An important accessory for photography is a good camera tripod. And for astrophotography, it is absolutely essential to have a sturdy model that you can rely on for complete stillness as you take those long-exposure shots of the night sky.
Below we review the top five camera tripods to buy in 2018.
1. Best camera tripod comparison table
Last update on 2018-12-10 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
2. What to look for in a photography tripod
For photography (and especially astrophotography) you will want to prioritize a number of things to give you what you need in your camera stand:
- Sturdiness – that comes through being a high-quality piece of equipment that is well designed using the best materials.
- Weight and portability – a heavy tripod may be more naturally sturdy but it’s likely that you are going to need to carry and travel with your tripod to take outdoor shots and so you need to consider its size and weight when packed up.
- Height – small compact tripods can be perfect but for regular photography tripods you will want to consider how tall you are and how tall they stand as it can be uncomfortable to be hunched over for too long. You’ll not want to sacrifice sturdiness though and this is why the tripod should be high-quality.
- Ease of use – a further factor is how easy it is to attach and remove your camera and adjust it while attached to take your shots.
Below we cover the best tripods for all budgets, from cheap to professional, from the most trusted brands such as Manfrotto, MeFOTO, Neewer, Joby, and Vanguard and including both compact mini tripods to the tallest head-height camera stands for whatever suits you best.
3. Best camera tripod – detailed reviews
1. JOBY GorillaPod 3K compact tripod
Something to be seriously considered is whether you really need a full-size tripod or whether a mini one might be best for you. You will obviously be using it differently, but many times you can find a surface like a table, wall or a large rock on which you can place your camera and mini tripod like this one. This saves you carrying around a regular tripod which is much larger and can be perfect for travel or even more spontaneous photography.
The Joby GorillaPod is a fantastic piece of equipment and a unique alternative to regular tripods. It has short bendable legs that give it a spider-like appearance but this means it can adapt easily to uneven surfaces and allows it to grab on and attach firmly to objects like railings and trees. It is easy and reliable in allowing you to position it creatively and have confidence that it will hold.
We often recommend GorillaPods for photography. Like the mini tripod covered above, they are much easier to just chuck in a bag and take out to use on travels.
The 3K model can take DSLRs to a weight of up to 6.6lbs, which should be enough for most. There is also a 5K model that is designed to take more if needed.
- Compact and study
- Small and easy to carry
- None, but is more likely to be a great additional accessory for most people rather than replace the need for a regular tripod
- 12 inch height
- 0.86lbs weight
2. Neewer Carbon Fiber 66″ Tripod/Monopod
This model is a great budget carbon fiber tripod that can also be used as a monopod.
It’s a tall sturdy camera stand that will provide most photographers with what they need.
- High quality carbon fiber
- Heavier than some other models
- 66 inch height
- 4.65 lbs weight
3. Vanguard Alta Pro Aluminum Tripod
Vanguard has a reputation as one of the best manufacturers of tripods.
This is the tallest tripod on this list and about as high as you can get whilst retaining stability. The legs can be put at an angle of up to 80 degrees which gives it great flexibility and enables it to be used differently from a traditional tripod.
- Reasonably heavy
- 68.125 inch height
- 5.38 lbs / 2.44 kg weight
4. MeFOTO Classic Carbon Fiber Roadtrip Travel Tripod/Monopod
This is a high-quality travel tripod from MeFOTO that can also be used as a monopod.
It has a recessed hook that allows extra weight to be hung from it for extra stability. The carbon fiber materials allow it to be relatively light whilst retaining the stability needed.
- Carbon fiber build
- Not the tallest
- 61.6 inch height (as tripod), 64 inch (as monpod)
- 3.1 lbs weight
5. Manfrotto Carbon Fiber 3-Section Tripod
Italy’s Manfrotto is probably the best-known manufacturer of tripods in the world and has a reputation for high-quality accessories spanning decades.
This is a tall tripod and at this end of the table, we are looking at premium pieces of equipment that are the best available on the market.
- One of the tallest available
- Sturdy but light carbon fiber build
- Higher budget needed
- 67 inch height
- 4.4 lbs weight
4. Conclusion: What is the best camera tripod?
The right camera tripod for photography will depend on the person. Casual photographers or first-time tripod purchasers will likely want to favor a cheaper option, but be sure to get something that is steady enough to do the job you need it for.
If this is you, then you should seriously consider a quality mini-tripod like the Joby GorillaPod. These provide flexibility and portability in a way that full-size tripods struggle to compete with.
However a mini tripod is unlikely to replace your need for a regular tripod in the long run. Those listed above should suit all price ranges and you get what you pay for to some degree so consider your budget and get the best you are comfortable paying for.
Please also see our other astrophotography gear analysis pieces, including: