A good tripod is something everyone will end up needing eventually and the worst thing you can do is waste your money on a $30 or $40 throw away tripod like the one above.  The connectors will stop working, the plastic will brake off, or worse yet, it could send your camera on an unplanned trip to the ground. Tripods like this are designed for point and shoot cameras and small video cameras. If you expect more then that you’ll have to climb a bit higher up the food chain.

Seeing a cheap tripod next to a few nicer models should give you an idea of the difference in build. From top to bottom we have the cheap MX1000 tripod, the Manfrotto 055XPROB 501hdv combo, and the Slik Pro DX700 with a Manfrotto 503hdv head.  The size increase actually starts to make sense when you consider the load capacity. The MX1000 is rated for 2.5 pounds, the 055XPROB is rated for 13.2 pounds, and the Slik/manfrotto combo is good up to about 20 pounds.

When you start looking at tripods, it’s good to consider weight. As you start to add monitors, field recorders, and microphones to your DSLR RIG, it can be pretty easy to hit the 10 pound mark. If you overload a fluid head, the counter balance springs wont do you any good and could be damaged, so it’s a good idea to match your camera rig to your fluid head.

For many people it’s hard to justify spending the money on a good tripod and fluid head, but if you take care of a good tripod it should last you through at least 3 cameras if not more. I know people that still use their tripod head combo that they bought in the 90’s and it keeps up just fine with my modern day 503hdv setup. Sure they spent $800 on it when it was brand new but monetized over 15+ years of service means about $53 a year. When you think about it like that it’s a lot easier to justify the investment.

So here is a list of tripods to consider priced from low to high, I wont review them each but they should give you a good starting point on your quest for the next peace of camera gear in your life.

It’s pretty easy to go into the $1500 to $5000 range if you really want to spend the money. If you have it to spend Miller and Sachtler make some amazing products that I can only afford to rent. No matter what you have to spend, any of these will be a major upgrade compared to a $30 best buy tripod.

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