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Best tripod 2021: Capture tack sharp pictures with our pick of the best camera tripods on the market

Dave Stevenson
30 Nov 2021
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From camera enthusiast to photography pro, nail the shot with our rundown of the best tripods you can buy

It’s not just professionals who can benefit from using a tripod – hobbyists, new photographers and videographers alike can maximise their camera’s potential by investing in the best tripod they can afford. After all, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve spent serious money on your DSLR camera and lens, or just want to get the best from your compact camera – it’d be a shame to let an unsteady hand ruin your shot.

Buying the right tripod is essential if you’re serious about photography, as it makes it possible to shoot in low-light conditions or use slow shutter speeds. As well as allowing you to keep the ISO low to improve the sharpness and overall quality of your images, a tripod lets you get more creative with your camera – and opens the door to a world of photographic possibilities. Plus, it’s a must-have if you want to shoot from unusual angles or experiment with extreme macro, long-exposure, panoramic photography or video.

If you’re looking to invest in your first tripod, upgrade to a new model, or simply add another to your collection, we’ve put together a lineup of our favourite tried and tested tripods to suit a range of photographic needs and budgets. And if you’re not sure what to look for, then the buying guide below will run you through everything you need to know.

How to buy the best tripod for you

You’ll be able to narrow down your options straight away based on the type of photography you’ll be using your tripod for, but you’ll also want to consider where, when, and how you’ll be using it, too. These are some of the key features to consider.

READ NEXT: The best camera bags you can buy

What size of tripod do I need?

The height and size of your tripod will most likely depend on where and how you’ll be using it. If you’ll need to carry your tripod on long walks or trips, you’ll want it to be as compact and lightweight as possible. On the other hand, if you mostly shoot portraits or work in a studio, portability won’t be as important as it would be for a landscape photographer. Similarly, if you’re tall, you’ll want to make sure your tripod extends high enough that you won’t need to spend all your time crouching down.

Why does a tripod’s load capacity matter?

Load capacity – which is sometimes listed in the manufacturer’s specifications as ‘weight rating’ – indicates how much weight a tripod can safely hold. Heavier tripods do tend to have higher load capacities, but if you’re willing to spend serious money then you’ll find top-end lightweight tripods which can handle even the heaviest DSLRs. Whatever you do, don’t be tempted to buy a cheaper tripod with a lower weight rating than you need – you could end up paying a lot more to replace any broken equipment. To avoid any costly accidents, we recommend choosing a tripod that can hold at least 1.5x the weight you’ll be placing on it.

What types of tripod head are there?

It may be one of the smallest parts, but it’s also one of the most important. The tripod head is the part that your camera connects to - and the part that keeps your camera secure - and comes in many different forms.

The selection here includes tripods with the two most popular types of head: ball head and pan/tilt head. The former is the quickest and easiest type of head to use, but usually costs a premium. The latter is a more affordable option and offers extra precision and adjustability, but isn’t as quick and easy to set up as the ball head designs. These are the two most common types of tripod head and the two that we’d recommend for most photography.

Do I need a carbon fibre tripod?

Most tripods are made from one of two materials: aluminium or carbon fibre. Both are extremely durable, but carbon fibre has the added advantage of being lighter and completely impervious to corrosion. Carbon fibre tripods are pricier than their aluminium counterparts, but their high strength to weight ratio makes them a worthwhile investment for anyone serious about photography – and especially for those who value portability above all else.

The best tripods to buy in 2021

1. Vanguard Alta Pro 2+ 263AB100: The best all-round tripod under £200

Price: £179 | Buy now from Amazon

Just how much tripod can you get for under £200? The conventional wisdom is “not much”, a truism Vanguard appears determined to disprove with its Alta Pro 2+. Since the first version it’s gained twist-lock leg releases – these have a lovely movement, clicking rather than simply twisting tight and leaving you in no doubt as to when they’re secure.

The Alta Pro 2+ keeps the MACC system of its predecessor. Standing for Multi-Angle Center Column, this is a hugely useful feature at this price. Slide the centre column up and the entire base pivots, allowing you to set the tripod and then set the camera at virtually any angle you choose. Those who love to get low down – macro photographers, for example, will love this.

The Alta Pro 2+ has heft, which is a double-edged sword. It’s gained weight since the first version, adding an unwelcome 300g to an already-weighty 2kg kerb weight. On the other hand, that means the Alta Pro 2+ is an unbelievably solid support. Even fully extended, with the MACC at a 90-degree angle and a high-end mirrorless camera on the ball head, the Pro 2+ felt perfectly secure. In windier weather, keeping the tripod a little shorter saw it withstand some pretty gusty weather. It’s rated up to maximum equipment weight of 7kg.

The excellent build quality extends to the various knobs. The sheer number takes a bit of learning – the head can rotate independently for easier controls over panoramas, which comes with its own tensioning knob – but once you’ve locked the head in place it is more or less unmovable. The head itself is Vanguard’s Alta BH-100. Its anodised, knurled finish makes it pretty good looking. More importantly, it locks totally solid without you having to strain at the screws.

