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You may have a steady hand, but some shots require the stability afforded by a good tripod, which makes them an essential camera accessory. Camera tripods come in a variety of designs and flavors, from behemoths for use in fixed locations to sleek designs portable enough to tote while hiking to stunning landscapes.
However, the definition of portable can vary in the eye of the beholder. It can connote a lightweight piece of equipment, a compact size — or both. Which of these metrics matters most depends on how you plan to use the tripod and how much tripod you feel comfortable carrying around. If weight is paramount, you're likely going to focus on carbon fiber models, although those models carry a price premium. If you can tolerate a slightly heavier design, aluminum tripods can be a good price alternative. Other points to consider when buying a tripod include the load capacity, minimum and maximum height, whether it includes a ball head, and its locking mechanisms.
We took all of these perspectives into account when considering this list. When considering portability, we focused on tripods that could hold more than 15 pounds of gear and weighed less than 3.5 pounds — although we did find a few interesting travel tripods that held less than 9 pounds of gear or weighed closer to 4 pounds. At the end of the day, your choice comes down to personal design preferences and your budget. Read on for our picks of the 10 most popular camera tripods, ranked by portability.
10. SmallRig AP-10
The SmallRig AP-10 is a carbon fiber tripod with the longest folded length of any on our list — 21.1 inches. That folded length may make this awkward to add to your backpack, even if you're attaching it to the outside of your bag. Yes, it does come with a shoulder bag, but for some, the folded length might be a drawback. That said, this is also one of the lightest tripods around that can hold a range of gear, as it weighs just 2.6 pounds yet can hold up to 26.5 pounds. In addition, the maximum height is 52.4 inches.
The tripod includes a ball head with pan and friction knobs, 360-degree panning, and a 90-degree tilt. The head also supports Arca-Swiss quick-release plates. The tripod lacks a center column, but you can attach the ball head to the one removable leg to convert this into a monopod. You can buy the SmallRig AP-10 tripod for $139 at B&H Photo.
9. 3 Legged Thing Legends Bucky
The 3 Legged Thing Legends Bucky is a carbon fiber travel tripod that extends extra high and gets extra low. Its load capacity is up to 66 pounds, with a maximum height of 71 inches, which is terrific whether you're the tallest person in the room or if you want to shoot from on high using a remote. The minimum height is 4.3 inches using the standard legs, which is one of the lowest specs we've seen for a convertible standard tripod to table-top tripod. It also converts into a table-top tripod if you add the $70 Vanz dual ball and spike legs.
Bucky's folded length is 16.1 inches, which is large enough to struggle with being inside a backpack but compact enough to travel — the kit includes a padded carry bag with a shoulder strap and handles. The hallmark of British manufacturer 3 Legged Thing's approach to tripods is modularity, and this model is no exception. The legs and column are removable, which is how this tripod converts into a monopod or tabletop tripod.
The base model comes with a flat mount, but 3 Legged Thing sells a version with its AirHead Vu ball head for $100 more. The five-section legs have leg locks with a unique squared-off design that makes it simpler to lock into place, even if you have gloves on. At 3.4 pounds, this model is a bit heavier than our most portable models, but this tripod makes the cut for its unique design and capabilities.
8. Benro Induro Hydra 2
The Benro Induro Hydra 2 is, as its name implies, a waterproof tripod that's primed to go on all your outdoor adventures, regardless of how harsh the terrain — or the weather. Benro specifically calls out how this model has waterproof and dust-resistant twist locks on the tripod's carbon fiber legs, which boosts both the endurance and durability of the tripod. The locks are larger than most and easy to turn, even with gloves on.
The tripod has five sections, with a maximum height of 60 inches and a minimum height of 13.2. Its legs fold upwards, but even with five sections, the Induro Hydra 2 remains a bit bulky. It's portable, but when folded it measures 16.7 inches, which means it's too big for a typical backpack. Benro supplies a padded carry case with both handles and a shoulder strap, but this won't be something you pop into your bag. That said, its weight is a reasonable 3.3 pounds, making it a good companion that straps to the side of your backpack.
The Hydra has a center column and includes a built-in bubble level. It also has a ballast hook should you want to add weight or hook a bag to it. Speaking of weight, the Hydra is one of the sturdiest portable tripods we found — it supports up to 37.5 pounds. Built into the tripod is a hidden hex wrench, so you can make adjustments to leg tension and more on the fly. This tripod is sold for legs only and does not come with a ball head. The Benro Induro Hydra 2 costs $475 at B&H Photo.
7. Zomei Z669C
The Zomei Z669C delivers a versatile tripod that won't break the bank. This carbon fiber model weighs 3.2 pounds and measures 14 inches when folded. That translates to a highly portable package that can fit inside many backpack designs. Yet, it still feels sturdy and is capable of supporting up to 33 pounds of gear. Its maximum height is 59.4 inches, and its minimum height is 20.8 inches. With five sections and padded twist locks, it's easy to set this up on the fly. The rubber feet adjust so you can add spikes for added stability on some terrain.
The tripod has a removable center column that you can attach to one of the legs to convert it into a monopod. Alternatively, you can invert the central column to mix up the angle and shoot from low down from between the tripod's legs for added creativity. It comes with a ball head that's compatible with Arca-Swiss plates for quick removal.
You can buy the Zomei Z669C for $120 at Amazon. Zomei makes the same tripod in aluminum. That version is a little heavier, at 3.6 pounds –- but that weight comes at a savings of $45, bringing the total price of this tripod down to just $75 at Amazon, which makes this a great tripod for beginners looking to find accessories a new camera.
