordable, and, most importantly, stable. One tester put the tripod to the ultimate test by attaching her camera to it at a 90-degree angle. She commented that the weight will shift — so be aware, but don’t worry — but that the tripod held her camera steady.

Bonus: the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB 100 comes with a carrying case that makes it portable and protects it in between shoots.

Test Results: Vanguard VEO 265AB (Best Stability)

4.9

What We Like

  • Extremely stable

  • Folds up to be very portable

  • Light

What We Don’t Like

  • Bulky base helps with stability but doesn’t look sleek

To be honest, our reviewers had trouble finding anything negative to say about this tripod. One person assured us, “I'm not afraid of this tripod falling and breaking my camera.” When it comes to your precious (and expensive) DSLR, tripod stability is the top factor. One of our Lifewire testers also had a number of comments about the tripod’s design and look. He said that it felt strong and looked sleeker than his last tripod – which is definitely a plus. He did add, “The only thing I would change would be the base. Nothing is wrong with it, but I think it could look cooler. The base is a little bulky, but that helps with stability.” Perhaps a few cool points have been deducted for stability’s sake, but any photographer that wants to protect their DSLR should be OK with that.

Overall, our reviewers called this an “amazing product.” One person closed with, “A good tripod is one that feels strong, can hold my camera, and is easy to carry. This tripod does all three well.”

Test Results: Manfrotto MKBFRA4-BH BeFree (Best Lightweight)

4.6

What We Like

  • Weighs only 3 lbs.

  • Easy to quickly clip in camera

  • Convenient and portable

What We Don’t Like

  • No weight hook to add stability in a breeze

The Manfrotto MKBFRA4-BH BeFree wins as our best lightweight tripod for weighing only three pounds — something that definitely stood out to our testers. One person said, “It's noticeably lighter than my cheap tripod. The carrying bag was also a nice addition and would make it great for traveling.” With such a light counterweight, you may be worried that this tripod can’t provide the same stability as others; that’s not the case here. Lifewire testers tried a number of different tripod configurations and found that they all held up well. “The tripod was very customizable,” one tester said, “bending with convenient ball joints and having just enough stiffness to hold a position but not so much as to keep it from moving how I needed it to.”

One of the best features of the tripod, according to our reviewers, is the ability to clip your camera in and out. It makes it really easy to position and remove the camera whenever you need to make changes. It took one reviewer a little extra time to figure out the clip direction, so it may not be intuitive to you at first.