The task of selecting a tripod is no laughing matter; it’s serious business… very much, in fact, like investing in a new camera body or expanding your lens collection. This is especially true if you’ll be relying on one for landscape photography where the best tripods must do many things while shaving weight and maintaining portability.
The best tripods for landscape photography are more than simply sturdy. You also have to consider other factors. How fast and easy is it to setup? Is it light enough to carry with you when you’re backpacking or hiking? Does it offer enough height for what you need? Is it compact enough to stuff in your carry-on when you travel?
With so many tripods in the market today, it’s not fair to come up with a short list of the best ones. Also, it’s also a matter of personal preference. What’s great for many isn’t necessarily great for you. But to make your search for the right one less painful, we thought we’d get you started with five of the best tripods recommended for landscape photographers at a variety of different budget levels.
Best for Traveling Light: Really Right Stuff TFC 14 Series 1 Mk2 ($835)
Carbon fiber made and supporting up to 25 pounds of load, perhaps the top reason why this tripod has become a such a strong contender is that it’s so lightweight at 2.3 lbs and yet so stable against the elements. It’s also got a removable hand strap not only for carrying but also for added stability when you need it.
Other features include a reversible apex stud, twist grips/locks on the leg extensions, and four leg sections. Its maximum height is only a little under four feet so it isn’t that tall, and it’s a bit pricey at $835. But if you’re a hiker or backpacker in need of a sturdy and steady tripod, it’s well worth the price.
Best for Your Budget: Benro FTA28CV1Travel Angel Series 2 ($399)
While heavier at 3.99 lbs and only able to support a 22-lb load or lighter, this Benro tripod with carbon fiber legs has more aces up its sleeves. The aluminum-made travel tripod stands over five feet at its tallest; it’s also got 4 leg sections; and it converts into a monopod so you won’t have to invest in one for situations that call for it. Best of all, it’s more affordable at $399.
Those, coupled with a similar twist leg lock, a ballhead with an arca-swiss style plate, and a height of around two feet when folded, this travel tripod is ideal for landscape and travel photographers on the budget.
Best Splurge: Gitzo GT3542 Mountaineer Tripod ($979)
Gitzo tripods have always had a reputation for being powerhouses, but that usually comes at a price. Gitzo’s GT3542 Mountaineer Tripod towers at five-foot-three, tough with a load support of about 46 pounds, and folds down to under two feet for easy stowing. But at $979 a pop, is it worth it?
Well, though you might be partially paying for the brand name, you’re also getting Carbon eXact tubing for strength reinforcement, twist locks with G-lock Ultra for a bit of dust sealing, and all the stability you could need for not so ideal weather conditions when shooting outdoors. You can even hang a bag of rocks on its ballast hook in the center to really keep it stead. Just keep in mind that it’s 4.1 pounds heavy. But hey, if you’ve got the cash to spare, these babies are tried and tested.
Best for Heavy Lifting: 3-Legged Thing Winston ($495)
Steering clear of the same old mostly black color scheme that most tripods flaunt, 3-Legged Thing’s thing is designing tripods with a fun copper or orange color palette, with touches of blue. But the question is, are they worth the hype? Well, Winston is known for its stability and versatility so it makes a great companion for shooting in the great outdoors.
To start, it’s got a Tri-Mount plate, a whopping 88-pound payload, a detachable monopod, detachable footwear so you can swap them out depending on what the terrain calls for, and a maximum height of 6 feet. Plus it folds down to 2 feet and it only weighs 3.8 lbs. All that and more for only $495; we say it’s a bargain.
Best Overall: Feisol CT3442 ($420)
Lightweight at only 2.5 pounds, compact at 1.6 feet folded, and very affordable at $419, Feisol’s Tournament Carbon Tripod is the stuff of backpacking legend. It’s rugged as well and can take a lot of abuse, which is important when you’re dealing with different elements outdoors.
Though mind you, it’s maximum height is only 4.5 feet so if you need something taller, look elsewhere. But if height isn’t a big factor, consider its load capacity of 55 pounds, its twist leg locks that boast an anti-leg rotation technology to keep them stable, and its optional center column upgrade kit if you need more heft. It’s a great money-saver for those seeking endurance and stability in a compact body.
Best Bargain: Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB ($169)
At 5.38 lbs, the Vanguard Alta Pro 263AB might not be the lightest option. But then again, if you’re working with a limited budget, some things would have to be compromised (including having flip leg locks instead of twist ones.) Though the weight wouldn’t matter as much unless you’re going on a backpacking trip and every pound counts, and it’s still light enough for hikes. Weight aside, this aluminum-made tripod folds down to a little over 2 feet and extends at 5.76 feet tall, which is great if you need the height.
It’s very versatile as it boasts a MACC (Multi Angle Central Column), which allows you to swivel the central column 180-degrees, and a ball head that’s surprisingly smooth considering its price of $169. Though it can take a maximum load of 15.4 lbs, it’s still quite sturdy so not only can it take a lot of abuse, but it’s also pretty stable when the situation calls for it. It’s definitely a super affordable option for those who are only starting out or are just starting to perfect their craft.