For under £200 smackers the Alta Pro 2+ should be near the top of just about everyone’s list. Packed with features normally found on more expensive models and with no corners cut in terms of build, it feels like it could survive a bomb blast. The weight is worth being cautious of – this isn’t a tripod for those who hike miles every time they take a camera out, but for those who love a photo spot close to a car park they don’t come much better.

Key specs – Max load: 7kg; Max height: 1,734mm; Closed height: 739mm; Weight: 2.3kg; Material: Aluminium; Head: Ball head.


2. Manfrotto Compact Advanced Aluminium Tripod: The best budget tripod

Price: £70 | Buy now from Amazon

Manfrotto's Compact Advanced is a tripod that will improve your photos without destroying your bank balance. Despite its affordable price, it’s a great, simple to use, everyday tripod for photographers shopping on a budget.

Easy to set up, the Compact Advanced can be ready in an instant, allowing you to get down to shooting as swiftly as possible. Its head is equally intuitive, with independent pan and tilt controls along with a  quick-release plate that allows for fuss-free attachment and detachment of your camera.

Given the low price tag, you shouldn't expect professional-level durability. There's certainly more plastic in its construction than most of the other entries on this list, and its max load of 3kg will rule out heavy cameras and lenses. With that said, the Compact Advanced is still reassuringly stable for moderately sized camera kits and will make a competent companion for those looking to take their first serious steps into the world of photography.

Key specs – Max load: 3kg; Max height: 165cm; Closed height: 45cm; Weight: 1.4kg; Material: Aluminium; Head: Pan and tilt


3. Vanguard VEO 2 235 CB: Best budget carbon fibre tripod

Price: £129 | Buy now from Amazon

Budget-friendly and carbon fibre rarely go together, and yet for £130 Vanguard has pulled a blinder. The VEO 2 is compact, lightweight, offers 1.45m of extension and yes, its legs are all carbon fibre.

A patented rotating centre column makes setting up very quick and switching to a top-down angle for macro shooting is a breeze. The ball head is also fully featured with a friction control knob, independent pan lock and Arca Swiss locking plate.

There are some caveats at this price point. Although the weight limit is 6kg it’s not going to make the best pairing for larger DSLRs with long zoom lenses and the thin carbon fibre legs do exhibit a touch of flex whilst fully extended. For photographers with mid-range mirrorless cameras and DSLRs, however, the Veo 2 offers truly exceptional value for money.

If you’re looking for something a touch taller, shorter - or cheaper still, the VEO 2 range includes several other similarly specced tripods in both carbon fibre and aluminium.

Key specs - Max Load: 6kg; Max height: 1.45m; Closed height: 0.40m; Weight: 1.2kg; Material: Carbon fibre; Head: Ball head.


4. Peak Design Travel Tripod - Aluminium: Best tripod for travel

Price: £329 | Buy now from Amazon

With a streamlined, space-efficient construction, Peak Design’s innovative Travel Tripod has been built from the ground up with the travelling photographer in mind. From a maximum extension of 1.5m, it packs down to a very tidy 39cm, and at just 1.56kg it’s a comfortable carry too.

The tripod is rock solid and can comfortably accommodate heavy professional DSLRs and long telephoto lenses. There’s a backpack hook built into the central column for added stability on windy days and this can even convert into a nifty smartphone mount for mobile shooters.

The head features a double locking Arca-Swiss plate to keep your camera securely locked down. The twist-lock ball head, meanwhile, makes quick work of accurately framing up your shots. One drawback, however, is that the head’s proprietary design restricts vertical shooting to one direction and limits forward tilt. You can avoid this issue by opting for a third party head but you will sacrifice that impressive 39cm closed height.

If you need something lighter (and have particularly deep pockets), a carbon fibre model is also available. 

Key specs - Max Load: 9.1kg; Max height: 1.52m; Closed height: 0.39m; Weight: 1.56kg; Material: Aluminium; Head: Ball head.


5. Manfrotto Befree Advanced GT Carbon Fibre: An excellent carbon fibre tripod

Price: £225 | Buy now from Amazon

Travel tripods have a tough brief to fill. On one hand, they have to be small and light enough to fit neatly in, or on, a small camera bag, without weighing down a photographer who might also be carrying a few cameras and a good handful of lenses. On the other, they’ll often be placed in very tough environments where lightweight build quality will be tested to the limit.

So thank goodness for the qualities of carbon fibre, as demonstrated by Manfrotto’s budget Befree Advanced GT tripod. ‘Budget’ is a bit of a misnomer, but for a carbon fibre tripod this is about as good as it gets. Elevating to a maximum height of 1.6 metres, thanks to its four-section legs, yet weighing a smidge over 1.5kg, the Befree is a light-but-tough tripod that will suit general purpose photographers down to the ground. Rated to a maximum of 10kg – and therefore probably a bit more for the brave – this is a tripod capable of everything from astrophotography to high-end wildlife and sport.

