Tripods and monopods tend to be pricey. They can easily reach into three figures and beyond. But are the best tripods and monopods for professional photographers always the most expensive?
Tripods and monopods need to hold your gear still without tipping over and breaking an even more expensive piece of equipment.
That doesn’t always translate into a high price tag. Especially if you’re shooting with entry-level enthusiast gear.
Here are the best budget tripods and monopods on the market. And how to tell an inexpensive useful tripod apart from a cheap tripod that will dump your gear in the dirt.
You’ll be able to use these on your next globetrotter adventure or toss it in your camera bag for a local sunrise photo shoot.
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How to Choose a Budget Tripod That’s Not Junk
Photo by ShareGrid on Unsplash
Tripods can be as simple as a bicycle or as full-featured as a sports car. Okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but the range of tripods and monopods out there is pretty wide. From lightweight tripods to those that have a nearly ridiculous load capacity.
Inexpensive budget tripods may not have all the same features. But they can still help you capture long exposure images and time-lapses.
And inexpensive monopods can add some stabilization and comfort to your shooting style.
Inexpensive tripods aren’t as well built as the pricier options. The important thing is to choose a tripod that’s cheap because it’s bulky. Not the tripod that’s cheap because it’s unstable.
Budget tripods tend to use heavier materials like aluminum or aluminum alloys. These are tougher to carry around. But they still offer enough support for your camera to let you take high quality images.
For budget tripods, look for legs that have fewer sections. This makes them harder to pack, but more stable and less susceptible to camera shake from the wind.
Photo by Kobu Agency on Unsplash
When shopping for a tripod, always check the weight capacity. A tripod with a higher weight capacity is going to be sturdier. Make sure the capacity doesn’t exceed your heaviest gear. This includes the weight of accessories like flashes. If you use a compact, lightweight camera, it’s often easier to find an inexpensive tripod.
If you’re lugging around a Canon super telephoto, check that maximum load capacity twice.
Another important specification is the tripod’s maximum height. A budget tripod that’s too short may cost you more in the long run. I’m referring to the pain of crouching over to actually see through the viewfinder.
That means if you’re on the tall side, it will be tougher to find a good tripod under $100, but not impossible. Make sure your tripod can extend comfortably to eye level.
Picking up a tripod with a basic head can also cut down the cost without sacrificing stability. Video heads tend to be more expensive, so if you’re only shooting photos with the tripod, stick with a ball head.
A pan and tilt head can also be useful, but can also increase the price point.
Photo by insung yoon on Unsplash
The most important thing to remember when picking up a budget tripod is that the budget tripods are designed for budget gear. A heavy $2,000 zoom lens probably shouldn’t go on a $50 tripod.
Larger lenses will make your gear front heavy. This can make those low capacity budget tripods tip over. But for a basic DSLR and standard zoom lens, most budget tripods will do the trick.
Finally, remember budget tripods aren’t the best tripods on the market. They won’t last you ten years like that $300 name brand tripod. But for photographers on an enthusiast budget, there are some excellent tripods and monopods under $100.
Shopping for a budget monopod carries similar specifications for weight and height. But with a monopod, you’re not walking away from your camera so those budget models are less risky.
Monopods are also less expensive. While they won’t shoot a sharp long exposure, they help take the weight of your gear off your neck. And they add a bit of stabilization to long telephoto lenses.
Best Tripods and Monopods for Under $100
This $80 budget tripod packs in many of the features associated with the three-figure price point. The four-section tripod legs can be set to different angles. This allows the tripod to shoot as low as nine inches from the ground or as tall as 63 inches.
The height is adjusted using flip locks, which tend to be sturdier than twist locks. Despite the versatility, the tripod only weighs three pounds while managing an eight-pound capacity. This offers portability that’s impressive for the price point.
Davis & Sanford is a reputable brand and users say the tripod offers solid support. For windy days, a counterweight hook allows you to hook a bag on the tripod for added support.
A bubble level is included, along with a compass and adjustable leg tips. The ball head also includes a quick release plate for faster set-ups.
This tripod doesn’t have the highest weight capacity at eight pounds. But it has an excellent range of features for the price point for photographers without heavy lenses.
The Davis & Sanford Voyager LTB Vista Lite sells for about $80, which includes a ball head and carrying case. Even better, the company offers a ten-year warranty, impressive considering most budget tripod won’t last that long.