6. Manfrotto Element MII
At 3 pounds and a folded length of 16.9 inches, the Manfrotto Element MII is portable enough to bring with you, even if it might be a tight fit inside a backpack. It has three-section adjustable-angle carbon fiber legs with an aluminum Manfrotto ball head capable of smooth adjustments along a single axis, with a pan lock and friction control knob, too. The head is not sold separately, but it supports Manfrotto and some Arca-Swiss quick-release plates.
This tripod supports up to 17.6 pounds of gear. Its extensible center column lets the tripod stand an impressive 63 inches tall, with a modest minimum height of 16.9 inches, which is the same as its folded length. This model is a good choice for content creators using a mobile phone since it also comes with a universal smartphone clamp for phones up to 3.2 inches in width and a Bluetooth remote control. You can find the Manfrotto Element MII at B&H Photo for $188.
5. Benro MeFoto RoadTrip Pro Carbon Fiber Series 1
The Benro MeFoto RoadTrip Pro Carbon Fiber Series 1 tripod is one of the most versatile tripods we've seen for the price. It includes a Benro Q-series ball head and a convertible center column design that lets you turn it into a monopod as well. This tripod weighs 3 pounds, and it folds up to 15.1 inches, making it a fairly compact and portable package to take with you. The carbon fiber legs have five sections, with metal twist locks. Each leg is independently adjustable.
The tripod's maximum load capacity is 17.6 pounds, which is enough for most body and lens combinations. Its maximum height is 61.8 inches, and its minimum height is 15.6 inches, just a bit more than the tripod's folded height. The center column comes off easily, and a removable padded leg lets you turn this tripod into a monopod. You can also invert the center column to get low-angle shots, and there is a set of small legs hidden inside the center column that works with the ball head to turn this tripod into a table-top tripod. The ball head itself includes an Arca-Swiss compatible QR plate and a separate plate that includes a convertible phone holder.
You can find the Benro MeFoto RoadTrip Pro Carbon Fiber Series 1 for $199 at B&H Photo.
4. Manfrotto Befree Advanced Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod
Our second Manfrotto tripod to make the cut is the Manfrotto Befree Advanced Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod, which includes Manfrotto's 494 ball head with pan and friction knobs and a separate panoramic knob. The head supports the Manfrotto RC2 and Arca-Swiss quick-release plate mounts, so you have flexibility on what accessories to use. It has a load capacity of 19.8 pounds, with a maximum height of 59.1 inches and a minimum height of 16.1 inches, which is the same as its folded length.
The carbon fiber legs have four sections and use Manfrotto's M-Lock design for twist leg locks. The legs have three angles you can adjust independently. The tripod also has Manfrotto's Easy Link design–seen on other, pro-grade models–for attaching lights or reflectors to the Befree.
3. Peak Design Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod
The Peak Design Carbon Fiber Travel Tripod mixes an elegant space-saving design with functionality. The Peak Design tripod weighs 2.8 pounds and folds up to 15.5 inches, making it a reasonably compact package. Even better, It folds up tighter than most with its angled leg design that lets the legs get closer when folded. The tripod can hold up to 20 pounds of gear. It has a maximum height of 60 inches, and a minimum height of 5.5 inches, so you can get low down for creative angles. You can also invert the center column for low-angle shots.
The carbon fiber legs have five sections with flip locks. The ball head's minimalist design eschews the usual knobs and protrusions on ball heads for a single adjustment and locking ring. The ball head includes a Peak Design mounting plate, but it's also compatible with Arca-Swiss style plates, and it includes a mobile mount inside the center column. The center column itself has a weight hook. The tripod has mounts for a shoulder strap, too, although these are sold separately.
2. Sirui ET-1204
The Sirui ET-1204 carbon fiber tripod weighs 2.4 pounds and has a load capacity of 17.6 pounds, plenty for most camera and lens configurations. If you anticipate needing a higher load capacity, it's worth noting the similarly designed, slightly more expensive–and slightly less portable–ET-2204 supports up to 26.5 pounds to accommodate bigger lenses, although it's also half a pound heavier.
This model is one of the few we found that includes both standard and short center columns. The inclusion of both makes it easy to use one tripod in a variety of different scenarios and environments. The short column lets this tripod go down as low as 5.1 inches. Keep in mind, however, that when it does so the legs splay out, which means the ET-1204 requires a larger footprint than a dedicated tabletop tripod. It can also stand up to 55.1 inches tall.
The tripod's legs fold up in reverse to 16.5 inches, which is a little large for most backpacks. The tripod's legs have four sections, each independently adjustable using an unusually wide flip lock. Two legs have padding, too. The rubber feet also integrate metal spikes for further stability.
You can buy the Sirui ET-1204 for $200 at B&H Photo. If you like this tripod's design and are willing to trade weight for money, Sirui has an aluminum version that weighs half a pound more but saves you $60 on B&H Photo, where it retails for $140. Finally, the higher capacity Sirui ET-2204 sells for $250 at B&H Photo.
1. Gitzo GIGT1555T Traveler Series 1
The old adage that you get what you pay for comes to mind with regard to the Gitzo GIGT155T Traveler Series 1 tripod. This legs-only model is one of the most expensive on our list, but it is also the lightest and most compact. It weighs just 2.3 pounds and folds to 14 inches, making it easy to tote around all day long on your adventures. The tripod uses Gitzo's reinforced Carbon eXact Tube design which contributes to its sturdy feel, even if you max out its 22-pound load capacity. The legs use a twist-lock designed by Gitzo to be both ergonomic and quick to set in place.
The legs have five sections that fold up in reverse and the maximum height is 54.3 inches. With the invertible short center column, you can get creative low angles down to 7.9 inches. It has convenient built-in hooks for a shoulder strap, so you can throw the tripod over your shoulder if you prefer. If you've got the cash, you can buy the Gitzo GIGT155T Traveler Series 1 tripod for $550 at B&H Photo.