It might use space-age materials but it’s a fairly simple affair. The legs are secured with twist locks – these are big and chunky and easy to manhandle even if you’re wearing gloves. The ball head at the top of the tripod has a single, large twist release, with a friction adjuster on the other side, while the centre column can be loosened, tightened or removed completely with a screw adjuster on the underside of the tripod.

In short, there’s not much to go wrong, but once you tighten up what’s included it all holds together really nicely. This is a secure, tough-feeling tripod that feels like it should be able to handle more or less whatever you throw at it.

Key specs – Max load: 10kg; Max height: 1620mm; Closed height: 430mm; Weight: 1.55kg; Material: Carbon fibre; Head: Ball head


6. Joby GorillaPod 3K Pro Kit: The best pocket-sized tripod

Price: £102 | Buy now from Amazon

The Joby GorillaPod 3K Pro Kit proves that the best things really do come in the smallest packages. Constructed from a series of interconnected ball and socket joints, the GorillaPod 3K Pro Kit is near-infinitely adaptable. Upright it works great for table-top shooting, and with its legs curved, it can be wrapped around tree branches, lamp posts, fences, railings - whatever is close at hand. It's also incredibly travel-friendly too as it can be easily formed to fit into whatever space is available in your camera bag.

The 3K Pro Kit is set apart from the rest of the GorillaPod range by its beefed-up construction, featuring anodised aluminium leg sockets rather than plastic and the inclusion of an Arca-Swiss compatible ball head. As hinted at by its name, the 3K can support up to 3kg of camera equipment. This makes it ideal for most mirrorless and modest DSLR setups - although it's worth noting that its sturdiness does depend on the weight of your gear and how you orientate the legs.

Having owned previous versions of the GorillaPod in the past I can say that this new Pro model feels noticeably tougher and reassuringly secure in use. If you're on a tight budget then the standard 3K 'Pod is still an excellent choice but for my money, the ruggedized Pro model is the one to have.

Key specs - Max load: 3kg; Max height: 300mm; Closed height: 300mm; Weight: 0.28kg; Material: Aluminium and plastic; Head: Ball head


7. Manfrotto Befree GT XPRO Aluminium: Best tripod for mobility

Price: £189 | Buy now from Amazon

Macro photographers have a unique set of needs when it comes to kit. A macro lens, obviously, but possibly also a set of ring lights, remote flashes and triggers, and that’s before you think about camera support. A normal tripod won’t cut it as you’ll often want to be directly over or beside your subject, which requires a support capable of all kinds of photographic yoga poses.

The GT XPRO Aluminium has all of Manfrotto’s hallmark engineering. Its M-Lock grips to hold the legs at your chosen length work well, and the 496 ball head is solid, rugged and will hold up to 10kg. Extend it all the way and it reaches an impressive 164cm. And, while its aluminium build makes it heavy compared to its carbon fibre brother, the £371 Manfrotto Befree Advanced GT Carbon Fibre – 2kg to the more expensive tripod’s 1.55kg – it sat resplendent and unmoving even in pretty stiff winds. Fold it up and it packs down really neatly to just 43cm with the tripod head sitting nestled inside the folded legs to make it more compact.

So what about macro photographers? Look at the bottom of the centre column and you’ll see a small tooless ring – push the button at the bottom and a half-ball and socket arrangement inside the tripod lets you swing the centre column out so that it extends parallel to the ground. This does mean you need to be careful to make sure one of the tripod legs extends in roughly the same direction to avoid over-balancing, but it works really well and has applications for those who shoot food, for example.

Get it set up right and this is a really solid tripod, capable of holding a little more weight than others in its class. If you want a bit of flexibility when it comes to framing, this is an obvious one for the shortlist.

Max load: 10kg; Max height: 1640mm; Closed height: 430mm; Weight: 2kg; Material: Aluminium; Head: Ball head


8. Manfrotto Compact Action: Best affordable, lightweight tripod

Price: £54 | Buy now from Amazon

It’s not as sturdy as some pricier models in this list, but we love the lightweight, easy-to-use design of the Manfrotto Compact Action. Weighing just 1.16kg, it’s a great option for hikes and city breaks where you don’t want to be weighed down.

The tripod’s unique joystick-style head is a particularly nice touch – its circular quick-release makes mounting your camera an absolute cinch, while a switch lets you choose between stills and video mode. The latter stops the head from moving in all three axes, making it easier to capture smooth panning shots.

With a load capacity of just 1.5kg, it’s important not to use anything too heavy on the Manfrotto Compact Action, but if you’re looking for something to use with a compact DSLR, smartphone or GoPro, this is a great option that doesn’t break the bank.

Key specs – Max load: 1.5kg; Max height: 1,550mm; Closed height: 440mm; Weight: 1.16kg; Material: Aluminium; Head: Joystick

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