If you are an action photographer, then you are going to want something that is strong and lightweight with a pivoting camera mount and secure locking mechanism to ensure you capture as much of the action as possible. This means that you will likely be in the market for a tripod that is made of a very durable material, such as stainless steel or titanium, but is also lightweight and compact enough to carry with ease and comfort.
Material – Aluminum vs Steel vs Carbon Fiber
Now we know the pros and cons of the two primary types of camera mounts. After you choose which one is right for you, you must now choose what type of material suits your needs. Aluminum is lightweight and tends to be the most inexpensive. This lower cost comes with the downside that it will also need to be replaced more often. This is because aluminum tripods are not very durable and are easily dented and scratched. That makes aluminum tripods ideal for the very casual hobbyist or for the occasional side job. If you are looking for something that is more durable and able to take some significant dents, scratches, scuffs and scrapes, then titanium or stainless steel would be ideal. Titanium or stainless steel tripods can be purchased for a reasonable low cost – sometimes as low as $35-50. Carbon fiber tripods are thought to be the highest quality – but this quality comes at a price. A good carbon fiber tripod can run into the hundreds of dollars. These tripods are for the most serious hobbyist or for professional photographers. Carbon fiber is very lightweight and can be strong – but not immune to damage.
Tripod Height & Stability
This is an often overlooked factor when looking for the best tripod to buy. However, out in the field, you need an appropriately sized tripod so that you are not left bending over to take the shot. So while choosing a tripod, go for one that is for a person of your height. Some tripods do come with a center column that is convenient when additional height is required, but this can be at the cost of stability. The best lightweight tripod for backpacking depends on tripod height and stability.
Finally, there are additional details of a tripod that can have a huge impact on your purchase. Once you determine the mount type and the material that fits your needs, you should search within those parameters for a variety of other key factors. These include maximum tripod height, tripod bases (some are more adjustable and suitable for rough or uneven terrain) and even stabilizer tools.
A tripod is a vital tool in the photographer’s arsenal. What tripod fits you best depends on a combination of amount of use, type of photography and budget.
Hopefully we have been able to cover the basic options available to lead you on the path to the perfect fit.