Which lightweight tripod should I buy?
February 15, 2016 12:03 PM   Subscribe

My old plastic tripod has finally started falling apart, and I'm in search of a replacement, but overwhelmed by all of the options. Looking for the best sub-$150 tripod available on Amazon.

I primarily use tripods with my DSLR for landscape and night sky (long exposure) photography. I'd like it to be lightweight enough to carry on hikes. I don't use huge zoom lenses, so I'm not too concerned by the weight it can hold. I've traditionally used 3-way head tripods, but am open to ball-heads if they're better. I'd prefer one that was quick and easy to set up. If it can be turned into a monopod, even better!

-Available on Amazon
-$150 or under
posted by bonifate to Technology (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
This is a good round-up of options. I have the Sirui T-25X and like it. It's around $200, which exceeds your budget by a bit. You will be hard pressed to find a tripod that is light, cheap, and appropriate for long exposure photos. This is because light usually means flimsy, unless the tripod is made from expensive stuff like carbon fiber.

If you insist on a lightweight tripod for long exposure photos (which, frankly, don't really go together well), you'll want a tripod that has the capacity to have additional weight attached to it. The Sirui has a little clip under the spider, so you can bring a bag, fill it with rocks on location, and hook it to the tripod to give it a bit more mass.

This Vanguard tripod is excellent and fits your budget, but it may be on the heavy side.

B&H has excellent customer service and shipping, and may be a good Amazon alternative if you are in the USA and can't find what you want on Amazon.

You might be able to meet your budget requirement without skimping on quality by finding the right tripod, then seeking it on the used market.
posted by cubby at 12:14 PM on February 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

That said, I used an earlier model of this Slik tripod for quite some time, and found it to be quite versatile.

Tripods are the kind of gear where you can see some great improvements in quality and function (durability, plus ability to keep your camera still and produce good images) after the $200 price point. BUT - you can find ways to get by at less than $100.

Rather than spend $150, I'd either pony up for a pro-level option or stay in the very-cheap-but-decent realm, prepare to jury-rig some solutions with sand bags, etc, and know that you will be replacing the thing more frequently.
posted by cubby at 12:20 PM on February 15, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks, cubby! On second thought, I can definitely do $200.
posted by bonifate at 12:27 PM on February 15, 2016

I've used ball heads now for five years. I don't have a recommendation for a specific tripod, but just would say I'd never choose anything else for outdoors work now.

A quick-release is really nice too.
posted by bonehead at 12:28 PM on February 15, 2016

I've read that Manfrotto has lightweight tripods, but they can be pricier and I can't vouch for them. How light are you looking for? How tall does it need to be? You could just say "screw it" and get this Amazon-brand tripod that weighs 3 pounds. Amazon also sells this super light, short one. If you don't like it, you're only out of $20.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:47 PM on February 15, 2016

DPreview roundup you may find useful.

I have a couple of Manfrottos which have held up really well over the years, and that BeFree is right at the edge of your price range. I've never used that particular model, so can't really endorse either way. You may have other considerations.
posted by bonehead at 12:48 PM on February 15, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have the Slik tripod referenced above. It's OK. I take it on anything where I don't know if I'll want a tripod or not, like vacation. If I know I'll need a tripod I take my old trusty Bogen/Manfrotto. Which, yeah, I paid a bit for, but I've had it in continuous use for literally 20 years.
posted by RustyBrooks at 12:50 PM on February 15, 2016

I wanted a lightweight tripod that was cheap but not total crap. I'm so far happy with my Slik Pro340DX. I realize it's not a tripod for life, but it's light and 3-way. I can slide it into my sling shoulder bag, and the foam grips make it easy to carry in your hand. It's an $80 (USD) option. Here's the BH option as well.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 1:01 PM on February 15, 2016

Whatever you get, make sure it has a level- I forgot to check this when buying mine, and it drives me nuts.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 2:17 PM on February 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm a bit of a Manfrotto fan. Their quality is really nice and really should last a lifetime.

(ex pro photographer, on my second Manfrotto but only because the first one was stolen)
posted by w0mbat at 4:06 PM on February 15, 2016

Having a level in the tripod *is* nice, and it's a feature you'll mostly find on architectural-style heads, I think. But don't worry about it, for like 5 bucks you can get a bubble level that will slot into your flash mount. Most landscape guys I know use a ball head and one of those. (Also, my canon has a level built in that is decent enough)
posted by RustyBrooks at 5:16 PM on February 15, 2016

Gubby's advice is good. I've had a Sirui carbon fiber tripod for a year, and it's been excellent.

I've had two different medium expensive tripods with swinging style plastic leg locks that just broke off. I will only buy tripods now with twist style leg locks. It's terrible when you're out shooting in middle of the night, and the tripod's leg locks just break off as you're trying to setup.
posted by gregr at 7:45 PM on February 15, 2016

I just got a mephoto road trip from Amazon for $180 or so, and it's an amazing tripod for the money. Converts to a monopod, too. Highly recommended.
posted by Huck500 at 8:42 PM on February 15, 2016

I'm guessing this won't replace a real, professional tripod, but if you hike with trekking poles, you might be interested in checking out the Trailpix as a fun toy.
posted by natabat at 10:15 AM on February 16, 2016

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