Good still camera tripod under $150?
November 13, 2008 4:22 PM   Subscribe

I'd appreciate recommendations for a good still camera tripod for under $150.

I'm looking for a good tripod to use with my DSLR. I'm an amateur planning to use the tripod for family photos and nature stills. I'm looking at the Manfrotto 725B Digi Tripod. Any other suggestions? I saw a similar question for a video tripod, but, as mentioned in that thread, apparently still and video camera tripods differ in the head mechanism.
posted by cahlers to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
$21: GorillaPod by Joby

This is *much* more adaptable than a traditional tripod, and in most situations performs just as well.

Nature shots, in particular, have the advantage of infinite camera placement options. The GorillaPod can be wrapped around a pole, tree, pillar, sign, etc. in addition to the traditional upright position.

If you plan to do major composition from behind the lens and less eye composition, the Manfrotto you're looking at is a solid choice.
posted by bradly at 8:45 PM on November 13, 2008

You might want to consider getting a separate head. If you go with a decent Manfrotto head you can put it on the Joby or on a traditional tripod.

The Joby is great for general purpose carry-around travel & outdoors, but it will not do well in many family photo situations since it is only a foot off the ground. You'll either end up getting people to pose in a place where you can prop it up or else have a lot of shots angled awkwardly upwards.
posted by stp123 at 8:58 PM on November 13, 2008

I own a ton of Manfrotto stuff, from very large tripods to a load of other support and grip equipment. In my opinion it is among the more overrated hardware out there despite its popularity and availability.

I shoot 99% on location and I'm always having to tighten up bits and pieces and have lost a few nuts and bolts over the years. Also, their metal tripods are very heavy for their size.

I also had two Titlt-All's, and they were a real pain because the leg lock were lousy and would stick a lot.

For at least the last 10 years my primary location tripod has been the Slik 700DX Pro (under $140.00, maybe less). I love it. It's a very fast working tripod due to the flip locks on the legs, and being titanium alloy, it's lighter than the Manfrotto and Tilt-All models. I used it with medium format film equipment and with large pro model DSLR's with lenses up to 300mm. The column reverses for low angle work.

After around three years of use I broke the column locking knob, and called the USA distributor to see about a replacement. The rep said he'd send me one at no charge. I asked him if he would send two, figuring that if I broke one in three years, I'd probably break another. He sent me two at no charge and I've never had to use the second one.

I use the standard three way pan head, but I belive you can buy it headless if you want a ball head. Be aware though that odds are good you'll spend at least $150.00 for a really good ball head for any tripod, and a bad ball head is worthless and will drive you crazy.

Also, I can see something like a GorillaPod as a supplemental tripod, but with that you're out of luck if you want a camera five feet off the ground somewhere where there's nothing to use as a mounting point.
posted by imjustsaying at 12:46 AM on November 14, 2008

The 725B looks like a fine multi-purpose tripod. The only thing I immediately noticed missing were the reverseable column. That can actually come in handy if you're trying to shoot really low (flowers, stuff on the ground, shots of roads, etc). Also, I can't vouch for the ball-head on that model, though it looks reasonable enough. Were I you, I'd get the carbon-fiber version of the legs, ditch the head and replace it with a Really Right Stuff ballhead. Then you'll never have to worry about tripods ever again.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:27 AM on November 14, 2008

Just for posterity, I'd like to add that you can get perfectly good, professional tripods for peanuts on the 'Bay. If I were looking for cheap legs, I'd probably go with Bogen's 30xx line. They're solid, reliable, all-weather tripods (no carbon-fiber) that will "just work" for eons.

The running joke with the 30xx series legs is that the 'xx' number is how much it feels like it weighs after carrying it around for three hours. So, the 3001 is basically worthless, the 3011 is good for traveling light, the 3021 an excellent all-around pod, as is it's bigger-brother the 3033, the 3040 is for photographers that shoot in blinds or in studios or have sherpas with them, and the 3051 is what you use to jack up the side of your house with.

The GorillaPod is... well, better than nothing in a pinch. But not much better.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:42 AM on November 14, 2008

Don't bypass a video head. The fluid head has all the necessary axis for still cameras, and the bonus of a fluid head. Prices start around $75.00 for a head. With the convergence of still and video camers it could come in handy.
posted by Gungho at 8:17 AM on November 14, 2008

I have but I have a very collapsable very light and very flexible and easy to deal with tripod made by nat'l geographic. this is it, 90 bucks and maybe available for cheaper elsewhere. love it.
posted by Soulbee at 10:38 AM on November 14, 2008

Follow-up: I purchased a Slik tripod via craigslist, and am very happy with it. It's heavy, but solid.
posted by cahlers at 9:25 AM on March 11, 2009

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