This was originally priced at $112. But now that the Manfrotto Compact Advanced Tripod with a Three Way Head is about four years old, it’s nearly half the price. While it’s not one of the brand’s best tripods, it’s a solid budget tripod from a reputable company.
The tripod handles 6.61 pounds. This is enough for an entry-level DSLR and stand zoom up to 200mm. And it reaches almost 65 inches tall. For lower angle shooting, the lowest height is about 17 inches.
Unlike most of the budget tripods on this list, the $68 Manfrotto uses a three-way pan and tilt head. It has two independent levers for controlling the movement. That opens up more possibilities for easier panning shots. But it does make the tripod a bit bulkier.
Despite that larger tripod head, the tripod is still fairly compact, weighing 3.13 pounds.
A budget Manfrotto won’t have the same durability as the company’s pricier options. But the Advanced Compact offers several features and a stable base for your camera for a reasonable price.
It’s missing features like a bubble level and a counterweight hook. You can get these by spending less than $20 more on the Davis & Sanford model.
Still, it’s a solid option for enthusiast photographers without a lot of cash.
Weighing a touch under three pounds and holding twice that, the Oben AC-1321 aluminum tripod is a well-built tripod for about $90. It’s not the tallest or highest capacity budget tripod. But the Oben AC-1321 is well built and sturdy enough for enthusiasts. And it’s small enough to hike with.
Adjustable leg angles and a reversible center column allow the tripod to shoot as low as 8.3 inches from the ground. Or as tall as 57.5 inches.
The flip lock legs are simple to set up, along with mounting the camera using the included quick mount plate. The center column is also quick to adjust with one twist knob. A bubble level and counterweight hook are also included.
The ball head isn’t ideal for video but allows for quick camera angle adjustments. The tripod uses rubber-tipped feet.
Like other budget tripods, the AC-1321 isn’t Oben’s best tripod. But it’s sturdy and offers a good range of features considering the price point.
Photographers that don’t mind the 6.6-pound capacity and 57.5-inch height will find decent stability and portability with this $90 Oben.
Camera supports don’t get much cheaper than this. The Davis & Sanford Vista Trailblazer Lightweight Compact Monopod sells for under $20. The seven-pound weight capacity is on the low side for monopods, but then again, so is the price.
For photographers with lightweight gear that want to try out a monopod, it’s hard to beat the price of this name-brand monopod.
The Vista Trailblazer reaches heights of 68 inches. And it folds down to 21 inches for low angle shooting or packing. Flip-style locks adjust the monopod’s height.
Weighing only a pound, the monopod isn’t going to add much weight to your bag. The bottom foot has a spike, which can be retracted to use the rubber foot instead.
The Vista Trailblazer isn’t the most full-featured monopod out there and won’t tote around the heaviest gear. But it’s a good deal for the tightest budgets and photographers unsure about venturing into a monopod.
Finding a budget monopod for lightweight gear is easy to do. But the Benro MAD38A Adventure Series 3 Aluminum Monopod is capable of handling a robust 35.3 pounds, yet still slides in at a low price point.
That higher weight capacity makes the monopod excellent for handling heavy lenses. The monopod extends to 62.8 inches and closed, the monopod is 20.7 inches long. The monopod will only make a 1.37-pound dent in your gear bag, so it’s a great travel tripod too.
Unlike most budget monopods, this Benro has a rubber foot that helps keep the monopod in place. The foot articulates, so the monopod still allows for different angles. Other perks include flip style locks for quick height adjustments and a foam grip at the top.
There are cheaper monopods on the market. But the Benro offers pro-level weight capacity at a rather affordable $50, considering all the features.
If the budget has a little more wiggle room, the monopod is also available in carbon fiber. But the weight reduction is small and the price hike is steep.
Like most monopods, there’s no head included. Picking up a head will allow for further camera angle adjustments outside of that articulating foot at the base.
The Best Budget Tripods Support Your Gear Without Breaking the Bank
The best budget tripods will support budget gear while allowing for advanced techniques like long exposures and panning. Budget tripods are also good for holding smaller gear like off-camera flash.
The Davis and Sanford Voyager Vista Lite has one of the longest feature lists for tripods under $100 and comes from a reputable brand. But Manfrotto and Oben make excellent tripod deals as well.
For monopods, it’s hard to beat the $15 price of the Davis & Sanford Vista Trailblazer. And the Benro Adventure Series 3 monopod is sturdy enough for even heavy professional gear.
If you’re looking for an iPhone tripod, check out the Joby gorillapod.
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